Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Corn soup with arugula, beet, and walnut salad

Because it was Earth Day, I decided to make a vegetarian dinner. Here's how I worked it out in my head, "I don't know, I just felt like, you know, with all the stuff you read about how bad meat is for the environment, well... its a little something." It was a little difficult to do the
planning - I was really jones-ing for some bacon - but I stuck to my guns (stuck to my greens?) and made a totally vegetarian dinner!

Armed with 4 pounds of canned corn leftover from the weekend's chili making adventure, and a fresh box of produce from the CSA, I threw together a corn soup. It was FANTASTIC! Here's how it goes:

1. Heat oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in large pot.
2. Chop up one onion (I used red, but whatever you have on hand is fine) and put it in pot. (You want them fragrant and translucent - about 5 minutes.
3. While onions cook, chop 4 cloves of garlic, throw it in pot. Put them in the pot with the onions, cook until fragrant about 1 minute more.
4. Chop 5 small red potatoes into eighths, put in pot.
5. Add corn (probably 3-4 cans)
6. Pour in vegetable stock until it covers the rest of the ingredients in the pot.
7. Add salt, cayenne pepper, and saffron
8. Simmer, uncovered, for about an hour and a half - add more water if it gets too thick
9. EMULSIFY! Or blend it in the blender in small batches. (NOT big batches, trust me on this one, it is a recipe for disaster.)

While soup is simmering down:
1. Wash, peel, and slice golden beets. Put slices on baking pan, drizzle olive oil and salt on and put it in the oven. (Or if your oven refuses to work, as mine did this evening, put it into two batches and put it in the toaster oven. This does not give the same even cooking that using a big oven would have, but sometime you gotta do what you gotta do.)
2. Wash and chop arugula
3. Briefly roast walnuts
4. Make simple salad dressing of lemon, olive oil, and salt.

Happy Earth Day!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Frozen Peas!!!!

Penne with Asparagus, Sage, and Peas

I was wondering through the grocery store talking to my mom on the phone (I know, sorry, I was that person.) getting her recipe for roasted cherry tomato, arugula, and mozzarella pasta and standing in wine aisle, when I saw it - March's Food & Wine. I knew it was sitting on the floor next to my bed at home, but I hadn't had a chance to look at it yet. But when I saw the cover, I suddenly had to have it for dinner - bright green asparagus, penne, and - could it be?! - PEAS! I took a closer look at the cover, "pair with Sauvignon Blanc, " it recommended, so I picked out a Sauvignon Blanc, a 2007 Simi Sonoma County, and set about putting back the armful of groceries already in my arms.

I must have looked a little nuts as I circled around the grocery store, clucking into my phone, and circling around the produce department. (They rearranged it! I couldn't find anything.) Eventually, I made it out of the grocery store and back home.

Before starting dinner, I opened the wine, and took a look at the recipe. It should come as no surprise that I did forget two of the ingredients, sage and cream. Maybe I was distracted by the perfect little peas. I decided I didn't want to go to the store again, and got to cooking.

After putting a pot of water, sea salt, and pasta on to boil, I chopped four cloves of garlic (the recipe calls for three) and cut the asparagus. For some reason, I cut the asparagus length-wise instead of "in one inch lengths," I noticed it didn't look like it did on the cover, so I grabbed some kitchen scissors and cut them right in the pan. After a couple minutes, I added two cubes of chicken bouillon and two cups of water. After letting it boil down for about five minutes, I added two cups of peas (plus a little extra :-) ). Since I forgot the cream, I added about a tablespoon of skim milk. I was hesitant to add it, because I was not sure if it would ruin the dish, but decided to wait until the whole thing was finished to try it. Finally I added the pasta to the sauce, mixed in a tablespoon of butter (the recipe calls for two, but that was all I had in the fridge) and the Parmesan cheese.

It was a delicious, light dinner. The tiny bit of milk added the perfect bit of sweetness and the food actually made the wine taste a lot better.

***Note on the picture: The picture is from the Mine was not that pretty.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sweet Baby Blue's

I don't know where the banana pudding ended and the whipped cream began. The crushed 'Nilla wafers and fresh bananas added contrasting textures to the dessert, and even though I had already eaten perfectly moist pulled pork, lightly creamed spinach, deliciously crunchy mayonnaise-less cole slaw, and a piece of fresh cornbread, and still I kept eating the banana pudding decadence. The BBQ was good, but the dessert was the best. Baby Blue's has my vote for one of the best BBQ spots in the city, although I may be basing that soley on the dessert.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Caught Red Handed!

