Saturday, December 20, 2008

Salty Girl Has Moved!

Salty Girl Cooks has a sparkling, new website!

Please visit www.saltygirlcooks.com and bookmark it for future visits! Thanks, Salty Girl

Friday, December 12, 2008

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Dijon Dressing

This is off-topic, but that's what you get on a Friday: I have a big, ugly vacuum-sealed package of tempeh sitting in my fridge right now. Every time I open the refrigerator door, it sneers at me, and then tells me to fold the laundry, do the dishes, and otherwise lectures me in a condescending voice.

Just kidding about that! The tempeh does NOT talk to me. But it does look rather smug, and I have no clue what to do with it. For some reason the past month has been unkind to me in the non-meat-eating sense.

Perhaps it's the cold weather, and my genetic obligation to put on a layer of fat during the winter, but I sure could go for a steak. A happy, grass-fed, lived-a-good-life steak, but a steak all the same. But, I fear it's a slippery slope from there to wings at the corner bar, so for now, it's tempeh time. Does anyone have any ideas?

These lovely Brussels sprouts came from the farmer's market. They didn't talk back to me, and so were quickly snapped up out of the fridge and lovingly prepared (what do you think about that, tempeh?).

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Dijon Dressing

1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
1-2 TB Dijon mustard
1 TB olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
cooking spray
1 lb Brussels sprouts, halved

Preparation:

Combine first four ingredients with a fork in a small bowl. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

Place sprouts on a baking sheet lined with foil that you have sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle sprouts with salt and pepper, and lightly spray with cooking spray. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, or until bottoms are browning. Flip sprouts, and roast for another 10 minutes or until browned.

Allow sprouts to cool slightly, then toss in dressing. Serves 4 as a side dish.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Spicy Chickpeas and Winter Vegetables

In anticipation of the travel adventure that the Husband and I will soon be embarking on, I spent a bitterly cold day yesterday transacting commerce in suburbia. It was the kind of day that makes you recoil when you step outside. The wind never died down and people ran from their cars to where they were going.

Yes. I complain about the cold all the time, so I lack credibility. I know this. But yesterday was different. Yesterday I was literally moved to tears when I saw a man at an intersection.

I was waiting to turn right, and he was standing in the median by the left lane. He was dressed for the weather. He had on thick canvas coveralls, a hooded sweatshirt, workboots and ski gloves. He looked to be about 65. There was a duffel bag on the ground near him, and he held a big, creased cardboard sign: Hard Worker.

[Heavy Sigh.] So many people are struggling this year to survive, just as the weather is getting dangerously cold. At dinner last night, I hoped that the hard worker had somewhere warm to go home to.

Spicy Chickpeas and Winter Vegetables

Ingredients:

1 TB vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 leeks, white and light green parts chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp whole cloves
3 c lower sodium vegetable broth
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
4 dried red chilies
2 carrots, chopped
2 small (or 1 large) heads of cauliflower, chopped into florets
1/2 lb assorted mushrooms
10 oz kale, stems trimmed, roughly chopped
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice or red wine vinegar (optional)

Preparation:

Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions, leeks garlic, and cloves and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add broth and tomatoes, scraping bottom of pan to remove any browned bits.

Add the remainder of the ingredients (excluding salt, pepper and lemon/vinegar), and bring to a simmer. Cook with lid on for about 30 minutes, or until cauliflower and carrots are soft. Season with salt and pepper. Remove chilies prior to serving. Add a splash or lemon juice or red wine vinegar to each bowl prior to serving if desired. Serve with couscous or rice. Serves 6-8.














Friday, December 5, 2008

Pasta with Creamy Egg and Squash Sauce



Do you know when you reach that point where you just can not eat any more squash? That's the time in my household where we forge boldly ahead, and yep, keep eating it. We like to tempt fate.

This pasta turned out delicious-creamy and nutmeg-scented. Very comforting. Good with finely grated wisps of cheese on top. Gruyere perhaps?

In other news, we ate last night at Founding Farmer's restaurant. Have you heard of this place? It just opened two months ago and sources all of its ingredients from local farmers. Rad idea, and excellent execution.

There are some aspects of the restaurant that are a little too cutesy. (I like the shape of the ice cubes, but could have done without hearing how they recall ice-blocks being chipped out of Lake Huron...) But overall, a great dinner nestled in a booth, surrounded by vegetables canned in large, clear jars.

Pasta with Creamy Egg and Squash Sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 lb pasta
2 eggs
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 TB water
1 lb butternut or delicata squash, roasted, peeled and cut into roughly 1 inch chunks(I used a combination of squash)
1/2 cup grated cheese (I like either Gruyere or Parmigianno- Reggiano)
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Cook pasta according to directions in salted water.

Combine next 5 ingredients (through water) in a bowl using a fork. Set aside.

In another bowl, gently mash 1/2 of the roasted squash using the back of a wooden spoon.

When pasta is done cooking, use tongs to transfer it to a large bowl. Reserve 1 c cooking water. Slowly pour egg mixture over pasta, using tongs to thoroughly combine mixture and pasta.

Add mashed squash to pasta, and combine. Use pasta water to achieve desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top each portion with chunks of squash. Serve with grated cheese. Serves 4.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oat-Crusted Pecan Pie (from Cooking Light)


Some things are better when you don't know all the specifics, don't you think? Many things benefit from a little mystery, and pecan pie is right up there.  

I managed to pull off my first vegetarian thanksgiving (OK, not completely veg.- my mom brought over a turkey... I didn't want people to riot) and this dessert was what waited at the end.  

I am a diehard pecan pie fan, but this version left me a little deflated. Could it have been the knowledge that huge glugs of corn syrup were what made the pie so gooey? Quite possibly.  

The recipe comes from Cooking Light.  More and more I appreciate their recipes as a starting point, rather than an actual directive.  If only I knew more about baking, I could have seen the flaws in this pie in advance... and fixed them.  As made, the pie was a bit cloying and flat.  More spices would probably have helped that problem.  

Also, nobody wants a pecan pie with no pecans, dammit. That wouldn't be my first place to try to cut calories, Cooking Light. (I added about 1/2 c more pecans than the recipe called for.) 

In the magazine, the pie is paired with 'fresh cranberry sauce', which just seems bizarre.  Even the food stylist must have thought so: in the photo, the sauce is lurking in a ramekin yards behind the pie, looking sullen.  I didn't attempt the sauce.  

I do have nice things to say about the crust, however.  Easy to make, and with all that oatmeal ( if you ignore the butter), healthy! 

Oat- Crusted Pecan Pie (from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

Crust:
1 3/4 c old fashioned rolled oats
3 TB granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 TB cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 TB ice water
cooking spray

Filling:
3/4 c packed light brown sugar
2/3 c light colored corn syrup
3 TB all purpose flour
3 TB molasses
1 TB melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
2/3 c pecan halves

Preparation:

To prepare crust, place the first 3 ingredients in a food processor, and process until finely ground (about 30 seconds).  Add butter, and pulse 5 times, or until combined.  Add 1 TB ice water; pulse just until combined (mixture will be crumbly).  Press oat mixture into the bottom and up sides of a 9 inch deep-dish pie plate coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack. 

