Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chilean Lentil End-of-the-Pay-Period Soup

I like the concept of meat as seasoning, but my world is short on recipes that make it work. I also like the concept of affordable, stick-to-your-ribs meals that use pantry staples, because every trip to the grocery store reminds me of all the things I want to cook. I like this recipe because C gets all nostalgic about it, most of it gets made in the rice cooker, and it's absolutely delightful.

I say 1/8 pound of lean ground beef, but really... I pinch off about a quarter cup and freeze it when I'm making some other ground beef rich recipe. I have also used a frozen hamburger patty, ground pork, chopped chicken thigh, and a slice of bacon. Versatility! End of the pay period meals!

Take a cup and a half of French lentils, and put them in the rice cooker with four cups of water until they are tender. (Or cook them on the stove, fine.)

Meanwhile, chop one onion, one peeled carrot, maybe a tomato if there's one in the fridge, and maybe a little cilantro. Saute in vegetable oil until the onion is translucent and salt vigorously. Add 1/8 cup ground beef (frozen is OK)and increase the temperature. Cook, stirring constantly, until the beef is cooked through. (This might involve stabbing frozen ground beef with a spoon. It helps with the aggression.) Add the vegetables and meat to the lentils and stir. Thin soup to desired consistency and simmer for 5-10 minutes to get a magnificent beefy flavor throughout.

I like it with a Chilean cabbage salad (I've been known to put the wonderfully sour salad into the soup), or just steamed broccoli or sliced tomatoes. It's also good for breakfast with a poached egg.

Serves 4.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bad Idea Friday: Zambian Squash

I got this recipe over at Miser Mom, which is so awesome you guys, why aren't you reading it right now? I read the list of ingredients, and then tilted my head as if changing my perspective would make the unlikely ingredients make sense together. Then I demanded clarification. Then I made it- that's what bad idea Fridays are for.

Take one winter squash, halve it, remove the seeds, and bake it in a medium oven until soft, about 45 minutes. (Whenever I'm baking, I start loading the oven down with sweet potatoes and squash and baked beans. Sometimes there's no room for the baked goods.)

Yes, you can use frozen winter squash. Just heat it up a little first.

Let the squash cool a little and scoop out the flesh. If necessary, cut into bite-sized chunks.

Add one cup of fresh salsa, salsa cruda, or chopped tomatoes and onions. Stir.

Thin 1/2 cup peanut butter with a couple of tablespoons of water. Add to squash mixture. Stir.

Peanut butter, winter squash, and salsa- it's a little weird, right? We thoughtfully nibbled at it for some time, trying to figure out if we liked it. Then we realized we'd eaten the entire bowl. It's... good? The flavor combination is unexpected, but pleasant?

Look, it takes five minutes. Make it yourself.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bad Idea Friday: Homemade Udon

Every time my father-in-law gets to dictate a menu, he requests homemade ravioli stuffed with osso bucco. He dictates a menu fairly frequently, and I am still at the stage in the daughter-in-law relationship where I sometimes do trial runs of dishes before feeding them to my in-laws. (I'm not totally cowed, I am proud.)

Long story short, fresh egg pasta from scratch is excellent, but it's also a terrible pain to make.

So let's take out all of that irritating protein and fat, and make pasta with flour and water! How could this go wrong?

We invited Gyozilla over for dinner, because he's pretty understanding about catastrophic cooking failures and terribly late meals. We made plans for a takeout based fallback.

Recipe from lafujimama. They probably also have better pictures and instructions.

Mix 4 cups white flour with one tablespoon salt. Add 1 cup water and mix into a shaggy ball. Knead for 3-5 minutes. (If you were making egg noodles, you'd just keep kneading and kneading- for about 10 minutes. If you want to skip the next step- you shouldn't, it's brilliant- just keep kneading for 10-15 minutes. After everything is a smooth shiny ball, just keep kneading and kneading for eternity.)

Put ball of dough into a heavy duty ziploc and seal. Wrap in dishtowel or grocery bags, and stand on it. Squoosh that dough out into the far reaches of the bag. Open the bag, roll the dough into a ball, and repeat- do a total of 4 times.

Oh goodness, you guys, this is delightful! All of us enjoyed squashing dough with our feet, and believe you me, it's like six times more fun than kneading for eternity.

Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes. (You see how they say 3-4 hours in the other place? They weren't hungry. Half an hour is fine.) This is a great time to prepare the things that will be served with the udon. We made wonderful tamago, chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, steamed some sweet potatoes and chicken, pulled some kimchi out of the fridge, and made a peanut sauce.

Now, take out your pasta maker. (Of course you have a pasta maker. It justifies its shelf space each and every Christmas, saint's day, Fathers' day, and C's dad's birthday. If you don't, I'm sure you have a recently married friend who has like five.*) Dust the dough with flour and roll it through the thickest setting. Slice into thick noodles. Boil in ample water until translucent and firm- bite through a noodle to make sure it's cooked in the center. Serve- either in broth, or with all sorts of exciting vegetables and sauces.

*Fine, you don't have a pasta maker. Get a inch thick dowel, about 2-3 feet long. Roll out the dough until it's about 1/8 inch thick, you poor unlucky sod, and then follow the rest of the instructions.

So, how does this stack up as a bad idea? For a recipe where you throw something on the ground and stomp on it, it's pretty good. The udon is not ground shaking. It's pretty good- better than store-bought udon, but not by the order of magnitude that homemade ravioli is better than store-bought ravioli. The dough is much easier to work with. It's worth a try, especially if you don't live two blocks from an excellent noodle house.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bad Idea Fridays - Rice cooker banana bread.

This is a guest posting from Mike- we've been chatting about rice cooker cuisine. He decided to take it to the next level.

Why rice cooker banana bread? Well, I like banana bread, and my current living arrangements have a communal kitchen, so we buy bananas in bulk - often resulting in extra bananas. I imagine you're probably more curious about the rice-cooker bit, though.

The reason is simple enough - I'm living in Japan, and western normal ovens are a rarity in kitchens here. I'd read of rice cookers being repurposed for non-rice dishes, however, and went looking to see if this extended to banana bread. Happily enough, it did.

The recipe I used is from here.

I've made banana bread a few times before, and this recipe is pretty standard; no complications there. Well, that would be the case except for the whole `in Japan' bit. Baking soda and baking powder are not common here (or I don't know the kanji for them). Fortunately, I know of a western-style supermarket that has them. Unfortunately, it's only halfway across Tokyo.

A friend wanted to visit the supermarket though, which was enough additional reason to go. Of course, at this point, the 'bad idea' has already began creeping in, as I've spent a couple hours and several times the worth of the bananas in other ingredients.

Still, part of it is for the challenge, so I proceed to the next step. After assembling all the ingredients (and having to purchase a measuring cup & spoons, and then look up conversions from imperial to metric), actually making the dough is simple enough. The ingredients combine fine, and the end result is within normal parameters. By this time, it's the middle of the evening, perhaps around 8:00. Now for the actual rice cooker part.

I added a thin layer of grease, dropped the dough in the cooker, turned it on and wandered off - no problem. I check back after an appropriate time later - not cooked. No worries, the recipe warned it might take another cycle. Reset the rice cooker, wander off again. When I came back, it's still warm dough. Rinse and repeat several times, until I finally had to go to bed, dough still uncooked.

