30 March 2012
It seems like everyone I know is making marmalade. I myself have a treeful of oranges and one of lemons, but I haven't jumped on the marmalade bandwagon quite yet. For one thing, Veronica gave me a full pint of her seville orange marmalade in exchange for a baby spider plant!
I really don't need more marmalade...but who am I kidding? I'll probably end up making at least a small batch in the near future. I think I want to try this lemon marmalade with tea.
In the meantime, I do have an entire pint of marmalade to use for whatever nefarious purpose I choose. So why not mix the marmalade with some soy sauce, ginger, and sesame oil, spread it on a piece of salmon, and bake it?
Baking fish may not be quite as easy as poaching--you can, in fact, burn fish if you bake it, while it's awfully difficult to do so if it's submerged in water--but it's still very easy. I think the only real danger is letting the fish get dry. By using an oily fish like salmon and covering it with marinade, you can take a few steps back from that likelihood.
Baked salmon with marmalade glaze
First, make your marinade. In a small bowl, mix together a spoonful of marmalade, several good shakes apiece of soy sauce and sesame oil, and a small spoonful of sambal oelek or other chili paste. The proportions are really up to your tastes. Obviously, I like spice; if you don't, feel free to reduce the chili amount. You could also add a variety of other things to your marinade--rice wine vinegar, mirin, garlic, salt and pepper, or shredded herbs come to mind. I personally wish I'd thought to add some seriously minced and pulverized fresh ginger.
I considered briefly precooking the marinade so the marmalade would melt, but decided not to. This worked out fine.
Lightly oil the skin side of your salmon, so it won't stick. If your fillet is skinless, or you want to skin it first, that's fine. I did find that after cooking, the skin separated from the fillet of its own volition, so I don't think skinning is necessary. In any case, spread your marinade over the other side of the fillet.
Let your fish marinate for at least a half hour, so the marinade has a chance to soak in. Put it in the refrigerator if you're going to marinate it any longer.
When you're ready to cook, preheat your oven to 425F and take your salmon out to come to room temperature. Put your fish on a piece of parchment paper in a baking dish, so the sugar won't make your pan impossible to clean later. Bake for about ten minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and its flesh flakes easily. You may need a couple more minutes if you have a particularly thick fillet. Mine took about twelve minutes total.
After baking, your salmon will look like this. Hooray! That parchment paper was definitely a good idea, right?
Since salmon and marmalade both have very strong flavors, it's best to keep any additional vegetables simple. It would be great with a green salad, a whack of rice pilaf, or a bed of wilted spinach.
I liked this initial experiment, but I think I could make it even better. I definitely want to try spiking the marinade with ginger, for one thing. I also want to try using sea bass instead of salmon and lemon marmalade instead of orange. Ooh, I know--sea bass with lemon marmalade and fresh rosemary. There's the excuse I need to make lemon marmalade! Food tweaks FTW!
29 March 2012
This is the easiest trick ever when you're in need of delicious, delicious tortilla chips, but you don't want to leave the house. All you need are corn tortillas, oil, and salt.
Baked tortilla chips
oil (I use olive)
optional spices: paprika, cumin, etc.
Using a pastry brush (or just your fingers), brush a corn tortilla with a little oil. Flip and brush the other side. You don't have to saturate the tortilla with oil--just get a thin coating over the entire thing.
Repeat, making a stack of oiled tortillas, until you've oiled as many tortillas as you want to make into chips.
Use a knife to cut the entire stack of tortillas into sixths. Spread the resulting proto-chips in one layer on a cookie sheet or two. Sprinkle with an even layer of salt.
If you want to season your chips any other way, now is the time. I imagine that practically any spice that sounds appealing would work well here. I decided to add a little paprika to mine. If you end up with any big clumps of spice, just press the offending super-spiced chips against a few of the lonely unspiced ones, to transfer the extra spice from one to the other.
Bake at 400F for approximately 5 to 8 minutes, or until just golden brown and crisp. You may want to rotate the cookie sheet during cooking, so the chips bake evenly.
When your chips are done, take them out of the oven and let them cool just a touch before you start dipping them in salsa or guacamole or chili and cramming them in your mouth. Hooray, homemade tortilla chips!
