31 May 2013

Strawberry, cherry, and nectarine yogurt smoothie

Strawberry cherry nectarine yogurt smoothie

We went overboard at the farmer's market, and so have been drowning in fruit. Strawberries, cherries, nectarines, white peaches, apricots: the works. So what better way to eat all kinds of fruit at once than in a smoothie? No frozen bananas or coconut milk necessary--these smoothies only contain fruit and yogurt. They're so good.

This time I went for all the red fruit: strawberry, cherry, and nectarine. The nectarine is sort of red, right?

Mint would have been a great addition here, but I didn't think of it at the time. We do still have lots of mint growing in the side yard, though, so at some point it'll probably make a smoothie appearance. Maybe with pineapple? A mint pineapple yogurt smoothie sounds pretty delightful. Now, if only pineapple were hanging around at the farmer's market...

Makes 1 small smoothie, perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

Strawberry, cherry, and nectarine yogurt smoothie

2 handfuls strawberries
1 handful cherries
1 nectarine
3-4 large spoonfuls of plain yogurt/soy yogurt--maybe 2/3 cup

Trim the strawberries; stem and pit the cherries; slice the nectarine off its pit.

Put all your fruit and yogurt in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Pour into glass of your choice. Drink, with spoon assists as necessary.

How have you been eating all the amazing new summer fruit?

28 May 2013

Baked pasta shells with basil ricotta cream

baked shells with basil ricotta

What happens when you're 2/3 of the way through making lasagna and you open the pasta box to discover you have only 5 lasagna noodles?

Well, if you're us, you make a lasagna anyway. You just don't use those noodles.

We had a bag of small shells just waiting around in the cabinet. So what was on the menu instead of lasagna? Baked pasta with ricotta cream. It's just like lasagna! Really! The noodles are a slightly different shape, but who cares? Everything else went exactly as planned.

This is a fairly standard vegetarian not-lasagna except for one thing: fresh basil.

You know how you can add a bunch of chopped spinach to the ricotta mixture when making lasagna? Okay. What if you replaced that spinach with basil? Huge handfuls of beautiful fragrant fresh summer basil?

It's pretty amazing. You should try it.

baked shells with basil ricotta and spinach salad

Baked pasta shells with basil ricotta cream

Sauce: Saute a handful of chopped garlic cloves and a diced onion in olive oil until soft and delicious. Season with salt oregano, basil, and red pepper flake. Add a chopped red pepper (and whatever other veg you like) and continue to saute for another five minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. Add 2 cups of tomato puree or chopped tomatoes in juice and cook together, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is done to your liking. Taste and correct for seasoning and puree with a stick blender as needed.

Cheese: mix 16 oz ricotta (or the closest size container you can find) with 1 egg, a cup or so of grated mozzarella and parmesan, and the chopped leaves of half a bunch of fresh basil.

Pasta: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook 3/4 lb of pasta until al dente. Drain.

To assemble: Preheat the oven to 375F. Mix the cooked pasta with the sauce. Spread a layer of saucy pasta over the bottom of a large casserole dish. Spoon on a layer of cheese, distributing it as well as possible with clean fingers. Repeat, layering pasta and cheese, until they are both used up, ending with a pasta layer. Top the whole business with a couple big handfuls of grated mozzarella and/or parmesan. Bake for 45 minutes, or until delicious and golden brown on top.

baked shells with basil ricotta

Eat as swiftly and enormously as possible. You'll probably want a salad or something else green on the side. We had spinach.

The leftovers are pretty amazing, especially when rewarmed. Personally, I am ok with eating cold leftover pasta. I think it's pretty good in any form. However, this was miles and miles better when reheated than when left cold. The basil in the ricotta just glows. It's so good.

baked shells with basil ricotta garlic sauteed green beans and zucchini

So I ate the leftovers for two more meals in a row, once with garlic-sauteed green beans and zucchini and once with another salad, and I was well satisfied.

How are you using your fresh summer herbs? Plentifully, I hope.

24 May 2013

Classic negroni cocktail

classic negroni cocktail

Are you thirsty on this fine Friday? I certainly am.

John and I don't have a huge bar stash. Our kitchen only has so many shelves tall enough to hold liquor bottles; our local stores are only a few blocks' walk away. We generally buy whatever we'd like to drink when we want to drink it.

