There was an error in this gadget

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shame Spiral




Dudes. DUDES. I am so sorry. I haven't posted since August, and I feel like a jerk. I have let myself down. I hope you do not also feel let down by me, the jerk.

Basically what happened was; I got busy. I went to Provincetown (so fun), then I went to Puerto Rico (gorgeous), then the kids started school and it got busy at work and everything snowballed and the few times I did get to cook fun and/or interesting things I neglected to take pictures and also I felt like a slacker for not updating and I am so ashamed.

I have not really been cooking lately, since I'm spending 12 hours a day in the office frantically shipping packages so as not to ruin Christmas for a bunch of nerds*, but I will be trying to update as much as possible. Then, once Christmas passes, I have a lot of free time for a couple months while I hibernate. I live in Massachusetts, guys. It's cold and dark and it's all you can do you stave off the ennui.

If I don't get time to post before then, I hope you all have the best of holidays (if that is your thing). I will definitely be back right after Christmas, since we have some cool stuff planned for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner and I want to show you the results!

xo,

H

* what up nerds, solidarity

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Quickie



I am home, briefly. I returned from San Diego last Wednesday, and this coming Monday I will be heading to Provincetown: The Gayest Town On Cape Cod. I am totally excited for the trip, as it will be a Real Vacation. I may even start working on Secret Project #2, while I have the time and am waiting for Secret Project #1 to begin. Projects! I hesitate to say more, I believe in jinxes.

In the meantime, I am cooking to use up the farm veggies - nothing too exciting, just broiled mixed vegetables with noodles here and a pasta salad there. Though I did learn that brown rice pasta is waaaay better than regular rice pasta, but you have to eat it the same day or it turns to glue in the fridge overnight.

Last night I thought that I was going to make steak on the grill with some awesome Cuban grilled corn and a potato thing, but then I accidentally fell asleep on the couch reading Scott Pilgrim 6 and by the time I woke up I was all "FUCK IT" and cooked burgers instead. I would have felt terrible had I not served a vegetable, so I came up with a ten-minute salad using Things I Dug Out Of The Fridge.

Summer Green Bean Salad

Pesto Vinaigrette

1/4 c wine vinegar
1 garlic clove
1/2 c olive oil
1 T pesto

Salad

1# fresh green beans, trimmed and blanched
1 large tomato, in 1/2" cubes
handful (about 1/2 c) kalamata oilives, roughly chopped
1/2 c feta cheese, crumbled

Toss dressing with salad ingredients. BOOM. DONE.

I served cubed watermelon to round out the meal. Hit with the whole family, even if C did pick out the tomatoes while making retching sounds. She's a charmer.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Twofer

My, this has been an eventful week. Two engagements were announced, I saw an old friend after 6 or 7 years apart, we're shopping and packing and getting ready for our trip to San Diego/kids' trip to camp, and I tried to sit through New Moon. This coming week (we leave next Monday) is shaping up to be pretty busy as well! I am going to try my best to get a couple posts in, hopefully I will cook more than just quesadillas and cereal.

I've got two quick ideas for you today. First, and I cannot believe I've never done this before, I made Tea-Poached Tilapia. It was so easy, and so delicious. Time it right and the fish comes out flaky and tender. You could always marinate, Tilapia takes well to marinade, but I was literally digging around in my freezer and found the fish last minute and had no time to do so. I had only planned on making a veggie stir fry and rice that evening.




Tea Poached Tilapia

4 herbal or green tea bags (I used Twinings lemon ginger)
2 c boiling water
2 T chopped garlic
1 T minced or grated fresh ginger
1 standard bunch scallions, thinly sliced
4 tilapia fillets


Steep tea bags in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. You want a strong brew. Set aside. Saute' the garlic and ginger in approximately 2T oil until garlic is softened. Remove tea bags from water, add brewed tea to the garlic and ginger. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a strong simmer. Add the fish fillets to the simmering tea, add the scallions. Cover, simmer for about 3-5 minutes until fish is cooked through. Salt to taste.


Now that you have it, how you serve it is up to you! I pulled the fish out of the poaching liquid (which you can save and freeze and use for soup, or to steam shellfish) and served it on top of jasmine brown rice with stir fried vegetables. I set out an assortment of Asian condiments: like chili sauce, tamari, plum sauce, hoisen, and let everyone dress their own dinner. A fruit salsa would be lovely. You can also turn this into a soup with soba noodles or ramen, and some bean sprouts and snow peas.

-------------------------------------

Cameron and I love pickles. Pickled anything. Cam is a fan of anything sour (Salt & Vinegar chips, sour candy), and if it's also spicy she is so down. I have a feeling that she will be the one that I eventually travel to China with, they appreciate sour way more than the West.

I want this to be the year that I can, or "put up" preserves but it has just been too frigging hot to boil mason jars. I'm also disappointed in the low yield of my farm share this year, not sure whether that's just how the season is moving along, or if they're just spread too thin, share wise - but I haven't been really getting enough of any one thing to justify such a large scale project.

Anyway, I'm messing around with refrigerator pickles. I prefer a fresh pickle over cooked, and I guess that this is technically a brine, but I'm really happy with the result. I've tried three, so far. Two of which are great, the other one I just put together yesterday so I can't taste it until the weekend.

Like a vinaigrette, once you have a base you can create your own flavor combo from there. You can use any kind or vinegar, though with balsamic you may want to mess with the sugar proportion since balsamic is so sweet.

Basic Pickling Brine (for one jar)

2 c vinegar
1 1/2 - 2 c raw sugar
1/4 c salt


"Jeebus, that's a lot of sugar!" you say, and you are right - but you need it to counteract the vinegar, especially if you are using white. You could maybe use less if you are pickling fruit (my next experiment), as the fruit has a higher sugar content than cucumbers (duh).

