31 December 2009

It's venison roulade

Not to mention an awesome set of plates!

So yeah. We went to Michigan for holidays, and spent several days alternately playing with tiny children, trying desperately to do work at coffeeshops (the one at which I wanted to work is closed! no!), having wine with relatives, and eating copious delicious food. We managed to get to Travelers Club, El Az, Frank's, and Jerusalem Garden, although once again China Gate thwarted our endeavors to eat sesame tofu and dryfried green beans by being closed for the entirety of the holiday season.

But on the last night of the base 10 number system decade, I really want to talk about christmas eve dinner: venison roulade.

Look at that beet-red meat! This is what happens when you have a brother-in-law who hunts. The chest freezer in their basement is full of hand-butchered local game: mostly deer and fish. On christmas eve we had a venison tenderloin, and not for the fifty bucks it would have cost in NYC, but free. You heard me.

This was optimal dinner.

Ok. John wanted to try the roulade he made me for birthday with a whole tenderloin; we were just lucky the tenderloin in question turned out to be so awesome.

According to Kevin, hunter of the deer, venison cooks faster than other meat since it's much leaner. It also smells very gamy while cooking, being game and all. So we changed things very slightly to accommodate said leanness, only searing the meat on all sides in the pan and not finishing in the oven. We used kale for the greens and gruyere for the cheese and white wine to deglaze, and it was perfect: seared on the outside, rare on the inside.

I had only just had venison for the first time the day before, in leftover stew, and while it was awesome there, it was exponentially more awesome in the roulade.

It was even better with the massive amounts of wine-deglazed grape tomatoes.

Meanwhile, for last dinner of the decade I'm having black bean and kale soup out of the freezer with penne, parsley, and hot sauce.

25 December 2009

I got you some presents

They are picture presents.

This one is a picture of quartered green cabbage doused in olive oil, salt, and pepper, roasted in the oven, and covered with wilted red onion and toasty sesame seeds; idea courtesy of cupcake punk.

This one is a picture of gnocchi with a bunch of slivered garlic and an entire bunch of wilted chard.

This one is a picture of long grain brown rice mixed with more wilted red onions and chiffonaded chard and parsley and lots of fresh pepper and asiago cheese.

This one is a picture of scalloped potatoes made from redskins and yukon golds, a bunch of chopped yellow onion, salt, pepper, and paprika, most of a quart of whole milk, grated cheese of some sort, and a layer of thinly sliced and totally indistinguishable celeriac.

Yay presents!

20 December 2009

You've got it all wrong, you guys

I mean, I know this looks almost identical to the carrot soup from yesterday--but no! No carrots whatever were involved. It is squash!

Yes! We had two acorn squash, legacy of the CSA, hanging out on our counter for weeks. So I hacked them in half, scooped out all the seeds and goo, and proceeded to roast them for Heidi's Thai curry squash soup.

Once I got the squash actually cut in half, this was so easy. The cutting, of course, required serious arm strength and leverage. It probably took ten minutes to get both of them fully dissected. Then they went straight into the oven.

I didn't deviate from the recipe at all, oddly enough. Roasty squash, coconut milk, red curry paste: bang.

I also washed as much goo as possible off the seeds, tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika, and roasted them at 375F. Then I got to throw them over the soup with wild abandon. I also chiffonaded some radicchio for ultimate color/texture contrast.

Verdict: totally thick and rich. The greens were an excellent idea, especially since I wasn't eating anything with it; I had double greens and zero seeds for the next bowl. Copious toast, an actual contrasting satay and honey/vinegared salad, or even summer rolls recommended.

19 December 2009

Further avocado

How could I forget for so long? I love avocado! I want to eat it every day! Of course it's not exactly practical or seasonal in the middle of a snowstorm in NY, but you know. Avocado!

Sourdough toast, carrot soup (this one with no dill), and so much avocado.

16 December 2009

Delicious dumple

Here's what happens when I need lunch badly:

1. Get veg dumplings and broth out of freezer.
2. Defrost/heat broth in pot; add a little nip of soy sauce, one of rice wine vinegar, and a slightly larger amount of sriracha sauce.
3. Fry dumplings in a little oil.
4. Chiffonade a couple leaves of cabbage; put in bowl.
5. Add cooked dumpings, hot soup, and maybe a little more sriracha.
6. Eat hot hot soup, wilty spicy cabbage, crusty delicious dumplings.

