30 August 2009

Grain shrimp grain shrimp tomato tomato grain

I: Risotto is awesome.

Ok. We clearly love risotto; the problem is keeping a reasonable stock of arborio rice. So a while ago, after reading about barley risotto at Heidi’s, we decided to try it out for ourselves. The first time we used a half and half mix of pearl barley and arborio rice; result: the grains were totally indistinguishable. This time I tried it all on its own, and lo, it worked perfectly. I’m thinking we’re never buying arborio ever again.

Barley risotto with tomato and corn

veg broth
olive oil
white wine/dry vermouth
salt, pepper
optional parmesan/other grating cheese
fresh parsley/basil/etc
(seared shrimp)

You always start a risotto with broth. Broth is easy and makes things totally awesome. Risotto purists are going to want you to use chicken broth, but risotto purists also probably aren’t going to be making their risotto out of barley, so whatever. We clearly use veg broth.

Veg broth: put several cups of water in a pot on the stove. Add the trimmings from your vegetables (minus corn husks and silk), plus a few pieces of any other vegetables you may have lying around: mushrooms, potato peels, carrot, celery. I save all my vegetable trimmings and stick them in a bag in the freezer for stockpile, which makes this very easy and simultaneously awesome. Making food out of trash represent!

Put your veg in the pan with the water, cover, and bring to a boil. Simmer until you have a reasonable broth. It takes only about ten minutes to release some flavor from your vegetables, although more time is better.

Risotto: this is pretty easy. I’ve talked about risotto a bunch of times; the procedure isn’t any different for a risotto that’s entirely barley-based. First, chop up an onion or a couple shallots. Sauté them in the bottom of a deep saucepan, using olive oil, butter, or both. I like to use both, so you get butter taste but higher smoking point due to oil; in conclusion, no butter scorch. Also olive oil is great. Yes.

When the onion has softened, add about a cup of barley, plus a cup of dry white wine. Technically you can use red wine for risotto, but I like white better. Stir your rice, wine and onion intermittently, with the heat on medium, until the wine has largely absorbed into the barley.

(I really wish “rice" were a more generic term for “grain”, like “corn” used to be; I want to use it interchangeably with similar grains like barley, wheat berries, or spelt. Maybe somewhere it is used interchangeably (although I am probably projecting.))

Add a cup or so of your broth to the risotto pot and cook, stirring intermittently. Again, wait for the liquid to absorb. Keep adding broth and cooking the business together until the rice is nearly entirely done; there may be a little opaqueness right at the center of each grain at this point.

Now is the time to add vegetables, especially relatively quick-cooking vegetables like tomato and corn. Actually, I might add the tomato earlier, to let it amalgamate. Whatever. For the tomato: peel it by the blanching method (cut cross in skin, submerge in boiling water 30 seconds, then peel the split skin), then dice it up. Add it to the pot. Corn: cut it off the cob with a gentle sawing motion, removing any stray silk or husk, then add it to the pot. Add another ladle of broth and stir, cooking once again, until the grain is completely done.

Take the pan off the heat; salt, pepper, and optionally parmesan it; put it in bowls. Awesome barley risotto!

John had his plain; I had mine with seared shrimp. In theory, the shrimp was a good idea; in practice, when combined with the sweet tomato and sweet corn, it was a little much. There wasn’t enough contrast. So, although you can clearly eat this on its own, what vegetables could we substitute to contrast well with seared shrimp? Dark greens, braised endive? Endive marinated in vinaigrette and charred in the frying pan on the cut side? I think I would actually put that on top of the risotto with (or instead of) the shrimp, though. Besides, that’s starting to be a ridiculous amount of work. Dark or bitter greens are probably the best idea: chard or spinach would melt into a risotto like nothing.

II: John made me dinner and it was great.

Shrimp and rice salad business

short grain brown rice/other grains
olive oil/butter
white wine/dry vermouth
chervil/other fresh herbs
salt, pepper
maybe some lemon

Ok. First we’re going to soften some onion and cook the rice on top of it. It’s kind of like starting as a risotto, then finishing as a pot of actual rice.

Get out a saucepan with a lid and heat a splash of olive oil in it. Dice an onion; throw it into the oil to cook slowly. You can really use any allium you want or have for this, as long as it’s going to provide some sort of oniony taste. I’d use up to a whole medium onion or 4-5 cloves of garlic for one cup of rice.

