Tag Archives: cooking

Garlic Shrimp and White Beans (and the Best Kale Ever)

The past couple weeks have been full of exciting discoveries.  I figured out how to replace a headlight (a tricky thing with a Mazda), which completely trumped my sense of accomplishment regarding the back light replacement.  Because my car repair self-efficacy is fairly low, I recruited my brother-in-law for moral support, but really, I did it myself.

Even more exciting, and more relevant here, I found out that our big cast iron skillet fits in the broiler of our oven, and I found my new favorite kale recipe.  I’m guessing you’re more interested in hearing about these things.

garlicshrimp2

The cast iron skillet discovery came in handy for this Bon Appetit recipe for Garlic Shrimp and White Beans.  I followed the recipe almost exactly, but I do have a few comments (don’t I always?)

  • I used a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes rather than fresh chopped tomatoes.  Who wants to buy fresh tomatoes in February?  This did make it a little more liquidy, but this wasn’t a problem with me since I had some delicious sourdough bread to soak it up.
  • Next time I think I would squeeze a little lemon juice over the shrimp just before serving.  It could use a little citrus-y brightness.
  • I don’t think the last two tablespoons of olive oil (drizzled on the shrimp after broiling) are really necessary.  (Although if you had a citrus-infused olive oil, that might work well instead of just using lemon juice).

Generally, this was a really tasty recipe that came together easily and quickly, and reheated well for lunch.

garlicshrimp

And now, the kale.  This is ridiculously simple, and not that different from how I have cooked it in the past, but this particular formula seems to be magical in creating a pile of greens that I would never tire of.  It is fully endorsed by Nick, too.  Thank you, Alice Waters.

garlicshrimpkale

Sauteed Kale with Garlic and Vinegar (from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters; serves 4-6)

2 bunches kale (about 2 pounds), torn and washed (drained, but no need to spin dry)

3 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 or 2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Salt

Heat a large saute pan and add olive oil and just enough kale to cover the bottom of the pan.  Allow these greens to wilt down before adding more.  When all the kale has been added, season with salt, stir in garlic, and cover the pan.  The greens will take anywhere from just a few minutes to 15 minutes to cook, depending on their maturity.  When they are tender, remove the lid and allow any excess water to cook away.  Turn of the heat and stir in the vinegar.

Note: The recipe mentions that most leafy greens can be cooked using this method.  I’ve cooked Swiss chard like this, and indeed, it’s excellent.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking

Beer-Glazed Black Beans with Chorizo and Orange

This recipe is the neglected guy friend of the female lead in a romantic comedy. You know the one. The best buddy who secretly pines for the girl while supporting her pursuit of another man who is clearly wrong for her. Then suddenly, after the other man has broken her heart, she sees the best friend in a new light (and probably in a rainstorm). The love of her life was there all along, just waiting patiently by her side for her to figure it out.

So, Beer-Glazed Black Beans, forgive me for taking so long to pay attention to you.  I have flipped past you time after time in search of more exciting recipes – maybe something indulgent with cheese and pasta , or something exotic with coconut milk and fish sauce.  Sometimes maybe I entertained the idea, giving you a glimmer of hope as I paused on your page for a moment until my eyes landed on “chorizo” and I moved on.  Then we lost touch completely, as I loaned my copy of The Food Matters Cookbook to a friend for several months. But then I got you back, and this time, something was different.  Maybe it was my need to spend a Saturday night doing nothing but cooking for myself.  Maybe it was my need to redeem myself for last night’s mac and cheese binge by making a dinner full of fiber and protein. Suddenly, “beer-glazed” didn’t seem weird; it seemed intriguing.  I realized you had citrus and cilantro- a couple of my favorite things. How did I not notice that before? And you yield enough food for a couple dinners this week while stashing the rest away in the freezer for another time.  I have a feeling you’re gonna be in heavy rotation for a while.

I was about to put this in the category of “Vegetarian Dishes That My Husband Actually Likes” but then I realized the chorizo makes this most certainly not vegetarian. (That being said, I think you could come up with a decent veggie-friendly version.)  But that’s what makes this a classic Mark Bittman recipe: the meat adds flavor and depth, but the bulk of the meal is plant-based.