After leaving it sitting in the fridge all day, the next evening I gave up on the rice cooker. Half a dozen cooking attempts had turned the dough it into bread pudding, from its original state, but it wasn't safe to eat. With nothing to lose, I took a last attempt and put it on tin foil in the toaster oven. After turning it on every fifteen minutes for an hour, it was finally done. Blacked, yes, but edible. After all it went through, I took what I could get.

I'm still not sure if the rice cooker wasn't strong enough, or if the electronics were too sophisticated, and calibrated for rice. What I do know is that I'll be getting a proper oven before I'll be using up any more extra bananas in bread.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Quick Peanut Sauce

Take 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter. Add one tsp. brown sugar, two tbs. soy sauce, two tbs. vinegar, and one tbs. Braggs (or fish sauce, or more soy sauce.) Mix. Thin to desired consistency with water. (My mother makes this, and I used to make it from memory. I would attempt to thin the sauce with vinegar and soy sauce. It was flavorful. Then I asked her about her secret ingredient: it's water.) Correct the seasoning- add whatever makes the whole thing taste the way you want. Also, possibly add grated ginger, grated garlic, or toasted sesame seeds.

It's good poured over noodles- in which case I advocate the old-school technique- or as a dipping sauce for summer rolls, satay, or crudites.


Like the movie.

I cleaned out the fridge while making a gallon of pico de gallo- and found about seven eggplants hiding in there. It's time for the annual empty-the-kitchen ratatouille. This is a reasonable, pared down recipe. Feel free to quintuple. I assume this serves something like six, if you're sane.

Chop two onions, add to a large pot, and saute over low heat- stirring often- until nicely caramelized- about half an hour. Chop some peppers. You know, twoish bell peppers of any color, those sweet long peppers that are actually pretty hot, Hungarian wax peppers- I don't care. Chop them up. Roughly chop about seven cloves of garlic. I don't even know how I bought this much garlic. Chop up like a pound and a half of eggplant, which is a lot of eggplant, believe you me. It's not seven eggplants- it's about one big one, or two Chinese eggplants, or fifteen of those adorable Indian varieties.

Oh no, I forgot to add the Indian eggplants.

Blanch two pounds of tomatoes and let cool. Around now, the onions should be done. Turn up the heat, add the peppers, and cook for five minutes. Add the eggplant. Peel the tomatoes and slice into the pot.

Turn the heat down, cover, and cook for about two hours. It might not look like there's enough liquid, but the eggplant will soon start producing liquid. Stir every twenty minutes or so to prevent burning. If you want to put it in the slow cooker, put it in the slow cooker.

Spread on bread or crackers, or serve with an arugula salad. It's good with lemon and salt.

If there were a picture, it would be of my tired face.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Excuses, Summer Rice Bowl, Bahn Mi

It's still summer here in the Bay Area- and most of my cooking looks like this.

I would like to share my summer version of the rice bowl. I leave out the soup, the broccoli, and the sweet and sour root vegetables, and include cucumbers sliced into matchsticks, stir-fried long beans (with garlic, ginger, vinegar, and soy sauce), steamed sweet potatoes (cooked over the rice), and fried eggplant. (Eggplant soaks up a terrifying amount of oil- it's like frying a sponge.) We still include five minute tofu, sliced avocado, kim chi, and toasted sesame seeds. The number of sides might be a little out of control, now that I think about it.

Speaking of frying eggplant- in it I have found a worthy vegan base for Bahn Mi. Let us rejoice, and eat delightful sandwiches. The key is delightful crispy rolls and very good vegetables. I use a mix of cucumber slices, bell peppers, jalapeños, tomatoes, fresh fried eggplant (or a slice of bacon or pork belly. I am weak), cilantro, basil, sour kim chi, mint, daikon.... I pretty much toast a torpedo roll, hollow it out a little, slather it with soy sauce mayonnaise, and then fill it with the sliced vegetable contents of my fridge and a few slices of something savory and full of fat.

Summer is excellent.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Five Minute Gazpacho for One

In order to keep up with my farmers' markets in August problem, every meal we eat at home must have a produce dish. Here's my new lunchtime side for as long as the tomatoes are excellent.

Coarsely chop 2/3 pickling cucumber and two small tomatoes. Put in bowl. Find the garlic press, and press one clove garlic, 1/3 pickling cucumber (in thick slices), one slice hot pepper (or more to taste), and two small tomatoes, halved. Add the gruesome product of your pressing to the bowl. Add the juice of one lime, to taste. Stir and season with salt and pepper.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pesto Potato Salad

I've been making a lot of pesto. I think "Ooo, I want to make tomato basil napoleons and this bunch of basil is only a dollar!" I buy two bunches. I use ten leaves. It wilts. I make pesto. I might as well make another kind of potato salad, right? What is this, six?

This pesto salad is best with either 2/3 cilantro and 1/3 mint (C: too minty) or all arugula or the really oily pesto one buys in stores if one does not have a produce fixation. Boil one pound of potatoes until tender- try to use a sweetish potato, like white potatoes or German butterballs or Yukon golds. Destem one half pound green beans and cut into inch long pieces. Blanch the green beans until tender- about two minutes.

Slice the potatoes into bite sized chunks. Add green beans. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup pesto. (I suppose you could use less pesto, but at this point I'm just dumping it into everything. Oil and lemon are to taste- a dollop and a half lemon, probably.)

It's a pretty good potato salad, but I like all potato salads. Obviously.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Corn Salad

My husband is not American. Or he's not a United Statesian- he is from that other America, that continent and change that is so easy to overlook. Thus, he is weird. He doesn't like puppies, or sunshine, or swimming. Or corn on the cob.

Yes. I married a man who hates summer.

So this is corn off of the cob, although it is still too sweet. Because he doesn't like sweet corn either.

Take two handfuls of sweet peppers. Char in an unoiled pan until soft and remove. Cut the kernels off of four ears of corn. Add 1 tbs. oil to pan, and saute corn until soft. Chop the peppers into 1/2 inch sections and add to corn. Stir.

See, if we weren't hanging out with other cultures, we would have never made something this tasty.

Roast Peaches with Rosemary

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve apeach and place in a baking dish. Drizzle with honey, sprinkle with salt, and put a sprig of rosemary where the pit used to be. Bake until as tender as desired- 10 to 30 minutes. (C prefers that his peaches be either barely warm or baked into submission. He accepts nothing intermediate.)

Serves two. I'd suggest adding some Rice Dream, or ice cream, or even my unhealthy obsession of the summer: pouring custard.

Corn and Peach Salsa

It is the best salsa. If you make it without hot peppers, it is also very popular with small children.

Dice one onion, one jalapeño pepper and two ripe peaches. Slice the kernels off of two ears of corn. (There is discussion over whether it is better to cook the corn first. Since I am the one chopping interminably, I go for raw.) Add the juice of two limes and some salt. Stir. Serve.

Peach Onion stir fry

We have too many peaches.

Cut one sweet onion into slices. Saute over medium heat in a little bit of oil until somewhat brown. Add two sliced peaches and cook, stirring, until peaches are tender. Serve over brown rice.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Greens with bacon stir fry

Our farmer's market is right next to a Ranch 99 superstore- which means we have a greater variety of produce, more reasonable prices, and the actual ability to buy all of the produce that one will eat in a week. I love multiculturalism and the long-term consequences of poorly conceived wars.

There are usually three to seven types of greens for sale- huge two hand bunches for a dollar. I'm terribly unclear on the names (and occasionally the families) but I tend to prepare them all the same way:

Chop one slice of fatty bacon into small bits. Fry on medium-high heat until crispy. Add one bunch chopped greens and stir until greens are tender. Serve.

