Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chocolate truffle cookies

You know what I love about this cookbook? Everything in it is good, and relatively easy to make.
These cookies? Are amazing.

from Mama Now Cooks Like This

4 Tbsp. butter
1 3/4 c. chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
2 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour, less 1 Tbsp.
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. chocolate chips (I used bittersweet)
1/2 c. chopped pecans (I used walnuts)

Melt butter and 1 3/4 c. chocolate chips in microwave. Whisk eggs and sugar until light and fluffy; add chocolate. Let cool.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and add to chocolate mixture. Add chocolate chips and pecans.
Put bowl in fridge for 15 to 20 minutes. Roll into balls; freeze in parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 375. Don't thaw dough. Bake in oven 10 to 11 minutes.
Let sit 5 minutes before moving to cooling rack.

Slow cooker gyros

I've been doing a lot of baking today for this weekend, and I've got absolutely no motivation to actually cook dinner. So I threw this in the slow cooker today, and we're going to eat it tonight with olives, tomatoes, pita and tzatziki.

The recipe is shamelessly stolen from here.

1/2 pound ground lamb (they didn't have ground lamb today, so I used ground beef)
1/2 pound ground turkey
2 t oregano
1 t paprika

1/2 chopped onion
3 cloves minced garlic (I just smashed it)
juice from 1 lemon

Chop up the onion, and 3 cloves of garlic, and put them in the bottom of your crockpot. In a small mixing bowl, combine the two kinds of ground meat with the paprika and oregano. If your spices don't have a fresh smell anymore, or if you think they may have been purchased in the 90s, consider buying fresh bottles for this dish.

Make a little meatloaf with your hands. Put the meatloaf log on top of the chopped onion and garlic in your crockpot. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the top of the meat.

Cover and cook on LOW for 3-4 hours, or on HIGH for about 2.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Geoff saw this recipe and article in the NY Times, and decided that he needed these cookies. And since my dad also wanted chocolate chip cookies, I made two batches. These things are awesome. To my way of thinking, the main differences are the flours and chocolate, and the refrigeration time. While these things are camping out in your fridge, use the time to stock up on milk. Trust me, you'll need it.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Jacques Torres

Time: 45 minutes, plus 24 hours' chilling

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour (I used all-purpose flour)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (hmm....forgot this completely. interesting. oh well)
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note at bottom) (I used 2 11.5 oz. bags of Ghiradelli bittersweet chips.)
Sea salt

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside. (I recommend pulling the dough out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you start putting it on baking sheets. Your arms will thank you.)

4. Scoop 6 3-1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. (I didn't make giant cookies, I made regular size ones.) Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies. (I got 4-5 dozen normal size cookies.)

Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.

Related article from the NY Times (free registration required):

Friday, July 25, 2008

Old Standby: Heather's Peanut Noodles

Sorry I'm late to this game. I was out of the country for awhile.

So, Heather showed me how to make this once, and I may have butchered her original instructions, but this is the way I now make it. I think it's close to her version. I often make this when I can't find anything else to make, but sometimes I get into a phase where this is all I want to eat for lunch every day for a week.

1. Cook some soba noodles. Sometimes I throw in some veggies with the noodles, such as broccoli or zucchini. Red peppers would be good if you like them (I don't personally).
2. While noodles are cooking, make peanut sauce. Start with a couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter. Add a splash of vinegar (rice wine or balsamic work well), a splash of soy sauce, a dash of red pepper flakes, dash of garlic powder, dash of ground ginger, and a bit of honey.
3. Drain most of the water from the noodles. I usually save just a touch of water to thin the peanut sauce. Add the peanut sauce to hot noodles. As you stir, the heat and residual water will thin the peanut sauce and make it easier to coat the noodles. Add in any other veggies you want. Top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

The whole thing takes about 10 minutes and it's very tasty. You can mix it up by adding different veggies or leftover proteins.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Inside out cheeseburgers

I'm craving cheese lately. And Ernie came home the other day and said he really wanted a hamburger. So, I wanted to make cheeseburgers, but I didn't want the cheese to run off the burgers onto the grill. So we made these tonight instead. Very tasty, and I bet they'd be good with turkey in the place of ground beef. Maybe I'll try that the next time.

