Monday, December 28, 2009

The Sides Review

So The Pedant blogged all about meats, which I don't eat so here are the sides review. I won't tell you too much about the places because 1) TP already did and 2) I don't feel like it.

Buz N' Eds

As TP already said, it was very tasty. The sides we got (mostly, throughout the trip my parents, TP and I all shared various sides) were:

Mac and cheese
BBQ Baked Beans
Cole Slaw
Hush Puppies

The best was by far the beans. Smokey, definitely made with pork, and perfect. The mac and cheese was fantastic - creamy, gooey and the like. (I was going to rate the best mac and cheese but it's hard to - they were all really about the same level at all the places.) The coleslaw was good and had a kick to it. The collards were a bit on the greasy side but pretty tasty. The hush puppies were perhaps the best puppies we had that day - fried to perfection but not too dense.

Q Shack

For dinner in Durham we went to Q Shack which was recommended by several people. It was worth it. They had a cobb salad with meats (I got it without and therefore actually ate a meal) avocado (how could you go wrong??!), crumbled egg, tomatoes (meh) and lettuce. It came with a chipotle blue cheese dressing that was fair. It had the potential to being better, but was kind of thin. I really like my blue cheese to be on the thick and creamy side. The sides we got were:

Cole Slaw
Mac and Cheese
Creamed Spinach with Jack Cheese
Onion Rings
Hush Puppied
Fried Okra
Baked Beans

Again, very good mac and cheese. The onion rings were what I wanted to order - I saw someone with them when we walked in and thought they looked amazing. They were by no means as good as the onion rings we had in Iceland, but very good. The beans were not nearly as good as the ones we had for lunch, but the Creamed Spinach made up for that (it was the best of the sides) - really tasty and cheesy. The slaw was fine and the hush puppies were good but a bit on the heavy side.

The Pit

For lunch yesterday we went to The Pit in Raleigh which not only was recommended but also had BBQ Tofu. The place itself was a bit more upscale - sit down restaurant with waiters - and the food really good. I got the Tofu which was fantastic. Smokey and in a the molasses sauce. It came with grilled vegetables, but I did, for good measure, try all the sides:

Baked Beans
Mac and Cheese
Sweet Potato Fries
Green Beans
Fried Okra
Cole Slaw
Hush Puppies

(All the other meals came with hush puppies, a biscuit and 2 sides. Mine was the grilled vegetables - asparagus, onion, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. The vegetables were all amazing.)

The mac and cheese was once again really good. Maybe the best but only by a little since it was probably made with a roux. The sweet potato fries were perfect and the best - not quite shoe string but really great. I actually never tried the slaw because by the time I wanted to my mom finished it, which is a good sign. She said it was good. The beans were interesting - a mix of beans and nice and smokey. The okra wasn't too heavy and the green beans not too greasy. the hush puppies were also really good - round and not heavy at all. The biscuits were also to die for.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Going to Carolina With My Stomach

The Sherbs and I have followed my father-in-law down to North Carolina for his barbecue tour of the Research Triangle area, where we have tried our darnedest to eat Carolina barbecue at every meal, save for the complementary breakfast at our hotel, which includes a pitiful mockery of bagels as well as worse-than-McDonald's® chicken biscuits, which even after a healthy microwaving tasted like a chicken nugget on butter-flavored sponge.

Anyway, to the barbecue reviews. As the Sherbs and I agreed, I'll review the meats, which I eat, while the Sherbs will comment on the various tasty side dishes, which she had more opportunity to sample.

One of the great pleasures of Carolina barbecue is that at least two hush puppies come with every meat product. The number of sides may vary, the presence of a biscuit is not guaranteed, but a somewhat corn flour-based fried object is a sweet crispy addition to every meal. And it's always good, although each place does it differently.

To the places:
As is usual for I-95, we ran into traffic between Fort Belvoir and Fredericksburg, so we couldn't quite get to North Carolina for lunch yesterday. Still, we made it to Richmond by lunchtime, so we went to Buz & Ned's, the place that beat Bobby Flay at a "throwdown" regarding ribs.

Best Food: surprisingly, I liked the pulled chicken sandwich the best. It was moist and flavorful in its sweet and spicy sauce.
Second Best Food: the ribs. I can see why Bobby Flay lost to these guys. They make a meaty, sweet, and very edible rib.

Q SHACK - Durham, NC
After touring some of downtown Durham, which is not quite as Blue Devil-themed as one would expect, we went to the Q Shack, a homey restaurant with a no-nonsense ordering system and rapid delivery of orders (as opposed to the passive-aggressive note for "piggies to cool your jets" at Buz & Ned's). I did miss a chance at the fried bologna sandwich, which seems like it would be incredible, but of everything else -

Best Food: The pulled pork. Comes in its own sweet sauce, and is basically able to be eaten alone on a fork.
Second Best Food: a tie. The smoked beef sausage is pretty darned incredible; I'm a sucker for kielbasa-style sausage, and the addition of smoky flavor makes it irresistible to me. Also very tasty were the ribs, which appeared to be flavored with something like cumin, which really was quite tasty, although definitely a particular taste; those expecting regular St. Louis or Carolina ribs will be disappointed.
Surprisingly Better Than Expected: the smoked turkey. It's moist and tasty, although it is still turkey, which is not a particularly interesting bird, so not my first choice.

THE PIT - Raleigh, NC
After traipsing around Raleigh on the city's visitor center's self-guided walking tour, which had one of the most misleadingly marked maps I have ever toured from (the little red dots were placed approximately where the site was, which was not helpful to determining which corner a particular building was on), we went to The Pit, which was well recommended, and not just for the barbecued tofu, which the Sherbs will tell us about. Unlike the previous two establishments, this is a sit-down restaurant with table service. Be aware that the two barbecue sauces both have different pour rates; the molasses sauce is slow as molasses, but the vinegar sauce is really fast-pouring; be careful. Also - the fried okra is better here than at the Q Shack; the Q's is a little overdone.

Best Food: The ribs. My in-laws liked Buz & Ned's better, but I found these the best kind of ribs in terms of traditional ribs, as they were both dry, not soaked in sticky sauce to make it tasty, and full of a complex smoke flavor which was much stronger and more interesting to the palate than any heretofore tasted.
Second Best Food: Chopped barbecue pork. It is vinegary and spicy, although those who like barbecue better with a tinge of sweet should add the molasses sauce. It is good both alone and on starch products.

There's at least one more bar-b-meal in this trip, and I'll review that when it happens.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Because This Blog Is Named That Way

The "no-knead" bread last night, with a substitution of one cup whole wheat flour for all-purpose, was very tasty, especially with a reheat of the vegetable soup from Sunday with the addition of a cup of water and 4 oz. Barilla Piccolinni® tiny pastas.

But today I want to make my own tonic water, because the Washington Post tells me I can. The only challenge? The Sherbs prefers diet tonic water.

So, the next question is, will Splenda® work? It needs to become a syrup. McNeil Nutritionals, the makers of Splenda® and possibly the sibling company of a pharmaceutical firm I used to sue all the time (nothing you need to worry about), says that it works in caramel sauces, but it dissolves and browns quickly.

Am I up to the challenge? I think so.

Now I just need gin. Or the Post's suggestion, homemade spiced rum.

Oh, also, while I'm also blathering about bread, cooking a fried egg in between pieces of sage bread (couldn't cut a hole in it) in a pan filled with cooking spray and paprika, with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and sea salt, tastes awesome.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sage Bread Success!

The sage bread came out of the oven this morning. I don't know what shape it was supposed to have, but it ended up with a large round loaf with a pretty good crust.

It's tasty, but hard to find condiments for as sage doesn't really mesh with not-butter, peanut butter, or mustard (I didn't even try jam). The bread was still so delicious that I had to put the rest in the freezer to keep from eating the loaf.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Staves of Life

As we speak, the Le Creuset Dutch oven is heating up for more of Cook's modified "no knead" recipe - the one that one actually has to knead, but not much. In storage are several finished loaves of black bread from Bittman's green bible, although one of them is denser than the other despite using the same ingredients contemporaneously. Waiting to rise is a Pueblo Indian sage-flavored bread made with cottage cheese, a recipe from my new ethnic food cookbook; a gift from my sister.

Why so much bread? Because 2 lbs. of yeast at Costco is the same as three packets at the Teet. So now I have a block of yeast in my fridge, of which I've used four tablespoons.

