Monday, July 31, 2006

Seizing success...

... from the jaws of failure.

Tonight I made one fo the recipes I perused in the August issue of Food and Wine magazine. I don't usually read Food and Wine (too many meaty recipes, or so I thought), but this issue caught my eye in the airport newstand with a title heralding "healthy recipes". I was even more pleased when I picked it up and flipped through to see that the healthy options included several vegetarian dishes. So I gave it a whirl, and am actually considering a subscription. I enjoyed it thoroughly and saw several dishes I'd like to make. This pasta is the first of several soon to make an appearance from the August Food and Wine issue.

Spaghetti with Lemon, Chile and Creamy Spinach as a whole was pretty easy to prepare. A little fiddly (mincing garlic, chopping the chile, zesting two lemons) but overall the prep was minimal and definitely quick enough for weeknight consideration. My changes to the recipe were only using the zest of one lemon (as it was what I had), using fat free instead of low fat yogurt and using one pound of spinach.

Despite the challenges I had in making this dish, M. and I both enjoyed the results thoroughly. I had some issues with the spinach. I washed it just before adding it to the sauce, and it made it very runny. I think this recipe would work best with washed and dried spinach, or even bagged. But I was in a hurry, and so skipped the spinning/drying step. The runniness was "fixed" with a tablespoon of flour and cornstarch added to the sauce, but there was a tense moment as I looked at my pasta "soup". I'm also not crazy about the fat-free yogurt (which I happened to have on hand). I think the dish would benefit from the low-fat yogurt called for in the recipe in terms of texture. The sauce was delicious, but I couldn't help but think that a slightly richer yogurt would have made the dish seem a bit more decadent instead of a bit thin. I wished I'd had more lemon zest, and would add two chilis next time as the one I added disappeared into the dish with little enhancement to the overall melding of the three flavors.

In the end, I will make this dish again as I think it had great potential. The errors I've identified were a factor in our enjoyment of the dish, however the result was still tasty even with these errors so trying again seems worth it. I think this dish might end up in my "weekday repetoire" - one of those dishes you memorize the ingredients for, can decide to make while at the grocery store, and can whip up pretty easily to great appreciation from the eating audience.

This is my attempt at making the dish.

This is Food and Wine's attempt.

Spaghetti with Lemon, Chile and Creamy Spinach
Food and Wine Magazine - August 2006

Food and Wine's notes - Instead of using heavy cream, this tangy, spicy dish calls for low-fat yogurt, which is packed with protein and calcium. Stirring a little flour into the yogurt prevents curdling as it simmers and creates a thick, rich and satisfying sauce for all kinds of pasta and vegetables.

My notes - Be careful of how much water is clinging to your spinach leaves. I washed mine right before adding them to the sauce, and it made the sauce way too runny. Adding a touch more yogurt as well as a tablespoon of flour and cornstarch saved the texture. The total dish was tasty, but I'd definitely like to try it again with drier spinach.
  • 1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red Thai chile, minced
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain and return to the saucepan.
  2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the yogurt with the flour until smooth. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and chile and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the yogurt and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring. Add the spinach by the handful and cook until wilted, stirring. When all of the spinach has been added, stir in the lemon zest and juice and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the sauce to the spaghetti and toss well to coat. Mound in bowls, sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve right away.

NOTES One Serving 329 Calories, 7 gm Total Fat, 2.8 gm Saturated Fat, 49 gm Carbohydrates, 9 gm Fiber.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

A walk on the veggie heavy side...

So, I've decided that my veggie kitchen will be producing lighter fare in the weeks to come. There may still be baking for M.'s office folks, but the french tarts and tartes tatins will have to wait a bit. All this travelling and vacationing has left me feeling somewhat heavy from eating in restaurants that use much more butter/oil then I do. As a result, I'm craving nonstop fresh fruits and veggies, and this is certainly the time of year to indulge.

First of all, I must show off the omelet M. made me for lunch today. M. tends to be a very inventive cook. Give me a recipe, and I'm a happy girl but M. likes to push the envelope a bit more. Sometimes this results in amazingly tasty concoctions, sometimes not so much. Today fell into the amazingly tasty category. He chopped fresh herbs (oregano, rosemary and thyme) and added them to the egg mixture component of the omelette. I would never have thought to do so (I would have added the herbs to the sauteed vegetables instead) but the result was so flavorful and above and beyond the standard omelet.

After the dust settled (and the dishes were washed), I set about trying a new hummus recipe. We're big fans of hummus, but have stopped making it since we have an amazing Middle Eastern grocery on the next block which makes it in bulk amounts for a minimal price. Why reinvent the wheel? But, in an attempt to make as much at home as possible (so as to minimize unwanted ingredients like too much oil etc), I decided to whip up a batch to have with carrots and cucumbers for a snack. When I drastically lighten our diets, I like to send M. to work with snacks so that he's not chained to a desk wasting away with hunger. This hummus will do nicely. All in all, the recipe was good but not great. It's a Weight Watchers recipe, and in my experience WW recipes are either awesome or just alright. The texture was a little runny, but then I just dumped 6 oz. of plain fat free yogurt into the mix without measuring out a half a cup so that might be cook's error. The flavor was good, it was just the runniness that was a touch off-putting.

But, falling squarely into the awesome WW recipe category were the two dishes I made for dinner. We started with a Roasted Vegetable and Tofu Napoleon which consisted of seared tofu slices with roasted peppers, onions and zucchini in between. The recipe should have included eggplant, but my brain did not register this fact when copying down ingredients so our napoleons remained eggplant-less. Both M. and I were impressed by how flavorful the resulting dish was, and agreed that the tofu benefited from the simple but tangy preparation. I would make this dish again.