IMG_20131021_211901

Bittman notes that you should use a beer that you like, because the flavor comes through.  I actually used a beer that I wasn’t crazy about drinking: Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale.   It was a little sweet for me, but I figured that the spices would blend well with the chili powder and beans.  Since it was a sweet beer, I cut back the amount of honey from the original recipe. The only dilemma is that I’m not sure what beer I will use next time, since this was a limited release!

Beer-Glazed Black Beans with Chorizo and Orange

(from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook)

Makes 4 generous servings, and can be frozen and reheated

1 orange

8 ounces Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced (I used pre-crumbled chorizo)

1 red onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

One 12-ounce bottle beer

3 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon honey (or cut back to 1 teaspoon if using a sweeter beer)

Salt and black pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (or more, if you’re a cilantro fan like I am)

Halve the orange and seed it if necessary. Peel one half, divide the segments and save the rind; squeeze the juice from the other half.

Put the chorizo in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring and turning to brown the slices, for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the orange rind and juice, beer, beans, chili powder, honey, and salt and pepper.

Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily and cook until the liquid is slightly reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning as needed. Remove orange rind before serving, and garnish with orange slices and cilantro.

Serve hot over brown rice.  Keeps in the fridge for three days, or in the freezers for several months.blackbeans

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking

Apple & Cheddar Salad

There has been a lot of rain and gray skies this past week.  The upside: I’m welcoming the arrival of boots-and-sweater weather. The downside: It makes me want to hibernate.

More specifically, it makes me want to EAT ALL THE FOOD.  I have to keep telling myself that it’s not time for my once-a-year Fettuccine Alfredo indulgence. The idea of eating green vegetables is less than exciting, unless they are folded into a casserole of macaroni and cheese.  But vegetables must be eaten.  More exercise must take place, too, but let’s just focus on one thing for right now.

apples1

I committed myself to making a salad today for lunch. I’ve talked before about my special relationship with salads.  I’ve even admitted to being seduced by a salad.  Once again today I was struck by how the process of making a salad makes me feel.  Preparing lunch for myself is different than cooking dinner.  It’s leisurely.  There’s no concern about pleasing anyone else.  This is special Sarah time.  As I was mincing shallots and toasting sliced almonds, I felt like I was engaging in some sort of ritual to take care of myself.  You know in chick flicks when the woman recovers from heartbreak by lighting candles, pouring a glass of wine, and running a bath?  That’s oddly what this felt like.

applesalad1

The foundation of this salad was a mix of spring greens in my fridge that needed to be used, some apple, and good sharp Cheddar.  It didn’t need much beyond that.  I decided to throw some toasted almonds on there for some extra crunch (and fiber and protein).  When it came to the dressing, I whisked together a tiny bit of minced shallots, Dijon mustard, and apple cider vinegar with some olive oil. Seasoned the greens with salt, tossed in the dressing, topped with the sliced apples, coarsely grated Cheddar, and almonds.

applesalad2

So, this is pretty much a standard fruit-nut-cheese salad formula.  You could change out the almonds for walnuts or pumpkin seeds, or the cheddar for blue cheese or Gruyere.  I used Ambrosia apples because that’s what I had on hand, but I think Pink Lady or Honeycrisp (my favorites) would work nicely, too.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking

Cumin- and Coriander-Spiced Summer Veggies

Can we just hit “pause” for a moment and try to make summer last a little bit longer?  I know we’ve still got a month or so (or more, if you’re thinking about the seasonal calendar instead of the academic calendar), but I’ve gotten into a comfy breakfast routine that involves fresh berries and I hate the idea of giving it up in a few weeks.  I’m not ready to go back to oatmeal.  I don’t want to have to wear socks.  I want to keep eating farmers market nectarines that are so wonderfully sweet that I momentarily thought, “Maybe I should be one of those people who just eats fruit for dessert.”  Sure, I laughed it off once I remembered the sea salt brownies in the freezer, but the nectarine was so good that I contemplated swearing off chocolate.