A couple bottles do make it into long-term storage, however. Cocktail bitters certainly stick around awhile. We buy gin in a 1.5L handle, because we like drinking it and the big bottle is cheaper. The homemade liqueurs obviously stay, since they have to age before they are drunk. And then there are the oddnesses: the bottles of akavit, red vermouth, and Campari that sit on the shelf for months simply because there are only so many drinks to be made with them.

One of those drinks is the negroni.

A classic negroni is made from equal parts gin, red vermouth, and Campari. It's obviously perfect for our current liquor cabinet, which holds practically nothing else on a regular basis anyway.

This cocktail is an acquired taste for an adult palate. It is bitter and requires sips. But this also makes it the perfect drink to nurse over a long stretch of lazy afternoon.

classic negroni cocktail

Classic negroni

1 oz gin
1 oz red vermouth
1 oz Campari
orange twist

Shake in an ice-filled shaker and garnish with a twist of orange peel. Note that I was too lazy to go pick an orange and make a twist.

There are so many great drink ideas out there right now! The Bojon Gourmet's ginger rhubarb bee's knees cocktail sounds amazing, as does Heather Christo's blueberry honey vodka lemonade. Ooh, and how about the Novice Chef's blueberry mojito? I guess what I'm saying is that I need more fruit in my drinks.

What are you drinking for the long holiday weekend?

* Genius that I am, I totally misnamed this drink at first! Nice job! I clearly need a holiday weekend.

22 May 2013

May garden update: tomatoes, jalapenos, and herbs

basil plant

For once I feel like I have a jump on the garden for the year. Usually I am frantically trying to remember to go get some tomato starts right about now. This year I planted my heirloom seedlings nearly a month ago. Hooray for me! Head pats all around.

I got two kinds of tomato: Boxcar Willie and Caspian Pink. Evidently Caspian Pink is supposed to do well in the partial shade, which is what we have, but Boxcar Willie is the one actually setting fruit so far. Go figure. They're both a respectable size, so I feel pretty good about them.

caspian pink tomato plant

I also grabbed a jalapeno seedling, which you can see in the background on the right. It's maybe 1/3 as tall as the tomatoes, but that makes sense--jalapenos are hot-weather plants, and we haven't yet fallen into the real hot weather of summer for more than a day or two. There have been a few flowers, but not too many yet. We'll wait for the outburst of July.

The herbs are doing well. This guy is my delightful oregano plant, which has been super excited to be out in the yard for the entire winter. It's about a foot and a half in diameter, which is pretty gigantic. I suspect bolting, which is ok, considering how long it's been in the ground. Herbs!

oregano plant

I've never put basil in our actual garden bed (mostly because it's always been way too full of tomato vines to cram much else in), but this year I did. Is two plants enough? Who can say in this brave new day and age? They seem to be doing well so far, in any case.

And of course the plum tree is full of baby plums, and the pineapple guava tree is covered in flowers, and the backyard is regularly full of clouds of rampaging birds and bees and squirrels and even neighborhood cats.

Hooray, garden! I'm so excited to see how many tomatoes I get this year.

What are you planting in your gardens?

19 May 2013

Carrot pickle melange

black bean tacos with carrot pickles

So. PICKLES. I love pickles. You may have noticed me loving pickles over the past year or two as I merrily made pickled beets and refrigerator dills and curtido de repollo. If I ever form a band, it's going to be called Zesty Pickle, and the first single will be called Cronching. Okay?

This week it was time for carrot pickles, aka "the finest garnish to ever grace a taco."

I made my first-ever batch of refrigerator carrot pickles about a year and a half ago after reading about them on Budget Bytes. They were totally delicious and vanished in short order.

When I was making this batch, I realized I had a lonely half bunch of radishes sitting around unloved at the bottom of the crisper. Clearly, they needed the pickle treatment too, so I sliced them up and added them to my carrots, jalapenos, and red onion. The finished pickle is more or less a complete set of excellent taqueria-style garnishes, all crammed together into one beautiful jar. Perfect!

