Archive for the ‘food’ Category

I just finished reading a wonderful book — A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.  Molly is the creator of the smart and tasty blog Orangette and the owner, along with her husband Brandon, of the Seattle restaurant Delancey.  I plan to eat at Delancey on my very next visit to Seattle.  I promise.

Anyway, as I was saying, I just finished reading A Homemade Life.  Every chapter tells a story and includes a recipe, and I pretty much want to cook or bake every recipe in the book.

Not wanting to put my exploration of these dishes off too far, I chose to start with one of the simplest — not that most of the recipes are complicated, but this one is particularly simple.  There are only 4 ingredients, and all but the tomatoes are something most of us have in our pantries all the time:  olive oil, salt and ground coriander.

The tomatoes are those Roma tomatoes, the ones that you can find year-round in most supermarkets.  I ran out to get some.

Preparation is quick — slice the stem end off each tomato and cut them in half lengthwise.  Toss them with the olive oil, spread them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and coriander and put them in the oven (which you have preheated to 200 degrees) and let them roast.

The only thing challenging about this recipe is that it takes a while.  The tomatoes roast in a very slow oven for 4 to 6 hours.  Yes, 4 to 6 hours.  The nice thing is that you don’t need to do anything to them while they are roasting, just check in on them now and then.  I roasted mine for the full 6 hours, and honestly, they could probably have even roasted a bit longer.  I think they turned out perfectly.

I’ve used these tomatoes in at least three dishes since making them — we added them to a duck ragu that was tossed with homemade fettuccine, to a saute of chard and caramelized onions, and served them with scrambled eggs, for breakfast.

They even taste good on their own.


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Sweet and sour chard

I have to start with an apology.  Work seems to have been getting busier and busier and I have dropped the blog ball for the last few weeks.  I am sorry!  I will try to do better — I promise.

A sign of how bad it’s been is that I made this incredibly good sweet and sour chard weeks ago, and have not had the time to post the recipe.  I also have to admit that my photos of the dish are sorely lacking.

But, here goes.

Chard.  It’s piled up in the grocery stores here right now, and massively piled up at the farmer’s market too.  It’s not one of those vegetables that I have always eaten, but now that I do eat it I wonder why I waited so long to start.  There’s something about the taste, the texture, how it adapts to so many flavors — not to mention how good it is for you!

*photos taken with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone.

The night I invented this dish I was also making an incredibly tasty dish of chicken thighs and figs (yes, I know I should post that recipe, too — for those of you who must know, I found the chicken recipe in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook) and wanted something tangy and flavorful to serve alongside that.

Here’s what I made.

Sweet and sour chard

(serves four as a side dish)

1 generous bunch rainbow chard (you could also use kale or another kind of chard)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

3 large cloves garlic, chopped

1 large tomato, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup golden raisins

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon hot pepper flakes

Prepare chard by cutting off stems and chopping them, then removing the stems from the leaves (you don’t have to do this for the full length of the leaf, just near the bottom where the stems are widest) and chopping them.  Chop the leaves coarsely.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan.

Add onions and stir until they begin to wilt.  Add garlic.  Stir until it also begins to soften.

Add chard stems, tomatoes and golden raisins.  Stir until the tomatoes begin to release their juices.

Add chard leaves, vinegar, honey, salt and hot pepper flakes, stir to mix and cover the pan.  Let the mixture cook for about 15 minutes, over medium – low heat , stirring occasionally, until chard has softened and is no longer tough.

And it was good.  Don’t just take my word for it — try it yourself.

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One of our favorite casserole dinners is an adaptation of a dish I found many years ago in Molly Katzen’s Still Life with Menu cookbook.

The recipe includes some of my favorite ingredients — roasted poblano peppers,

Mexican cheeses (like cotija and queso fresco), and tortillas,

smothered with a tangy buttermilk and egg custard.

It’s the kind of dish you can make in a hurry using canned roasted peppers, or that you can spend more time on, roasting and peeling the poblanos yourself.

Either way, it’s always a crowd-pleaser and something my friends all ask me to bring to pot luck dinners.

Recipe adapted from Still Life with Menu, by Molly Katzen

2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 fresh poblano chiles, roasted , peeled and sliced*
2 4 oz cans whole green chilies (you can also use roasted red peppers if you like, and you can also add things like chicken, crabmeat, or sautéed shrimp)
12 corn tortillas
2 -3 cups grated cotija and queso fresco cheeses, mixed (you can  also substitute Monterrey Jack)
salt and pepper to taste
4 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter or oil a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and add the onions and garlic.  Sauté until onions are translucent.  Add the roasted or canned green chilies, roasted red peppers and shrimp or crabmeat if you are using them.
Tear the tortillas into bite sized pieces and spread 1/3 of them in the bottom of the pan.
Distribute 1/3 of the chili-onion mixture and 1/3 of the cheese over the tortillas.  Repeat these layers twice more, saving a healthy amount of cheese to sprinkle on top.
Beat the eggs and buttermilk together with salt and pepper and slowly pour this mixture over the casserole.
Top with remaining cheese.