As a main dish, I made Grecian Spaghetti Squash Saute. Chickpeas, diced tomatoes, mint and feta- this dish combined several of our favorite flavors. Halfway through making it, I realized I'd made it before but not in a very long time. I had a sort of recipe deja vu. Since I already had the oven on for the roasting vegetables, I roasted the spaghetti squash as well. This dish came together quickly, and if using the microwave cooking method would definitely be doable on a busy weeknight. I served this dish with fresh corn since the combination of the two dishes had meant lots of chopping etc, and I wasn't going to make anything else! This kitchen was closed, and the chef on strike. :) But it felt great to be cooking again.

Grecian Spaghetti Squash Saute
Weight Watchers Recipe
Serves 4

WW notes - This unusual and delicious take on spaghetti squash is great as a main dish, or as a side dish paired with grilled or broiled fish or chicken, or roast leg of lamb. Red pepper flakes will add extra kick

My notes - Red pepper flakes would have been good, I'd add them next time.

2 pound raw spaghetti squash
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup scallion(s), sliced
2 tsp minced garlic
14 1/2 oz canned diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp lemon zest, freshly grated
1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup dill, or mint, fresh, chopped
1/4 cup pot cheese, or fat-free crumbled feta

  1. Pierce squash with a fork in several places; place on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high, turning squash over every 3 minutes, until tender, about 12 to 15 minutes; let stand 5 minutes. (Or to bake squash, preheat oven to 350ºF. Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place squash, cut side down, in a large baking dish and prick skin all over with a fork. Bake until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.)

  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add scallions and garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes, chickpeas, oregano, lemon zest, salt and pepper; bring to a boil.

  3. Cut cooked squash in half lengthwise; scrape out seeds and then scrape strands of squash into skillet with a fork. Cook, stirring, until squash strands are well coated; remove from heat and stir in dill or mint. Top each serving with cheese. Yields about 1 cup of squash and 1 tablespoon of cheese per serving.

Roasted Vegetable and Tofu Napoleon
Serves 4

4 sprays cooking spray
1 large red onion(s)
1 medium raw eggplant, peeled
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow pepper(s)
1 medium sweet red pepper(s)
1 pound extra firm tofu
1 Tbsp rosemary, fresh, chopped
3 Tbsp parsley, fresh, chopped
3 large garlic clove(s)
1 Tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, about the juice from one lemon

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray.

  2. Slice onion in half and then cut each half into quarters. Slice eggplant, zucchini (slice diagonally) and peppers into 1/4-inch slices. Slice tofu across into 8 slices, about 1/4-inch thick.

  3. Place onions on one half of a baking sheet and peppers on other half. Place eggplant and zucchini separately on second baking sheet. Coat tops of vegetables with cooking spray. Roast 15 minutes and then rotate baking sheets; roast 15 minutes more. Turn off oven and leave vegetables in oven to keep warm.

  4. Place rosemary, parsley and garlic in bowl of food processor. Add oil and lemon juice and blend until smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes; set aside.

  5. Spread herb mixture onto both sides of each tofu slice. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Place tofu in heated pan and brown both sides of tofu, about 2 to 4 minutes per side.

  6. To serve, place one slice of tofu on a plate. On top of tofu, stack one slice of eggplant, one slice of red pepper and one wedge of red onion; top with another slice of tofu and then top that with one slice each of yellow pepper and zucchini, and another piece of red onion. Drizzle with remaining herb mixture. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Yields one napoleon per serving.

[Will be posted tomorrow, as it requires typing unlike the two previous recipes which I found online!]

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

I have returned... again.

I'm back from Florida. The necessary deed was done, sad as it was. I was shocked at how ill our poor dog was - she really wasn't herself and putting her down was definitely the right (albeit heartbreaking) decision. Here are a couple pictures I took of Trekka before. She was a difficult model - always moving at the last moment so excuse the blurriness.

Oh! I should explain her name. Trekka joined my family one day in Cuba. A daily walking of the family dogs is an important and cherished routine in my family. One day, my mom walked our German Shepard an unfamiliar way. She ended up in a neighborhood that was not usually part of the daily walk route. Our Shepard began snuffling in some tall grass, and out popped this little white puppy. The two dogs said hi, and then my mom lead our dog back home. And the little puppy followed. She followed for ten long blocks, and then sat down in front of our gate. My mom let our Shepard in, and then looked at the little white puppy. And she invited her in. And Trekka never left (although she never liked going for walks in Cuba - we often thought she was afraid of being put back in the long grasses again!) Cassie (our Shepard) and Trekka became fast friends, and in Cassie's decline Trekka even acted as a seeing/hearing dog nudging Cassie when family arrived home so she could say hello after her eyes and ears began to fail. She may have been one of the luckiest puppies in Cuba, but she definitely earned her place in our family.

She almost looked like she was "laughing" in this one.

And, since I'm on a family pet roll - this is our family's nineteen (yes, 19!) year old cat Smokey. He joined our family in Botswana, and has travelled to Virginia, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuala and now Florida in his nineteen years. Not too shabby! He's definitely an old man now, but remains in good health so fingers crossed!

So, beginning tomorrow the veggie kitchen will be up and running. Several cooking magazines were perused on the plane back from Florida. Several ideas are percolating - stay tuned to see what develops next!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

We have returned from paradise...

... and it is so cruel to be back!

Well, not so for me. I'm still on vacation. But M. went off to work with perhaps less than total enthusiasm this morning.

Anyways, we had an amazing time. The resort, the El Dorado Royale was located just outside Cancun. We wanted a simple experience, we weren't really there to see Mexico but to just relax and be in one place. So, that's what we did. We stayed at our all-inclusive resort, we lay out on the beach and by the pool, we drank tropical drinks and enjoyed trying out the resort's restaurants and walking away without paying more than a dollar to tip our waiter. All-inclusives are wonderful like that.

Here are some highlights from our trip:

The view from our balcony of the resort, looking left.