1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1 pound 90%-lean ground beef
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat grill to medium-high or preheat the broiler.
Combine Cheddar and Gruyere in a small bowl.
Gently mix beef, Worcestershire, paprika and pepper in a large bowl, preferably with your hands, without overworking. Shape into 8 thin, 4-inch-wide patties. Mound 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture on each of 4 patties, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Cover each with one of the remaining patties. Crimp and seal the edges closed.
To grill: Lightly oil the grill rack. Grill the stuffed patties over medium-high heat, about 4 minutes per side for medium-well. (Be sure not to press the burgers as they cook or they'll split open and the cheese will ooze out.)
To broil: Cover a broiler pan with foil and coat with cooking spray. Broil the stuffed patties in the upper third of the oven, about 4 minutes per side for medium-well. In either case, let the burgers stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Marinated cucumbers

I'm pregnant. I want to eat a ton of pickles. And when I'm not eating pickles, I want to eat cucumbers. With lots of salt.
This is sort of a cross between pickles and regular cucumbers. I got the idea after eating something similar at my friend Holly's in-laws' house a few weeks ago. And then my friend Crystal told me how she marinated her cucumbers, and I put this together by taste.

3-5 cucumbers, peeled or not (however you like), sliced thick
1 sweet onion
several whole cloves of garlic, peeled
olive oil
vinegar (I used white vinegar, Crystal says she likes red wine vinegar)
kosher salt and pepper

Place the sliced cucumbers in a bowl, sprinkle generously with kosher salt and pepper. Put sliced onion on top, and garlic. Add enough vinegar to the bowl to cover first layer of cucumbers. Pour healthy drizzle of olive oil on top (maybe 1/3 c. or so). Cover vegetables completely with ice water.
Cover bowl, shake to combine. Let sit in fridge for at least 2 hours. The longer you let it soak, the better it'll be. I bet it'll last a week in the fridge -- but if you're pregnant, it's not going to last nearly that long.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Broccoli and Cheese soup

I'm still exhausted from our trip to DC yesterday, and it was sort of gray and rainy today, so I figured it was a good day to make soup.
An even better day to make soup in my slow cooker, because it means I don't have to babysit it while it bubbles away on the stove. And, because we really ate a lot of junk yesterday (even if the take-out had a bunch of vegetables in it), I wanted to make something predominately vegetable tonight, too.
This soup fit all of the criteria, and was really good. And gave me an excuse to go to Trader Joe's to buy cheese this afternoon. Here's the original recipe, on a site Gwen and I have both been checking out recently.
And here's how I did it, based on what I read in some of the comments. There's not much that can go wrong with broccoli and cheese together, in my mind. This was good, easy and Gaby gobbled it up. I'll be making it again.

1 qt chicken broth (or vegetable)
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
2 16 oz bags of frozen broccoli florets (because that's what they had at the store)
1/2 diced white onion
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1 cup each of three different cheeses, I used cheddar, Gouda and Jarlsberg

Mince the onion into really small pieces. The onions are going to soften in the milk and the broth, and need to be quite small so you don't crunch on onion pieces when the soup is complete.
Add the onion to your crockpot, and top with the milk, broth, and spices. Stir in the two frozen bags of broccoli.
Cook on low for 7-9 hours or on high for 4-6. The broth is done when the onion is cooked nicely.
Twenty minutes or so before serving, shred all the cheese you are going to use, and stir it in. The cheese will be stringy and will stick to the broccoli florets---that's okay! I also added some leftover white rice to the soup at this point, for a little extra texture. I bet it'd be good with brown rice, or with no rice at all.
Serve with bread or rolls.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bok Choi and Mushroom Mu Shu Wraps

It was at the G-zer home, during a summer home from college, that I first tasted mu shu. The cabbagey, eggy filling! The delicate pancakes giftwrapped in foil! The tiny plastic cup of sweet plum hoisin sauce! The filling wrapped in the pancake and topped with the sauce was like a little heavenly Chinese fajita and I had no idea such delights existed. In my own family home we ALWAYS ordered the same two take out items from H0ng K0ng Garden -- mu gu gai pan, a chicken, broccoli, water chestnut & snow pea dish, and another dish that was entirely composed of spicy green beans. I liked both, but my awareness of the take out menu ended there! Ever since that night with the G-zer fam, I've been a little obsessed with mu shu.