If only I froze my own huge batches of dumplings. That's going to have to happen one of these days. In the meantime, though, I live in New York. One of these days I have to actually go out to Flushing (or, you know, Chinatown) and buy a huge awesome bag of somebody's grandmother's frozen dumplings.

12 December 2009

Taco taco tostada

Oh man. Things are so busy.

I rediscovered the corn tortilla.

I first discovered how to toast corn tortillas over a gas burner from...Kim Gordon! in an issue of Sassy! Of course, then I didn't really apply that knowledge for another ten years, but still. Tortillas on the gas burner are one of the best ways to eat corn, especially corn and eggs.

To toast: turn on your gas burner to medium-high. Holding your tortilla in tongs (or in your fingers if you're quick), put it directly over the flame. Let toast about 20 seconds, then flip and repeat. It usually takes two flips to heat your tortilla through, four or five to get it completely crisp. Just take it off the heat whenever you're satisfied.

(If you have no gas burner, you can totally warm tortillas in a foil packet in the oven, or toast them in a frying pan.)

Now you can use the soft tortillas for tacos, and the crispy tortillas for tostadas. Yay!

I stuffed my tacos with scrambled eggs, red pepper, guajillo salsa, and massive amounts of cubed avocado. For my tostada, I spread sautéed onion and chopped green olive on one tortilla, then put a fried egg on another. Then I stacked them up, added a little shredded cheese and salsa, and put the whole business in a lidded frying pan to quickly melt the cheese.

Corn and eggs! Corn and eggs and tea!

07 December 2009


Now that I have a new desk the kitchen table suddenly looks like this. The computer does not live directly in front of the serious Brooklyn street window. Instead it is on the desk in my new office. I have a desk drawer for the first time since I moved out of my parents' house. I can open the curtains and not reveal my glistening hardware. I eat like this, on a table, with light.

Penne, fumé blanc

olive oil
green olive
dry vermouth
crushed tomato
salt, pepper
fresh basil, parsley
grating cheese
fumé blanc/other

Put the fumé blanc in the freezer. Put the water on to boil. Salt it.

In the sauté pan: crushed chopped garlic, sliced green olive. Deglaze with dry vermouth. Use fumé blanc if it's not in the freezer but already open.

Add tomato, salt, pepper. Cook.

Boil and drain penne. Put it in the pan with your sauce. Stir and let cook another minute.

Pick basil and parsley off your plants; rip up.

Taste for seasoning, put in bowl, grate cheese and scatter herbs.

Open fumé blanc; pour.

03 December 2009

Deborah Madison would be proud

I mean, maybe not about the green beans in December, but otherwise:

Green bean on toast

olive oil
a green olive or two
green beans
good bread and butter
parmesan/grating cheese
salt, pepper

Chop up a shallot and sauté in olive oil with a similarly chopped green olive or two. In the meantime, wash, top, tail, and chop the beans. Add beans to pan with a pinch of salt; cook until awesome.

Serve on buttered toast with grated parmesan (or whatever grating cheese, or no cheese, or toasty nuts) and pepper.

I recommend folding the bread in half for exciting (but potentially messy) green bean sandwich. It is an excellent breakfast.

30 November 2009

Orphans' thanksgiving 2009

For the second year in a row it was totally and completely orphans' thanksgiving. I mean, I called my parents, but you know. That was it.

John and I had tasty business in the form of roasted cauliflower/potato/black bean soup and unveganized veganomicon cornbread and zinfandel from our friend Joann, who sent us wine for thanksgiving because she is awesome. She's also my new boss. How many bosses do you know who send their employees delicious thanksgiving edibles? Continually awesome!

Roasty cauliflower/potato/black bean soup

head of cauliflower
olive oil
a potato or two
black bean broth
salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika
is that really all I put in it? I think so!

You guys, it's totally easy. Roast cauliflower, soften onion, boil broth with onion and potato, add now-roasted cauliflower, blend.

To roast the cauliflower: clean it and break/cut it into small florets. Toss them in olive oil, salt, pepper, a little cayenne, and a relatively large amount of paprika, then spread them on a baking sheet or two and roast at 425F until golden brown and nice. This should take something like ten minutes, but it can be pretty variable. Smaller florets mean smaller roasting time.

