30 September 2011

Fish & pea freezer stash

seared fish and peasThis is totally the kind of thing I end up making when it's 8:30 and I suddenly realize the only thing I've consumed all day is coffee and a bowlful of grape tomatoes. It's a good thing we usually have whitefish and bags of peas hanging out in the freezer at any given time.

Fish: defrost filet in hot tap water. If you are me, pry your defrosted filet from the second one firmly clinging to its side. Dry with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper, and sear both sides over high heat in some olive oil or butter. Butter is better.

Peas: you can defrost these in hot water too, if you want, but I usually don't bother. Sauté chopped garlic in olive oil or butter for a minute or so; add peas, salt & pepper, & cook, stirring occasionally, until peas are hot through.

Throw everything on a plate and eat it immediately. Drink a glass of white wine if you can swing it.

A hot fish waits for no one.

29 September 2011

Five minutes to breakfast!

oatmeal with apricots almonds and sesame seedsGet out:
- rolled oats
- salt
- nuts and/or seeds (almonds & sesame seeds here)
- dried fruit (apricots)

Put a couple handfuls of oats and a pinch of salt in a small pot; cover with water. Put it on high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes.

Chop up a handful of nuts and throw them in a little frying pan. Toast over medium heat for two to three minutes, tossing frequently. Add seeds for the last minute of cooking.

Scrape your oatmeal into a bowl. Toss toasted nuts and seeds on top. Slice up some dried fruit (or don't, if you have dried berries) and add them.

Eat with copious tea. Stay full all morning.

28 September 2011

Split pea soup is the greatest.

Split pea soup with green onionHey, it's fall! Let's eat ALL THE SOUP.

Split peas are an especially great legume to have on hand for soup since they take comparatively little time to cook. Instead of giving them an overnight soak or a quick spin in the pressure cooker, you can just stick them into some hot tap water. In barely an hour, your peas are ready for soup application. Lentils serve the same swift purpose.

Usually I add some greens to bowls of this soup, or wilt them in during the last few minutes of cooking; this time, I went with a more basic method, simply adding peas and broth to a spicy mirepoix.

Notice that this is incidentally vegan. If you want meat instead, you can use some chopped bacon instead of the olive oil.

Split pea soup

dried split peas
olive oil
hot pepper
salt, pepper, bay leaf, sage, marjoram, thyme
veg broth
liquid smoke
fresh parsley
green onion

First, comb through your dried split peas to remove any spontaneous rocks. Soak the clean peas in hot tap water for about an hour. You can simmer them separately if you want to cut the cooking time down even more.

Warm some olive oil in a large soup pot. If you happen to want meat in your soup, you can dice a couple pieces of bacon and render the fat down instead.

Chop up an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, and a jalapeƱo or other hot pepper. Sauté them in the oil while you chop a carrot and a couple sticks of celery. Add a bay leaf, a couple shakes each of marjoram, sage, and thyme, and some salt and pepper. When the onion is translucent and everything smells fantastic, it's time to add your drained split peas and a bunch of vegetable broth. My broth was frozen, so I let it melt right in the pot, but liquid broth obviously works just as well, if not better.

Cover your pot, bring it to a boil, and reduce the heat to simmer. From here, the time required varies based on the age of your peas. My peas took only about ten minutes to break down completely, but your mileage may vary.

When your peas are cooked, take your pot off the heat; it's time to blend. Remove the bay leaf and attack the soup with an immersion blender. Now take a look at your soup's texture. If it's too thick, add some more broth or water and stir it through; if it's too thin, put it back on the burner to cook down a bit.

When your soup is at your desired texture, season carefully with liquid smoke. (You won't need this if you used bacon.) This stuff is super strong, so you won't need very much; I started out with four drops, then increased to 6 or 7 total for the entire 4-serving pot. Proceed with caution.

After correcting any other seasonings, your soup is done! Scatter parsley and green onion over your bowl, and eat it all with lots of toast or biscuits. We had the very end of a block of smoked gouda as well.

26 September 2011

Rice, chard, garlic, cheese

Rice, chard, garlic, cheeseConcoctions like these are one of our default "oh crap, there's no food in the house" dinners. Even if some strange mold has infiltrated the entire crisper, there are always bags of all kinds of different grains in the freezer.

You can make this with practically any grain or green you have in the house. Rice, barley, quinoa, millet; chard, kale, spinach, arugula, escarole: whatever. I might not use something like teff or amaranth, since they are so teeny, but you can always give them a try.

This is also a great way to use up any forlorn cups of leftover quinoa &etc. you may have lying around.

