Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Monday, December 8, 2008

Farmers market update -- and Minestrone Soup


The Ahwatukee farmers market is back into full swing, with lots of greens, tomatoes and other good stuff.   My latest step was been to join a CSA (community supported agriculture) called Love Grows Farms.  Basically, I pay in advance for a weekly box of fruit and vegetables every week.  I pick it up at the farmers market on Sunday (where I can conveniently get even more stuff if needed).  This helps provide a more stable market for the farmers, and provides me with an interesting variety of produce.  Here is was everything in this week’s box:

Minestrone soup is perfect to use up odd bits of vegetables (and leftovers).  The following may look like a recipe, but please only use as a guideline.  For sausage I use anything from a couple of links of Italian sausage (removed from the casing in little chunks) to leftover grilled chicken sausage, you can also just use some bacon or skip the meat altogether.  Sometimes I add some cut up winter squash (like butternut) instead of (or in addition to) zucchini squash, or add green beans. I generally don't use any tomatoes.  Add some herbs if you like….   You get the picture.

Minestrone Soup

Serves 6       Preparation Time:  1 hour or less

1/2 pound Italian turkey sausage or other sausage of choice, sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced carrots
1 diced red pepper
2 small zucchini, sliced
1/2 cup red wine ** optional
Other vegetables as desired
1 16-oz can whole tomatoes (crushed), with liquid  ** optional
3-5 cups chicken or beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 16-oz can white or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup rice or orzo (or 1 cup of leftover rice or pasta)
1 large bunch of greens (spinach, mustard greens, etc), chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated
Fresh parsley, chopped

Brown sausage in oil in deep saucepan or Dutch oven.  Add onion, garlic, red pepper and carrots plus a little salt.  Cook 5 minutes, add wine. 

Add zucchini, tomatoes with liquid, broth, and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15 minutes.  Add beans with liquid, rice, and wine.  Cook until rice is tender, about 20 to 30 minutes (less if already cooked). Add greens… If spinach, add just before serving, a bit earlier (~10 minutes) if using a stronger green that needs a bit of cooking to get tender.  

Here are some tasty (if weed-like) greens I like... for reference, that is my big knife:

Check seasoning.  Top bowls of soup with Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Deconstructed Turkey

I know a lot of you figure that I put my recipes on my blog to either a) show off or b) provide a public service (and I don’t need votes to know where most of you stand on this).  But the real reason is so that when I go to someone’s house and cook, I can look up on the web how I cook things, especially details on times and temperatures.

I have done my last several turkeys using this method Based on Julia Child and Jacques Pipen’s Cooking at Home Series.  Basically, you cut the turkey up a bit before roasting.   There are many advantages to cooking a turkey this way:

1)     You can actually get something else in the oven with turkey
2)     The broth (and resulting stuffing, gravy, and soup) is awesome
3)    The thighs are easy to slice, and very impressive with the stuffing in them
4)    The bird cooks in 2 hours **


I have not tried to do a big turkey this way, generally just the 12-14 pounders.  Here is an abbreviated set of instructions, which will help me if it’s your house I’m cooking in.  Unfortunately, the cook book is out of print.   But if you have questions, just call… or leave a comment.  Maybe next year I will have pictures.

 ** At 400 degrees in a convection oven, it will cook in just over an hour ...  which I demonstrated last year at my brothers.

 Turkey prep (12 - 14lb) and stock:

Cut off both legs, with thigh attached. Get the chunk of meat from the back when cutting the thigh.  De-bone the thigh, but not the leg. Cut the back off the breast. Remove the wishbone.  Remove fat from breast flap, but leave the skin on. Leave the wings on. 

Use back, neck, and giblets to make stock.  Brown the meat, add 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, 1 onion, (all roughly chopped), and a big handful of herbs.  Add 2-3 quarts of water plus salt and pepper.  Cook over low for 4 hours.  Strain, cool.  Keep the giblets if desired.

Stuffing:

1 bag Partridge Farms cubed stuffing (or make your own bread for stuffing)
½ ounce dry mushrooms <I used black trumpets>, reconstituted in ~ 1 cup boiling water.
Stain mushrooms, reserve liquid, rinse if needed.  Chop mushrooms and add to stuffing.  Add most of liquid, careful to not get any grit at bottom.

Meanwhile, sauté in a couple of tablespoons of butter:
½ pound mushrooms (sliced)
1 shallot (diced small)
½ a large onion (diced)
2 stalked celery (diced small)

Add to stuffing, along with ~ ¼ cup of chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, sage, etc).
Add ~2 cups of broth, or until moist.


Roasting:

Stuff the thighs and tie with string. Tuck wings back on the breast.  Make a pile of stuffing, put the breast on top. Put some stuffing in front cavity of breast.  Put the thighs/legs next to the breast in the pan.

Roast at 325 F for ~2 hours.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Chimichangas

This is a hard time of year to figure out “what’s for dinner”.   We are tired of salads and things tossed on the grill that we have been eating all summer, but since its been in the 90’s, it still doesn’t’ seem right to have soups and stews.  If you ever lived in Tucson, you will remember these giant deep fried burritos.. served enchilada style for a real gut buster.

So, this is not the same thing, not at all.  But they are very good, easy to make, and great for getting out of the dinner rut.


The original version called for jarred salsa, but I generally make with a mix of red peppers, green chili’s, and onions to keep them tomato free.  Either way is good.  I tend to use more vegetables than called for (big surprise). I usually do it without meat, but  if you happen to have some leftover grilled or roasted meat  you can chop it up and through it in too.

Baked Veggie Chimi’s

3 servings

1 can (15 oz) black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons sliced olives
1 can (7oz) diced green chilies
½ cup (+) of shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup roasted (or not) red pepper (from a jar is OK), diced *
4 green onions, sliced thin  *
2 tablespoons cilantro *
Cumin or chili powder to taste *
3 flour tortilla’s (large) or 4 or 5 if they are medium or small
* or can use ½ cup of salsa

Garnish (pick a couple):
Sour cream or Plain yogurt
Shredded cabbage mixed with cilantro
Sliced avocado
Salsa

Pre-heat oven to 425F.

In a bowl, mix everything up to the tortilla’s.  Heat the tortilla’s in the microwave (about 30 sec).  Put 1/3 of the bean mixture in a tortilla and wrap. Put seam side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet or parchment paper. Repeat with remaining tortillas.  Spray or brush or rub chimi’s lightly with olive or other oil. Bake until crisp and brown, about 15 minutes. Top with garnishes.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Signs of Fall

People who live where it really gets cold talk about “loving four seasons”.   Phoenix has four seasons too, you just have to look a little a little harder since you don’t have things like snow to make a point of winter, or a bunch of leaves suddenly turning red because you had your first frost.   I will admit that fall is the hardest season to detect in Phoenix, but today it finally seemed like summer is behind us.  We have had some clues:  Halloween decorations are starting to show up in front yards, they are starting on the long process of putting Christmas lights up on Chandler (which they fortunately do not light until after Thanksgiving), but this was the first weekend we actually had the air conditioners off in the middle of the afternoon!    Which means that maybe we can actually start thinking about soups and stews… even if it still supposed to be back to the high 90’s next week.

Here is a very quick soup to make – it really only takes about a ½ hour, and its packed with protein and is a bit different. 

Chinese Chicken and Corn Soup

1 boneless skinless chicken breast
2 tablespoons dry sherry
½ teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons cornstarch (divided)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon thinly shredded fresh ginger
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 quart chicken broth
1 package firm tofu (12 – 14 ounces), cut into ½ inch squares
1 ½ cups frozen corn
1 egg
½ cup thinly sliced green onions
A bit more sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice breast crosswise into ½ inch strips.  In a small bowl, mix chicken with wine, sesame oil, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch.   In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium high heat, add the garlic and ginger, then add the chicken mixture.  Let cook for a while, stir (yes, this will stick to the pan*, use a sharp spatula). 