Side note: is it just me, or is everyone cooking their radishes lately? Roasts and braises and pan-fries and pickles...so tasteable.

carrots jalapenos red onion and radish ready for pickling

Spicy carrot, red onion, and radish pickles

1 cup water
2 cups vinegar
1 tsp salt
~15 grinds black pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
5 carrots
1 red onion
1-2 jalapenos, depending on your spice preference
4 radishes

Combine everything except the vegetables in a 3-quart pot. Bring the pot to a boil, covered, while you trim and chop all your vegetables into whatever shapes you prefer.

carrot jalapeno red onion and radish pickles

When the pot is boiling, carefully add your chopped vegetables. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the veg is all done to your preferred texture. Decant into warmed mason jars, lid, and put in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, voila! Pickle melange! This made about 3 pints.

So pretty! I especially love how bright pink the brine is. I'm guessing both the red onion and purple carrot help with that.

carrot jalapeno red onion and radish pickles

These guys are classic as a garnish on the taco, tostada, or burrito of your choice. They'd be great with fresh grilled corn (whenever corn makes its way into the market, that is). I have also been strewing them liberally over bowls of chili to excellent effect. Hooray for carrot pickles!

Have you been pickling anything lately?

15 May 2013

Banana avocado spinach flaxseed smoothie

banana avocado spinach flaxseed smoothie

One big benefit to living in California is the produce. No, I can't have ramps, but yes, I can have a 2-lb bag of tiny avocados for $2. Seems like a fair exchange to me.

So the other day I was pondering my breakfast options. I had my bag of avocados, a couple bananas, a new vat of plain yogurt, and a bunch of spinach. It was clearly time for a cool and comforting green smoothie.

I've said I dislike bananas in smoothies, and this is generally true, since the bananas required are generally the truly squishy and brown ones that get chopped up and thrown in back of the freezer as a last resort against waste. But I didn't use a frozen overripe banana--I used a fresh, barely ripe, slightly firm banana. In short, I used a banana caught at the exact stage I want to eat it most.

This turned out to be an excellent plan.

banana avocado spinach flaxseed smoothie

Banana avocado spinach flaxseed smoothie

1 banana, unfrozen
big handful spinach leaves
1-2 tsp flaxseed meal
several large spoonfuls plain yogurt
1 small avocado or 1/2 large

Blend it! Drink it!

The result was very thick and creamy, so if you prefer a thinner smoothie, you may want to add a couple ice cubes or a splash of the milk of your choice before blending.

What are you chucking into your smoothies lately?

12 May 2013

We have been eating

fried rice with zucchini carrot and mushroom

Like everyone who writes a foodblog, I make and eat a lot of food I don't write about. Let's look at some of it!

I was excited enough about zucchini that I made and ate not only two separate instances of zucchini tacos, but also a pan of fried rice. Green onion, mushroom, carrot, zucchini, leftover brown long-grain rice, and egg. I mixed the onion greens and some chopped cilantro in at the end, then scattered the plate with little bits of parmesan. Yes please.

goan black-eyed pea curry

I got super excited a couple weeks ago when I saw this recipe for Goan black-eyed pea curry on Girl Cooks World. So I cooked up a batch, and we ate it for dinner, and was it ever good. SO good. It's absolutely going in the rotation.

Next time I think I might shred a couple carrots and add them near the end of cooking, to up the vegetable content and add another textural element. Or maybe I'll serve it over a big plate of barely blanched spinach tossed with a little melted butter instead of rice. Either. Both. I don't know!

avocado toast and cottage cheese with chopped cilantro

And finally, because I don't know about you, but I totally bought an entire two pound bag of tiny avocados a few weeks ago, we have AVOCADO TOAST. I just sliced up half an avocado, put it on a piece of hot toast, and added a sprinkle of salt and pepper. With a little bowl of cottage cheese with chopped green onion and cilantro, it was a perfect breakfast.


What have you been cooking, photographing, eating with great gusto, and then never posting about? You guys must have all kinds of delicious business that never sees the light of day too, right?

08 May 2013

Zucchini tacos two ways

zucchini and egg tacos

We are back from Michigan! Unfortunately, I accidentally left my camera on in my bag overnight, so I have no pictures to give you. But I do have pictures of things I made before we went to Michigan!


Traditional tacos are pretty straightforward: beans or meat, crunchy shredded leaves, and a salsa or garnish of some type. So you get things like fish tacos with cabbage slaw and pickled onions, chicken tacos with shredded lettuce, onion, and cilantro, and straight-up pinto bean tacos with more lettuce and pico de gallo.

