31 December 2008

All oatmeal all the time

Dinner: plain, chamomile, clementine.

Breakfast: chopped dried apricots, cranberries, raw cashews, honey, assam.

26 December 2008

Kale fagioli for the win

I keep wanting pasta fagioli in more and more configurations. This time we had a bunch of farmer's market purple flatleaf kale. What could happen?

Kale fagioli!

olive oil
hot pepper if you want it
cooked white beans
oregano, basil, salt, pepper

This is just like any other fagioli, except you add and wilt chopped kale before the puree. That doesn't make it any less exciting, though!

Peel and chop garlic and onion in whatever proportion you like. I may have used only garlic in this one. Soften garlic/etc in olive oil in a saute pan deep enough to allow for a later stick blender puree. If you want spicy fagioli, finely mince, add, and soften a hot pepper of your choice as well. Season with some oregano and basil, plus any other herb you think sounds good.

When the vegetables are soft, add tomato. We use puree the great majority of the time; whatever you have is fine. If it's summer, use real tomatoes and bask in the glory of FOOD.

Bring tomatoes to a simmer, then add white beans. We'll normally use either one can or about two cups of presoaked/boiled beans. At this point you may need to add some water or broth to keep the sauce sufficiently liquid while you cook it. If you're using a can, swish some rinse water in it and add the whole business to the pan.

Now simmer the sauce while you put on the (chunky, sauce-catching) pasta and destem and chop a bunch of kale. I think we had about eight or ten big leaves. If you don't have kale, things like spinach, chard, or other reasonable greens should work here too. Just add them at a realistic time so they get as cooked as is good for them.

When the sauce is sufficiently simmered, add the chopped kale, stir to mix, and cook for about seven or eight more minutes. You want the kale to be just cooked through. For more delicate greens, a couple minutes should be plenty of time.

Now take the pan off the heat, salt and pepper to taste, and puree it with your stick blender. O stick blender, I love you so. You let me puree things without issues even in a two inch deep sauteuse!

At this point your sauce is done, so pour in your cooked, drained pasta, mix it up, and get yourself a big bowl. Add parsley or parmesan for garnish if you want them. Eat heartily.


Look how much sauce there is! The pasta is totally subsumed! This of course means we have the correct amount of pasta in proportion to sauce, especially since the sauce is 100% awesome vegetable nutrition slurry.

24 December 2008

Parent challenge!

When we got to NC for holidays, John and I immediately took over my parents' kitchen and made lots of dinner. The whole "parents' kitchen" business is challenging because they eat really differently than we do. Everything is way more traditional.

Them: cold cereal and milk, coffee, eggs, toast with margarine. MARGARINE. I have a hard time believing anyone is still in the "margarine is not just ok but better for you than butter" school. Even the vegan population is way more about olive oil and etc. But then I guess that's the generation past WWII experience. Ugh.
Us: nothing, tea, bananas. Brunch eggs and coffee on some weekends. Certainly not margarine.

Them: soup, sandwiches, leftovers (meat and veg), sandwiches made out of leftovers, milk.
Us: big salads, leftovers (big entree), water.

Them: separate small portions of meat and vegetables, milk, tea or coffee. Examples: 1. Pork chop, green beans, milk. 2. Pasta with meat sauce, unrelated vegetables such as peas, milk. 3. Ham, corn, milk.
Us: one single large entree with lots of vegetables, water or wine.

So we wanted them to actively like what we make, yet eat how we eat and see that it's not so bad. There was also the "Kevin's girlfriend is coming and she's vegetarian so for once there will be more than one vegetarian in the house" factor. So we had even more motive to show them how to actually cook for vegetarians.

Here's our dinner:

Black bean and sweet potato soup with parsley instead of kale. We made a cubic foot of this so we would have a serious amount of vegetarian supplement around whenever we got hungry. It worked: we ate soup for Days On End. It was still delicious, though, especially because I found a jar of ancho chile in my mom's spice cabinet and used some of that in the spicing. Oh man: do that if you have it.

Tostadas with refried black beans.

black beans
olive oil
salt, pepper

flour tortillas
avocado, either sliced or as guacamole
shredded cheese if you want it

Refried beans are easy, especially if you have precooked beans. At home we'd use a frozen block of beans from our latest batch of dried; this time we used canned black beans.

Peel and chop an onion or two; soften the pieces in olive oil in a big saute pan. Chop up several cloves of garlic and a jalapeno and add them as well. Spice with cumin and let everything soften together. When onions are translucent, add black beans. Stir the business together, adding water if it's too dry. Salt and pepper to taste. Then simmer the business, mashing the beans with the back of your wooden spoon, until the whole pan is your preferred texture. Leave the beans slightly wet so evaporation won't turn them super dry.

Tostada assembly: Warm tortillas in a foil packet in the oven. We used one per tostada, but in retrospect, I'd make more of a tower with multiple tortillas. Put a tortilla on a plate. Cover with layers of beans, cheese, guacamole, lettuce (use lots), and diced tomatoes/salsa. Then, if you want to, add another tortilla and make another layer. Repeat until you have enough for everyone.

Eat these with a knife and fork. I like to mix mine totally up, so it's a huge warm messy tortilla salad.

The jalapeno was the only real sore point in this dinner. We used one for three cans of black beans, where normally at home we'd use one per can/approximate two cups. So this proportion should have been fine and mild, right? Not mild enough, apparently.