Reduce oven to 350.  Combine brown sugar, and next 8 ingredients (through egg white) in a medium bowl, stirring well.  Stir in pecan halves.  Spoon filling into prepared crust.  Bake at 350 for 48 minutes, or until center is set.  Cool to room temperature on a wire rack.  Serves 12. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Artichokes Braised in Lemon and Olive Oil (from Gourmet Magazine)



This was another item on the FPD (fall dinner party, I'm a dork, what do you want?) menu.  Maybe I should back up and let you know the big picture.  Dinner was cauliflower gratin, these artichokes, roasted acorn squash stuffed with mushrooms, and for dessert, a pecan pie.  

High maintenance vegetable alert!  Preparing these artichokes just really made me feel like I should have stripes on and a big old cuff and ball around my ankle.  Serious work-camp sensations came over me as I prepped artichoke 6 of 8 and wondered if I would ever have free will again.  

I'm not going to say the end result wasn't delicious-- because it was. The braising liquid of lemon, olive oil, fennel and coriander was aromatic and lovely, and the final presentation was quite satisfying. But so is having an extra three hours in the day, that you gained by not having made this recipe. 

One note- I  used a bit less olive oil than called for, because 1/2 c seemed gratuitous.  Nothing bad happened. 

Artichokes Braised in Lemon and Olive Oil 

Ingredients:

1 lemon, halved
8 medium artichokes
3 small shallots, sliced into thin rings
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 c water
3 strips lemon zest
1/4 c fresh lemon juice, divided
2 TB coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley

Preparation:

To trim artichokes into hearts: add lemon halves to a large bowl of cold water, squeezing to release juice.  Cut off top inch of 1 artichoke and bend back outer leaves until they snap off close to base (keep stem attached).  Discard several more layers of leaves in same manner until you reach pale yellow leaves.  

Peel sides of stem down to pale inner core.  Put in lemon water while preparing remaining artichokes. 

Cook shallots, carrot, garlic and seeds in 1/4 c olive oil in a 4-5 qt heavy pot (pot should be wide enough to hold artichokes in 1 layer with stems pointing upward) over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes.  Add water, zest, and 3 TB lemon juice and bring to a simmer.  Stand artichokes in pot and season with 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Cover artichokes with wax paper, then a lid, and simmer over medium-low heat until bases are just tender when pierced with a knife, 20-30 minutes. 

Transfer artichokes to a dish and reserve cooking liquid.  When artichokes are cool enough to handle, halve lengthwise.  Scoop out and discard inner choke (fuzzy center and any sharp leaves).

Heat 2 TB oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then brown cut sides of artichokes in 2 batches, about 2 minutes per batch, transferring to a serving dish.  Add reserved cooking liquid to skillet along with remaining 1 TB lemon juice and remaining 2 TB oil.  Boil vigorously 3 minutes, then stir in parsley and pour over artichokes. Serve warm or at room temperature.  Serves 8 (first course or side dish) 

Gratin of Cauliflower with Gruyere (from Cooking Light)

This, right here, and right now is one of my ideal ways to spend a Sunday:  it's freezing outside, and I'm inside, surveying the scene.  There are dishes everywhere, leftovers crammed into the fridge, and folding chairs scattered across the living room.  Recovering from a dinner party is divine.  


Last night was my first all vegetarian dinner party... if you don't count my several forays into pasta making last fall.  I used two recipes out of magazines, which has its drawbacks.  I find that when I cook with a recipe, which is almost never,  I totally lose perspective on what I am actually doing.  

Without the pressure of having to think on my feet, I become sort of a cooking automaton, and don't think about what I'm trying to achieve.  Additionally, for some reason, when I cook to a recipe it takes me for_ever.  I think it's this sense that the recipe writer is lurking somewhere, waiting to see if I miss a step.  

You can imagine that I enjoy cooking quite a bit more if it's done without a recipe.

That said, a lot of the food I cook I consider too homey for a dinner party.  So, out came the cauliflower gratin recipe.  

Besides being intrigued by how well 2% milk thickens up in a sauce, I can't recommend this recipe.  It could have used some spice- a touch of nutmeg, or clove even.  As written, I found it to be a bit flat and lacking in depth.  For 8 people (as a side), I prepared 1 1/2 times this recipe.... and we barely had leftovers. 

Additionally, I used probably twice the recommended amount of cheese. Otherwise, the dish would have felt a little bit light, shall we say.  Finally, be sure to roast the cauliflower just short of done.  Too long and you're left with some mighty limp cruciferae.  

Gratin of Cauliflower with Gruyere (from Cooking Light)

Ingredients: 

1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets (about 2 lbs)
cooking spray
1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
2 tsp butter
1/3 c Panko
2 TB finely chopped fresh chives
1/2 c (2 oz) shredded Gruyere, divided
1/2 c finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
3 TB all purpose flour
2 c 2% reduced-fat milk
3 TB chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400.  Place cauliflower in a 2 qt broiler safe baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; coat cauliflower with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt; toss.  Bake at 400 for 30 minutes or until almost tender.  Cool 5 minutes.

Preheat broiler.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Remove from heat.  Stir in Panko.  Stir in 1/4 c cheese and chives.  

Heat medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add onion to pan; saute 4 minutes or until almost tender, stirring frequently.  Add garlic; saute 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk; bring to a boil.  Cook 3 minutes, or until thick, stirring constantly.  

Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 c cheese, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, parsley, and pepper. Pour milk mixture over cauliflower mixture; toss.  Top evenly with cheese mixture.  Broil 3 minutes or until golden brown and thoroughly heated. Serves 6.  





Thursday, November 20, 2008

Trust me, I'm a Mom?

“The only obstacle between kids and their french fries: Mom. So here is Debra DeMuth, global nutrition director [for McDonald's], mounting a spirited defense of fries to five mothers of young children at a McDonald's in Baltimore.”

Through the haze of sleep, I was hoping I’d accidentally picked up The Onion. But upon closer inspection, no, still the Washington Post. And the Washington Post was telling me about how McDonald’s is enlisting mothers to chat up how healthy and nutritious their food is. Whhaaaa?

McDonald’s is an easy target for high and mighty people like me, isn’t it? But they deserve it.

This idea of moms as “fast food emissaries” is offensive not only because it feels like McDonald’s thumbing its corporate nose at peoples’ (correct) instinct that, hey, this food is NOT healthy, but also because of the chosen information vehicle. Moms? Really? Have you no shame?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Black Bean and Kale Soup


Happiness is a warm bowl of soup, to paraphrase Linus.  Speaking of Linus, I heard on NPR last week (OH NO. Stop me now. Starting sentences with "I heard on NPR..." ranks right up there with, "One time, in band camp...").