Cucumber, Garlic, Chives, Dill, White Vinegar, Lemon Zest


Cucumber, Coriander, Lemon, Ginger, White Vinegar

Radish, Red Onion, Rice Vinegar, Ginger




Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July, July, July.. never seemed so strange



Augh, it's hot. We're going through a "heat wave", which in New England means that it's over 80 degrees. Listen, I know that it could be worse - but when your winter is half your friggin' year, you're so busy trying not to kill your family Shining Style that you forget what's it's like to be warm. Plus, it's humid and that is GROSS. We don't have AC, save for in Jeffrey's little home office*, and my small house is set up such that cooking on the stove raises the temperature substantially.

The weekend was for barbecues (it was Independence Day, after all), Monday we had rotisserie chicken, last night we ate at Apollo. Tomorrow and Friday we are invited out to other people's houses, but tonight I have to cook. Tonight is for cold food. Minimal stove time. Tonight is peanut noodles and fresh rolls.

I don't usually make peanut noodles from a recipe, I just kind of mess around until it tastes right, but I came across the following and I have to say that it tastes exactly how I want it to. (I added more garlic and an extra tablespoon of vinegar, but that's just me. I also used whole wheat vermicelli)




Cold Peanut Noodles

recipe courtesy of Catherine Newman

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup orange juice
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
1/4 cup hot water
1 pound angel hair pasta, cooked, drained and rinsed
2 scallions, very thinly sliced (optional)
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced into long, narrow strips, then cut crosswise
2 tablespoons cilantro, coarsely chopped (optional)

Whisk together first 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Add pasta, scallions, cucumber, and cilantro, and use your fingers to toss and coat the noodles. Add salt or more vinegar if it isn't as vibrant as you like. Let sit at room temperature if you're going to eat fairly soon — otherwise refrigerate.

Our accompaniment was asian-inspired fresh rolls. These are a great way to trick children into eating salad, by the way. There are near endless possibilities as to what you can put in these light, tasty, little packages; once you get the hang of rolling them you will want to make them all the time. I like to put rice noodles in there, usually, but since noodles were the main course it seemed like overkill. Tonight was simple, using what I had on hand.


Chicken, Basil, & Romaine Fresh Rolls

1T rice vinegar
1T soy sauce
1 tsp raw sugar
1 small clove of garlic, pressed or minced
1 tsp fish sauce
zest & juice of 1 lime
2 c cooked chicken, shredded
4 c chiffonade romaine lettuce
1 c chiffonade basil, any variety
1 carrot, grated
package of rice spring roll wrappers, available at any asian market

Whisk together first six ingredients until sugar is dissolved, then toss with shredded chicken. Let marinate for at least 20 minutes, then toss with lettuce, basil, and carrot.

That's your filling, now you need to know how to wrap it up.

First of all: spring roll wrappers come stiff, like uncooked noodles. "IF I BEND THEM THEY WILL BREAK, OH GOD." Don't be scared. Let me walk you through, friend.

1. Set up your work space. The bowl of filling, your package of wraps, a plate or some kind of dish with cold water, and a cutting board or dish to roll them in.

2. Lay one wrapper in the cold water. Wait 30 seconds. Take the wrapper out, being cautious not to rip it. If it falls apart, you left it in too long. If it still feels stiff, like it won't be pliable enough to work with, put it back in the water for a few seconds.

3. Place the wrapper on the work area, and a large pinch of filling in the middle.

4. Wrap it like you would a burrito, keeping in mind that unlike a tortilla this will stick to itself. You also have to work kind of fast so it doesn't get too tacky or soggy. If you don't know how to wrap a burrito, it's pretty simple. Fold the southern "flap" up over the filling. Bring the eastern flap over, then west. Roll it all north.

I have made a video that demonstrates. It was shot by my eleven year old daughter, who spends a lot of time making Ke$ha tribute videos and is handy with a camera.





Once you get used to it, you can soak the next wrap while you're wrapping. Serve as-is, or with a dipping sauce. An easy one is soy, fish sauce and a squeeze of lime. Thai sweet chili is excellent, especially when accompanied by sweet soy sauce. Hoisen, grated ginger, and a shot of lime juice or orange juice is good too.

*that we have totally taken over, the poor man gets no peace.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Musings On Body Image

I've been thinking a lot about body image lately. I'm almost 5' 10", and I weigh about 160 pounds. This is the "biggest" I've ever been, not counting when I was pregnant and postpartum. I'm well within the BMI for a woman my height, but I feel huge - and that's not okay.

Maybe it's because I used to be super thin. Period stopping, anemic thin. I just was. I had a really fast metabolism on top of constant anxiety, and I couldn't have put on pounds if I tried. People (read: other girls) would comment on it, tell me how jealous they were. I was constantly uncomfortable in my own skin. I wore huge clothes (it was the 90's, after all). If you're tall and skinny and awkward, you get called things like "stork" and "giraffe". I hated my small breasts, my bony knees, my pointy elbows.

In my twenties, after I had both of my kids, I felt pretty good. I was comfortable enough to walk around in a bikini top (stretch marks be damned). I started wearing closer fitting shirts. I didn't really think about it very much.

It started a couple years ago. My metabolism slowed down. It was bound to happen. I passed thirty. My job changed. Instead of running around a restaurant five days a week, I was walking around an office and sitting in front of a computer. One day I notice that I have the dreaded Muffin Top. Then my tee shirts are riding up. Then I have to buy new pants.

"Who cares?" you say. "You aren't obese. You're healthy. It's all in your middle and there's not much there. Shut up."

See, that's what the rational part of my brain says too. But my rational brain is speaking in a calm level voice, and being drowned out by the shrieking hysterical part of my brain that's telling me if I keep it up I'm going to be a tall fat lady like Julia Child; towering over everyone and scaring the neighborhood children. I'll have to shop in men's big and tall stores and dress like a lumberjack. I'll have a heart attack at 40.

Where does this come from? Certainly not my family. They don't give a fuck. They're all shapes and sizes and I've never heard the word "diet" come out of their mouths unless it was immediately followed by "Coke". Not my friends, they're not exactly Bridget Jones types. The media? The American standard of beauty? Maybe? Who the hell knows, but it's stupid and I hate it.