When chicken is brown, add broth and bring to a boil.  Add the tofu and corn and return mixture to boil. 

In a small bowl, blend remaining 2 tablespoons cornstarch and ¼ cup water until smooth, add to soup and stir until it returns to a boil.  In the same small bowl, beat egg to blend, then pour slowly into soup, stirring to form thin strands.  Add green onions, a bit more sesame oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

* original recipe recommends a non-stick pan, but I don’t have any non-stick pots (just my 10-inch sauté pan which is routinely used for eggs).

Friday, September 19, 2008

Grilled Vegetables

To continue with the squash theme, and to take advantage of the slightly cooler weather we are having, I thought I would add one of my favorite appetizers, Grilled Vegetable Antipasti, plus the closely related Grilled Vegetable Pasta.   This is so good (and pretty) I have two pictures!



This is from this year, at the book club get together in Munds park.



And this is from a couple of years ago, from a party at a friends in Co Springs.











Please just use these recipes as a guide.  You can cut the vegetables thinner or thicker (just adjust cooking time), simplify the coating… just olive oil and salt is good, or just use one or two vegetables if there are only one or two of you.

Grilled Vegetable Antipasti

Marinade:½ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano leaves
½ teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Vegetables:
½ pound eggplant, cut into 1 cm (something between ¼ and ½ inch) slices
½ pound zucchini, cut into 1 cm slices (on diagonal if med or larger, lengthwise if small)
½ pound yellow squash, cut into 1 cm slices
1 medium red onion, sliced into 1 cm slices – stick toothpick through to keep intact
1 yellow or red bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise
Extras:
½ cup coarsely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
½ cup toasted pine nuts
Olives
Basil leaves (and flowers if you have them)
French bread

Whisk together all marinade ingredients in a large bowl.  Add vegetables and toss to coat. Let marinate for 1 – 2 hours.

Preheat grill to medium or high heat.  Place vegetables on the grill (in batches if necessary).  Grill until marked and starting to soften, generally 2 – 5 minutes per side depending on grill temperature.  Removed with tongs and arrange on a platter, let cool slightly.  Add cheese, pine nuts, olives, basil, and/or anything else that seems good.

Optional:  brush thin diagonal slices of the French bread with olive oil and grill until lightly toasted, about 1 minute per side.

Grilled Vegetable Pasta

4 servings

Veggies (use as a guide only!):¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Fresh or dry herbs, salt, pepper
2 medium zucchini, sliced diagonally about ½ inch thick
1 small eggplant, sliced lengthwise in ½ inch slices
1 red or mild yellow onion, cut in 2 large slices and skewered
2 red bell peppers, whole
1 ear corn, silk removed and husk replaced
1 head of garlic, top cut off
And/or:  Mushrooms, Asparagus

Pasta:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ cup fresh basil (or other herbs)
½ pound chunky pasta, cooked
Save about ½ cup pasta water
¼ cup dry white wine (optional)
¼ cup goat cheese, crumbled
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

For Grilled Veggies:  Mix together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper.  Mix with vegetables (can do earlier in the day).   Drizzle garlic with oil and partially wrap in foil. On grill heated to medium, put in some wood chips and with several branches of rosemary. Put all the vegetables on the grill. The corn will cook quickest, maybe 10 minutes. Cook remaining veggies until soft and browned, 15 - 20 minutes.  Turn every 5-10 minutes.  The bell pepper skin will be black.  Remove pieces from grill as they get done and let cool.

Dice the squash, eggplant, and onion. Peel bell pepper and dice.   Cut corn from cob. Put in a large bowl.  Put in several cloves of roasted garlic (cut in half if large), use remainder for snacking.  Add the cooked and drained pasta. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a bit more salt and pepper to taste, chopped fresh basil, enough pasta water and/or white wine to moisten (about ½ cup total).  Serve with about 1 tablespoon each goat cheese crumbles and toasted pine nuts on each serving.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Squash and more squash

We had a great weekend in Colorado Springs, visiting friends who happen to have a garden… and lots of squash (both summer and winter versions).   Plus I have found a great new recipe for a pasta sauce which has lots of possibilities.... seemed I needed to make sure I posted this now for everyone who might have excess squash.

We could not leave without taking some summer squash (side note:  TSA does allow squash in your carry-on bags*), so I made a new variant on “Pasta Whatever” at the beginning of the week: Chop 2 slices of bacon** and cook until crisp, set aside.  Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat.  Saute ½ an onion, chopped, in the bacon fat.  Add 3 small-medium sized yellow squash, cut in half and sliced thin, sauté a bit more, and deglaze with a bit of white wine.  Add some pasta water if it starts to get too dry.  When the squash is cooked (takes just a few minutes) add a ½ pound of cooked chunky pasta.  Stir, add a couple of ounces of goat cheese, chopped basil,  and reserved bacon.   We ate the entire batch in one sitting (normally, we have at least enough left for one lunch!)

* It’s allowed, but expect they will put your bag back through the x-ray and make comments like “is this zucchini in here?”
**  Look for an upcoming blog just on bacon.  Just a touch of bacon now and then makes life much better.
Next is a winter squash pasta sauce based on a Giada de Laurentiis recipe.  I generally have trouble doing anything the same twice, and have made this 3 times: 2 different ways with sausage, and tonight with mushrooms.  Someday I will do the original version, which calls for Shrimp.   

Squash Sauce

This makes enough for 1 ½ pounds of pasta, and freezes very well.  Since I normally cook a ½ pound of pasta, this makes enough for 3 batches, I use one, and freeze the other 2 in zip-loc baggies. 

¼ cup olive oil
2 pounds butternut squash, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet or wide pot over medium high heat. Add squash, garlic, salt and pepper.  Sauté until the squash is golden and starting to get tender, 5-7 minutes. Add the stock, bring to simmer, cover and cook until the squash is very soft, another 7- 10 minutes.  Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth.

Pasta with squash sauce

Each of below is based on ½ pound of chunky pasta (like rigatoni), and 1/3 batch of Squash Sauce and makes 2-3 servings.

Shrimp (from original version, which I never have actually done):
Saute ½ pound of shrimp in olive oil with some salt and pepper.
Combine cooked pasta, warmed pureed squash, and ½ cup of milk. Stir to combine.  Add cooked shrimp, ¼ cup chopped basil, and a couple of tablespoons grated parmesan. Stir until warm and serve.

Sausage (v1):
Grill pre-cooked sausage (or warm leftover grilled sausage) and cut into chunks.
Combine cooked pasta, warmed pureed squash, and ½ cup of milk. Stir to combine.  Add sausage, ¼ cup chopped basil, and a ¼ cup grated parmesan. Stir until warm and serve.  Caution: this looks a lot like mac and cheese, but its not.

Sausage (v2):
Saute ½ a chopped onion and a clove of minced garlic in a bit of olive oil until soft.  Add  ½ pound of Italian sausage removed from casing. (I use turkey sausage, but this would be great with venison sausage if I could get more from my brother) and sauté until browned.  Add squash sauce.  Cook for about 5 minutes.   Add cooked pasta and a ¼ cup of light cream (half and half).  Stir, adding a bit of pasta water if needed to thin.  Serve with a good grating of parmesan cheese.