For the most part, though, it went over well. It seemed like the biggest change for my parents was serving size. We're used to eating one huge plate of one thing; they're used to eating a plate of several smaller things. They're used to eating meat at every meal, such that they have to eat less to get full, and they drink milk, which is a lot more filling than our normal water. We also do a lot more exercise, and are used to coming home actively hungry. I was trying to accommodate their normal idea of multiple-item dinner, to make the construction familiar, but wasn't thinking about serving amounts very much. So the full bowl of soup plus 1-layer tostada was too much for them, while John and I both ate everything.

22 December 2008

Pre-holiday cleaning out the kitchen food

I got excited about making myself decent work lunch, since right now I only have to pack one sporadically, and have gotten out of the habit of making one with dinner. This means most of my lunches have been awful. So since that was clearly the wrong answer, I made myself sort of a bento instead.

Lunch bento: "plane sandwich", i.e. mozzarella, hummus, lots of lettuce, pepper, and chopped mushrooms on dark wheat bread. It's called a plane sandwich because John took one (minus the mushrooms) on his flight to Atlanta the other day. Addenda: leaf lettuce, baby carrots, seckel pears, chopped watermelon radish which ultimately was way too spicy to just eat raw.

This was clearly not enough, since it didn't fill up my container, so I made some potato salad too. Chop and boil redskin potatoes; make vinaigrette; toss cooked drained potatoes with vinaigrette. Then wait until they cool to put them in the bento box with the raw lettuce, or everything will wilt and get soggy.

Other food happening:

Cheap college enchilada casserole: mix a can of lardless refried beans with chopped green pepper, onion, and hot pepper. Spice with cumin. Layer in casserole dish: tomato sauce, tortillas, bean mixture, rice, more tomato sauce, grated cheese if you want it. Repeat once. Bake at 325F for a long freaking time, or 350F for a slightly shorter time. It's done when it's hot through and your desired degree of crispiness on top.

Eat as much as possible, then go to sleep.

17 December 2008

Not particularly eventful but still good food

Dinner for me and John before he went to Atlanta:

- The awesome tomato soup, made without rice. I think I pared it down even more and just used butter, onion, tomato, salt, and pepper. Also Jameson's for the alcohol component. Seriously, make this soup. I want it right now.

- Seared tilapia, which you can see stuck to the pan admirably through my use of too little oil, for me.

- Grilled cheese, which is not burnt but actually made of very dark bread, for John.

Another one:

I made ravioli with sauce full of vegetables. When I say "I made ravioli", it actually means "I bought a pack of freezer ravioli for $2.25", at least in this case. I did make the sauce, though: standard marinara with olive oil, garlic, onion, red pepper, jalapeno, basil, oregano, and chopped spinach added right at the end. I liked it fine for comfort food; the ravioli was passable for frozen junk, and the sauce was good.

This week I've eaten at least three meals of pasta fagioli. Oh man. Fagioli is my friend. If there were more fagioli right now I'd probably be frying it into fagioli cakes. That sounds awesome.

Then today at work one of our clients brought in a huge box from La Maison du Chocolat. While this is definitely a plus for the day, I ate too many. Now I feel sick, yet simultaneously hungry. I'm going to look for something soothing to make for dinner.

15 December 2008

Farmer's market booty

You see that? That's homemade kimchi. I got that kimchi at the farmer's market. I've eaten half the tub already.

The farmer's market is the best thing ever. I love it so much.

You know what else was at the farmer's market? Watermelon radishes.

They are HUGE! John was all, "those aren't beets?" No, although I also got beets.

There were several other kinds of radish too (daikon, black, green), but I only got watermelon radishes. I have an evil plan to roast them, just like I saw on yum yum kidcupcake several weeks ago. Oh man, does that sound awesome? Yes, it does.

In the meantime I had to make something for lunch today, so I chopped up a green onion and half a radish (again, huge) and yes some more leaves of the eternal savoy cabbage which Also came from the farmer's market. Then I made chickpea vegetable pancakes, and they were awesome.

Chickpea pancakes with cabbage, green onion, and radish.

chickpea flour (aka gram flour)
green onion
salt, pepper

First make a batter. To do this, mix an equal amount of water and chickpea flour in a big bowl. Whisk with a fork (or, you know, a whisk) until the flour is all mixed in evenly. To make this easier, add the flour in increments. I used about 3/4 cup of each, which was adequate for my own individual lunch of 5 medium-small pancakes.

Finely chop your vegetables of choice. The great thing about these pancakes is that they can take practically anything you throw at them. I used one green onion, 3 or 4 small cabbage leaves, and 1/2 a huge radish. You want all the vegetables to be in fine, thin strips.

Toss the vegetables into the batter, along with a little salt and several good grinds of pepper, and stir to mix. This should result in an extremely vegetabley batter, with only a little liquid left not yet clinging to leaves. You can adjust proportions however you like.

Get a decent nonstick pan heated fairly hot, at the temperature you'd normally use for pancakes. When the pan is hot enough to instantly sizzle off a flick of water, scoop a few ladlefuls of batter into the pan. Cook your pancakes on the first side until bubbles rise through the batter and they turn golden around the edges. Then flip them and cook until the second side is brown.

Eat pancakes. I had mine with spoonfuls of plain yogurt, which was great. Other things to eat with pancakes: baba ghanouj, any dal you like, white bean puree, super-garlicky cooked spinach, or a spicy soup like carrot/cumin, carrot/ginger or mustard-seedy tomato.