A view from the huts we were mostly lucky enough to grab on the beach.

Bougainvillea, I think.

Yep, I celebrated my birthday in style! The resort staff had been well trained in the art of food presentation. Everything was beautifully and artistically arranged and decorated.

Another flower picture... no idea what this one is but it was pretty.

Hanging at the swing bar - M. and I found this bar to be the most fun to people watch at night. There sure were some characters!

All in all, a vacation well spent. In theory, this would be the part of the post where I announce my intention to get back into my kitchen and get cooking. I would actually love to do that, but I'm off to Florida today. Yes, today. Yes, we got back from Mexico last night. I'm turning into a travelling jetsetter. Actually, this is not exactly a fun trip. My father is currently overseas for a year on a diplomatic posting, and my mother is living alone in Florida. A few days after his departure in early July, our family dog was diagnosed with lung cancer. She's in a bad way, and I don't feel my mom should have to cope with putting her down alone. So I'm off to Florida to help her through that.

It may seem odd to some, but my family values pets tremendously. Despite our travelling lifestyle, and my father's job moving us from continent to continent every couple years, our pets always came with us. In our tiny travelling nuclear family, our pets played an important and stable role. This dog, Trekka, joined our family in Cuba. She was a stray that followed my mom and our family dog at the time home from a walk. She's had a good eleven years with our family visiting Bolivia, Venezuela and now Florida in that time. And so, I feel it important to visit her one last time and help my mother cope with being without a dog for the first time in 30 odd years.

I will of course take the camera, and hopefully have a chance to take over my mother's kitchen to try out some recipes. So.... stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hasta la vista!

This veggie kitchen will be closed until July 26th when I will officially be 2 days into my 28th year, and back from a Mexican vacation. M. and I leave tomorrow morning EARLY and I'm not cooking tonight. In fact, I'll be departing to donate an hour and a half of my time to fulfill our CSA requirement. Why I picked the day before vacation, I'll never know. It seemed like a great idea in the beginning of June. Not so much now. So off I'll go into the 100+ heat index shortly to sit and watch people sign pieces of paper for an hour and a half. Fun fun. Did I mention the CSA pick-up place is gross and hot on a good day, let alone a stinker like today?

Anyways, M. and I are off for some lying by the pool, lying by the beach and just all around relaxing. So, hope everyone will remember to come back next week when I'm sure I'll be ready to cook and bake with a vengeance after eating "out" for a week (and will have amazing vacation pictures to of course brag about and post to inspire much jealousy). Have a great week folks, and see you next Wednesday!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Double chocolate satisfaction.

Before we left for New Jersey on Saturday, I decided to make a dessert to bring to my in-laws. I'd bought a block of white chocolate at Trader Joe's on Friday, and so I decided to make Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies. But, I really didn't have to time to bake batches and batches of cookies so I decided to alter the recipe and make a bar instead.

The results were delicious. They didn't look spectacular since we covered the pan with foil, and put it into a backpack while still warm. As a result of that decision, M. got to make the trip smelling like brownies, and the brownies kind of collapsed on themselves so that the top of the pan was empty when we took it out but the bottom had waves of compressed brownies. It was a very interestingexperiment, but luckily didn't affect the taste at all. The brownie-like result was dense and fudgy, and the white chocolate chunks made a nice contrast to the thick fudginess of the brownie itself.

This picture was taken while the brownies were cooling, and unfortunately doesn't display the chocolate/white chocolate contrast to its fullest extent. But trust me - it was there!

Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies (or Brownies)
Ina Garten - Barefoot Contessa Parties
(makes 40-48 cookies)

Ina's notes - These are "reverse" chocolate chunk cookies. Chocolate dough with white choclate chunks. I prefer white chocolate to traditional choclate, so I think these are wonderful.

My notes - This was a very forgiving recipe. I was very distracted while making this, and put the eggs in with the sugars. I also used cold eggs. But there was no indication of these distractions in the taste, and the recipe worked very well despite my mixing up a few steps.

1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 extra large eggs at room temperature
2/3 cup good unsweetened cocoa
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds good white chocolate coarsely chopped (I used 10 ounces, and then threw in about a cup of regular chocolate chips as well)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and two sugars until light and fluffly in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time. Mix well. Add the cocoa and mix again. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and add to the chocolate with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Fold in the chopped white chocolate (and chocolate chips, in my case).

Cookie directions - Drop the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, using a 1 3/4 ice cream scoop or rounded tablespoon. Dampen your hands, and flatten the dough slightly. Bake for exactly 15 minutes, the cookies will seem underdone. Remove from the oven, and let cool slightly on pan before tranferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Brownie directions - Put cookie dough into greased 9x13 pan (or 8x8 would probably work as well). Spread slightly and smooth top. Bake in oven for approximately 30 minutes (mine baked for 35). Remove from oven, and cool in pan on wire rack.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Busy in the kitchen.

We're heading off to New Jersey to spend the weekend with M.'s family soon. This, plus our upcoming vacation to Mexico has prompted me to crank out as much as I can with what we have so as to prevent food from going to waste.

Looking at our peaches this morning prompted me to think about using a couple in some muffins. Of course, I also had the ultimate in organic food experience. I was looking at a peach that was well past its prime, and something looked back! A little worm stuck its head out of the hole around the stem. Needless to say that peach went straight into the trash, and nowhere near my muffins! I like my food fresh from the earth, but that was a little bit too fresh if you know what I mean!

And, last night while cooking our dinner, I also prepared a couscous salad to take. I based it off the Cooking Light Recipe Lemony Couscous with Mint, Feta and Dill, found here but I changed so much I can hardly say that I made the recipe (although it does look good).

Here are pictures of some of the things I've made, with recipes to follow at a later time.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A meal fresh from someone's garden....

... even if not my own!