Speaking of chocolate and reasons to extend summer, I have only had one s’more this year.  That word doesn’t even look right in the singular form. I have eaten no more than two tomatoes, and they were somewhat disappointing.  I have so much to accomplish in the next month.

To be fair, I have enjoyed steamed crabs twice, maxed out my yearly allowance of hot dogs*, and I’ve consumed so many eggplants, I’m surprised I have not turned purple. They’re my new favorite meaty vegetable (fruit?) and we’re having a hot and heavy affair before the novelty wears off and they get put into regular rotation.

Here’s something I’ve learned this summer on my insatiable quest for eggplants: Eggplants from Trader Joe’s, even if they are featured in a “Grown Locally” section, are not as good as eggplants from a farmers market.  But if you cook them in olive oil infused with cumin, coriander, and saffron, you might be able to overlook their inferiority.

Freshly ground cumin and coriander… I love a good excuse to pull out my mortar and pestle.

seeds

This was an adaptation of a Bon Appetit recipe for Spiced Peppers and Eggplant.  Since I decided to add a yellow zucchini to the mix, I dropped the yellow peppers and just went with orange, because that’s all TJ’s had and I am not going to be fooled into buying a $6 red pepper imported from Holland from our friendly organic market.**

veggie trio

I didn’t change the recipe beyond the particular combination of vegetables, and using a combo of basil and cilantro, so I’m just going to direct you to the original recipe.  I took BA’s suggestion to chop up the vegetables and stir them in with some Israeli couscous, but I can see them also being a great side to some grilled chicken, pork, or steak.

roasted veggies

*In case you are envisioning that I have eaten dozens upon dozens of hot dogs, I will tell you that it apparently only takes seven or eight hot dogs eaten over the course of a summer to make me feel guilty about eating hot dogs.

**Not again, that is.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking

Welcome Home Scones

If your Facebook feed looks anything like mine, you probably are under the impression that everyone in the world is:

a. buying a new house

or

b. getting pregnant and having babies

Seriously, my Facebook feed is nothing but photographs of fetuses, bellies, and babies, and exterior house shots, stacks of boxes, and shiny new house keys.  Oh, and there are still a lot of photos of cats and food (but not cat food).  These are my friends, after all.

Because these are my friends, fortunately I don’t see a ton of the inappropriately first-person-plural updates about infant waste elimination. (You know what I’m talking about: “We’ve already filled five diapers with poop today and it’s not even noon!”  We?? I really hope that’s not something you’re doing with your baby.)

In fact, I felt rather proud of one of my best friends when she posted something referring to a poop situation as a “pants disaster.”  Understated, humorous, and leaves something to the imagination, even if I choose not to imagine it.  Now that’s what I’m looking for in classy baby-related status updates.

strawberries2

I actually still owe this classy new mom and her husband (also a wonderful friend) a post-baby dinner.  I have a terrible habit of offering to make things for people and then not following through with it. Not because I don’t want to follow through or because I’m flaky and forget about it.  I end up with performance anxiety about the final product, whether it be a painting or vegetarian enchiladas.  There’s something unsettling about trying a new recipe and sending it off for someone else to consume, without having tasted it yourself first.

So, when our friends moved to a new house with a baby, I remembered that I had told them several months before that I’d make them a meal after the baby was born.  Oops.  In the midst of packing, moving, and unpacking, knowing dinner was waiting in the fridge or freezer would probably be really helpful. But I still hadn’t had a chance to test an enchilada recipe. Guilt and obligation versus perfectionism and procrastination.

I ended up compromising by baking scones.

strawberries1

In their old house, we shared lots of evenings together. Games were played, movies were watched, and bottles of wine and pounds of cheese were consumed.* For some reason, separate nights eating strawberries and gingersnaps also stand out to me. So strawberry & ginger scones seemed like a good idea.

strawberry3

Something sweet with a little spice.

I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.  She calls them biscuits, but also refers to them as scones. I just think they’re delicious. I’ve made buttermilk scones before, but these use heavy cream instead. They really do taste creamy, which is lovely with the strawberries.