Back to the ethnic cookbook. Earlier tonight, I made the Pueblo Indian "Pojoaque cream soup" recipe, which is pinto beans, evaporated milk, garlic, and chili powder (I used ancho for some Bobby Flay big bold flavor). It goes in a blender and then on the stove to heat up.

I thought it would be spicier, but it's really tasty regardless. Pinto beans give it a mellow flavor, but a rich one.

While eventually I'll try the non-Indian recipes in this book, there is a Souix recipe for pumpkin stuffed with beef and wild rice on pg. 255. I have to make it.

A bread for all seasons...

I had my first encounter with baking bread this weekend. The Pedant has already baked several loves, and I didn't do the work all myself (hooray teamwork!) but I did more work than just pre-heating the oven and eat the finished product (although there was much of that last night and this morning).

We had a bottle of beer still from the last time we made bread (the America's Test Kitchen Almost No Kneed Bread calls for 3 oz. of beer which helps in the cooking process). I'm not a beer drinker and TP seldom drinks beer that's not "fancy" so we often have a random bottle of beer in the fridge from some cooking project we never made or a 6-pack we bought several months ago for the cooking project. And, since bitten by the bread making bug, I suggested we make Bittman's Brown Bread again.

We made the Brown Bread Saturday evening (after the ravioli debacle) and let it rise overnight. It came out really well. We doubled the recipe to freeze some. One batch (we made two smaller loaves) was a bit wetter than the other and came out nicer, but both were amazing. Bittman suggests spreading whole grain mustard on the bread. And boy, does that taste good! Especially when it's still warm. I had it this morning with some peanut butter which wasn't perfect but still tasty.

We also set the Almost No Kneed Bread last night and used most of the beer to make Bittman's Beer Glazed Black Beans. I'd say we do that much of the time we're making bread (and vice versa) since the black beans call for a cup of beer and the bread calls for 3 oz. Plus, the black beans are just too delicious.

Tonight, TP is making dinner from his new cookbook and I'm making my famous butterscotch brownies for a work party tomorrow. Hooray!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Vegetarian Times Recipe Review

Ah blogging...something I haven't had time to do lately...Or do much cooking for that matter. Working and being in school (with finals!) has sucked up my time! But I did get to make some things from this month's Vegetarian Times and 2 out of 3 recipes came out really well.

1) Samosa Casserole (Excellent)
It was from their "healthy casserole" section that is also meant to be great foods for freezing. And it was very tasty. It was mostly easy too - not a weeknight meal since it took about 30 minutes to prep and 45+ minutes to cook, but not difficult at all. You make a crust out of whole wheat pastry flour (which I didn't have, so substituted regular whole wheat flour) and all-propose flour. Then you cook potatoes and roughly mash them. You also saute some diced carrots, onions and frozen peas with Indian spices and mix it in to the potatoes with vegetable stock to resemble samosa filling. You put that in a pie plate and put the dough on top. Then bake.
It came out really well. The dough wasn't super flaky - because I didn't use pastry flour - but it was truly delicious. I think it is an excellent addition to our Indian curry repertoire and we can pull it out for an Indian feast!

2) Sicilian Green Beans with Balsamic Glaze (Very Good)
This was in their "best of" section for best side dish. It was very good. Pretty easy to make too. Just put some EVOO on green beans and a red pepper and put them in a hot oven for about 30 minutes. Then you make a sauce with orange juice, orange zest and balsamic vinegar that you let boil to a syrup. We were supposed to mix the green beans with the glaze, then transfer to a serving platter. I'm incredibly lazy and didn't do it (one more dish to clean? No thank you!) but it might have made it better, since there was plenty of sauce. It was still really, really tasty. We made it with a simple pasta dish (whole wheat noodles, a can of roasted tomatoes, garlic, seasoning).

3) Ricotta Ravioli with Sweet Potato Sauce (Meh)
This recipe had great potential: ravioli made with won-ton wrappers and a sweet potato sauce. What could be bad!? I love ravioli, I love sweet potatoes! Plus, this was a great way to make homemade ravioli since I don't have a pasta machine or the counter space to do it. The recipe says to make the raviolis and then freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet. This way, they will stick together and the filling won't fall out when cooking. Brilliant! I didn't mind the patckah-ing since I was up earlier than The Pedant Saturday morning (and procrastinating studying for a final). It worked really well. I did run out of filling, which I thought was odd. And, I totally didn't have space in my freezer for 2 (!!!) baking sheets with raviolis, so I put them in a deep container and put parchment paper between the layers.
We went to go make the sauce for dinner (which called for 1 cup cooked, pureed sweet potato, a shallot, garlic, some sherry and EVOO) and cooked up and mashed a sweet potato. Because that's the same as pureeing, right?! Wrong. Well, maybe not. Plus, we used a whole sweet potato and it was more than a cup, but it was just THICK. So we added some white wine which made it really tasty.
Then we went to go make the ravioli. We boiled the water. Great. I went to take them off the parchment paper - not so great. They stuck more than I expected. But it was fine. Then we drop them in the water. Fine. (Confession: I might not have used enough water. But it was 8:30 and I was getting ready to eat.) We stir them oh so very gently. And then TP is afraid they aren't cooked through. So we wait a bit. And then they get mushy and fall apart. And we waited, maybe 4 minutes to take them out (not the requisite 2). And they taste like won-ton wrappers with ricotta cheese. Not like delicious raviolis. We are bummed. It was not easy.
Lesson: Make ravioli with real pasta. Make won-tons with won-ton wrappers. Or buy pre-made raviolis. Or just eat it at a restaurant and do zero work.

I did make a pretty awesome vegetable soup to go with the ravioli. That came out perfectly.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Foods I Made Recently

1) Beef stew. I took beef from Shopper's Food Warehouse, kosher chicken stock from the Teet, turnips, onions, carrots, parsnip, garlic, bay leaf, paprika, and dill, and cooked it for various times in a pot. I got impatient before putting it in containers for lunches, so it's a little more liquid than one might expect for "stew," but it's very tasty.

2) Mushroom and egg thing. I heated up oil with taco seasoning in it, then sauteed mushrooms in the taco seasoned oil. Then I poured the remainder of some Egg Beaters Southwestern into the pan, and finished it off with a sprinkle of cheese. Tasty.

3) Super-deluxe Fiber One® muffins. As you know, I am loath to just use Fiber One® apple and cinnamon muffin mix without adding more apples and cinnamon. This time, however, I also added golden raisins and black walnuts. It was fabulous. Black walnuts change the whole character of the muffin from "OK but box-tasting" to "hey, this is pretty complex and interesting!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


This morning for breakfast I made my new favorite dish: Apple-Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Oatmeal. It's healthy and delicious.

I take 1/2 an apple and "dice" it. (I use dice in quotes because it's a very rough dice. The pieces are not tiny, but not big either.) I microwave it for one minute with some Cinnamon and Splenda brown sugar blend. I then put in a packet of instant oatmeal and just enough hot water for the oatmeal to cook. I'm a big fan of gluey, not soupy, oatmeal.

It's a really fun treat in the morning.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Things have been hectic on my end - between work and school I have had minimal time for life let alone food. This weekend (it seems like so long ago!) The Pedant and I made some great food from 660 Curries. That's the extent of our cooking this week. (We did make a slow cooker risotto which was good in the past but since we've made several stove top risottos it was only fair by comparison.)

Today, the excitement in the food world (in the real work it's that I got a promotion! Hooray!) is this link TP sent me:

Icelandic Chocolate Coated Licorice. For sale. In bulk (cheaper!). For real. As Liz Lemon says: I want to go to there. You see, I love licorice. And chocolate. And Iceland. I bought a whole lot of this in Iceland and really enjoyed it. (I brought it to work and everyone turned their noses up, which just meant more for me.)

This weekend TP and I have some catching up to do on life and I really want to make this recipe I saw from a SELF Magazine healthy eating blog. It looks just up my alley since I really enjoy root vegetables.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pan-Asian Carrots!

As I wait for my dutch oven full of chickpeas, oil, and garlic to turn into deliciousness (at least according to the Post's food section of two weeks ago), I will blog about the "pan-Asian" carrots I just made.

Like so many things we do, this was from Mark Bittman's grimoire of eatings, "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian." I needed to get rid of some of the three pounds of garlic I got at Costco, much to my better half's chagrin, and so the Quick-Glazed Carrot recipe variations caught my eye.

This one involved simmering the carrot slices in sake with a teeny bit of olive oil (and garlic, because I had to get rid of it). Then, at the end of the cooking, I mixed in a solution of white miso and low-sodium soy sauce.

Turned out pretty good, actually. Not knock my socks off, but totally edible.