Tonight's meal inspiration began with Susan's (chef in the Fatfree Vegan Kitchen) recipe for Patty Pan Squash Stuffed with Cajun White Beans. She posted her creation several days ago, and when I saw pattypan squash at the Union Square Farmer's Market today, I knew our dinner was determined.

While still at the Farmer's Market I saw fresh green beans, small heirloom tomatoes and corn. And dinner was done. I was instantly convinced that a simple meal prepared with these fresh ingredients would fit the bill for our Friday dinner. M. tends to work pretty late during the week, but Friday is a night he can often make it home for a late (8:00 or in tonight's case 9:00pm) dinner. Accordingly, I try to make something a bit more special to usher the weekend in.

Having finished at the Farmer's Market, I then proceeded to one of my new favorite grocery stores. It was a definite trip carrying the produce and the three Barnes and Noble books that somehow found their way to me during my perusal of the Barnes and Noble at Union Square. But, Trader Joe's is worth it. It just opened in March, and already I'm in love! Poor Whole Foods (just down the street even) got kicked to the curb! Anyways, at Trader Joe's I found what turned out to be a key ingredient to tonight's supper. Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar, pictured on the left and featured heavily in tonight's green bean preparation and fresh corn preparation. Its tangy sweetness complemented the veggies nicely, and I look forward to finding new ways to use my new pantry staple.

Our lovely dinner in its entirety.
As always, clicking on the picture will blow it up, and reveal our amateur photographic skills!

Here is Susan's original recipe. Because I'm lazy as its somewhat late, I just entered it as (meaning I copied it from her blog) is but I want all credit to go to her as it was a tasty recipe, and one I will repeat. But, I actually made some changes which I will describe here. First of all, I omitted the celery and green pepper because I didn't have any and I wasn't going out again after lugging home two TJ bags, all my produce and three Barnes and Nobles books. So, no celery and pepper for us. I adapted the herbs somewhat (mostly because our fridge is bursting with a multitude of herbs right now). I used fresh sage (about 7 leaves cut in a chiffonade), fresh thyme (about 4 stems with approximately 5 fronds per stem), herbs de Provence (about 1/2 a teaspoon), crushed red pepper (a dash) and I added 1/4 cup whole wheat panko (Japanese bread crumbs) and a few microplane grates of parmesan cheese. But other than that, I made her recipe in its entirety! :) Oh, and I used cannellini beans. As I said above, I will repeat this but I do think it is a forgiving recipe that will accommodate "what's on hand" and remain delicious.

Patty Pan Squash Stuffed with Cajun White Beans

4 medium-sized patty pan squash
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
1/2 bell pepper, chopped fine
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp. thyme
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. fennel seed
1/4 tsp. rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1 can (15 ounces) great northern beans (or other white beans), rinsed and drained

Place the squash flat side down in a large pot. Add about 1 inch of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Cook for about 8 minutes, until a fork easily pierces the top of the squash. Remove from the pot and set aside to cool.

When cool enough to handle, slice off the top of the squash and use a melon baller to scoop out the flesh from the inside. Be sure to leave a wall of at least 1/4-inch of flesh on all sides of the squash. Turn them upside down to drain, and dice the scooped out flesh coarsely.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Sauté the onions, celery and bell pepper in a large, non-stick skillet for about 5 minutes until soft; add garlic, diced squash, and remaining seasonings and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the white beans and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes.

Place the squash in an 8x8-inch baking pan. Spoon the stuffing into each shell; be sure to really pack it into the shell, and don't be afraid to over-stuff them. Pile any stuffing that remains into the center of the baking pan, right between the squash.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tops begin to brown. Serve with additional stuffing. Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish

The other components of our dinner remained pretty simple. For the green beans, I cut off the ends and sauteed them in a splash of my new champagne vinegar, a splash of vegetable broth, two garlic cloves minced, salt and pepper and a dash of lemon flavored olive oil (to taste - I didn't use very much but others might prefer more). This created a nice little sauce which I then reduced until the green beans were nicely glazed.

The heirloom tomato salad with perlini was an adaptation of everyone's favorite - the caprese salad. I quartered the mini-heirlooms, tossed with basil chiffonade, salt and pepper. I then strained a spoonful of perlini (mini-bocconcini or fresh mozzarella balls - also obtained at Trader Joe's) and added a splash of olive oil and a splash of basalmic vinegar. I stirred, and left the salad to sit for a few minutes so that the flavors would meld.

And the corn, I cooked the corn for about three minutes in boiling water. I used my corn zipper and unzipped the kernels, added salt and pepper and my new vinegar to taste (about a tablespoon) and left to marinade until I served it.

And that was our dinner, and M. was very pleased. Wouldn't you have liked to join us?

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

5 Things meme

Since Linda at kayaksoup
tagged me for a 5 things meme, I thought it best to do that soon before I forget!

So here we go -

5 Things in My Freezer
Chocolate chip cookie dough
Trader Joe's Spanakopita triangles
Morningstar Farm Chik Patties
Frozen Fava beans
Homemade blueberry muffins

Five Things in My Closet (I'll use the pantry/closet)
Cat food in a easy open plastic tub
Winter coats
Crystal Light drink mix
A multitude of various kinds of beans

Five Things in My Car
Don't have one, So I'm going to change it to:
Five Things on My Bookshelf
Children's picture books example - The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Teacher education books - The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz
Lots of nonfiction books - Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
My husband's "require a bit more thought" books - The Great Unravelling by Paul Krugman
My light mind candy books - Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser

Five Things in my Purse
Spilled change
Lip Gloss
Compact (which I always carry but rarely use)

Now I guess I'm supposed to tag people to play the game. Gosh! I've never done this before.
I'll invite:

Crystal at poco-cocoa

Kate at Pie in the Sky

Susan at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

If even one of these lovely people plays, I'll consider myself doing pretty well!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

When inspiration doesn't strike...

