27 February 2013

Fried egg tacos

So my new camera has a learning curve. That's ok. I'll just have to play with it and see what happens.

In the meantime, have some tacos.

This was my breakfast this past Saturday morning, when I needed lots of protein to smack into my bloodstream as immediately as possible. It's a good thing eggs take less than 5 minutes from start to finish.

Fried egg tacos

corn tortillas
optional cilantro or green onion
hot sauce of your choice
salt & pepper

Heat a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Have the lid handy.

While you're waiting for your pan to heat, use a pair of tongs to sear your tortillas for about 30 seconds on either side, working directly over a second gas jet. This obviously assumes you have a gas stove. If you don't, just use the frying pan. You want your tortillas to be flexible and fragrant with a bit of char from the flame.

Put your warm tortillas on a plate and cover them with a clean tea towel to keep warm.

Melt a pat of butter in your hot pan. Crack in your eggs, one at a time. Give them maybe 30 seconds to begin to set up in the hot butter. Then carefully pour a trickle of water into your pan and slap on the lid. I just use the teapot for this.

Let cook for 1-2 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally. The water will steam the top of the egg, eliminating any uncooked white around the perimeter of the yolk. When the egg is done, the yolk should be just veiled and the white around its edge should be just solid to the tip of the spatula.

Top each tortilla with an egg, a bit of chopped cilantro or green onion (mine is under the eggs), some hot sauce, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

I like to break the yolks with a fork before I eat these tacos. This makes them easier to eat and lets you get some yolky goodness in every bite.

Have coffee. Feel better.

What do you eat for an instant protein infusion?

22 February 2013

Black bean cauliflower soup

black bean cauliflower soup

It's been a crazy week. I've been working setup for Stitches West, a gigantic yarn convention, and am going to at least one yarn-related party this weekend before working teardown Sunday night. That means many hours of physical labor. Personally, I'm used to sitting in front of a desk or videocamera for the majority of my workday, so this is a huge and exhausting (although fun) change. It does mean I'm getting the best sleep I've had in ages, though.

Thank you all for your camera recs! I did a good bit of additional research, especially since I decided a smaller and more portable form factor was important to me. So I decided to take a step back from the ubiquitous Canon and go for the Panasonic Lumix GF3. Hey, why not learn to use a different camera interface while I have the opportunity? And a small DSLR with pancake lens seems to offer the best of both worlds.

So here's the situation. I have the camera in hand, but I haven't been in the kitchen since Tuesday, and all I want to do is lie on the couch and eat delivery pizza.

It's a good thing I'm the type of person to stash homemade soup in the freezer.

black bean cauliflower soup

I make this same kind of simple pureed veg and bean soup over and over, as you may have noticed. It freezes beautifully and defrosts to an unchanged texture. By keeping the main base free of dairy, you can not only avoid any separation or crystallization in the freezer, but also feed vegans. Hooray!

Black bean cauliflower soup

olive oil
dry vermouth
cooked black beans
bean/veg broth
salt, pepper, thyme, sage, red pepper flake, bay leaf, etc.
typical garnish of cilantro, yogurt, and sriracha

If you're starting from dried beans, sort them, soak them overnight, and boil them in a fresh change of water for about an hour, or until tender. This will give you both beans and black bean broth. I was starting from previously cooked beans in their broth, which I had frozen into a 2-cup block. Yes, the freezer is my prep kitchen.

If you're using canned beans and thus need veg broth, start a pot of that first.

Okay. Chop up an onion and a couple cloves of garlic. Saute in some olive oil in a reasonably sized soup pot. While the onion is softening, scrub and chop a carrot and dice a stick or two of celery. Throw them into the pot, add a bit of salt, stir, and let cook on medium for about five minutes, or until tender.

While this is happening, tackle the cauliflower. Cut off any dark bits and chop the rest of the head (or as much cauliflower as you want) into florets. Add them to the pot, season with the herbs and spices of your choice--I used thyme, sage, red pepper flake, a bay leaf, and maybe some marjoram too--and cook for another five to eight minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the cauliflower to soften and also to pick up a bit of browning. Deglaze with vermouth when the pan gets too dry.

Next, add your black beans and broth. Since mine were frozen, I just threw the blocks into the pan and let them melt. I used about four cups of beans in broth, so that's roughly 2 cups apiece.

Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for a good ten minutes. Puree off the heat with an immersion blender. Cook down to your preferred texture, correct any seasonings, and you are good to go.

Eat with the garnish of your choice and some delicious pita or toast. I obviously really like yogurt, sriracha, and cilantro as soup garnish, but I think a squeeze of lemon and a scattering of parsley would also be delicious. Also: cashew cream. I'm just saying. I may be needing some cashew cream in the next few days.