Mushroom:
Saute ½ a chopped onion in a bit of olive oil for a few minutes.  Add a ½ tablespoon of butter, then ¼ - ½ pound of mushrooms (shitake or cremini), cut in half. Saute until starting to brown, then add ½ cup of white wine.  Cook until wine is reduced and almost gone, then add squash puree and a teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme.  Cook for a few minutes.   Add cooked pasta and stir. Remove from the heat and add ¼ cup of plain (preferably Greek) yogurt, stir until mixed.  Serve with a good grating of parmesan cheese.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Salad Dressing

It’s probably some sign of obsession, but there are not any bottles of salad dressing in the refrigerator.   I have made vinaigrette for years, but at some point (the point likely being the Italy trip), we just stopped using bottled salad dressing.  I finally tossed the ¼ full jars.    Most of the time I’m happy with oil and vinegar based dressing; it’s easy to alternate the oils and vinegar to keep it interesting. But every so often I am hungry for a creamy dressing.  And most creamy recipes either call for raw eggs (which I’m OK to eat, but not really willing to serve to anyone) or make 2+ cups of dressing and goes bad a few days.  But finally I have found a recipe that works for me, and the ingredients are things that often are in my house (OK, buttermilk may not be in your fridge, but around my house it goes into waffles, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and any muffin recipe that calls for milk).

Creamy Dressing:
1 small clove garlic, smashed and mashed to a paste with a bit of salt
Scant ¼ cup plain yogurt (I use Greek 2%)
Scant ¼ cup mayonnaise (Best Foods)
¼ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon white wine or Sherry vinegar
Fresh ground pepper
Whisk everything together in a small bowl.  Keep refrigerated and use within a few days.

Options:  Add 2 ounces crumbled blue cheese (I have some Maytag Blue cheese ready to try this!)

Vinaigrette Dressing

Adjust quantity as needed, I usually make about ½ this much in a 1 cup plastic container.

1/3 – 1/2 cup wine vinegar (red or white or balsamic or sherry)
2/3 cup olive or walnut oil
1 teaspoon Dijon or some fancy mustard you don’t know what else to do with
salt, pepper to taste

Put everything in a sealed container and shake well, or whisk together in a bowl.
Store indefinitely in the refrigerator.  If you use olive oil, it will get thick, just remember to get it out a little ahead of time.  Walnut oil (which is also good for you, maybe even better than olive oil) has good flavor – and – doesn’t solidify when cold.

A couple of notes:  you can use garlic in this as well, but use right away.  Garlic in olive oil is a good breeding ground for botulism.   This is tasty for a marinade if you use a 1:1 ratio of oil and vinegar,  lots of herbs, and maybe extra mustard.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Swimming makes you hungry

Swimming is certainly the rage this week with the Olympics, Michael Phelps, and the new world records with the new Speedo suits.  It's great motivation to keep me going.  Plus I keep  watching to figure out how out things like the body whip (the dolphin like swimming that the swimmers do as they come off the wall).  My main motivater has been my swim class leader Kymmie, who makes it fun.  She has a huge amount of positive energy that she brings to class, plus is really, really a good swimmer.  And Tuesday made us swim with cups on our head (the red plastic kind you would use at a keg party - I'm thinking there needs to be a drinking party game involved).  The other fun thing is that you need to eat more (assuming your goal is to not lose weight).  According to the press, Michael Phelps eats 12,000 calories per day.  The challenge is to not just starting eating a bunch of crap.  But Kymmie has helped here too, with several recipes on good for you foods to help keep you going. 

Disclaimer:  every recipe I have put on my web is something that I have cooked, usually many many times.  These are from Kymmie, and I have not tried them yet.   I have added my thoughts, and I will add comments when I make them to how they come out (and be suspicious if I make you chocolate pudding).   Enjoy!

Cowboy Caviar

Deb’s take:  This is real similar to my corn and bean salad (my salad has some olive oil but no acocados, I suspect this is a good trade).  Unless you are cooking for a crowd, I would suggest making just 1/3 of the recipe (using just black beans).  I would eat this straight up without the tortilla chips.

Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup of red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp hot sauce (Tobasco)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp salt
3 firm, ripe avocados, diced into cubes
1 (15oz) can each: white beans, black beans, kidney beans; rinsed and drained
3 cups frozen corn; thawed
1 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro; chopped
1 lb pear tomatoes; halved
Tortilla chips; Scoops are best

Mix together lime juice, vinegar, hot sauce, oil, garlic, pepper and salt.  Add avocado; mix gently with lime juice mixture.  Add remaining ingredients, put in refridgerator for several hours.   Serve with Scoops

Cauliflower Lemon Antipasto Salad

This looks yummy.  There are couple of interesting techniques.  One is marinating the tofu in the dressing, which will give it great flavor.  The other is putting boiling water on the broccoli and cauliflower – which should help remove the “rawness” without really cooking.   I will definitely be trying this out.

4 oz  extra firm tofu
1 cup  broccoli florets
1 head cauliflower, cut in florets
1 small lemon, thinly sliced
2 cups  chick-peas
1 small sweet red, green, and yellow peppers, sliced
Half  seedless cucumber, chunks
2 cups  cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup  black Kalamata olives
3 oz   fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
2 tbsp  fresh parsley, chopped
2 oz  feta cheese, crumbled
Dressing
¼ cup  olive oil
1/8 cup red wine or white balsamic vinegar
1  green onion, minced
2-3  cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp  Dijon mustard
2 tsp  each fresh basil, oregano, parsley
Pinch  sea salt and pepper

Dressing:  In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients, gradually adding oil.

Cut tofu into 1-1/2 inch long strips, about ¼ inch wide; add to dressing. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

In a bowl, pour boiling water over broccoli, cauliflower and lemon slices; let stand for 8 minutes. Drain well and place in salad bowl along with remaining ingredients. Add tofu and dressing; toss gently. Cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 hour or until chilled.

Nut Butter Protein Energy Balls

This looks like a way to make your own energy bars.  I’m not crazy about all of the added vitamins that most of the bars have (I think I taste them), plus they tend to be expensive.  
Update: There are a great alternative. I have made with chocolate chips, as well as chocolate chips and dried cranberries.  I have not used the protein powder, but Kymmie says the Ruth's is good and not highly processed, and available at Sprouts.

1 cup raw almond, cashew or peanut butter
3 cups organic old fashioned oats
1-2 Tblsp of protein powder (Ruth's Raw Hemp/Flax seed)
1/2 cup maple syrup, honey or agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract
cinnamon
Optional additions
1/2 cup raisins (or dried cranberries)
1/3-1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4-1/2 cup raw cacoa bits (or chocolate chips)
Combine all ingredients together; take a tablespoon and form into balls. Refrigerate.

Raw donut holes

These look good, I’m a huge fan of dates. However, I am not a big fan of coconut of the sweetened dried coconut (probably relating to those pink Hostess things), but sometimes I’m OK with the unsweetened coconut.

1 3/4 cup raw almonds, soaked overnight in water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups dried pineapples, chopped  (the mini ones at Trader Joe’s)
2 cups pitted dates
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Process first 3 ingredients in food processor until fine powder, slowly add pineapple and dates. Place in a large bowl and add 1/3c coconut. Form into small balls and roll in 1/4c remaining coconut.

CHOCOLADO PUDDING 

This one I’m just going to have to try… 

~3-4 servings

2-3 ripe avocados
7 ½ Tbs unsweetened organic cocoa (chocolate) powder (Dagoba, etc.)
½ cup agave nectar OR pure maple syrup
splash vanilla extract
pinch sea salt
dash cinnamon

Peel the ripe avocados and blend them in a Cuisinart/food processor. Add chocolate/cocoa powder, vanilla, sea salt and cinnamon. Blend. Add agave or maple syrup and adjust the amount for sweetness. Keep blending in your Cuisinart until creamy with a pudding-like consistency.