Okay, time to check the dutch oven.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Simple "Souper" Supper

I've been feeling under the weather all week and by the time I got home last night I was ready for bed at 6. After realizing that might not be the smartest idea, I needed to fill my time. The original plan for dinner was to reheat Minestrone soup we had made and froze a few weeks ago. But even that seemed to be too much effort and not what we wanted. The Pedant came up with a great idea: Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese. The unlimited comfort food. So we opened a can of condensed soup and I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich. TP did two open faced tuna melts which made him really happy.

It's such a quick and easy meal that is both healthy and wonderful. We should make it more when we're out of ideas.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day for Tea

I'm feeling a little sinus pressure, having spent yesterday out in the cold trying to get people to vote Democratic in Virginia (it wasn't as hard last year). So I am majoring in tea this morning.

First tea of the morning was Bigelow's "Earl Gray Green," which is an Asian green tea with the addition of bergamot oil. I like it better than traditional Earl Gray.

Now I'm on to Harris Teeter's Orange Spice Tea, which is a black tea with orange oil, cloves, and other spices. It's also quite tasty, but more of a souped-up English Breakfast taste than the Earl Gray Green.

Not sure what's next in the rotation. May move away from the caffeinated teas and go for Bigelow's "Ginger Snappish" or the Wissotzky lemongrass, za'atar, and verbena herbal tea.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Weekend of Carbo Loading Before (and after) a Race

This was yet another weekend of good food - both cooking and being cooked for. Here's the story:

Friday Night: The Pedant and I had very little food in the house by the end of the week and after a long week decided to treat ourselves to dinner out at our local sushi place before seeing Good Hair (Highly recommended!). The place was really busy, but the sushi was as good as ever. Even though I don't eat fish, I personally enjoy sushi - it's never too much for me and I never come out super stuffed or eat too much. Plus, I do love avocados. It can get pricey but it's worth it to know I'm eating better than cheesy Italian food or fatty Chinese food.
Saturday Dinner: I was running my first 10K Sunday morning and needed to "carbo load" (i.e., make a recipe TP saw on line). We made butternut squash risotto from Cook's Illustrated and it was really tasty. It was very different than the butternut squash risotto that TP made last week but really tasty. We amended the recipe a bit - mostly because we bought cut up squash without seeds or fibers (easier to deal with) so we didn't let the stock simmer with the seeds or fibers. But it was still really, really good. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sunday Brunch: Since I ran the 10K that day (with a pace about 30 seconds better than I did for my 5K and my best time ever! 64 (or 68, depending on the time on the website) minutes!), we had planned to make pancakes. However, both TP and I were tired and felt like treating ourselves (well, me, I ran, TP just cheered me on) so we decided to forgo pancakes (which we better make soon since we stocked up on maple syrup!) and went for brunch instead. We went to a creperie I'd been wanting to try and it was really, really good. I got the Crepe Moroccan which was like spinach pie filling in a crepe with a delicious mint-yogurt sauce. We shared the Just Peachy desert crepe and it was just peachy and super. (I did have PB&J before my race, a granola bar and 1/2 a (white bread but part of my post race food packet) bagel toasted with butter and honey before we went for brunch.)

Sunday Dinner: After a much needed nap we began making some dinner foods. Since we still have a hoard of potatoes we found a soup base recipe in Lidia's Family Table for a savory potato broth. That took a while to make (more time than we realized) but the end result was great. We froze more than half of it and made a garlic and onion soup with the rest of the broth. We poached some garlic in water and chopped up an onion and then let them thicken in the broth before pureeing it. And it was SO GOOD. I think I can't stress how good it was, since it was SO GOOD. SO GOOD. The best part (other than the garlic and onions and broth was the pureed bits of Parmesan cheese rind that was a little present. SO GOOD.

To go along with that soup, we made a crunchy couscous salad from our favorite benedictine. It was pretty good, but I think it had too many cucumbers.

I also prepped our last massive sweet potato and acorn squash for a slow cooker soup recipe for winter squash and sweet potato soup. We'll have that for dinner tonight with pasta in a creamy Gorgonzola sauce. Yum!

Here is Sherbs running her 10K. I'm the one in the red shirt (showing my support for Jody Wagner) and the purple jacket tied around my waist

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First Time Making Gnocchi - Epic Win!

Last night I made gnocchi for the first time and it was SO WORTH IT. The Pedant had found a recipe on a food blog and it met the requirements for dinners lately: 1) easy; 2) healthy; 3) uses food we have in the fridge from the CSA; 4) tasty. We had planned to make it Saturday night, but we both took a nap that was longer than expected and didn't wake up until 7. By the time I baked the potatoes, let them cool, mixed the dough, boiled the water, made the gnocchi and the sauce, it would have been 9:30. We tend to eat late, but I was running 6 miles in the morning (since I have my first 10K in 4 days!!) and didn't feel like going to bed very late with a very full stomach and running the next morning. So we put it on hold until Sunday, but as I said, we ate too many snacks and weren't hungry. That left last night. TP boiled the water while I was in a work out class and I made the gnocchi (he doesn't like touching food...I know...). I decided not to follow the recipe (never a great idea) and roll them into a long rope and cut it into bite-sized pieces so I made small ovals instead. Turns out that's much more difficult and they come out kinda lumpy. But, they were AMAZING. Sweet, but not too sweet, and warm and comforting. And, except for the pre-baking of the potatoes, not so hard to make.

TP made the sauce and kind of amended it. He sauteed some garlic in EVOO and then added the chard. I put in some of the gnocchi water to help the greens wilt. We added some white wine in and then some (fake) butter to give it a creamy texture. And it was so good. A real winner!

Now, who's coming over for gnocchi!?

Monday, October 19, 2009

As I posted yesterday, we had a weekend full of cooking. We ended up not making the gnocchi for dinner since both of us snacked a bit too much at the book club. Plus, it was after 8 when people left and neither The Pedant or I felt like cooking much. We will make it tonight along with cooking up a Beet and Gorgonzola salad and setting a sweet potato and winter squash soup in the slow cooker for more easy to grab lunches. But, I can talk about some of the foods we made this weekend.

First, I'll start with Friday Dinner. TP found a recipe on the Mark Bittman blog, Bitten, for a Carrot, Spinach and Rice Stew, which worked out really well. It was nice and creamy (thanks butter!) and totally tasty. Also, although it took a while to thicken, it was pretty easy to make. We decided to make some sweet potatoes that we had gotten from our CSA and, according to a brilliant idea of TP's, I mashed 2 up with about 3/4 of a cup of red kidney beans (for protein). I added some cinnamon, salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes and EVOO and it came out really well. It was sweet and spicy with a really interesting taste.

Sunday we baked for my book club and had had pretty good success. We made polenta cookies from Lidia's Italy and they came out really well. We used a stand mixer not a food processor (I try to keep the food processor parve and the recipe call for butter) and it worked really well. I was supposed to pipe out crescents, but I didn't have a pipping bag, so I shaped them by hand which worked fine. They were a hit, and a bigger hit at work! We also made Peanut Butter Cupcakes from the Joy of Cooking that came out a bit more like muffins. I think for a few reasons: 1) I didn't follow the recipe perfectly and didn't alternate the wet and dry ingredients; 2) I used skim milk not whole milk; 3) I used natural peanut butter that was from the bottom of a large jar and was pretty dense; 4) I didn't frost them with a maple frosting because I didn't have confectioner's sugar. We did add about 1/2 a cup of receese peanut butter chips which added a great flavor, but we should have added in a full cup for more peanut buttery goodness.

As for the minestrone, I was pretty full from snacking during the book club so I only had a few tastes. It came out really well. We finally remembered to add in some Parmesan rinds to the cooking which I think made a huge difference. (A tip of the great Lidia!) Really good!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekend Overview

Hopefully more in-depth blogging will come in the next 48 hours, but this weekend has been a great one for cooking:

Friday Dinner: Carrot and Spinach and Rice stew ala Bittman, plus sweet potatoes mashed with red kidney beans ala me (really tasty actually)
Saturday brunch: Potato curry that resembled hash browns with tomatoes and hot chilis from 660 Curries and fried eggs
Saturday Dinner: A pasta creation from The Pedant with canned tomatoes, red pepper and red kidney beans (really tasty)
Sunday Baking: Cornmeal cookies from Lidia's Italy and Peanut Butter Cupcakes from The Joy of Cooking (my bookclub is coming over and TP and I had fun baking, although the cupcakes came out more like muffins, but they are so tasty)
Sunday Dinner (upcoming): Sweet Potato Gnocchi with a kale sauce (the gnocchi dough is chilling)
Sunday Prepping: Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

A weekend filled with good food - what could be better!?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Potato Lasagna!