Bake uncovered for 35 minutes, or until bubbling and browning on top.

*To roast fresh poblanos, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the whole peppers on a baking sheet and roast them for about 10 minutes, until they begin to char.  Turn the peppers and return them to the oven for another 10 minutes or so.  When the peppers are charred all over, remove them from the oven and let them rest, covered with aluminum foil, until they have cooled.  Carefully peel away the charred skin and remove the seeds before slicing them into strips.

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Fresh tomatillo salsa

I am not sure why it never occurred to me that I could make tomatillo salsa with raw tomatillos.  In previous summers I had made salsas with roasted or par-boiled tomatillos, but never with the raw, unadultered fruit.

The other day, in a hurry to come up with something to accompany the chiles rellenos I was working on, I decided to experiment.  The result was an eye-opener.  Not only was this the easiest salsa I had ever made, it was tart and tangy with just a little bit of heat (the jalapeño provided that).

It went perfectly with the rellenos, and equally well later in the week on eggs for breakfast, and again (when I made a second batch) on some pan seared albacore tuna. It goes with everything!

Here’s the recipe:

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa
Makes about 1 cup

8 – 10 medium fresh tomatillos, outer skin removed
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
½  to 1 fresh jalapeño, seeds removed
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 tsp coarse salt (more to taste)
freshly ground pepper to taste

Put first 5 ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process until everything is chopped fine.  Add salt and whir again.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Serve as is, or let the salsa sit for about 15 minutes and drain excess liquid.  Can be refrigerated for up to a week.

Quick, tasty and colorful — it’s a burst of summer in a spoon.  I think you could also freeze it (if freezing works with pesto, why not with this?) and  give yourself a reminder of summer months from now when the sun hasn’t shone for weeks.

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Whole wheat banana muffins

I am sure I am not the only person who keeps finding herself with over-ripe bananas lying around in a bowl.

When I’ve found myself in that situation in the past, I usually make banana bread.  Today I wanted to try something different.  I had just come across a link to a recipe that Mark Bittman had posted in February for Whole Wheat Muffins that used mashed bananas as one of the ingredients, and they looked perfect.

The recipe uses supplies most of us have in the pantry all the time (you can substitute regular whole wheat flour for the whole wheat pastry flour MB recommends) and take about 10 minutes to mix up.  The hardest part is filling the muffin cups with the batter — and then having to wait for the muffins to bake.

MB suggests that they are best eaten warm, so I tried one right out of the oven.

It was delicious.

Hard as it was to resist, I managed to save a few for later.

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We all want to eat healthy food (at least most of the time!), and, if you are anything like me, there’s not a lot of time or energy left at the end of a busy day to invent and prepare new, tasty meals.  That’s why I try to keep a few things on hand that make dinner prep easy and give me time to relax and enjoy good food even after a long day at work.

Pasta (one of the staples I always have in my pantry) paired with homemade pesto (this is something I make on weekends and then keep refrigerated or frozen for use later) has always been one of my favorite go-to, quick dinners.

This version, which includes some tofu (handily disguised so any tofu rejecters in your house won’t even know it’s there) for extra protein and flavor, is particularly delicious.

For this dish I used Parsley Pesto (which I made by combining one bunch fresh parsley, stems removed, 3/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, three cloves of garlic, a generous pinch of salt, and 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil in the food processor) and 12 ounces of medium firm, organic tofu (I like the local, Ota brand).

After whirring the pesto and tofu together in the food processor I simply tossed about a cup of the mixture in a big bowl with some al dente pasta.

The result was fresh-tasting and also hearty.  It’s a new favorite in our house!

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Fennel and zucchini salad

As the summer growing season reaches it’s peak, even the grocery store has fresh, local produce in abundance.  This weekend I couldn’t resist the incredible bulbs of fresh fennel I found at New Seasons.

As I was paying for my groceries the cashier asked me how I liked to prepare fennel and I realized I wasn’t quite sure what I planned to do this time.  I love roasted fennel — roasting mellows the bubls’ natural anise flavor to a rich sweetness that goes well with chicken or almost any fish.  I also love raw fennel — I usually make a salad of thinly sliced fennel paired with a simple olive oil and lemon dressing.

Given the heat of this particular day, I decided to make a salad.  For a change, though, I chose to experiment with a dressing using the cherry vinegar I made a few weeks ago.  To mellow out the fennel flavor, I turned to one of my other favorite (and abundant!) late summer vegetables:  zucchini.

Preparation was quick and easy:  I julienned the fennel and zucchini and added a little bit of finely minced (very fresh) onion.

For the dressing I whisked together 1 part cherry vinegar, 1 part freshly squeezed lemon juice, three parts olive oil, a tablespoon of dijon mustard, and hearty pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper.  The result was a beautifully pink, slightly sweet and tart, vinaigrette.

The final salad was the perfect accompaniment for the bar-be-qued chicken and oven-roasted sweet potato fries that made up the rest of our dinner — all washed down with a lovely bottle of dry rose wine.  A delicious late summer supper.

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