Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lime Vinaigrette Salad with Rice Noodles, Marinated Tofu, and Peanuts

Sunday morning found me staring, longingly, across the breakfast table as my husband enjoyed pork dumplings. Alas, our Safeway (variously called the Soviet Safeway, and other flattering nicknames) was out of the veggie ones.

The good that came out of this torture was that the sauce he had concocted to go with the dumplings was so delicious that it inspired dinner. It was a simple mixture of soy sauce, red vinegar, and sesame oil, laced with sliced garlic. It was perfectly balanced, and very summery.

If you are not a lettuce fan, this dinner would also work served hot, without the salad. But as a salad, it is refreshing and satisfying. Feel free to add shrimp if you like, (I grilled about ½ a pound and marinated it with the tofu) but it’s certainly not necessary.

Lime Vinaigrette Salad with Rice Noodles, Marinated Tofu, and Peanuts


14 oz extra firm tofu, well drained and cubed
8 oz rice noodles, cooked, drained, and rinsed thoroughly with cold water to stop cooking process
About 15 oz romaine lettuce, chopped
2 thinly sliced carrots
Handful of basil, sliced
½ cup dry roasted peanuts

Tofu Marinade


3TB soy sauce
2 TB red wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
¼- ½ jalapeno, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced

Lime Vinaigrette


Juice of one lime
1TB olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


In a shallow covered dish or pan, combine tofu marinade and tofu. Let marinate for about an hour. Meanwhile, to make salad, toss romaine with lime vinaigrette. To assemble dish, place about 4 c salad mixture on each plate. Top with 2 oz of noodles. Place about 3-4 oz tofu mixture on top of noodles. Finish by sprinkling carrots, basil and peanuts on top of each plate. Serves 4.


In other news, my beans rock the party. Literally. Something that I love about my husband is his unequivicol willingness to be really bootleg when need be. Hence, we made our climbing bean pole trellis with bamboo stakes (normal) and... speaker wire (not so). Come on out & get your groove on, little beans.

Finally, a lovely piece of summer. My friend, the consummate hostess, made this delicious drink this weekend. The drink featured cucumber, thyme, lime & other favorite flavors. It even made me reconsider (for like 5 seconds) my lifetime ban on gin. That is a seriously good drink.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Spaghetti with Anchovies, Zucchini, Pine Nuts and Red Pepper Flakes

Do you ever have those days where you eat your lunch on the way to work? And you go to work at like 8:30? And you had breakfast already at like 7? Um, yeah, me neither. Today was definitely not like that...

I am not quite sure where the midieval-girl-will-eat-anything-not-affixed-to-surface hunger came from this morning, because we had a lovely dinner last night. Thursday nights seem to find me making pasta often, since it's so simple and comforting. A sign the weekend is almost there.

I ventured boldly into the world of tinned fish: anchovies. I was honestly surprised by what I found. They are boney little suckers! I reserved the oil, and then rinsed the fish thoroughly using a mesh strainer. I am not entirely sure if I should have tried to pick out all of the little splinter sized pieces of cartilage, but they seemed so thin, and I wanted to eat dinner before next week, so I said what the heck. We didn't notice them at all.

What do you do with your anchovies? I guess cartilage doesn't exactly melt, but they were undetectable. I will definitely cook with anchovies again-- they lent a lot of depth to the dish.

Spaghetti with Anchovies, Zucchini, Pine Nuts and Red Pepper Flakes


6-7 anchovies, oil reserved, rinsed and picked over
1TB olive oil
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 c toasted pine nuts
2tsp lemon zest
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper to taste
handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 lb spaghetti


Cook pasta according to directions, drain, and reserve 1c pasta water. Meanwhile, heat anchovy oil and olive oil in large skillet. Add anchovies, and saute over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute over medium-low heat for another 3 minutes. When garlic is soft, add zucchini to skillet, and combine ingredients with spoon. Saute over medium heat until zucchini softens and becomes translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Season to taste.

Take mixture off of heat. Add pine nuts, parsley, lemon zest and cooked pasta to mixture in skillet. Combine thoroughly. Add cooking water as needed, until desired consistency is reached. Serves 4.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jalapeno and Lime Black Bean Burgers

Maybe it’s summer, or maybe it’s the lurking, vanquished carnivore in me, but bunned foods are sounding mighty tasty these days. I’ve been on quite the veggie burger kick lately. Not only do they fulfill my need to apply condiments to anything that will sit still for long enough, but they are healthy and quick to prepare at home. They are also fun to sample out at restaurants, since no two are the same.

This past week I’ve been on a little promenade up the east coast, visiting my people. I realized that 3 out of the 6 nights I was away, I had veggie burgers. Mmm mmm.