In the meantime, dice up an onion and soften it in olive oil in a big soup pan. Maybe add a couple cloves of garlic if you feel like it. Maybe even add some diced hot pepper if you want. It's all good.

I had originally wanted to make this soup with actual black beans, but lo, we were out of them. We did have a container of frozen black bean broth, though, so I chucked it into the pot instead. Excellent idea!

When the broth comes to a boil, add a peeled, cubed potato and simmer until tender and delicious. If you cut it into small cubes this actually won't take very long at all, maybe 15 minutes. Add in your finished-roasting cauliflower, simmer for a few more minutes, and whip everything off the heat.

Pulverize the business with an immersion blender (or I guess a regular blender, but who wants to deal with that?). My concoction resembled chestnut puree in texture.

Rewarm if needed, season with salt and pepper, and eat it!

I had green onions on one bowl and crumbly cornbread on another bowl. I'm just saying.

I also made the veganomicon skillet cornbread, except I used milk and butter for the soymilk and oil. Also I used wheat flour instead of all purpose, because all purpose flour is pretty much nonexistent at our house. Also I minced up a jalapeño and threw that in the batter as opposed to making it a topping. You know what? IT WAS AWESOME. Now I want to try a version with honey in place of the sugar, eliminating the probability of getting honey all over everything when eating said cornbread.

Then later (like, several hours later) in my quest to eat all the cornbread in the house before John, I crumbled a piece of cornbread into a bowl, threw some delicious delicious salsa on top of it, and put the whole business in the toaster oven to warm for a few minutes. OH YEAH. that is the stuff. If I had any more cornbread or salsa I would be making myself another bowl of this business right now, but I don't. I ate it all.

29 November 2009

Something's hiding in here!

What is it what is it what is it what is it what is it?

This soup made me feel way better one night when I was starving and everything seemed like way too much work and it's all wrong and how can you expect me to get things done under these conditions!! In that situation you just need to shovel food into your gaping maw as fast as possible.

Hiding in the soup

olive oil
broth (veg/chicken)
fresh mint and parsley
maybe some sriracha

In a nice soup pan, warm some olive oil. Mince several cloves of garlic or a shallot and add the bits to the pan. Scrub and dice some carrot and add those to the pan as well. Cook for a few minutes to soften. In the meantime, you can shred some cabbage, shell some shrimp, and rip up a handful of mint and parsley. Ok?

When the onion and carrot are reasonably soft, add several cups of broth to the pan. We had several big blocks of frozen chicken stock, so I used that. Bring the business to a boil (melting big blocks of stock as necessary), then add a handful of cabbage and however many shrimp you want to eat. Simmer until the shrimp is done, about 3 minutes.

Put it in a bowl, add sriracha, mint, and parsley, and eat it eat it!


20 November 2009

One of these things is not like the others

Mushroom barley risotto; toasty tomato mozzarella sandwich of love and deliciousness; rice salad with roasted squash and broccolini; mushroom barley risotto fried into tasty yet completely prone to disintegration cakes.

Eat it! Food!

18 November 2009

midNovember updateathon!

Oh! I am here! Still very busy, but here. Hey.

Back from California, great times, ate at lots of lovely restaurants and hung out with lots of friends. We took our friend Heather to Vive Sol and blew her mind with cheese enchiladas del sol--one enchilada with mole sauce and sesame seeds and one with awesome creamy guajillo sauce and thinly sliced almonds. I even managed to cook in CA, largely because John had the foresight to get a hotel room with a kitchen. Yay kitchen! One night I sauteed baby zucchini and green beans and tiny eggplant with garlic and olive oil and squeezed lemon over a big bowl of them for dinner: YES.

Then the night before we left I made us awesome sandwiches to take on the plane! John got this awesome non-crumbly black pepper-encrusted parmesany cheese and radish and cucumber and lettuce on sourdough; I got liverwurst and cream cheese and radish and mushroom and lettuce also on sourdough. Also we had six apples. Also IT WAS THE BEST PLANE IDEA EVER. We got to the airport and ate sandwich one while hanging out at the gate and watching these two rambunctious yet shockingly well-behaved on the plane tiny little girls run up and down the window. Sandwich two was on the plane (John) or after we got back and fell down all over our lovely comforting apartment (me). I ate British candy from the elusive unavailable in NY Cost Plus World Market on the plane instead. Yeah!!