Eat or refrigerate, serve w/ fresh berries.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Eggs

I have been on an egg kick lately.  Partially because they are an old-fashioned food and also because we have been getting some good eggs.  We had omelets last week from eggs a neighbor gave us (OK, the chickens are not in the neighborhood, but he has some land someplace nearby), and generally get eggs from Sri at the farmers market.  These are eggs from chickens that are really outside, free to wander and eat bugs, which results in orange yolks.  Call me weird, but what I like the most is the eggs are all different sizes, from tiny to jumbo.  And the ones from Sri are all different colors – brown, green, blue, and occasionally white.

I actually was ambitious enough a couple of weeks ago to make soufflés, which was fun but a bit of work, and one of these days I will try some chocolate soufflés.  I also poached an egg (just like Jacques Pepin, with just boiling water, no forms) and put on top of a spinach salad.  But most of the eggs get used in omelets.  

Omelets are more technique and imagination than recipe, so just try to follow along: Start with 2 or 3 eggs, depending on how hungry you are (or who ever is eating)  and how big the eggs are.  I use whole eggs.  Yes, by eliminating the yolks you get less fat (5 grams / 2 of which are saturated per yolk) and no cholesterol, but I think you loose a lot of flavor, not to mention 1/3 of the protein and other nutrients.  Recent data is showing that eggs are not as bad as they have been made out to be, and  cholesterol that you eat has little to do with the cholesterol in your blood (but there is still conflicting information, especially for diabetics) .  So don’t eat a 3-egg omelet every day.   While I’m on the nutrition rant (I’ll get to the recipe soon enough), compare the fat in eggs to Newman’s Own Ranch Dressing at McDonald’s where 1 serving has 30 grams of fat, 5 saturated.

Back to making omelets.  I like to have some vegetables in my omelets, like spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, or bell pepper.. and maybe a bit of onion.  If there is meat around, like leftover chicken or ham (prosciutto is great, but cut-up lunch meat works too) it can go in.  Plus cheese:  Favorites include goat cheese, Parmesan, Manchego, Cheddar, somewhere between ½ to 1 ounce.   Herbs are an option too… think chives, tarragon, thyme.

Omelets: 

To start, get out a good non-stick skillet, about 10 inches.   Start by cooking the vegetable(s).  For asparagus or broccoli, put about a ¼ inch of water in the pan, and boil for a few minutes over high heat until they are done.  Put the vegetables on a small plate and set to the side), drain the pan.  For spinach, peppers or mushrooms, sauté a little chopped onion in a bit of olive oil, (ham can be added here too if you like), add the vegetable, and cook until its done.  Set aside and wipe out the pan if needed.

To make the omelet: beat the eggs in a small bowl.  Melt a bit of butter in the pan (1 teaspoon or so, maybe less) over medium heat.  Add the eggs.  The goal is to cook them slowly.  When they are partially set, sprinkle with herbs (optional), cheese, vegetable, meats.  I like to add salt and pepper at this point.  When the eggs are done (they will still be very soft on top, and you probably have a bit of liquid from the vegetables and cheese) .. and they should not be very brown on the bottom, fold in half, and slide to a plate.   If you are being fancy, put a few more herbs on top.

Some of my favorite combinations:

Goat cheese, spinach and onion
Aparagus and manchego, with chives
Ham, bell pepper, and onion (aka Western Omelet)
Chile and cheddar with Chicken
So use your imagination… and what happens to be in the fridge!

Monday, June 30, 2008

June

What a month.  I suspect Phoenix will set some kind of record for # of day’s in June over 110F, which was even more delightful on Friday when ash from the Ethan fire (no relation to our dog) was falling on the house…  Roy suggested that we go to the neighbor’s and start their fire pit, just to see what hell was really like.  But hot or not, we have had a great display of flowers on our night blooming cereus cactus.

I have been busy in the kitchen (as a side note: its way cooler slaving over a hot stove in the air-conditioned house than doing anything outside on the grill).  I made Apricot Jam, which didn’t seem very hard… just cook chopped apricots, sugar (2:1 ratio) along with a bit of lemon juice until its jam.  I didn’t make much, so it’s just in the fridge for PB&J sandwiches.  As a follow-up, I made peach sauce (which is really good on Roy’s waffles). You make this just like apricot jam, but with peaches and you don’t quite cook as long.  I bought a bunch of peaches at the farmers market so have more in the freezer… maybe I will try some peach jam later.  But I think that this week is the last week we will see peaches a the farmers market (and the apricots are long gone..  but still getting good tomatoes).     I also made soufflés for the first time… Its not that hard, but don’t expect it to be a week night staple – way to many dirty dishes. Let me know if you want the recipe.  

My adventure has been swimming class. The name of the class is the Mile Club (at the Awatukee Y).I figured this meant the goal of the class was to get you to be able to swim a mile.  What they really intend is that you swim a mile every class, which includes a bunch of drills where you only do one part of a swim stroke (like breath).  I really never realized that there was so much to think about when swimming, its almost as bad as golf.   Some of the people can actually swim more than one lap without resting (not me..yet), so  the swim coach said she would start teaching us flip turns.. and bring a video camera.  Let’s hope she doesn’t post them on youtube.

The biggest highlight was celebrating our 25th Anniversary (which sounds much better than a Silver Anniversary, implying that you should have grandchildren and drive a Buick).   We celebrated by going to Tucson and staying at the Westward Look (same place we stayed for our honeymoon), and having dinner at Janos.  Here’s to another 25!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Muesli -- Revisited

I have a hard time repeating things.  I could never be a restaurant chef or a potter that made dinner ware, where there is some expectation of getting the same thing the next time you order it.  I continue to adjust, often based on what I have in the house (especially with $4 gas), or reduce the amount of dirty dishes generated, or maybe to adjust the quantity.  As to my pots, I like to think the clay is jointly expressing itself with me (not that I haven’t really mastered the basics!)

Some examples… starting with Muesli.  The recipe I posted makes enough for 3, but there are only 2 of us (the dog gets kibble every morning and loves it… some things don’t change).    So I cut down the oatmeal by a third, from 1 ½ cups to 1 cup.  The milk should be cut from 2 cups to 1 1/3 cups but that would necessitate a bit of math, not to mention another measuring cup.  So I just put in a cup of milk, or just enough to cover the dry ingredients (including some nuts and dry fruit, and usually honey to sweeten).   In the morning, I add enough plain yogurt to get to just the right consistency.   I now never make it like the recipe I posted last year.  

Another example:  Fish tacos. Using the blender seemed like too much trouble.  So I just mixed the flour and spices in a large bowl with a whisk, and then whisk in the beer. You can just put the fish in this bowl, so one less dirty dish.

Last example:  Muffins.  I made our normal Apple-Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins.  But instead of apples and cranberries, I used zucchini and raisins.  I only had 1 egg, so I used a bit more oil, 1/3 cup instead of ¼ cup.  I was stringy on sugar..  only used 2/3 cup instead of ¾ cup.   Well, they came out great (so I promised Roy I would right it down).

So where is this going?  At some point, you will see a new recipe for “low cholesterol zucchini muffins”.  But generally, I will try to post a comment when I have made a fairly repeatable changes.  So… don’t forget to take a look at the comments.  And if you make something, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on how to make it better!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What Fun



Due to the nature of ceramics – the amount of equipment needed, weight of the materials, and utilitarian roots, it is very often done in group settings… much more so than other fine arts such as painting. My Mom claims that in the art groups she belongs to, the potters are the best at organizing things, since they used to working in group structures, and seem to enjoy it. So, as wonderful as it is to have my own kiln, etc, I do miss working in groups (like I did before I had my own stuff) and the creative power that comes from a bunch of fun people. This is an easy thing to fix: I invited a bunch of friends over on Monday’s in May, and we made masks. What fun!

