29 July 2008
So despite the fact that I want to cook, I have time to cook (well, kind of...ok, not really) and cooking in summer is generally more enjoyable because of the garden bounty, I don't have any interesting dishes to report. Instead of thinking up elaborate recipes or even baking standard pies....I've been cuddling. My dogs, Zander and Zelda, are serious about cuddling, and given my newlywed status so is the husband. Rather than fight the urge to cook I have given in to the comfy cuddle. It's been a wonderful week. As is evident from the above picture, Zander the giant golden retriever is about four times the size of moi, and his cuddles are not only serious but seriously debilitating. If you don't feel like hugging him, his 120-pound frame will sit on you. She may be smaller, but the same goes for Zelda--she will lick you into submission. Ah, the joys of being a pet parent.
Gardening has been easy. Even the baby hens and chicks that I just planted a month ago (above) have created fruitful offspring. While my tickseed decided it was time to pack it in, pretty much every sedum crop in my yard has bloomed. It's funny how while it's time to say goodbye to some plants, it's time to feel excited for those who have just come out for summer bloom. It's a sad thing to watch a plant bloom and wilt, and another to watch them emerge for their short albeit beautiful lifespan. The tomatoes are growing at a crazy rate and maturing every day. Basil is thriving now that I've moved it to an earwig-free zone in the greenhouse. I have a feeling homemade spaghetti sauce will be a beneficial breeze this year....
The yucca bloom (above) has refused to die. According to my sources, this plant was supposed to cease blooming about two weeks ago, but just the right amount of sunlight and organic fertilizer has saved its life from...well...death.
The other reason no inventive dishes have found their way through my kitchen walls? Kitty introductions. Johnny Cash the Cat in Black is a new addition to our family, and Ian and I have been working hard to ensure that the pitty-boo doesn't eat the kitty-boo. Unfortunately terriers are predisposed to lunging toward and biting prey, so twenty to thirty minute "visits" in the living room are all we can offer to poor Johnny. I don't think he minds however--I read in the extra bedroom (also known as his kingdom) for hours each day and he is a pretty solitary cat anyhow. Worrying about his successful inclusion in our family has taken a tremendous toll on me, but I think the picture above demonstrates the progress we've made with introducing and ensuring his safety.
It's too bad that right after this picture was taken Zelda lunged at and was beaten up by poor Johnny. It's also too bad that Johnny feels at ease around Zander enough to trust him....he doesn't seem to want to protect the kitty against pitty-boo vengeance. The resilience of our cat amazes me, while the stubborness of my dog saddens me. Good thing Johnny Cash is tough....
24 July 2008
Chicken Korma in a very exotic Ziploc container
I usually shy away from ready-made sauces and jarred anything, but I had a coupon for a free bottle of Seeds of Change Korma Sauce and I absolutely had to try it. I've never used canned or jarred sauces before unless really really really busy with teaching, and I have never been too busy to make spaghetti sauce on my own (bleck...Ragu...) so "purchasing" this product was a bit difficult for my "make your own" mentality. It turns out Seeds of Change is a company I can totally get behind, with their eco-friendly way of business and organic distribution of foods. Mass production of simmer sauces aside, they're an Oregon company (does that count as local if I'm in eastern WA??) with a heavy dose of community outreach programs and they seem to coincide with my food belief system: KNOW WHAT YOU EAT.
The directions were simple on the korma sauce: fry up a pound of meat (or veggies, which I might try next time!) and then pour sauce over and simmer. Serve over rice or whatever you happen to feel like serving it with (naan anyone??).
The actual dish came out much like my own version of Chicken Korma, and even though it came from a glass jar, I could actually taste fresh ingredients. Korma is the mildest of curried dishes, and yet I could taste each spice individually--cardomom and saffron were very prominent. The greatest part of it? The cashew flavor of Korma was definitely intact, which is a miraculous feat for a bottled sauce. I'll be doing this again.
Served the dish with some brown basmati rice and leftover naan (I need to post about my Indian feast, don't I??), so this dish minus the naan cost me roughly $.50 since I bought the basmati in bulk at the Moscow Co-op. Gotta love those coupons!!
Seeds of Change offers other Indian simmer sauces, like Jalfrezi and Tikka Masala, but I'm not sure I'm willing to concede culinary defeat to any company, eco-friendly or not. For now let's just say I'm surprised and a bit taken.
21 July 2008
20 July 2008
Sunday is my favorite day. Husband and I head to Moscow each week on this day and shop at our two favorite grocery markets--Win-Co Foods and the Moscow Co-op. I can't afford to purchase groceries exclusively at the Co-op, so the Win-Co trip is intended to keep me within our tight budget. I don't mind spending money on food, however, since above all, food is the most important part of my day.
Since I plan my meal menu out on Sunday mornings, I get to indulge in food all day long. Summer affords greater leisure on this particular day also since I can put off cleaning until the evening (no classes to prepare for the week, only tutoring schedules and materials) and focus my attention fully on food.