Put the ungarnished leftovers in the freezer for the next time you come home with absolutely no desire to spend any time over the stove. Hooray!

What foods do you store for emergency dinners?

18 February 2013

Chickpea tomato couscous

chickpea tomato couscous

Well, my camera has suddenly started writing invisible junk data to its memory card. It still takes pictures, but it won't store them. So I'm pretty happy that I've had a backlog of pictures hanging out waiting to be edited, aren't you?

It was a good run, ridiculous little Canon point-and-shoot. Hey, over five years' worth of service in the kitchen is pretty great, considering all the sauce and steam and oil in the mix, right? I'm thinking I will take a small step up instead of leaping into the land of complex equipment I don't really know how to use. If any of you guys have recommendations for mid-range cameras that work well for food photography, let me know!

Anyway. Lunchtime!

Instant couscous is one of my favorite options for a super-fast meal. It costs just about nothing from the bulk bins. It's not perishable, so you can keep a container in your desk at work and whip it out whenever you have a food emergency. It's surprisingly filling, and can be a meal in itself if necessary. It's exceptionally easy to make--all you really need is boiling water and a little salt and pepper. And, of course, it makes a perfect backdrop for nearly any mix of vegetables, beans, and sauce. This time I had chickpeas, tomato sauce, and some carrot and red pepper. Voila! Lunch.

chickpea tomato couscous

Chickpea tomato couscous

olive oil
red bell pepper
cooked chickpeas
dry vermouth
tomato sauce
salt, pepper, red pepper flake, marjoram, oregano
parsley and green onion to garnish

Start out by making your couscous. Simply put as much couscous as you want to eat into a bowl, keeping in mind that it will expand by about half when cooked. Boil some water in your teapot and pour it over the couscous to cover by a finger's width. Add some salt, pepper, and a little drizzle of olive oil, cover the bowl with a clean tea towel, and set it aside. It will steam while you cook all the vegetables.

Warm a glug of olive oil in a saute pan. Add as much minced garlic as you like. I like plenty, so I used three or four cloves for my lone lunch serving. Let the garlic soften over medium heat while you scrub and grate a carrot and slice up a chunk of bell pepper.

Add the carrot, bell pepper, and a bit of salt, and cook your vegetables together, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. When the vegetables are tender, add your chickpeas and season with pepper, red pepper flake, marjoram, and oregano. I used half a can of chickpeas, since I was only feeding myself, but you can easily up the amounts if needed. Stir everything together and cook for another three or four minutes. When the pan gets dry, deglaze with dry vermouth or some water.

Add your tomato sauce to the pan, stir, and bring to a simmer. Give everything a few minutes to cook before you taste and adjust the seasonings. Chickpeas can take a lot of flavor, so be prepared to add a bit more of everything. Continue to cook until the sauce has reduced to your desired thickness.

By this time your couscous should be finished steaming. Uncover the bowl and fluff with a fork. Top your couscous with a big spoonful of chickpeas and tomato. Garnish with chopped parsley and green onion.

chickpea tomato couscous

Now eat it!

Since I used oregano and marjoram as my main herbs, this turned out slightly Italianate. The red pepper, carrot, and tomato made the overall profile a bit sweet, while the red pepper flake punched everything up with spice. It would be really easy to switch out the herbs and turn this into a spicy tomato curry, to mix up the vegetables with some celery or mushrooms, or to exchange the chickpeas for white beans and puree into fagioli-type sauce. It's totally up to you. I think that's my favorite thing about knowing how to cook--the ability to improvise lets you use your available ingredients to cater precisely to your tastes. It's so satisfying.

What's your favorite melange to serve over a bowl of delicious grains?

14 February 2013

All holiday all the time

Man, this week is just packed full of festivities. Pancake Day! Pazcki Day! Lincoln's birthday! Mardi Gras! The state of the union address! Ash Wednesday! Chinese New Year! Valentine's Day! I bet I'm missing a few more!

You know I'm the one who wants to celebrate the state of the union instead of any actual holidays. HA.

Okay, maybe Pazcki Day too. The thing is that there aren't really any pazcki in the bay area, at least that I'm aware of, so celebrating with them is a bit difficult, especially a couple days after the fact. Now I miss Michigan. I hear the best pazcki in Ann Arbor are at Amadeus...

Right. Anyway, because it is actually Valentine's Day today, have a delightful treat.

valentine's day oatmeal with yogurt and raspberry jam

That's right: oatmeal with yogurt and raspberry jam is about as valentiney as it gets at our house. And let me tell you: it is really, really good. Who needs dessert when you can have such an amazing breakfast?

Of course, I'm also making myself a lovely batch of shrimp etouffee for lunch--but that's a little more in line with Mardi Gras.

Oh well. Happy festivity of your choice!