This recipe called specifically for baby bok choi and shiitake. Despite my meal planning and iron clad grocery list, I frequently become distracted shopping with my li'l girlfriend, Sasha, and this time, I bought big bok choi and portobello (I know, I know. whatever. it tasted fine.)
The recipe also suggests cooking in sesame oil, but I recently read or heard that sesame oil is meant to be used as a seasoning after cooking because intense heat changes the flavor or make-up (anyone?), so I used veg oil as I have found olive oil sometimes turns stir fry-type dishes to mush.

2 lg eggs
1-2 T veg oil
1/2 lb. thinkly sliced mushrooms (5+ mushrooms)
3/4 lb. bok choi, thinly sliced (4 C)
2 med. carrots cut into matchsticks (1 C)
3 green onions (I used shallots)
2 cloves garlic (forgot it, but it's in my Soy Vey hoisin)
5 oz. tofu sliced thin (I used Gwen's method of prep with 1:1 hoisin & water as marinade)
warmed mu shu wraps or tortillas
hoisin sauce

Whisk eggs in a bowl with 2 T water, season with s & p. Pour eggs in to nonstick skillet and cook as a very thin omelet on each side until just set.
Transfer eggs onto cutting board and slice into thin ribbons.

Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Saute mushrooms until soft. Remove mushrooms and stir fry bok choy, carrots and onion until crisp tender. (I finished with a quick steam with a little liquid in the pan and the lid on to speed the process)

Transfer to bowl and toss with hoisin.
Wrap filling in a tortilla or wrapper like a mini-burrito and enjoy.

from Vegetarian Times, July/Aug 2008 (thanks, Kelly!)

very cherry whole-wheat muffins

From everybody likes sandwiches. I made these as a bread instead of muffins (no muffin cup liner thingies; too lazy to wash difficult muffin pan) and it was delicious, but a little too dense and healthy-tasting even though I'd done half regular whole wheat flour and half white. Next time -- and there will be a next time, because the fresh-cherries-in-baked-goods idea is quite sound -- I will invest in some pastry flour as the recipe suggested.

2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 t salt
1 T baking powder
1/4 c brown sugar
1 c fresh pitted cherries, chopped [I did more than this, and did not chop very finely]]
1 egg
3/4 c skim milk
1/2 t almond extract [[I substituted vanilla]]
1 t vanilla
1/4 c melted butter

1. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. In a smaller bowl, mix together the egg, milk, vanilla, almond extract and melted butter.

2. Dump the cherries into the flour mixture and then add in the liquids. Mix until everything has blended together.

3. Grease 12 muffin tins and then spoon batter into cups. Bake at 375 until tops are golden, about 25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Vegetarian Sloppy Joe

My archaeology professor would call these Sloppy Joan's. Warning: this recipe does not list exact measurements but it sure is good.

1 pkg Smart Ground veggie crumbles
1/4 C minced red onion
1 or 2 handfuls of diced tomatoes (or half a can of your favorite canned diced tomatoes)
BBQ sauce/ketchup/Manwich or preferred sloppy joe wet stuff
sandwich buns of your choice

Sweat your onions in just a smidge of o.o. then add Smart Ground until warmed through. Add enough sauce to preferred sticky sauciness and stir in tomatoes. Serve about 1/4 to 1/2 C on the bun of your choice, I used whole wheat rolls but I bet a yummy ciabatta would be good. Garnish with more onions or shredded cheese if you wish. Serve with your favorite potato salad and/or hot buttery corn on the cob. Eat. Enjoy.