The masks all came out quite wonderful, check the photo site to see each one. Everyone has promised to give their pieces names (however, I didn’t seem to have the right combination of wine and writing utensils to actually get them all… so if you don’t have a name, send me one!).

And I will do it again – for me as much as for everyone – after the hot days of summer are behind us.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stir Fry

One of the things I make on a regular basis is stir fry.  Mom gave me a big bag of oranges a while back, and in finding creative ways to use them, starting using them to make stir fry sauce. I thought this would be a good thing to post, but realized I don’t actually have a recipe, so it has taken me a while to figure out how I make it (including a couple of critical measurements, like how much cornstarch).  So, mom’s oranges are gone, but you can still get some at the farmers market.  I would hesitate to use the good looking oranges in market, as they are now imported (and who knows what they have been treated with to keep them pretty).  Speaking of the Farmers Market – they are getting some apricots and peaches!  Back to the stir fry -- the general recipe is a bit of meat or tofu stir fried with garlic and ginger, a big pile of vegetables that are “steam fried”, and sauce made from a spoonful of cornstarch, soy sauce and other liquid, served on rice.   Following is my recipe, but don’t hesitate to adapt to your taste (or what’s in the fridge or the market)!

Stir Fry

3-4 servings.  This takes me a little over 30 minutes to make: I get everything out, start the rice (if I’m using white rice..  brown rice would need to be started sooner), clean and cut the vegetables, cut the meat, prep the sauce, start cooking.

Protein: ½ pound of chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, or tofu (more or less to taste)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
½ teaspoon red pepper flake (optional)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Vegetables:
1 small onion (sliced vertically)
1 large carrot (sliced diagonally)
½ red or yellow bell pepper (sliced diagonally) (optional)
½ pound mushrooms, sliced
2-3 cups green vegetables (celery, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, etc)
2-3 cups bean sprouts or napa cabbage (or use more green vegetables)
Water or broth for steaming

Sauce:
¼ cup soy sauce (I like the lower sodium tamari kind)
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
Zest from one orange (optional)
Juice from one orange, or ¼ cup wine or rice vinegar (optional)
Water or broth to make one cup

The cooking goes quick: everything should be prepped prior to starting to cook. All the vegetable should be in bite size pieces. If using meat, slice across the grain in thin strips. For shrimp, leave whole if small or cut in chunks if big, or cube tofu.   To make the sauce, measure soy sauce in a 1 cup measuring cup, add remaining ingredients and stir.

In a large sauté pan (or wok), heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 30 seconds, and add the meat or other protein.   Stir and cook until the meat is done, this should take a few minutes at the most.  Remove the meat to a bowl or plate.   Add just a bit more oil, add the onions and stir, then add any hard vegetables (carrot, celery, broccoli).  Add some water or broth (about a ¼ cup) and turn the heat to high. Stir and steam, adding the additional vegetables in order of cooking time – goal is tender crisp.  Add more water if the pan gets dry.  Bean sprouts or cabbage will need less than a minute.  When the vegetables are done, make a hole in the center of the pan, stir the sauce mix again and add to the pan. Turn down the heat to low.  Stir and cook until the sauce is thick (about 30 seconds), add back the protein (with any juices), toss to mix.  Serve over rice.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Mother’s Day, 2008

It was a special Mother’s day for us, with both of our Mom’s at our house to celebrate!  We did a brunch with salmon, a Spanish tortilla (a.k.a. egg and potato thing), asparagus and tomatoes, artichokes, strawberries, cheese, and a blueberry coffee cake. It was quite a spread, I need to remember to take pictures (of the food and the mom’s).

The salmon was oven poached (first time I have done that), using a recipe I found on the web.  I used the side of a whole fish (about 3 ½ pounds), which was big enough to need my turkey roasting pan.   After poaching, I cooled the fish in the poaching liquid (started by setting the roaster on granite that was cold from ice packs, then putting the pan on a half sheet (jelly roll pan) with some ice in to further cool).  I then drained and wrapped to chill overnight, and served cold with some thin orange slices for decoration.  I also did the sauce, which I would rank as OK, not great.  But serving a piece of fish this big  is quite impressive, and tasted quite good (not to mention conveniently done ahead). 

I also made a blueberry coffee cake.  This recipe does double duty, as it can also be a apple coffee cake (which I made last week for the group doing clay… more on that later!)….  Here is the recipe:

Blueberry (or Apple) - Almond Coffee Cake

This is really just a muffin recipe (maybe a bit more sugar), and like most muffins, pretty adaptable.

¼ cup sliced or slivered almonds
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk  (or equal parts plain yogurt and milk… soy OK)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
1 cup blueberries, divided (can be fresh or frozen)
    OR  1 large apple, peeled and diced

Preheat oven to 350F, and spray an 8 inch square pan with cooking spray.

Mix almonds, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl, set aside.

In a small bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking power, soda, and salt with a whisk.  In another larger bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.  Add the dry to the wet, and toss in 2/3 cup of the blueberries or apple. Gently fold together. Put into prepared pan, and sprinkle the top with remaining blueberries (or apple), then the almond topping. Bake for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean (cooking time is usually a little longer if you use frozen berries).  Good when warm.    Yields 8-9 medium size pieces.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri … and lentil recipe

The only criteria for my next book is that it will have nothing to do with New York.  The Namesake is this month’s book club book, it’s a story about a family starting as young adults in Calcutta, migrating to the US, having children, and ultimately about the son (who goes to New York).   As several at book group pointed out, we seem to be on a roll of immigrant stories.   The story told in The Namesake is very believable, in part because it seems very ordinary, compared to last month’s book, Middlesex which was quite extraordinary (and much less believable). It does get a bit slow in the  middle, but it’s an enjoyable read.  The writing is quite nice, exploring relationships and inner struggles.

And no matter how good (or not) the book is, book group is always a fun.   Often, when the book has a reference to food, we try to tie that into the get together.  This month, Vy had good intentions of getting some Indian food, but things didn't work exactly as planned, so I volunteered to bring one of my favorite Indian dishes (which was not a big sacrifice because its easy to make). This is good as part of an Indian meal, but is also great on its own as a simple dinner or as a side with some grilled meat.  I brought a double batch (minus a bowl for Roy) to the party, but I cut back on the chilies since the ones I had were pretty hot and I didn't know how spice tolerant everyone was.

Lentils with Spinach and Ginger (Dal)
I like to use “grown up” spinach for this dish, it seems a bit sturdier and more flavorful than baby spinach, but its necessary to really do a good cleaning job.  But its really ok to use any greens, so I use what ever is good at the farmers market, and you can’t beat bags of baby spinach for convenience.   Adjust the hot peppers to taste.

1 cup lentils, washed and drained
2 ½ cups water
1 tablespoon vegetable (or olive) oil
1 - 2 fresh, hot green chilies, finely diced (or less to taste)
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
8-10 ozs baby spinach, or 1 bunch regular spinach, chopped
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Put lentils and water into pot. Bring to a boil, turn to low and simmer for about 45 minutes.
When the lentils are done, start the spinach.  Put another pot on stove and heat over medium. Add oil, put in the chilies and ginger.  Stir and cook for about 10 seconds, add spinach and cilantro.  Stir and cook until the spinach has wilted.  Add the cooked lentils and salt.  Cover and cook at a gentle simmer for another 15 minutes.  Add black pepper and lemon juice, check taste and add more salt if needed. 

Monday, April 21, 2008

Strawberries and Springtime

Spring is my favorite season, I just love to see whole trees in bloom.  And this weekend, we are just starting to see the baby quail following Mama and Daddy around.  Another sign of spring are strawberries, and we are starting to get some nice ones from California in the stores. 