27 March 2012
It's officially spring! Now I can show you all my delicious plants that have suddenly started to heave themselves out of the ground, produce leaves, and suck up the copious rain we've been getting here in California.
The clear winner of the "who can grow biggest, fastest, and best" category is this guy: lemon balm. Yes, I know it looks like standard mint, but I can assure you that it is not at all minty and is instead super-lemony. Most of the leaves are already full-sized, which is to say two to three inches long. They are totally dwarfing everything else in the herb bed.
Of course, they won't be dwarfing everything else for long, because the spearmint is also emerging.
Take note: you don't want to plant mint in the actual ground unless you want it to spread everywhere as quickly as possible. This mint was already planted when we moved in--which is why there's a gigantic carpet of it firmly entrenched and growing like wildfire. It's going to be tough to establish new plants in the front bed.
But then, this also means we have plenty of mint to harvest for tea, spring rolls, and Thai curries, so I obviously can't complain too much.
Our chives have also reemerged within the last month or so, and are growing at an astonishing rate. They have flower buds already, and it's not even April!
Chives are by far the most versatile herb in the front bed, but they get some stiff competition from the parsley growing beside our garage.
This is the only herb I actually had to establish myself; everything else was already planted when we moved in. It's been in the ground for about six months, has weathered the winter (such as it is in California), and is clearly thriving. I'm excited to see what happens this summer--hopefully we'll establish a self-seeding cycle for delicious parsley with little to no maintenance required.
That takes care of the herbs--let's move around to the main bed.
About a month ago, I discovered that half a bag of fingerling potatoes had sprouted in our kitchen cupboard and tendrils were beginning to fly in all directions. I promptly decided that I would plant them instead of throwing them out or composting them. Why not?
And lo, check it out: we now have a bunch of little potato plants emerging from the carpet of leaf mulch. Hooray! I'm especially excited to see how these do, since I've never grown potatoes before.
Since there is no winter to speak of in California--it's more like early spring for the duration--I left a handful of plants in the bed to overwinter.
The star of the bed is probably the red chard. It's a good foot and a half tall, though it doesn't look it in this picture. Huge, I tell you, HUGE! Check out the beet leaf in the upper left corner for scale.
The chard leaves are all super shiny and healthy and delicious, with sturdy bright pink stems. Now you know why chard is such a constant ingredient at our house.
Besides the chard, we have two ancient bolting radishes, a few tufts of carrot greens, one or two emerging sprouts of garlic, and a scattered handful of beets. Pretty soon I'll have to pull some of these for a batch of pickled beets and a stir-fry of beet greens. I should probably plant some spinach or other early greens as well--maybe when I pull the radishes. Of course, until then we have not only chard but also copious radish greens to eat.
Needless to say, I am very excited to see my plants thriving! What are you growing in your spring garden?
24 March 2012
What can you make with leftover quinoa in the refrigerator?
Well, you could make fried not-rice by sautéing green onion, mushrooms, and green beans with quinoa, seasoning with red pepper flake, salt, and pepper, adding a handful of greens, and cracking an egg or two into the pan. Scramble to your liking and eat with a handful of torn parsley.
Or you could mix cold quinoa with quartered cooked beets, salad greens, chunks of goat or cream cheese, and lots of black pepper. Voilà: a tasty and practically instant salad. It's a clear winner in the "looks a mess; is delightful" category.
And of course, you could always use your quinoa for its intended purpose: as a base for a bowl of curry, stir-fry, or thick stew. I sautéed mine with sweet potato and lentil curry and a few leaves of chopped red chard.
Hooray! Quinoa wins!
20 March 2012
hot pepper of your choice
cooked white beans
oregano, basil, paprika, salt, pepper
water, broth, or dry vermouth, for deglazing & thinning
pasta of your choice
Warm olive oil in a wide sauté pan while you peel and chop an onion and a handful of garlic cloves. Soften the onion and garlic over medium heat while you mince a jalapeño or other hot pepper of your choice. If you don't have a taste for spice, feel free to leave it out.