They are great and easy and cheap and great. Plus you get to use all the deliciousness from the farmer's market! FARMER'S MARKET.

11 December 2008

What to do with the rest of the cabbage

Make baked mac and cheese with savoy cabbage, and throw in some of the leftover purple kale from before. Don't make that face! It was really good!

It was especially good because I made the cream sauce with smoked gouda. There is nothing like smoked cheese for making an entire dish of gratin, dauphinoise, or just pasta taste like it's spent a week inhaling a pan of wet hickory. Oh yes.

This requires a couple more dishes than some food, but I think it's worth it.

Baked mac and gouda with greens.

milk or cream
garlic, shallot
salt, pepper
maybe some cayenne
smoked gouda and/or other cheese
winter greens: cabbage, kale, mustard greens, etc.
chunky pasta

We're going to make cream sauce and pasta, then layer the sauced pasta with greens and bake it. Obviously, if you have some other cheese/vegan/etc sauce you want to use, it should be fine here.

Pasta: boil and drain pasta at a logical point in the sauce proceedings. I used penne; most chunky pasta should work fine.

Sauce: melt a chunk of butter in a deep, whiskable saucepan. I think we were actually out of butter at this point, so I subbed olive oil, proving that it is in fact possible to make white sauce (i.e. bechamel. yes! YOU WIN.) with olive oil.

I wanted some garlic and shallot, so I decided to cook them in the oil, then make the sauce on top of it. I just threw them into the pan to soften in the oil. It's definitely possible to do this with butter too, but it's slightly difficult to keep it from browning before you add the flour; use pretty low heat if you do this. You can also soften the garlic/etc in another small pan, then add it to the sauce later. If you like cayenne in your mac and cheese, add it to cook with the garlic and shallot.

When the garlic and shallot have softened, and/or the butter is melted, add about the same amount of flour as butter/oil. I used wheat flour and just took it in handfuls out of the bag. Whisk over medium heat for three or four minutes, blending the four and butter thoroughly. When they begin to turn golden and look toasty, add your milk. I never measure when I do this, seriously, but I used something like two cups of skim milk. You can use any kind of milk. Skim milk is the hardest to thicken; whole milk is the easiest if you don't want to shell out for cream.

Whisk fairly regularly as the milk warms up. After a bit, it should start to thicken. The timing here depends almost entirely on the fat content of your milk: the less fat it has, the longer thickening will take. Occasionally I find that skim milk doesn't want to thicken much at all. If this happens, don't worry too much: when you add the cheese, it always provides enough fat to get the sauce stable.

Grate a bunch of smoked gouda. I had about a three inch square piece, which was fine. The flavor of smoked cheese is generally pretty strong, so you can escape with using less. Or you can mix it with different bits of cheese you have left over in the refrigerator. I added some sharp cheddar so we'd have enough cheese for crispy bits on top.

Add your grated cheese gradually to the sauce (or just grate it intermittently into the pot), whisking after every round. Leave a couple handfuls aside for the aforementioned crispy bits. Pepper the sauce vigorously. It's done.

Assembly: preheat the oven to 350F. Dump your drained pasta into the sauce pan and stir to mix, coating all the pieces with sauce. Wash and devein your dark greens. I used four or five savoy cabbage and two purple kale leaves; you can clearly use more if you want. Cut the greens into smallish squares, so you won't get awkward long pieces in the finished product.

In a casserole dish, spread a layer of the pasta and sauce, then a layer of greens. If you have excessive leftover cheese, you can add a layer of that as well. Repeat until you're out of everything, ending with pasta. Spread your reserved cheese over the dish, then put it into the oven.

Bake until the dish is hot through and golden brown on top. 15 minutes should do it.

Eat it. Ding ding ding! I find that mac and cheese likes red wine for some reason.

You are now tired and must go to bed.

08 December 2008

Enzyme goodness

So you know what's the best thing ever when you've just had food poisoning all weekend and your stomach is still cramped and painful two days later? Live and active yogurt cultures, specifically l. bulgaricus and s. thermophilus in this case. Enzymes! Bacteria! Digestive ability! I had two spoonfuls and felt so instantly better it was shocking.

This is Fage Greek yogurt, but I'm thinking any plain, fatted, decent yogurt would do the job.

I keep talking to my friend Ryan about making yogurt from scratch. He and his co-op people used to make it all the time, and it sounded really easy. Eventually I will make the experiment.

05 December 2008

Dinner makes me feel better.

I've been working semi-late this week, by which I mean "I leave at 6:30". Yeah, it's not actually that late. I have about an hour's worth of train, though, so I've been walking in the door at 7:30 or 7:45, at which point I have to do things like "write entries" and "apply for jobs". After that the cooking doesn't seem as fun anymore, and we're left at 9 pm dully wondering what to do about food when we have so little energy.

Then the other day John made me delicious dinner. It was very easy, very swift, very good dinner. We sat around in the kitchen talking and laughing, then sat at the table talking and laughing while also eating. It was so nice to have food be a relaxing social event again.

Menu: fish, garlic green beans. This is pretty much my ideal dinner of the "meat and vegetable" structure. Fish is clearly awesome, with super protein awake power in a mild and nicely textured package, and green beans are probably my favorite vegetable if you don't count garlic. Oh hey, we also have garlic.

If you want to make both of these, start the green beans first. Fish cooks very quickly and absolutely has to be eaten hot, so start it when the green beans are about 3/4 done.

