March 29, 2007

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

I could have sworn that it was tomorrow but after just checking, its today! When I started this site I was bored at my job and looking for something to keep me busy. Since then, I quit and began school, visited Europe and New York for the first times and got my first job in the food biz. Not bad for one year. Here's to many more.

To you all, thanks for being a part of this.

Love and Respect,


March 25, 2007

What I Learned Today

My hands have gotten quite a beating over the last few weeks. I grated a knuckle, sliced a finger on something mysterious and sharp (and never discovered) in the kitchen sink while doing dishes, and today was quite a doozy. Onto the lazy bloggers' favorite type of post:

1) I'm getting pretty good at sharpening my knife.
2) Under no circumstances should I lose track of my fingers as I dice canned tomatoes (Maybe I should have gone with my original plan of using the pre-diced ones).
3) I'm not as squeamish as I thought.
4) I really ought to look into health insurance plans because if I needed to go to the E.R., I would be in huge financial trouble (Reminder that the health care options in this country are deplorable).
5) Animal-based sources of iron are called heme, veg sources are non-heme.
6) Non-heme iron is absorbed more easily by the body if it is consumed with Vitamin C or white wine.

Lentil Soup with Spinach and Lemon

We had this with whole-wheat (more iron) mustard-cheese toasts and Au Bon Climat 70% Pinot Gris 30% Pinot Blanc 2005. Not only is this crisp, bright wine delicious, it's also super affordable considering its from an excellent winery. If I had the space, I would buy a case of it.

2 TB olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups stock
1.5 cups brown lentils, rinsed
lots of spinach
3 TB chopped parsley
3 TB chopped cilantro
1 TB chopped mint
1 lemon, zested and juiced

Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add garlic, Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add stock and lentils. Bring soup to a simmer and lower the heat. Let cook until lentils are soft, about 25 minutes. Add spinach and stir until spinach begins to wilt. Right before serving, stir in herbs, zest and juice. Taste for salt, pepper and acid. Serve with white wine.

Serves 4 generously

Labels: , , , , , , ,

March 22, 2007

Transitioning: Vegetable Ragout

The space between the seasons is most interesting to me. I love the nature of being inbetween. My favorite time of day is at dusk, the moment right before or after a rainstorm, the sensation of being just waking but still dreamy, or slipping off into sleep...

So far the official start of spring brought us cloudy gray skies and a few showers. With the last of the Brussels sprouts and the first of the asparagus, a vegetable ragout for the transitioning seasons was made. We welcome the spring.

Vegetable Ragout with Herbed Dumplings, adapted from Vegetarian Suppers by Deborah Madison

The original is more of a wintery dish, but I springified it here with leeks, green garlic, asparagus and chives.

2 TB butter
1 leek, sliced thinly
1 green garlic bulb, sliced thinly
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 TB chopped parsley
juice of half of a lemon
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
4 oz asparagus, in 1-inch lengths

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup warm milk
3 TB melted butter
1 egg
3 TB chopped parsley
3 TB snipped chives

Melt butter in a large saute pan with a lid over medium-high heat. When foam subsides, saute leek until soft. Add mushrooms, green garlic and parsley. Cook until mushrooms begin to brown, then add lemon juice, stock and wine. Salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer then add Brussels sprouts. Reduce heat to low and cover. Let cook 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine milk, butter, egg and herbs. Pour into flour mixture and stir until just combined. You will have more dumpling batter than you need.

To the ragout, add the asparagus stalks, but not the tips. Using a spoon, drop dumpling batter over the ragout, leaving space for expansion. You'll probably use about 3/4 of the batter, depending on the size of your pan, or make about 12 dumplings. Cover and cook for 12 minutes. When there are two minutes remaining, add the asparagus tips. Serve, giving each person about 3-4 dumplings.

Serves 4

P.S. I am currently working on a top secret project and I have my first test run tomorrow. Hopefully, all will be successful and I shall share soon!

Labels: , , ,

March 12, 2007

It's Spring! It's Spring! (Boing! Boing!)

I cannot tell you what a boost it is to see things growing and blooming right now. At the market on Saturday, it seemed like everyone was in great cheer and I'm sure the extra sunshine had a lot to do with it. I love these first few tentative steps into springtime. There were the first of the season peas, strawberries and favas. The strawberries still need a few more weeks of warmth but the peas and favas are (were) great. We were also pleasantly surprised to see Barbara with her tomato plants and we spent about 20 minutes at her stand trying to pick out which lucky ones were going to go home with us. In the end, we chose Aunt Ruby's German Green, Royal Chico and a Sweet 100. Yesterday afternoon was spent in the garden, planting our new acquisitions which also included some more herbs and flowers for the rose bed.

Last night, we had a celebration of the changing of the seasons on the table. While my love affair with Bon Appetit is dwindling, they still manage to publish a few interesting recipes in an issue and I had my eye on the grapefruit-avocado salad. So there was that, as well as tagliatelle with favas, homemade ricotta and spring herbs then a meyer lemon-buttermilk sorbet. I was disappointed with the sorbet. It was almost overwhelmingly tart and the elderflower syrup that I snuck into it was totally lost, as was the meyer lemon. Ah well, they can't all be winners. We cracked open a bottle of bubbly some friends gave us and toasted the season. Hurray!

