May 31, 2006

RECIPE: Dal (Meredith's White-Washed Version)

Mmmm, dinner. (Results may vary. Especially if someone doesn't have enough red lentils and mung beans and adds black lentils too, not naming any names)

2 TB vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1-inch piece ginger, chopped fine
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
3/4 cup skinned red lentils
3/4 cup split yellow mung beans
2 tsps garam masala
2 tsps curry powder
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
steamed rice (I prefer basmati)
plain yogurt, or raita (plain yogurt mixed with grated cucumber, mint, salt and pepper)
lime wedges

Heat oil in soup pot over high heat. When oil is hot, add onion. Cook until soft. Add garlic, ginger and whole cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Cook until mustard seeds turn dark and begin to pop. Add beans. Stir to combine and add 4 cups water. Add garam masala and curry powder. Bring to a boil then turn down heat and let simmer for 25 minutes.

Check beans for doneness. Taste for sesaonings and salt. It will probably need a good deal of salt. Add half of the cilantro and all of the tomatoes. Stir to combine. Serve dal over steamed rice. Pass the yogurt (or raita), remaining cilantro and lime wedges.

Serves 4 (with leftovers)

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DINNER: May 30th-June 2nd

It feels so very good to be home. Here's what we've got on tap for this week:

Tuesday: Dal with Raita and Rice (no we really mean it this time)

Wednesday: Pasta with Favas and Pecorino

Thursday: Chickpea Burgers with Crunchy Salsa and Yogurt in Pita adapted from Best American Recipes 1999

Friday: Thai Cabbage Salad with Tofu adapted from Local Flavors

I'm also going to try my hand at another Last Course dessert. I'll let you know how it turns out.

May 24, 2006

RECIPE: Delicious Dinner in Under 20 Minutes

Guaranteed or your money back!

When tomatoes are ripe, I eat this at least once every two weeks. It's well balanced, spicy, a bit salty, a little sweet, cheesey and mostly healthy. It's also a snap to put together.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Olives and Arugula

Adapted from Jamie Oliver's The Naked Chef Takes Off

8 oz dried long skinny pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, etc.)
2 TB olive oil
2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 chile, minced (or however much you like)
1/3 cup good quality black olives (I prefer Kalamata), pitted and coarsely chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved if large
4 oz arugula, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan or Pecorino, freshly grated

Heat a large pot of salted water over medium heat (This would be a good time to start prepping the veg). When water is rapidly boiling, add pasta. Cook until al dente, about 5-7 minutes.

While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large saute pan. When hot, add garlic and chile. Cook until fragrant. Add olives and tomatoes. Cook just until tomatoes begin to break down. If the pasta is not ready, set aside.

When pasta is done, drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add tomatoes and arugula. Toss until well combined. The heat of the pasta will wilt the greens. If dry, add some of the cooking water to moisten. Salt and pepper generously. Serve, passing cheese to grate over.

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May 21, 2006

The Unbearable Sadness of Missing the Market

Next week is a crazy one, so I skipped the market on Saturday. Also, we're only home for dinner one night next week, so no dinner menu either. The following week will include more weirdness as well. I'm more broken up about missing two markets in a row than I fear is entirely sensible.

As you might have been able to tell, updates will be few and far between for a bit. Check out the links on the left. You'll be able to find something new and exciting there, I hope.

May 19, 2006

Friday, Friday Part VII ** Updated**

My favorite number deserves a good week. Here's what we've got going on:

As soon as we get our new BBQ, I want to make Terriyaki Grilled Tempeh by McAuliflower. We need something to drink too and The Gringo (from the same source) sounds like it would hit the spot.

I usually dislike rose-flavored things but I think that I may have to review my non-flower consuming ways for Chockylit's Pistachio Rose Cupcakes.

Oh my goodness gracious! Berry Gratin with Cointreau from Georgeanne Brennan via the San Francisco Chronicle

Santos made some green mango chutney with the last of the season. Foolish me, I just assumed that mangoes were year round because they were tropical plants, but why would that be?

Stop the presses! Rum Raisin Ice Cream from Kate at Accidental Hedonist is going to happen this weekend. I promise.