Fish is easy.

tilapia filets
olive oil
salt, pepper

Heat a frying pan big enough to hold your filets on medium-hot. We had tilapia, but practically any white fish should be fine here. Add a slug of olive oil and tilt the pan to spread it around. Salt and pepper both sides of your fish, then lay them gently in the pan. They'll sizzle a lot.

Fish timing depends on the thickness of the filet. We had pretty thin pieces, so it took about four minutes for each side to cook. When the edge of your fish has turned solid white with golden brown bits, flip it over and cook the other side. The fish is done when it's solid white and flakes easily. Squirt some lemon over it before you eat it.

Green beans are easy.

green beans
olive oil
salt, pepper

This method will work for practically any green vegetable that's delicious with garlic. Just adjust cooking time so whatever your vegetable is can be adequately done.

Warm some olive oil on medium-low heat in a saute pan. While it's warming, peel and slice some garlic. John made a lot of long, thin slices, which turned out to be an excellent cut for this business. Other cuts will still be fine, though.

Slowly soften the garlic in the oil. While it's softening, wash, top, and tail some green beans. You can also cut them up if you want bite-size pieces; we left ours whole. When the garlic is soft, but not browned, put the beans into the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are done. This will depend on how you like your beans. Ours took somewhere in the five to eight minutes area.

Salt and pepper the finished beans, then eat with fish.

03 December 2008

Savoy cabbage: it's great, you guys

This is essentially a take on aglio e olio that works better in the winter. It also means you get to eat lots of happy crinkly cabbage, which in this case is savoy from the farmer's market. Incidentally, I recommend that you don't try to go to the Union Square farmer's market the day before thanksgiving. Just don't. However, if you go you can get a savoy cabbage for a dollar, so it all works out.

Savoy cabbage is particularly great in this since its leaves have all kinds of pockets and crevices. This means that all the bits of garlic and shallot and red pepper will not sink to the bottom of your plate of pasta, but instead get caught up in the greens to produce little bursts of tastiness while you're eating.

Also, you get to eat cabbage, and cabbage is awesome. Go winter vegetables!

Spicy pasta with savoy cabbage

olive oil
savoy cabbage
red pepper flakes
salt, pepper

Peel and mince several cloves of garlic and a shallot; soften them slowly in olive oil. Season with a little cayenne and a little more red pepper flakes, plus maybe a little oregano for greenness. While the garlic and shallot are cooking, wash, devein, and chop several leaves of cabbage. I used three leaves for just me.

Cook the pasta in lots of boiling water. As soon as you put the pasta on, toss the cabbage pieces into the garlic pan. Stir to get the oil distributed, adding a little more if necessary. Then cook the greens down. I like to do this by steaming, after a few minutes of initial garlic-oil absorption, since cabbage is a large sturdy winter green and has a cooking time on par with broccoli. To steam, throw a couple splashes of water into the pan, then clap on the lid. Give it about five minutes for the cabbage to cook through. When the leaves are tender but not totally wilted, salt a little and pepper a lot. Done.

Drain your pasta. I used linguine, since we had linguine, but something like rotelle would also be good. Chunky pastas serve the same purpose as the savoy leaves: they're ridgy and bumpy and let tasty bits cling easily. The linguine worked out fine, though.

Throw the pasta into the pan of cabbage with maybe a little dab more olive oil, toss, and eat.

You can go a couple ways with garnish for this. I had the end of a piece of romano cheese, so I used that. You could also toast some roughly chopped walnuts or pine nuts in a frying pan for a couple minutes, then use those. Nuts and cabbage are totally best friends.

Other options: First, other sturdy winter greens would work in place of the savoy, so if you have some mustard greens lying around, go ahead and use them.

If you want dinner with more substance, some kind of sliced/crumbled sausage, soy bits, or tempeh would be advisable. Crumbles would be best, since the bits will then lodge in the leaves just like all the other delicious business. I'd add them at the beginning, to cook with the garlic.

You could also use some crumbles of those vegan seitan sausages that everybody and their mother seems to be making. That would be an ideal match, especially if your sausages are already garlicky or hot peppery. A fennel sausage would be really great too. Or you could just add a bunch of fennel seeds with the garlic and etc, for that extra dimension of potential goodness. That sounds awesome, but I don't have any fennel seeds! Stupid incompletely rebuilt yet spice cabinet!

01 December 2008

Winter salad is still delicious.

Post-thanksgiving no one wants to go anywhere near the kitchen. Ok, no one would want to go near the kitchen if it weren't for the half a pie still in the refrigerator. They certainly don't want to spend a lot of time cooking elaborate steaming dinner, though.

After all the warm comforting soporific thanksgiving food, I wanted refreshing, easy vegetables. I wanted a salad. Fortunately, there are a lot of salads around that work well for winter: hot egg salad with potato and green beans, grain salad vinaigrette, and beet salad.

Beet and goat cheese salad

half a huge beet, or a whole medium one
goat cheese
olive oil
fresh parsley
salt, pepper

Put a pot of water on to boil. Scrub your beet under the kitchen faucet, getting all the dirt off the skin. Trim off the stem and the root edges, then put the beet gently into your now boiling water. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the beet is tender. This should take at least a half hour, or more if you have a really gargantuan beet. Test it with a knife point.

Drain off the hot water and shock the beet with a cold plunge. This will stop it from continuing to cook, and make it cool down enough to handle a little faster. If you want a seriously cold beet salad, you can put it in the refrigerator for a bit before assembly. I like a slightly warm salad, so I just went for it.