The first stop was in NYC, at a vegetarian place called Counter that my meat-eating friends thoughtfully slected. The burger had great flavor, but the consistency was all wrong; something akin to clotted yogurt. I suspect it was too heavy on the mushrooms, with nothing to bind it all together. Next stop was in Brooklyn at a cute little place called Siggy’s. This burger was everything I had hoped for- great flavor and texture, and served on brioche--a nice twist. I rounded out the tour at CafĂ© Heaven in Provincetown. My last vacation dinner was a giant, oversized veggie burger, served with not one but two types of mustard!! Halleluja. And it was again served on brioche. Maybe the elf I take on vacation with me phoned ahead to notify the locals?

Today’s photo isn’t much to look at, but it was delish (oh god – out, out, damn Rachel Ray). I didn’t use any egg to bind it together, and it worked out fine. As long as you allow the mixture to sit in the fridge for a bit before forming the burgers, they will hold togther with no problem.

Jalapeno and Lime Black Bean Burgers


2 c black beans, rinsed and drained
½-1 chopped jalapeno, deseeded
½ onion, roughly chopped
1-2 TB tomato paste
Juice of ½- 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
½- 1 c panko crumbs
1TB vegetable oil


To a food processor bowl, add beans, jalapeno, onion, tomato paste, lime juice and parsley. Process until mixture is a thick paste, with some chunks of bean remaining. Spoon into another bowl. Season to taste. Fold panko crumbs into mixture. Refridgerate mixture for about an hour.

Form bean mixture into patties. Meanwhile, in skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Place patties in skillet. In order to ensure a crust on the patties, do not move them once they are placed in skillet, except to flip. Cook patties for about 4 minutes on each side over medium heat. Flip carefully, using a fork. Serve on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato and onion and your favorite condiment. Serves 4-5.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Broccoli-Garlic Scape Pesto with Linguini

I know. I'm the 700th person to write about garlic scape pesto. I can't help it! It's so lovely, and I just discovered it. After staring down the scapes when we got home from the farmer's market, they still didn't tell me which end of them to use. A quick taste provided the answer: before using the scape, lop off the end with the bud. The rest of the veg can be used.

I've seen many great recipes on other blogs for scape pesto... but they seemed so... garlicky. Even though I am a huge garlic fan, I was a little daunted by the prospect of a sauce of purely raw, unadulterated garlic. Hence the addition of broccoli.

Pestos are traditionally uncooked sauces, which make them perfect for the summer. The standard pesto usually involves basil, nuts (usually pine or walnut), olive oil, and parmesan cheese. I did steam the broccoli before running it through the food processor, but besides that, this sauce is incredibly quick and easy.

Broccoli-Garlic Scape Pesto with Linguini


2-3 c steamed broccoli (run 1 c under cold water to cool)
1 c chopped garlic scapes (from about 7-9 strands)
2-4 TB olive oil
1/3 c toasted almonds
1/3 c grated parmesan
salt and pepper
1/4 lemon
1/2 lb linguini


In food processor, combine almonds, garlic scape, and 1c cooled, steamed broccoli. Drizzle olive oil in, and combine. Remove mixture from food processor, and mix in parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook linguini in well salted water. Reserve at least a cup of water from pot before draining. Drain pasta. Return pasta to pot, and mix with pesto, and 2 c steamed, chopped broccoli florets. Add pasta water to achieve desired consistency. Drizzle with lemon juice, and serve with additional parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Salad with Chickpeas, Couscous and Soft Boiled Egg

Hello, God, are you there? It's me, Salty Girl. And I'm really, really hot. Not like, go on with my bad self hot, but like sweaty, salty, filmy and swampy hot. I know I'm just a grain of salt down here, but I just wanted to remind you that it's only the first week of June.... and it's ONE HUNDRED DEGREES HERE IN DC. Thank you, that is all. 

Times like this call for a nice, clean, satisfying salad. Luckily, before going outside here felt like walking on the surface of the sun, there was a nice period of ark-necessitating weather. Hence, the lettuce in the garden is going bonkers. Bonkers, I tell you! And lettuce is a use or lose type of produce. I mean, what are you going to do, freeze it? Not likely. So my family is eating a lot of salad these days. 

This week we had a lovely salad with some colorful vegetables (and even some fruit).  I used arugula, red lettuce, and a few other types of lettuces.  In an effort to make eating salad for dinner less, um, emasculating, I topped each portion with warm chickpeas with onions, garlic and red pepper, some couscous, and a soft boiled egg. A lot of components, but very easy, and tasty.  It's no manwich, but it'll do the trick.