I'm looking forward to trying truffles for the first time tonight. Granted they're jarred, but it's better than nothing I hope. If my puttering around comes out to be tasty, I'll share later. I'll also write a bit about my lemons that I'm trying to preserve in the fridge.

May 18, 2006

This is why freezers were invented

Does anyone out there have a super fantastic recipe (or even a slightly interesting one) for fava beans? I still have 5 lbs in my fridge and they're struggling to escape.

May 17, 2006

How to Cheer Me Up

1) Take me to the Farmers' Market after a particularly bad day at work.

2) Accompany me to the bargain store to see if they got any new cook books in.

3) Treat me to an ice cream cone at my former company of employment, Ben & Jerry's (they didn't have the new Black & Tan, which I'm dying to try, but the Mango-Lime sorbet was pretty good). Then tip the counter people well because you know that's what I would have done out of sympathy after enduring two summers of crap tips.

4) Insist that we get a pound of cherries, even though we were just there to get food for the fuzz.

5) Encourage me to make a visit to Sur La Table, just to see if they have anything new.

6) When we get home, let me sit on the couch reading while you do the dishes.

7) Make me a martini with the last of our Hendrick's gin.

8) Bring me dinner in the garden.

9) Fix me a glass of ice water after I start to walk crookedly.

10) Leave me on the couch reading, while you clean up after dinner.

May 16, 2006

This is the day without blogs.

Save the Internet: Click here
Telecommuncations companies want to privatize the internet in the U.S. Don't let them! Save the Internet!

May 15, 2006

RECIPE: Nouveau Salade Nicoise

3/4 lb baby potatoes
3/4 lb green beans
1 shallot, minced
red wine vinegar
good quality olive oil
Dijon mustard
25 Nicoise olives
2 TB capers
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
3 eggs, hard boiled, quartered
1 head butter lettuce
1 lb good quality Ahi, in one piece, if possible
6 anchovies packed in oil, chopped

1. Fill a large heavy pot with salted water. Bring to a boil. Add potatoes. Cook until you can easily slide a knife into a potato, about 10-15 minutes, depending on size. Fish potatoes out of water and place in a bowl to cool.

2. Wash and trim beans. Snap the long ones in half. Add beans to the boiling water. Let cook 3-4 minutes until bright green but still firm. Drain in a colander. Run cold water over beans until they reach room temperature.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together 5 TB olive oil, 5 TB red wine vinegar and 1-1/2 TB of mustard. Salt and pepper to taste. I like my dressings tart, so you might want to add more oil or vinegar as well.

4. Quarter potatoes while still warm. Toss potatoes, green beans, olives, capers and half of dressing. Toss to combine well. Set aside. The longer this mixture sits, the better the flavors will meld.

5. Toss the lettuce with the remaining dressing. Line 4 large plates with lettuce. In one quadrant, place a quarter of the tomatoes. In another, place 3 quarters of the hard boiled egg. In the third, add a mound of the potato salad.

6. Salt and pepper the Ahi very well. Heat 1 TB olive oil in a large saute pan. When hot, add the fish. Let cook 5 minutes on each side. The fish will be mostly rare. Take off the heat and place fish on a cutting board. You may let it sit on the board for a bit, but the residual heat will cook the fish more.

7. Cut fish into 16 slices. Line the slices on the last quadrant of the plates. Sprinkle each plate with the chopped anchovies. Serve immediately.

NOTE: You could add fresh herbs, parsley would be nice or if you enjoy it, tarragon. I've also seen the salade served with tiny quail eggs instead of chicken.