Now we are back and doing work and being responsible setting up my new home office. I work here now! In our house! Ha ha! Granted, setting up the office will be easier when I, uh, buy a desk, but still.

Soon I will settle into some kind of normal schedule and actually edit a handful of the pictures I keep taking. In the meantime, here is a story. Before I went to CA, I was all "I will be responsible and boil a pot of black beans to freeze, so we'll have immediate supplies when I get back!!" So I boiled them and ate some of them the day before. Everything was fine until--you know it--I totally forgot to put the remaining beans and broth in the freezer before I left. Great! Fermentation ahoy! In conclusion, I had an excellent time cleaning out the refrigerator yesterday, why do you ask?

31 October 2009


So. I don't know about you guys, but things are hysterically busy over here. I got a new and AWESOME job: hooray! However, it's now that overlap period between two jobs--and I'm working both of them. Only one week left until I finish old job! Yay! In the meantime, though, it is exhaustion city, and I just spent halloween morning on my laptop at the coffeeshop. What I'm trying to say: there's been a little bit of takeout. There's also a backlog of real food trying desperately to make its way into writing before I completely forget what happened and have to sit around staring at pictures, wondering "did I put olives in that?"

Food that may or may not make it to the page once I am only working one job:

- Biennial event chicken stock from the carcass of an actual roasted chicken.
- Said roasted chicken and sandwiches thereof.
- Rice salad with roasted broccoflower and winter squash, red onion, toasted pecans, chopped chives and homemade vinaigrette.
- Awesome egg mess with hummus, baba, tabbouleh and fattoush, totally overflowing its pita.
- Carrot soup with fennel fronds.
- Two bowls: escarole sautéed with garlic and cottage cheese.
- Stirfry with exciting housemade tofu from the nice little store up the street.
- Uh, Thai delivery? Spicy green bean tofu with kaffir lime leaf and a double order of veggie dumplings? They are delicious too!

After next friday, the last day of terrible old job, I am flying almost immediately to California, where John will have been for a week (work). We're going to eat at all the restaurants we miss--Los Charros, Vive Sol, Cafe Yulong, Siam Royal--and book an hour at the Tea House Spa. I'm also going to work on said awesome new job, and spend some quality time at the Palo Alto Goodwill. What? Isn't that what everybody does when they're in and around Palo Alto?

Things should be back to normal in about a week, give or take. In the meantime, busy busy! Afterward, there will be food.

25 October 2009

Saving mediocre pasta

The other night, we cooked down some of the last few tomatoes with garlic for pasta sauce. Everything was going fine until we mixed the sauce with the pasta, at which point it totally vanished into the pile of overwhelming starch. Boo! So sad! Bland pasta!

Look, you can barely even see the vegetable component.

We weren't going to make something else at that point, so I opened the crisper drawer and came up with a bag of mesclun mix and a handful of parsley.

Pasta plus copious greens = problem solved!

Fresh, crispy, highly flavored and bitter greens are clearly the best to use in this situation: the contrast in both flavor and texture makes everything so much more interesting. I think arugula, baby mustard greens, or chard would probably work best, but you can clearly play around with whatever you have; it's not like you can go particularly wrong with any salad green.

John took several bites directly out of the parsley bunch. Go chlorophyll!

19 October 2009

Escarole, cauliflower, and egg salad, oh my

It's fall it's fall it's fall!

That means the CSA has stopped giving us bags of peaches and fresh corn on the cob, and instead started on heads of green cabbage and broccoli and cauliflower and escarole.

Now, ok. I don't know about you guys, but I lived in California for four years before we moved to NY, and while many things about California produce were awesome, let me tell you one thing. The winter produce--stuff that's at its best after the frost hits us--was not up to par. There was no frost to hit! Cabbage wasn't sufficiently crisp, apples tended toward mealy, celery went limp in the fridge. We may have had fifteen kinds of hot pepper, tomatoes up starting in March, and fresh green beans year round, but that crisp, serious fall taste just did not exist.