Roasted Beet Salad with Caramelized Shallot Vinaigrette

- 3 Medium sized beets, skin on, greens detached
- 1 Head of romaine lettuce
- 1 Cup walnuts
- Feta cheese
- 1 Large shallot
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vineger
- Salt & pepper

Whoever invented that saying clearly had been calling out someone roasting beets. That juice gets everywhere! I like roasting beets because its a pretty simple process: pre-heat oven, wrap beets in foil, stab with fork, take out eventually (about an hour, depending on the size of the beets).
About an hour after I put the beets in the oven, I chopped the romaine and feta, and roasted the walnuts. I was feeling fancy today, so I chopped the shallots and caramelized them, then added some balsamic vinegar for a warm shallot vinaigrette.
Keeping an eye on the shallots, I take the beets out of the oven and put them on the counter. I unwrap the first one and start to peel. It takes all of two seconds for my hands to be covered in bright pink beet juice. I am prepared for this. As far as I know, unless you are wearing gloves, there is no way to avoid it. I am okay with this. It comes off easily, and I like the way my Ms. Myers Clean Day soap smells.
What I am not prepared for is for the remaining two beets to gush beet juice all over the counter, pool up under the cutting board, and drip all over the floor. Why was this happening? Was it because I detached the greens? Or where they just exceptionally juicy? I have no answer. Whatever the case, it looked like a vegetable horror film. But, calm your fears, everything was cleaned up, good as new. Except my feet, which remain splattered with red. I hope that comes off in the morning.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hey Good Looking!

It was about 7 o'clock at night when someone I know and love started mumbling about being hungry. It was about 7:45 by the time we made it home from the day's thrilling adventure in Union Square's Sur La Table. (No joke, it was really exciting, of course, I wanted to take everything home with me.) Assuring Adam I would in fact be able to provide a fantastic meal in a few minutes, and armed with brand new cooking tools, I headed into the kitchen.
Lucky for me, we had three sweet potatoes, a bag of yukons, an eggplant, and some yogurt in the refrigerator. Here's what happened:

Sweet and Yukon Gold Curried Mashed Potatoes wrapped in Eggplant

1. Pre-heat oven.
1a. Wash, peel, and cut into small chunks all of the potatoes and sweet potatoes.
2. Put them in water, bring to a boil, simmer until soft enough to mash
3. Wash eggplant. Using your mandolin set on "relatively" thin, slice eggplant into strips. The middle slices work best because they are the widest.
***I realize not everyone has a mandolin, or like me, has one, but perhaps had a little incident making french fries that concluded with wrapping many band-aids around her fingers. In such an event, simply slice the eggplant in half length-wise, place the flat side down, and cut slices away from you.
4. Spray the eggplant with a little bit of oil or butter. Cook eggplant ever so slightly that it becomes pliable. Put on baking sheet and set aside
5. By now, the potatoes should be ready. Drain the liquid from the potatoes.
6. Add salt, pepper, yogurt, ghee or butter, cumin, cayenne pepper, and curry power to the potatoes, all to taste.
7. Using potato masher or emulsion blender, turn the potatoes into mashed potatoes.
8. Once you have mashed potatoes to your liking, place spoonfuls onto eggplant slices.
9. Fold eggplant slices over mash, place them seam-side down on the baking sheet.
10. Put in oven and leave it there until you feel like taking it out - about 20 minutes.
11. Make couscous according to package directions.

So I make this and there are leftovers, but Adam keeps telling me how good it is and its very nice and dinner goes on. After packing it up in Tupperware and putting it in the fridge I forget that its there and leave it to languish in the refrigerator. A few days later, Adam comes home from work and he says, "Everyone wanted to know where I got my lunch today." So I asked, "Well, where did you get you lunch?" And he says, "I brought the mashed potatoes wrapped with the eggplant." And there you have it, dinner (and lunch) that's good, easy, and good-looking. (Will add pictures once I receive them.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It Wasn't Pretty - In Defense of Chickpea Stew

I imagine this is what they put in Oliver's bowl when he asked, "Please, sir, may I have some more?" Needless to say, attractive it was not.