Add the peppers, season with oregano, basil, paprika, and a touch of salt, stir, and let cook. If you want to add any other sturdy vegetables, go ahead. I've used mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, olives, celery, and carrots, all to good effect. If you want to add greens, wait a little while--you can either melt them in just before puréeing, for a totally smooth sauce, or chop them and add them at the very end of cooking, to get big chunks of greens throughout.
Once your vegetables are soft and fragrant, deglaze the pan with a little vermouth or water (if needed) and add your tomato purée. You can, of course, use tomato sauce, paste plus broth or water, chopped fresh tomatoes--whatever you have around. Add your cooked white beans as well. I often use precooked white beans frozen in their broth, which I just chuck into the pot and let melt. If you aren't using broth, you may need to add some water to keep your sauce from scorching.
Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Stir well, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and let simmer for at least five or ten minutes. This is a good time to put your pasta on to cook, if you haven't already done so. Chunky pasta works best.
Once your beans and tomatoes have had a chance to absorb all the herb-garlic-onion flavors, it's time to purée. It's easiest to just take the pan off the heat and purée the contents with an immersion blender. You could also use a blender or even a potato masher--whatever floats your boat.
Now, take a look at your sauce Is it too thin? Put it back on the heat and let it reduce. Is it too thick? Add some water or broth. Taste and correct seasonings here as well. If you want to make your sauce creamy, you can add some milk, cream, yogurt, or cream cheese at this point--just don't bring it to a boil again or the dairy will curdle.
When you're satisfied with your sauce, take it off the heat, add some chopped parsley, and mix it with your cooked, drained pasta. Voila! Pasta fagioli!
Okay. So what if you want to switch it up a little bit?
You could stir some spinach into your fagioli at the end of cooking and mix it with cooked Israeli couscous. This is not too far from the norm for pasta fagioli; after all, Israeli couscous is actually pasta, not grain.
I think this version would be especially good to feed kids--hey, miniature pasta is definitely more fun than plain macaroni!
You can mix your sauce with kale and cooked ziti, spread it in a gratin dish, top it with olive-oiled breadcrumbs and grated parmesan, asiago, or romaro cheese, and bake it at 350F until crispy and delightful. If you want to take it a step further, you can stir in chunks of mozzarella or goat cheese along with the kale and ziti. Pasta gratin is always a good plan--and pasta fagioli gratin is an even better one.
Or you can move entirely away from pasta and put your bean and tomato purée on something else. How about roasted cauliflower?
Just chop up a cauliflower, toss the florets with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast at 400F for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Serve the cauliflower with fagioli sauce and chopped parsley.
Clearly, pasta fagioli can take practically anything you can throw at it--what more could you ask?
16 March 2012
Okay. In the long-forgotten days of Diary-L, before the term "blog" existed, I was internet friends with a girl named Siobhan, who lived in NYC, went to art school, and occasionally wrote down the things she cooked and baked. So I read her recipes, tried them out, and added them to my rotation. I baked my first acorn squash ever, I voluntarily ate pecans, and I mixed up flour and lemon juice-curdled milk to make her grandmother's soda bread.
I wrote out the soda bread recipe by hand. For two years it hung on the wall of our terrible drafty gradschool house, alongside our scribbled formulas for eggplant business, pizza dough, and lentil soup. I baked it every couple weeks, and in our seven-person household, it vanished damn near instantly. Soda bread warm from the oven, with butter. Soda bread with peanut butter. Soda bread plain, cold from the fridge at 2 am.
I haven't baked Siobhan's grandmother's soda bread in years. This is largely because John and I can't drink even a quart of milk before it goes off, and so we almost never have it in the house. But I may go ahead and chance it for a batch of soda bread.
This is transcribed exactly from the page that was taped to our wall. I always used caraway seeds instead of raisins or currants, 100%. Of course, this time we had no caraway seeds, so I baked half the dough with mixed dried cherries and half plain. It still worked admirably.
Eat Siobhan's grandmother's soda bread.
4 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup veg oil
1 c buttermilk (aka milk w lemon juice)
raisins, currants, or caraway seeds
Mix up all the dry stuff besides 1 c flour and raisins. Add eggs, oil, & buttermilk.