The biggest thing here is that it's starting to affect my relationship with food. I don't want to have to hold off on the fries. I really like beer, and bagels, and butter. I don't want to feel guilty for eating mac and cheese......but it keeps happening. Considering that I eat mostly whole foods, that we rarely if ever get fast food and that a good meal makes me really happy, it shouldn't be like this.

So here is what I've been doing:

1. Exercise, and more of it. This needs to happen anyway. Exercise is vital in anyone's life, but most people hate it because "Exercise" is not fun. Going to the gym, running on a treadmill, working out in front of the tv while Jillian Michaels yells at you suuuuuucks. You feel like you have to do these sort of things, and then you resent it. Fuck it. Go outside. Go for a walk, go for a run, push your kid in a stroller or pull them in a wagon, walk your dog. That's exercise. Last night we went down to the town's ratty tennis courts (that nobody goes to because everyone uses the fancy courts at the private school down the road) and hit balls at each other for an hour. We were terrible and every third ball went up and over the fence, but it was really fun. Boom. Exercise. Think about what small things you can do in your day to day life to make it more active. Ride your bike. Take the stairs. Walk to the store. If you hate to Exercise, then don't. At some point you'll give up and be back where you started - getting winded walking from your car into Wal-Mart. Don't be that guy. Are you going to give up walking your dog or running around with your kids? If your answer is yes, then you are terrible and should rethink your life.

2. Don't count calories. First of all, the average person doesn't even know how this works. They're like midichlorians or something? Second, if you count calories, you will CONSTANTLY feel bad about yourself. It doesn't make any sense to me to feel guilty for drinking orange juice. It's the JUICE of an ORANGE for fuck's sake. I don't care about calories. I use common sense. Is the salad better for me than the fried chicken sandwich? Yes. Is the oil and vinegar on the salad a better choice than the blue cheese ranch? Yes. There you go, I just cut calories. How many? Who the hell knows - but clearly the salad was a healthier choice. Frankly, you could put fried chicken on that salad and still be pretty ok. Once you remove the bun, the mayo or whatever, and the french fries you're ahead of the game.

3. I don't own a scale. I don't weigh myself unless I have a doctor's appointment. I have no idea how much I weigh. It's somewhere between 150 and 170 pounds. I don't need to know. Do I feel healthy? Do I like the way I look? Am I getting regular exercise? Do I eat well, and often? If the answer to those questions is "yes", then that's the goal. Not a number. Numbers fluctuate. You can weigh 150 pounds, check two days later and weigh 152. Why would I want to beat myself up over 2 pounds? I'm not going to look any different, or feel any different - and maybe this time next week I'll weigh 148, depending on what I eat and how active I am over that time. By not weighing myself, I cut out all of the guilt and doubt and bad feelings.

4. I remind myself that I am raising girls. Gorgeous girls. I will cry if I ever hear them complain that they "look fat" or if I see them dieting, and will consider myself a failure. It's so important to teach young girls to love and respect themselves. Let's lead by example.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Solstice Cleaning



It's the first day of summer, and I'm hot. Not "hott" like Christina Hendricks, but "hot" like sticky, and I smell like I've been riding the rails. My day has been full of various flavors of annoying first world problems, and as I was telling E how crabby I felt I knocked over a two gallon pitcher of fruit punch. Inside my fridge. It poured into all of the drawers, all over the kitchen floor, and into the dark recesses underneath the refrigerator. This is our third summer here, and as I helplessly watched sticky pink liquid run everywhere I realized that I have never moved the fridge to clean under/behind it.

"YOU HAVE GOT TO BE F*@%ING KIDDING ME," I hollered while E tried really hard to keep a straight face, and I could swear I heard a laugh track and a sad trombone off in the distance.

Well, I really needed to clean out the fridge anyway.......and as I pulled produce out of the drawers I noticed that some of our farm veggies from last week were starting to look a little busted, especially the greens.


Woe.

If you catch wilty greens in time, you can bring them back to life by trimming the end and setting them in a big bowl or sink full of ice water. Sometimes they're just too dried out and/or bruised to make it back but it's always worth a shot. It will take anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour to see results. You'll be able to tell which ones are disposal-bound, because they're the ones that look worse after sitting in the ice bath - soggy and sad. I managed to save some lettuce and some parsley, my beet greens and escarole didn't make it, and the kohlrabi tops had started to yellow. Don't bother with yellowed leafy greens (and broccoli, for that matter). Most of them taste bitter and nasty, and are mostly bereft of nutrients anyway. The longer that produce hangs out after it's been picked, the more vitamins it loses. It's best 4-5 days after it's been harvested (buy local!).

The best thing to do, I decided, was to take the pile of vegetables and turn them into dinner.


Here is the pile.




I weeded out the fruit and put it back, made an herbed avocado and tomato salsa for later, saved the celeriac and scallions for slaw (look for that in a couple days), and started trimming and peeling and chopping what was left.

I sliced the kohlrabi into 1/4" rounds, peeled and quartered the beets, and peeled and sliced the sweet potato. I blanched them in a pot of boiling salted water for about a minute, then shocked in ice water, then set aside in a large bowl. I trimmed the snow peas and garlic scapes, quartered the haruki turnips, peeled and sliced the red onion, and set those in a second bowl. I marinated the vegetables in a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, some chopped garlic and salt and pepper for about a half hour (overnight is also fine if you want to plan ahead). I did so in two separate bowls because I didn't want to pick through before I put them on the grill. As you can see in the photo: I grilled the sweet potato, kohlrabi, and beets directly on the rack because they're bigger. For the smaller stuff I used my grill wok.




I heart my grill wok. It was pretty cheap, I've had it for years, and with a hot grill and a little practice you can make kick ass grilled stir fry. SO great for smaller pieces of food, like shrimp. Nothing falls through the grate!



After the bigger pieces were done, I took them off and sliced them up, then tossed them with olive oil and salt and fresh ground pepper. I sprinkled the whole deal with chopped fresh herbs from my garden.

