Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dilled Zucchini & Tomato Sautee

This is barely even a recipe, I know. But it is what I cooked tonight, and it's a nice simple thing if you're ever stumped by excess zukes and tomatoes (likelier in July than February, I know).

When I was 18 and first living in NYC, broke as could be, my roommate Laila and I were the masters of cheap, simple vegetable dishes. (We also ate a lot of potatoes, but I try not to remember that part.) We had a huge bag of basmati rice given to us by another roommate's mom---it lasted four of us for a whole semester---and we split the cost of an ENORMOUS can of olive oil from a local italian deli. Then we found one of those mysterious vegetable bodegas in NY that seem to sell produce for half what it costs at any other store (what ARE the economics of that?), and we were pretty much set. I think I made this particular combo about once a week....

Thinly slice an onion, and slice up few zucchini and/or summer squash. Sautee these in olive oil with a little diced or sliced garlic. When they've softened, add chopped tomatoes. Douse generously in balsamic and sprinkle with dried dill. Cook until quite soft and serve over rice (or pasta - tonight I've gone with Acina de Pepe). Just a nice, savory hot dinner for a sleepy evening.

(In another food-memory from the same time, I remember one particular day when Laila and I splurged on a trip to the Union Square farmer's market and bought basil and pine nuts for fresh pesto. That was the weekend of 9/8 & 9/9/01. That Tuesday we found ourselves chopping our pesto ingredients by hand in a daze, huddled around a sporadically-working TV with the 20 young people in our international affairs program, which has just commenced the prior week. It was enough pesto to feed everyone, and a more sober semester than any of us had planned on.)

Simple Sunday Sweet Potato

I always hesitate to post simple meal ideas, but then again the simple things are sometimes the hardest to conjure up in a moment of hunger. So I give you the Simple Sunday Sweet Potato--roasted (ok, nuked for 4 minutes then put in the oven at 450 to get the carmel factor without the time), then topped with 2 T almond butter. The almond butter melts into a thin swirl of richness. Complemented with a huge pile of torn chard and spinach wilted with olive oil, sea salt, and garlic, this was everything it needed to be. Any type of nut or seed butter would be delicious.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Guest Post (!!): Una Fiesta Mexicana! Chayote Quesadillas and Black Bean Soup

To spice things up a little, and to compensate for any gaps in our own cooking creativity, we're startin' up some guest posting! After a bit of begging, a good friend here in Phoenix who is a master of scones and all things veggie agreed to do a few guest posts. Here's installment one!

Hello! My name is Heather, and, in lieu of a real job, I spend my days cooking. I am a vegetarian, which I realize has already been done here, but I am also a Bitter Vegetarian (bitter about life, not vegetables), so maybe that means I bring a different perspective? I'm also short, so maybe that'll be my angle. Who knows?

I would also like to thank the lovely blogmistresses for letting me ramble here.

Well, enough with the pleasantries - let's get to the food!

Since I thought The Husband would be at meetings all night, I invited my friend A over for dinner. But then The Husband never left, so it was dinner party time! I made black bean soup (mostly taken from here, without the salsa and with a few changes I'll mention) and chayote quesadillas (with inspiration and chayote-cooking tips from Rick Bayliss's Mexican Kitchen). For the soup, I used probably twice as much smoked paprika, and added a partially de-seeded dried chipotle pepper (I basically just snapped off the stem and shook out most, but not all, of the seeds) and a few sprigs of cilantro (both removed, along with the bay leaves, before blending), and let the beans simmer for about an hour (instead of 15 minutes). I also forgot about the bell pepper, because who buys yellow bell peppers? Honestly.

For the quesadillas, first, heat up a cast iron pan (or similarly heavy pan, I suppose) and roast two anaheim chiles (or any chile of your choice - I don't work well with heat) and four cloves of unpeeled garlic until they start to blacken. While the chiles and garlic are roasting, peel, de-pit and thinly slice two or three chayote squash. [HOT TIP: chayote squashes, when peeled, secrete a sticky substance not unlike that of okra, which, when dried, forms a thin film on your skin. Kind of like when, as a kid (or in college, like my roommate), you would put glue on your hands and let it dry and peel it off. Except that it sort of just makes your hands feel dry and you have to scrub a lot to clean them off.] Also, thinly slice half a red onion and the roasted chiles, and dice up the roasted garlic (after peeling). Saute the onions in a large pan with some oil, adding the squash after a minute or so. Once the onions have begun to soften, add the garlic and chiles, plus some salt, pepper and cumin (or a good chili or fajita mix, if you have one, or whatever spices you'd like). Cook until the squash in crunchy-tender.