Rice, chard, garlic, cheese

olive oil
chard/other cookable greens
any additional vegetables
cooked brown rice/grain of your choice
salt, pepper, various herbs
fresh parsley
mozzarella/other cheese

If you are starting with raw rice, put it on to cook first. Follow whatever rice cooking method you like best. Personally, I throw my rice in the rice cooker with some water, hit a button, and walk away. I love you, rice cooker.

So. Smash several cloves garlic and mince them up. Warm a sauté pan on medium, add olive oil and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally. If you are the type to want hot peppers in everything, now is the time to add them.

While your garlic cooks, wash several leaves of chard and cut the leaves off the stems. (Note: do not try to eat kale stems, if that's what you happen to be using.) Set the leaves aside for a minute. Chop the stems into small slices and add them to the pan along with some salt and pepper. If you want to chop and add any other vegetables, go right ahead. This is also a good time to add whatever herbs you may desire. I think I put oregano and parsley in mine.

When your rice is done, add as much as you like to the pan. Stir everything together and let cook for a few minutes, so the rice gets a chance to soak up the tasty oils. If things start to stick to the pan, you can deglaze with a little dry vermouth or a splash of water.

Chop your chard leaves roughly. Add them to the pan and stir intermittently until wilted. Turn off the heat, correct seasonings, and finish with a little chopped parsley (or any other fresh herbs you like).

Done! Now you just have to to decide how you want to eat your rice and greens. I put mine in a bowl with a handful of cubed mozzarella, which melted in a most satisfactory way. You could also stick them in a tortilla with some refried beans, cover them with sriracha sauce or granted parmesan, or just eat them totally plain.

Leftovers are great scrambled with eggs and hot sauce and (again) either stuffed into tortillas or eaten out of hand. I mean, out of bowl. Out of a bowl. Yes.

23 September 2011

Insalata caprese

Want to see what I ate for lunch yesterday?

insalata capreseYes. It may be the first day of fall, but that really only means one thing: if you want tomatoes, you had better eat them now.

This particular tomato came courtesy of our next-door neighbor, who has now twice given us a big bag of her backyard tomato overflow. I HEART OUR NEW NEIGHBORHOOD. Even when I forget to go to the farmer's market, I get bounty!

Then I transform the bounty into plates like this.

Insalata caprese

good tomato
fresh basil
salt, pepper

This is the easiest possible salad. Cut, plate, and eat.

So. Core your tomato and cut it into reasonable bite-sized wedges, or into your choice of other shape.

Slice up a roughly equivalent amount of mozzarella. Obviously it's best to use fancy fresh mozzarella, but I think this salad works well even with big generic supermarket block mozz, which is good, because that's what I had. I shaved my mozzarella with a cheese plane, because that's how I roll.

Pick a good handful of fresh basil leaves off the stem. Stack them together, roll them into a little cigar shape, and slice finely. Congratulations; you have just made a chiffonade!

Arrange your tomato, mozzarella, and basil prettily on a plate. Pour any incidental cutting board tomato juice over the plate as well. Add a few pinches of salt and grinds of black pepper, and you are done.

insalata capreseEat it all.

Man. Tomatoes.

Incidentally, want to see what my tomato plants look like today?

tomato plantsThis picture is at my eye level. I am 5'11".

There are only three of them, and yet they are somehow 7 feet tall, 7 feet wide, and 7 feet deep. The branches stick out four feet into the lawn. I have run out of sufficiently tall stakes and been forced to lash the remaining pieces together for adequate support. I stuck in an extra tomato cage to corral some of the escaping vines. I HAVE BEEN PRUNING.

tomato plantsThe plants are covered with tomatoes. 95% of the tomatoes are still green. It's a good thing we live in California.

19 September 2011

Garlic green beans

Garlic green beansTake advantage of the end of summer green beans while there's still time!

These dudes are garlicky, slightly spicy, and excellent for various eatings. I like to mix them with pasta and a spoonful of labneh or some grated parmesan. You could also throw a poached egg in there if you felt like it. Of course, garlic green beans are also delicious next to some seared fish or marinated tempeh, or just on their own.

Garlic green beans

olive oil
green beans
red pepper flake
salt & pepper

Warm some olive oil in a wide frying pan over medium heat. While you're waiting, smash, peel, and roughly chop a handful of garlic cloves. Use as many as you want. Throw the garlic into the pan, adjust the heat if needed, and cook slowly.

Wash your green beans, top and tail them, and cut them into inch-long pieces. Use about a solid handful (or more) of beans per person. When the garlic has just begun to turn golden, add your beans to the pan. They may spit a bit if they're still wet. Add a shake or two of salt and a good pinch of red pepper flakes to the pan as well. If you like spice, go ahead and add more than a pinch of pepper flakes. It's all good.