When the onion has caramelized, deglaze the pan with a little water. Dump in your rice and twice that amount of liquid. I use water or broth and sub a little white wine or vermouth in at the end. So for one cup of rice I’d maybe put in 1.5 cups of water or broth and .5 cup of vermouth. Stir the pan to evenly distribute the onion and oil, put on the lid, and cook just like you’d cook a regular pot of rice. That is, let it steam for about 15-25 minutes, depending on the kind of rice you have. You could also do the entirety of this first part in a rice cooker instead of a pot: useful in the dorm.

While your rice is cooking, defrost any frozen shrimp in hot water. Core a tomato and cut it into eighths, or halve cherry or grape tomatoes. Get out a handful of chervil or another herb and chop it roughly. We happened to have chervil because it came in the CSA box, but it’s kind of hard to find on a daily basis. Flatleaf parsley, other highly green leafy herbs, or even something like finely shredded spinach or arugula would be good substitutes.

When the rice is finished, it’s time to sear shrimp. First, dry them well; this will reduce the hot oil splatter. Oil and water hate each other, so keep them apart! Get a pan good and hot, swirl in a little oil, and lay in your shrimp. Season them with salt and pepper. Cook for about a minute and a half, then flip and continue cooking another minute. At this point your shrimp should be fully cooked and starting to brown just a little. Whip them immediately out of the pan and away from the heat, so they don’t toughen up.

Now put it together. Fluff your rice, salt and pepper, and serve it. Since we thought ridiculous presentation would be fun/use up some of our never-ending vegetable supply, we made the salad on a big cabbage leaf. It would clearly be fine in a plain bowl or on a plate, though. So. Start with rice; add seared shrimp, tomato pieces, and a generous handful of chopped herbs. You can also squeeze some lemon over the plate if that sounds good. Give it a final grind of pepper, and you’re done.

Eat it!

Ok, just think about how easy this would be when having people over for dinner. Before people get there, soften the onion and stick the rice and liquid in the pot, defrost the shrimp, and do all the chopping. About a half hour before you want to eat, turn on the heat under the rice. Let it cook by itself while you’re off doing other things, then sear the shrimp and assemble everything at the last minute. It should only take about eight or ten minutes to get everything totally done. Of course, if you’re us, you would be in the kitchen hanging out for the entire party anyway, but you know. Whatever floats your boat.

In conclusion: rice rice grain rice tomato shrimp rice! DO IT.

23 August 2009


These came in the CSA box the other day.

Guess what: SALSA.

I based this very, very loosely off a Deborah Madison recipe for tomatillo-avocado salsa. Mostly I just needed to know how long to cook the tomatillos, and whether I should be cooking onions and jalapeños and etc or leaving them raw. It turns out that both are viable options, which I'm sure you are shocked to hear. Shocked.

Salsa verde!

jalapeño pepper
lime juice/white wine vinegar
a stick blender or other pulverizing device

First, husk your tomatillos and chop them in half. Since my tomatillos were gigantic, I quartered them. Whatever floats your boat. I used every single one of those tomatillos up there. Yes! Tomatillos!

Peel and roughly chop an onion; I used a large yellow one. Stem and halve a jalapeño or two, depending on your desire for hot pepper. Adjust seeds if you have an issue with pepper-based heat. I used one and a half jalapeños, seeds in. Smash and peel several cloves of garlic.

Put everything in a saucepan with a couple cups of water. You can reserve some of the jalapeño, garlic, or onion if you want to add it raw later. Do this if you like spicy salsa; I saved half a pepper and a couple cloves of garlic for what still turned out to be a fairly mild salsa.

Cook the salsa for 10 to 15 minutes, or until your tomatillos have turned a more olive green. Take it off the heat, let it cool a little, and puree it by any means you find acceptable. I don't know about you, but there's no molcajete at my house; I used the stick blender.

Now is the time for seasoning. Mix in a generous pinch of salt, an acid, and any vegetables you might have reserved before, chopped finely. For the acid, you can use the juice of half a lime (or a whole one, or a lemon) or a spoonful of white wine vinegar. We didn't have any citrus, so I went for the vinegar. While this seemed a little genre-mixy at first, it worked fine.