Knead in the last cup of flour on the previously cleaned kitchen counter. Then knead in the raisins or whatever.
Make the dough round and loafy & put it on a baking sheet. You can cut a cross in the top or you can not cut one.
Bake @ 325/350F for 1 hour, or until good.
15 March 2012
The broccoli soup of a few weeks back has officially entered our rotation. I've eaten my way through two entire batches, and upped the ingredients for freezer storage. I'm not sure why broccoli purée is so much more appealing to me than whole florets, but I'm not going to question it. Puréed broccoli it is.
While I was at it, I decided to increase the freezer store with a batch of tiny lamb meatballs, inspired by Choosy Beggars' meatballs 101.
Mix 1/2 pound ground lamb with several cloves of finely minced garlic, a similarly finely minced hot pepper, one piece of bread chopped into small pieces (or a big handful of breadcrumbs), a big spoonful of plain yogurt, and some salt and pepper. Roll into meatballs of your chosen size; mine were about an inch in diameter. Bake at 450F for 5-8 minutes, or until cooked through. You can test doneness by breaking open a meatball to check out the color (right before you eat it).
I ate a few meatballs right away in a simple pasta with marinara, but the rest of the batch--probably something like 50 little meatballs--went right into the freezer.
So. With half a batch of broccoli soup in the freezer, I can eat lunch at a moment's notice. With the soup plus a container of frozen lamb meatballs, I can make said lunch even better. And hey, why not throw in some beet greens for good measure?
Broccoli meatball soup with greens
frozen broccoli soup
frozen precooked lamb meatballs
a splash of water
a handful of beet greens (or whatever green you have on hand)
a little bit of parsley
Warm a splash or two of water in a little pan. Add the chunk of frozen soup, cover, and let melt. Check the pot occasionally to make sure you have enough liquid to avoid scorching. I also like to scrape the block of melting broth to speed up the process a little bit.
When your soup has melted completely, bring it to a simmer and add a handful of frozen meatballs. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until both soup and meatballs are hot through. In the last minutes or so of cooking, add a handful of washed chopped beet greens. If you want to use other greens, chard, spinach, arugula, or escarole would all be good here. You may want to add particularly tender greens off the heat after your soup is done cooking.
Serve, add some chopped parsley, and eat. Voila! Lunch in under ten minutes!
13 March 2012
However, I also shredded an entire green cabbage to try out a batch of curtido de repollo. This is the Salvadorean cabbage slaw traditionally eaten with pupusas, among other things. "Curtido de repollo" just translates as "seasoned cabbage." Of course, here the cabbage is largely seasoned with vinegar and salt, so, you know, it's pickled. And I think I speak for everyone when I say PICKLES!! Make some!
Curtido de repollo is super easy to make. All you really need is a decent knife, a big bowl, and the patience to let the cabbage sit around and pickle. In addition, it's exceptionally cheap; my cabbage cost 39 cents a pound, my carrots came from the farmer's market sort-outs bin, and I got my hot peppers for pennies at the local ethnic market. And have you seen the sheer amount of vegetable you get when you shred a cabbage? Even with shrinkage, we now have enough slaw to last at least a week.
I looked at a selection of different recipes, then decided to make a slight variation on Nathan's Comida's curtido de repollo.
Curtido de repollo
1 small green cabbage
a carrot or two
half a small yellow onion
1.5 cups white vinegar
1 cup water
2 serrano peppers, or whatever works for your spice tolerance
1 tbsp salt
Core and shred your cabbage. Scrub and grate one large carrot or a handful of smaller ones. Finely mince half a small onion. Put all the vegetables in a bowl large enough to hold them. I'd recommend glass, as vinegar reacts with metal.
In a blender, liquefy your serrano peppers with the white vinegar, water, and salt. If you want a less spicy slaw, I'd either cut the pepper amount to one serrano or use jalapeños instead. You could also just cut out the peppers entirely, in which case you can eliminate the blender step and just add everything directly to the cabbage bowl.
Pour the pickling liquid over your vegetables and stir well. Watch out for pepper fumes--serranos are hot.
Now let the slaw sit for three hours before eating. This is by far the most difficult part of the whole process, as the raw cabbage coasted in spicy vinegar etc. is already pretty delicious.