Sometimes I fry a little onion or garlic with the bacon. Real vegans could just do that and add some oil. I sometimes garnish with lemon juice, chili paste, green onions, or cilantro.

As a pro tip- Ipomoea aquatica is absurdly tasty, the stems of bitter melon and chayote are not.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What I eat when I eat alone:deconstructed tomato sandwich

Toast about six inches of good baguette or other good bread. Scrape outside with one clove garlic, sliced in two. Tear open bread, and fill to overflowing with chopped really good tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Eat. (If I make it right, I have to use a knife and fork. "Drizzle" is usually "drown".)

Green bean and okra stir fry

I might be allergic to okra but it is so delightful I continue to eat it. (I suspect inulin.) Down in this giant city thing, the only places to buy okra are those famed inner city convenience stores and farmer's markets catering to Asians. I serve this as a side dish to the Annapurna dal.

Heat 1 tbs oil on high heat and add 1 tsp. mustard seeds. Stir until seeds start to pop. Add 1/2 pound okra, 1 chopped serrano chile, and 1/4 pound green beans, broken into pieces. Cook, stirring frequently, until okra is tender and beans are bright green.

Sprinkle with salt and cumin. Serve.

Tomato Cucumber Indian Salad

I've been making the Annapurna dal a lot this summer, but I've been using quick cooking mung beans and throwing them into the rice cooker. Since sludge is our goal, it's great to not have to worry about burning. This is one of the side dishes I favor.

Slice three or four good tomatoes and a couple of pickling cucumbers. Sprinkle with cumin and salt. Stir and serve.

Few ingredients, an entire dinner that doesn't require a stove- life in summer is pretty good.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fava Bean Puree

Hey, once again spring saps me of any desire to write about food. There's no photo either- envision a pale green paste that pretty much ends up directly in my mouth.

Fava beans are the original European bean. They aren't very good and so are no longer a staple. Since they have a stronger flavor than other, significantly better beans, they can be used to make a tasty canape topping. The paste can also be spread on crackers as part of the solution to the 800 calorie problem.

Makes enough puree for lunch for two days or appetizers for a reasonable number of guests.

Shell one pound of fava beans. Blanch and peel beans, and if necessary cook until palatable in salted water. (About five minutes.) Grind two cloves green garlic (or one clove regular garlic) and a scant handful of parsley in a food processor. Add the beans and pulse until smooth. Salt to taste, and add the juice of one lemon and 2 tbs olive oil. Stir until combined. Serve on crackers or bruschetta- it's nice with arugula on top.

I mostly like it because it's Pre-Columbian European and reminds me how much chewing life used to require. It is not calorie dense.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Insalata Primavera

I think I might be the only person on Earth who eats pasta primavera and thinks "What's with all the annoying pasta?" I prefer to have this flavor dense salad. If you wanted to turn this into pasta primavera, you could add 1/2 lb of cooked spaghetti or penne at the end.

Shell about a pound of fava beans in the pod. Unless the beans are very young, (smaller than a pea) peel off the outer coat of the bean. Take a moment to be happy that you eat this foundation of pre-Columbian European cuisine once a year. Yay Phaseolus domesitcation events!

Slice the white parts of two or three bulbs of green garlic- or 2 or 3 spring onions- or all of the above. Saute gently in oil in a large pan for about five minutes.

Stem one pound (one bunch) of asparagus. Break (or cut) into two inch slices. Add the fava beans to the garlic pan and saute for about three minutes. Add the asparagus and continue to saute until bright green.

Remove from heat and drizzle with olive oil and a generous coating of black pepper. Add about 1/2 cup of chopped Italian parsley. Stir. Eat.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Popcorn is Totally a Meal!

The mid-sentence caps in the title give it unnecessary gravitas.

Popcorn is technically a whole grain. This means that sprinkling popcorn with lemon, olive oil, and nutritional yeast is technically a healthy lunch.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Homemade Ricotta: a Five Minute Solution for my First World Problem

The milk sometimes starts to go bad before we drink it all. This didn't happen when we drank conventional milk, and it wouldn't happen if my husband didn't reject the milkfat percentages available in smaller cartons.

Someday, after the fall, I will read this post and hate myself. Look at those out-of-season blueberries, future self. They were a dollar. I served them with agave nectar and a sprinkle of cocoa powder.

Hey, at least you still have electricity... And ricotta cheese is always delightful, right? No matter what?

Take six parts almost-bad milk and one part cream. (Milk is almost-bad when it tastes fine, but then five minutes later your mouth tastes like sour milk.) Heat it gently until it is boiling softly. Add two tbs lemon juice for every three cups of milk. Stir vigorously until it separates into curds and whey. Appetizing, right?

Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth or two layers of paper towels. Place colander in a slightly larger bowl. Gradually pour the curds and whey into the colander, occasionally pouring whey out of the bowl as needed.

Allow to sit for about an hour, and then remove the drained whey. Put the ricotta into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for up to four days.

Six cups of milk makes just over a cup and a half of cheese.

Sweet and Sour Vegetables with Fried Mushrooms

The other stuff in the photo is pickles, tofu, toasted sesame seeds, and rice. Serves two.

Cut one small turnip and three watermelon radishes (fine, yes, six regular radishes) into 1/3 inch thick slices. Destem and coarsely chop four chard leaves.

Fry the turnip and radishes in 1 tbs. oil until slightly tender. Stir frequently. Add 1 tbs. honey and stir. Add 1 tsp. soy sauce and stir. Add the chopped chard and stir. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon and stir. Turn off burner and allow chard to wilt.

Take eight small mushrooms, remove caps, and brush clean. (If you have large mushrooms, use six and break them in half.) Put half a dozen smashed rice crackers or three tablespoons bread crumbs onto a plate. Mix 1 tsp honey and 1 tsp water. Dip mushrooms into honey mix and roll in crumbs until coated.

Heat 3 tbs oil in a small pan. Add coated mushrooms, and fry until crisp- about 3 minutes.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Black Beans with Orange Depth Charge

I think this picture looks menacing.

This is an adaptation of how my mother makes black beans; she adds the orange from the beginning, but we don't do that because adding acid to uncooked beans results in tough skins and fire rain.

Pick over two cups black beans. Put in a pot with lots of water- like six cups- and a bay leaf, 1/4 tsp oregano, and maybe a little espazote. Simmer gently for 1 and 1/2 hours, or until tender. Add additional water as necessary to maintain a soupy texture.

An aside about beans: most types of beans take 2.5-3 hours to achieve tenderness. Black bean take less time. You could give them another half hour, but if they aren't tender by then, you have old beans. They will never become tender. Give up and order take-out instead. Throw away the rest of the beans you bought.

Also, beans are done when one blows on them and the skins crack and peel back a bit.

Right. Muddle the beans a little- smash a few of them to give the broth heft. (A few being about 1/4 cup. No need to get carried away.) Slice in half one or two oranges. Juice all but one of the halves and add the juice to the beans. Toss the remaining unsqueezed half into the beans and simmer for another half hour.

Oh, you could add some chiles here. I'd go for something with a lovely floral note such as a habenero. Señor C does not agree. My mother adds half a cup of red wine and puts the chile peppers in other parts of the meal

If done correctly, the pectin in the orange pith produce a bean dish that resembles pahoehoe. The texture is almost satiny. Also, it tastes like oranges and orange oil.