I followed the recipe exactly except for also adding in about a tablespoon of fresh grated ginger.  They did not turn out very gingery, although I wondered if I just did not thoroughly stir in the ginger and someone got a very gingery bite.

If I was going to make them again, I might sprinkle a little raw sugar on top.  I like when scones have a bit of crunchy crust on top, and since these are not very sweet to begin with, a little extra sugar wouldn’t make them too sweet.

Oh, one more thing. I didn’t feel like using biscuit cutters, so I shaped the dough into a rectangle, about 3/4 inch thick, and divided it into 8 squares. Further halving each square diagonally yields a good scone portion, in my opinion, but if you want a larger, more indulgent scone, I fully support your decision.

scones

*Let’s just assume I mean cumulatively over the years, and not per evening.

2 Comments

Filed under Cooking, Life

Food for Book Clubs: Tiny Pluot Cakes

Everyone knows that book clubs are really food clubs, right?  Yeah, it’s great to have some extra encouragement to read something that was not published in a peer-reviewed journal, and even better to get together with some smart ladies to discuss it.  But mostly, I’m in it for the opportunity to try some new recipes.

Unfortunately, due to some geographic and commuting challenges, I often have to make something ahead of time, so a lot of the appetizer recipes I’d like to make are not very feasible. Baked goods seemed like a good option: they’re do-ahead, portable, and don’t need to be refrigerated all day. Besides, I’d be wanting to make the Little Apricot Cakes from the June issue of Bon Appetit.  They looked like a fairly simple recipe for a nice light, summery dessert.

Then I had to complicate things. Why make little cakes (with a standard muffin pan) when you can make tiny cakes (with a mini muffin pan)? Besides the obvious appeal of miniature foods – and if you are skeptical about this being something that people are into, please refer to Exhibit A* – there was the even more obvious appeal of my mini muffin pans being nonstick and allowing me to skip the step of greasing the pan.**

And then, why use apricots when you can use pluots? If you are unsure what a pluot is, check out the Wikipedia page, which will tell you all you ever wanted to know about this lovechild of a plum and an apricot (and much, much more).

pluotcakes1

Beyond that, I followed the recipe exactly. Oh wait. No, I did not. I added a splash of almond extract in there, just for fun. And while I took the time to zest a lemon, it wasn’t until I had already spooned about 90% of the batter into the muffin pans that I realized the little bowl of lemon zest was still sitting patiently next to the stand mixer. Oops.

So, besides making them smaller, subbing pluots for apricots, adding almond extract, and forgetting lemon zest, I made them just as the recipe calls for. And since I’ve been sitting on this post for a couple days because I haven’t felt like writing out the recipe, I’m just going to provide the link, again. Here. You could also check out all of the other bloggers who have also made this recipe, including my friend Sarah, over at Sarah’s Place.  She’s just as neurotic as I am in the kitchen, but unlike me, she follows directions (i.e., she did not forget the lemon zest).

While I did like the cakes being a bite-sized portion (as did my fellow book-clubbers, based on the fact that I only took a few home with me), I think if I was going to do it again, I wouldn’t use a nonstick pan.  The edges didn’t get quite as crispy and brown as I would have preferred.***

Oh, for those of you who are interested, our book for this meeting was After the Quake by Haruki Murakami.  It’s a nice collection of short stories all set in Japan following the 1995 Kobe earthquake.  Like most of Murakami’s books that I’ve read, the stories feature well-developed characters in very real relationships with some bizarrely fanciful twists. Giant talking frogs, anyone?

pluotcakes2

*If you are too lazy, technologically-challenged, or stubborn to click on the link, I’ll just tell you what it is: it’s a cookbook called Tiny Food Party!

**If you are wondering, “why not just use muffin liners?” I’ll tell you why. I hate them. I don’t really like having to peel paper or foil off my food before I eat it, and I don’t like that there are always cake crumbs stuck to the paper that could have found their way to my stomach.  Besides, look at the Bon Appetit photo of the apricot cakes.  That beautiful brown, rustic edge on the cakes wouldn’t be seen if they were encased in some polka dot wrapper. So, that’s my anti-muffin liner stance.