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May 14, 2006

DINNER: May 13th-May 19th

Saturday: Mothers' Day Supper Minted Butter with Radishes and Sea Salt on Baguette Slices adapted from Local Flavors, Elixir of Fresh Peas with Nastirtiums adapted from Local Flavors, Nouveau Salade Nicoise, Cherry Clafouti from Chez Panisse Fruit

Sunday: Frijoles Meneados con Tortillas, La Salsa Mejor en el Mundo y Ensalada de Repollo

Monday: Gumbo Z'Herbes with Perfect Rice

Tuesday: Tagliatelle with Favas and Pecorino Romano

Wednesday: Miso Soup with Tofu, Shiitakes, Udon and Spinach Crowns

Thursday: Dal with Rice and Raita

Friday: Pizza with Cream of White Truffles (On our walk downtown yesterday, there was a fire sale at a restaurant that went out of business. Not one to pass up a bargain, I walked out with said truffle paste, a free bag of dried shiitakes and a 25lb bag of heirloom Jacob's Cattle beans. It was only $15 dollars for 25lbs! That's less than a dollar a pound! Don't look at me like that.)

Farmers' Market May 13th

Cherries and nectarines!!! I thought that spring just began, but apparently, it's almost summer. Also strawberries, radishes, cabbage, chard, broccoli, green beans, lots of lettuce, a lone red onion, some freshly dug baby potatoes, various herbs and what I believe to be about 5lbs of fava beans. What? They were only a dollar a pound; we were unable to resist.

May 12, 2006

Friday, Friday Part VI

I'm making plenty of things tomorrow for our Mom's Day Dinner but here's a myriad of more ideas:

Salted Caramel Ice Cream (scroll down to the bottom of the page)

Potatoes ala Sofrito from McAuliflower

Serious Orange Cake from Chubby Hubby

Smoky Barbeque Beans which are decidedly non-vegetarian from Lex Culinaria

Poached Halibut from Orangette

Truffled Soybean Salad (the Miso-Glazed Fried Chicken looks good too, if you are of the fowl eating persuasion) from Gene Kato via Traveler

I'm not Canadian, but I wish I was now. Vanessa's Chocolate Macaroons with Pistachio Buttercream for Canadian Blogging By Post look delicious.

Honeydew Coconut Frappe from Milk & Honey

Blueberry Yogurt Brulee on Slashfood

Mmmm, Scones from the San Francisco Chronicle

This will keep me busy for a long while. For the moms, thanks for all the hard work you do. For those who have moms, you better appreciate them!

May 11, 2006

RECIPE: Hoisin Glazed Tofu

A conglomeration of two recipes:

1 lb firm tofu
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch peeled ginger, minced
2 tsp sesame oil
2 TB tamari or soy sauce
1 TB rice wine
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup veg broth or water
2 tsp peanut oil, or more if necessary
2 green onions, sliced thinly
toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Cooked rice

Drain your tofu. Wrap in towels or napkins and place on cutting board with a gentle weight on top (I put the container the tofu came in on top and weighed it down with our dish soap). Set aside.

In a bowl, combine garlic, ginger, sesame oil, tamari or soy, rice wine and hoisin sauce in a bowl. Combine well. Add broth or water and mix again.

Brush a large pan with the peanut oil. Heat over a medium high heat. Meanwhile, slice tofu into 1/2 inch slabs. When pan is hot, add tofu. Let cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Flip over and cook on other side. You might need to add more oil to the pan, if it is too dry. Cook until brown on the second side. When browned, add the hoisin mixture. Let cook until sauce has thickened and clings to the tofu, about another 5-7 minutes.

Plate tofu with green onions, sesame seeds and any extra sauce sprinkled on top. Serve with rice and steamed veggies.

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May 08, 2006

4 Reasons Why I Will Never Be a Brain Surgeon, Nuclear Physicist, Professional Dancer or Pastry Chef

Inspired by my attempt to make Roasted Dates with Coconut Sorbet and Candied Coconut from Last Course

1. I don't like following directions. Yes, Fleming said to strain the sorbet base before putting it in the ice cream maker. Yes, I started to do so. Halfway through, I turned to the partner and said, "I like texture." "So do I," he said. The coconut shavings went back into the base which made a slightly chewy sorbet. Note to self- Strain the sorbet.

2. I do not have the proper tools. Use a mandoline to slice the coconut thinly. I am, sadly, not currently in possession of a mandoline. Will the big holes on the cheese grater work? No, they will not. My candied coconut was more like chunks of slightly raggedy coconut lightly dusted with sugar. Not the texture or garnish I was going for.