The brine won't cover all the cabbage at first; this is fine. Just stir occasionally to make sure the brine gets in contact with everything. As the cabbage pickles, it'll become limp and exude some juice. Eventually the brine will come just about to the top of the mass of slaw.
After three hours, your curtido de repollo will be ready. Eat it!
So far we have eaten this in big handfuls on top of bowls of the aforementioned chili. I also had a few quesadillas stuffed with slaw for breakfast. Both of these were excellent ideas.
- Obviously, you should make some pupusas and eat them with slaw stuffed inside.
- Make tacos and slather slaw over their tops. Any filling will obviously be delicious.
- Grill some sort of sausage (meat, vegan, whatever), put it in a bun, and cover it with slaw.
- Pulled pork sandwiches obviously want lots of slaw both in the sandwich and on the side.
- Make an omelet and stuff it with handfuls of slaw, for a variation on the kimchi omelet.
- Make an unsweetened pancake batter, drop in a bunch of slaw, and cook up a bunch of delicious savory pancakes.
I plan on shredding more cabbage into the brine as we eat our way through it, if that seems appropriate. I'm going to try red cabbage, so the whole business turns bright pink.
Now I really want some fish tacos.
12 March 2012
So last Monday I went on a day trip to wine country with a carful of knitters. Cookie, Veronica, Anne and I met up at early o'clock, had the first of many cups of coffee for the day (note to self: don't drink that much coffee anymore), and took off up 280. The amount of traffic on the drive was astonishing--because there wasn't any. How could this possibly be the case at 9 on Monday morning in the Bay Area? AND YET.
We got into Healdsburg early and spent a few minutes tooling around some of the little stores around the town square. After a stop at the cheese shop--during which everyone focused far more on chocolate than cheese--we met up with Anne's friend Rosemary and trooped off to eat at Zin. We were lucky enough to have lunch with Susan, the catering director, and to hear about the local ingredients Zin sources from Eastside Farm. Some particularly great examples were our complimentary appetizers--which coincidentally were the only food pictures I managed to take all day.
First we had deviled eggs with home-cured bacon. The eggs were so fresh they didn't want to peel--an excellent sign. The bacon, however, was the star of this plate. I ended up eating a reasonable chunk of bedding lettuce with bacon bits because it was far too good to leave.
Our other appetizers were two cones of tempura green beans with a mango dipping sauce. These were amazing--I kept eating them throughout the entire meal, long after everyone else had turned to their entrées. Since I had ordered a plate of (excellent) mac and cheese, I really enjoyed the contrast with the vegetables.
We haven't made tempura at home in quite some time, but this experience might change my mind. Maybe some tempura asparagus with the new season crop?
After a quick stop at the Downtown Bakery, we went up the road to explore Dry Creek Valley and wander our way back down to Napa Valley.
I had never actually gone wine tasting in California before, odd as that seems, even though I've lived here for a good eight years of my adult life. The only wine tasting I've ever done was in Michigan, and while that was wonderful--I especially like the Round Barn Winery, if you happen to be wine and brandy tasting in southeastern Michigan anytime soon--it's a whole different story in the heart of wine country, where you can visit a new place practically every quarter of a mile if you are so inclined.
Also, everything looks like this:
We visited the Quivira, Ridge, and Miner wineries, from which I escaped with two pinots, a zinfandel, a mourvèdre, a vigonier, and a sauvignon blanc. All six are now in our wine rack waiting patiently for Occasions.
After a final stop at the Stag's Leap tasting room--which they very nicely let us into five minutes before close--we finally arrived in Yountville for dinner. Since we were early for our reservation, we stopped by Bouchon Bakery and drooled over the macarons.
I had never had a macaron before, so I got a selection: raspberry, caramel, hazelnut, and pistachio. The contrasting colors made for a really pretty box.
Of course, when I tried my first macaron later that night, I discovered that they are not my favorite pastry ever--they mostly just tasted like crisp, faintly flavored sugar. Maybe I'd better stick to savory next time. (I wonder if you could even make savory macarons. I'm thinking not, since the sugar must have a key role in their structure. Oh well--we've established that I am not a pastry person.)