You can also add cilantro, if you don't live in a cilantro-hating household.

Now eat it!

Clearly this salsa loves chips. It also clearly loves several other things. For example, it loves beans and rice. It loves burritos. It loves a scrambled or even a fried egg. It LOVES fish. Eat it!!

16 August 2009

Tomato tomato

I like using nearly identical ingredients to make two different things!

- garlic
- tomatoes
- gold bar squash (or zucchini)
- basil
- olive oil
- maybe some dry vermouth
- salt and pepper

A plate of pasta.

Soften fresh garlic in olive oil. Add a handful of halved grape tomatoes plus a pinch of salt and cook until crumpled. Add cubed gold bar squash and cook again, until done. Deglaze with dry vermouth if you want. At the end, add pepper and maybe some more salt. Toss it with pasta and eat it with torn basil and maybe some cubed mozzarella if you want any.


Soften fresh garlic in olive oil. Dice a gigantic beefsteak tomato, add it and a pinch of salt, and cook until reduced. Add cubed gold bar squash and potential deglazing vermouth; cook another few minutes as above. Pepper and maybe more salt. Toss it over a plate of toasted torn sourdough; eat with a handful of torn basil and maybe a drizzle of olive oil to finish.

10 August 2009

Breakfast breakfast

Oh man. I have been having some awesome breakfasts lately.

Sourdough toast with butter, four minute egg, green beans with garlic, assam tea. Green beans are the best breakfast food ever. I want them right now. Four minute eggs are also great if you have any inclination at all toward a runny yolk mashed into toast. Double energy absorption bomb!

I finally told myself to suck it up and peeled a bowlful of the ever-increasing supply of peaches. Now I feel a little dumb for not doing it before. This is three peaches and one apricot and I totally ate it all.

Another egg, this one fried using the steam trick. Garlic herb toast, redleaf lettuce with good vinaigrette, green tea. I totally broke the egg yolk, folded the business over and had a fried egg sandwich.

This one was the best, though. I woke up yesterday with a serious need for bagel. Ok. So I went to the bagel shop and got a sesame bagel, although without the creamy creamy cheesy cheesy creamy cheese. No! Instead I also went to the grocery store, where, among other things, I got an actual brick of cream cheese. When I got home I whipped out a bunch of dill that had been slowly expiring in our refrigerator. I cut out all the good dill fronds, minced them up, and mashed them into a big whack of cream cheese. Then I toasted my bagel and covered it with as much cheese as possible. Voila: bagel of herbal awesome!

It also helps that it totally looks like a big smiley one-eyed monster. I'm just saying.

06 August 2009

Greens greens everybody likes them

So here are a few things we're buried in up to the neck:
- ears of corn
- gold bar squash (basically yellow zucchini)
- piles and piles of greens

Obviously I had to make them into, uh, quesadillas. No, seriously. I didn't even put cheese in them, and yet they were still totally quesadillas. What? The technique remains!!

Awesome greens-oriented quesadillas

olive oil
good corn
summer squash of some type
kale, chard, or other wiltable greens
salt, pepper
red pepper flakes (aka "flake")
some form of cooked beans

Cook vegetables, layer with beans in tortilla, toast.

Warm some olive oil in a big saute pan while you peel and chop a few cloves of garlic. Soften the garlic in the oil. Onion or shallot would also be reasonable here.

Husk a couple ears of corn and saw them gently off the cobs. Try not to get either cornsilk or kernels all over your kitchen. Don't try this next to a hot burner. Trim and dice a squash or two; wash, stem and chop a couple big handfuls of greens. I think we used an entire small bunch of kale, which worked very well here; kale is awesome. Oh, you didn't think kale liked this kind of thing, did you? IT DOES. Other vegetables you could use: bell pepper, jalapeno, maybe some precooked potato or sweet potato?

Ok. When the garlic has softened a little, add the corn and squash. Salt the pan to help release some of the squash juices. Add some black pepper and red pepper flake while you're at it. Cook together for maybe three to five minutes.

Add your chopped greens to the pan, along with a splash of water. Cover the pan and let it all steam for a couple minutes, then check for doneness, stir, and steam a little more if necessary. Something delicate like spinach will take just a minute or two to steam; kale will take up to five minutes.