Somewhere along the way, I put the little sponge-cake things you buy at the store into the “nasty” category (they seem to be in the Twinkie food group), but I still like the concept of something cakey combined with strawberries.  But fear not, I have found a replacement...  a chocolately replacement.  These come together very quick, and are actually quite good to just eat on their own.  Technically I think they fall into the category of a biscuit, instead of butter or shortening, whipped cream is the fat of choice (which I guess is just butter in a more airy form). 

Serve the shortcake with strawberries that have been rinsed, trimmed and cut in half (or smaller if they are huge).  Any of this would be good with ice cream too.

Chocolate Shortcakes

1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup chilled whipping cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Oven: 400F.   Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat cream and vanilla in a medium bowl until firm peaks form.  Stir cream into flour mixture until most clumps form. Transfer mixture to lightly floured surface and knead gently until dough forms ball, about 10 turns. Pat dough out to ¾-inch thickness.  Using 2 ½ to 3 inch cutter, cut out biscuits. Gather dough, pat out again, and cut a total of 6-8 biscuits.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 15 minutes.  Cool on rack.   Good served with strawberries (slightly sweetened, with some Grand Marnier added) and crème fresh or plain yogurt with a bit of honey added.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Starchy sides... more of what's missing

So if you haven’t figured it out yet with the bazillion pasta recipes, we pretty much thrive on lots of carbs at our house.   So, on the days we don’t eat pasta, there is usually some other “starch” on the plate.  Growing up, potatoes were a mainstay, and I still love them (fried potatoes are very high on my comfort food list),  but its nice to have some variety.  Also, it you are going to the trouble of doing the 3 squares (meat, starch, vegetable), you should work to keep it healthy and simple (especially for the dishwasher).

Enough said…  Here are some of my favorites.

Rice with Almonds and Raisins

Its also possible to do this with brown rice, just cook longer per package directions.
Makes about 4 servings.

1  tablespoon butter or olive oil
1/3  cup finely chopped onion
1  cup rice
2  tablespoons raisins
1/4  cup slivered almonds
1 can (14 1/2 oz) chicken broth

Melt butter over medium heat, add onions.  Cook, stirring, until wilted (about 5 minutes).  Add rice, raisins, almonds, and stir.  Add broth, pepper.  Bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer 20 minutes.

Polenta

Serves 4 - 6.  Or 2-3 with leftovers to saute (which might even be better than the first day)
1 cup polenta
½ tablespoon butter
2 oz goat cheese (or 1 oz parmesan, or other good cheese)
Salt

Cook 1 cup of polenta per package instructions (in salted water).  This will take about a ½ hour. Use a whisk to add polenta to the boiling water, and stir occasionally with whisk.  When done, add a ½ tablespoon of butter, and 2 ounces of goat cheese, whisk until melted.  Check for salt and serve.
Leftovers:  pat flat on plastic wrap (about ½ or ¾ inch thick), wrap and refrigerate.  Cut into squares or wedges, and either grill (brush with a bit of olive oil) or fry in a non-stick pan with a bit of olive oil.


Mustard Potato Salad

This is a super easy potato salad and great with grilled meat (and you can do ahead, but it doesn't need to completely chill).  It's easy to adjust the amount (I usually make a smaller batch than this, which I suspect below would feed 6-8 people). 

3 lbs. small red potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard
1 ½ tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes in salted water, in skin. Whisk oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in small bowl, add parsley.  Set aside.  When potatoes are done, cool slightly, peel, and cut into chunks. Toss with dressing. Check for salt. Cover and refrigerate.  Best served at a cool room temperature.

Oven Fries

Not exactly fried, but quite tasty.  And cleanup is easy if you use parchment paper.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon paprika or mild Chile powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 pounds potatoes (any kind)
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425F.

In large bowl, stir together oil and spices.   Peel potatoes.  Cut potatoes in french-fry shape, cubes or slices, no more than ½ inch thick (small sizes will cook faster).  Place in bowl and toss until well coated.   Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on a large baking sheet sprayed with Pam, or use parchment paper (this is my preferred method, as it’s easier to turn the potatoes, and easier clean-up).  Place in the hot oven, and turn after 15 minutes, then every 10 minutes or so.  Bake 35 to 50 minutes for regular potatoes, 25 to 35 minutes for sweet potatoes.  Potatoes should be golden with brown edges (and cooked through).  Sprinkle with salt to taste.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lemons!

It seems that spring has sprung.  The wildflowers have come (and almost gone), we have great greens in the farmers market, along with good tomatoes (OK, so the seasons are a bit odd compared to most the world).  It’s also the time when everyone with lemon trees are trying to unload lemons.  If you are fortunate enough to have friends, neighbors, or anonymous people at work leaving bags of lemons around, grab some while you can.  You can use in salads and dips (see some recipes from last spring), but if you have more, try some lemon bars.  This is based on a recipe from epicurious.com, but based on the many reviewer comments, I increased the amount of filling, and added the zest.  They go together pretty quickly. Make this and you will be very popular - there's much too much to eat it all yourself!

Lemon Bars

Shortbread base:
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
2 cups flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Topping:6 eggs
2 to 2 ¼ cup sugar
Zest (finely grated) from 3-4 lemons
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice (4 to 6 lemons)
½ cup flour
¼ cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line bottom and sides of 9x13 pan with parchment paper. (Easiest to use 2 pieces, one lengthwise and one cross wise, OK if corners are not quite covered.)
Cut butter into ½-inch pieces. In food processor, process all shortbread ingredients until mixture begins to form small lumps. Sprinkle mixture into prepared pan and with a metal spatula press evenly onto bottom.  Bake shortbread until golden, about 20 minutes. 

While shortbread is baking, prepare topping:  whisk together eggs, granulated sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl until well combined. Stir in lemon juice and flour.   Pour topping over the hot shortbread, turn down oven to 300F, and bake for about 30 minutes.  Topping should be set (i.e. not jiggle if you gently shake the pan… cook a few more minutes if it does).  Cool completely in the pan, then keep in the refrigerator (covered).  To serve: you should be able to pop the entire bar out of the pan (loosen the corners if needed, consider these the cook’s share).  Place on cutting board, and cut into squares.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What’s missing?

Now that I have a recipe index, I am being informed of what is missing from it.  Mostly it has been my fish taco recipe, but our most favorite recipe for Salmon is also missing.  So here they are (I suspect my web master will quickly teach me to update the index).

Fish Tacos

I generally use Albacore core to make these (generally have a lot in the freezer from the annual fishing trip my Dad and Brother's go on), but you can use pretty much any fish..   I had some mystery fish in the freezer labeled with a "P"...  it turned out to be Pargo, which turns out to make REALLY good fish tacos!

3 – 4  servings

Fish Part:
¾ cup beer
¾ cup flour (replace about 2 tablespoons of white flour with whole wheat if you have it)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 – 1 ¼ pounds albacore or other firm white fish (like tilapia), cut into strips ~ 3” x 1” x ½ “
~ 3 tablespoons canola oil

Place beer, flour, spices in blender and blend until smooth, scraping down side as needed. Transfer batter to a shallow baking dish or bowl. Add fish, turning to coat all sides.
Heat 1 ½ tablespoons oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Transfer one half (Don’t crowd fish in the pan, cook in 3 groups if needed) of the battered fish to the pan, placing each piece into a little oil.  Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer cooked fish to a plate, keep warm.  Add 1 more tablespoon oil to pan and cook remaining fish.  Reduce heat if needed.