What are you celebrating this week?

12 February 2013

Cilantro tzatziki

cilantro tzatziki

I have a new obsession and its name is tzatziki. Cucumbers! Yogurt! Garlic! YES.

I had yogurt sauces on the brain after the chole palak incident the other day. Sure, yogurt on curry is good--but wouldn't a sauce full of garlic and herbs be better? So when I found Erin's recipe for tzatziki at The Speckled Palate, I nearly ran straight to the store for cucumbers and herbs.

Tzatziki is usually made with dill. However, I had a big bunch of cilantro hanging around, so I decided to sub that in and see how it went. This was a very good idea, especially because all the dill I had was dried. If you love cilantro, give it a try! Of course, if you hate cilantro, the classic version with fresh dill is classic for a reason.

Let's talk for a minute about different dairy options. The original recipe called for half Greek yogurt and half sour cream. Honestly, I tend to use either plain runny yogurt or thick labneh for all my tart dairy needs, and frequently make my own labneh from the yogurt so as not to let multiple containers go bad on me. Making labneh is easy; all you have to do is drain plain full-fat yogurt in a fine-mesh sieve. I use a couple of little nylon sieves I found at Goodwill ages ago. However, if you want to use Greek yogurt and sour cream, go right ahead. Just know that I got amazing results using plain runny yogurt and home-drained labneh.

cilantro tzatziki

Cilantro tzatziki

a cucumber or two
1-2 cloves garlic
a big handful of fresh cilantro
3/4 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup sour cream or labneh
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Finely chop your cucumber. I'd recommend staying away from the waxed bulbous supermarket monstrosities in favor of thin-skinned Armenian, English, or Asian varieties. I used one big English cucumber; if your cucumbers are smaller, use two or three.

To leach some juice from your chopped cucumber, toss it with a little salt and let is sit in a sieve for at least ten or fifteen minutes. This will ensure that your tzatziki stays thick and delightful instead of getting runny from extra water content.

Finely mince a clove or two of garlic; pick and chop a big handful of cilantro leaves. In a large bowl, mix them with your dairy products, salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar.

After your cucumber has drained a bit, add it to the bowl and mix again. Voila! You now have a beautiful batch of chunky tzatziki.

What can you do with tzatziki? I threw several big spoonfuls of mine over poached salmon on a bed of spinach salad, which was delightful, but there are clearly a million other alternatives. With lamb kofte! With lentil kofte! Over falafel sandwiches! On a giant salad! With french fries! (I REALLY want to throw some of this batch in the blender to smooth it out and then use it on all the fries in the land. That may happen soon.) Otherwise, I've mostly been eating it in big spoonfuls on pieces of sourdough toast, for crunchy, garlicky, vegetable-packed results that are well worth the miniscule effort.

If you do want to poach some salmon or other fish to have as a full dinner-sized excuse for eating all the tzatziki, here you go:

poached salmon with cilantro tzatziki and spinach salad

Poached salmon

salmon filet
bay leaf

If you want to remove your salmon skin, do that first. Otherwise, just put your salmon in a high-sided pan and cover with water. Add a bay leaf. Bring the whole business to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook until the salmon is opaque and can just flake at the touch of a fork. This should take somewhere in the neighborhood of five minutes, depending on the thickness of your filet. Drain your salmon and eat it with tzatziki and spinach salad (or, you know, salt, pepper, & lemon).

And because it's just about Valentine's Day, be sure to share your garlic breath with the one you love! SO ROMANTIC.

07 February 2013

Typical weeknight dinners

I seem to have been making and eating the same things over and over. Don't we all do that sometimes? I propose that the answer is yes.

Hey, it's another plate of fried rice! Guess what this one is made with? That's right--leftover Chinese takeout, in this case the chef's special chicken and leeks. No eggs, but I added a handful of supplemental garlic and bell pepper. It was so good.

Hey, it's another bowl of noodles! This one is almost exactly the same as my previous ramen with oyster mushrooms. The only different bit is some lemongrass in the broth. Delightful.

Hey, it's another plate of migas, finished off with half an avocado and a liberal sprinkling of hot sauce! Oh man, migas are good. OM NOM NOM.

What foods do you cook and eat over and over and over?

05 February 2013

Portland: the reckoning

Many people got all excited about sports this past weekend. John and I did not. In fact, we actively ran away from SF, caught a plane up to Portland, and thus nicely avoided nearly any mention of football. Okay, that wasn't the actual reason we went to Portland--it was more a combination of work and just wanting a nice weekend away--but it was a convenient side effect. Hooray!

Since Portland is essentially a mecca of amazing food, we had not only a delightful time but an equally delightful assortment of food and drinks.

