31 May 2011

Ok, yes. I do eat a lot of pasta.

I know pasta is kind of boring--but doesn't it look wonderful?

This one is whole wheat spaghetti with olive oil, fresh garlic, jalapeño, lots of both green and yellow zucchini, spinach, basil, oregano, salt, & pepper. I would eat this again right now. Actually, maybe I should go do that.

30 May 2011

Cooking the freezer: chicken soup (again)

So the roast chicken we made last October (side note: holy crap, October??) has served us well for an astoundingly long time. Witness yesterday, when I dove into the freezer to pull out our remaining two frozen leg-thigh chunks.

We were out of frozen chicken broth, but that's ok. Veg broth is pretty much always kicking around at our house, and it works just fine for our purposes. Maybe the broth was a little thinner and less gelatinous than chicken broth; so what? It's still delicious. Plus there were actual chunks of chicken, which, you know, make up for it pretty well.

The last time I made freezer chicken soup, it turned into a chowder. This time, I went more toward the French-feeling chicken-mushroom bisque area. I mean, it's not really a bisque (or French), but the ambiance fits. I did, however, use my favorite trick for instantly turning brothy soups into cream-of-awesome: cream cheese.

Chicken, mushroom, & cream cheese soup

onion, shallot
a carrot (& stick of celery if you have any)
half a jalapeño if you need to use one up
a big handful of mushrooms
water &/or vermouth to deglaze
cooked chicken
vegetable broth
salt, pepper, paprika, mustard powder
cream cheese
fresh cilantro/parsley/chives for garnish

First, chop up your onion and shallot and sauté them in butter over medium-high heat. I used half an onion and half a shallot, but it would be fine to mess with the proportions a bit. Mince your jalapeño; scrub and dice your carrot; slice your mushrooms. Add each vegetable to the pot as you finish chopping. Throw in a pinch of salt and let everything brown for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Then (or earlier, if the pan gets too hot) add a splash of water or dry vermouth and stir/scrape to deglaze any brown bits sticking to the bottom. This will cool down the pan a bit, so you can leave it to bubble for a minute.

If you happen to be using frozen cooked chicken, you can do what I did and put it in a container of hot tap water to quickly defrost. Then prep your chicken by picking it off the bones, discarding skin and fat, and shredding the meat with your hands. Really get in there so you don't miss any bits and pieces stuck in between the joints. I used most of one chicken leg/thigh combination for two servings of soup; you can use as much as you like.

Add the chicken to the pan. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, and a bit of mustard powder; stir to mix. Then add about two cups of vegetable (or hey! maybe you have chicken!) broth. Mine was frozen, so I just threw the whole chunk into the pot and let it defrost in the heat.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer for about ten or fifteen minutes, or as long as it takes to reduce the soup to your preferred texture. I covered my pan to start, but cracked the lid for the simmer, since I wanted to let some liquid evaporate off. This worked admirably. By the end of cooking, you should be left with a beautiful golden-brown broth full of mushrooms and chicken. Lovely.

Now for the finishing touches. First, turn the heat down to low. Add a chunk of cream cheese to the pot and stir to distribute. The cream cheese may look a bit grainy at first, but as it heats, it'll melt right in. This won't thicken the broth much at all, but it'll definitely make it more creamy and delicious. Taste for seasonings, and you are done.

Serve your soup with cracked black pepper and chopped herbs on top. I had cilantro, which seems a little odd in retrospect, but was very tasty at the time. Parsley or chives would also work well.

Toast is also an excellent plan.

27 May 2011

Tortellini to the rescue

Pasta: it's the default "oh no it's 8:30 and I must eat right now!" food. It's fast, easy, and cheap; on the other hand, it's usually not exactly the most protein-ridden food available. So it's a good thing I stashed a bunch of this premade pesto & ricotta tortellini the other day.

For the sauce, I just sautéed as many vegetables as I could fit in the pan--shallot, garlic, jalapeño, mushroom, grape tomato, zucchini, orange bell pepper--with olive oil, basil, salt & pepper, and a big handful of fresh parsley. Dinner accomplished!

24 May 2011

Homemade chips yeah!

Look what I made! Homemade tortilla chips! EXCITEMENT.

Ok. This was 1. ridiculously easy 2. reasonably fast 3. both cheaper & fresher than just buying a bag of chips and 4. available without going to the store. A win on all counts!

Homemade tortilla chips

corn tortillas
olive oil/a flavorless oil of your choice

Preheat the oven to 400F. While you're waiting for it to heat, prepare your chips.

Brush a tortilla lightly with olive oil. Stack another tortilla on top; repeat. When you have a stack of about six or eight tortillas, get out a sharp knife and cut the stack into sixths.

Arrange the tortilla pieces in one layer on a cookie sheet, spacing them just a bit apart so the heat will circulate around all their edges. Scatter salt over the prepared pan, and put it into the now-preheated oven.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the chips are just beginning to turn golden brown. When your chips are done, put them on a paper towel-covered wire baking rack. Immediately scatter a bit more salt over the finished chips; they'll absorb the flavor much better while piping hot. Let your chips cool while you bake a second pan.

When you have baked, salted, and cooled all the chips you want to eat, you are done. Hooray!

Now you can eat them. I recommend salsa, guacamole, or nachos. We had ours for dinner, with a gigantic pan of messy enchiladas based on the recipe in the original Vegetarian Epicure.

I made my chips plain, because I knew we'd be dipping them in some highly spicy salsa. However, if you want to make seasoned chips, you can sprinkle a bit of paprika, chili powder, cumin, or lemon juice over the chips just before you put them in the oven.