For dinner, we went to Redd.
I was still in need of vegetables, so I ordered the special salad with roasted asparagus, wild mushrooms, arugula, frisée, roasted marble potatoes, and sauce gribiche. New season asparagus! Hooray!
For my entrée, I ordered the bass, which I will hereby crib from the menu: "Wild striped bass, salsify barigoule, herb butter, salsify chips." This turned out to be a simple, beautifully cooked piece of fish in a pool of brothy butter with a pile of not just salsify but a variety of other spring vegetables. After a day of tasting wine, all the seasonal vegetables were perhaps the best idea ever.
Finally, filled with every good thing and laden with fancy packages of edibles, we trundled home.
In conclusion, yay! Food and wine with friends! A good time was had by all.
07 March 2012
Afterward, we had a serving or so of beans left over. Hooray! This meant that the next morning I could transform them into tasty white beans and greens for breakfast.
Pan-fried white beans with spinach and yogurt
leftover crispy white beans
spinach or other greens
parsley and/or other herbs
Fry beans until hot, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally. (You could, of course, start from scratch here if you have no leftovers, but I did have leftovers, so hey!) While the beans are becoming even tastier than before, wash, destem, and roughly chop as much spinach (or other greens) as you want to eat. I like plenty of greens, so I used two solid handfuls of mature leaf spinach. Tender greens like spinach reduce quite a bit when they hit the heat, so it's definitely a good idea to use a lot.
Add the still-wet spinach to your toasty beans. Stir it all together and continue to cook for a minute or two, or until your spinach is completely wilted. The water on the leaves will help with this. If you're using a slightly hardier green, like chard or escarole, you may need to cook for a few minutes longer. If you're using something like kale, you'll definitely need to add a little water and keep cooking for a good five minutes.
Done! Plate yourself some white beans and spinach. Add a generous spoonful or two of plain yogurt, some chopped parsley or other herbs of your choice, and some cracked black pepper. The yogurt is actually pretty important, because otherwise the beans are apt to be a bit dry. If you hate yogurt, you may want to try a drizzle of olive oil, a scoop of ricotta, or even a marinara sauce instead.
Now eat! This makes a filling, healthy, and delicious breakfast. It's perfect for those of us who like a savory breakfast, but don't want to end up eating leftover takeout every morning. Not that there's anything wrong with leftover takeout for breakfast! I eat it fairly frequently myself. But you have to admit that transforming your leftovers into a freshly made dish is much more satisfying, right?
02 March 2012
To make lentils vinaigrette, you simmer Puy lentils in a court bouillon--that is, in water with a selection of aromatic herbs and vegetables. When they're tender, you drain them, let them cool, remove all the seasoning elements, and dress them in a dijon mustard vinaigrette. That's all. It is one of the easiest things ever, and for an amazing reward.
It's best to use Puy lentils for this particular salad, as they hold together appropriately, have an excellent mouthfeel, and just taste better than ordinary green lentils. You can generally find them in the bulk bins and natural and higher-end food stores. I do think it would be worth a shot even if you can only find regular green lentils, however.
We follow Thomas Keller's classic lentils vinaigrette recipe from the Bouchon cookbook. This is well worth a look for things other than lentils, incidentally. The book itself is a gigantic coffee table tome with huge glossy picture spreads, but the recipes are classic French bistro. If you want to get better at cooking bistro fare, you could do far worse than to try them out.
Lentils vinaigrette are good by themselves, but they really shine when served with a collection of vegetables and garnishes. I like to use them as a whack of protein to top a green salad, for a super easy & complete lunch. They are definitely great as I last had them, with a chopped hard-boiled egg, a little pepper, and a handful of torn parsley and minced red onion.
Other things to eat with lentils vinaigrette:
- shredded carrot in lemon juice.
- crispy fried onion bits.
- a big spoonful of plain yogurt.
- tomato-cucumber salad, or just finely chopped cucumber.
- In fact, if you combine the yogurt and cucumber, you can top your lentils with raita or tzatziki. I think I may try this one in the near future.
In conclusion, hooray lentils! Eat them tonight!