*I made my own BBQ sauce however I don't measure the ingredients--I do it all by taste. The ingredients are as follows: ketchup, yellow mustard, minced garlic, molasses or brown sugar (or both), cayenne and red pepper flakes.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Parmesan Chicken

This was fantastic, and very easy to throw together. I'll be making this one again, even if Gaby decided the chicken was "too chewy." (it wasn't)

from the Barefoot Contessa

4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used thin breasts, already pounded, because I'm lazy)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon water
1 1/4 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
Unsalted butter
Good olive oil

Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4-inch thick. You can use either a meat mallet or a rolling pin.
Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.
Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts. Serve with extra grated Parmesan.

Monday, July 14, 2008

green beans & tofu in a thai coconut sauce

Whoops, I lied earlier -- this recipe is from Everybody Likes Sandwiches, not Smitten Kitchen. I love both of them.

I've stolen two of these techniques -- the cornstarch on tofu and the making a thick sauce out of coconut milk -- and used them in a bunch of different ways, and they always work great. I am never making tofu without cornstarch again. Also, the Thai chili-garlic sauce? Excellent condiment discovery for $1.99. It's delicious.

My one quibble with this recipe is the way the green beans have to be baked in the oven -- they were good, sure, but not worth turning on the oven in the un-air-conditioned apartment. Next time, I'm going to just do the green beans in the stir fry pan with everything else, unless I'm looking for an excuse to turn on the oven this winter.

1 block organic tofu, pressed and cubed
2 T soy sauce
1 t toasted sesame oil
1 t minced ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 t red dried chili flakes
3 - 4 T cornstarch
2 T vegetable oil

Marinate the tofu in the soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and dried chili flakes for 15 minutes or until the tofu has soaked up most of the liquid. Reserve any liquid and extra chili, garlic and ginger for the stir fry. Add tofu to a bag containing the cornstarch and toss until cubes are coated. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pan or a wok and fry up cubes until golden. Set aside.

1 lb green beans, rinsed & trimmed
2 T soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t ginger, minced
1 t sriracha

Toss the beans in the ingredients and roast on a shallow baking tray for 15 - 20 minutes in a hot oven. Remove from oven once the beans become fragrant and have caramelized and just started to wrinkle.

1 large red pepper, sliced
2 large shallots, diced
1 T vegetable oil
2 T chili garlic sauce
1/2 can of light coconut milk
1/2 t Thai red curry paste (optional)
1 T soy sauce (plus any remaining liquid, etc. from the tofu marinade)
juice of 1/2 lime

In the same pan as you prepared the tofu, heat up oil and add in the red pepper and shallots. Once they get slightly wilted, add in green beans. Stir together the coconut milk, curry paste (if using), chili garlic sauce and soy sauce together and pour over the vegetables. Stir fry until sauce reduces and thickens, add the tofu, stirring everything until well coated with sauce. Squeeze in some lime juice, stir and then serve over rice.

S'mores brownies

Gaby and I made these today (they're baking in the oven right now) and they were really simple to put together and the batter tastes so, so good. (admit it, you lick the spoon, too)
And really, how can you go wrong with graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows?

From Food Network

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch fine salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
4 large cold eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups large marshmallows

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8 by-8-inch square baking pan with foil so it hangs over the edges by about 1 inch.

For the crust: Lightly butter the foil with some of the melted butter. Stir the rest of the butter together with the crumbs, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Press the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the brownie. Put the butter and chocolate in a medium microwave safe bowl. Melt in the microwave on 75 percent power for 2 minutes. Stir, and microwave again until completely melted, about 2 minutes more. Alternatively, put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with 1 inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the
bowl on the pan without touching the water. Stir occasionally until melted.
Stir the light brown and white sugars, vanilla and salt into the melted chocolate. Add the eggs and beat vigorously to make a thick and glossy batter. Add the flour and stir until just incorporated.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is crispy and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean, with a few crumbs, about 40 to 45 minutes.
Remove from the oven and carefully position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler and preheat on low. Layer marshmallows across the top and toast under the broiler until golden, (keep an eye on it, it can go quick), about 2 minutes. Cool on a rack, gently removing the brownies from the pan using the aluminum flaps. Carefully separate any marshmallow from the foil and fold away. Cut into 12 (2-inch) squares.