Heat up your cast iron pan again. Spray two corn tortillas (the outsides only) with cooking oil. Place one on the heated pan and cover with cheese (I used a colby-Monterrey jack blend), then add some of the squash/onion/chile mixture. Add some more cheese, then add the other tortilla. Cook until the cheese melts and the tortilla begins to develop little brown spots (about 5-10 minutes, depending on how hot the pan is). Serve warm with salsa verde.

Also, serve entire meal with cheap wine and wonderful people (one of whom, incidentally, brought Meyer lemon ice cream from Sweet Republic for dessert!!).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mean Mean Meat Sauce

On my birthday, some friends and I got together to eat some spaghetti. One of the boys requested that we make meat sauce, as opposed to just plain tomato sauce because "that's how his mom does it". Accepting that direct challenge, my friend A and I proceeded to combine our cooking experience to make the following, excellent meat sauce.

First, we sauteed one large onion, diced with olive oil, fresh herbs and garlic in a small frying pan. In a large cast iron pan, we browned half a pound ground turkey and half a pound ground beef with some italian seasoning. Once the meat was browned, we drained the grease and added the onion mixture and a jar of plain store-bought tomato sauce, then allowed it to simmer.

Voila. Nothing revolutionary, but it passed the mom challenge and was rather delicious if I do say so myself.

Monday, February 22, 2010


This should read [so damn hot and undercooked its inedible posole],but luckily for you, I'm stubborn and willing to boil and boil for seven hours while laboriously adding pint after pint of water to the pot just so I can give you a recipe that, while flawed, doesn't end with a pound and a half of giant white corn kernels, 3 New Mexico chiles, and 1/2 cup of ground chile in the garbage can.

So now, I give you a fierce and flowered posole. A posole that's not only edible, but delicious when eaten with scoops of avocado, feta, and crusty tortillas. But clearly, a posole with a recipe that needs tweaking. I followed this recipe to a T, which caused problems, so below I'll just illuminate the adjustments that are necessary for success.

First, if you can only find giant corn kernels that haven't been lime-treated, and you don't want to lime-treat them yourself (which can be dangerous if you accidentally source lime that isn't pure, as it can be contaminated with heavy metals) you will need to simmer the corn in its broth for AT LEAST eight hours. This will require more water than originally recommended, so I'd also recommend adding another New Mexico Chile and pinches of extra spice.

As for that chile sauce that calls for 1/2 cup of ground red chile? Heidi recommended adding it to the brothy kernels by the 1/2 cup. I only added two small ladlefuls and it took four more pints of water to dilute it enough to eat. And it still packs a punch. So, I'd suggest just using less ground chile in the sauce, and still reserving some for freezing. Add slowly, tasting as you go. Someone who isn't as lazy as I am could also do some research on chiles and report back so I can feel a fool when told I bought the absolute hottest variety on earth. Because I swear I must have.

I know, it's too much trouble, right? Luckily for you, again, I'm obsesed with the way the kernels pop and flower, and how the dish is a winter and summer dish all at once, and how it can be delicious with tender pieces of pork or with corn standing on its own. I'll be back with a better recipe, and soon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Seville Orange Butter Cookies

Or rather, today I tried to cook orange butter cookies, but the result was a disaster. I spent a few hours in the kitchen to have cookies that tasted both bitter and overwhelmingly orangey. :( My first major fail. I'm licking my wounds here and misery loves company, so what's your kitchen disaster story? Please comment and share. :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Betty Crocker Meets Coconut Flour: Meyer Lemon Frosted Cupcakes

Cupcakes were trendy, and now they're overdone. I know. But, you see, I don't know how to make a double-layer cake. (Well, not neatly. A and I did it one time for a long, long ago boyfriend, and it turned into gluey crumbs.) And I don't have any skill when it comes to frosting. And single layer cakes with messy frosting are just so depressing.

So cupcakes it is. Lemony frosted yellow cupcakes, made from Betty Crocker's gluten free yellow cake mix, prepared as recommended on the box + a little less than 1/3 cup of coconut flour + a splash of almond milk. To frost, I squeezed the juice of 1 Meyer lemon and used my stand mixer to combine that with some heavy cream and powdered sugar and vanilla extract. The juice of one whole juicy desert-irrigated lemon = the amount of liquid required for a 2 ton tub of frosting, so I'd cut back here.