The other great part about summer? The grilling. Husband makes an awesome burger, and since he's begun working on the patty recipe, I've been keeping track of the changing ingredients. I'm convinced the latest incarnation is his best. I mentioned previously our obsession with ground buffalo, so feel free to sub it out if it's the most expensive meat in your market. It's truly worth it though, and if you use ground beef, keep in mind you'll have to increase the amount of wet ingredients
Ian's Perfect Burger Recipe (makes 4 burgers)
1 lb. ground buffalo
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic
4 or 5 dashes Worcestershire
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, or as desired (we use the awesome Co-op Daily Wheat bread)
2 tbl. fresh chopped Italian parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the buffalo, onion, garlic, egg, parsley, pepper and Worcestshire first. Add fresh breadcrumbs until the mixture binds together easily to form patties. Form four uniform patties. Make a thumbprint in the middle of each patty to ensure they cook evenly on the grill. Finally....er, grill them.
1/2 lb. fresh asparagus, bottoms trimmed
2 tbl. extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Fresh grated Romano cheese
After trimming asparagus, arrange them on a grill insert designed to cook veggies further away from direct heat source. You may also use foil but you won't get that terrific grilled look to the finished product.
Before placing on grill, brush asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Grill for up to three minutes, or until they are crisp but tender. Remove from heat.
Place asparagus on a serving tray and sprinkle with the juice of 1/2 lemon, black pepper and grated Romano cheese. Note: you could use parmesan, but I never use parmesan because I prefer the sharper taste of Romano.
15 July 2008
Salad rolls finished and packed for hubby consumption
Salad roll filling
This evening I decided to be adventurous and try TWO new recipes. I've never made my own fresh salad rolls before, and since I was making a pasta dish (see previous obsession post) that included matchstick size veggies, I decided that a similar shape veggie combo might round out a meatless meal. Ian and I have become more meat savvy as of late, and just about every time we shop we drool at the yak meat (too expensive right now) and end up buying and eating ground buffalo, so for Tuesday's dinner it seemed like a good idea to go veg.
I have to admit, I thought I would have a hard time with the salad rolls. Everywhere I read I'm reminded of the horrors of salad wrappers, but I didn't run into any problems whatsoever. I've never had a more reassuring moment. It's as if the heavens cleared and allowed for a brief moratorium on cooking horrors.
On deck this evening, we also tried spelt pasta, which I have to admit is hard to make al dente as other pastas, and has a very faint bitter aftertaste. I'll try it again I suppose, but I'll have to think of something that will tone down the flavor of the pasta rather than amplifying it...
Spelt Pasta with Zucchini and Spring Onions
8 oz. spelt pasta
Block of tofu, diced
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil plus 1 tsp.
3 spring onions, sliced thinly, both white and green parts
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 zucchini, sliced to matchstick size
Romano cheese, to taste
Cook pasta according to pasta instructions. While pasta is cooking, bring olive oil to medium heat and fry tofu for three minutes. Remove tofu from pan and add saute spring onions and garlic until fragrant. Remove from heat.
Place zucchini in a colander and once pasta is ready to be drained, drain it in the same colander, on top of zucchini.
Place pasta and zucchini in a serving bowl and add olive oil. Toss to coat. Add olive oil/spring onion/garlic mixture, and toss again. Add fried tofu. Sprinkle romano cheese to taste.
Fresh Salad Rolls
8-10 spring roll wrappers
8 oz. rice vermicelli, cooked
1 mango, julienned
1/2 cup cucumber, julienned
4 tbsp. cilanto, chopped coarsely
2 tsp. lime juice
2 spring onions, chopped
In a medium sized bowl, mix together vermicelli, mango, cucumber, cilantro, lime juice and spring onions.
For each spring roll wrapper, place in warm water and place on a work surface. Distribute two tbsp. filling onto wrapper, and then fold spring roll wrapper over. Tuck sides in and then roll over onto rest of skin. (This part may take practice--if you've ever worked in a Mexican restaurant like I have you instinctively know how to wrap a burrito, but I've heard horror stories on this one). Place on serving plate and if you need to layer rolls, place wax paper or plastic wrap between layers. I refrigerate first so the spring roll wrappers have time to "set."
Simple Salad Roll Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
1 tsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. lime rind
Combine all ingredients. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to two hours.
Note: I didn't actually work from any strict recipes here, so you might have to adjust....probably a lot....I can remember to write down my bank account number but my head is firmly planted elsewhere most of the time.