So I'm afraid, due to self-censorship, we'll never learn what the story was I heard on NPR, but take heart. I have other ideas.  

I love love love soup, and am trying to cut back on salt (how ironic, I know) ever since I learned that excessive sodium intake can interfere with calcium absorption.  Sort of a drag, but it just means that I am being driven further from the canned sodium bombs that the grocery store offers. 

Speaking of canned soup, want to hear something evil?  I thought so.  Progresso makes this soup in their vegetable classics line. That's vegetable classics, mind you, not pork-lovers classics.  Anyway, the soup is split pea. Sounds good so far, right? Wrong. In teeny, tiny .9 font under the name it says, snarkily, in italics that you need a bionic eye to read, "with bacon".

Thanks a lot, Progresso. Screw you, too. 

Hence, I've been making a lot more of my own soups. I know the food blog universe is flooded with kale love this time of year, but I'll add my valentine.  

Black Bean and Kale Soup

Ingredients:

1 TB olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp thyme 
4 c vegetable stock
4 c water
2 bay leaves
10 c kale
1 14 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed 
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/4 lemon 

Preparation:

Heat oil over medium-high heat in skillet.  Add onion, carrot, thyme, and cumin and saute for 5-7 minutes, or until onion is soft. Set aside.

Put 1/2 c of black beans in blender with 2 TB water. Blend until creamy. Set aside. 

Meanwhile, bring stock,water and bay leaves to a boil in a large stock pot.  Add kale, and turn heat down to medium.  Cook, with lid on, until kale begins to soften, about 7-9 minutes.  

Add onion mixture, beans,  and tomatoes with juice to pot. Cook, with lid on, for about 10 minutes.  When kale is soft, but still has some bite to it, remove soup from heat.  Add bean puree and stir to combine.  Remove bay leaves and discard. Add lemon immediately prior to serving. Serve with grated cheese if desired.  Serves 6-8.  

Friday, November 14, 2008

Roasted Cauliflower



Sometimes, if the fog is just right, and the rain has just brought fall leaves out of the trees....the world smells like maple syrup. My favorite.


Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients:

cooking spray
1 tsp olive oil
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp TB cumin
1 tsp salt
pepper

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients, and mix using hands. Spread cauliflower on baking sheet, and roast for about 15 minutes. Using tongs, flip cauliflower on sheet, and roast for another 20-25 minutes, or until brown. Serves 4, as a side dish.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Eggplant Curry with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Tofu

I am positively drowning in un-posted posts right now! Ack! Here's my effort at chipping away at the backlog...

As I recently emailed a friend, my brain does this funny thing annually where it totally hits delete on the misery that is late fall / all of winter as soon as warm weather rolls around.

Consequently, here we are at late fall, and suddenly, cruelly suddenly, I am caught off guard by how very dreary it all is. It truly must be some sort of evolutionary amnesia that I'm programmed with that serves to prevent me from cliff-jumping around late October.

The whole getting dark at 2:15 in the afternoon thing feels like being ripped out of bed on a freezing cold morning and then being told that someone just ate the last pancake. Every day.

Oh, I am a dramatic one, aren't I?

Here's some curry to pour into the wound.

Ingredients:

1 TB vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp coriander seed
1 white onion, chopped
1 TB fresh ginger, chopped finely
1/2 TB turmeric
1/2 TB garam masala
1/2 TB curry powder (your blend of choice)
1/2 c vegetable stock
2-3 eggplants, cut into roughly 1 1/2 inch chunks
1 red pepper, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 roasted sweet potatoes, cut into roughly 1 inch chunks
1 block extra firm tofu, pressed, thoroughly drained, and prepared as described here


Preparation:

Heat oil in large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mustard and coriander seeds, and stir to coat in oil. Put lid on dutch oven and cook seeds until they begin to pop, about two minutes.

Remove lid, and add onion, ginger, turmeric, garam masala and curry powder to pot. Cook over medium heat until onions soften, about five minutes. Add vegetable stock, and stir to loosen any browned bits from bottom of pan.

Turn heat to medium-low and add eggplant and pepper. Stir to combine all ingredients. Cook with lid on for about thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove lid and cook until sauce has reduced to desired degree, about ten minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, put approximately 1/2 c sweet potato and 1/2 c tofu in each bowl. Top with curry mixture. Serves 4-6.








Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pan-Fried Tofu with Mushrooms, Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Rice

I feel like singing, and trust me, I have an awful, awful voice. The cause of the joy-overload? I just went running in Rock Creek and it was amazing... the leaves are at their absolute peak and I feel marinated in fall. Bizarre image, good feeling. 

I've already started trying to overdose on squash, no sense in pacing myself through the season, right? I can't get enough.  The Husband loves squash, too, but that's probably due to his secret love of babyfood.  And, no, we don't have a baby. 

If people didn't look at him really strangely, he and a really wee spoon could probably even be spotted in public, scraping the last bits of pureed banana out of a jar with a kid's face on it. 

Pan Fried Tofu with Mushrooms 

Ingredients:

cooking spray (I like high-heat spray)
2 blocks of extra firm tofu, pressed and thoroughly drained
1TB olive oil
6-8 spring onions, white and half of green parts, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
water
1.5 lbs assorted mushrooms
1/2 TB thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: 

Slice each block of tofu lengthwise into four equal slabs.  Then slice each slab into four triangles. Season tofu generously with salt and pepper. Spray nonstick pan, and heat over medium-high heat.  Pan fry tofu in batches, cooking for about ten  minutes per side, or until well browned.  Set aside. 

Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic, and saute until softened. Add small amounts of water as needed to prevent onions and garlic from sticking.  Turn heat down to medium-low and add mushrooms and thyme.  Stir mixture to coat mushrooms in oil.  Stir occasionally, and allow mushrooms to cook until they have released all but about 2TB of their liquid.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  

To serve, top tofu triangles with mushroom sauce. Serves four. 

Roasted Acorn Squash stuffed with Wild Rice

Ingredients: 

cooking spray
2 acorn squash
1TB butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked wild rice

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with cooking spray, and set aside.

Cut acorn squash in half crosswise.  (Note: to make cutting easier, try microwaving squash for 2-3 minutes to soften it prior to cutting.)  Scoop seeds out and discard.  Place squash flesh side down on baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes, or until outside of squash feels soft to the touch.  

To serve, divide butter between four squash halves, and place in well of squash. Season with salt and pepper.  Add 1/2 c of wild rice to each squash.  Serves four.  

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mimi's Apple Cake


I am still in shock about Tuesday; maybe I didn't have enough faith in this country.  After Obama's acceptance speech, we all walked down to the White House, where a huge crowd was gathered.  The energy was amazing, and it was so cool to be a part of it. And, it was Husband's first time voting in the US- not a bad first race! 