Serve with rice and salsa. I like to pretend it's Cuban, and serve with unripe banana salsa and chopped hard boiled egg.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Potato/Seed Mole Enchiladas

I saw that Bus Reader and spouse had made potato tacos- this sounded like a lovely idea. I stole it and made enchiladas instead.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash and peel one pound of potatoes- I used Russet. If you have access to those very starchy Japanese sweet potatoes, you could use those. Simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Cut into bite sized pieces. Season with salt and 1 tsp. cumin.

Thin about 1/2 cup mole (the kind with poblano peppers and chocolate) with 2-3 cups of water or broth. Mix water in gradually to make a smooth sauce. Simmer over low heat briefly to combine.

Toast about 1/2 cup slivered almonds and 1/2 cup sunflower seeds over medium heat in a dry pan. Chop 1/2 cup cilantro.

Heat about 16 corn tortillas until soft- about 3 minutes in the microwave. Oil the bottom of a 16x9 inch Pyrex dish. Wrap cilantro, almonds, sunflower seeds, and potatoes in tortillas, and arrange in dish until tightly packed.

Other optional ingredients include 1/4 cup currents, 2 cups black beans, chopped onion, caramelized onion, and shredded chicken.

Top enchiladas with mole. Bake for 30 minutes. Toast 2 tbs. sesame seeds as a garnish.

Serve with orange salsa. You know what else would be good? Sour cream.

This resolves a long-standing debate with C about enchiladas. Enchiladas are soggy starch and melted cheese in a Pyrex dish and thus manna. Sadly, they are apparently too spicy. Early in our relationship we had a rather pointed discussion about the origin of the word "enchilada". I believe I said some vulgar things. This recipe fixes that problem: the chiles remain, but the heat is mostly absent.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Caramelized Leek Pasta

I have a picture of this on my camera, but my camera is buried in the clutter drifts in the living room. Since I am writing this post specifically to avoid decluttering, it's another picture free post.

My friend was telling me about a "really great pasta recipe". It started out wonderfully, and then continued by adding more and more expensive and dominating ingredients. I can't see the end result being anything other than a mish-mash of flavors and textures. Here's the first few steps- I tested them, and they are delightful.

Remove the outer leaves and the green ends from two large or five small leeks (about 1 pound). Wash- particularly at the top end, where dirt is common- and slice into thin rounds. Chop 1/2 onion.

Saute leeks and onion in a large pan, over medium heat, in 2 tbs. olive oil until soft and slightly caramelized; about 10 minutes. (Preposition overload!) Sprinkle with 2 pinches salt (what a horrifically twee phrase. Still: two pinches.) so that the vegetables bleed a little. Turn the heat to medium-high for the last minute. Delectable brown crusts should form on the bottom.

Cook 1/2 pound pasta- linguine for preference- and drain. Mix the leeks and the pasta in a large bowl. Return the pan to heat, and deglaze with one cup white wine. (Deglaze means add liquid while stirring a lot so that the good bits on the bottom get dislodged.) Add the wine sauce to the pasta bowl, stir and serve.

There's no protein in this, so it is merely a side dish. Beware, beware, etc.

What, you want to know what the extended version includes? Reserve the leek mixture and deglaze with wine as stated. Add the leeks back and stir in 1 can artichoke hearts, 1 tbs hot pepper flakes, 1/2 cup chopped Kalamata olives, 1/2 pound chopped pepperoni, about eight cloves of chopped garlic, and a 16 oz. can of tomato sauce. Serve over pasta with lots of Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Carrot Cabbage Kimchi Salad

I read this article about carrots making you pretty, and then A reminded me of college- an era where I was just learning to feed myself. We made a conscious effort to turn orange one winter and met with limited success. But hey, sun shy persons and Irish readers- carrot tans are better than the real thing.

Peel and grate two large carrots. Chop 1 cup of cabbage. Dress with 2-4 tbs. kimchi. It won't seem like enough dressing, but it's really a nicely balanced little dish. Sarlah noted that pickles taste better when paired with their unfermented kin- I think of it as a vegetal horror movie in my mouth.

I forgot to take a picture of this. You're tough though. You can imagine what it looks like.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Orange Avocado Salsa

I am prone to buying ten pound bags of oranges this time of year. I think it's a primal urge to ward off scurvy.

Cut the ends and peel off of five oranges. Cut into slices, and then bite-sized cubes. Add 1/4 onion, minced and 1 handful cilantro, chopped. (Fair warning: I made this salsa to suck up to a toddler with a love of chips. It's super mild. And maybe a little bit acid for small people.) Add 1 tsp. sugar and 1/4 tsp salt. Just before serving, add 2 avocados, chopped coarsely. Stir.

I suppose you could add more onion, a couple of peppers, and maybe a dash of lime. Taste it first though, because the acidity can be a little intense.

Bad Idea Saturday: Easy Lasagna.

See the photo? That's a neat little slice of our lasagna, carefully scraped out of the pan. I'd say the recipe was a total failure, but we did eat the entire pan. We like ricotta.

If you have a demanding family member in love with homemade ravioli and a desire to make pasta as infrequently as possible, you might be open to short cuts. When pushes wonton wrappers as good substitutes for pasta dough in a couple of recipes, you might try it out. You might then be terribly disappointed in the result- not only do you still have to do the fiddly sealing bits, but the resulting ravioli does not taste like suffering and gluten. Unacceptable.

But... a box of lasagna noodles is like three dollars. One hundred wonton wrappers are like $1.07. If they're a halfway decent substitute for ravioli, I'm sure they're a mediocre substitute for lasagna. Right? Right?


No. That very same lack of chewy gluten that made them poor ravioli shells allows them to become a barely detectable gummy vein between layers of sauce, other sauce, and cheese. They provide no structure whatsoever, so anything fished out of the pan has the appealing texture of... ricotta cheese.

Other than the lack of reliable pasta, it was actually pretty good.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I made this for my father-in-law's birthday, but I'm going to use it to celebrate the end of the post every day month.

I think you could very comfortably halve this recipe; six young men bent on Dungeoning and Dragoning managed to eat only half, and eight adults had seconds and thirds and left something like two thirds of the cake. (I made a practice cake and a final cake. I am a paranoid baker.) It's a lot of cake.

(If you do halve the recipe, use a 6 inch springform. Reduce the baking time to 16 minutes.)

It's also basically the Ultimate Chocolate Cake over at cook's. It's not remotely good for you. It's really really rich. It's quite tasty.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Warm 8 eggs to room temperature. Grease the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom.

Melt one pound of 70% dark chocolate and 1/2 pound of unsalted butter. (I made this with Trader Joe's groceries and I made it with Green and Black's, Strauss butter and cream, and eggs from chickens that allegedly live better than I do. The latter cake was immeasurably better. Sorry.) Break or cut the chocolate and butter into 1 inch pieces, put in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave in 30 second bursts. Stir briefly between each burst. (Yes, you can do this in a double boiler. My mother swears by them. I always burn the chocolate. Sadness ensues.)

At the same time, break all of those freaking eggs into a bowl, and whip (hopefully with a machine) for five minutes, until doubled in volume. This means that one either has a standing mixer, or one does a lot of dancing and utensil switching. It kinda sucks.

When the chocolate is fully melted, give them one more burst of microwaves for good measure. Add 1/4 cup espresso or orange liqueur. (Or nothing.) Whisk melted chocolate and melted butter until they are completely combined. Add the whipped eggs in thirds, mixing throughly between each addition. Pour into springform pan and bang against a counter to smooth the top. Bake in preheated oven for 24 minutes. It won't look done- not even close to done- but look for the crackly surface you get on top of brownies. Let cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate overnight, covered.