Rub the beet with your thumbs to loosen the skin. The outer layer should peel off really easily, leaving you with a shiny, slippery, really juicy and stain-prone beet. Don't drop it! In fact, put it on the cutting board and chop it in half right away. Then put the halves on their cut sides so they can't roll onto the floor.

Cut as much beet as you want for your salad into reasonable salad-sized pieces. You can save the rest for making the same salad again tomorrow. Stick the pieces into your salad bowl, drizzle them with a little olive oil, and toss them gently.

Break up some crumbles of goat cheese and strew them over the chopped beet. Goat cheese is pretty strong, but beets are strong too: these two can stand up to each other. Be generous with the cheese.

Chop up some fresh parsley and add that to the bowl. Drizzle a little more olive oil, and maybe a little white wine vinegar, over the salad. Salt sparingly; pepper vigorously.

Now eat it.

Afterward you can have some more pie.

28 November 2008

Thanksgiving dinner

Ok! So that menu didn't happen exactly as planned. I think it was probably good overall, though, since the changes essentially reduced the total amount of food.

Actual thanksgiving dinner:

- Several kinds of red wine
- Havarti with dill, goat cheese, crackers
- Black bean sweet potato soup, take two
- Sauteed kale with garlic
- More or less classic stuffing with shallot
- Apple pie

Yeah, that's plenty for two people. We ate all of it except a serving of soup (now in the freezer) and half the pie. Then I woke up at 6:30 this morning, couldn't get back to sleep, and went down the street to get a whole wheat bagel with basil cream cheese. Apparently my body really wanted all the food, which is good, because the food was awesome.

Red wine is self-explanatory. I went to the Trader Joe's wine store at Union Square on Wednesday. There was a line halfway down the block, so I got in and waited. Fortunately, the wait was pretty short. Everyone was clearly into grabbing things and getting out as instantly as possible. I got: Old Moon 2006 Zinfandel, Gascon 2007 Mendoza Malbec, Ripasso Tenimenti Conti Neri 2006 Valpolicella, and Reserve de l'Estey 2005 Bordeaux Medoc. We actually had the zin Wednesday night, but you know. These were all pretty passable for wines under $10.

Cheese and crackers are even more self-explanatory. We ate them. I made the mistake of getting an assorted box of crackers, which turned out to include digestive biscuits, but that was ok. They would be good with brie, or cheese and fruit pairs, but not the cheese we had. So when we ran out of crackers, we just ate the cheese.

Black bean sweet potato soup.

This one was a little different from my previous attempt, and turned out much, much better.

soaked and/or cooked black beans
vegetable broth
sweet potato
olive oil
bay leaf
cayenne pepper
salt, pepper

Stick your soaked black beans and a bay leaf in a pot and boil them in a couple cups of water or broth for at least an hour, or until tender. If your beans are already cooked, bring them to a boil in all broth. Let them simmer, adding cupfuls of broth as the water evaporates, while you roast the sweet potato.

Peel a sweet potato or two roughly equal in volume to your beans. I had a gargantuan potato, so I only used half of it. Cut your potato into big slices about half an inch thick, then toss to coat in some olive oil. Spread the slices on a baking sheet in one layer, season with salt, pepper, and cayenne, and stick a crushed clove of garlic on each slice. Roast them at 350F for about a half hour, or until they're golden brown around the edges and soft in the middle.

Slide your roasted potatoes into the soup pot, then simmer it some more while you cook everything else. After simmering at least 15 minutes, fish out the bay leaves, pull the pan off the heat, and puree the soup with a stick blender. You could also roughly break up the sweet potato with a big spoon if you want a chunky soup.

Now you can stick the lid on the pot, stick it over low heat, and wait until you're ready to serve. The nice thing about this soup is that it can pretty much stay on the back of the stove forever.

Eat with lots of greens.

Sauteed kale with garlic

olive oil

This is super easy and takes very little time, so make it right before you want to eat. Warm a largish splash of olive oil in a saute pan while you crush, peel, and chop a handful of garlic. Cook the garlic slowly in the olive oil. This way the garlic will caramelize and the oil will get good and garlicky at the same time.

In the meantime, cut out the tough stems of a handful of kale leaves. I had flatleaf purple kale, but any kind should be fine. Chop your deveined kale into big rough pieces.

Add the kale to the pan, stir to distribute the oil, and cook on medium for about five to seven minutes. When the kale turns bright green and wilts, it's ready.

Serve bowls of soup, then garnish them with big whacks of kale.

Stuffing with shallot

butter/olive oil
vegetable broth
sage, thyme
salt, pepper

This one is also super easy, as well as open to improvisation. I assembled it first of everything, minus the broth, then let it sit on the counter while we made everything else. Eventually we baked it with the pie.

Ok. Melt some butter or warm some oil in a saute pan. Peel and finely mince a couple shallots, then soften them in the butter. Peel and finely chop some carrot roughly equal in volume to the shallot, add it to the pan, and continue to soften. Other vegetables to use: onion instead of/in combination with shallot, celery with the carrot. Mirepoix is clearly the classic choice for stuffing, but I somehow managed not to get any onions or celery. Fortunately, the shallot and carrot were totally delicious.

While the vegetables are softening, cube up several pieces of bread. I used four or five pieces of our regular seedy wheat bread, and it worked fine, so probably anything you have will be ok. The bread is supposed to be day-old or dry, but whatever. Mine wasn't.