Candied walnuts

I was looking for something nutty and sweet to add to my salad today, and these fit the bill. I think they'd also be good just for eating out of the bowl (which I'll probably do later).

From the amazing Elise at Simply Recipes

1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
I also added about 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Use middle rack in oven. Lay walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Test for doneness. If not quite toasted enough, toast for 1 or 2 more minutes. Be careful not to burn. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack.

Pour sugar into a medium saucepan with a thick bottom. Have walnuts nearby, ready to quickly add to the pan at the right time. Cook sugar on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon as soon as the sugar begins to melt. Keep stirring until all the sugar has melted and the color is a medium amber. (I added the cinnamon at this step) As soon as sugar is melted and the color is a medium amber, add the walnuts to the pan, quickly stirring and coating each piece with the sugar mixture.
As soon as the walnuts are coated with the sugar mixture, spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet, lined either with a Silpat non-stick mat, or with wax paper or parchment paper. Use two forks to separate the walnuts from each other, working very quickly. Sprinkle the nuts with the salt. Let cool completely.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Strawberry ice cream

The strawberries were buy one, get one container free in the store yesterday, and I've been looking for an excuse to get my ice cream maker out, so that was really all I needed.
This is super easy to make, and if I haven't said it before -- if you eat a lot of ice cream (and I do), there's nothing that beats homemade ice cream. Especially in the summer. Our little canister ice cream maker was not that much money, and it really is perfect for what we need.

from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book

3 heaping cups strawberries
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. sugar (we actually used 2 Tbsp. more than that)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. half and half
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Puree the strawberries with the salt in a food processor or food mill. There should be about 2 cups of puree. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the eggs until thickened and pale yellow. Set aside.
Bring the half and half to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Slowly beat the hot half and half into the eggs and sugar. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly. Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble. Remove from the heat and pour the hot custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl. Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in strawberry puree, cream and vanilla.
Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.
Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in 1 or 2 batches in your ice cream machine, according to the instructions. When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat. For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

Buttermilk potato salad

I made this potato salad a couple of weeks ago when we went to Sylvia's for her birthday. It was easy to put together, and a big hit at the party.

from Ina Garten

3 pounds small white potatoes
Kosher salt
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red onion

Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Allow the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in quarters or in half, depending on their size. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl. While the potatoes are still warm, pour enough dressing over them to moisten. Add the celery and red onion, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.

old standby: pasta with chickpeas

This is the more downscale standby, because it does not require any fresh vegetables (or anything fresh at all, actually).

Cook pasta, any shape, whatever. Drain and return to the pot.

Heat some olive oil and saute some onions and garlic (or not). Throw in some chopped tomatoes or spinach or frozen peas (or not). Throw in a can or two of chickpeas. Pour in a little lemon juice or white wine vinegar. Cook until heated through and chickpeas are softer.

Throw chickpea mixture on top of pasta and grind fresh pepper on top of it -- more than you think you need, although people could also do this individually to taste. Put some fresh herbs on top (or not) (oregano and basil are both good, but definitely not necessary).

Top with way too much grated cheese and serve.

old standby: stirfry with tofu

Upon Shannon's request, this is the first of my two default dishes (and neither of them is as creative as Kate's vegetable soup, which sounds really good and I am definitely going to try). Stirfry is the slightly more upscale old standby, since it requires that I actually have non-expired tofu and decent veggies in the fridge.

Press the tofu. It is tempting to skip this step, but you will regret it -- I learned a technique from Smitten Kitchen that is going to be my permanent go-to tofu treatment now: press and cube the tofu, then toss it in a baggie full of cornstarch (I actually have some weird wheat substitute because the hippie store didn't have cornstarch).

Fry the tofu in a pan with some olive oil, making sure to flip each cube individually after the down-facing side is golden brown.