So these big bags of winter veg are actually more exciting to me than the peaches. They mean I get to make things like this.

Roasted cauliflower

This is the best and only way to cook cauliflower at our house.

Butcher a head of cauliflower with a huge chef's knife. Make the pieces fairly small, even if you have to split up some natural clumpage. Toss the florets in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then spread them in one layer on as many baking sheets as you need. I tried to fit mine onto one sheet, which was a mistake; just use two for maximum crispy brown roasty bits.

Roast at 450F for about fifteen minutes, or until the florets are browned and crispy on the outside, but soft and tender on the inside.

Egg salad with dill

Hard boil one to two eggs per person. For the best eggs, stop cooking at nine minutes, then let rest in ice water for a good ten minutes more before trying to peel.

While your eggs cool down, get out a medium-large bowl and mix up a large spoonful of mayonnaise, a small one of mustard, a handful of chopped green onion, shallot, or chives, some finely sliced radish if you have any, and a massive quantity of fresh chopped dill.

Peel your eggs, chop them roughly, and add them to the bowl. Salt and pepper; mix it up. Correct any seasonings or dryness as you see fit.

Eat it on toast. We had sourdough, but the best egg salad sandwich is always on some serious rye bread.

Garlic escarole

Core and thoroughly wash a head of escarole in a sinkful of water, like you'd do to any muddy green. You can use other greens if you want, but escarole has a perfect crisp bitterness that loves hanging out with garlic.

While the greens are soaking, peel and roughly slice several cloves of garlic. Soften them in some olive oil in a saute pan. Give it about five minutes, or until the pieces start to turn golden.

Drain the escarole (more or less; some water is actually good here) and add it to the pan. Give the mix a stir and some salt, then clap on the lid. Let the greens cook in their own steam for about three minutes, or until they're sufficiently soft and melting for you.

Oh man. Don't you feel better?

18 October 2009

Birthday week 3: SOUPS II: THE RECKONING

How's that for a ridiculous title? Great, right? I knew it! I LOVE YOU, MULTIPLE NUMBERS AND YELLING ON THE INTERNET.

Anyway. For his birthday dinner John really, really wanted Tuscan white bean soup. As many of you may know, there are roughly three million Tuscan white bean soup recipes on the internet, and I don't exactly use recipes much anyway. I took this recipe and modified it: beans cooked from dry, fresh tomato, broth from the freezer stash, parsnip instead of carrot and celery, and kale pesto instead of the basil. Verdict: awesome.

Tuscan white bean soup a la our refrigerator

Peel and chop an onion; soften in olive oil in a reasonable soup pot. Peel and dice a small parsnip, or half a large one, and add it to the pot. Smash and chop maybe three cloves of garlic and add those as well. Season with thyme, salt, and pepper. When everything has softened, add a small chopped tomato. I had half of one of the last huge yellow heirlooms, so I used a big piece of that. Cook for maybe five or ten minutes to break down the tomato.

Add white beans, a bay leaf, and a lot of vegetable broth. My white beans were previously cooked and then frozen in their broth, so I kept the pot on high until they were melted, then brought the business to a boil, covered it, and turned it down to simmer.

When everything is soft, fish out your bay leaf and puree the soup with a stick blender. You could also leave it chunky if you like more chunky soup. Whatever floats your boat.

Eat it with big spoonfuls of pesto and lots of nice toast. Feel happy that it is fall, and birthday fall besides.

12 October 2009

Birthday week 2: SOUPS

We didn't do anything remarkable foodwise on Sunday (or at least anything new, since dinner = more pesto toast), but Monday was pretty great. We've been feeling very fally, so I decided to make a vast amount of soup. I went through the crisper and came up with this.

Black bean and corn soup with surprise root vegetables

olive oil
serrano/other hot pepper
poblano/other mildish green pepper
black beans
veg broth
cumin, oregano
salt, pepper
fresh corn

In a heavy soup pot, warm some olive oil (or butter) on medium. Peel and chop half an onion; add it to the pot. As it's beginning to soften, smash, peel, and chop three or four cloves of garlic; add them to the pot. Trim and finely slice a serrano/other hot pepper and a mild pepper and add them as well. Season with oregano and cumin. Cook the business for a few minutes, until the onion is soft and beginning to brown.