Now make it all into quesadillas!

For each quesadilla, I spread a flour tortilla completely with black beans. On this occasion the beans were in the form of spicy black bean dip. I have no apologies! It was good! Clearly, any kind of southwesterny spreadable bean preparation will work here, though; I imagine a pan of fresh refried beans would be pretty sweet.

Cover half the tortilla with a couple spoonfuls of the greens mixture. At this point you could add anything else you might want in a quesadilla setting, such as cheese, but you don't have to; the beans should be adhesive enough to keep everything together.

Now fold the tortilla over and toast until slightly golden brown. Either use a frying pan, flipping halfway through, or use the toaster oven. You don't want to turn on the real oven at a time like this.

Garnish: do you want to add sour cream, guacamole, or salsa? If so, go ahead.

Now eat them!

You could clearly turn this business to a number of slightly different uses.

Tacos: steam corn tortillas, then fill with hot beans and greens. Lime or lemon juice as appropriate.
Enchiladas: roll beans and greens into tortillas. Fill a pan with these, cover with a good enchilada sauce, and bake. I think a red sauce would work best, but green or even mole is worth trying.
Big bowl of delicious mess: make rice or other grain, add beans and greens, and eat.

04 August 2009

Delicious mess is delicious

Oh man, I have to write something. I am pretty stressed out, you guys.

However, we have vegetables. LOTS OF VEGETABLES. They are delicious. I will totally eat a vegetable every once and again.

Up there we have a nice plate of messy messy deliciousness that John made me a bit ago. So messy and so delicious. We had totally just gotten our first head of fresh serious garlic from the farmer's market. It was all over that business. Oh man. I wish I had some right now.

Besides garlic, the star here was SUMMER FREAKING SAUSAGE. I know! But said summer sausage--or is it beef salami? I threw out the wrapper, but it's from the severely local Larchmont Charcuterie--is so gorgeous and perfect that I have been using it not only for occasional big awesome sandwiches but also in cooking. Yes! Oh! I had totally been looking for a tiny whole salami or summer sausage to bring home with me for ages, before we even moved out of CA, since the Saag's sausages disappeared suddenly from the Milk Pail. AND LO. This one appeared out of nowhere, with far better textured and flavored meat and a lower proportion of fat than Saag's ever had.

Delicious mess of vegetable and sausage

olive oil
decent whole salami/summer sausage (or a drop of smoke seasoning, maybe?)
good summer tomatoes
good summer zucchini/summer squash
dry vermouth
salt, pepper
did we even put any basil in here?

Ok! Essentially we're going to make a big vegetable ragout thing with a little bit of rendered chopped meat. You could make a pot of rice or something to serve it on, or you could do what I did and just eat a whole huge plate full of mess. Either will work fine. Good?

Get a pan medium hot and add in some olive oil. Smash and chop several cloves of garlic, maybe four; I like a lot, but our garlic was so fresh that we really didn't need all that much. Cut maybe an inch of sausage off the whole, then dice into small bits.

Throw the sausage into the pan and cook a few minutes, letting any available fat render off. The time here will depend on the fattiness of said sausage; ours had very little fat, so it only took minute or two to permeate the oil. Then add the garlic and cook another few minutes. While those cook, core and chop a couple of good tomatoes. The proportion here is pretty much up to you; I really don't know how many we used, since John made this, not me. Two sounds good.

Throw your tomatoes into the pan, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook to reduce, stirring occasionally. I find that tomatoes can take ten or even fifteen minutes to reduce. If things start to stick at any point, deglaze with a little water or dry vermouth, then keep cooking.

While that's cooking, trim and dice some zucchini or squash. I think we used one of each, or maybe one and a half total. Also bust out some mushrooms and chop them roughly. Five or six mushrooms? I don't know. It's all good.

When the tomatoes are reasonably reduced, toss in your mushrooms, give them a little salt, and let them express their juices for a minute or two. Then add the zucchini, along with a shot or so of vermouth; it should sizzle. Stir the business together and let cook for maybe three minutes, or until the zucchini is just cooked. Whip it off the heat, salt and pepper as needed, and serve.

If you want some basil, rip it up and throw it all over your plate. Or you could stir it into the pan to wilt a little before serving. It's all good.

Eat it eat it!

FOOD. Now I really want some.