Boil water for noodles -- I usually like soba or rice noodles with stirfry -- or couscous.

While the tofu cooks, take all the vegetables in your refrigerator and cut them into bite-sized pieces.

Heat chopped garlic and onion in a pan, and then throw in the rest of the vegetables in whatever order, depending on cooking time. Or you could just do it all at once and that will be fine. Nothing bad can ever happen to stirfry! Throw some curry paste or terikayi or soy sauce on top and cook.

(That same Smitten Kitchen recipe I was talking about earlier has a coconut milk variation that is also easy and delicious. I will post that later.)

Drain noodles, throw everything together, eat.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Potato chips

I always forget about making these until it's the summer and we're grilling. They're super easy, good with hot wings (that's where I originally learned to make them) or any other kind of grilled meat. Or by themselves, actually.

White or red potatoes, sliced very thin
Cooking spray
Lawry's seasoned salt or kosher salt (or really, whatever you'd like to season them with, I guess)

Place the thin potato slices on a non-stick baking sheet (or spray a baking sheet before you place the potatoes), spray with the cooking spray, then season.

Bake at 400 degrees until they're the desired crispiness.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rhubarb Crumble

I've been meaning to post this for ages, but I don't actually use a recipe and I still don't have the measurements for it. It's a wonderfully forgiving dish, though, so doesn't need much of a recipe. Throughout the seasons you can substitute apples or berries or whatever fruit you want, altering the amount of sugar you use for the sweeter fruits.

I use about 3 stalks of rhubarb for the two of us.

In a bowl, mix the rhubarb (cut into 1/2 inch - inch pieces) with light brown sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg and/or ground ginger. The idea is that when it cooks, the sugar will melt and the juice from the rhubarb will be lovely and gooey and sticky. If you want, you can drizzle a couple of tablespoons of water over it (I sometimes do and sometimes forget - it's just a bit thicker and stickier without the water). Transfer that mixture to a baking dish (it doesn't matter if it's shallow or deep - it depends on how much delicious crunchiness you want on top of it).

For the topping, I mix a bit of oatmeal (half a cup maybe), a bit of all-purpose flour (about the same?), with dark brown sugar (1/4-1/3 cup I think). Into this, you'll want to add butter, soft but not melted and kind of pinch it in to the dry ingredients. Don't add so much butter that it turns into a dough. It needs to be crumbly (hence the name). Place this mixture on top of the rhubarb and lightly pat it down.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes at 180C/350F or until the top is golden and crunchy and the rhubarb mixture is bubbling underneath.

Serve with ice cream or thick cream.

(There's a recipe from Waitrose here if you want more rigid measurements, but it's not one of my favourites. There is a picture, though, if you need to see what you're aiming for!)

Kate's old standby - basic vegetable soup

Sunday nights at our house are always the same - vegetable soup using up whatever veggies are leftover from the week, fresh bread (made in our bread machine) and cheese.

All I do is melt a large spoonful of butter in a saucepan, and saute a chopped onion and maybe some garlic. Then I add whatever vegetables we have - usually a couple of carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, pepper, etc. I always throw in a potato for thickness. I allow the veg to cook in the butter for a few minutes and then add water and powdered stock - just enough to cover everything. I let it simmer away for about half an hour and then blend it with the hand blender. Served with warm bread, it's delicious. Any leftovers are frozen or eaten for lunch during the week.

Justin doesn't like vegetables and can't really cook, but he loves this meal, and he's learned how to make it. I love it because it's healthy, vegetarian, and a good way to use up vegetables that are looking a bit sad. And I get Sunday night off from cooking.

Old standby -- pinto bean soup and refried beans

I can remember being a kid and my mother making a huge pot of pinto bean soup. At the time it seemed so exciting -- we loved the soup and it seemed like it was a big deal for her to make it.
Now that I'm older, I realize how simple and easy it is, which is probably why Mom made it. Plus, cheap.
There's definitely no recipe for this. But here's how I do it.

One bag pinto beans, rinsed and picked over.
Put the beans in a pot, cover with water and let soak overnight.