The veggies were served with crusty bread and mushroom risotto. I didn't make my own risotto this time, I had a bag of Trader Joe's in the freezer. Like I said, it's hot. I was not about to hang around the stove any longer than necessary. Any kind of grain would be nice - or a quick, light pasta like aglio olio.



Friday, June 18, 2010

Super Fast Dinner!


Time - we never have as much as we need. For most of us, it's because we have terrible time management skills. The internet has ruined us. For most people it used to be a luxury to be able to sit and read the newspaper, now we get all pissy if we don't get to spend an hour or two every day dicking around Digg or whatever. I've been reading a lot about how
constant access to information is rewiring our brains, and it's scary. I've been implementing some new rules for myself; Don't refresh Facebook. Don't carry your phone around and check it every minute (I leave it in the car, my bag, the other side of the house, I don't give a fig anymore). Close the laptop if you're watching a movie. You don't want to look at Reddit, so don't (it's a time-suck, and it's stupid).

It HELPS. I get so much more done. I focus on one thing at a time. I don't want to stab my friends and colleagues (well, just a little less).

Even so, some days I don't have the time to assemble anything too complicated - but I still need to get something tasty-and-nutritious-that-is-not-pizza on the table for the fam.

If I don't kick out a frozen Trader Joe's entree (surprisingly tasty, but not enough in one bag to feed us all), my go-to is pasta. As I've mentioned before, I like to use enriched whole wheat pasta for it's flavor and nutritive value. One pound of cooked pasta, one jar of pesto (or about a cup of home-made, and 4 oz cream cheese mixed together is a big winner around here. This time I used Tofutti's 'Better Than Cream Cheese' so that Jeffrey could enjoy without pain, and I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised at how good that stuff tastes. Very very close to actual cream cheese flavor, tastier than store brand cheap cream cheese for sure. Before you drain the pasta, reserve about a cup of the cooking water, then mix it with the pasta, pesto and cheese. It turns it into more of a sauce by warming and thinning the cream cheese.

On the side, I made braised greens with bacon. Our CSA farm share just started up and that means that we have leafy greens to spare. I used bok choy and dinosaur kale this round.

Braised Greens With Bacon

1/2 lb good quality bacon
1 large bunch hardy leafy greens (kale, collards, bok choy, mustard)
1/4 c white wine
1 shallot, minced

Rinse and roughly chop greens. Set aside.

Slice raw bacon into 1/4" cubes or slices. Heat a wok or very large skillet on medium high, and fry the bacon bits until crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Fry shallots in bacon grease until they just start to brown, then add white wine. Add greens, stir, cover. Cook, covered, for 2-3 minutes until greens are wilted and tender. Stir in bacon bits, season to taste with salt and pepper. Best served immediately.

If you add bacon to anything, my kids will eat it. Anything. I wish it was better for us.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Another Arabian Night

The lighting in my dining room is whack.


Middle Eastern food is perfect summer fare - there's a lot of grilled meats and cold dishes. There is also the added benefit of their diet traditionally being low in fat and high in fiber, and rich in olive oil - good for your heart! I've been ready for a flavor change - as I've been doing a lot of Tex Mex, Asian, and pizza (the Holy Trinity in our house) - and I love the complexity of Middle Eastern cuisine. Pungent spice blends, fresh herbs, tangy yogurt, earthy grains; it's all wonderful.

On the menu last night were kofta (a grilled spiced meatball), cucumber/carrot/onion salad with yogurt dill dressing, and lemony boiled potatoes with carrot greens.

I've never made my own kofta, so I spent quite a bit of time looking up different recipes to see if there is a hard and fast traditional spice blend to use. Turns out that it varies by region, like barbecue here in the states, so I made up my own. There are also a few different ways to cook the meatballs, including skewered, baked, and directly on hot coals. I went with making little slider-sized patties on the grill. The only thing I forgot was some pita or lavash type bread, and I didn't feel like going to the store, but these would also be great stuffed into a pita with the carrot/cuke salad on top.




Spice Blend

This makes more than you need for the recipe - save the rest to rub on meat or fish - with a little olive oil - for the next time you grill!

1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp good quality paprika
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cracked pepper

********************************
Kofte

1# ground beef or lamb
1 T minced garlic
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
1 handful chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp spice blend

Combine all ingredients, shape into meatballs or small patties, and grill to preferred temperature.




Carrot Cucumber Feta Salad w/ Yogurt Dill Dressing

Dressing

2T mayo
3T yogurt
1T lemon juice
1 tsp raw sugar
handful fresh dill
s/p

Salad

2 cucumbers, seeded and sliced
3 -4 carrots, sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
4 oz feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add carrots, cook for 1-2 minutes until bright orange and al dente (tender to the bite). Drain, then drop carrot slices into large bowl of ice water. (This arrests this cooking process and retains the nice bright color of the carrot as it flash-cools them.) Drain well.

Toss all ingredients with the dressing, chill for at least a half hour to allow flavors to blend.

You know in the movies when someone goes to the grocery store and they leave with the paper bag that has a baguette and the fronds of a bunch of carrots sticking out of the top? Yeah, what is that?

I am going to assume that if you have ever purchased a bunch of carrots that still have the tops attached, you have cut them off and thrown them away. Big mistake! They taste a little like carrot and a lot like parsley, and are chock full of vitamins. I used them straight up in place of parsley in the following recipe, so if your store only carries carrots in plastic bags just use parsley instead.


Lemony Potatoes with Carrot Greens

2# red potatoes, quartered and boiled
1 bunch carrot greens
1/4 c olive oil
2 T lemon juice

Toss, serve warm or room temperature.






Monday, June 14, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner Party


My friends found a trivia board game in which you place bets (with poker chips) on whether or not your opponents will answer the question correctly. It is ridiculously fun if you enjoy trivia and not having any faith in your friends.

We played for the first time last night, after dinner and a dramatic reading of the first few chapters of "My Immortal" courtesy of E. I don't care if it's for real or not, it is the most amazing piece of literature ever written. (Yes I know it's four years old, no I had never heard of it before.)