Toss the pan around, spreading the garlicky oil all over the beans. Cook, stirring or tossing frequently, until the beans are cooked to your liking. This took me about five minutes, but the timing can vary depending on your stove and on how tender you want your beans.

Grind some pepper over your beans to finish.

Congratulations! You have achieved garlic green beans! Eat them and be happy.

12 September 2011

End of summer

rose wineI really like good, dry rosé. This summer has been full of it.

Today the high is 70F, which seems really low until you remember this is northern California and the general high has therefore been hovering around 75-78F for the past four months.

I remember sweating profusely for the first two weeks in my unairconditioned Chicago high school every year. Then we would have a thunderstorm and the temps would suddenly drop twenty degrees. That crash doesn't happen here.

cherry tomatoesNow that we live in a neighborhood, we have a neighbor who is so nice as to bring us pints of her homegrown cherry tomatoes. Someone will definitely be getting some tomato sauce in return.

Our own tomatoes are still running completely nuts. They are 6 feet tall and very eager to send out massive extra branches in all directions when I'm not looking. I have been pinching off suckers like mad. We're out of stakes; I actually had to splice a few together to make them tall enough. And since we live in California, it's ok that only three or four of the copious tomatoes are actually approaching ripeness. It's going to be warm enough for them until October at least.

lemon yogurt cakeI'm still edging toward cool-weather food. I baked a lemon yogurt cake the other day. It was this cake, but with lemon instead of lime and wheat flour instead of all-purpose and labneh plus a little splash of water instead of yogurt. I baked it in a bundt pan and ate it plain, with a big mug of chai. Later I had another piece with apricot jam.

True to form, however, we have not been able to finish the whole cake.

rose wineOf course, I also still have a bottle of this rosé waiting in the cabinet, and our wine store has at least a good four or five more. The high next week is supposed to rebound up to 78. All our little café wineglasses are clustered in the cabinet, ready.

09 September 2011

Vast ravioli mess

ravioli, green beans, tomatoThis is the kind of dinner I make myself when:
1. I feel marginally ambitious,
2. I have a lot of vegetables in the house, and
3. I am only catering to my own tastes.

I cooked frozen ricotta & herb ravioli from the Milk Pail and tossed them with onions and mushrooms caramelized in olive oil and butter. I steamed green beans over the pasta water and squeezed some lemon over them. I cut up a tomato. Then I served everything over a couple handfuls of mixed greens and threw a handful of parsley over the plate.

I ate it all.

06 September 2011

Fresh shelling beans

fresh shelling beansEven though it's verging on too late for most of us, I can't end the summer without talking about fresh shelling beans.

I found a gigantic pile of these mottled beans at the farmer's market a few weeks ago. I like dried beans well enough; fresh ones are nothing short of sensational. Clearly, they had to come home with me. However, I didn't know what kind of beans I'd get until I opened them. Behold: fresh black-eyed peas!

fresh shelling beansWhat can you do with fresh shelling beans? Well. The easiest cooking method is a simple boil. Then you can eat your beans simply with butter, salt, and maybe a little lemon. You can toss them in a vinaigrette and serve them over a bed of salad greens, with additional salad components if desired. Or you can mix them with your vegetable of choice, as, for instance, in a shelling bean and tomato salad. You could even make them into a shelling bean gratin. The world is clearly your plaything.

I decided to use my beans in a big pasta mess.

pasta with fresh shelling beansSoften garlic and/or onion in olive oil; add chopped tomato, raw shelled beans, and maybe a splash of broth or dry vermouth. When beans are about halfway cooked, add a bunch of chopped sweet peppers and spice the whole business with salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper flake, and whatever else sounds good. Cook until done to your liking, adding liquid to deglaze as needed. Mix with cooked pasta and eat with a squeeze of lemon. Hooray!

01 September 2011

Figs, labneh, mint, pepper

Figs, labneh, mint, pepperIt's September, and you know what that means: fig season.

I like to eat fresh figs raw, but that doesn't mean I always want them plain. Instead, I eat them with:

- pungent soft cheeses: chevre, brie (& I hate blue, but you could try it).
- mild white cheeses: mozzarella, cream, farmer's.
- black pepper & lots of it.
- fresh herbs: mint, basil, parsley, etc.
- thick, serious yogurt or labneh.
- honey (ours is meadowfoam).
- whatever other fruit is around: fig & peach salad, anyone?
- various lettuces, spinach, or arugula.
- toasted walnuts or pecans.

Today I cut open a handful of black mission figs, smeared them with labneh, and sprinkled them with chopped mint and black pepper. Best breakfast ever.