When you're ready to cook them, drain the beans and rinse again, then put in a different pot.
To that pot you can add:
One onion, diced
A few cloves of garlic, minced, or a generous sprinkling of granulated garlic
Cumin, if you like.
4-5 slices of bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces
a ham hock, if you've got one.
Salt (how much you use will depend on if you use ham/bacon or not)

Cover all this up with water, and turn the heat on low. And cook until the beans are done. The amount of water you use will determine how much broth you have, but be sure to check it periodically to make sure the water isn't boiling off. I usually cook mine for about 1.5-2 hours, or until the beans are nice and soft.
Ladle into bowls, serve with sour cream, salsa, avocado, etc., if you like. We always eat it with corn bread.

Now, and this is the added bonus of making your own soup. You're going to have a lot of leftover beans. The beans freeze very well, so divide into portions. When you defrost them, you can either have more bean soup, or homemade refried beans.
My dad always plopped the beans in a cast iron skillet, mashed them with a potato masher, and added milk and cheese to get to the right consistency (which is however you like it).
I'm lazy, so I plop mine in a food processor, give them a whirl, then add the milk and cheese once I put them in the pan. Cook until heated through, and all the cheese melts.

I use the refried beans for tostadas, or just for eating with tortillas. Sometimes I eat them out of the pan.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Calling all bloggers...

I've been cooking a bit more lately, and trying different recipes. Which got me to thinking in the kitchen tonight about some of my tried-and-true recipes that haven't made an appearance in my kitchen lately.
I'm figuring I'm not the only one that's got these recipes that have never made it on the blog, may not have measurements, but are what you turn to when you need something quick, easy, good, filling, comforting, etc.
So I ask you, what's yours? I'll post mine in the next couple of days, and hope you'll post yours, too. (can you tell I'm trolling for new recipes?)

Shrimp Scampi with Linguini

adapted from a Tyler Florence recipe

1 pound linguini
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large shallot, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
20 large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled and deveined, tail on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves

Cook pasta according to package. Drain the pasta reserving 1/2 cup of water.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using) until the shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; add them to the pan and cook until they have turned pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan; set aside and keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil. When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley and cooked pasta and reserved pasta water. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a bit more olive oil and serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Whole Wheat Crepes filled with Creamed Spinach and Mushrooms...

... and ham and swiss, but don't tell Laurel about that part.

Preheat oven to 350.

1 C milk
3/4 C whole wheat flour
2 eggs
pinch of salt

Whirl the above until smooth using a mixer or blender. The recipe suggests letting the mixture stand for an hour or in the fridge overnight. I didn't do that and they tasted fine to me.
Lightly butter a 7" nonstick pan or griddle, pour a scant 1/4 C of the batter into one corner of the pan and then tilt pan in a circle to coat the entire bottom evenly. Allow the surface of the "up" side of the crepe to just dry before flipping with a spatula to briefly finish that side against the pan. The lovely original "down" side of the crepe is meant to show when the crepes are filled. Butter pan between crepes if necessary. Stack crepes on a plate until ready to fill.

1 T butter
1/2 onion, sliced
[1/3 C sliced mushrooms]
3 T whole wheat flour
1 C milk
1 Qt chopped spinach
pinch salt & pepper
pinch nutmeg

Sautee onions [and mushrooms] in butter until onions are translucent. Sprinkle flour and incorporate without letting flour brown. Add milk and stir while bringing mixture to a boil. Allow sauce to thicken before adding spinach by the handful while stirring until it gently wilts.
Add the S&P and nutmeg.

Fill crepes with 1/3 C spinach filling and then roll and nestle next to one another in a greased baking dish. (Some people might put ham and swiss in their crepe before filling it with spinach, but those same people might later realize that they had tried to include too many tastes at one time...)
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, just to heat everything through.

I tried this recipe because I was inspired by the very very delicious spinach and onion crepe I had last week from a take-out crepe place in Gaitherzbrg. Though the above recipe was fun and tasty, it didn't quite capture the taste I was hoping for. Now that I look at the take-out menu online, I see that the spinach was paired not only with caramelized onions, but sun dried tomato and feta. Both of those would have responsible for the tanginess that I didn't achieve tonight. They also needed more garlic.