... but a fridge full of veggies that need to be used up does, and you cook no matter how unmotivated you feel. Tonight, I didn't feel like cooking. In fact, I didn't feel like doing much at all. I talked myself out of the gym, and the weather outside looked like this - and my inspiration was at an all time low. M. had a work function and wouldn't be home for dinner and I was ready to scrounge for food and kick back and do nothing.

But I persevered against these strong evolutionary feelings to sit back and watch the rain thunder down on poor hapless Brooklyn. Instead, I tackled those fresh fava beans, and made what turned out to be a surprisingly tasty dish. Reading through the ingredients I thought - eh. This will be okay. Nothing special. In fact, it turned out to be a surprisingly delicious combination of simple ingredients (CHEESE), so much so that I had to put the leftovers away in the fridge quickly so as not to consume too much! And paired with my own incarnation of a Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad, the meal made the efforts (and cleaning the kitchen) worthwhile. M. now has tasty leftovers to take for lunch tomorrow, and I feel like I did something instead of being a lazy bum! It works out for everyone.

Orecchiette with Fresh Fava Beans, Ricotta, and Shredded Mint
Cooking Light April 2006

While fava beans are best, frozen lima beans or green peas can be used in a pinch. If using frozen beans or peas, just toss them into the pasta water during the last minute of cooking and drain with the pasta. If you can’t find orecchiette, use seashell pasta.

2 pounds unshelled fava beans (about 1 cup shelled)
1 pound uncooked orecchiette pasta (little ears pasta)
1 teaspoon olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
½ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped fresh mint
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
mint sprigs optional

Remove beans from pods; discard pods. Cook beans in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove beans with a slotted spoon. Plunge beans into ice water; drain. Remove tough outer skins from beans; discard skins. Set beans aside.

Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Place pasta in a large bowl; add oil and salt. Toss well.

Combine the 1 cup reserved pasta water, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, chopped mint, and pepper. Add beans and cheese mixture to pasta mixture; toss to combine. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

CALORIES 507(16% from fat); FAT 8.8g (sat 4.1g,mono 2.5g,poly 1.3g); PROTEIN 29.2g; CHOLESTEROL 25mg; CALCIUM 255mg; SODIUM 540mg; FIBER 4.7g; IRON 6.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 85.5g

Today's Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

I took my bunch of beets, cut off the greens and then scrubbed the beets. After scrubbing, I wrapped each individually in foil, and roasted at 400 degrees for one hour. Then I held under running water while I rubbed off the skins. I then washed and sliced the greens, and sauteed them on a nonstick cooking skillet with cooking spray and one diced garlic clove. I took pre-sliced and washed lettuce, and assembled one portion on a plate. I added some beet greens and stems, and then sliced an appropriate number of beets. I sprinkled goat cheese on the top, added a swirl of storebought vinaigrette and called it tonight's beet and goat cheese salad.

CSA overdrive.

Well, I guess I should stop whining about how our CSA isn't meeting our fruit and veggie needs. They did a pretty good job this week - not too much will be needed to supplement!

14 peaches (I love the way they tell us how many. Not a handful of peaches - 14!)

A beautiful bunch of beets with greens attached.

A bunch of lettuce and a bunch of radicchio. And yes, the one on the right is radicchio. I got up to check, because I started to doubt myself of its authenticity not seeing the dark red leaves. But they're inside the green.

Some beautiful red onions - and my can of Fresca. Oops.

Blurry rosemary.

Fresh fava beans, which I've never played with before.

And, flowers.

Oh, and 2 quarts of cherries which I somehow forgot to photograph. Hmm. Oh well, let the cooking challenge begin! Stay tuned for beet, fava bean, red onion and radicchio recipes to come!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Chocolatey-chip goodness!

My favorite cookie in the world is a chocolate chip cookie. I'm actually somewhat picky about desserts. If its not just right, I'll say no. Storebought supermarket cake - maybe not. Brownie with nuts - not for me. Double chocolate chip brownie without nuts - yes please!

My willpower is always tested with chocolate chip cookies though. I really find it almost impossible to turn down a good chocolate chip cookie. Unless it has nuts. But then I'll usually pick them out!

Yesterday I made the Alton Brown "Chewy" cookie recipe. I've made it before, but a long time ago and while I remembered the cookies as being good, I couldn't remember why. So I made them, and M.'s coworkers are benefiting from the vast majority today out of deference to my waistline. For those not aware, Alton Brown has a food show on the Food Network called "Good Eats", and has created three kinds of chocolate chip cookie recipes. The three recipes or the three types of cookies are called the "Puffy", the "Thin" and the "Chewy". Since I'm a big fan of chewy chocolate chip cookies, that's what I made.

I did have a little trouble with the recipe. First of all, its very precise. Tinkering with the steps will lead to disaster. When it calls for bread flour - the recipe means bread flour. That wasn't my problem. My problem was the size of my cookies relative to the baking time. The recipe calls for baking the cookies for 14 minutes, which I did. It also calls for using a scoop to scoop the dough, which I did. It just took me some time (and some cookies) to realize that my scoop must be much smaller than the recipe called for as my yield was much greater. I generally make cookies pretty small, so that when I eat several the damage isn't as great. :) But in this case, that meant I was over-cooking the cookies. Once I scaled back the cooking time, the cookies were complete in their chewy goodness.

The Chewy Recipe

Alton Brown - Good Eats

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups
brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an air tight container.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

The Accidental Italian (Meal).

As I flipped through cookbooks yesterday afternoon, I noticed the recipe fo Summer Risotto with Tomatoes, Leeks and Fresh Corn. M. and I love risottos, but haven't made them at home for the longest time (for whatever reason). This particular recipe was in The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley which is a cookbook I've not used nearly enough (although I seem to be remedying this fact of late). And just like that, dinner was decided. I decided to pair the risotto with a side dish of Pan-Seared Summer Squash with Garlic and Mint mostly because the recipe sounded very intriguing, and I had some lovely fresh spearmint needing to be used. Coincidentally, the summer squash recipe comes from Fresh Food Fast, also by Peter Berley. And, our meal would begin with caprese salad because we had some fresh mozzarella to use up from Friday. And, you can never have enough caprese salad.