Dinner was a series of "And And And Food", as my old boss used to call it. Lemon and Herb Roast Pork Shoulder with Spinach, Shiitake, and Goat Cheese Ravioli and Roasted Grape Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Garlic Scapes in Balsamic Brown Butter. Julia supplied a Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with vanilla Haagen Daz for dessert. We tried Lost Angel Mischief, which I picked up based on how I usually choose wine - the pretty label. I'm (mostly) kidding. It was really nice, very lush and berry. I could happily drink it all summer, it's an "easy" red and would go down well even in hot weather. Plus, it's a steal for $10.

For the pork, I dug out my terra cotta roaster that I usually forget that I have. I had used it a couple times in the past to make oven stews, but this was the first time I used it to roast meat. I'm a convert! The pork was so juicy, but still had a nice crust to it. The onions perfectly caramelized and nothing stuck to the pan. I'll definitely be experimenting with the roaster again soon. I picked mine up at TJ Maxx, years ago for about $20, a quick Google search shows that they're generally affordable and come in all different sizes. Mine has a glazed interior, which I would recommend as the clay will absorb flavors and the glaze will hinder that from happening.



Here is a thing that I like to do for pork, and sometimes for chicken; make a salt & garlic paste, rub the pork down with it, then roll it in chopped fresh herbs and a little bit of olive oil. Garlic paste is made by mincing fresh garlic cloves with a pinch of salt added in. The salt works to break down the garlic. (You can also add a little bit of lemon or lime zest in there for extra flavor) This is a helpful video, though I don't see why she's so fussy with slicing the garlic in the beginning. I just smash the clove with the side of my big knife, pull off the paper and root end, and chop from there. So much faster, and you're just grinding it down anyway.
I soaked my roaster in cold water for about a half hour, then added the pork, a sliced red onion, and poured a little less than a cup of white wine and the juice of half a lemon over the roast. Start in a cold oven, set the temp to 475, and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the internal temperature of the pork is about 160.

Home-made ravioli is not as daunting as you might think! My secret? Won Ton wrappers.* For real. You can get them at the Asian market for a couple of bucks, and you can keep them in your freezer until you're ready to use them. Then you can stuff them with anything! A little bit of cheese, your favorite vegetables minced or mashed, some ground meat, some chopped seafood, the list is endless. It can be a little time consuming while you're getting the hang of stuffing and folding, but I threw these together in about a half hour - 45 minutes if you count the cooking time.


Shiitake Spinach Goat Cheese Ravioli

1 package won ton wrappers (I use round)
12 oz goat cheese
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 c minced shiitake mushrooms
1 bunch spinach, stemmed and chopped fine
1/4 c vermouth or sherry (or white wine, whatever)

Heat a skillet on high. Sautee' mushrooms and garlic in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until mushrooms have released all of their liquid and begin to stick to the pan. Deglaze the pan with vermouth, add spinach. Sautee' until spinach has wilted. remove from heat and let cool. (You can cheat by popping the mix in to the freezer for a few minutes while you prep your work area.) When cool, mix with goat cheese and salt/pepper to taste.

Here's how to set up your stuffing station; take two cutting boards or cookie sheets and sprinkle a layer of cornstarch over each. (One is going to be your work area, and the other is where you will set the finished ravioli.) Two bowls: water in one, in the other a beat an egg with a teaspoon of water. A pastry brush would be helpful here, but I have used my fingers more than once.

Ok! Lay out won ton wrappers over board #1. Using the pastry brush (or your fingers), paint the outer rim of each wrapper with egg. Set about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper. Keep your left hand dry, pick up the ravioli with your left hand and fold it in half. (If you dip your right fingers into the water bowl, you can use that hand to tuck the filling into place without it sticking to your fingers.) Pinch along the seam, sealing the ravioli closed. Repeat until you're out of filling.

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the ravioli one at a time - I do it in batches of 6 -8. When the ravioli floats, it's done. Since your filling is already cooked, you're just cooking the pasta. Fish each ravioli out using a slotted spoon, and transfer to a plate where it can sit and wait for saucification. (Real word, I say so.)

This makes quite a few, but you can freeze them before they're boiled.



This is one of the easiest sauces out there, and incredibly versatile. Also fantastic on chicken, fish, or roasted vegetables.

Balsamic Brown Butter

6T unsalted butter
2T balsamic vinegar
s/p to taste

Melt butter in a skillet on med/high heat until golden brown, stirring or swirling occasionally. Remove from heat, whisk in balsamic vinegar. Season to taste.

That's the base recipe but it's simplicity leaves a lot of room for creativity. When I made this last night, for the ravioli and roasted summer veg, I minced a shallot and about a teaspoon of fresh sage and fried them in the butter before removing from the heat and adding the vinegar.

*photo courtesy of Burning Pasta - I forgot to take a picture, and this is the brand I use.



Sunday, June 13, 2010

Infinity Tacos




How many different ways can one family eat tacos? The answer is infinity. (Infinity Tacos is the name of my Los Lonely Boys/Evanescence cover band.)

I had a small beef brisket from our CSA, and decided to slow cook it for taco filling. Since I don't give a frig about authenticity, I rummaged around in the cabinets and came up with a melange of ingredients to throw in the crock.

I rubbed the roast with Lime Pepper and Kitchen Bouquet, and let it sit while I chopped a head of garlic. I sautee'd the garlic in a few tablespoons of oil, and then quickly seared the meat on all sides. I then transferred the meat to the crock and topped it with a can of roasted green chiles, a couple of quartered tomatoes, a sliced onion, a half a jar of pizza sauce that I had in my fridge and some agave syrup to balance out the acid in the onions and tomatoes (probably about 2T?). Then I set it on low nd came back to it eight or nine hours later. I took the roast out, shredded it by ripping it apart with a fork in each hand, and returned it to the pot, mixing it back with the cooking juices.

fig. 1




fig. 2


The results were tender and flavorful, peppery without being too spicy. I used a jarred tomatillo salsa and smoked shredded cheese to complement the meat.