14 July 2008
13 July 2008
11 July 2008
I'm a jerk. As you can see above, I completely forgot to take pictures of this dish, despite the fact that I made it special for the husband on our six month wedding anniversary last week (cheesy, yes. fun, yes.). I got some awesome (read: AWESOME) arugula at the farmers market that was more fragrant than any arugula I have ever encountered, and I needed something to make that was more substantial than peppery arugula on a chicken sandwich, so I made arugula ravioli. Yum! I must say that the arugula lost much of its peppery flair during the cooking process but the zing was slightly recognizable. Would I make this again? Maybe if I found extremely fresh, locally grown arugula again in the near future. Do I desperately want to make my own ravioli dough? Absolutely. Until I fork over the dough for making the dough, I will have to settle for wonton wrappers, which unfortunately have a tendency to break apart during the cooking process. One alteration to that process seemed to work pretty well--I sort of half steamed the wontons with the steamer insert on my giant pasta cooker. I half submerged and half steamed the ravioli, and it seemed to help keep the bulk of the ravioli fully intact.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces arugula, washed, dried, coarse stems removed and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs measured from 2 slices or one half of a roll, pulsed in the food processor until reduced to soft crumbs (I used bakery wheat bread for this step)
1/3 cup finely grated Romano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg yolk (reserve egg white for sealing)
1 half-batch of fresh pasta–or–1 package of wonton wrappers
1 egg white beaten with two tablespoons of water to seal ravioli
To Make Filling
Heat olive oil in a large pan at medium heat. Saute shallots and garlic for 7 to 10 minutes, until they are soft and translucent, but not brown. Add arugula, turning and stirring it frequently, until it has cooked down, its water has largely evaporated but it hasn’t lost it’s color — about 3 to 5 minutes. Let mixture cool, then add bread crumbs and Romano cheese. Taste filling and season it as needed with salt and pepper. Add the egg yolk, stirring mixture until combined. Set aside.
To Make Ravioli From Wonton Wrappers
Line 2 baking sheets with heavy-duty foil; spray foil with nonstick spray. Place 4 wonton wrappers on work surface; cover remaining wrappers with plastic to prevent drying. Lightly brush entire surface of each wrapper with egg white. Spoon 1 generous teaspoon filling into center of each wrapper. Fold wrappers diagonally in half, forming triangles. Press edges firmly to seal. Arrange ravioli on prepared sheets. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.
Cooking time will vary, depending on the thickness of your dough.
10 July 2008
03 July 2008
When I was in college, there was a little Jamaican restaurant tucked into a deli in Oak Park that I used to frequent whenever I had the taste for that delicious and well-known dish, rice and peas. Of course when most people think of Jamaican cuisine, the ever ubiquitous "jerk" chicken or pork comes to mind, but the frugal and pleasantly spiced "national dish" is the beauty you see above. Great for vegetarians (just substitute veggie broth for the chicken broth/stock) and bean lovers alike, I fell in love with the simple, creamy and earthy flavors that intermingle in this dish. Sage, allspice, coconut, jalapeno, and thyme don't fight for attention but rather join forces. I can recall the first time I ever ordered it, thinking that it would satisfy my taste for peas (my obsession with peas runs deep). Little did I know however that "peas" in Jamaica actually refers to kidney beans and/or pigeon peas. I wasn't disappointed by this discovery since after the first bite the essence of coconut and the creamy yet crisp texture of kidney beans revealed to me nothing short of a miracle. My first words after consuming this dish for the first time? Mazel tov.
Here's my favorite at-home recipe for this great summer dish. I served it with chicken tacos since I was a little tired of serving black bean stew, but it's also a great barbeque party dish since this recipe yields enough rice and peas to actually feed the population of Jamaica. And thankfully, on a hot summer day, this dish does not need to stew in the pot as long as black bean stew.
Jamaican Rice and Peas
Jamaican Beans & Rice
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 chopped red or green pepper (I actually used a yellow pepper)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 small jalapeno chili, veins and seeds discarded, minced
1 1/4 tsp. dried thyme leaves (I used fresh from the garden)
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground sage (again from the garden)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth (using chicken stock adds a fuller flavor)
1 can coconut milk (or use 2 tbsp. coconut cream and increase your broth/stock accordingly)
Two 15 oz. cans red beans or black beans, drained and rinsed, or 3 cups cooked dry packaged beans
2 cups cubed and peeled sweet potatoes (1/2 inch cubes) (skip this step if in a hurry but it's worth the time if you have it)
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1 1/2 cups rice (if you can, use brown rice--healthy and no one will notice with all of the colors in this dish)
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions: Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven. Add onions and garlic almost soft and almost translucent. Add spices, sweet potato and peppers. Stir for a minute. Add broth or stock, then coconut milk and kidney beans. Bring to a boil, and then add rice. Turn heat to low-medium and cover. No peeking! Simmer for twenty or so minutes (or until rice is done) and remove from heat. Add a squeeze of lime juice.
01 July 2008
Thanks to Jessica at foodmayhem.com, I now have my very own Sweet Home Blogger Award! Woo hoo! While I'm flattered, I'm always envious of her site's beautiful pictures and her fantastic reviews. It's hard not to imagine a dish that she has described.
So on to the passing of the torch as they say.
Not Eating Out in New York: http://www.noteatingoutinny.com Another site I check religiously. The pictures are always enticing, the commentary often hilarious and humble, and the recipes....there are no words. Cathy's motto "Consuming Less, Eating More" is one I am personally in line with, and while I don't have the personal discipline to stay away from prepared food as long as she has, she is a kitchen inspiration. From what I have heard in the rumor world, Cathy's also writing a book about her experiences. She can bet I'll be waiting anxiously to scoop it up, and hopefully pick her mental cabinets for a few good recipes.