Unmold a few hours before serving. (Or one hour.) The edges will need to be freed with a knife. The cake will need to be flipped over to remove the parchment paper and then flipped back. Center the cake on a nice plate and make ganache.

Melt 4 oz. chocolate and add 1/2 cup heavy cream. Mix throughly, perhaps with a dash of the flavoring in the cake. Spread on the surface of the cake quickly and let set.

Just before serving, sprinkle cake lightly with kosher salt. Slice into very thin pieces and eat.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


The original recipe was raw- it still lives somewhere on VegWeb. I read said recipe on Game Night after the initial round of Nuclear War left me with no viable population and a looseleaf notebook full of Cheyenne's recipes. I scanned it, but I was trying to memorize the entire notebook in one gulp, so my recollections are somewhat fuzzy. I know that there was lovingly homemade tomato juice and raw mushrooms and all sorts of vegetables that are never in season at the same time. This is a loose, loose adaptation. It's loose enough that I might make the actual recipe later and post that too.

Serves 3.

Get 16 oz. pureed tomatoes from some source. Blanch 1 cup cauliflower florets and 1 cup bite-sized kale until tender. Warm tomato puree, 1 can white beans (loose adaptation!), and 1 cup water, stock, or white wine. Mix the juice of one lemon, the juice of one orange, and 1/4 cup miso. Add orange mixture to soup. There's no need to heat the soup past your preferred temperature for consumption. Add chopped parsley and cilantro, and garnish with fresh pepper and olive oil.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Super Bowl Salad

C is sick- whimpering in his sleep, spouting deranged doggerel, I'm surreptitiously checking for the nearest urgent care clinic sick- so the only thing our kitchen should be producing is a.) soup and b.) things for the C's father birthday extravaganza. Be that as it may, I thought that I'd post this recipe before it becomes irrelevant.

A has been complaining that all of my sliced things on plates salads contain ingredients that aren't available on island paradises. This may be true- I believe that after 2000 years of eating mostly poi, native Hawaiians are having no truck with dishes of questionable palatability.

I present The Super Bowl Salad: made entirely with things that are available in Hawaii!

It is green and gold to extort the gods to follow the side of righteousness, and it's... good for... people who want to celebrate. Together.

Or, you know, curse fate.

It's also a pretty good flavor combination- it might be better with a sliced red bell pepper, but they're $4 a pound right now.

Cut off the top, bottom, and skin of a ripe pineapple. You can tell that the pineapple is ripe because the innermost leaves are easily removed and the base smells like ripe pineapple. Cut half the pineapple into 1/4 inch thick slices and then into wedges. If there are any pineapple eyes in your slices, remove them mercilessly. Cut a cucumber into 1/4 inch slices. If the skin has been waxed, you may want to peel it first. Arrange the cucumber and pineapple slices on a plate. Dress with a dash of lime juice, a sprinkle of salt, and some chopped mint. Eat.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tom Kha Het: Spicy Thai-style Coconut Soup

There was a (embarassingly prolonged) period of my life where my wisdom teeth had opinions. Eventually, I had these dogmatic dentiles removed, and my life became much more pleasant.

Before I was wise enough to submit to minor surgery, my teeth would occasionally become infected. It was then impossible to eat anything other than soup- and being young, foolish, and overly concerned with my figure, I ate very little of that. I should note that I have a terrible temper when I'm hungry.

Thus, C got into the habit of bringing along a take-out bucket of this soup to every date. I envision him throwing it through the door before he enters my apartment.

Anyways: earlier this month, a friend from college sent me a bag of Kaffir lime leaves. The farmer's market sells fat bundles of lemongrass for a dollar, and I occasionally fall prey to the deal. Galangal is apparently essential to the flavor, but none leapt into my path and I did not know how important it was until my soup was already made and eaten.

Mix 4 cups stock with 1 16 oz. can coconut milk and 1 tsp brown sugar. Cut one stalk lemongrass into 1 inch lengths. Make several tears in a Kaffir lime leaf, leaving the center vein intact. Thinly slice pennies off of a 1 inch section of ginger or galangal. Measure out a reasonable amount of pepper flakes or chopped fresh pepper (1/2 tsp, 1 tbs.) Put all of the above ingredients into a pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

Slice and add 2-3 cups of vegetables to the broth. I personally like cabbage and mushrooms- any sort of mushrooms- but you might like sweet potatoes, carrots, thinly sliced tofu, or onion. In the summer, you might like those wonderful vegetables I try not to think about this time of year. Simmer until vegetables are tender.

Now you must "correct the seasoning". One could use fish sauce for a pleasant glutamate flavor, or one could use Braggs- 1-2 tsp of both. The juice of one or more limes is essential, as is a quantity of coarsely chopped cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste. Eat.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Udon with Mushrooms

This is a very simple and quick meal- I served it with quick steamed broccoli.

Put a medium pot of water on to boil. Cook one bundle udon in the water until al dente and drain. Dress noodles with a few drops of sesame oil. Peel and dice an onion. Saute in 1 tbs. oil until translucent. Add ten sliced mushrooms (I used button, but -5 shiitake would be good. I think the original recipe was all about Crimini.) and fry until browned. Add the noodles, 1 tbs. soy sauce, and 1 tbs. mirin (or white wine). Fry for about a minute, until uniformly warm. Eat.

Make quick steamed vegetables by washing the vegetable, placing it in a microwave safe bowl, covering the top of the bowl with saran wrap, and microwaving it for three minutes. There.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

Look at that. Three decidedly non-vegan recipes in a row. It's like I'm in a slump. A fridge-full-of-cabbage,-beets,-and-unidentified-mustard-greens slump.

Boil 1/2 pound of pasta. I prefer penne, and honestly, if you're going to make mac n' cheese, go ahead and use the white flour pasta. Why skimp on comfort food?

Make a roux from 2 tbs. white flour and 2 tbs butter in a heavy pan. Stir constantly over medium heat until blonde, and then add 1 tbs. good mustard. Immediately add 1 cup white wine and whisk to mix.

I usually add 2 slices bacon, fried and crumbled, and 1 onion, chopped and sauteed. Then add 1 cup grated cheese- usually odds and ends- I use the bits where I have to cut the mold off.

Mix the cooked pasta and the cheese sauce. Put into oven safe dish. Top with 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Rest assured, I have ideas for vegan dishes. Unfortunately, I got them after 10 pm. Tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Chestnuts

I said earlier that chestnuts were unreasonably good- I wanted to make something else with them. I bought them for Christmas and let them languish in the fridge for an extended period. I recommend against this; they got quite dry and difficult to peel.

I expect that almonds would be an acceptable substitute. They'd be sweet and crunchy instead of sweet and creamy, but we can't have everything. Bacon could be omitted, if you are not the sort of vegan who eats bacon. Serves 2.

Cut crosses in the shells of 8 chestnuts (or all of the chestnuts you have, because honestly, this is the only way to prepare them) and roast them at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Let cool, and then remove the shell and inner skin. Slice into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Cut 1 slice bacon into tiny bits and fry it until crisp. Remove the tough ends and outer leaves from 16 odd Brussels sprouts. Slice them in half.

Fry the Brussels sprouts and chestnuts in the reserved bacon fat over medium high heat for 3 minutes. (You may want to add a little bit of water to the pan and let it cook until it evaporates). Add the bacon and cook for another minute.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Fennel and Orange Salad

It’s chopped vegetables in a bowl. I’m diversifying.