Once I chose this recipe that involved corn kernels, M. and I both realized we'd need the Kuhn Rikon Corn Zipper. Luckily (or unluckily depending on your perspective) we have a kitchen store right around the corner who happened to have the Corn Zipper in stock. Using it was very easy, and despite the fact that it has somewhat of an eerie face I think it'll be a tool earning its drawer space frequently this summer.

It was only after I began cooking that I realized we were having an Italian meal of the evening of Italy's World Cup win. Sometimes I even amaze myself. :)

Summer Risotto with Tomatoes, Leeks, and Fresh Corn
The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen - Peter Berley (and Melissa Clark)

Author's notes - A quick and flavorful broth can be made from the corn cobs and leek tops.. Simply wash the leek tops well, place them in a pot with the corn cobs, cover with six cups of water and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain off and discard the trimmings, and proceed with the risotto using the corn cob broth instead of vegetable broth.

My notes - I missed this notation about corn cob broth and used store-bought broth instead.

5 cups All-Season Vegetable stock (or store-bought), or water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and tender green parts only)
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc
2 cups kernels scraped from 2 ears fresh corn
1 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup torn basil leaves
1 teaspoon unsalted butter (optional - I added)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional - I added)
Coarse Sea Salt
Freshly Milled Black Pepper

1. In a 2 quart sauce pan over high heat, bring stock to a boil. Reduce heat so that stock maintains a steady simmer.

2. In a heavy 3 quart pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add leeks and saute for 2 minutes until softened. Stir in rice and saute for 2 minutes, until grains are translucent. Pour in the wine and let simmer until absorbed.

3. Add the corn, tomatoes, garlicc and thyme. Add the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until te liquid has been absorbed before adding each subsequent 1/2 cup stock. Continue stirring and adding stock, until grains are tender and creamy about 20-25 minutes. Add the basil during the last five minutes.

4. Stir in butter and cheese if using, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Pan-Seared Summer Squash with Garlic and Mint
Fresh Food Fast by Peter Berley (and Melissa Clark)

Author's notes- Pan searing the squash carmelizes it and produces a nice crust. The sugars become concentrated, and their juices locked in. You can use the same technique with eggplant slices, and onion rings.

My notes - This was a really tasty recipe, but kind of a pain to make. The pan-searing took forever, and I think were I to make it again (and I would) I might grill the veggies instead. I tinkered with the amounts since I only had 1 1/2 pounds of squash. I used all the lemon juice, garlic and mint but only about a tablespoon of oil. And it still tasted great. Very garlicky, but very good.

2 pounds summer squash, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh mint
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus additional to taste
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly milled black pepper

1. Warm a large, heavy skillet, griddle or grill pan over medium heat. Arrange the squash in a single layer and sear until speckled with brown and beginning to blacken (about five minutes). Flip the squash and cook for five minutes more. Repeat with remaining squash.

2. In a serving bowl, combine lemon juicce, mint, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes and let marinade for 5 minutes. Whisk in oil.

3. Transfer seared squash to bowl, toss to coat with dressing and let rest for about five minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper, and serve.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Easy Cinnamon Bread

M. has been a big fan of watching the (now concluded) World Cup soccer games. This is okay with me (who pretty much detests most sports), as long as I have something to do. Today, he watched Italy beat France in a penalty kick shootout, and I browsed through the King Arthur's Baking Companion cookbook. I stumbled across the recipe for Easy Cinnamon Bread, and was instantly motivated to abandon the couch to start baking. I've made this bread once before, and it is positively the height of cinnamon deliciousness. And, it would fulfill this week's breakfast quest. See, since I'm having a lazy summer I've been sleeping in a bit later. And, the typical breakfast that I start my working days with at 7:00 am just isn't appealing at the much later hours of 9:30 am or 10:00 am. As a result, I've been experimenting with lighter fare that I can eat later in the morning and still be hungry for lunch. I think this bread will fit the bill perfectly for this upcoming week.

Easy Cinnamon Bread
King Arthur's Baking Companion

1 loaf, 16 slices

This bread is a cross between a typical baking powder-leavened quick bread and a yeast bread. The result: a loaf that tastes like cinnamon coffeecake, wondeful served plain and incredible toasted.

3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsps instant yeast
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup (6 oz) cinnamon chips
Cinnamon-sugar, for topping

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, yeast, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, butter and egg. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, beating until smooth. Cover and let the batter rest at room temperature for 1 hour, then stir in the baking powder and cinnamon chips.

Preheat oven to 350 deg. Spoon the batter into greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar.

Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the bread from the oven, let it rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then tranfer it from the pan to a rack to cool completely. Don't slice the bread while it's hot; it will slice much better when it's completely cool.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Italian Inspiration.

I just love Italian food. It's vegetarian friendly, chock full of fresh herbs and cheeses and always very comforting to eat. Nothing soothes me more during the bitterly cold winter then a nice plate of baked ziti, lasagna or the like. But, those heavier dishes wouldn't seem as appropriate now during the toasty summer months, so when planning last night's meal I looked for lighter inspiration.

I decided to cheat, and buy frozen ravioli. We're lucky - here in Brooklyn there are several companies that make excellent frozen ravioli. Nothing pleases me more then browsing the multitude of choices in the Fratelli Ravioli ( freezer (yes, they have their own freezer just for their ravioli) at our local grocery store. Whole wheat tofu spinach, pesto, spinach, lobster (doesn't appeal to me but its a choice), sundried tomato, stuffed shells . . . the list just goes on. So, sometimes I take the easy way out and splurge on their tasty products. They're not exactly cheap running at approximately ten dollars for sixteen ravioli, but the quality is good and way easier then making my own ravioli.