But was it good? check. Easy? check. Did we just turn off the lights while we ate and watched "A Fish Called Wanda?" check. So it's all good.

Recently, I became the proud owner of a slow cooker a.k.a crockpot, and it may be my new favorite kitchen toy. Basically, I put a bag of dried chick peas in the slow cooker with about 5 cups of water and let them simmer until they got light and fluffy. It takes about 8 hours, and I would recommend checking them every couple of hours to make sure there is enough liquid remaining. Once they are soft add chicken stock and mash with an immulsion blender (also a favorite kitchen toy). Add about a cup and a half more of chicken stock and stir. Then I added chopped green pepper, cooked spicy sausage, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, onion and garlic powder. Let it simmer for a couple more hours. Put in bowls and top with a dash of olive oil. Serve with simple green salad. Voila! Simple, delicious chickpea stew!

Sorry, no pictures available :-)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Andele! Andele! Aziza! Aziza!

In the interest of full disclosure; I spent three years totally unable to eat Moroccan food. Nary a date passed my lips since my spring break trip to Morocco, when what seemed like a delicious dinner Marrakesh's famous open air market had me curled up in ball swearing to myself I would never eat food again for two days.

So it was with some hesitation that I tried Aziza the first time, a year ago, after a die hard "foodie" recommended it during San Francisco's restaurant week. It was the only restaurant we went to that week that had more that the standard chicken, veggie, and less-expensive fish offering. Which I relieved to see after a week of looking at sub-standard restaurant week menus.

The details of this dinner is a little foggy. I remember watermelon radishes, because it was the first time I had ever seen them - they look exactly like mini-watermelons. I remember the beet, walnut, and goat cheese salad because Adam ate the goat cheese and liked it, but only because he didn't know he was eating goat cheese. I also had the beef tangine, which was cooked to perfection. And dessert, which we devoured, but I don't recall what it was.

Flash forward to last Friday: my folks were in town and I wanted to take them to a fabulous restaurant they hadn't heard about in Gourmet, Bon Appetit, of Food & Wine. Of course, right before she arrived, my mom excitedly told me she read about Aziza in Food & Wine's "Where to Go Next" list. But what can you do?

When we finally arrived, starving, we were immediately seated. The restaurant looks like something from Disney's Aladdin, all burgundies and golds, velvet booths, and dark wood tables. The service was a bit slow to start but they eventually put fresh Moroccan bread and olive oil on the table. We finally got a hold of the waiter, and by this time we were ready to order drinks and appetizers. We ordered the spreads, eggplant, piquillo-almond, yogurt dill, served with flatbread. The yogurt dill was delicious - it was thicker than a typical yogurt suace, tangy - it tasted healthy! The eggplant sauce was sweeter, with a hint of spice at the end. The picquilo almond was my least favorite, but I chalk that up my dislike of peppers. Everyone at the table had a different favorite. We also ordered the arugula with parsimmon, pomegranate, almonds, and burmuda triangle cheese, the canelli beans, ras el hanout (a blend of spices used in the Middle East and North Africa), sheep's milk feta, bread crumbs, and oregano. Finally, we ordered the basteeya - which is a puff pastry filled with almonds, beef, and cinnamon, and topped with powdered sugar. OMG it tasted like a meat doughnut, which, trust me, is delicious! We were literally fighting over the crumbs of this dish.

Some time after we were licking the suaces the drinks arrived. (Except for my mom's, who stuck to wine - her's came almost immediately.) My guess would be because they were all muddled, they took a couple of extra minutes, but they took ages to get to the table. Thank goodness they were good. My dad had the strawberry with rose papaya and teguila, I had the meyer lemon, with basil and vodka. Tasted like a lemon drop! Adam had the watermelon, with tequila, and jalepeno. My dad and I hated it (I thought it tasted like salsa), my mom and Adam loved it.

For dinner we split three dishes - although we probably should have stopped at the appetizers. First we had the cod with saffron broth, fennel, carrot, and potato. The fish was perfectly cooked and the sauce was so heady with saffron I could have drank it. We had the couscous with beef, prawns, and chicken. It was really good, but the dish didn't really shine. Finally we had the rabbit with paprika, carrot, parsnip, and dried cherries. I don't think there was anything but bones left.

We ended up walking the 45 blocks back.