In a baking dish, mix the cooked vegetables, the bread, and a large seasoning of sage and thyme. These two are key to make the stuffing taste stuffingy, so be generous and season until the pan smells right. Add salt and pepper if you want. I think I didn't add any, actually.

When you're ready to bake, add vegetable broth halfway up the side of the pan. Bake at 350F until the liquid is all absorbed and the stuffing is hot through.

Seriously, I am going to have to make way more stuffing in the future. It was a more than worthwhile endeavor. We ate the entire pan, and I for one wanted more.

Apple pie.

You can berate me for not making pumpkin pie later.

I totally used the exact crust recipe and technique from Smitten Kitchen the other day. The only thing I changed was to use whole wheat flour. I also didn't bother to let the dough chill after I'd made it, but went straight to rolling and pieing.

I'm going to say this was one of the easiest and best pie crusts I've ever made. I'm not sure why, since the great majority of crusts I've made have been from slight variation on this recipe, but still. Visible butter! Two sticks of visible butter!

It may have helped that the butter was actually frozen to start with.


Ok, technically this was an apple and pear and also asian pear pie, but it was mostly apples so I'm calling it apple.

five or six apples
two little pears
one asian pear
lemon juice

Peel, core, and slice up all your fruit. You want enough fruit to make a big mound in the pie dish, so add more if you need more.

Put the fruit in a bowl with a couple tablespoons of sugar, several big shakes of cinnamon, and the juice of a lemon. Mix it all up, then pile it into your unbaked pie crust. Dot chunks of butter all over the top of the fruit.

Top with your second crust. Crimp the edges together as prettily as possible. My edges were Not pretty, but whatever. Cut a bunch of slits in the top crust, then pop the business into the oven.

Bake at 350F until the crust is browned. Let it cool on the stove while you're eating dinner. Then cut it up and eat it.

Eat another piece later.

Be full.

26 November 2008


Tuesday we had an office thanksgiving potluck. I can't remember the last time I went to a potluck without being constrained to only bring something that would both 1. fit in my backpack and 2. not spill while I biked the five miles in. So what did I do? I brought something that would both 1. fit in my backpack and 2. not spill while I rode the train the three or four miles in. Yes.

Spinach salad with walnuts and dried cranberries

dried cranberries

Wash and dry a lot of spinach, trim out any massive stems, and cut the leaves into realistic salad-sized pieces. Stick them in a salad bowl.

Chop some walnuts, maybe 1/3 cup, into rough chunks. Stick them in a frying pan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until they're toasted. This should take about five minutes. Then take them out of the pan and let them cool.

Mix the cooled walnuts and another 1/3 cup of dried cranberries with the spinach. You could use other dried fruit, like cherries or chopped apricots, in place of the cranberries. Or you could use fresh apple or pear pieces. It's all good.

Dress sparingly with a mild vinaigrette, which you can bring to the office in its own little container. When someone at your office asks why you're using your hands to mix your salad, you can say, "actually, it's best to toss salad with your hands so as not to bruise the leaves." Then, when they're laughing, you can add, "and the olive oil is really good for your skin!"

Then you can eat it with a huge spread of office potluck, including grocery store rotisserie chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, and extremely damp, dense brownies.

24 November 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

How do people eat this proportion of meat to everything else?

How can a person possibly plate themselves FOUR pieces of turkey, one of which is a gargantuan leg, vs a tablespoon of cranberry sauce and two of stuffing?

Why is this being presented by a major food magazine as the correct way to celebrate?

Seriously, we aren't having turkey for thanksgiving. We rarely do, since we rarely see relatives on thanksgiving, and what's the point of making even a big breast of turkey for one vegetarian and one omnivore who only eats meat maybe once a week? I'm not going to eat leftover turkey sandwiches afterward. Maybe I'll make some kind of grain salad and black bean or squash soup and garlic sauteed winter greens to stick in the middle of our bowls. Maybe we'll bake a baguette and eat cheese and olives and pears. There won't be any meat at all, let alone a gargantuan misproportion of turkey.

Here is the actual plan:

- crackers, havarti with dill, goat cheese
- a huge sweet potato cooked somehow, but I'm not sure how yet
- purple farmer's market kale sauteed with garlic
- spinach salad with roasted kabocha squash, pecans, maybe dried cranberries
- spicy black bean and butternut squash soup, or some variation
- a pie of some sort, pref. apple, possibly apple/pear if we don't eat the pears with cheese
- a variety of red wine
- Bulleit bourbon

We'll see how much of that actually happens.

I also want to do something with the tiny squeaky head of savoy cabbage I got for a dollar at the farmer's market, but I'm not sure what to do. It may end up sitting around until Friday being sufficiently squeaky and cute to earn its room and board.

21 November 2008

Farmer's market dinner

Last weekend I went to the farmer's market and it was good.

You might say something like "Eileen, you were just living in California. How can the New York farmer's market compare to that?" Well. For one thing, the apples here are real, edible apples. You don't get decent apples in California. You do get boatloads of heirloom tomatoes, really cheap, tiny avocados, and all kinds of berries deep into non-berry season, but you don't get apples. For that matter, you don't get the good, frost-driven versions of any northern fruit or vegetable. It's a question of personal preference: are you warm-blooded or cold? I myself am cold-blooded, something the general population of California was at a complete loss to understand.

So I went to the farmer's market and got butternut squash and potatoes and mushrooms and tiny individual stalks of broccoli and beets and little onions and is that APPLE CIDER?