Cut the peel off of two oranges and slice them into rounds. Core and thinly slice ½ of a fennel bulb. Sam adds avocado to this salad, and Sam knows his stuff, so go ahead and add one sliced avocado. Dress with a healthy pinch of salt and the juice of ½ lemon.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

First Gyoza Attempt

I bought a million wrappers, filled them with fried mushrooms, and sealed them with water. Then I steamed them in the rice cooker and dipped them into rice vinegar and mirin.

So difficult!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cheesy Pasta Casserole

There's a point in January where the six kinds of Brassica oleracea in the fridge begin to seem wearing. At this point, one might be tempted to go on an imported non-seasonal food binge. This usually ends in tears- bland, insipid, flavorless tears. I find the best cures to be deep breaths, soothing thoughts, citrus fruits, sugar snap peas, and casseroles based on cheese and pasta.

Boil one pound of penne- whole wheat is fine. Dump it into an oven safe container. Saute 12 sliced button mushrooms and 1 chopped onion in 1 tbs. oil for about 10 minutes. Add to the casserole dish along with 1 cup of frozen peas.

Grate about 1/4 pound of mild cheese- jack or mozzarella is good- which will turn into about a cup of grated cheese. Put 2 tbs. flour and 2 tbs. butter or oil into a heavy pot. Heat gently, stirring to combine, until flour smells a little bit like toast and is slightly golden. Grate in a couple of cloves of garlic, using the small side of the grater. Slowly add 1 and 1/2 cups of milk or white wine, whisking to combine. When liquid is about the temperature of hot coffee, add cheese little by little, whisking constantly. Pour complete cheese sauce over pasta and vegetables. Stir to mix. Cover container, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

I'm a firm believer that eating lots of vegetables is important enough to justify occasionally drizzling (blanketing) them with cheese sauce. C is a firm believer that pasta and cheese are the best flavor friends ever.

The complete plate is to justify my not-very-healthy recipe. Please note the Chileanish cabbage salad and the color swapped beet and orange salad.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Roasted Potatoes and Onions

This is a "set it and forget it" dish, except that what you set is a hot oven. Please do not forget that you have chained fire inside a box. You should totally cook this when your house is unseasonably cold, faithful readers who either do not currently possess a stove or live in Hawaii. We're 2/3 through a NaBloPoMo. Cut me some slack.

Generously oil a cookie sheet or 11x13 pan. Wash and cut 3 pounds of non-Russet potatoes (I threw in some sweet potatoes, because I buy them compulsively.) into chunks that are coincidentally about half the size of a baby potato. Dump into the pan. Cut one large onion into 1/4 inch thick slices and dump on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. sugar.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about an hour, or until the potatoes are tender and the onions are really really tasty. Eat.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Squash Salad

This is what I did with the other half of the winter squash from the oden recipe. This one was better. Well, C and the dinner guest were not super fans, but they don't count. It was pretty good.

Halve and clean a winter squash. Slice it into thin strips, leaving on the skin for cohesion purposes. Boil in ample water for 5-10 minutes- until fork tender. Drain and season with 2 tsp soy sauce and 7 drops sesame oil. Sprinkle with 2 tsp. sesame seeds.

You could add a little mirin or a little sugar, if you so desired. It depends on how sweet your squash is.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Avocado Dressing

This is the other stuff that I ate tonight- after a month without farmer's markets, my last visit resulted in so much produce that every meal must include at least one bowl of greens.

Even breakfast.

Oh, it's the most wonderful time of the year: peewee avocado season. Itty-bitty avocados are now $1 a pound- that's a buck for like six! After one has exhausted all reasonable recipes for avocados, one becomes... creative.

This is good enough to make if you don't live in the tiny part of the world with peewee avocados. It's pretty tasty on salad, broccoli, lentils, artichokes, sandwiches, lots of things that aren't actually vegan.... It's like super double good mayonnaise with an avocado base instead of eggs.

Peel one clove garlic. Remove the bottom of the bulb. Drop into a food processor with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/2 cup olive oil, the juice of two lemons, and one peeled and pitted avocado (or two peewee avocados). Blend until smooth. Eat.

This will stay emulsified overnight- I'm not sure how it'd do after 24 hours, because it never lasts that long.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lentils with a Poached Egg: What I Eat When I Eat Alone.

Here "alone" means "alone, inside, with access to a kitchen and really good eggs".

It's green lentils, boiled until mushy. They are drained and sprinkled with too much salt. (I'm a Saggitarius, and the only scientifically proven trait in all astrology is that Saggitarius, Scorpio, and Capricorn have a marked affinity for salty foods. {Study done in temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere.} I will continue oversalting until my blood pressure stops giving me a free ride.) I poach the kind of egg that has cheddar-yellow yolks and break it over the lentils. Then I eat it. It's pretty complex.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Apple Pie

There's a period of the year where apples are uniformly fantastic. This is followed by a period where apples are unevenly fantastic. I feel that there's no reason to eat mediocre fruit, so these sub-par apples kick around the kitchen, growing wrinklier and sadder, until C throws some of them into the green waste. At this point, I'm overcome by food wasting guilt; I fish them out and make a pie.

Important pie tips: use all of the weird apples you own. It may seem like too many apples, and the pie absurd in proportion, but apples shrink, and piling the pie high (stealth Clinton reference) gives you the classic "Warner Brothers" pie form. This means that when breaking the pie dough in half, allocate slightly more dough for the top crust.

Make some pie dough. (There's a more traditional- and slightly better- recipe in the comments.) Peel and core sevenish apples and slice them up. Pile them into a pie pan lined with dough. Sprinkle with the juice of one lemon, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp corn starch, and 1/4 cup raisins. (You may be anti-raisin, in which case they can be safely omitted.) Cover the pie with the dough for the upper crust and seal the edges. Cut vents- either slashes with a knife or pretty shapes with a cookie cutter. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes- or until golden brown.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Winter Squash Oden

See? See? Winter squash. For A.

I believe that the colloquial name for this is "hot pot". Like many squash dishes, it has an unexpected stick-to-your-ribs quality.

Take one kobucha or other thick skinned winter squash. Hack it in half and scrape out the seeds. Cut half into 1 inch square pieces. (Leave the skin on.) Place squash chunks in a large pot, skin side down.

Put the other half squash in the fridge. I'll have to come up with a way to serve it later.

Add 1 and 1/2 cups dashi or broth or water, 2 tbs. soy sauce, 1 tbs. mirin, and 1 tbs sugar to the pot. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes, uncovered. Add 2 cups cabbage chunks and/or daikon discs. Simmer for five more minutes.

You could add a dozen gyoza with the cabbage, because you're an adult now. There's no reason not to have potstickers for dinner once a week.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cauliflower Fritters: All Brassicaceae all the time.

Aaron suggested a similar recipe from Jaime Oliver- I wanted to see if it could be adapted for the single botanical family series. I had... a fair amount of success, although I basically threw in the towel from the first.

Cut 1 cup of florets- about 1/4 of a large head of cauliflower. Thin 2 tbs. mustard with water until it has the consistency of heavy cream. (This is the first time I admitted defeat. I used honey mustard- and there's vinegar in prepared mustard. It might be better with a little bit more mustard powder- or some wasabi) Start to heat an inch and a half of canola oil in a small heavy pot. This is about... a cup?

Please note your three Brassica species: cauliflower, rapeseed, and mustard. (I included a quartered Brussels sprout as a test. It was pretty good. It's also technically the same species as cauliflower.)