This is another recipe that we made with the seniors' nutrition class that I am an assistant for. Honestly, spending time with them on a Friday afternoon is the best way to wrap up the week.  

This cake comes courtesy of "Chef Jenny" who works at Sticky Fingers Bakery, among other places.  The recipe a healthified version of a cake her grandma used to make.  I am anti sugary sweet breakfast breads, so I only use about 1/4- 1/2 c of sugar when I make them. 

Mimi's Apple Cake 

Ingredients: 

1 c white flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c sugar (original recipe calls for 1 c sugar + 1/2 c brown sugar)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice (not called for in original recipe)
1 c applesauce
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla 
2 1/2 c peeled, chopped apple
1 c chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preparation: 

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. 

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.  Mix all of the wet ingredients well, reserving apples and nuts, if using.  Add dry ingredients to wet, and mix until just combined. Fold in apples and nuts.  Bake for about 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in bread comes out clean.  

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Spaghetti Squash & Mushroom Enchiladas

I got the idea for these enchiladas from the nutrition/cooking class that I am an assistant to.  I just started assisting a chef and a nutritionist in teaching the group of low-income seniors a few weeks ago, and I am in love.  They are the spunkiest, funniest, most perverted group of sixty and seventy year olds you could ask for. What more could you ever want?

For a group that are living in senior housing, many of whom have trouble getting around and some suffering from chronic conditions, they talk about sex an awful lot. There's no way around it. But it is very life affirming- these are not people who are sitting around waiting to die. 

Oh no. They are waiting for the Friday night dance, to see who's making the moves on who. It is awesome.  

We are teaching basic nutrition and healthy cooking skills, and I am happy to say I feel like they are embracing a lot of the principles.  Sure, people might always prefer to make a sweet potato pie rather than bake some sweet potato fries, but at least we are offering new ideas.  

Last week we made spaghetti squash, which a few people had never seen before. It is one of nature's wackier veggies, isn't it? 

I was inspired to make these enchiladas, which do best when complimented by sides of refried bean, rice and salsa.  They are protein-less when eaten solo, so do add some bean somewhere to the dish.  But they are surprisingly filling, and quite healthy.  

Spaghetti Squash & Mushroom Enchiladas 

Ingredients:

12 corn tortillas, softened in a heated skillet (30 seconds per side)
1 TB olive oil 
1 onion, chopped 
5 cloves garlic, finely minced 
jalapeno, or other pepper, to taste
1 lb assorted mushrooms
3 c spaghetti squash*
salt and pepper to taste
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 14 oz can green enchilada sauce
1/2 c shredded mozzarella cheese 

* to prepare spaghetti squash, split squash lengthwise in half.  Scoop seeds out of squash with a spoon or your hand.  Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray foil with cooking spray.  Place squash flesh down and bake in a 450 oven for about 30-40 minutes.  When finished cooking, use a spoon or fork to scoop out flesh.  

Preparation: 

Spray a 13x9 inch pan with cooking spray, and set aside.  Preheat oven to 400. 

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion, and garlic and saute until softened. Add jalapeno (or other pepper) and saute until softened. Turn heat down to low, and add mushrooms to skillet.  Cook until mushrooms have release most of their liquid, about five to seven minutes.  Remove mixture from heat. 

In a large bowl, combine mushroom mixture and spaghetti squash.  Allow mixture to cool ten-fifteen minutes. 

Pour tomatoes into 13x19 inch pan.  Spread evenly.  Take one tortilla, and lay on counter.  Spread 3-4 TB of mushroom mixture across center of tortilla. Roll tortilla up, and place seam down in enchilada pan. Continue preparing tortillas; there will be two rows of six tortilla rolls. 

Once all tortilla rolls are in pan, pour enchilada sauce over middle of each roll, and down sides of pan.  Top rolls with cheese. Bake at 4oo degrees for about 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is golden.  Serves 6.  

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Almost Vegan Alfredo


I'm intrigued by vegans, but at the same time I think I would weep daily if I could never eat brie again. That said, like any dietary restriction, it does force you to be creative. My love of cooking definitely accelerated when I stopped eating meat and realized the world beyond meat.starch.veg.

This recipe is better if you don't think about it as being alfredo, actually. It is a creamy sauce that coats the pasta, and it does taste surprisingly rich, but it's thousands of calories and millions of fat grams from being in the alfredo ballpark. And it's good for you!

Yes, yes, I realize this is also quite far from really being a vegan recipe... I sort of blew it with the use of egg-based pasta... but the sauce could easily be veganized (sounds industrial, no?).
OK, to summarize: this recipe is neither vegan, nor alfredo. Discuss.


Ingredients:

1/2 lb fresh spinach fettucine
2 TB olive oil
7 garlic cloves, finely minced
1lb assorted mushrooms
1 (140z) block silken tofu
1 TB cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Preparation:

Cook pasta according to directions in salted water. Drain, reserving 1/2 c cooking liquid, and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute garlic until softened. Remove 1/2 of the garlic from skillet for use in tofu sauce. Set aside.

Add mushrooms to remaining garlic in skillet, and cook over medium heat. While mushrooms are cooking, remove 1/2 c mushroom liquid for use in tofu sauce. Set aside.

Cook mushrooms until softened and all liquid has been released, about ten minutes. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine tofu, cream cheese, reserved mushroom juice and reserved garlic until creamy. Add some pasta water if needed to adjust consistency.

Combine pasta, tofu sauce and mushrooms prior to serving. Serves 4.

Spiced Cauliflower, Spinach, and Chickpeas

Brrrr... it's gotten chilly here lately. Or is that just the ghost of John McCain running through my house?

Whatever the case, a big bowl of warm veggies is the cure.

Ingredients:

2 TB vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 TB curry
1 TB garam masala
1 TB cumin
1/2 TB coriander
1/2 TB hungarian paprika
1/2 TB turmeric
2 TB tomato paste
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 15 oz can chickpeas, with juice
2 small (or 1 large) heads of cauliflower, chopped into florets
10 oz fresh spinach
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice (optional)

Preparation:

In large dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute until softened. Add spices and tomato paste, and stir to combine. Add canned tomatoes, chickpeas and cauliflower. Put lid on oven, and bring cauliflower mixture to a low simmer.
Take lid off, and let mixture simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Add spinach once cauliflower has softened, and cook until spinach softens. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice. Add a small amount of lemon juice to each bowl prior to serving if desired. Serves 6-8.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lentil Soup

This was a welcome home soup, something I made to provide a bit of comfort against the cold, cold work week. The hint of rosemary and a splash of lemon at the end really brightened up the flavor. As with all soups, it got better each day.

Ingredients:

2 TB olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced into discs
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced into discs
8 c low sodium vegetable stock
1.5 c dried lentils
1.5 TB cumin
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp Hungarian paprika
salt and pepper to taste
4 c fresh spinach
juice from ½ lemon

Preparation:

Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a large stock pot. Add lentils, and turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.


Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions, and sautee until softened. Add carrots and celery to skillet, and stir to coat with oil. Add onion mixture to stockpot, and season soup with cumin, rosemary, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer soup for an additional 10-25 minutes, until lentils are soft on inside. (If using spinach, add during last five minutes of cooking.)


Immediately prior to serving, add lemon juice. Serve soup with grated cheese on side. Serves 6-8.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Salty Girl does California

I’m back! We spent the past 10 days in California… beginning in Los Angeles and ending in Calistoga. A fabulous trip eating and otherwise.

While I do feel a little bit like I drank the Cali Kool-Aid in terms of how fresh and fabulous all the food was, I’m still putting my eggs in the east coast basket for now.  For now

After stumbling off the plane in LA at 10am Saturday, we drove to Santa Monica and had lunch at Urth, a lovely organic café with a fun patio and great people watching. Then it was off to REI for some last minute supplies for our backpacking trip. Dinner was at Brasserie Anisette. I highly recommend it if you are in Santa Monica… great vibe and perfect for a Saturday night.

We got up the next morning and drove to the Matilija wilderness area in Los Padres National Forest for a few days of back to nature. As anyone who hikes knows, you could barbeque a sock after a long day on the trail and it would probably rock your world. We kept it simple, and had strange noodle concoctions in the evenings, including buckwheat noodles one night that basically turned into glue. Alarming! Yet tasty!

We reemerged from the woods and headed to Santa Barbara.  We spent the afternoon ogling produce at the Farmer's Market- which puts any others I've seen to shame.  



Then it was off to my cousin’s house in Santa Barbara, where she made a fabulous roasted yam and sweet potato soup. I’ll definitely be trying to recreate it this winter. Her partner whipped up sourdough French toast in the morning, and sent us on our way to Monterey.

We stopped for lunch at a little café that overlooked the Pacific, and were told that fires closed the road up ahead on highway one. Veggie sandwich eaten, I climbed back into the car for what would be a full day in the car. But, a beautiful one nonetheless. We were rewarded with dinner at Passionfish, a restaurant in Pacific Grove that features all sustainable seafood. It totally lived up to the rave reviews, and was an easy walk from our lovely inn.

The next day we ventured to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for some starfish touching and tuna feeding and had lovely seafood salads for lunch after.

One of the coolest things at the Aquarium was the “Real Cost Café”, an exhibit set up to look like a lunch counter. It's part of the Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program, designed as a teaching tool. Behind a lunch counter there are videos that describe the perils of various food choices (e.g. tuna, shrimp, etc.). It really drove the point home and was a popular exhibit.

Thursday night we went to the San Francisco culinary temple that is Zuni. I had an amazing oven-baked halibut couscous seasoned with anise, cinnamon and garlic and served with charmoula and harissa. Amazaing. The house cured olives were also delicious, with hints of citrus and fennel.  I probably ate an entire loaf of their bread myself, and I'm proud of it. 

We waddled out of San Francisco Friday to drive up to Calistoga for a wedding. We stopped along the way in Napa to attempt a tandem roadbike (Never again! We didn’t make it out of the parking lot). We traded it in for normal roadbikes and had a laughably short ride to the closest vineyard we could find from Healdsburg. Quivira turned out to be a very cool biodynamic vineyard which provided a perfect place to picnic. We wobbled back into town, and completed the weekend in Calistoga, with great brunches and even better dinners.

Before flying home we had dinner at the Slanted Door. It's as amazing as everyone says. The baby octopus was unbelievable, as was the grilled Arctic char. Even the mint tea was sublime. Definitely worth a visit.

I’m sad to be back at work, but full of ideas for fall cooking. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Kidney Bean Cakes

OK, the joke's up. You can tell me now.  I feel certain I am in some sort of a social experiment that involves a gnome, or other sprightly, jesting creature, who tears off the calendar days while I sleep, unknowing that whole weeks are flying by. That's the case, isn't it? 

I have not been cooking very much that is presentable these past two weeks, with little explanation.  It could be the confusion of the WDC 'is it hot? or is it cold?' weather. I am ready to start making things that go in the oven- possibly for extended periods of time- but the 75 degree weather is telling me that's not a good idea.  Ditto with soups.  It just feels too sweaty.  

I still cook for myself, sure, but no one really wants to look at some of my scary dinner concoctions. Trust me. We'll wait for the cold weather, and the recipes and photos will start flowing again.  

Next week we're off on an adventure to California, which promises to provide very good food, and more weather confusion. I can't wait! 

On an unrelated note, did you see this article? Eggs have become a daily thing for me since I stopped eating meat, and truly, sorting out what kind to buy--  unless you're buying right off the local, environmentally responsible, animal-loving farm-- is a challenge.  Something I learned from this article-- hens like to eat grubs and other animals. So, claims on egg cartons that hens are fed vegetarian diets takes on a whole new twist.  Sorta seems like feeding a cow corn, even though their stomachs and entire bodies are made for grass. What kind of eggs do you eat, readers?

Here's a recipe for the bean-lover in you.  I was craving the beautiful, dark red of kidney beans a few days ago, and whipped these up.  On a per serving basis, these are ridiculously cheap.  If more people had access to cooking and nutrition education, they too could appreciate how easy and cheap it can be to eat well. We would all be that much healthier for it.  

These have a bit of kick to them, and would go well with sauteed onions. Try them on a bun, with tortillas, or with rice.  

Kidney Bean Cakes
 
Ingredients:

2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 small white onion
1/2 carrot
handful parsley
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cayenne powder 
1 tsp red pepper flakes 
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten 
1/2 c panko 
cooking spray

Preparation:

In a food processor, process beans, onion, carrot and parsley until some chunks of beans remain.  Spoon mixture into bowl.  Add spices, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add egg, and combine mixture with your hands.  Add up to 1/2 c of panko crumbs to mixture, until mixture can be formed into cakes.  Shape bean mixture into 6 cakes, and refrigerate for about an hour. 

Cook cakes 3 at a time over medium-high heat in a large skillet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Serves 4, with left-overs.  




Thursday, October 2, 2008

Old Burger

Husband's email to me was titled, "Old Burger".  I was intrigued... and then equal parts horrified and full of self-satisfying smugness.  I don't normally include stuff like this here, but this is pretty amazing. 

I think the link speaks for itself, don't you? 


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pasta with Spicy Garlic Shrimp


September, I hardly knew you. Where have you gone? But no worries, I'll be fine without you.  In fact, I've already moved on, to something orangier and redder.  Something that offers the promise of... candy corn! Yes, it's my old/new love: October.  My skin just fits better in October, the world feels right.  It's without a doubt my favorite time of the year.  (Geez, August, don't get bent out of shape.  I love you, too, it's just that October smells so nice...)