This post is a few days late, but I finally have time to write it. It's about dinner from Saturday night, when I made a Potato and Mushroom Lasagna that The Pedant found on the Food Netwoork site. Mostly because we have LOTS of potatoes from our CSA (and this is the last week for the CSA...I'm going to miss it so much!) I've talked before about what we've done with the tasty starchy veg (potato leek soup, tortilla espanola) but we currently have about 3 weeks worth of potatoes and are at a loss for cooking time.

Since I've started school, I'm out of the house 2 nights a week and don't need quite as many leftovers since I end up taking sandwiches. Plus, between all the Jewish Holidays we've been getting leftovers from family and/or spending weekends out of the house. Plus, we don't want to just make plain old baked potatoes. So TP came up with an idea - Potato Lasagna! He found the Emril recipe and bought most of the ingredients. But of course we ran out of time this week and Saturday, after heading to some wineries with friends, TP came home and fell asleep. I had run 6.5 miles that morning and was hungry (and proud of myself! Go Sherbs!), so I started cooking.

I did come across a one mail problems with the recipe: It did not take 1 hour to cook like I thought it did. (Turns out, I misread it and Emril said it takes 1 hour to prep, 1 hour to cook. That makes more sense. If that was the case, I would never had made it. 2 hours! Not worth it!

Well, it was worth it in the end. It was tasty. The potatoes were well cooked. We didn't have enough mushrooms (TP intended to change the recipe slightly, but didn't tell me, so I followed it closely) and I used 3/4 cup skim milk instead of cream and milk(because really, cream?! Sure it would taste so good but SO UNHEALTHY!) and less cheese since we didn't have enough Parmesan. It did take a while to cook with the cover off. Since it was skim milk and didn't absorb the way cream might, it was on the liquid-y side. And I was getting cranky and hungry - it was nearly 9 PM. So we put it in for longer and finally I just gave up and wanted to eat it. It wasn't actually as liquid-y as it seemed, and was very tasty. Even better the next day since it had absorbed more liquid overnight and while microwaving it.

I would make it again but make a few changes:
1) make it in advance and put it back in the oven without the top to crisp up after letting it sit for a day
2) I'd use the skim milk again (it added a creaminess and crisped up the potatoes) but less next time
3) I would use a full pound of mushrooms and maybe even spinach to make it tastier

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Short Review of Tuna

The foil-packed mango and chipotle tuna from Star Kist is not worth it. Not even with soy sauce.

Risotto Stories

Last night I broke the faucet. Again.

Or, more accurately, the faucet broke while I was handling it, trying to clean butternut squash risotto out of our large pan. It then sprayed me in the chest with hot water, and when I moved out of the way, shot a jet straight out of the kitchen that left a big puddle in front of the entryway.

The risotto was worth it, though. I would say that it came from the Washington Post's most recent Food section, but I doubled the recipe as there's two of us in the house, except not really, as there was only one shallot at the Teet, I have no idea whether the two butternut squash from the CSA were bigger or smaller than required, and I had just slightly more Wolfgang Puck organic vegetable broth (yes, as my brother says in his Dadaist way, I get the Nazi discount at Spago) and arborio rice than would strictly double the recipe, but I added it anyway. Also a bunch of Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend which may not have been exactly doubled. Or the fact that I couldn't get unsalted shelled pistachios at the Pentagon Row Teet.

But thanks to patience and the indestructable tastiness of butternut squash and toasted coconut, I came away with a tasty risotto, which is now in the fridge waiting for future risotto meals.

The only thing I would absolutely change in the future is to mash up the butternut squash instead of merely scooping it out and throwing it in; it was a little clumpy. Still tasty, though.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Spanish Dinner! Ole!

We've been receiving plenty of potatoes from our lovely CSA. 2 weeks ago I made potato leek soup (which, I found out after the fact that I was following the recipe wrong. It calls for 2 32-oz cartons of chicken stock (I substitute veg stock of parve chicken bullion) but I have always used just 32 ounces. And it comes out thick and delicious. I'm not going to change it because I like it thick but it now is a bit less healthy since there are more potatoes per serving, but potatoes are a healthy starch and blah blah blah...I digress...).

We now have plenty since we have 2 week's worth of potatoes so we used about 2 pounds last night as part of our Spanish dinner to remind us of our lovely honeymoon in Spain. So we made a tortilla espanola and mushroom paella.

The tortilla espanola was nearly 2 lbs of potatoes, 3 onions and 3 eggs (we used egg substitute) and was really simple. Now, I didn't fry in 18 oz (!!!!) of oil like the recipe told me to, but I sauteed the onion and potatoes in a few tablespoons of EVOO for a while until they were cooked through. In retrospect, I should have left it a bit longer to brown the onions more. I added lots of salt and pepper (maybe too much salt) and it was tasty. Then instead of more oil I sprayed the pan with Pam and added the eggs and potato-onion mixture (I pre-mixed them in the bowl and the heat of the potato-onion mixture started cooking the eggs which was kind of cool!) and cooked it on one side. It held together well when I (well, OK, The Pedant) flipped it and it was fairly evenly brown. The other side was also fairly brown, but fell apart when I tried to put it on a plate. Nonetheless, it was SO TASTY.

TP made the mushroom paella. It was (of course) a Mark Bittman recipe from the glorious How To Cook Everything Vegetarian and just really lovely. We used brown rice that TP pre-boiled (as per Bittman's suggestion) and baby bella mushroom caps. It was perfectly cooked. It was warm and delicious and tasty.

To top it all off for a great evening, we each had a square of Lindt 70% dark chocolate. All while watching the last hour of the BBC Pride and Prejudice. A perfect evening in my book.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beer-Glazed Pinto Beans and Penne, Pedant Style

New protip: do not wipe your brow after slicing hot peppers from the CSA. It burns. For a while.

Was out of ideas for dinner, and forgot I had tuna casserole in the fridge, so I made pasta with a variation of Bittman's beer-glazed black beans for the sauce. First I threw some hot peppers from this week's CSA box into a pan of hot olive oil and ground black pepper. Then I sauteed the too-sharp red onion remainders from last week. Once that was done, I added a cup of Amstel Light (I drank the rest), orange blossom honey, pinto beans, and red pepper flakes (to ensure spiciness). Into this I put nearly-cooked whole wheat penne.

It's a little sweeter than I expected, but it has a nice burn on it that makes it quite tasty. Works really well with parmesan (what doesn't)?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Starting a New Year Off Right

This past weekend was Rosh Hashanah. The Pedant and I were going to TP's parents for services and meals. TP's mom asked us to bring 2 salads, one for a meat meal and one for a dairy meal (since most of our family keeps kosher). Last week had been really busy, so while I was at work, TP researched salads that would be easy to make, delicious and fitting in with our religious obligations. We chose 2 orzo salads and they were both a hit.

First, the "meat" salad. It was a Bon Appetite recipe that we found on Epicurus. The Orzo, Green Bean, and Fennel salad with Dill Pesto was a HIT. The fennel gave it a really lovely flavor and worked really well with the dill pesto. It was fresh, colorful and fairly healthy - not too much pasta (which is one of the lovely things of orzo - a little goes a long way).