Chips! Hooray!

19 May 2011

Pea pasta

I can't stop eating the spring peas, you guys. It's a good thing I don't have to.

Pea pasta

fresh peas!
veg broth
salt, pepper
cheese or other dairy business
immersion blender
lemon wedge to squeeze
pasta of your choice

Saute chopped garlic in olive oil until it begins to soften. Add plenty of shelled peas and cover with a couple cups of vegetable broth; salt and pepper. Simmer gently until the peas are cooked through and everything smells fantastic.

Now bust out your immersion blender and blend that sauce. You may need to add some more liquid to do this, depending on how much broth has evaporated off. You may also need to cook the sauce down if it's too watery. Ah, the vagaries of cooking.

John wanted to blend parmesan into the peas, so we did. This was not the best plan, however, because grating cheeses melt in a sticky and stretchy manner. I strongly prefer a cream/goat/cottage cheese approach. Or ricotta. Or, you know, just use cream. Cream is good.

Eat with plenty of delicious pasta and a lemon wedge squeezed over your plate. Maybe even get some zest in there. Massive amounts of fresh black pepper are also great.

I had mine with a chunk of cream cheese buried in the middle and left to melt for a minute or two. An optimal plan.

16 May 2011


Look what I got at the farmer's market!

Man, one weekend out of state and California explodes into full-on summer. I mean, produce-wise, at least. It did hail yesterday.

15 May 2011

Spaghetti breakfast

Take whole wheat spaghetti & smother it in a massive sauce made from olive oil, garlic, onion, tomato puree, salt, pepper, basil, & oregano. Cover it with your choice of grating cheese. Eat it for breakfast and fill yourself with energy!

I had the best workday in quite a while on the back of this epic amount of goodness. It was the greatest breakfast ever.

12 May 2011

Copious barbecue

Things have been ridiculously busy lately. We're moving, so we've been running around like crazy to see apartments. We also had a previously scheduled trip to Portland on the docket this past weekend. You'd think it would've occurred to us that those would conflict, wouldn't you? But alas, buying plane tickets three months before the lease was set to end kind of pushed the whole "rental search" phenomenon out of our minds.

In conjunction, a couple weeks ago I went over to Simon and Veronica's house to make and eat massive amounts of barbecue. Yes, we do live in California; why do you ask? And yes, this is totally related to our housing search.

We marinated astounding amounts of chicken, beef, and pork. Copious meat!

(The recipes were from Saveur, I believe. We'll figure it out.)

There was plenty of extra marinade for zucchini-mushroom kebabs, foil-packet asparagus, and Veronica's one lonely fresh fava bean pod as well.

Over massive inhalations of meat on a stick, vegetables on a stick, grilled onigiri, expertly bartended drinks of which I had never before heard, and strawberry shortcake made with homemade scones (all of which were excellent), I mentioned the house search. Simon mentioned that he knew someone who was probably moving, and offered to put me in touch.

Fast forward three weeks (is it three weeks already?) and lo! We have signed a lease on that very house!

In conclusion: barbecue = awesome, but barbecue that also leads you to a rare and beautiful Silicon Valley house lease = priceless.

05 May 2011

Cabbage for breakfast

This is shallot (or is it red onion?), shredded green cabbage, and carrots, all cooked in a mix of canola and spicy sesame oil, and served with toasted sesame seeds and sambal oelek. Tasty and spicy!

This dish pretty well illustrates my attitude toward sweet breakfasts.

03 May 2011

Spring peas

I even managed to get English shelling peas instead of accidental sugar snaps! YES!


Well. What should we do with the first, best, most exciting peas of the year?

First I shelled them. Bowl of peas!

When John saw all the peas, he immediately ran to the freezer for bacon. We are the only people on the planet who can make one package of bacon last six months, aren't we? That's ok! It does mean there is always emergency bacon on hand.

I had sort of been planning to just briefly boil the peas and eat the entire bowl with butter. Bacon works, however. I also have a second bag of peas currently hiding in the vegetable drawer. Guess what may happen tonight!

Anyway, one piece of bacon was plenty to spike my entire bowl of peas. Here "plenty" actually means "too much." So I broke out the spinach to compensate.

Spring peas with bacon and spinach

fresh shelling peas (you can use frozen! I won't judge you)
fresh spinach
salt, pepper

Ok! First, shell your peas. I think this is one of the most fun cooking tasks possible. Peas everywhere! Pop pop pop! I probably had about two pounds of peas in the shell; this yielded about a cup of peas. If you're feeding more than one person (or you really, really like peas), you should probably get more peas.

Dice up a piece of bacon and render off its fat in a frying pan. I think medium heat is best here, since you want the bacon to cook/render evenly, but not to burn. It'll take at least a good five minutes to render all the fat. If you want vegetarian/vegan peas, just briefly warm some butter or olive oil instead.

When your bacon is cooked through, add your shelled peas to the pan. Stir everything up and let it cook together. In the meantime, wash a chop a couple big handfuls of spinach or other appropriate greens. Chard would work well too, for instance. Of course, if you have far more peas than I did, you can eliminate the greens and just make this an all-pea dish. It's all good.

When the peas are just about completely cooked, add your greens to the pan, with water still clinging to them. Add a little salt and pepper, stir, and let cook until the greens are nicely wilted.

Done! Put your peas in a bowl and eat them.

This was good, but it did have a high proportion of bacon fat to vegetables. Seriously, check out that shine. I think I could've added double the vegetables with no ill effects. More peas! Hooray!