I've planted some arugula in the garden, and am pulling my cardigans out of boxes. Life doesn't get much better. Sure, the country's collective net worth is $.98, but thoughts of October's intoxicating blend of pumpkins and apples make me forget my worries. 

Pasta with Spicy Garlic Shrimp

Ingredients:

1/2 lb pasta
2 TB olive oil 
5-7 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped or grated
1 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 TB tomato paste
1/2 c pureed tomatoes
1 tsp (or more) red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste 
handful of parsley, roughly chopped
fresh lemon juice

Preparation:

Cook pasta according to directions, in salted water. 

Meanwhile, add olive oil to a skillet that has been heated over medium-low heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove onions and garlic to a bowl, leaving oil in skillet. 

Turn skillet to medium-high, and add shrimp.  Cook for about 1 minute per side, or until just pink.  Turn heat off, and add onions, garlic, tomato paste, tomato puree, and red pepper flakes to skillet.  Stir to combine.

Using tongs, remove pasta from pasta water, and put in skillet.  Some pasta water is necessary to achieve desired consistency, so there is no need to drain pasta.  Reserve 1/2 c pasta water before emptying pasta pot.  

Combine pasta with shrimp mixture using tongs.  Add more red pepper flakes if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add more pasta water if desired to achieve a thinner sauce.  Immediately prior to serving, mix in parsley.  Top each plate with a dash of lemon juice. Serves 4.  

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lentil Loaf

Like so many vegetarian entrees that I am coming to love, this one will not win any beauty contests. And there is something very satisfying about that-- food as substance rather than form. I have never been a fan of food that's prettier than it tastes. I'd rather go to a restaurant that pays attention to procuring fresh, healthy and sustainable ingredients instead of slavishly arranging sub-par ingredients on the plate.

Probably part of the challenge of helping vegetarian food reach the masses is making it look more appealing. Fresh ingredients are beautiful, and finding way to entice people shouldn't be too big of a challenge. That being said, the photo of this loaf is probably not going to drive people to put their steak knife down. But the flavor was spot on, and eaten with rice it provides a complete protein via complementary protein sources.

Granted, there is still some confusion as to whether vegetarians need to eat certain combinations of food in the same meal, or if it's sufficient just to generally eat a varied diet. The creator of the idea of complementary proteins now believes that a varied diet will provide sufficient protein, as do the vast majority of nutritionists. But, still, you can't go wrong with rice and beans.

Equally as important, this is an affordable meal to make. So often, eating healthy food seems out of reach, but beans are an inexpensive way to eat well. I used fresh mushrooms, which takes the cost up, but canned mushrooms would be a fine stand-in, especially since all the ingredients are being cooked anyway.

Lentil Loaf

Ingredients:

cooking spray
1 1/2 c dried lentils
2 carrots, sliced finely into disks
1 TB vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped or grated
16 oz mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini and white)
1/2 c chopped roasted red pepper
1 TB thyme
1TB cumin
2 TB Worcestershire
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside. Preheat oven to 450.

Place lentils in a pot with water to cover by an inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down and allows lentils to simmer for about 30 minutes. Add carrots, and simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. Drain well, and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Saute onions for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add mushrooms, and saute until mushrooms have released all their liquid and mushrooms almost stick to pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine lentil mixture with onions and mushrooms and red pepper. Season with thyme, cumin, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Add egg, and combine all ingredients. Spoon mixture into loaf pan. Bake at 450 for 30 minute, or until loaf starts to pull away from sides of pan. Serves 4.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Oven Crisped Fish

What was your favorite moment in Thursday's presidential debate? I have two: one when poor Barack (his hair looks much more grey than when the campaign began, don't you agree?) called John "Tom".  The other would have to be when John/Tom (aka man-who-looks-he-is-stuffed-with-iron-filings) was talking about health care. Rather than say individuals and their family 'members' he started to say individuals and their 'deceased'. Klassy, John/Tom, way to convey that soft, human side that has been so elusive thus far.

Debate dinner was crispy fish. I used tilapia, but any flat fish would do the trick. Leftovers would be great in a pita with a tangy tartar sauce and shaved green cabbage. 

Oven Crisped Fish

Ingredients:

cooking spray
1 lb flat fish (such as tilapia), patted dry with paper towels
4TB whole wheat flour
1 egg beaten
1 c panko bread crumbs
1/2 c finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 450.  Place a baking rack on a baking sheet, and spray rack with cooking spray. Set aside.

Set up three large, shallow bowls.  Place the flour in the first bowl, and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Pour the beaten egg into the second bowl.  Place the panko in the last bowl. Place bowls side by side. 

Take each fish filet and dust both sides with flour, then place in egg mixture, then dredge in panko to coat thoroughly.  Place on baking sheet, and sprinkle with cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 20 minutes, or until fish flakes easily.  For a very crispy outside, turn oven to broil for last 3-4 minutes.  Serves 4. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blueberry Banana Muffins

I haven't found the answer to this eternal question yet: how many irregularly shaped muffins does it take to erase the memory of a really bad day at work? But I am getting closer.

After (unsuccessfully) chasing my cat around the living room with an overgrown zucchini-- (Me: "Come on Simone, it's a photo-op! You love having your picture taken! And! The zucchini is bigger than you!" Cat: "For the love of all things normal, please stop that, Mommy. I will not submit to your absurd still-life idea. I am insulted that you think that a picture of me would be enhanced by the presence of a huge, probably tasteless squash. Unbelievable.")-- I was too dejected to even use the zucchini in the muffins.

So blueberry banana, it was. I used very ripe bananas that I had previously stashed in the freezer, as well as a handful of fresh blueberries I had frozen as well. I thawed them out, and they were ready to go. This recipe is based loosely on Mark Bittman's basic muffin recipe, although I made quite a few changes.

Blueberry Banana Muffins

Ingredients:

cooking spray
1c whole wheat flour
1c white flour
1/4 c sugar
3 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp clove
1/2 tsp ginger
pinch allspice
1/2 c soy milk
3 TB canola oil
1 egg
3 very ripe bananas
1 c blueberries

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a 12 muffin tray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl (through allspice). Set aside. Combine all wet ingredients, except blueberries, in a separate bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredient bowl, and pour in the wet ingredients.

Mix gently with a wooden spoon, stopping when ingredients are combined. Add more soy milk if needed. Batter should be thick, lumpy and moist. Carefully fold in blueberries.

Spoon mixture into muffin tray. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Check muffins for doneness with a wooden toothpick. Makes 12.



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Roasted Grape Tomatoes

My mom warned me: some time this past month her grape tomatoes had gone from sugary sweet to sassily tart. Maybe they got bitter about the end of summer? Something gave these little orbs an attitude. I decided the only fitting treatment for them was Hansel & Gretel style: into the oven, my pretties.