Wait until the oil is 180 degrees F. Drop 1/3 cup florets into the mustard sauce, stir briefly, and let drain for a couple of seconds. I dredged them in flour here- resulting in further failure on the single family front, leaving really tasty crispy bits all over the pan, and not creating a delightful tempura crust at all. Drop the breaded or unbreaded cauliflower into the pan and deep fry for about a minute. Remove with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle with salt and lemon juice and eat while hot. (Lemon juice is another failure.) Repeat this paragraph with the last two batches of cauliflower.

So crispy! So oily! It tastes like fried things and glucosinolates! Hurrah!

Yes, fine, squashes tomorrow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Raw Kale Salad

Now that I'm moving away from my hometown, I can share this recipe without fear of reprisal.

Stem and wash one bunch of tender crisp kale. (Soaking the kale in cold water can restore crispiness.) Tear into bite sized pieces.

Grate one small beet.

Toast 2 tbs. sesame seeds.

Mix the juice from three lemons, 2 tbs soy sauce, and 1/4 cup nutritional yeast. (This is not a low sodium dish.)

Pour the sauce over the beets. Add the kale and sesame seeds and stir. Eat.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Annapurna Dal

It looks like baby poop. I should learn how to take decent photos.

This soup is named for the restaurant in Nevada City, not the mountain. The secret is using dried baby garbanzo beans- although I suppose you could use red or yellow lentils.

Serves 2.

Take one cup of the chosen legume. Simmer with three cups water until soft (45 minutes). Crush with a food processor or potato masher (or a fork).

While the garbanzitos are cooking, dice one onion. Saute at very low heat in 1 tbs safflower oil until caramelized. Add 1 tsp cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp ground cumin) and briefly increase the heat in order to toast the spices.

Mix the caramelized onions and the legumes. Salt to taste. Eat.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Straight Up Green Salad and Dressing

I may think of lettuce as an extravagance, but somehow I keep pushing recipes that involve it. I figured it was time to bite the bullet and present a green salad, straight up.

Yes, fine, I was out of other photos.

I like bitter greens in my salads- as previously stated- and good tomatoes (this time of year, your best bet is either a time machine or cherry tomatoes) and red onions and cucumbers and definitely definitely lots of avocado. You might like other things- you are wrong.

Make sure that the lettuce you use is very crisp and not wilted or spoiled. If the lettuce is bad, make a salad without lettuce. It's an easy solution. Make sure to dry the lettuce well after washing it so that the dressing sticks properly.

I suggest making a quick salad dressing with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 lemon juice or rice vinegar, and about 1/4 teaspoon non-yellow mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste and blend throughly. Dress the salad just before serving.

Wooo, green salad.

If someone gives you very fancy balsamic vinegar or very fancy oil and you don't know what to do with it, make a salad of the crispest prettiest greens you can find. Wash them, dry them, tear them into bite sized pieces, and resist the urge to add a tomato to the bowl. Dress with a few drops of the vinegar and a few more drops of the oil- though if all you have is good oil, feel free to use a very little bit of lemon juice. If all you have is incredibly awesome aged balsamic vinegar, spring for a tiny bottle of very good olive or nut oil. Otherwise, send the unwanted condiments to me as tribute.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chopped Salad

Oh man, this was beautiful. Unfortunately we had lots of guests and I was too distracted to take a picture. Then it was all et up. Expect a halfway decent picture the next time I have an excuses post.

Cook 1/4 pound golden beets. (Red beets will stain all of the other ingredients.) Peel and slice into attractive wedges. Blanch 1/4 pound tasty carrots and slice into rounds. Add one peeled and chopped cucumber. I also added one fennel bulb, one Fuji apple, and one red bell pepper. This made a lot of salad, and the ingredients were somewhat muddled. I'd keep it simpler- swap things in and out as it pleases you.

Make a dressing from the juice of two lemons, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tsp. mustard (not yellow mustard,), 1 chopped shallot or 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Dress the chopped ingredients. Allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes. (Why yes, that is a great deal of dressing. Add it anyways.)

Fine crisp salad greens like romaine or radicchio or endive. (Maybe a little more on the romaine side if you are not a fan of bitter things. Or if you married a non-fan.) Wash and dry them. Just before serving the salad, chop the leaves finely. Serve the dressed vegetables on a bed of chopped greens- it's very tasty. Eat.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chilean Avocado Salad

I'm at a conference, so my posts will be... to the point [and guest posted! - ed]. Also, here A. A salad for the tropics.

Take one perfect avocado. Peel, deseed, slice, and fan out on a plate. Sprinkle with salt. Serve with bread. Think giant ground sloth thoughts.

The salad in the picture has toasted sesame seeds (because avocado and sesame are friends) and chopped cilantro and probably a little bit of Meyer lemon juice. I make everything Californian.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Brussels Sprouts with Soy Sauce

My family is of Central European ancestry, so we really like crucifers- everyone who didn't died or moved away millenea ago. Brussels sprouts are at their best this time of year. We traditionally eat them steamed until almost mushy, with a dot of butter on each half. Here's a less depressing recipe:

Remove the ends and the tough outer leaves from a pound of Brussels sprouts. (I admit this is a lot of vegetables. Feel free to halve the recipe.) Cut them in half. Saute over medium high heat in 2 tbs oil. After cooking for about three minutes, sprinkle 1 tbs soy sauce over the sprouts. Cook for two more minutes, or until they are done enough for you to consider eating them. Eat.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

French Lentil Salad with Endive

It's the time of year when my mother eats strange things at strange times. The happy advantage is that there's someone else in the house who will eat lentils.

Take one cup French lentils. Cover them with water and add a bay leaf. Simmer until tender (45 minutes). Make a vinaigrette with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice or rice vinegar, one chopped, pressed, or grated clove of garlic, and salt to taste. Mix lentils and vinaigrette. If you like, add 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, rinsed and dried and 2 tbs. chopped parsley.

Serve with Belgian endive leaves as cracker type things.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Simple Sunchoke Soup- Bad Idea Fridays

I'll get to how this is a bad idea later. Serves 2.

Peel and slice 1/4 pound sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) into 1/4 inch thick pieces. Simmer in two cups salted water until soft. Puree. Reheat and serve warm.

You can see that I served mine with half of a tiny steamed artichoke, a drizzle of safflower oil, and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds. That's right- every single part of this dish is from the Asteraceae.

I am unhealthily obsessed with dishes where all organic ingredients (the definition where the opposite is inorganic, not the one where it's conventional) derive from a single botanical family. I like how chemical compounds found throughout the family reinforce each other and interact in new and different ways. Also, I spend a lot of time driving in cars full of botanists; after you've played the alphabet genus game, there needs to be one more icebreaker game before you start talking about how awesome your cat is.

What sort of inspired interplay of flavors can one expect from this soup? Well, there's a crapton of inulin- a polysaccharide that human bodies are confused by, but beneficial intestinal bacteria love. Somehow this makes members of the Asteraceae oddly filling. To quote the typically insatiable C post-sunchoke soup, "Huh. Somehow, I don't really want to eat anything more." *

*This is not like my homemade bread. I swear it's edible. Tasty even.

There's also that distinctive sunflowery terpenoid that I can't find the name for- but when you have to identify a plant from one juvenile leaf, knowing this scent is a distinct advantage. Aspiring botanists should sniff all the ingredients for the soup.