Grapefruit-Avocado Salad with Cassis Dressing, adapted from Bon Appetit

The original recipe calls for sherry vinegar, but we were out, so I subbed in the grapefruit vinegar from TJ's. Any mild vinegar would be fine here, champagne, perhaps, if you have it handy. A Kir Royal is an excellent accompaniment.

1 TB fresh ginger, finely minced
1 TB shallot, fine dice
1 1/2 TB olive oil
1 1/2 TB mild vinegar
1 1/2 TB cassis, black currant liqueur

1 pink grapefruit
1 avocado, sliced into eighths
1 small head of lettuce, or equivalent

Combine ginger through cassis in a bowl. Taste for salt and pepper.

Using a paring knife and working over a bowl, carefully remove all of the rind and pith from the grapefruit. Cut between the membranes of the fruit to loosen the segments. Set aside.

Line plates with lettuce. decorate with grapefruit segments and avocado. Taste the dressing again, if it's too sweet, you can add some of the grapefruit juice. Whisk dressing to reincorporate and drizzle over salad. Salt and pepper

Serves 2

Tagliatelle with Ricotta, Fava Beans and Fresh Herbs

If you decide to make your own ricotta, and I hope you do, you can have the leftover cheese drizzled with honey for breakfast the next day. It's what I eating right now, actually. The picture is what the dish looks like when everything is combined and tossed. The directions below make for a much nicer presentation.

2 lbs favas in pods, shucked, parboiled and peeled, you'll end up with 1 1/2 cups beans
8 oz tagliatelle, cooked, 1 cup cooking water reserved
fresh spring herbs, we used chives and green garlic
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 cups fresh ricotta (we use Heidi's recipe)
pecorino romano

Toss hot pasta with favas, herbs, zest, juice and enough reserved pasta water to help evenly distribute. Salt and pepper. Divide on plates. Dollop each portion with ricotta. Serve, passing pecorino.

Kir Royal

Special bonus recipe! You didn't think that I would hold out on you, did you?

sparkling wine

Method 1: Place 2 tsps cassis in the bottom of a champagne flute. Gently pour wine into flute.
Method 2: (My favorite) Gently pour wine into flute. Drop 2 tsps cassis into wine. Watch cassis sink to bottom.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

March 01, 2007


One of the most useful things I've learned in culinary school is the importance of proper seasoning, or balance. Almost everything one makes should be tasted throughout the cooking process and constantly checked for salt, pepper, etc. Most food can also be punched up with a good hit of acid (no, not that kind), like different vinegars, citrus juices, whatever happens to look interesting in your cupboard...

I've been having some trouble recently, trying to re-balance my life. A few weeks ago, my neighbor told me that her friend was looking for some help for her meal-delivery service. I jumped at the chance and for the last three weeks have been gainfully employed. Being employed is great, if you like what you do. This is the first real job I've had that I genuinely enjoy. Currently, I'm working about 20 hours a week, and going to school full time and trying to be a supportive partner/friend/family member. It is taking me a long time to re-adjust.

I'm slipping on a lot of things. School isn't very interesting right now and my quality of work is pretty sporadic. Yesterday, I got back two quizzes from particularly boring class: perfect score on one and 60% on the other. What a perfect example of how I'm feeling right now, off-kilter. I have this work-thing under control, but everything else feels like it's just out of reach. This corner of the web has been low on content lately too. I'm trying to remedy that. I know that things will get better and that eventually, I will get a good grasp on my straws, it's just taking more time than I had anticipated.

Moroccan Vegetable Tagine

Food from Morocco is all about balancing flavors: spicy, tart, salty, sweet, savory, earthy. All of the quantities in this recipe are variable. Without the couscous, this is gluten-free. Quinoa would make a good substitute.

Olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 lbs trimmed, cubed vegetables, I like a combination of sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, cauliflower, butternut squash, parsnips, rutabaga
1 16 oz can of tomatoes, diced (Muir Glen Fire-Roasted are great!)
1 1/2 TB tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock, or water
Cumin, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste
Ground ginger, to taste
Ground coriander. to taste
Aleppo pepper, or cayenne to taste
Peel of 1 preserved lemon, finely chopped, or zest of one lemon and juice
1 1/2 TB pomegranate molasses, optional
1/2 cup raisins or apricots
1/4-1/2 cup good quality olives, pitted and chopped
1 16 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
toasted almond slivers
chopped cilantro
cooked couscous, or quinoa

Heat enough oil to coat bottom of large skillet with lid. When hot, add onion. Cook until translucent. Add vegetables, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, veg stock and spices. If you have the preserved lemon peel and molasses, add those as well. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer, reduce heat and cover. Cook about 20 minutes, or until vegetables can be easily pierced with knife. Taste for salt and spices, adjust. Add lemon zest, juice, raisins, olives and garbanzo beans. Mix well. Continue to cook until beans are heated through. Serve over cooked grain and garnish with cilantro and almonds.

Serves 4-6

Labels: , , , , , ,