***But you can bet they were browner than they would have been if I used muffin liners.

3 Comments

Filed under Cooking

Eggplant and Zucchini Stir-Fry

Have I mentioned that I have a terrible habit of buying produce without any idea of how I intend to use it?

Actually, there are a lot of times that I purchase something knowing exactly what I want to do with it, but it never happens. I throw away a lot of potatoes. Two autumns in a row I have purchased a pumpkin, planning to try to make kaddo borawni (aka, pumpkin with a garlic yogurt sauce, aka, the most delicious thing ever). And two Januarys in a row, I have realized there is still a pumpkin sitting in our dining room. On at least one occurrence, there were little cat tooth marks in it, too.

I know I have mentioned that I hate wasting produce, so sometimes buying an unfamiliar vegetable forces me to find a way to use it.  That’s how I discovered Swiss chard, fennel, and broccolini, for instance.

It might sound odd, but eggplant is actually a fairly unfamiliar vegetable to me.  I never liked it as a kid (I still do not understand the appeal of eggplant Parmesan), and while I’ve had some dishes with it recently that I liked, I have not cooked it much myself.

The little Japanese or Chinese eggplants are less intimidating to me.  I added some to a curry last summer with relative success.  Trying to replicate baked slices of eggplant that I had at a friend’s house… not so successful.

When I saw some little eggplants at the farmer’s market last week, I had to take advantage of them, especially since Nick was going to be out, allowing for a low-pressure, experimental dinner for one.

I semi-followed a recipe, but didn’t keep track of precisely what I did.  So I suggest you use this as inspiration, and check the Bon Appetit recipe for Stir-Fried Eggplant and Green Beans more structured guidance.

eggplants

Instead of chili-garlic sauce, I had Thai roasted red chili paste* on hand, so to make it a little more garlic-y, I sauteed some sliced garlic in the olive oil first.  I used zucchini instead of green beans because that’s what I had around.  I didn’t use tofu, because I just cannot bring myself to like tofu, unless it is in soup (of the miso or hot and sour variety).  But I tried this with sliced mushrooms another time (not pictured) and that was excellent, if you want to add a bit more meatiness to the dish. If you choose to add mushrooms,  saute them in the garlic-infused oil for a minute or two before you add the other vegetables.  Also, I use the term “stir-fry” very loosely, as I don’t think my technique necessarily adheres to stir-fry tenets.

Eggplant and Zucchini Stir-Fry

(This made a very generous serving for one person. Don’t judge me. It’s all vegetables, so it’s okay. If you add mushrooms, or a second zucchini or eggplant, you’d have plenty for two people.)

Thinly slice 1 garlic clove.

Quarter 1 zucchini, lengthwise, then halve each quarter lengthwise so that you end up with 8 spears. Cut each spear into 2- to 2-1/2-inch pieces.

Halve 1 large or 2 small Japanese or Chinese eggplants**, then cut into 1/2-inch slices on a diagonal.

Mince a handful of scallions (dark green parts only) or chives.

Heat some olive oil (1 tablespoon or 2) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute garlic slices in the oil, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, discard garlic slices and reserve oil in skillet.

Add eggplant and zucchini to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and brown, about 2-3 minutes.  You can add some red pepper flakes at this point if you like a little more heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1-2 tablespoons chili paste and 2-3 tablespoons water with a splash of soy sauce if you like.

Pour sauce into skillet with vegetables and simmer until sauce slightly thickens, about one minute.

Serve over rice with scallions or chives sprinkled on top.

eggplants2

*I just realized this has fish sauce, anchovies, and shrimp as ingredients so it’s not actually vegetarian. But for my purposes I still see this as a meatless dinner.

**I have a vague understanding of Japanese eggplants being shorter than Chinese eggplants, but I have no idea which ones I was working with.  When it comes to how many eggplants to use, go with your gut.

4 Comments

Filed under Cooking, Last Night's Dinner