Root vegetables: I didn't have any carrots or celery, but I did have several tiny, squat parsnips, so I peeled one, chopped it up, and added it to the pot. My turnips were pretty small too, so I chose one of them and did the same thing. I'm really not sure turnips need to be peeled, but whatever; I'd rather have the soup too smooth than not. You could clearly sub in carrots, celery, and maybe a potato, but these two weird little ingredients gave the soup a complex underlying flavor that is totally worth trying. Secret root vegetable extravaganza!

Salt and pepper, stir everything together, and cook to soften for about five minutes.

Now is the time to add black beans and veg broth. I just made my broth alongside the main soup: I boiled a pot of water with all the vegetable trimmings plus a couple kale stalks and mushrooms from my freezer stash. Ten minutes makes a totally fine broth; just strain out the vegetables and pour the broth into your main soup pot. For the beans, I grabbed a block of frozen black beans in bean broth and just threw it into the pot. Bring to a boil (melting beans if you are me and make frozen beans all the time), cover, and simmer for about twenty minutes, or until all your vegetables are cooked through.

While things are simmering, husk a couple ears of corn. Cut all the kernels off and put them to the side. You could also use frozen corn, but we still had the very end of our summer stash, so I used that.

Now is the time to puree. With the pan off the heat, use a blender or immersion blender to bring your soup to your desired degree of smoothness. When you're done, throw all your corn into the soup. Cook for a few minutes, until the corn is warmed through but not completely cooked to death.

If the soup is too thin, you can keep simmering it, partially covered, until it thickens down. Otherwise, taste for any seasoning adjustments, then eat it.

Soup obviously wants a big pile of crispy toast on the side and a big whack of parsley on top.

Next: SOUPS PART II: THE RECKONING, aka John's birthday dinner.

08 October 2009

Birthday week 1: MEATS

Yes! We are aged! It is birthday week and we have therefore spent every night from the 3rd to the 6th making and eating exciting things for dinner.

For my birthday Saturday we first had lunch at Catherine's Caffe, which is a Czech restaurant/cafe with very good coffee and a nice little back garden full of picnic tables. John ate fruit salad and a big exciting hummus and avocado wrap; I ate a huge bowl of carrot ginger soup, a huge plate of chicken schnitzel with lemon twist, and a similarly huge whack of hot, mustardy, caper-filled potato salad. It was massive and awesome, and I still have half of the salad and chicken waiting for me in the refrigerator. In conclusion, there may be a massive, awesome potato pancake later.

Or I may just eat the leftovers after making the schnitzel all crispy in the glorious toaster oven. Yeah!

After lunch we went to the Greene Grape Provisions for dinner meat, to the farmer's market for bread, mustard greens, apple cider, and fresh garlic, and to Gnarly Vines for wine and golden rum. It's definitely birthday week; we would never, ever be buying rum otherwise. It poured rain on us for the entire expedition, and we got very soaked and happy and went home and drank cold apple cider with rum. Yes birthday!

For birthday dinner John was all excited about making me Jacques Pépin's pork tenderloin, and I was pretty excited about drinking red wine, watching him cook it, and eventually eating it.

Obviously, we did not make an entire loin of pork just for me. One chop of loin was totally sufficient, and got totally cooked and perfect just through the initial pan browning. Other than that, since we had remarkably little luck finding either gruyere or spinach (I don't even know what cheddar is doing in that recipe; I'm pretty sure it was gruyere in the episode), we switched the cheese to gouda and the greens to baby mustard greens.

John also threw some of said red wine in to deglaze the tomatoes at the end. We had a pint of awesome end-of-season gold cherry tomatoes from the CSA box and everything.

Outcome: success! We cut the individual roulade into six pieces, and I ate them all, two at a time, until everything was gone.

Then there was more rum and apple cider and being extremely happy and birthdaylike until far too early in the morning.

02 October 2009

Greenest dinner in the land

I had been wanting pesto gnocchi for far too long, so when we got a big bunch of basil in the CSA box a week ago, we jumped on it with loud cries. What? Isn't that how everyone reacts to their CSA box?

The basil wasn't the only thing in the box, though: we also got a huge bunch of kale. So we decided to make it into pesto too. This isn't as strange an idea as it might appear--several alternative-green pestos are floating around the blogs this season. I hadn't seen any with kale, though. An experiment was clearly in order.