I wanted a fresh sauce to pair with my cheese ravioli, so I decided to try the Chunky Garden-Tomato sauce posted on the Cooking Light website. Of course, lacking a garden I had to actually buy tomatoes but the concept of the sauce seemed appealing. But then I didn't buy quite enough tomatoes, and had to throw in a can of diced which kind of marred the freshness of the sauce. Overall it was a tasty sauce that paired well with the ravioli and a side of homemade garlic bread.

And to start the meal, I decided a little caprese salad was in order. I love caprese salad. I could eat it every day and be happy. There is something about the sweetness of the ripe tomatoes, the creaminess of the fresh mozzeralla, the tang of fresh basil coupled with the mellowness of olive oil and basalmic vinegar - what's not to love? That qualifies as my idea of heaven. M. teased me when we spent a few days in Italy on our honeymoon two years ago because I think I had caprese salad every day while we were there. I just love it, and last night became the official launch of caprese salad season in our house.

My notes - I typically make caprese salad free-form, just adding the ingredients and winging amounts. But for the unfamiliar, this Cooking Light recipe would be a good place to start.

Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella, and Basil Salad
Cooking Light Magazine
Cooking Light's notes - In Italy, this is known as insalata caprese (Capri-style salad). It's best in summer, when tomatoes are at their peak. If you can get imported Buffalo mozzarella from Italy, use it, but domestic fresh mozzarella is fine, as well. Fresh mozzarella cheese is packed in water. It has a softer texture and sweeter, more delicate flavor than the regular part-skim mozzarella that is more commonly used in cooking for its superior melting qualities. 4 tomatoes, each cut into 6 slices (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 12 slices
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
Arrange 4 tomato slices and 2 mozzarella slices on each of 6 salad plates. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper; drizzle with oil. Top evenly with basil. Yield: 6 servings NUTRITION PER SERVING
CALORIES 150(64% from fat); FAT 10.7g (sat 5.8g,mono 1.9g,poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 7.8g; CHOLESTEROL 30mg; CALCIUM 231mg; SODIUM 138mg; FIBER 1.5g; IRON 0.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 5.4g
Chunky Garden Tomato Sauce
Cooking Light Magazine

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
5 1/2 cups chopped seeded tomato
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over pasta or polenta, or on crostini. Yield: 3 1/2 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup) NUTRITION PER SERVING
CALORIES 63(36% from fat); FAT 2.5g (sat 0.3g,mono 1.5g,poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 1.7g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 25mg; SODIUM 181mg; FIBER 2.4g; IRON 0.9mg; CARBOHYDRATE 10.2g

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Creamy and delicious pasta salad.

Like many Americans, I have a fondness for creamy, mayonnaisey and delicious pasta salads. No matter how I try to lighten my diet, there's just something about that creamy richness (especially in the summer time) that I find appealing.

Since I'm not blessed with a metabolism that will let me indulge in such a dish too often, I've found ways to replicate the creamy rich texture with less fat. One easy way is the recipe I made for lunch today. It is from the magazine Eating Well, to which I've subscribed for several years. Much like my other favorite magazine Cooking Light, Eating Well strives to print healthy recipes that taste great while keeping things like oil and fat in moderation.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that it is very forgiving. It can be easily doubled, easily halved, and the ingredients are easily substituted when one or two might be missing. Like today, I carefully wrote down all I needed to buy to make the salad but somehow the words "yellow or red bell pepper" didn't register, and my salad was bell pepper-less. I typically add baked tofu to the salad, but today I didn't have any so I added a can of chickpeas instead. And, I don't tend to measure the vegetable ingredients. I halved an entire container of grape tomatoes, threw in a bunch of pre-shredded carrots, slivered what looked to be enough basil and thus kept the preparation somewhat free-form. The dressing makes enough to coat the salad easily (along with whatever additions I've added) so I've never worried about having a too dry salad. Oh, and I leave out the olives because I don't like them. And its MY pasta salad - :) !

Garden Pasta Salad
Eating Well
Serves 6 1 cup portions

Eating Well's note: To make this salad more substantial, you can toss in canned chunk light tuna, cooked chicken or flavored baked tofu.

2 cups whole-wheat rotini (6 ounces)
1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup diced yellow or red bell pepper (1 small)
1 cup grated carrots (2-4 carrots)
1/2 cup chopped scallions (4 scallions)
1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/3 cup slivered fresh basil

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package directions. Drain and refresh under cold running water.
2. Whisk mayonnaise, yogurt, oil, vinegar (or lemon juice), garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl until smooth. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Add tomatoes, bell pepper, carrots, scallions, olives and basil; toss to coat well.

Per serving: 205 calories; 9 g fat (2 g sat, 5 g mono); 1 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 4 g fiber; 291 mg sodium.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A use-up yet surprisingly coordinated meal.

I am a notorious hoarder of purchased food items. Some people hate grocery shopping. I love it, and have this strange compulsion to buy things without checking first to see if I already have the item in our already bursting pantry/fridge/freezer. I've learned to plan menus (and shop accordingly) so as to minimize the storage of items like three kinds of lentils, two kinds of bread crumbs, ten cans of beans etc.

But, I view this trait as a good thing, as it is a very rare night that I cannot go to our pantry and concoct a meal. Now, that's not to say that I won't pretend otherwise when I'm wanting to order takeout or go out to eat, but the fact remains that we could eat well for several weeks without stepping foot into a grocery store. That's evolutionary progress right in our own kitchen!