Secret Sauce
About ¾ cup yogurt (or low fat sour cream)
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Chile powder (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
Juice of ½ lime (or more if not a juicy lime)

Whisk together in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat (best if you make up a hour or so ahead of time.  This keeps for a couple of days.

To Serve:
• Heat up corn or small flour tortilla’s.   The best way to heat corn tortillas is in a dry pan or on the grill.   The microwave with a damp towel works good with flour tortillas.
• Shred up cabbage (or buy pre-shredded), add some chopped cilantro if you like. 
• Other extras include diced tomato or fresh salsa, avocado or guacamole, sliced radishes, lime wedges
Put some fish in a warm tortilla or two, add a good spoonful of sauce, cabbage, and any of the extra’s.

Grilled Salmon with Jalapeno Sauce

This a quick way and nice salmon dinner...  or you can do a whole half a salmon for a big gathering.  Add some sautéed spinach and French bread to round out the meal --  and be ready in a half hour.  The salmon is also good without the sauce.  Sprinkle a little dill (or other herb) on top before cooking.

2 servings, can be doubled or tripled,  

¾  to 1-pound salmon fillet
1  tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 ½  teaspoons olive oil
Salt, Pepper

Sauce
1 ½ teaspoons butter
1-2 jalapeno chilies, seeded and cut julienne
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste
Snipped fresh chives or green onion tops
Lime wedges

Heat grill on high. Put a large piece of foil on a plate, fold in half, and fold up sides about 1/2" -- foil tray should be large enough to hold fillet. Place salmon skin side down on foil.  Brush salmon with olive oil, then sprinkle with lime juice, salt and pepper. Let stand 15 minutes (or at least five minutes). Place foil with fillet on grill, turn down grill to medium or medium high (looking for ~450oF) and cook until fish is almost opaque, about 9 minutes per inch of thickness.

Meanwhile, prepare sauce:  Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add chilies and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat, add yogurt and stir; do not boil (it will curdle if it gets too hot).  Mix in lime juice.  Add salt and pepper.

Transfer fish to platter (skin will stick to foil).  Spoon sauce over. Sprinkle generously with chives.  Garnish with lime wedges.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The recipe index

So to continue on the “I’ve been doing this for a year now” theme, my most wonderful web master has updated the “Food” page on the Fireccoked website to include an index of all the recipes I have posted so far.   I’m sure this will be most helpful for me, when someone asks for a recipe I know I have posted I can quickly provide the link instead of spending 10 minutes looking …  (OK, you are now figuring out how I can get over 200 hits a week), or find a link to post on Chowhound (what I currently do to waste time since TIVO has a dead hard drive and I am unable ... well, unwilling, to watch regular TV).   But I’m hoping that others will find this feature handy too.   In addition to updating the Food page, Roy updated the look of all the pages as well with a bright new color scheme, new headers, and wider format.  Now that the web pages are all done and up to date, I guess I need to find a solution for the DVR problem.  

Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, One Year Later

Last February, Roy set up the web site and blog for my birthday present. I have now been blogging for a whole year!  This is the longest I have done any kind of a journal on my own.  I have tried to maintain some standards:  keep it interesting, a bit witty and don’t horribly mangle the English language.  Plus remember: anyone can Google you.   It seems to be popular: I have a total of about 9000 hits, with over 4100 going through to read articles,  I am typically getting 200-300 read article hits per week now. But I can’t get too excited, some significant portion of hits are web spiders (not people), and some are me looking for stuff.    There have been 83 entries, 31 on food and 30 on books. The most popular entry has been the review on Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver.  Enough statistics -- pretty soon you will be wondering how old I am.  Roy claims I have hit my rebellious teenage years in my 40’s (implying that I’m no longer 39…).  My rebellions started small (like not serving green bean casserole at Thanksgiving), and the latest has been to forsake working for a big corporation to start a consulting business… Parallel Semiconductor, LLC.    OK, I will still be working (knock on wood) for big corporations.. but hoping to have a bit more variety, and a bit more free time (although the people in this business keep telling me its feast or famine).   So this February, Roy has set up another web site for me:  www.parallelsemi.com.  Check it out, wish me luck, and expect me to keep being a little rebellious.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sometimes, things don’t turn out how you think…

If it seems like it’s been a long time since I have posted anything about what’s come out of the kiln, well, it has.  The kiln has been fired many times since September (the last time I posted). I have done a couple of bisque firings (not too exciting or photogenic), and I have done two glaze firings…  mostly the same things twice, and some still aren’t done.   For me, there is always the problem of expectations.  When I put glaze on something, I always have in mind what I think it should come out like, even though there are a thousand variables, and I’m not exactly precise about how I do it.  As a result, things different than expected, not implying good or bad, just different.   Sometimes, I just set them aside for long enough to forget my expectation, and can look at them objectively.  But I really didn’t like the pieces in January’s firing.  After more glaze, and another firing, they are better… but have been set aside (and I’m guessing I will add more glaze and fire awaylater).  I did get a few pieces out, some masks, and some small pieces with new glaze.  Check them out.  And remember, if you want something, the best time to ask is soon after it comes out of the kiln, and I have not figured out if I like it or not, when its not past the point of “it’s not like I though it  would be”.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Yin and Yang

So, two recipes today.  Both are good for the soul, but in different ways.  By my logic, if you have this soup for dinner, you are entitled to these brownies for dessert. 

The soup is from the Moosewood Low-Fat cookbook, with a few changes.  I use chicken broth instead of vegetable (mostly because that’s what I have around). For spice, I use Chipotle chili flakes (Chipotle’s are dried smoked Jalapeño peppers) from Native Seed Search.  The original recipe calls for a hot green chili, or you can use plain red pepper flakes.  I think its best when you can taste the chili, but its not hot (and you can adjust to your taste).   You don’t really need to, but I like to finish the soup with just a little half and half.. I think it melds everything together nicely.  I also like to serve with yogurt, or you can serve with lime wedges and cilantro, but its good without the embellishments.

I have made these brownies for long time, they are from 1st cookbook I owned (and that would be the Good Housekeeping Illustrated cookbook). They are so easy I don’t know why you would ever make them from a mix!  They are full of good stuff (chocolate, walnuts, eggs... all quite healthy, plus butter, sugar and flour since it is desert).   The only trick is to “eat in moderation”.

Southwestern Corn and Potato Soup

Serves 3 to 4

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon Chipotle chili flakes (or red pepper flakes)
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups chicken broth, might need a bit more
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 small or 1 large sweet potato (the orange kind), diced (about 2 cups)
½ red bell pepper, chipped
3 cups frozen corn kernels (about a 1 lb bag)
Salt and lemon or lime juice to taste
Optional – 2 tablespoons half and half
Serve with plain yogurt, cilantro and/or lime wedges.

In a medium-large saucepan, simmer the onions, garlic chili, and salt in 1 cup of broth for about 10 minutes (will almost be dry).  In a small bowl, mix the cumin with a tablespoon of broth, add to the onions and cook for a couple of minutes (this should be smelling very good). Add the sweet potatoes and remaining broth.  Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, the potatoes should just start to be soft.  Add the corn and bell pepper, and cook for another 10 minutes.  All the vegetables should be tender.
With an immersion blender (blender thing on a stick), puree, but leave some chunks (or you can put half the soup in the food processor and puree).  Add a bit more broth if its too thick plus... optional -- just a bit of half and half.  Add some lemon or lime juice plus salt (if needed.. taste first).   Serve with yogurt, plus cilantro and/or lime wedges.

Fudgy Brownies

This makes a lot (think potluck).  You can easily cut in half and bake in a 6x10 or 8x8 baking pan.