The reason that I didn't write this up in my traditional recipe format is that I don't intend this as a strict recipe (which it certainly can be), but more of an example of how I take what I have and wing it from there. I know a lot of people don't feel comfortable cooking without a recipe, and I don't blame you! When I was first teaching myself to cook, before I was working in kitchens and learning from more experienced people, I didn't trust myself to experiment. Even now - when dealing with flavors and cooking styles that I am unfamiliar with - I will stick hard and fast to recipes until I get the feel. Eventually I get to the point where I instinctively know what something will ultimately taste like as I'm composing a dish.

Maybe we don't all have this ability, and I'm taking it for granted. Maybe it's kind of like how anyone can be taught to play the guitar, but not just anyone can be Clapton. I'm certainly no Keller (the food world's Clapton), but I'm just as good as half the hacks on Food Network (eff you Bobby Flay) and I think that anyone with a love for interesting food and some core knowledge can throw together an impressive meal any day.

Here is another example: pasta salad. Like Taco Guts (what we refer to taco filling as), the possibilities are endless. Do you have pasta? Good, you're halfway there. I made the following salad for a pot-luck at E's school. I wanted something a little different but not "weird", and something that the parents could enjoy in the sea of mac and cheese and meatballs that everyone always brings to these events.

Chicken Chipotle Pasta Salad

Dressing:

3 cloves garlic, minced
zest + juice of 1 lime
3/4 c mayo
3/4 c sour cream
1 scant tsp chipotle powder


Blend together, set aside.

2 c corn
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 whole chicken - roasted, boned and chopped (can you say "rotisserie", boys and girls? I can, especially in summer.)
1 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 # pasta


Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, and then immediately rinse in cold water. Drain off as much water as possible.

Toss pasta with remaining ingredients and dressing. Chill for at least one hour to allow the flavors to blend.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

FINALLY

FINALLY it is summer weather and FINALLY I get to bust out the grill and ALSO I got a new computer machine from which to "update" this "blog" - and the world is back in balance once again.

Quick post tonight! I am sleepy as heck and not feeling very wordy, but I made some pretty skewers that I want to share.



Grilled Tuna & Fruit Skewers

Marinade:

the zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small limes
1/4 c lemon juice
1/2 c oil (canola, soybean, etc)
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
handful of chopped cilantro
s/p to taste
-----------------------
4 tuna steaks, cubed into 1" pieces
1 bell pepper, 1 small red onion, also cut into 1" pieces
pineapple chunks, fresh work best but canned is ok too. Frozen may fall apart!
strawberries, tops removed


Marinate the tuna chunks for at least 1 hour. Toss the fruit and onions and peppers with a little bit of oil. Thread all ingredients on to skewers. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side.

There are two ways to keep the food from sticking on to the grill - first, get your grill super super hot. The hotter the grate, the faster it will sear the food. You can also cover the grill grate with a layer of heavy aluminum foil, and spray that with pan spray.

Serve with some kind of rice.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Apologies!

Hey friends,

Sorry for not posting lately, I'm in between laptops. My new Mac is on it's way and I've got a bunch of stuff to show you as soon as it gets here. In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of my cat.




Monday, May 17, 2010

Can you tell me how to make, how to make that Sesame Slaw?

Dear Friends,

I started this post about three weeks ago, before my old laptop ate itself. Let's go back in time, shall we?

- H





Yesterday we hit the first barbeque of the season after a relaxing weekend of working on the yard and hanging around the house. When you tell me, "bring whatever" I generally kick into overdrive. I brought three things to this particular shindig: Bacon Spinach Deviled Eggs, Balsamic Strawberry Rhubarb Tart, and an Asian-style slaw. I neglected to get photos of the eggs and the tart. Sorry. Trust me when I tell you that they were very pretty.

The slaw idea came from having a lot of leftover Thai Basil and bean sprouts after I made pho the other day. I shredded my cabbage by hand, but I've had a lot of practice and I have a really big, sharp knife. You could use a food processor or even buy the pre-shredded bags of slaw mix, I am not here to judge.

Sesame-Ginger Slaw

1 small head of cabbage, shredded
4-5 carrots, shredded
1 lb mung bean sprouts
1 c chopped Thai Basil
1/2 c sesame seeds: black ones look pretty but regular ones are just as good!

Dressing:

1/4 c rice vinegar
1/4 c salad oil (canola, etc.)
1/4 sesame oil
1 T grated fresh ginger
1 tsp grated or minced fresh garlic
if you prefer your dressing sweet, 1 tsp - 1T sugar
salt to taste

Simple! Good enough as just a side dish, but later this week I plan to make shredded hoisin pork sandwiches and make this slaw again to use as a topping.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We want the pho, gotta have the pho.



It is pronounced "FUH" like "funk" and not "fo" like "fo sho", and that is why the title of this post works and I am funny.

Pho is Vietnamese beef and rice noodle soup, typically sold as street food. You start with the noodles and some raw beef, pour boiling stock over them to heat up the noodles and cook the beef, and then choose from a variety of fresh herbs and greens to garnish.

The stock is the first "layer" of flavor in your dish. I've had pho at a few different restaurants, and found the broth to be pretty similar. From what I could tell, at a taste, it was beef broth, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mirin and sugar. When I was looking around online at different recipes to get the basic gist of what I would need to make my own I discovered that pho is a dish with many regional variations - in some areas they use cardamom and/or fennel, in some the broth is bitter from charred onion, in some the broth is sweeter. (For this meal I decided to go with a pretty basic recipe, to see what the family thought. )

The next layer of flavor comes from the garnishes. This is the fun part.