Then you start adding more things, and the traditional tacos get blown out of the water.

Don't get me wrong: traditional tacos are amazing and I love them very much. But when the first zucchini start showing up at the farmer's market, I want to eat them every which way, and one way is in the taco of my choice.

Some of you may be saying something along the lines of "UGH! Squash in a taco is an abomination! This is what's wrong with every so-called 'vegetarian burrito' ever made. Why do you torment us so??" Fair point! Most of the time tacos and burritos filled with zucchini (and its awful counterpoint, broccoli, which I flatly do not believe can be saved here) are watery and bland, devoid of protein, and dripping with colorless juice that soaks the tortilla through before you're even halfway through. These tacos are different.

By pan-frying the zucchini with onion and herbs, you not only burn off the offensive juices, but also flavor the resulting vegetable mass beautifully. Adding scrambled egg or refried black beans takes care of the protein problem. And cooking the tortillas over open flame provide an extra element of crispness to fight against the sog factor.

zucchini and egg tacos

I made two different kinds of zucchini tacos: one for breakfast and one for lunch. Both start out in very much the same way.

Saute chopped onion and/or garlic in a frying pan with a little olive oil or butter. While it's softening, toast as many corn tortillas as you want tacos on both sides over the gas flame. You can do this in a frying pan if you have an electric stove, but the gas burner char is really amazing. Put your finished tortillas aside, covered with a clean kitchen towel to keep them warm.

Chop up your zucchini and add it to the pan. Salt, pepper, cumin, oregano. Cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring or tossing frequently. It should take five minutes or so before your zucchini has released all its liquid and begins to turn golden around the edges. This is what you want.

For breakfast tacos: scramble a couple of eggs, either with your finished zucchini or by themselves. Add in a bit of chopped cilantro or green onion if you want. Layer your tortillas with the finished eggs, the zucchini mixture, and a scattering of the cheese of your choice. I used parmesan because we had some lying around.

Hooray! Tacos!

zucchini avocado and black bean tacos

For lunch or dinner tacos: Warm up some black or refried beans in a separate pan, or shove all the zucchini and onion to one side of your frying pan and just warm them in the empty spot.

Layer your tortillas with the hot beans, zucchini, and some sliced avocado. Scatter cilantro over the tops.

Hooray! Double tacos!

What have you been stuffing into tortillas lately?

03 May 2013

Cottage cheese, carrot, and fresh herb salad

This weekend we are in Michigan for a family wedding. That means, among other things, that yesterday morning John and I had some of the vilest airport coffee you can possibly imagine. OH MAN. It was actually so bad that I'd put it in the "unbelievable" category. Not the best breakfast on the planet.

You know what is one of the best breakfasts on the planet? Cottage cheese.

Obviously cottage cheese is one of those foods that you either love or hate. If you hate it, that's fine. I love it. It's instant delicious protein and hits your bloodstream almost immediately: perfect for mornings when you need food NOW or you will collapse in a large and awkward pile.

I also theorize that, as a northern European mutt, I'm genetically prone to be able to digest dairy well as an adult. Hey, cows were one of the most important animals in both early Irish and German culture, right? And the cows were generally too valuable to butcher with any sort of frequency, so people relied on milk and cheese (among other things) instead. It makes sense.

What I do not love is cottage cheese mixed with sweet things such as jam or fruit. Cottage cheese should remain its own savory self. That's why I eat it plain, I eat it in salatka with radishes and sour cream, and I eat it like this, with a mishmash of vegetables and herbs.

On this particular occasion, I had a couple carrots, a green onion, a bunch of cilantro, and some backyard parsley and oregano. Why not mix it all together, pepper it up, and call it breakfast?

The texture contrast between crunchy raw carrot and tender cheese is especially nice.

Cottage cheese, carrot, and fresh herb salad

cottage cheese
green onion
herbs of your choice
salt, pepper

Put as much cottage cheese as you want to eat in a bowl. If you like, you can thicken & tarten it up by adding plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, but it's also totally fine to just leave it.

Scrub and grate your carrot; chop your green onion and herbs. Add them to the cottage cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix everything together and eat it. Hooray! Breakfast of dairy-digesting champions!

What oddities are you eating for breakfast lately?