1 cup butter
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups coarsely chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 9 x 13” pan with Pam.  In large glass bowl, melt butter and chocolate in microwave, about 1 minute or a bit more (need to stir to see if the chocolate is melted). Stir sugar into chocolate-butter and stir.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well blended after the addition of each egg.  Add the flour, vanilla, and salt to the mixture and stir.  Add the chopped nuts to the mixture and stir to blend.  Pour batter into greased pan.  Bake for 30 – 35 minutes.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Water Color Workshop


You would think that I plenty of time to blog (including time to read and cook so I would have something to blog about), but seems that I have been plenty busy and I haven’t even been golfing!  Last weekend I attended a watercolor painting workshop from Raleigh Kinney. It was a lot of fun, especially since I attended with my Mom (who is already very good at watercolors). 

The technique that Raleigh uses is to start with a value painting (well, after you have found an “interesting” subject).  This is a mono-color painting, starting with a quick pencil drawing, then filling in light and dark.  Only after you are done with this, do you start the final painting.  You start with a pencil drawing, then lay in the background (on wet paper) with low intensity color, then focus on the subject (he does a lot of “negative” painting, doing dark behind something like tree branches), then finish with more shadow and color as needed.  He uses a 2” brush to do most of the work, and can do a full painting in a little over an hour.  His painting technique (wet on wet), from what I know of ceramics, is something that I’m sure would take years to perfect – so while it was interesting, I didn’t set this as my goal to learn.  But where I found he really excelled in design -- how to tell a story in a painting. Plus the value studies were a new concept for me… my sketches have always relied just on lines and color, so this was a new way to look at things.  My big project was doing a painting of a side street in Sienna on a rainy day, based on a photo from our trip last year.
Its scary when you realize how much like your Mom you are, but fun to find the differences.  Mom has done a workshop with Raleigh before, and liked his teaching style. Her goal was to learn how to do landscapes.  If you look at the subject of her paintings, they are mostly things – flowers, birds, animals.  She struggles with landscapes, buildings, things you stand back from.  On the other hand, I suck at drawing things, and going through my sketch book, its pretty much buildings and landscapes, with a few bad drawings of things (like a pigeon).   In the end, Mom ended up with a great landscape painting, I like my painting of a Sienna side street, and still think my flowers.. well, could use improvement.  I’ll stick to buildings and landscapes…  they are fun.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan

Its always easier to like and recommend a book when it summarizes what you already believe.  I had a good friend comment (while we were chowing down at a party) “you’re so thin, you can eat anything”.   I didn’t say anything, but I’m thin because I DON'T just eat anything; I work to eat things that taste good and are good for you (and if not, don’t eat it!).   I quit using margarine probably 25 years ago (I had a good job and could afford “real” butter), I stopped drinking (and never started eating) stuff with artificial sweeteners 10 years ago,  discovered farmers markets 15 years ago in California, and over the last few years, have eliminated High Fructose Corn Syrup and trans-fats from my diet (so I use all butter in my piecrust instead of shortening).  I consider myself  lucky in that I like vegetables (always have), I like to cook, don't have a big sweet tooth, and grew up eating meals consisting of real food, with a minimum of junk food (thanks Mom).  So, I recommend reading this book, but realize its going to be harder for others to swallow than it was for me.

In Defense of Food builds on Michael Pollan’s first book, The Omnivore's Dilemma.   This book goes to the next step, successfully explaining how things have become so confused, and why people on the typical American diet have so many overwhelming health issues that are directly attributed to what they eat.  He cuts through the blather of what we hear (low-fat, high-fiber, no-cholesterol!) with a simple fact: the information on nutrition is simply missing a lot of data. Most of the studies are fundamentally flawed (such as relying on what individuals remember what they ate, or believing that they can isolate one food element without regard to other elements, some of which they don’t even know exist). On top of that, marketing organizations ("pork...the other white meat") further distort the data and influence governments and other large organizations to serve their bottom line, not our waist line. The solid data available is pretty limited:  trans-fats are bad, large amounts of highly refined carbohydrates are bad, vegetables are good. The best studies have shown that returning to diets that were typical of 100 years or more ago (before we started “refining” food) substantially improved health.   And that results in the manifesto: Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.   One of the things that I liked about The Omnivore's Dilemma  that he did not prescribe a solution, he (tried) to stay objective to the subject of discussing where the food came from.  Here he delves into how to fix it… good information, but I’m not sure that it’s persuasive enough to get people to change.  He does give some good tips (“eat food your great-grandmother would recognize”). And its good to keep me on the path that I’m on.   

Saturday, January 19, 2008

New and improved: Linguine with Clams and Pancetta

With the new year and some time on my hands, I have been going through the closets and getting rid of stuff that I don’t use or is broke.  Although I don’t consider myself a real pack rat, I do sometimes have trouble getting rid of stuff.  I like to use things until they are worn out, or use something and be done with it (like a book) and pass it on.  Just getting rid of something because I made a bad decision to buy it bothers me (ok, so I’m a cheapskate!).   But something I like to do  is get rid of old recipes (especially ones that aren't getting used anymore) and replace with new and better.  Although there is some trial and error involved, it usually doesn’t contribute to the trash.  

One recipe I have recently tossed is  my old Linguine with Clam Sauce which (horrors) used Jack Cheese.  The new version uses pancetta (Italian bacon), plus some red pepper flakes which makes it work with canned clams. Pancetta can be a bit hard to find, but you can freeze it (just like bacon), and use a slice or two at a time as needed.    And don't hesitate to mess with the recipe!   This also works with regular bacon, or with the addition of a handful of chopped spinach. 

Linguine with Clams and Pancetta

Serves 2-3

½ pound linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 oz pancetta, sliced and cut into ½ inch squares
2 shallots, minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 6 ½ oz cans chopped clams
1 cup white wine
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Put a large pot of water on to boil for pasta, when it comes to a boil, add salt and cook pasta.   Goal is to have the sauce (below) ready to add the al dente pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil (medium or medium high heat), add pancetta, cook until just starting to crisp.  Add shallots, garlic, and crushed red pepper, cook about 3 minutes.   Add clam juice and wine, bring to a boil and cook for a few more minutes at rapid boil.  Add the clams, then add the cooked linguine (best just to take directly from the pasta pot with large tongs, ok if some pasta water comes along).  If sauce is dry, add some more pasta water.   Cook for another minute or so, then add parsley, pepper and additional salt if needed (taste first – you likely have enough salt from clams and pasta water).

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop, and Table Hop Like a Pro (Almost) by Adam D. Roberts

I really hated this book.  I hated it so much I finished it to figure out why.  The premise is to teach people raised on chain restaurants and frozen dinners how to be gourmets, through a series of chapters of stories about shopping/chopping/table hopping with friends (non-gourmets) or experts (gourmets).   The book was preceded by a successful blog, but is not the Julia / Julie project!   I was interested in this because I too hope to persuade people that they can do better when it comes to eating, with more “real/good food” in their diets.   So… why do I hate it?  First, the term gourmet is off-putting, so I checked Widipedia to better understand the definition.  I think this sentence summed it up:  “The term and the practice may have negative connotations of elitism or snobbery, but is often used positively to describe people of refined taste and passion”..  I guess its OK to be called a gourmet, but not consider yourself a gourmet.  Next, his instructions to chop an onion went on for 2 pages, and I had to read it 3 times for it to make sense.  And I know how to chop and onion.   This would be hopeless to anyone who really wanted to learn.  Last, he has that self-centered, NYC writers affliction.   I don’t know where or why I picked up this bias against male NY writers (and the lead name of this list is Garrison Keillor). Female NYC authors like Julia Powell and Elizabeth Gilbert don’t seem to have this problem.

My next book is In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan…  Hopefully it will be better (he lives in California).