Ha ha! I haven't had real apple cider in four years. The best California can do is Martinelli's. Granted, Martinelli's is pretty good, but it's not real cider mill cider that you drink outside with an apple turnover and a long, twisted, crystal-sugared doughnut, or that you mull on the stove and serve in big mugs with nutmeg and cream.

I took all my booty home and proceeded to eat it.

Scalloped potatoes

potatoes (mine were redskin)
salt, pepper

Scalloped potatoes, aka dauphinoise, are the easiest thing ever.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Slice your potatoes into lots of thin slices. Some people, such as Nigel Slater, king of meat, will want you to peel the potatoes first. You can if you want; I just scrub mine. You can avoid rings of skin by cutting the potato in half before slicing.

Smash and peel a couple of cloves of garlic for every 3 or so potatoes, then slice them into almond-sliver slices.

Get out a reasonable casserole dish for your amount of potatoes. I was just making a little pan for me, so I used a pie plate. Pour a little cream (or milk; you can use milk) into the bottom of the pan and use a spatula or spoon to spread it around. Make sure there's some liquid over the entire surface. You could also butter the pan; it just needs some dairy or oil to keep the potatoes from sticking.

Put a single layer of potatoes into the pan. Tuck some bits of garlic into the cracks. Grind some pepper over the layer, add a splash of cream, then add another layer. Repeat until you are out of potatoes, finishing with a lot of cream or milk and a similar lot of pepper. You want the potatoes to be just barely covered by liquid. If you don't have enough cream, you can do what I did and add a splash or two of water to bring the liquid level halfway up the side of the pan. It's totally fine.

Add a couple bits of butter over the top of the pan and stick it into the oven. Give it 15 minutes before you check and turn it. I usually tilt the pan to get a little of the liquid onto the top layer at this point. Stick the pan back in the oven and give it another ten minutes before you check it again. You can tell it's done by the golden-brown crispy top.

Eat with

Awesome farmer's market broccoli.

nothing else unless you want some butter or salt

Oh man, this broccoli was so good. Tiny little individual blue-purple sprigs! Not a tough stalk in sight! I didn't even have to trim the leaves.

Bring a couple inches of water to boil in a saucepan with a lid. When it's boiling, you can either steam the broccoli over it or in it. My steamer insert doesn't fit the pan I used, so I just chucked my broccoli pieces into the pan. The water came about halfway up them. It was perfectly adequate for steaming.

Clap on the pan lid and steam for about three minutes. This is going to depend on the toughness of your broccoli, so give it a taste if you need to.

When the broccoli is brilliant emerald green, whip it out of the pan and run it under cold water to stop the cooking. Then put it on a plate, salt or butter it if you feel like it (I didn't), and serve it with the scalloped potatoes.

Eat it and feel better.

19 November 2008

Black bean sweet potato soup

It's fall and I have a freezer! That means STOCKPILE.

I wanted to make a gigantic pot of soup: some to eat now, some to eat for lunch tomorrow, and some to freeze. This meant I used Lots of every ingredient: two medium onions, three or four potatoes, not enough beans (I used a can; 3 cups would've been better). The most important thing is to get the ratio of beans to sweet potato roughly even, with a little smaller proportion of onion. You can make this soup in any quantity; just make sure your pot is big enough.

Black bean sweet potato soup

cooked black beans
sweet potato
regular boiling potato if needed
olive oil
yellow onion
jalapeno pepper
cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, bay leaf
avocado garnish

Warm some olive oil in the bottom of a big soup pot. Dice up an onion or two and toss it in. Finely mince a jalapeno and toss that in too. Add several good shakes of cumin and a little cayenne pepper, mix it up, and let it all soften.

Peel and dice at least one sweet potato. We only had one, so we had to make up the difference with some plain redskin potatoes. Clearly, two sweet potatoes would be a better idea and get you a more intense soup, so if you have them, use them. I wanted more sweet potatoes!

When the onion business is soft and translucent, tip in the sweet potato and a bay leaf or two. Then fill the pot about halfway with water. HALFWAY. We were using a 3 quart pan, and managed to get the water level within an inch of the top. Go us! The subsequent boil and simmer were eventful.

Yeah. If you're making a bigger batch of soup, use a bigger pot.

So bring your pot to a boil, lower the heat, clap on the lid (unless you need to evaporate off some of the extra water and splatter every surface in the kitchen with soup in process. Go us!), and simmer until the potatoes are soft. This should take maybe a half hour or 45 minutes.

At this point you have some puree-oriented choices. You can leave the business chunky, add your black beans, heat though, and eat. You can puree the soup, then add your black beans, heat through, and eat. Or you can add your black beans, heat through, puree, and eat. In any of these cases, make sure the pot of soup is off the heat while you puree! This won't be an issue is you're using a stand blender, but for the stick blender: be aware.

John wanted a puree with chunks of black bean, so we went for option 2.

Put it in a bowl and eat it!

On the first occasion, I had the soup plain and it was good.

On the second occasion, I also had a ripe avocado. So I diced up some avocado and strewed it over my soup. This was an excellent idea, and let me use the rest of the avocado for a boatload of guacamole besides. The avocado gives you some of the same effects as dairy garnish (i.e. sour cream or drained yogurt, which would also work here): a smooth, cool, fatty component to take out some of the spice and sting.

I used the avocado trick to dice my avocado. Do you know the avocado trick? Probably, since it's been over the blogs.