Tune in next week when my husband says, "Spinach crepes again?"

balsamic strawberries with arugula (and goat cheese)

Arugula from my garden! I was so proud. This is from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian -- Mark Bittman as usual.

3 c strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
1 T balsamic vinegar, or more to taste (I used way more than 1 T)
freshly ground black pepper and salt
4 c arugula leaves
1 T extra virgin olive oil

1. Toss the strawberries with the vinegar and black pepper in a large salad bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Add the arugula, sprinkle with salt and toss again. Drizzle with olive oil and toss gently one last time. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve.

Variation with goat cheese:
Before the final toss in Step 2, crumble 4 ounces of goat cheese over the salad.

simple fruit soup

I was looking for something to do with some leftover blackberries (from Alissa's wedding! how did I wind up with them in my bag?) that were a little too mushy to be eaten plain, and this soup from Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World fit the bill. He says it's from central/eastern Europe.

Cold and delicious, but not much different from eating a smoothie with a spoon. Not that that's a bad thing necessarily.

1 quart blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, huckeberries or a combination, picked over and trimmed as necessary, washed, and sliced if necessary (I used blueberries, blackberries and a few leftover apricots)
1/2 cup sugar, plus more if needed
1 lemon, washed and thinly sliced
1 t ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
1 c yogurt or sour cream, plus more for garnish (I used yogurt)

1. Combine the berries, sugar, lemon, connamon and 1 quart water in a medium saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the blueberries fall apart, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Cool the mixture at least until tepid (to avoid burning yourself), then puree in a blender. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. [It wasn't for me.] Chill, then stir in yogurt. Serve cold, garnished with more yogurt.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Parmesan zucchini sticks

These were very easy, and really tasty.

from Cooking Light, July 2008

3 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup egg substitute
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.
To prepare zucchini, cut 1 zucchini in half crosswise; cut each half lengthwise into 8 wedges. Repeat procedure with remaining zucchini. Combine breadcrumbs, panko, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in a shallow dish. Dip zucchini in egg substitute; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place zucchini on a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat zucchini with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with sauce.

Crab, corn and tomato salad with lemon-basil dressing

I picked up a few fresh tomatoes at a farm market this weekend, and six ears of corn. So I knew it was time to make this salad. Gaby tested it for me, and then whined for 20 minutes that she wanted more, before dinner. I think that deems the recipe a success.

from Cooking Light, June 2008
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears) I used 3 ears, and also blanched them before putting in the salad
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion I left this out, but I bet it's good with
1 pound lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices ripe beefsteak tomato
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

Combine rind, 3 tablespoons juice, and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons juice mixture. Add remaining 2 tablespoons juice, corn, and next 4 ingredients (through crab) to remaining juice mixture; toss gently to coat.
Arrange 2 tomato slices and 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes on each of 4 plates. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon reserved juice mixture over each serving. Top each serving with 1 cup corn and crab mixture.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Cherry cobbler

I crave cherry pie these days. It's not so much the pie crust that I want as it is the gooey filling, with tart cherries and sugary coating. I love cherry pie.
I'm not at all inclined to make my own pie at the moment, but we went cherry picking today and I came home with almost 7 pounds of tart cherries. That's a lot of tart cherries. So I made this cherry cobbler, instead.
It's awesome. I hope Becky and Holly won't mind if I sample it today before I bring it to the get together tomorrow.

Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse

6 cups tart red cherries, pitted
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup water (next time, I'll leave the water out. It was fairly runny. Or add more cornstarch)
4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a saucepan combine filling ingredients and cook, stirring until bubbling and thickened. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish. Meanwhile, stir together flour, sugars, baking powder, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until it is crumbly. Mix together egg and milk. Add to flour mixture and stir with a fork just until combined. Drop topping by tablespoonfuls onto filling. Bake for 25 minutes until browned and bubbly.