There are also wonderful bitter alkaloids, although this soup lacks them. C prevented me from adding endive, escarole, and assorted other lettuces. Some people like a subtle flavor of gardens gone to bolt in their soup. Some people do not. The latter sort of people should not body check the former away from the stove. One has to get one's terrible ideas from somewhere.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Turkish Lentil Soup

This is part of my on going effort to cook less than three cups of legumes at once. It's easier with lentils because they take half an hour to cook.

Serves 3- and it's better on the second day, honestly.

Chop one onion (or two, if you want) and one carrot. (or two, if you want) Saute in 1 tsp oil until translucenty- 3-4 minutes.

Crush 5 cloves garlic with great force and mash with several pinches of salt.

Add 1 tsp each cumin, coriander, and cinnamon to the onions and carrots. (If you get confused and start adding all of the spices you own that start with C, consider chili and cumin.) Stir. Add the garlic mixture. Stir. Cook for 4-5 minutes.

Add either two chopped tomatoes, 2 tbs tomato paste (if you are the sort of person with open tomato paste in your fridge) or 1/4 cup canned tomatoes, crushed.

Add 1 tbs sugar.

Add 1/2 cup lentils. (I use green lentils {actually mud colored}, but I think French lentils are more authentic. The cooking time will increase to 45 minutes.) Stir rapidly, and then add 4 cups of water or broth.

Simmer for 30 odd minutes, until the lentils have started to come apart in the soup.

Garnish with cilantro and eat.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Vegan Putanesca Pasta

Yes, there are perfectly good pasta sauces that come in jars. No, this one is not markedly better. Yes, I love anchovies and using them would be within the theme of this blog. It's just that half full containers of anchovies tend to molder in my fridge, and eating more than two or three a week is... intense. Also, everyone should have the recipe for whore sauce up their sleeve. (It's a good way to cover the taste of canned tomatoes. Also, if cats eat it they act amusingly unhappy.)

Serves three.

Start boiling water for pasta. Do not start cooking the sauce until the water is boiling.

Peel and coarsely chop six cloves of garlic. Chop 1/2 cup Kalamata olives and 1/2 cup Italian parsley. (If you were using anchovies, you'd soak two in water for five minutes and then chop them as well.)

When you've finished your onerous chopping duties, saute garlic and 1 tsp chile flakes in 1 tbs olive oil until the garlic is blond. (about one minute) Add the olives and 1 tbs. capers. (Or the anchovies.) Stir, and then add a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes. Simmer for around five minutes- about the amount of time it takes to cook 1/2 pound vermicelli al dente. Add the chopped parsley to the sauce and serve over the pasta.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Orange and Jicima Salad

During my quasi-vacation, I researched lots of recipes, cooked lots of food, and took shoddy photos of the things that I cooked. I thought that was a wise way to spend my time, but today's experiences suggest that I should have been clawing my way up cliffs instead. I am dog tired- please enjoy another "sliced things on plates" salad.

Slice one small jicima. (about the size of a large apple) Alice Waters says to slice it into matchsticks, but what does she know? Make the slices as thin as you can be bothered to. Section two oranges- it is vitally important that the oranges be very good oranges. If they are not, put some lime juice and salt on the jicima and call it a day. Arrange the oranges and jicima on a plate. Dress with orange juice from the sectioning, the juice of 1/2 lemon, olive oil, salt, cumin, and... what is that, cilantro? Yeah. Put some cilantro on there. Eat.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Porotos Granados- Hideously Californicated

The bread is most essential.

This is a traditional Chilean summer dish. Or it would be, if I were using fresh cranberry beans instead of dry red beans. And if the corn were not sweet corn and there were less of it. And if the squash were more cooked. And if the tomatoes were not canned and not in the stew but sliced on a plate next to it. And if I didn't include paprika- it's too spicy.

To quote C precisely, "It's nothing like the stew I grew up with, but if you kept making it forever, I would be happy." It's very hearty- it straight up sticks to your ribs. I figure some of my imaginary readers are looking for something that will make them feel full and also warm.

The next set of instructions is for people who still have problems with not cooking their own beans. Feel free to skip this and use two fifteen ounce cans of unseasoned small red beans and two cups of water. (or pinto beans)

Take two cups small red beans and simmer them in 6 cups of water for about two hours. Add water if necessary. When the beans are almost tender, carry on with the recipe.

Slice, seed, and peel about two cups of winter squash. (They do sell the prepared squash in the frozen section now, if you don't have a half squash moping around the fridge.) Simmer with the beans (and a bay leaf) until the squash is fully cooked and on its way to disintegration.

Slice 1/2 onion and saute in oil until tender. Add 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, and 1 cup corn. Saute briefly- until the corn is coated with spices. Add to the beans with a 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes. Simmer for about 15 minutes- the texture should be something like chili, so add water if needed. (Or steal the broth with a spoon and wander around sipping a mug of bean juice.) Eat with lots of bread. No, more bread than that.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Kale Gomae

Gomae is traditionally made with spinach, but I don't like spinach. C doesn't like kale, but he was born to suffer.

Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Wash and stem one bunch of dinosaur kale. (I think pretty much any kind of kale would work, though purple kale might be strange.) When the water is boiling, cook the kale until tender- 2-5 minutes. (Frequent tasting is necessary. Also, this is possibly a waste of very delicate kale. Make tabouli.) Drain the kale and rinse with cold water to cool. Squeeze out the water, leaving the kale in ever so appetizing green wads. Cut wads into half inch slices.

Toast 3 tbs sesame seeds over medium heat. Reserve 1 tbs and crush the rest lightly with a spoon. Mix 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp water, 2 tbs soy sauce, and 1 tbs mirin until the sugar dissolves. (If you don't have mirin, add a full tsp of sugar and an extra tsp of water or white wine or sake.) Add crushed sesame seeds and mix with kale. Arrange dressed kale on plates and garnish with remaining sesame seeds. Add two drops of toasted sesame seed oil to each plate. Eat.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Vegan Cranberry-Orange Muffins- Bad Idea Saturday

C and I roshamboed for who got to be the DD last night, and I lost. You know what everyone loves? Hungover baking. I was gonna replace the egg in these simple and tasty muffins with ground flax seed and water, (1 tbs ground flax seed, 3 tbs water) but our food processor doesn't handle tiny amounts and I couldn't find the coffee grinder. Attempts to grind seeds by whacking them with a spoon proved ineffective. After using up my January quotient of expletives, I used egg as an egg substitute. Please try it properly and get back to me.

Makes 12.

Mix 1 cup white flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, one teaspoon baking soda, and two teaspoons baking powder. (Seems like a lot of leavening, but then *you* won't be getting lifting power from the egg.) Add 1 and 1/2 cups fresh cranberries and pretty much the entire zest of one orange. Stir.

In another bowl, mix 1 cup sugar, 1 cup orange juice, 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute, a dash of vanilla, and 1/2 cup vegetable oil. (I think the mention of 1/2 cup oil is a sign that the recipe used to contain butter.) Stir.

Mix the contents of the two bowls until all the dry ingredients are moist- and no further. Gluten should stay inside the flour particles when muffins are concerned. Measure into a muffin tin filled with those cute little papers. If you don't have cute little papers, the cranberries will stick to the pan something fierce. Of course, by the time they need washing, you'll have some muffins and orange juice in your stomach, and the world will not seem quite so unpleasant.

Bake at 375 degrees for twenty minutes, or until they pass the toothpick test. C said that they're better when they're a little bit burned, but C wanted to survive the morning.