On the very first night, right after checking into our hotel, we decided we couldn't wait to run up the street and have the most local of beers at Tugboat Brewery. This is the bar (and brewery) I most wish were up the street from our house. Who wouldn't want to hang out in a bar with this many bookshelves?

tugboat brewery portland oregon

The beer is strikingly delicious as well. Our favorite of their beers on tap was the Red Cloud, but there was also a truly amazing stout (the name of which I can't remember), Chernobyl, that was so strong it was only available by the half pint. WELL. Can't argue with that, especially if you like dark beers, which we do.

Taking pictures in the bar in the dark always works exceptionally well, doesn't it? That's why I have no pictures at all from our fabulous Saturday night dinner at Grüner with Michelle of The Hoot Eats. It was dark! But then the food was also completely delicious, and the company more than delightful, so I think that makes up for the darkness admirably.

Believe it or not, this was my first foodblogger meetup ever! It certainly won't be the last. It's always so nice to discover people are even more awesome than you suspect--especially if you, like me, lack social skills and are therefore a bit nervous about meeting new people. Obviously I don't actually need to be!

I hadn't had German food in ages, which is just sad, but Grüner certainly fixed that. So now I have a strong impulse to try to recreate their jägerschnitzel and mustard-seedy spätzle at home. There was also very tasty red cabbage, but I'm pretty sure I actually know now to make that already. Actually, maybe I will make some of that tonight...muahaha, etc. Because it's evil cabbage? Sure.

You might think that a German restaurant would not be the best place to take a vegetarian. Well, you would be wrong, because John was pretty happy with his dinner: kale salad with kohlrabi, asiago, and intense lemon dressing, and a plate of bright pink beet and ricotta dumplings with poppyseeds. We also threw several longing glances toward other diners' plates of amazing-looking beet-pickled deviled eggs. OM NOM NOM.

Afterward, we went next door and had fancy cocktails (always a plus) at Kask. We are generally not the type of people to go out to bars on a weekend night--we're way more likely to hit up Tuesday or Wednesday happy hour at our local beer garden, and get home by seven--so I wasn't quite expecting the massive amount of people there, but the drinks were obviously worth it. There was such a huge variety of cocktails that I literally can't remember what I had--although Michelle's negroni flip was pretty amazing, and John's pink gin (when's the last time you were in a bar that had a pink gin on its menu?) was classic and perfect.

A most delightful evening. And afterward?

Food carts.

portland food cart falafel sandwich and kebab sandwich

Hey, it was several hours after dinner by that point! And we couldn't leave the city without eating something from a food cart--we'd probably get fined. So we went to the corner of SW 5th and Stark, found an Egyptian cart that is evidently so new there is no mention of it anywhere on the internet--something Pharaoh. Small Pharaoh?--and got two gigantic sandwiches, one falafel and one lamb kebab. This was the perfect meal to tipsily eat in our hotel room late at night while watching videos on the internet. Yes.

Okay. What else did we eat? Let me sum up.

- Homey & comforting black beans and rice with sweet yellow carrots at Danny & Bethany's house.
- Chilaquiles and coffee at The Original Dinerant--terrible name, but good and very filling chilaquiles. What did John have? I don't remember. Coffee, anyway.
- Plenty of hotel lobby coffee, which was actually Stumptown. Drinking coffee while walking around Portland is one of the best things.
- Thai Peacock: summer rolls, pad kee mao, and evil noodle with peanut sauce and tofu. It was a super-peanut spectacular of a meal. I was so happy to have some Thai before we went back home, where there are several Thai places in walking distance, but they're all bad. Also, prettiest summer roll presentation ever!

peacock thai summer rolls

- Juice at Prasad with my friend YT. I had a concoction called the Honey Green, with coconut milk and matcha powder and honey and strawberry and cucumber: EPIC. John had more coffee, this time in americano form, because coffee. Coffee was kind of the theme of the weekend, really.
- A tableful of post-tiring-hike pizza with Danny and Bethany and their tiny dudes and many multiplication flashcards. This was the first time I've ever had the classic ham & pineapple pizza, and it was good. The crispy edges of each piece of ham were well worth it.
- Sunday night last chance drinks at Bailey's Taproom, as recommended by Michelle. John had a Upright Engelberg Pilsner--nice & grassy--and I had a Walking Man Black Cherry Stout, which was harsh on first sip but excellent as my palate adjusted. It was like having a cherry coke beer, which I realize sounds awful, but which was in fact not. Very interesting in any case.
- Monday morning fancy latte and work discussion at Barista.

And now, after a Monday afternoon plane delay that meant we COULD have in fact eaten one more lunch in actual Portland instead of the airport, we are back at home starting to catch up on all our work (not to mention the 400 blog posts in my reader) in a fairly exhausted yet happy fashion.

Hooray! Portland!