Greens include but are not limited to: Thai Basil, cilantro, fresh mung bean sprouts, scallions, any kind of leafy green (watercress, baby spinach), and culantro. Limes or lemon can be squeezed into your bowl, and you can basically go crazy on the sauces. I love going into the local Asian market and buying sauces and condiments, even if I don't know what they are. Here's some examples from my pantry:


L-R: Plum Sauce is kind of like duck sauce but tangy-er, Chili Garlic "Rooster" Sauce is hot with a nice rounded garlic flavor. Sweet Soy is what it sounds like; it's a thick, almost molasses-like syrup. It's kind of weird on it's own, but excellent when paired with Sweet Chili sauce. The two of those drizzled over any fried Asian appetizer like won tons or spring rolls or Crab rangoons = OMG SO GOOD. The last sauce is Sirracha. Sirracha fans will put that sh*t on everything. Pizza, burgers, scrambled eggs, you name it. It's spicy, like burn your lips spicy, but it's got a great kind of fresh flavor all it's own.

You can switch up/ add on to the protein, as well! I've had pho with brisket and meatballs, and I've seen tripe, tendon, and different organ meat on the menu. As you can see, tonight we added hard boiled eggs. I just found out that my local market has fresh quail eggs - so excited - they're going in next time.

Okay so the point is that there is a lot of choices here, don't get confused. Try whatever you like! As long as you have a nice rich broth, you can't go wrong.

Traditionally, the broth is simmered for hours and hours and starts with an oxtail. I was not up for an all day project, and Stop & Shop was fresh out of oxtail. You can definitely fake it if you start with a good quality beef stock.

I also want to add that you really need access to an Asian market or bodega for this one. Regular grocery stores might have some of this stuff, but it's going to be that super overpriced 'Taste Of Thai' nonsense.

White Girl Pho

1/2 gallon beef stock
1" piece of fresh ginger, smashed
1/4 small onion
1 tsp fish sauce
1 T mirin
1/2 tsp Five Spice powder, or more to taste
1T sugar


Place all of the above ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and then lower hear and simmer for as long as it takes you to prep all of the other ingredients. (minimum 30 minutes)

Cook one package "rice sticks" according to directions. Rice sticks are those flat, clear noodles that are also used in Pad Thai. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse with cold water. This will stop the noodles from cooking and keep them from sticking together in a big sad clump.

Prep all of your vegetables and herbs. I don't bother chopping the herbs like basil and such, we tear them with our hands, straight into our individual bowls.

(Thai Basil, watercress, cucumber, mung sprouts, limes, scallion)

Slice a 1 pound steak in very thin strips. Thin is the key here, you want it to cook on contact with the boiling broth.



Like so.


Now assemble; noodles, then raw beef, then ladle the broth in. Garnish to taste, then enjoy!

This was devoured by the whole family, by the way. It's nice because we all had slightly different dinners, to our own taste. Kind of like build-your-own-taco night.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta" - Federico Fellini

So I just got back from a weekend in Boston, and I am home for three days before flying to Toronto for TCAF and I have a bazillion things to do before I go and oh my god aaaaahhh. I didn't really have time to cook yesterday, but I also feel terrible about the amount of take-out and frozen stir-fry that I've been subjecting my kids to. Last night I made a full meal in less than 20 minutes - and you can, too!

If you do not own a crock pot, you are wrong and go get one. Seriously, I bet you even know someone who has one that they never use and will give it to you. They are fools, those people. They know not the amazing tool that they have at their disposal.

Before I left the house, yesterday morning, I rubbed a whole roaster chicken down with olive oil and seasoned salt.* I set my crock pot on high/4 hours. Line the bottom of the crock with crinkled aluminum foil.




Not only does the foil keep the chicken away from it's own drippings (stew is nice but not what you want, here), for some scientific reason that I have not given much thought to it gives it more of a crispy skin than when there's no foil. (Same holds true for roasting potatoes in there.)

Pour about a half cup of water in the bottom of the pot, this will keep the meat nice and moist while it's cooking. Place the chicken on the foil, close the lid.

That's basically it, walk away. Come back in a few hours and your chicken is ready to go.

Along with the chicken I made a quickie pasta saute'.



Wicked Easy Weeknight Pasta

1# large pasta shape

12 oz can of diced tomato, or if you can find them, canned cherry tomatoes
1/2 red onion, diced
minced garlic to taste, I seriously used a whole head
a handful (a cup or so) of fresh basil, roughly chopped

1/4 c white wine
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 c olive oil
s/p to taste


Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Get a large saute' pan or wok really really hot - high heat for a minute or two until it just starts to smoke. (This is all in the heat and timing. Saute' takes practice, but this is an easy one.) Add olive oil and immediately add onion and garlic. Stir (or wrist flip if you're fancy) until the onion is translucent. You want to keep the onion & garlic moving around as much as possible - if the garlic browns too much it will turn bitter. Add the wine. If your pan is hot enough, the alcohol will burn off almost immediately and the wine will reduce by half. Add the tomatoes, juice and all. Stir. You'll notice after about a minute that the sauce will have thickened, the goal is to reduce the sauce by about 1/3. Add vinegar, stir, then add the pasta. Give it a quick toss to coat the pasta and remove from heat. Toss in the basil at the end, season with salt and pepper.

The whole active saute' process takes less than five minutes once your ingredients are chopped and the pasta is cooked.

This is so basic that you could easily add other things at the end - capers and shrimp might be nice, for example - or kalamata olives and feta cheese!

*You can buy seasoned salt already mixed, but be careful because a lot of brands have MSG and silica and weird additives. I like Jane's Krazy Mixed Up Seasonings, but you can easily mix your own. I have a problem, I impulse-buy different spices and seasoning mixes just about every time I'm in the store. It's ridiculous.

Bina Osteria, Boston



Man, Boston's "Theater District" is gross and sketchy! Even though I grew up close to Boston, I had not been to that area before this past Saturday. E and I had tickets to see the touring company of Young Frankenstein; The Musical, and I thought that instead of Yelp-ing the neighborhood we could just "walk around and find something". Great idea in theory.