First, cut the avocado in half lengthwise. To get out the pit, whack your knife blade into it, then twist. The pit will come loose and remain stuck to the blade. Pry it off and chuck it, or start an avocado tree if you want.

Now use your knife to cut a grid into the avocado flesh without breaking the skin. You'll end up with a bunch of diced avocado still organized nicely. Push your thumb into the back of the skin, effectively turning the business inside out, to pop out the pieces of avocado.

Voila: avocado trick.

Eat it eat it!

17 November 2008

Multiple cream pasta

The other day I bought half a pint of cream.

Then I had to use up half a pint of cream. It's not gone yet. I may have to make some scalloped potatoes just so we can eat it before it goes off. Isn't that what always happens with cream? I can't even get through a pint of straight milk, which I even drink, without it dying on me.

I suppose I should think of this as good, since I'm clearly not relying much on dairy products. Instead it's just irritating to feel wasteful. So then I end up eating three things with heavy cream within four days. I think we're going to need to start inviting people over for dinner more often.

In the meantime, I had these two highly inventive and totally different dinners.

Pasta with red cream sauce

olive oil
red onion
crushed tomato
asiago cheese
basil, oregano, salt, pepper
fresh parsley

Soften chopped shallot and red onion in olive oil. This combination will make for a pretty sweet sauce; you can sub garlic or etc if you have or want it. Season with some basil and oregano. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper at an appropriate point and simmer together until clearly tasty. Really, it's standard red sauce. Easy.

Use a chunky pasta. Cook it while the sauce is simmering. Drain it.

When things are cooked, dump the drained pasta into your tomato business. Pour a little cream over the business, then grate any cheese you might want on top. Mix. Serve with a bunch of chopped fresh parsley and a big green salad.

Pasta with white cream sauce

olive oil
lots of garlic
salt, pepper
fresh parsley

Chop up a bunch of garlic and soften it slowly in olive oil. Chop your mushrooms into big chunks and add them. Soften it all while your pasta is cooking.

When the pasta is done, drain it. Pour maybe a quarter or a third cup of cream into the garlic and mushrooms. Let it warm just until it bubbles, then turn off the heat and dump the drained pasta in. Mix it all up with a bunch of ground pepper and a tiny bit of salt.

Eat it with another bunch of fresh parsley and another big green salad.

Maybe I just haven't been eating enough salad.

14 November 2008

Yes tomato dill soup!

I had originally made tomato dill soup, by which I mean "Shaker soup" from the 12 Months of Monastery Soups cookbook, something like ten years ago. You know you live in a cold climate when you buy a book like that. Soup! This particular one has a tomato base with lots of dried dill and sour cream: totally good and thorough and rich. Apparently the Shaker community had lots of 1. vegetables and 2. cows.

Of course now I barely ever eat sour cream. I didn't buy it the entire four years we lived in California, and only ate it on veggie plates at Taqueria Los Charros; I bought and drained plain yogurt to use in naan and on hot lentil soup instead.

In this instance I just wanted a soup of all vegetable. I also had a big bunch of fresh dill.

Tomato dill soup

crushed tomatoes or puree
a shallot
olive oil
vegetable broth
salt, pepper
a little dried oregano and basil
a bay leaf
lots of fresh dill, or dried

Super easy.

Dice up a shallot and soften it in olive oil at the bottom of a soup pot. You can add red onion or garlic too, or substitute them if you need to. Add a little oregano and basil, or other dried green herbs that sound good. Thyme and marjoram both work well with tomato. Make sure to use only a Little; we're just going for a basic green background to set off the dill.

While the shallot softens, make some vegetable broth with your shallot trimmings and whatever other vegetables or trimmings you have around. I used a lot of spinach and parsley stems, plus a couple green onions. Just throw them in a pot of water and simmer it for a while. You can also use broth out of the freezer, or a cube or can if you want. Or you can put plain water in the soup later; it will be less intensely flavored, but will still work.

Add your tomato to the softened shallot. I used about half a 24-oz can of crushed tomatoes with basil. Mix it up.

When the broth has colored, add several cups of it to the tomato and shallot. You can keep it cooking down and evaporating on the other burner, then adding more intensely flavored broth occasionally, if you feel like it. Stir up the soup pot, bring it to a simmer, and let it cook for at least ten or fifteen minutes. Keep the lid on if your soup is a good texture; leave it off for evaporation if your soup is too liquid. Salt and pepper at an appropriate point. If you happen to only have dried dill, let it simmer for the ten minutes too.

While the soup is simmering, strip about a quarter of a bunch of fresh dill stems and chop the leaves. You may be tempted to add the dill stems to your broth; don't. If you cook dill stems, they will give the resulting soup a definite whiff of dill pickle brine. You do Not want that. Throw them into the compost pile instead.

When the soup is done, take it off the heat and let it stand for a few minutes to cool slightly. Make some toast while you're waiting. Then mix the dill into the soup.

I have no idea where our normal ladle is. Therefore: GRAVYLADLE.

Serve the soup. If you have any extra dill, and you're feeling fancy, throw a pinch on top of each bowl. Woo! You could also garnish with a cream product, if you have such a desire. In that case, put the dill on top of everything. High contrast!

Eat with green tea and toast.

You should really dip your toast into the soup. I had wheat, but any decent high-grain bread should work fine.

This kind of food requires a rainy day, or at least an overcast one, and a nice grey view out the window while you eat and have another cup of green tea and read a book.