I seasoned them with salt and pepper and put them on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. They cooked for about an hour at 400 degrees, and then I turned the oven off and left them to roast some more in the cooling oven.

They taste, as husband said, not unlike a tomato craisin, if such a thing existed. Slightly caramelized, and quite tart, almost like a sundried tomato. They'll be lovely in an omelet, sandwich or with fish. Thanks, Mom!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Spinach Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette Topped with Pan Fried Anchovy Tofu


I think I have been cramping my own style, so to speak. Uugggh someone put that sentence out of its misery. 1) Cramping my style = gross; 2) So to speak = land o' cliches.

But anyway, the bottom line is (more business speak, good gravy!), my current self-proclaimed mandate that all the recipes on salty girl must come from my own head turns out to be pretty draconion. It's affecting what I'm cooking: or rather, what I'm not cooking. I love hunting for recipes, but the fun is definitely tempered if you know you'll never use the recipe.

Time to break free! I still aspire to keep creating recipes- it's one of my favorite things about cooking. In the beginning, I wasn't even aware of the convention of listing the ingredients in the order they are used in the recipe (makes sense). So, I've learned a lot from the process. But re-inventing the wheel (hello, it's still cliche day on planet salt) isn't rewarding, so I'm giving my self permission to go back to cooking other people's recipes once in a while.

This recipe is an original (as far as I know). It was eaten after a fairly hideous 60 mile bike ride. Pain! Joy! You get the picture.


Spinach Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette Topped with Pan Fried Anchovy Tofu

Ingredients: (Tofu)

1 + 1 TB olive oil
salt and pepper
2 blocks drained extra-firm tofu, sliced into thirds, and then thirds again
1/2 white onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tin anchovies, with oil (the kind wrapped around a caper if you can find it)
splash of lemon juice

Ingredients: ( Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing)

Juice of 1 lemon
2 TB olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
10 oz fresh baby spinach
Lemon wedges

Preparation:

In a large skillet, heat 1TB oil over medium-high heat. Pat tofu with paper towel to remove any remaining water before placing in skillet. Season both sides of tofu with salt and pepper. Pan fry tofu on all sides, until brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Add remaining oil to skillet, and heat over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sautee until soft. Add anchovies to mixture, and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, and add tofu. Combine ingredients, and add a splash of lemon. Season to taste. Set aside.
Combine ingredients for vinaigrette, and toss spinach in dressing. Serve spinach topped with tofu and a wedge of lemon. Serves 4.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Oven Roasted Tilapia with Baby Portobello Sauce


Sweet 31.  Yeah, I've never cared much for my birthday, but the reality is, damn. I am in my 30s now. And not so fired up about it.  Before you go concluding that I am a vain, crazed woman, please allow me to clarify. It's not a fear of wrinkles.  It's just that I have so much crap I want to do in my life that I am a bit panicked by the prospect of cramming it all into the next 60 years. How is one lifetime ever enough?? 

Sigh.  But, at least things are pretty amazing while you are trying to cram it all in. 

This was breakfast one day on our break from the world.  Divine. Not too much cooking occurred while we were away, because honestly, how much can you cook white wine and Cambozola ?

While I was busy not cooking, I read a lot, and also watched copious amounts of Robert DeNiro movies. That wasn't so much by design, more just what the Netflix overlord decreed for the week.  Consequently, by mid-week, my tough guy accent was pretty appalling.  Husband was a good sport about it.  The accent and me waking up at five a.m. expecting a home invasion. 

I arrived back home to find the garden in somewhat of a stage of mutiny.  My god forsaken tomatoes seem to have taken the summer off.  The beans and eggplant however luckily got the memo that their only job in life is to grow, and have been complying. 

Here are some very festive squash: 


Oven Roasted Tilapia with Baby Portobello Sauce

Ingredients: 

cooking spray
1 lb Tilapia
1TB olive oil 
1/4 white onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 lb baby portobello mushrooms, quartered
1 TB tomato paste
red wine vinegar 
red pepper flakes 
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: 

Season both sides of tilapia filets with salt and pepper.  Spray a foil-lined baking sheet with cooking spray and then arrange the tilapia on the sheet.  Roast tilapia in a preheated 450 oven for about 8 minutes, or until fish flakes easily.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic, and saute until soft.  Turn heat down to medium-low and add mushrooms to skillet. Saute for five-ten minutes, until mushrooms have released liquid and are soft.  If needed, add small amounts of water to mushroom mixture to prevent it from sticking to skillet while sauteing.  

Remove skillet from heat.  Add tomato paste and a splash of red wine vinegar to the mixture and stir to combine.  Season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Serve tilapia with mushroom sauce on top.  Serves 2.  

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Into the Sunset...

But back soon! Have a great week, everyone.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Italian Salsa Verde


A confession: watching the Olympic track events gets me really fired up. Husband has been a little taken aback by my enthusiasm, hearing me being raucous in the next room, shouting encouragement, or just as often, giving advice. ‘Cuz you know, I have any idea about running in the Olympics, and I am sure I have a lot to contribute to their races.

A sort of hilarious side effect of all of this track-watching has been a definite change in my tempo when I’ve been running this past week. I mean, what, do I think I’m going to qualify for 2012? Only if there’s suddenly a special division for 34 year olds who eat a lot of Yogato and drink a lot of Pinot Grigio. Otherwise, I am not likely to make it. But, in the meantime, I am zipping through Rock Creek. Look out!

Of course, I have to eat a lot to compensate for all that speed. Yes, my mile pace is now a blistering 10 minutes, as opposed to the previously languid 10:15; bring on the calories.

To fuel my new blazing speed, I made roasted tilapia with a velvety Italian salsa verde. This sauce is perfect for summer: minimal ingredients, yet very flavorful. It's a cold sauce that's ready in seconds.

With the tilapia we had couscous with basil and mint, and roasted squash, onions, peppers and eggplant. Dinner was enjoyed outside, in the company of great friends. I hope summer never ends.

Italian Salsa Verde

Ingredients:

2-3 c Italian flat leaf parsley
3 garlic cloves
6 anchovy filets, plus oil
2 TB capers, plus juice
1 TB olive oil
2-4 TB red wine vinegar

Preparation:

Combine first five ingredients in a food processor. Add red wine vinegar slowly, until sauce has reached desired consistency. Add more of any ingredient to adjust flavor balance. Serves 4.

_________________

This recipe is my submission to the Weekend Herb Blogging contest, hosted this week by Cooking 4 All Seasons, and created by Kayln's Kitchen.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quick Refrigerator Pickles

Crikey! Salty girl found these pickles to be WAY too salty. Aren't they pretty, though? The reward for trying to follow a recipe is never certain.  Sometimes there are stand-outs, and sometimes,  sit-downs.  With about half the amount of salt, these will be divine next time.  The spice combination that I threw together worked really well, I'll be keeping that.  I'll post the amended recipe, rather than waste your time with something I know will taste like it should have been eaten on the Mayflower. 