The "dairy" salad was from the monastery salad cookbook, which is always so good to us. We had made it before. It is orzo, olives, green peas, red pepper and red onion in a mayonnaise sauce with dijon mustard and lemon juice dressing. The problem we had the first time we made it was that the onion (1 red onion, thinly sliced) was SO sharp it rendered the salad inedible. All you tasted was ONION. (For leftovers, we added more mayo and mustard and an avocado and it was still ONION!) This time, we tasted the onion first and instead of using the entire thing in slices, we use 1/5 of it chopped very fine, which gave it the flavor but did not overpower it. (We also used more may this time since it wasn't just us eating the salad.) And it was perfect. Refreshing, sweet (the peas) and tangy (the onions - even just the few tablespoons!) it was a great lunch dish.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dinner Last Night

Since I was doing some home work and The Pedant was researching, dinner last night was fast and simple. I decided to make a kind of succotash, since I had a yellow squash and corn from my CSA. Also, I love succotash. I kind of made it up as I went along, somewhat following a recipe I'd made before for zucchini and green bean succotash from my favorite Weight Watcher's cookbook. First, I sauteed half an onion and some garlic until nice and brown. Then I added in a chopped yellow squash and some frozen lima beans with salt, pepper and ancho chili powder and a bit of EVOO. I then let it get all caramelized and tasty and threw in some corn that I was boiling. And it was tasty. A perfect late summer dinner (and lunch for today too!).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

More Lunch News

I too have an exciting lunch today - in fact, I had it for dinner Tuesday so I know it'll be good. It's a sandwich with hard boiled eggs (which I relearned are very tasty on sandwiches while in Scandinavia), roasted garlic hummus, Bittman's caramelized onion chutney and lettuce. And I'm quite excited. The chutney is much spicier this time than I've had it before, mostly because the hot peppers were very hot. But it's quite tasty. And the bread gets all soft and saturated with hummus which is fun.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lunch Lessons Learned Today

As I'm home and searching for jobs, I am now making lunch out of what we have in the pantry at the moment, and trying not to subsist entirely on Fiber One™ bars (or their Special K equivalent which have extra warnings for fibrousness) and fifty-cent ramen. This would be easy except that I am lazy and occasionally suffer from what I call "food aphasia," which is where I look into a fridge at raw ingredients and say, "how does this become food"?

Today, I made food in two steps. I cooked up some Uncle Ben's "Country Inn Mexican Fiesta" rice, adding a can of Goya red kidney beans for complete protein-icity. I then heated up a Quorn cutlet with some of Mark Bittman's tomato chutney.

Lessons learned:
  • Quorn is good with tomato chutney.
  • Uncle Ben's "Mexican Fiesta" is about as Mexican as the taco stand at McFadden's on Cinco de Mayo (the Hawk & Dove in Southeast also has a similar stand on offer, but McFadden's manages to keep its ground floor from smelling like urine, thus making it a classier establishment despite the Georgetown frat boys). The rice is also pretty tasteless.
  • The "Mexican Fiesta" rice does not go that well with tomato chutney.
  • However, it tastes great mixed with the extra-spicy version of Bittman's onion chutney that the Sherbs cooked up for our Sunday hot dog party.
That's lunch. Now back to the job hunt.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Thrill of Organic Vegetables

I hate insects. I hate having to touch them, especially. Even through gloves.

So the fact that our CSA farm is organic leads to some unfortunate surprises, like today, when we did not get a single ear of weevil-free corn. I salvaged some of it, discarded the rest, and basically flushed the weevils themselves down the disposal. There's also a ladybug flying around the apartment from where I brought up the courage to flick it off of our lettuce.

That said, the veggies and fruits that are not bug-ridden (the vast majority of them) are delicious. I had a tomato from our box today with hummus on bread, and it was quite tasty.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Jewish Delis on the Fall

An article popped up on my twitter feed today. A friend who I used to work at camp with runs an online Jewish community and follows interesting trends in the Jewish Community. She tweeted about an article on a man on a mission to save the Jewish Deli. I read, and loved the article. (And now, have a craving for a potato knish with deli mustard on the side to dip, cole slaw, half sour pickles and a diet cream soda.) I do love Jewish delis. As a vegetarian I do miss many meat products and often it's turkey breast on rye (or wheat) with mayo and mustard that can be had at Jewish delis. There is something wonderfully comforting about deli food - it's quick, it's terrible for you, it's giant, it makes you want to speak Yiddish, it's delicious. I wish there were more of them. It is a shanda that so many have closed down!! Bring them back!! Give me a knish!!!

"Fancy" Dinner

Last night, The Pedant and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. We had assumed it would be filled with pomp and circumstance - an exquisite dinner out with wine, dessert, fantastic food, waiters who wait on you with bated breath when you finish a sip of water to refill your glass, you know, the works (and we've been to those restaurants before: the anniversary of our first date, a pre-wedding dinner, when accepting my current position). However, since we had SO MUCH good fondue the night before, a big, fancy, filling dinner was the last thing we could imagine doing. Plus, once we ruled out fancy food, we just didn't feel like going some place for a casual dinner when we could stay home and veg with some food and wine and watch TV. Which is just what we did. And it was a perfect evening. We got to watch most of Jacques Pepin Fast Food My Way, Cook's Country, and America's Test Kitchen (CC did a chocolate cake recipe that looks amazing; ATC did LOW FAT chocolate recipes that TP printed and I can't wait to do - he also printed the chocolate cake recipe but that is a bit advanced and oh so caloric). While doing that we opened a delicious Syrah from a Vintage Ridge (I had 2 glasses! and 2 glasses of wine Sunday! That's more wine than I've had in the last month!) and ordered in from a local pizza place - we got a pizza capreze, Greek salad and a pasta salad, and boy was it good. The pizza was well cooked - although the crust was a bit light for the weight of the cheese, and would have been better eaten with a fork and knife - not a bad thing at all! The pasta salad was a fun addition, very fresh and great. Plus, we finished it by sharing a bar of Lindt 70% dark chocolate. And still feeling full, but very happy.

Perhaps it was one of the best meals we had in a while.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cheese Overload!

We have made and eaten some pretty awesome foods this week.

Last night I made tomato cobbler from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian; like any cobbler, it's chopped up fruity stuff with a batter topping. Unlike fruit cobblers, the tomato is mixed with salt, pepper, and cornstarch, then covered with a flour and cornmeal batter. It was pretty good, but not as good as I'd hoped; probably because I didn't add enough cornstarch and so the tomatoes didn't sufficiently gel.

I hate cornstarch. Every time I open the box up, the silken powder gets everywhere. It sticks to my hands, won't measure easily, and doesn't wipe up or wash off without work. So I try to avoid it as much as possible.

This morning I made scones again, and again with chocolate chips. The recipe from Quaker Oats is wrong about adding raisins (or chocolate chips) halfway through the process; if you do that, the raisins or chips will end up mostly on the edge of the scones, and will become burnt into bitter carbon. The rest of the scones turned out fine, though.

Dinner tonight was fondue, from our Barnes & Noble fondue cookbook. It was easy - chop an onion, sauté in a hunk o' butter, add flour and sour cream, then stir in gruyere and cheddar until gooey deliciousness achieved. It was so awesomely cheesy tasty, and none of us should have eaten as much as we did, even using broccoli and cauliflower florets as a nod to balanced nutrition.

Also a frequent dunk into the cheese goodness was Cook's Illustrated's "Almost No-Knead Bread" recipe, which is sadly no longer online for free. It's a variant of Bittman's loaf, with a little tweaking for a higher rise and tangier inside. And it worked, despite all my attempts to ruin it with inaccuracy (I'm not sure I added enough flour), shortcut-taking (we didn't let it cool for two hours because we were too hungry), and my complete inability to knead. The crust is crunchy, the inside soft and tangy, and it tastes like something you get at a restaurant. Next time, we're making it with whole wheat flour.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Weekend Roundup

Although things have been busy recently, and they only will get busier soon. I am going back to school part-time and still working full time, so many of my meals will consist of really delicious sandwiches eaten between classes (good thing I'm married to a guy who likes to bake his own bread!). Nonetheless, The Pedant and I will focus our energy on cooking on the weekends.

This past weekend my parents were in town, so we didn't do lots of cooking. There was, of course, lots of eating: NY Bagels (SO GOOD!), really great Greek food, a movie about food (plus I dreamt of french onion soup Saturday night), ice cream, Chinese food and more ice cream. We also walked a lot and caught up.

Also, I have fallen in love with cantaloupes from my farmer's market. Yes, we're members of a CSA, but I like eating cantaloupes because I need the potassium. And the farmer's market cantaloupes are very sweet and very good.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Your Source For Mockery Judaic

This post is only somewhat food-related.

Last night, we got a copy of the Jewish Source catalog. We receive this catalog because a thoughtful relative gave us a gift from it for our wedding, a gift that bears a resemblance to a certain Nazi-vaporizing artifact, so much so that, despite its attractiveness and clear utility, we fear to use it with our eyes open. Although the Nazi-vaporizing effect of this item may be that we now get the catalog every month, which is filled with all sorts of amusing items that we will never, ever buy.

So, taking a page from Chris Sims's Invincible Super Blog and its mockery of a comic industry trade publication, I will proceed to lampoon the most amusing items from the Jewish Source:
There are some useful and attractive things in the Jewish Source catalog. But they're far outnumbered by stuff like the above.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

In a preGood Italian Food!

Last night, The Pedant and I cooked a really great dish from Lidia's Italy. It was really, very good. And not too complicated! The dish was Pasta alla Norma, a Sicilian specialty. We did modify things a bit but it still turned out to be amazing.