As for the Betty Crocker g-free mixes? I'll give you a more formal review if you request it. The mixes may not be spot on-perfect, but I always tinker with mixes. In the name of food accessibility for those celiac sufferers and parents out there who face serious health concerns coupled with income limitations, this is a cheaper and still yummy option for a treat.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Frozen Sweet Potato Fries...

...but I made them delicious.

I feel kind of bad wasting our 100th post on something like this, but oh well.

I baked them with lemon olive oil, lemon juice, thyme and oregano on top, then dipped them in ketchup. Perfect to pair with a salad, making perhaps the one lunch these three sisters all enjoy.

You could also slice and bake your own sweet potatoes. Give me a break, I'm a college student. :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Israeli Couscous with Preserved Lemon

Last year sometime (yes.... last year), in a fit of creativity and good cooking intentions, I preserved a lemon. Since then, the lemon has moved from one apartment to another with me, waiting patiently in its tupperware. Then, a few weeks (fine.... months) ago, a friend sent me this recipe. I admit I tried it mostly for the sake of finally using my poor abandoned lemon, but I have to say the result was a pleasant surprise. Sometimes a recipe is so much more than the sum of its parts. Try it and see!

I haven't changed much, except using a sweet potato in place of a butternut, but here it is for your convenience:

1. Bake a sweet potato for about 10 minutes (don't forget to poke holes) - till it's just beginning to soften, but nowhere near mashing softness.

2. For the same 10 minutes, boil 1 & 3/4 cups Israeli couscous - that's the large-grained, pasta-like variety - in salted water with a cinnamon stick. When done, drain it and put it in a large bowl, tossed with 2 TB of olive oil.

3. While those things are cooking, chop a large onion. When the sweet potato is done, skin it and chop it into small dice. Cook it with the onion in another TB olive oil over medium heat.

4. Once the onion is cooked to golden perfection, toss in 1/2 cup of pine nuts (so they'll toast a bit in the oil).

5. Toss all of this into the couscous, along with:

The finely chopped skin of your preserved lemon
1/2 cup of golden raisins (plump these up by covering them with water and microwaving)
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
A shake of cinnamon
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
If needed, a squeeze of the juice of the innards of your lemon.

It's probably no secret that I love a good sweet/tart/savory mix of flavors, but man, this blew me out of the water. It's a keeper.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Canh Chua Chay

Before we get started here, I would just like to pause and say that this is what this soup tastes like to me:

Yes, that's right. MOUTH UNICORNS.*

I've had it twice now at a local Vietnamese place and, for fear of quitting my job and taking up residence there, decided I'd better learn to make it at home. I perused 3 or 4 different recipes to come up with this one, taking what I liked from each plus some thoughts of my own. (Like asparagus, which is tasty and was present in my fridge this evening.)

OK, then. Your ingredients:

Group One:
2 thinly sliced yellow shallots/small yellow onions
1 TB butter

Group Two:
2 tsp salt
2 TB date palm sugar
4 TB vegetarian fish sauce
12 c water
3/4 c tamarind concentrate
2 TB Vietnamese Sour Soup Mix**
juice of 1 lime

Group Three:
1/2 to 1 bunch asparagus, bottoms snapped off, stalks cut into thirds, on the bias ifyouplease
An equivalent quantity of okra, stemmed and cut into 1-in pieces
An again-equivalent amount of baby bok choy leaves
1 stalk sliced taro stems
Halved cherry tomatoes
Very firm tofu squares
1 12-oz can pineapple + a splash of the juice
Bean sprouts

(OK, pause again: Chopping taro stems is about the most fun I have EVER had that did not involve bubble wrap. I think I will chop my leftover stalk tomorrow just for recreation.)

So, start with Group One: Soften the onion in the butter in the bottom of your pot.

Then add Group Two, taste, adjust, etc, till, you know.... (see photo above). Bring to a boil.

Then add Group Three, starting at the top with the crunchiest ingredients and moving down as they cook, to throw in the bean sprouts just before taking off the heat. Don't let anything get too soft; just cooked through.

That's it. MAN IT IS SO GOOD I burned my mouth tasting it.

*Siblings, please don't kill me for cluttering up our blog. Come on... MOUTH UNICORNS! I'm hilarious.

**Yes, I picked up this helpful cheat at Saigon Market. If you can't run off on a whim to markets that import amazing s*** you can't even pronounce and sell it to you for cheap, make up for it by increasing the existing flavors to taste and adding some chili paste.