From what I can tell, the Theater District in the the beginning stages of what is charmingly known as "urban renewal". They recently renovated the Opera House (it is stunning, that's where we saw the play), The Paramount just reopened thanks to Emerson College, and tucked in between the numerous Dunkin' Donuts, the wig shop, and the Army-Navy store are a handful of four star Italian restaurants. After a quick lap around the block, we landed at Bina Osteria.

The weather was beautiful that day, so we chose to sit outside. The view is only a T stop and some Emerson dorms, but the fresh air was nice. I started with the Duck Confit, and was surprised when I discovered that it was duck breast (as opposed to legs, which is what is usually used for confit), and that it was served cold. I was not disappointed; it was light and flavorful and perfect for the warm evening. I also ordered their Glass Sipper cocktail - gin, cucumber, basil and lemon. Lovely. (...and HUGE, easily a double)



E started with the Mussels in Marinara. Soft and wonderful, light sauce. Near perfect.


Due to a kitchen problem, our entree's took a little too long; since we had to be at the theater by a certain time, we ended up wolfing our food down. No regrets! E loved her Squid Ink Spaghetti with Shellfish and Fresh Tomato. I had the Loin of lamb in a house-made chestnut tortilla, with portobella mushrooms and Fontina cheese. The staff couldn't be nicer, and the manager comped our drinks to make up for the wait (unnecessary, the entree's still arrived faster than any other full house on a weekend). I would absolutely eat there again, maybe the next time we see a show at the Opera House. Perhaps we'll have time for dessert.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Would you like a bite of my Sloppy Joseph?"



Nostalgia kicked in the door again today, and reminded me about Sloppy Joes. How could I forget? Just as all-American as the hamburger and twice as hard to eat in public. Notice that you never see Sloppy Joes on restaurant menus? It's because they are more unattractive to watch someone eat than buffalo wings - and watching someone eat buffalo wings can be a friendship killer.

But if you are eating them in the privacy of your own home, who's going to judge? Your kids? Your cats? The Sex & The City re-runs that you watch while you eat so that you don't feel lonely? None of them will judge. They all got problems, too.

Sloppy Joes, also known as "Manwiches" usually come out of a can. You buy a hunk of ground beef, open a can of sauce, add sauce to beef and slap it on a burger bun. The sauce not only has high fructose corn syrup and various dehydrated vegetables (gross), but it is crazy high in sodium. Sure it's easy, but so is my recipe. It doesn't take that much longer to cook these from scratch - I had dinner ready in about a half hour and that includes throwing together the salad.

I have not had a 'Joe' in many years, so I basically winged this from memory. It doesn't taste just like a Manwich, but it tastes really good! We always used to have them with Ruffles potato chips (also terrible for you), so tonight I served them with our favorite kettle-cooked salt and pepper chips and a basic salad. Everyone loved it, and actually finished their meals. Hooray for......

Sloppy Josephs


1 bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
8 oz mushrooms, chopped fine
3-6 cloves of garlic to taste, chopped fine
splash of red wine
1# ground beef
16 oz tomato sauce (I like the roasted garlic flavor, but plain is fine too)
2T ketchup
2T steak sauce (like A1)
1/2 tsp chili powder (I used chipotle, regular is fine)
1 tsp paprika
1/4 c brown sugar
s/p to taste

Saute' the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and bell pepper in about 2T of oil on high heat for 2-3 minutes. When the vegetables are soft and the mushrooms have released their moisture*, deglaze the pan with the red wine. Cook down the wine (about 1 minute) and then add the ground beef. Brown the ground beef in with the vegetables, frequently chopping it up with a wooden spoon as you go. When the beef is evenly browned, add the chili powder and paprika. Give it a quick stir and then lower the heat to med-low and add in the tomato sauce, steak sauce, and brown sugar. Let simmer for about 15 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste.

I served this on toasted bulkie rolls with melted smoked Gouda cheese.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Not Very Detailed Restaurant Reviews, by Holly

The past month and a half or so has been a busy time around here. We've been traveling around doing the first leg of our convention schedule and, while it hasn't really afforded me time to cook much more than basic pasta and take-out pizza, I've been trying out some fantastic restaurants.

The highlights so far:

Sky City at the Space Needle in Seattle, WA - This was not my first time at the Space Needle, I had been once before duing the same convention last year. Sure, it's touristy to go to a revolving restaurant but you know what? The food is wonderful, the portions are generous, and the staff is lovely. Highly recommended for a splurge. We started with the Carpaccio and the Prosciutto Wrapped Flagship Cheese, and my entree' was the Seafood Pasta. It was rich, and delicious, and such a large portion that I couldn't finish.

Junior's in Times Square, NYC - Guys, I'm not going to lie to you. I love diner food. I love deli food. Junior's will give me those things, they will give me a huge pile of those things. They give you a selection of complimentary pickles before your meal. My chicken salad was simple, just like I like it. Chicken, mayo, celery. Perfect. I would be remiss not to mention the cheesecake, which is as heavenly as cheesecake gets.

Mercat a la Planxa, Chicago - The ideal review of this place would just be a recording of the gutteral noises that we made while trying the food. High end tapas shared between the six of us, we tried about 20 dishes and I could honestly not pick a favorite. Excellent cocktail menu, as well.

I also updated my flickr stream with some shots of various things including our lovely Easter feast, most of which was provided by Kaliis, all of which was scrumptious. Ogle away.

I will leave you with Food and Wine's recipe for a pitcher of Limoncello Collins, a light and lovely cocktail for the current warm and lovely weather. We drank these with Easter dinner.

Limoncello Collins


  • SERVINGS: Makes 8 Drinks

Ingredients

  1. 16 ounces limoncello
  2. 12 ounces gin
  3. 8 ounces fresh lemon juice
  4. 24 paper thin lemon slices
  5. Ice
  6. 16 ounces chilled club soda
  7. 8 mint sprigs

Directions

  1. In a pitcher, combine the limoncello, gin and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Press 3 thin lemon slices against the inside of each of 8 collins glasses. Add ice to the glasses. Stir the limoncello mixture and pour it into the glasses. Stir 2 ounces of club soda into each drink and garnish with a mint sprig.