3. I am not exacting enough. Four tablespoons of butter? Well, this knob I've got here has got to be at least two and half. That's okay, right? For sticky, slightly burnt caramel, yes, For reducing the sherry/date juices to a lovely sauce, no. Unless you too want to spend a good deal of time scrubbing a sticky sauce pot.

4. I am not patient. Chill the sorbet base until cold, three hours or overnight. It's been two hours, is it cold yet? Ish. Great, let's pop it in the ice cream maker. Churn for thirty minutes, or, if you're me, twenty-five. Then don't chill it in the freezer for an hour because you want your fancy dessert now. Serve it up with the room temperature dates and the still hot, not-supposed-to-be-caramel caramel and you end up with coconut soup with chewy bits. Yum.

May 06, 2006

DINNER: May 6th - May 12th

I'm trying my hand at fresh peas, fancy desserts and filo dough this week.

Saturday: Elixir of Fresh Peas from Local Flavors with cheese toasts and Baked Dates with Coconut Sorbet and Candied Coconut from Last Course

Sunday: Parpadelle with Fresh Ricotta, Favas and Mint

Monday: Veggie Burgers with Oven Fries

Tuesday: Black Bean and Red Bean Chili with Cornbread from Joy of Cooking

Wednesday: Hoisin Tofu adapted from Year in a Veg Kitchen (still MIA) with Steamed Broccoli and Basmati Rice

Thursday: Dal with Raita and Rice

Friday: Spanakopita Pie from New Book of Middle Eastern Food (Goddess help me)

Farmers' Market May 6th

Spring is here! More favas, strawberries, broccoli and herbs. Some Barhi dates, freshly dug Yukon Gold potatoes, onions, pretty red butter lettuce, far too many Manzano peppers and my first experience with English peas.

May 05, 2006

Friday, Friday Part V

The beginning of this week was flurry of activity. Here are some yummy looking items for the weekend.

Sam's Artichoke Panzanella

Clothilde's Lemon-Almond Curd. I know that I've been linking to Chocolate & Zucchini an awful lot. I have a special place in my heart for it because it was my first introduction to the food blog world.

Honey Ice Cream via Chez Panisse Cooking, via KQED's Bay Area Bites

Yogurt Pops from Cookbook 411

David's Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Jamie Oliver's Laksa-Style Scallops with Sweet Red Chili Sauce via Slashfood. Ignore the bit about the crazy, creepy person and the ingredient list says shrimp but I'm pretty certain that it means scallops.

May 04, 2006

MENU: Mothers' Day Supper *****UPDATED*****

Have I mentioned how much I love making lists? And by relation, menus too? I do. I believe that if I have a list, I can do anything. It is so very satisfying to cross something off a list, even if it is just for the grocery. Am I revealing too much of my slightly obsessive nature? Says the woman who posts her plans for dinner every week.

Moving on...

The partner's mum and dad are coming over next weekend for an early Mothers' Day celebration. K, the mum, wants to take us out for her day(!) and we have insisted that we make dinner ourselves. They haven't seen our new digs yet, so we can show off our garden and cute-as-pie neighborhood.

I am rapidly becoming very interested in simple French-ish food, so our menu so far is this:

Minted Butter and Thinly Sliced Radishes on Baugette Slices with Sea Salt adapted from Local Flavors
Beet "Caviar" with Goat Cheese(?) from Local Flavors or Trio of Salads (too many salads, how about soup?)
Elixir of Fresh Peas from Local Flavors
Nouveau Salade Nicoise (with seared Ahi, not canned tuna)
Almond-Lemon Curd Tart on a Shortbread Crust with Fresh Strawberries

I'm thinking that I might want another munchy thing or a different first course. First, I thought of a mini-souffle, but then I came back down to earth and realized that I do not want to make myself crazier than necessary. If it is chilly, do I want to make a simple soup instead? (*****Yes, I do*****) Also the Boy's dad, M, cannot ingest too much acid, so I am concerned that a salad with little dressing will be boring and that the lemon curd might be too much for him to handle. Any thoughts?