The recipe called for about a pound of eggplant fried in a cup of oil. We probably had well over a pound - maybe closer to 2 pounds - and we so didn't fry. (Sorry Lidia. I love you and your shows, but frying is just too hard for me and my waistline!) We sauteed in about 1/4 of a cup (a thin layer - but next time, maybe even a thinner layer) and it was good. Then we set a pound of whole wheat penne to boil (apparently, we couldn't find whole wheat ziti at the Teet) and made a simple sauce with canned crushed tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. After adding in the pasta to let it finish cooking in the sauce, we added some fresh basil (from my mini-garden, i.e., 2 small pots on the balcony with basil, parsley and chives from our CSA), about 1 cup of ricotta salata (which, I really have to say is an amazing cheese - I really love it and need to find many more ways to use it!) and then layer on the eggplant and 1 more cup of ricotta salata. And it was amazing!

TP and I had a lovely evening eating (too much, but so worth it!) Pasta alla Norma and watching Cranford - a mini series recommended by my cousins and very entertaining.

We also made another Lidia dish for dinner Tuesday, but this time from Lidia's Family Table: Cauliflower and egg salad. We liked the recipe so much we actually copied it from the TV show before we got the book (although this was the first time we made it). Very simple, very good: steamed cauliflower, hard boiled eggs, EVOO, white wine vinegar. Toss, enjoy. And we did.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuna With Mammal Hearts FTW

The tuna fish, olive oil, and pickled pepper sandwich I wrote about earlier was tasted today, after some time in storage. The taste has, if anything, improved. Food win.

Only downside: the oil turned the anadama bread a little greasy.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Bread Adventures

Tonight's dinner is avocado themed - because really, who dislikes avocado*? We will had a cold avocado chipotle bisque and avocado mango rolls, made with rice paper. Both are from recent Vegetarian Times. We've made the soup before and it was so tasty.

But, I had about 1/4 of an avocado left over from the prep for the rolls. I couldn't let it go to waste so I made a sandwich with it. I am quite excited about lunch in 90 minutes! It is:

Avocado slices, red pepper slices, tofu (not marinated, but I kind of like raw tofu), whole grain mustard and the Bittman brown bread The Pedant made yesterday. The only downside is it was falling out of the bread when I made it but I can handle it. It might be the sandwich I'm looking forward to the most since I was in Scandinavia.

*TP's cousin is sadly allergic. I know she dislikes avocado. But that's ok. More in the world for me!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Let Me Ruin Your Meal

Fun fact of the night: Ba-tampte pickled bell peppers, when just taken from the jar, look disturbingly like preserved mammalian hearts.

I made this discovery while working on my lunches for the week. Having created two breads, I needed to justify them by making sandwiches. The brown bread, which was pareve, was made into sandwiches with Empire turkey bologna and French's mustard with horseradish; the horseradish mustard helped compete with the strong flavors of the bread, which was made with (among other things) bran cereal and cocoa powder.

But I also made "Anadama" bread, which is dairy (as well as containing plenty o' molasses), and I needed a sandwich for that. Enter my eternal quest for the perfect tuna fish sandwich.

As regular readers of this blog know, I am always trying to make canned tuna into something better than a mayonnaise-y mass tasty only for tasting mostly like mayonnaise. I've had limited luck with mustard-based concoctions, so today I tried a base of olive oil, dehydrated onions, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper. I added to that tuna and chopped pickled red bell pepper, the latter for extra taste and texture.

It tasted pretty good right out of the bowl, but the important thing is for it to be palatable after a day or so in the fridge. My mustard tuna sandwiches were merely adequate to that task, and gave off a pungent vinegar/tuna odor which few others could stand. We'll see how these do.

Food Prep Day

I have ten minutes before I put the brown bread in the oven, so I might as well blog.

Today's been food preparation day here; I made scones from my mom's recipe (taken from the Quaker Oats cookbook) this morning (including my family's traditional chocolate chips), along with a bread from Bittman's magnum vegetarian opus that involved white flour, wheat flour, cornmeal, and molasses. It tastes great; so much so that it's already half gone. The Sherbs made our usual amped-up Fiber One muffins - we take Fiber One-branded "apple cinnamon" muffin mix, add apple bits and golden raisins, and enjoy it a lot more.

This evening's bread is a brown bread from Bittman; it smells good already, so I'm optimistic.

I'm also making a gigantic chickpea and mushroom soup from Lydia's Italy; the chickpeas still seem hard after an overnight soak and twenty minutes of boiling, but they're on boil for another two hours, so I will trust in Mme. Bastianich at current.

The soup itself is lunches and dinner later this week; dinner tonight is hot dogs. Hebrew National makes them low-fat.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Meat Without Flame

Chicken kabobs last night on the George Foreman outdoor grill. We used some Soy Vay wasabi teriyaki for marinade. Other ingredients included pineapple, onion, mushroom, and green bell pepper.

I'm still getting the hang of grilling on the Foreman outdoor grill; it doesn't have the same sensation as over a flame, and requires the cover for most of the cooking, so I feel like I have to guess how long it needs to be on before a turn. Regardless, it was tasty.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Next Time With Salt Fish!

New food lesson: when trying to make a meal in the time indicated on the recipe (7 minutes, not including pasta cooking time), use pre-pitted oil-cured olives.

Otherwise, one has ten minutes or more of olive-y frustration as one individually pits the olives. Okay, maybe it would be faster if I had some sort of pitting device. But no. I had only a Wusthof 8" chef's knife, a wooden cutting board from Ikea, and a resolution to ignore my mild sensory defensiveness no matter how dirty/greasy my hand became (in a nod to my obsessive need to wipe my hands after each olive, I dedicated my right hand to holding the knife, so at least one hand would feel clean).

But it was worth it. Following our heroine, Lydia Mattichio Bastianich (our house motto is WWLBD - "what would Lydia Bastianich do?"), we decided to make a recipe out of Lydia's Family Table. I made spaghetti in an orange and olive sauce. Oil-cured olive bits go into a pan with browned sliced garlic, then orange zest, orange juice, and toasted pine nuts are added (not to mention pasta water!). It is absolutely delicious.

Someday, when I'm not just cooking for the two of us, I'm making the breaded salt fish from Lydia's Italy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Poetry is fun!

A Poem* in Honor of my 12-inch Calphalon Non Stick Skillet

Dear 12-inch Skillet, how I love you
You are big enough for fake bacon plus an egg or two.
You are easy to clean and make cooking a cinch
I can fry onions with less oil and salt - just a pinch!
I tend to make you my go-to pan
Like for dinner last, tonight's, or beans in a can.
Plus pastas, stir fries**, Mexican fiestas galore
Tonight's Shakshooka will prove not to be a bore.
Oh Calphalon pan, it's you I adore!

*Note: I so don't care about meter
** Yes, I have a wok, but it's hard to get to. Actually, I have 2 woks, but this is easier!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On Why Using a Cookbook is Important

Maybe it's the fact that's I'm reading a great book or maybe it's the fact I'm moderately fed up with people in general, but I really dislike people who think they are better cooks than you (me?) because they don't use a cookbook. Or recipe. Ever.

Now, I'm not saying I'm Julia Child (but I am so excited about Julie and Julia!) or my heroine Lidia Bastianich or even Mark Bittman, but I can hold my own. I'm a pretty good baker. I can use a knife (thanks Sur la Table and friends/family who gave us visa gift cards for our wedding). I can make a mean tomato sauce. I can even flip an omelet in a pan (well, once I did it!). But I also know the value of a good recipe and cookbook.

I've heard from several people before "Oh, I never look at cookbooks. I looooove coming up with recipes on my own." Well, bully for you. You see, the value of a recipe is fantastic. Now, I seldom measure (my mother-in-law's comment about measuring is only when baking). I can eye ball a teaspoon, 1/4 of a cup, a dash, etc. And I often under salt and over garlic and put in 2 times as much hot pepper than a recipe often calls for. But that's the beauty of a cookbook. The author won't come to your house, wielding a 8 inch perfectly honed chef's knife (although thanks to The Pedant, our knives are perfectly honed as well!) threatening to stab you in the stomach if you don't use exactly 1/8 teaspoon cumin. No. That's preposterous. Cooking is really about feel and senses to when things are done (except rice. I learned this last night. I am terrible at cooking rice. It's because I'm impatient - thanks Mom - and cook everything too high. So our brown basmati rice burned. It did actually give the dish a nice, er, crunch.) but recipes and cookbooks are invaluable. I use them as a jumping off point. In my slow cooker recipes I add in more spices than the author calls for. I substitute regularly. I omit. I add. But I use the cookbooks all the time. Why? Because I'm not a trained chef. Because I can't tell the difference between cayenne, ancho and chipotle chili powder (well, I can because they do in fact have different flavors, but I just don't care - see the difference?).