We tossed our classic pesto with cooked gnocchi, but saved the kale pesto in the refrigerator. This results in a lavish use of pesto on the slightest of impulse.

Basil pesto

olive oil
fresh basil
salt, pepper

In this instance, we reduced pesto down to its most necessary ingredients. That meant we eliminated both grating cheese and pine nuts, resulting in the most basily, garlicky pesto in the land.

Warm a couple spoonfuls of olive oil in a saute pan. It's best to go light on the olive oil here; you can always add more at the puree stage if needed.

Peel and coarsely chop a bunch of garlic. You can use as much garlic as you like; we used a little more than a full head. I'm serious. Garlic is so great.

Cook the garlic slowly in the olive oil, stirring occasionally, until it is soft and you can smell the fumes all the way outside in the stairwell. This should take maybe 5-10 minutes, depending on heat level. In the meantime, wash a bunch of basil and rip it all off its stems.

Now all you have to do is mix, season, and puree. Put your garlic, oil, and basil in a food processor or appropriate container, salt and pepper it, and puree to your desired consistency. We used the immersion blender, which was entirely acceptable.

Now eat it! Toss with gnocchi or pasta, put a spoonful in your soup, spread it on a roasted red pepper sandwich. We clearly had gnocchi. Pesto gnocchi can stand either plain or with some grated cheese, but demands lots of crispy toast to mop up the extra sauce. It was the greatest.

Kale pesto

olive oil
salt, pepper

Follow almost exactly the same process as for classic pesto. The only difference: since kale is a heavy winter green, you're going to need to blanch it for about five minutes, then drain it. After that you can proceed to puree.

This batch tasted almost identical to our basil batch, probably in part because we pureed it in the same container. However, even without the basil, what you'll get is a beautiful greens and garlic slurry that is more or less interchangeable.

I used about 2/3 of a bunch of kale for this batch; it filled a large pickle jar. Yay, pesto in the refrigerator! This means I have developed a new favorite breakfast: pesto toast.

Pesto toast

Spread pesto on a slice of sourdough or other good bread. Add a layer of chopped tomatoes (or leave plain), then cover with grated parmesan or romano cheese. Toast in the toaster oven until the cheese is melted and beginning to turn golden. Eat it and feel satisfied with your life.

We also had a bunch of extra kale, so we decided to make it into kale chips for maximum green effect.

Kale chips

Wash, destem, and chop whatever kale you haven't turned into pesto. Toss it with a little olive oil and salt, then arrange the pieces in one layer on a rack. Set the rack on a cookie sheet and bake at 225F for about twenty minutes, or until your kale is crisp. This works best with a rounder-leafed variety of kale, to eliminate any prickly bits, but we used a more ruffled kale and it turned out fine.

Now sit down to eat the greenest dinner on the planet.

28 September 2009

Squash festival

We are still drowning in a sea of vegetables, even after last night, when I halved an entire four-pound bag of tomatoes to freeze. Freezer full of tomatoes! Yeah! However, that doesn't do anything to empty the crisper drawers, which are still drowning in squash, dark greens, lots of different peppers, eggplant, cilantro, potatoes: it's a total harvest festival in there.

With that in mind, I set off to butcher a butternut squash.

At this point, we're at the full collision of summer and fall veg, so I decided to make a squash risotto with a tomato melted into it. While that seemed like a good idea, that combination ended up way too sweet. Just don't put a tomato in it and you'll end up with a thick, hot, squishy bowl of caramelized veg and grain sustenance.

Winter squash barley risotto

olive oil
dry vermouth
butternut squash
(no tomato)
veg broth
fresh sage
salt, pepper
optional grating cheese/toasted nuts

For this one, start with the squash. We had butternut (and continue to have a couple more of those, plus two acorn, one spaghetti, and an endless mass of zucchini). You can use any reasonable hard-fleshed winter squash or pumpkin; it's fine.

Peel the squash, seed it, and dice it into 1-inchish cubes. Toss it with a little olive oil, spread it in one layer on a baking sheet, and roast it at about 375F until it's nice and soft and has beautiful caramelized golden brown edges. I think this took us about a half hour or 45 minutes. Give the squash at least fifteen or twenty minutes to cook before you start on the actual risotto; that way it will actually be done by the time you want to add it to the barley.