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May 03, 2006

MENU: Middle Eastern Feast

My sister, J, is graduating at the end of the month (Yay sister!) and I have volunteered myself to make lunch for her celebration party. My mother keeps on insisting that pasta salad is the way to go, while J is vehemently opposed to such a plan. I spoke with J about what she wants and her answer is "Whatever you think is best."

Going along with that useful information, I have come upon this menu:

Hummus, Tzatziki and Baba Ghanoush with Mini Pitas
False or Lying (Meatless) Dolmas
Marinated Olives with Feta
A Different Greek Salad from Best American Recipes 1999 via The Barbeque! Bible by Steve Raichlen
Broiled Lemon-Garlic Chicken Skewers with Fresh Mint

I was struggling with sweets because J is a very odd duck and does not like nuts in dessert and I could not think of a single thing that would fit the theme and would please the guest of honor. My aunt has graciously taken on that responsibility. Anyone know of anything sweet that would fit the bill? Also, any beverage ideas? Claudia Roden in her fantastic The New Book of Middle Eastern Food has a interesting recipe for a hibiscus drink but I don't know how welcome that would be here. Perhaps just some minty lemonade?

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May 02, 2006

RECIPE: Beet Greens with Spanish Flavors

Or Meredith Entertains Herself by Making Dinner and Taking Pictures

The partner is out this evening going to see our favorite comedian, the exceeding funny and unbelievably sexy executive transvestite. This was a very late occurrance and I am horribly jealous that there was only one ticket. However, that means that I get to spend the evening enjoying my own company. How does one do that if you are me? Silly, you make dinner and then think about what other things you whip up in the kitchen when no one is watching.

I had great plans earlier to make fennel potato soup but when I opened the fridge to scavange myself some dinner, the beet greens I had saved from Sunday's salad were staring me down. That's okay, I needed to up my veggie quotient for the day anyway.

I chopped up a small onion and garlic and sauteed them in olive oil. I added the greens cut into ribbons and let cook in the water still clinging to the leaves.

After the greens cooked down a bit, I salted and peppered, then added some currants and pine nuts. Originally, I planned to put in raisins, but I thought that they might be too much sweet in one bite. Currants it is then.

While the greens were cooking, I starting boiling an egg. I think that a poached egg would be better, but for the life of me I cannot make one. Perhaps, soft boiled, so the yolk is still runny and delicious? Maybe, if I didn't overcook it. Oops.

I added a shot of sherry vinegar to the pan and plopped it all on my plate, crumbled a few bits of goat cheese over and broke, my not very runny egg over.

If there were anchovies to be had, they would have been included as well, but alas, it was not to be. A nice dinner for one and I only dirtied a bare minimum of cooking utensils. What else have I got in the fridge?

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May 01, 2006

May Happenings

Besides the important stuff going on today around the country, Shuna of Eggbeater has some fascinating insight to it, May is also the beginning of the Eat Local Challenge this year. I have come to the conclusion that it will be too difficult for me to challenge myself this way this year, but I am being more mindful of where my food comes from. I am checking labels and attempting to buy as much as possible that is grown or manufactured in California. For example, when faced between three different kinds of goat cheese, I made sure to pick the one from Sonoma and not the other two from Canada.

As I mentioned earlier, I go to the Farmers' Market every week and I try to not buy produce from anywhere else, if possible. Other things, though are much more problematic. I eat beans, lots of beans, and there are very few, if any, locally grown (my version of local is within the state) that I can afford. Grains, tea, spices, coffee, cooking oils, and various other condiments would be practically impossible. (The ELC recognizes this and the folks over there recommend that people try to buy organic/free trade/locally produced instead.) I do buy organic products instead of conventionally grown, but only if it isn't ridiculously more expensive. I can handle $1 or 2 more for a can of tomatoes but upwards of $5 for some nuts or dried fruit? Not an option. I wish it were.

I also realize that these choices are largely available to me because I can afford to be somewhat choosy about my food, I do not have to work on the weekends, I am moderately educated about the environment and nutrition, and I live in a place that makes it easy for me to buy my food directly from the people who are growing it. I am very lucky, indeed. Today is a good day to recognize that.