I didn't can these... not bold enough yet.  But I'm working up my nerve. I want to be ready to make cases and cases of spaghetti sauce when the tomatoes all come in.  Then, I'll be halfway to fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming Strega Nona.  Wah ha ha....

The recipe below was based on Mary's Spicy Garlic Pickles, from the Liz Crain Collection. 

Quick Refrigerator Pickles 

Ingredients:

10 1-qt. mason jars
1 qt. distilled white vinegar
3 qts water
1/2- 3/4 c non-iodized salt*
3TB spices per jar (I used the following combination for my 8 jars: 3TB caraway seeds, 8 TB coriander, 5 TB peppercorn mix, 1 TB all black peppercorn, 3 TB cloves, 2 TB fennel, 1 TB red pepper flakes, 1 TB allspice berries) other possibilities are juniper berries, mustard seeds, etc.
Bunch of dill 
Vegetables: cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, etc. for pickling (one medium-large cucumber per jar; 6-10 small pickling cucumbers per jar; 2-3 lemon cucumbers per jar; 1-2 c cherry tomatoes per jar; the possibilities are endless.) Slice all vegetables to desired size and shape: discs, spears, wedges, etc. Leave cherry tomatoes whole. 

Preparation: 

In a nonreactive pot, bring vinegar, water, and salt to a gentle boil.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Put 3TB of spice mix in each mason jar, along with some dill. Pack vegetables into each jar, until jar is about 3/4 full.  Pour hot vinegar mixture into each jar, up to about 1/2 inch from the top.  Wait until the jars are cool, then put lids on jars.  Refrigerate jars.  Pickles will be ready in about 3-4 days. Makes 10 quarts. 

* The major change I would make from the recipe I worked off of was a reduction in salt. The cup of salt the original recipe called for was excessive: I suspect 3/4 c would be sufficient. 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pasta with Eggplant, Cherry Tomato and Olive Sauce

Sunday was another one of those magical WDC days, in my book. There was something about the air pressure that almost defeated my I-had-too-much-fun-last-night-and-am-now-suffering feeling. Almost.

My husband assured me that what I really needed to get rid of that feeling was a fifty mile bike ride, naturally. We set out obnoxiously later than planned (I wouldn’t trade a night with out-of-town friends for an early start, don’t get me wrong) and it took about 30 miles to feel like I wasn’t going to fall off of the bike. But what a gorgeous ride. We made it almost to Sugarloaf , but turned around just short of it.

In hindsight, it’s sort of hilarious how self-assured I was feeling at mile 45. Because at mile 46 I was ready to vote Republican if it would have made the ride end any sooner (OK, OK, it wasn’t that bad...).

We slurped ourselves home and tried to sort out dinner. We had had plans to go out, to enjoy the oddly cool evening weather, but we were not ready for prime time. I think I was drooling on myself, and husband was not much better.

Having raided my parent’s garden earlier in the day, I had handfuls of cherry tomatoes at my disposal. This sauce was easy, and tasted even better the next day.

Pasta with Eggplant and Cherry Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

½ lb pasta
1 TB olive oil
½ onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 eggplants, chopped into roughly 1 inch pieces
2-3 c cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1-2 c water
¼ c Kalamata olives, chopped
2 TB tomato paste
1 TB balsamic vinegar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 handful basil
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preparation:

Cook pasta according to directions, in salted water. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, add olive oil to a skillet that has been heated over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, about four minutes.

Add eggplant and about 1 c water to skillet. Combine well. Cook covered, over medium heat, until eggplant is softened. Stir periodically to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom. Add more water as needed.

Uncover, and add tomatoes to mixture and cook until tomatoes are softened, about 3 minutes. Add olives, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar and red pepper flakes and stir to combine.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Prior to serving, add basil. Heat from sauce will wilt basil. Serve with cheese on the side. Serves 4.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw

This past Saturday was pretty close to an ideal day for me. The weather was sublime, and I knew that at the end of the day a cooking session and some close friends were waiting for me.  

To up the fun-stakes even more, in the middle of the day my friend, (we'll call her "the hostess", shall we?) brought me some bounty from her CSA on her way out of town. I desperately want to make pickled everything, but am terrified of losing a limb or a nose in the process. Canning seems so savage, so frontier, so Little House on the Prairie. Which is of course why I am attracted to it. Just haven't gotten up the spine or the implements to try it out. These lemon cucumbers are so festive though, they cry out for preservation. What would you do with them?

In any event, Saturday's menu was fish tacos with a cabbage slaw.  I served the tacos with a spinach salad and corn on the cob. Simple, seasonal, and very satisfying. 

The fish part of the tacos was farm-raised tilapia that I had marinated in lime juice, cumin and chopped serrano peppers. If you marinate the fish for too long, it starts to cook in the acid of the juice. About 20 minutes is adequate.  I threw the fish on a grill pan, and that was that.  

The tacos themselves were corn tortillas, warmed in a skillet until blistering slightly. They can then be set aside and wrapped in a napkin while they wait their turn.  If you're not a fan of spicy food, please reduce the chile in the recipe or you may find yourself with a seared palate. 

Cabbage Slaw

Ingredients: 

3/4 head purple cabbage, sliced thinly using a mandoline
1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thinly using a mandoline
1 serrano chile, seeds removed, finely chopped
8 spring onions, white and some green parts, chopped
juice of 2 limes
1- 1 1/2 cups yogurt 
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Combine purple and green cabbage, chile, onion and lime juice in a large bowl.  Add yogurt, and toss to coat.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before eating to allow flavors to combine.  Prior to serving*, season with salt and pepper. Serves 4. 

* Add the salt immediately prior to serving.  If you salt the slaw before that, it will draw water out of the cabbage and your lovely salad will become a soup. 

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Chickpea Zucchini "Patties"

There's no way to sugarcoat the situation: this was not a photogenic dinner. This is the "before cooking" picture, which trust me, was better than the after picture. One of the exciting things about cooking without a recipe is the satisfaction of feeling like you've created something.  The obvious peril is that your creation might be sort of a disaster.  This wasn't a total disaster: it tasted great.  But the texture was suspect, at best.  

I'll post the ingredient list so that others can learn from my brazen silliness of trying to make a patty that would hold up in a skillet out of nothing but vegetables. It did not work my friend, do not be as arrogant as I was.  Use egg, use chickpea flour, use breadcrumbs, use a glue-stick for goodness' sake-- anything to get these to bind together better.  

Let's call it what it is, shall we. This was a veggie scramble.  Ingredients were: 1 can drained chickpeas, 1 grated zucchini, 1/4 white onion, 2TB tomato paste, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, cumin and salt and pepper.  Delicious, if you want a scramble, but this was no patty in the end. I was able to get them into the skillet in patty form, but was not zen enough to flip them without destroying them.  If you are more sage than I, you may be able to do it. Let me know.