Ok! Risotto! Peel and dice a medium onion (pref yellow, but whatever). Warm some olive oil in a 3 quart pot, add the onion, and soften. While you're waiting, make some vegetable broth in a separate small pot: just add your onion trimmings, plus any other non-brassica vegetable scraps you have around, to a pot of water. Simmer it for at least ten minutes. You now have broth! Hooray! I really need to just write a page of the top ten cooking techniques I use for freaking everything, because "making broth" is definitely one of them.

When the onion has collapsed, add a cup or barley and another cup of dry vermouth or white wine to the pot. Cook on medium-high, stirring reasonably often, until the vermouth has been absorbed. Now just stick to the basic risotto method, adding a cup or so of hot broth at a time and cooking, stirring often, until the barley is cooked almost entirely through.

By this time your squash should be done roasting. Add it to the risotto pot, along with a last cup of broth, and cook as usual.

When the barley is cooked through, you're done. Take the pan off the heat and add a handful of chopped sage. (If you use dry sage, I'd add that near the end of cooking, so it can have a chance to rehydrate.) Salt and pepper. Add grated parmesan, romano or even gruyere or emmenthaler if you want cheese. You could also toast some walnuts or pecans in a little pan and break them up over the top of each serving.

Put it in a bowl, throw a little more sage over it, and eat it! This risotto really wants some serious winter greens on the side, and maybe a glass of lightish red wine like valpolicella. Thus concludes my knowledge of wine for the evening.

Leftovers: you cannot do better than fried risotto cakes for breakfast. Form them with wet hands so the risotto won't completely engooen you. If you feel fancy, you can put a little bit of cheese or maybe cooked greens in the middle of each cake. Then fry them in maybe a drop of oil, turning to brown each side. If you have cheese in the middle, make sure to let the cakes cook a while on low so said cheese melts.

Then you can eat them, with scrambled eggs and green onion optional. Voila! Breakfast is awesome!

24 September 2009

Lie around all day hard and fast lying club

Weekend eatings are the best. We get up on Saturday morning, get all our responsible things done, and then immediately traipse off to the farmer's market to swathe ourselves in bountiful tomatoes, free range eggs, and sourdough. OK, so maybe we don't physically swathe ourselves, but the mental concept holds true!

Then we come home (coffee at Bidonville optional) and proceed to whip the tomatoes and eggs and sourdough into awesome, awesome breakfast.

Lately the eggs have been scrambled eggs with sambal oelek, which is Vietnamese hot pepper paste. It's essentially unblended sriracha sauce, full of seeds and chunks of hot pepper.

Scrambled eggs with sambal oelek

sambal oelek
salt, pepper

Crack eggs into a bowl and mix them relatively gently with a fork. Many people (such as Eliz. David et al) will tell you only to stir the eggs together, but I like mine a little more completely amalgamated than that. Warm a (pref. nonstick) pan on medium-low, melt some butter in it, and pour in the eggs. Salt and pepper, add a spoonful or two of sambal if you want hot spicy scramble, and start stirring with a decent unmeltable spatula. This is important: you will have the spatula in the pan for a long time, and no one likes melted plastic in their eggs. Cook slowly, stirring often, until eggs are done to your liking. At a low enough heat this can take up to ten or even fifteen minutes, but it is totally worth it. Slow-cooked scrambled eggs are the best thing ever.

When done, eat your eggs with lots of toast, coffee, and a vinaigretted salad. The salad can be just leaves with dressing, or it can be something like this:

All day salad

red onion
salt, pepper

If you want red onion, slice it into appropriate pieces for your taste and soak it in warm water while you assemble everything else. This will make it a little less pungent and easier to eat raw, while not pickling it or changing its overall flavor.

Wash, dry, and tear up various lettuce; arrange it on a plate. Cut up a tomato and spread it on top. Trim and slice a couple of mushrooms and spread them on top. Drain the red onion and spread it on top. If you want any other vegetables, slice them into appropriate bits and spread them on top.

Salt, pepper, and vinaigrette it.

Eat as much as you can with your eggs, then pick at it slowly all afternoon while you do things like "read books" and "play video games". Yay salad!