Tonight's meal was using up various odds and ends that needed to be cooked before they went bad. Like, the green beans I bought at the market last Tuesday. And the bok choy I bought to make M. something brothy (as he requested in the comment section of Tales from the Farmer's Market, Part 1). But, most importantly, my hoarding tendencies came into play because I was able to decide to make a favorite tofu preparation, have all the ingredients and be ready to make the recipe within minutes. I had the tofu, and the sauce fixings, and no trip to the grocery store was necessary.

This is one of my all-time favorite tofu preparations. It is even better when allowed to marinate for a few hours before baking. I didn't have time for that today, but it does make an already great recipe even better. It is great alone, or topping noodles with a simple veggie stir-fry. It would be a great recipe to try on alleged tofu-haters...

Sweet Ginger Tofu

The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen - Peter Berley

Yield: 4 to 6 servings (I don't think we've ever gotten six servings out of this delicious tofu!)

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 Tbs minced gingerroot
2 Tbs light sesame oil -- (note: I only use 1 Tbs)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 pound firm tofu -- rinsed, patted dry, and sliced 1/2 inch thick

Preheat the oven to 350F In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, honey, ginger, oil, and garlic. Lay the tofu slices in a baking dish that can hold them in a single snug layer. Pour the marinade over the tofu. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the tofu is nearly dry and well browned. Serve hot or cold.

I also made the braised bok choy with garlic scapes recipe featured on Pie in the Sky
. Thanks again to Caroline who posted a reminder about this recipe on my Tales from the Farmer's Market post - it was delicious.

Braised Bok Choy with Garlic Scapes

Courtesy of Kate at A Pie in the Sky


2 heads bok choy, sliced in half lengthwise and washed

1 cup vegetable stock

1 tablespoon butter

2 garlic scapes, diced

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Pinch of cracked red pepper

Salt to taste
Toasted sesame seeds (available in Chinese markets and many supermarkets) I omitted these

Melt butter in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add scapes and stir-fry to soften, about 1 minute. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Arrange bok choy in pan and cover, simmering for about five minutes or until tender.

Transfer bok choy to serving dish and cover to keep warm. Bring remaining
broth and scapes to a boil and reduce to 1/2 cup or less. Stir in sesame oil and pepper; salt to taste. Pour over bok choy and sprinkle with sesame seeds; serve hot.
Serves 2.

And lastly, I created my own green bean recipe this evening that turned out to be surprisingly tasty. But unfortunately, I didn't really take many measurements. But to the best of my memory, here goes ...

Mirin-Soy Glazed Green Beans

2 cups of green beans
2-3 cloves of chopped garlic
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons of mirin
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Sprinkle of hot pepper flakes
1 tsp sesame oil
salt/pepper to taste

Wash and trim the green beans, discarding stems. Coat nonstick skillet with cooking spray, turn on heat to High and add green beans. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add vegetable stock and turn down to medium. Cook green beans for approximately 2 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add mirin, soy, hot pepper, sesame oil, salt and black pepper and stir. Adjust heat to medium high, and reduce sauce with frequent stirring of the beans. When most of the sauce has reduced, and green beans are tender (even wilted) and coated with glaze (to taste) then remove from heat and serve.

This was the whole meal, but you can see the beans in the upper left hand corner. I didn't think they warranted their own picture, until I tasted them.

All this cooking wore poor Helios out! Hang in there little man, the kitchen is closed for today.

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An anniversary brunch.

As part of a celebratory brunch, we tried a new waffle recipe. M. and I both love waffles, but we tend to reserve them for a special treat as they aren't always the most filling of meals. But we thought our anniversary merited the trying of Mark Bittman's buttermilk waffle recipe. And then we decided to take the event up yet another notch by enjoying a bottle of champagne along with our waffley goodness. This bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte was given to us by a dear friend on the occasion of my (second) graduation from graduate school. While M. and I are big fans of sparkling wine (me perhaps more than M.), we tend to save real champagnes for an actual occasion. But a prosecco or cava, or a sparkling wine lacking the distinctive champagne classification but still yielding bubbles might make a more regular appearance on our table. We're big fans of the Nicolas Feuillatte champagnes - we find them reasonably priced and yet as crisp and flavorful as other champagnes with much heftier pricetags. [This now concludes my amateur wine review - I anticipate that M. will be emailing me shortly with his more oeneophilic perspective once he sees what I've written and if that is the case, I will add his thoughts to the wine review.]

Here are our lovely waffles. M. was kind enough to make them for me, which was a lovely treat. As much as I love to cook, I also love to be cooked for and was quite happy to sit back and relax while the kitchen hummed with activity. M. separated the finished batter into two bowls and added blueberries to one, and chocolate chips to the other. He had blueberry waffles and I had my favorite - chocolate chip waffles! Does life get any better? The waffles were sprinkled with fresh berries, and served with delicious maple syrup. And the champagne of course complimented the meal delightfully. Mmmmm.........

Rich Buttermilk Waffles
Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything
Makes 4-6 servings (M. halved recipe)

The best waffles you can make at the last minute, with a sour tang that sets of maple syrup beautifully.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cup buttermilk or 1 1/2 cups sour cream or plain yogurt thinned with 1/4 cup milk
2 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter melted and cooled
1/2 tsp vanillar extract
canola or neutral oil for brushing on waffle iron (M. used cooking spray)

1. Combine dry ingredients. Mix together the buttermilk and egg yolks. Stir in the butter and vanilla (if using).
2. Brush waffle iron lightly with oil and preheat. Stir the wet into the dry ingredients. Beat egg whites with the whisk or electric mixer until they hold soft peaks. Stir them gently into the batter.
3. Spread a ladleful or so of batter onto the waffle iron and bake until waffle was done (usually 3-5 minutes). Serve immediately, or keep warm in low oven.

For buttermilk - you can sub 1 3/4 cups of milk at room temperature mixed with 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and left to clabber for ten minutes.

Time - 10 minutes plus time to bake

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006