I think I was thinking about this theory while reading the book and eating lunch of 3 different things that all came from cookbooks or recipes.

1) Roasted Eggplant and Mushroom Soup. My mom found this recipe in a freebie magazine when they were in the Berkshires one summer. It's a very simple and healthy soup. My addition - I use about 1-2 tablespoons of EVOO instead of like 1/2 a cup.

2) Sri Lankain Yellow Curry with Hard Cooked Eggs. This comes from our favorite curry book. It was a simple recipe (but I did burn the rice we made) and really good. Did it matter I didn't have fungeek? No. Did it matter I added in the cinnamon stick after the onions because I forgot? No. Would I have been able to come up with this recipe all by myself? Hell no. That's why Ragahvan Iyer wrote the dammed book. And Thank God he did. So tasty.

3) Minty Kidney Beans with Potatoes. Also from the curry book. Also really good. I used fat free Greek Yogurt and fat free half-and half (does any one else find this an oxymoron?) instead of full fat yogurt and heavy cream (to prevent curdling). Did it matter. Well, actually yes, because the yogurt curdled a bit. But it is still super tasty.

So that's my rant. Also, cookbooks are fun. They have pretty pictures. And tasty recipes. I'd buy more if we had more space for them/wasn't a cheapskate. But, I was thinking about it. Most cookbooks cost between $15 and $30. And produce an endless number of meals (because each time they are slightly different). Eating out all the time costs waaaay more. I know what I may do with my amazon gift card...Hooray for Lidia!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Changing Habits

Since this is (half) my blog, I get to pick my posts and topics. Now I SO don't want to turn into a "diet blogger" because really, no one wants to hear about that, I do enjoy the fact that I have successfully lost some weight in the past 3 years and have been eating better. And more interestingly. Not that I didn't before, but I definitely have changed eating habits and exercising habits (which, when I exercise, I can eat more sweets, so I'm all for it) for the better.

I was at a Weight Watcher's meeting last night and the leader mentioned briefly how your taste buds change when you loose weight. Well, not necessarily change, but are different. He talked about fried chicken. How he eats it and is disappointed. And I have a similar situation. Not with fried chicken, but (sadly!) with Chinese Food.

It started in April. I was home for a wedding and had been really craving good, New York Chinese food. The greasy, saucy kind. The fried chips with duck sauce, the dumplings, the cold noodles with sesame sauce, moo sho with lots of hoison, the works. The only thing I didn't get was General Tso's Tofu (or mock chicken) mostly because the don't have it at the restaurant we went to. But I can taste it in my mouth. There is one really good take out place that does the tofu and it's amazing. Sweet, spicy, fried, saucy, amazing. The problem: after I had the dinner I'd been waiting for, I wasn't happy. I was overly full for one thing and for another, it just wasn't as comforting anymore. A few weeks later, The Pedant and I ordered in lots of Chinese food one night (it was after an argument and both of us didn't really feel like cooking or going out so we ordered a bit too much) and again - same thing. Too greasy! Too fried! Not what I wanted. I was a little bummed. Maybe my taste buds have changed. Or I can't handle the amount of food I used to and therefore am eating too much without realizing. I'm not sure. I still crave Chinese food (I will get my Gen. Tso's one day as a treat dammit!!) but no longer want to go out of my way for it. It might also have to do with proximity. In college and grad school, I would order from a local place a few times a month and it was always just good enough. Here, I can't replicate that meal (there are apparently no scallion pancakes in DC?!) and when I have Chinese food infrequently I build it up in my mind for being amazing. And it's not. It never was, but it was always good.

Man, now I want some Gen. Tso's. TP - want to not make another curry from our favorite curry book and order in?! Probably not, but worth a shot.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Things I Learned Recently

Evidently, there's a new conveyor-belt sushi place in DC. If I hadn't just got downsized, I'd go, especially since it is a fusion place and our last fusion experience worked out really well.

Also, Rhagavan Iyer has a pretty awesome curry cookbook. His curries with pasta have all been tasty, although we have to work from eating all the cashews pre-recipe.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dinner for One

The Pedant had a previous engagement last night so I was on my own for dinner. And I made something amazing. (I did realize when alone I almost always make a small variation on the same dish, which I kind of already knew, but was reminded how I eat when alone while listening to last week's The Splendid Table at the gym this morning.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper interviewed the authors of a new book about people eating alone.) Regardless, this was a clear winner. And tasted so good while watching Gilmore Girls from Netflix after a nice swim.

I cooked up a little over a serving of whole wheat capellini. While boiling the water, I sauteed half a red onion in a little (too much...what can I say, I love EVOO and let my hand slip when cooking for me too often...) olive oil with some salt. I then added in a huge handful of spinach and a lot of powdered garlic and let that cook down. As Lidia Bastianich always tells me to do, I added in a lot of the pasta cooking liquid to thicken the sauce. I put it all in a bowl and sprinkled some fresh parmesan on top. Then I fried up an egg until it was just perfect - the white was on the crispy side and the yolk was runny and warm and delicious. It coated the pasta perfectly and made it creamy and fatty and amazing. The cheese got a little melty and the dish was to die for. So good.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chicken Salad Success!

I had a bunch of roast chicken that my mom gave me after dinner Friday. I had a bunch of kosher-for-Passover mayo that wasn't getting any more shelf stable in the back of my fridge.

So I made chicken salad. I also added one whole onion and a whole mess o' pepper.

The salad came out great, so I distributed it onto a number of Pepperidge Farm® Deli Flats for future lunch consumption. Deli Flats are not only pareve, as mentioned before, but are quite good as not-a-lot-of-bread which still tastes like bread. I got the 7 Grain, because they're more fiber and less fat than the Whole Wheat. Go figure.

Summery Dinner

Dinner last night was divine. We made a delectable summery feast and ate it while watching a great movie peripherally about food (highly recommended!). Both were from and both were very, very good.

The salad was a Beet Salad with Plums and Goat Cheese. We had both plums and a (giant!) beet from our amazing CSA and wanted a way to use both without being left with a cake for 2 people (which means I would eat 4 people's servings). The Pedant found this salad on line while doing some searching and it was perfect. We did amend it - as you see it serves 10 (!!) and has many more steps than I cared for (really, I'm going to put it on a platter and dirty up 2 or more bowl if I don't have to?! Plus, I had hazelnut oil not walnut oil and it worked out just fine, thank you.) but it worked out. The only tiny hitch is that we purchased a Camembert goat cheese that I don't like and didn't crumble on top very well. TP put some in his salad and loved it. I was a bit bummed because I do love me some goat cheese but I didn't really need the calories anyway. The salad turned out really well in the end. The dressing was tasty, the beets and plums and onions contrasted really well together and I can see how it would present itself very nicely on a large platter with a color contrast.

Our main dish was the Tuscan Beans in Summery Tomato Ragu that I found from their daily RSS recipes. And it was really great. It was a great dish to make over the weekend since it took some time (between soaking and cooking the beans - which I probably should have cooked 10 minutes longer) and baking it in the oven for a good half an hour but it was worth it. The sauce was very flavorful and it was just delicious. We followed their suggestion and bought a great multi grain bread to soak up the sauce which really tied the dish together. Pair it with a rose wine and a Skinny Cow Mint sandwich for desert and we were set.

So psyched for my leftovers lunch today!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wedding Food

Yes, yes, I SWORE I'd post more but then I went to NY for nearly a week for the Sister-in-law's wedding, which took up all my time. Plus, we hadn't been eating terribly exciting food. The wedding was lovely and they did have onion rings and curly fries. Amazing. Plus, the Thursday before the wedding I had like 3 mini canollis. Even if they were kosher parve, they were still surprisingly good.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Winning Dinner

Last night's dinner was an amazing WIN. Yes, in capitals, because it was that good. Since we love our CSA, The Pedant and I wanted to use some fresh broccoli and collards that we got. So, yesterday morning during breakfast we pull out Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian - a cookbook quickly becoming our go-to-first and favorite (although, shameless plug for presents - we are DYING for Lidia Bastianich's Lidia's Italy which may be another great one since we are obsessed with her shows). Lo and behold he has 2 great recipes that we used for our broccoli and collards.

The broccoli was a suggested substitution for a green bean with miso-walnut dressing. And, after three tries at acquiring white miso, we blended the miso, soy sauce, ginger, walnuts and water in a blender and poured over steamed broccoli. It was tremendous - however, a bit salty for my taste with the miso and soy - but nutty and creamy and really great.

The best part of dinner was the rolled kale (in this case, collards) with feta, olives and tomatoes. (Ok, I picked off the gross olives and tomatoes.) Basically, you cut off the stems of the collards and saute with some EVOO and garlic. Meanwhile, you slice the leaf in half and cut a block of feta into small slices that get rolled into the collard leaves. Nest in the pan with the cooked stems, add wine (we used water but I'm sure it's even more flavorful with a good white wine) and pour olives and chopped tomatoes on top. Let it cook until the collards are tender and the cheese is just a bit melty. Then we topped it with chopped red onion. And it was gooood. Like, really good. Company worthy in fact. So good.

There was another Bittman win I almost forgot about. For my book club, I made Brown Sugar Cookies with Sea Salt. And I even fudged it a bit - I didn't have some semolina flour,so I used all all-purpose, rather than a mix, I used light brown sugar not dark (after having dried out dark brown sugar one too many times I never buy it anymore), and I had a coarse kosher salt. Yet, they still turned out amazingly. They were sweet but not clawing, buttery and a tiny bit salty for fun.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

And...We're Back!

OK, so this is incredible. It has been well over a month since our last real post - the interlude about John Kerry counts, but the tiny amount of text is inexcusable. And well, while not sleeping well last night, I have single handedly decided to resurrect the blog (I'm sure The Pedant will agree but he was fast asleep during my revelation) and I woke up early and am not ready to go running yet (although I do have a goal to get to in October - wish me luck!) so I will blog about dinner last night. And, well food for the last month.

First - Scandinavia and Iceland. It was awesome. Iceland was incredible. The food was amazing. Many vegetarian options. Very good. Best Onion Rings in my life were had here. Oslo was also very good, we just happened to have bad food experiences - expensive, not worth it restaurants But the sandwiches we had for lunch (roasted veggie with humus one day, the next day got a pesto and cheese on a baguette) were cheap and tasty. Copenhagen was also amazing. The city was beautiful and we had some great pastries and really good food.

When we got back we started getting food from the CSA we joined. We've gotten some really great, fresh produce and have made interesting food. This weekend we're making a broccoli soup to use up broccoli from the last 2 weeks. Plus, the food is super fresh and stays longer in the fridge.

Last night, I had really wanted to see My Life in Ruins (especially since I read Nia Vardalos's blog post last week) so I was to meet TP for dinner right near the movie theater. Or so we thought. Google Maps was a bit off, and the restaurant wasn't quite as near to the movie theater as I thought. And then I got there a little late. And got lost. So we nixed the movie (boo!) and had a really tasty dinner. It was at Yaku, a Peruvian-Chinese place. TP ordered some appetizers while I got lost in the surrounding neighborhood and we started with Yaku lettuce wraps (with tofu) and Stuffed Yaku croquettes. Both were very tasty. The croquettes were cheese fried with a spicy sauce on the plate and were very tasty. The lettuce wraps were messy to eat, but tasty. We took advantage of happy hour prices on booze (well, for my drink and the appetizers, especially since I was cranky we wouldn't see the movie and I got lost, but we missed the big rain storm and the restaurant has giant windows that were perfect for watching the storm) and I got a white sangria which was fair (I got less fruit than others around me and it got watered down with ice quickly) and TP got a fun spicy tequila ginger drink.

For entrees, I got the Quintto Vegteriano - a risotto made of quinoa with veggies and Parmesan cheese. It was perfect - just creamy enough with the interesting texture of quinoa. TP got the Chinese BBQ Duck and really enjoyed it. He loved the cilantro fried rice.

For dessert we shared the apple wantons with an amazing Dulce de leche ice cream. A total win. This place has brunch and we said we will definitely go back for that one day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

In the exit row in front of sen. Kerry. Better than when jerry nadler slept across from me on the train.
If I don't blog again before Iceland, wish me luck. I probably will, though, as my US cell phone can text to blog.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Trail Blazer Mix!

On Friday, The Pedant and I begin a 10 day trip to Iceland, Oslo and Copenhagen. We are oh so excited - the highlights include vikings, snorkeling in Lake Silfra, puffins, vikings, Ibsen's house, old books, vikings, legos, cheese and vikings. Yesterday, TP and I went to the mall to acquire some extra things for the trip and then went to 3 supermarkets to make a trail mix. We are attempting to save some money on snacks and meals by packing some of our own food (including the mini packets of Barney Butter Almond Butter in my quart sized bag) with some rice cakes I bought), our favorite, Fiber 1 Bars, and trail mix of our own creation. So we bought the fixings for an incredible mix.

At Trader Joe's we got:
Shelled Pistachios
Dried Mango with Chili Powder
Dried Apples
Dried Cranberries
Sunflower Seeds

At Whole Foods we got:
Wasabi Peas
Soy Nuts

At The Teet we got:
Wasabi-Flavored Almonds

(I'm sure I forgot something but you get the point.)

We will then add some golden raisins and regular raisins that we have at home.

This should be a splendid mix of sweet, nutty, spicy and tiny bit salty flavors. It will keep me full when TP eats every kind of pickled fish northern Europe has to offer.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Almond Butter Love

So I'm making my first official MDWDP endorsement: Barney Butter almond butter. I heard about it from one of the Self Magazine blogs I read and figured they had free samples why not try them. Turns out they are very good. Creamy but not too sticky like how peanut butter can be sometimes. And although it's calorically very similar to PB (which will always have a great place in my heart) it has more fiber and less saturated fat. m Plus it come sin little 0.6 oz packets that I thought would be great to travel with. Except apparently peanut butter is considered a liquid/gel, so I have to fit it into my quart sized bag or check it (which we're avoiding doing for our upcoming trip).

But it is a really great breakfast food on an English muffin* and with a nice bowl of fruit. Served me well this week.

*While defrosting my English muffin I noticed it said on the bag "Now made with no high fructose corn syrup!" I kinda never wanted that in my English muffin anyway...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In this economy...

A friend of mine commented on FaceBook that the phrase "in this economy..." should be banned from advertising, as it's more manipulative than true. But, as I said as Mark Antony in my sixth grade production of Julius Caesar, "so let it be with Caesar."

One wants to make an unforgettable impression in the job search, right? And, in case of emergency, have a secondary food supply? I know I do, which is why the Meat Cards concept - rectangles of beef jerky laser-etched with one's business information - appeals to me. Hopefully, they'll even use kosher jerky.

My sister says that, for this idea, I am "absurd," which just means that I am full of misunderstood brilliance, like Nikola Tesla.

Vegetarian Times Win - Again!

Monday night was a Vegetarian Times Win - which seems to be a pattern lately. The best magazine subscription ever.

We made 2 different dishes from the April/May 2009 issue. They didn't go together per-se, but worked well in their own right.

Whole-Wheat Shells with Asparagus and Peas

This was from their "Greening Up Your Kitchen" section. Normally, I dislike their preachy lifestyle guides - although I do try to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle, I don't need VT commanding me to do it and make all my friends do it - but they had some interesting ideas and recipes (i.e., a scone recipe since scones cook 10-15 minutes faster than bread; using toaster ovens instead of conventional ovens). This recipe is "green" since it uses the same pot of water to make the veggies and pasta. I made it Sunday night (it was to be Saturday evening's dinner but Chinese food trumped) and it was fairly simple and tasty. I did make some quick switches, which I won't do next time. (I didn't have enough fresh basil, so I used dried. Not worth it. I didn't have garlic oil, and instead of thinking ahead to soaking some garlic in EVOO for a bit I used EVOO and garlic powder. Also not good.) But it was refreshing and tasty. It has 1/2 cup fresh mint and lemon zest which give it a tang. Also, some feta, and I love crumbled feta.

Thai Eggplant and Green bean Stir Fry

This is from their "30-minute meal section" where the "secret ingredient" is coconut milk. This dish was a complete win. Basically, cut up and stir fry small eggplants. Then using the "coconut cream" (the part of the coconut milk on the top of the can before shaking it) you stir fry the aromatics - ginger, garlic, Thai chili paste and add in the green beans and 1 red onion (our red onion was very unhappy so no go for that) and the rest of the coconut milk. Let it stir fry to perfection. And it was perfection. We said next time either we can add in chicken, tofu or both to make it a more filling dish.