Salad with Chickpeas, Couscous and Soft Boiled Egg


1/2 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced into strips
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 white or yellow onion, diced 
1/8 red onion, thinly sliced
6-8 radishes, thinly sliced
10-15 ounces lettuce of your choice
1TB olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 c water
1 c chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 c prepared couscous
2 soft boiled eggs (recipe follows) 

Dijon vinaigrette dressing


1TB Dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 TB extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, combine ingredients for Dijon vinaigrette dressing. Mix with a fork or whisk, set aside.

In a large bowl, place apple, red pepper strips, red onion, radishes, and lettuce.  Add dressing.  Toss to combine. Set aside. 

In a medium sized skillet, heat olive oil.  Add white or yellow onion dice, garlic, and red pepper dice. Saute over medium heat for about 7 minutes, until all ingredients are soft.  Add chickpeas to skillet, and saute for about a minute.  Then add about 1/4 cup water.  Stir to combine, and cover.  Cook over low-medium heat for about ten minutes. Check mixture periodically, and add more water if needed. Chickpeas should be slightly softened, and water cooked away when you serve them. 

To plate salad: put about 4 cups of salad mixture on each plate. Place 1 c of couscous, and 1/2 c chickpea mixture on top of salad. Top with a soft boiled egg. Serves 2. 

2 Soft boiled eggs:
In a small saucepan, boil enough water to cover 2 eggs.  Add eggs to boiling water, taking care not to crack them. Use a large spoon to lower them into water if necessary.  Cook eggs in gently boiling water for 4 minutes. Remove using a large spoon, and run under cold water for a minute. Use a spoon to crack eggshell, and peel.  Serve immediately.  

Monday, June 2, 2008

What's for lunch?

When the answer just has to be: powdered baby formula, a nice watermelon fondant cake, Diet Tangerine Sierra Mist, a four pack of chocolate "muffins", and some Light Apple juice to wash it all down, stop by my workplace. Mmm mmm good.
Is there anything at all people won't eat that they find in an office kitchen?! In my almost all-female office, I'm going to say no. In the past week alone, I've seen people devour cases of Slim Jims, chocolate twizzlers, and splinter-sized, plastic wrapped Weight Watchers carrot cakes. It's truly impressive.

What's the most questionable thing your collective workplace appetite has consumed recently?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Margherita Pizza

And now, a tale.  Don't worry lovely readers, it has a happy ending.

Once upon a time there lived a princess in a wee, wee apartment. It was so wee that two people cooking simultaneously in the kitchen was only, well, a fairy tale.  The princess did not mind; she enjoyed her solitary time with the vegetables and spices.  

Before moving into the castle, er, the wee, wee apartment, the prince had been very clever and suggested that they have a window cut into the wall that separated the living room/dining room and the kitchen. This ensured that the princess could always have an eye on what was going on in the rest of the kingdom.  However, the prince, lacking magical powers, was unable to conjure up more kitchen space.  

One day, there arose a dire situation.  The princess, who was most fond of making pizza had declared that particular day as the singular day when the prince and the princess would christen their pizza stone.  The pizza stone had been received along with other wedding bounty and had as yet gone untouched. It sat in the dungeon with the winter clothes, patiently waiting to destroy the couple's happy marriage. 

What's that you say? How could a piece of cooking equipment really have it in for someone? Oh believe me, fine readers, if there was ever an evil piece of kitchenry, it is surely the pizza stone. Only a sadist would have designed an implement meant to be fired in a stove to the tune of 500 degrees, empty, while the item to be cooked stands by.  

Perhaps the prince was too kind to the implement, and gave the pizza stone the wrong idea from the beginning. Before giving it to the princess, he brought the stone upstairs, oiled it and baked it for a few hours, so to ensure it would be on its best behavior. Could this loving treatment have created the impudence we are about to hear about? We will never know. 

With the stone heating away in the inferno, the princess set about making the pizza.  On a cutting board, with nothing under it, she stretched the dough, and placed the toppings. It looks delicious, cried the prince. Indeed, said the princess. 

Now, how to get the pizza into the inferno, and onto the pizza stone....without removing the 500 degree stone from the 500 degree oven. You see, the creators of the Divorce Stone, as it now referred to in the princess's house, said explicitly not to remove the stone from the furnace before it cooled down or it might crack.

Not waiting a cracked stone, the princess and the prince wedged themselves into their tiny kitchen.  Neither have insignificant backsides, and it was quite something for the princess to wedge herself into the corner, where the oven is located, while the prince opened the inferno and tried to wield the thirty ton cutting board. Alas! The pizza would not slide off of the cutting board. It refused to budge.  

With the heat from the oven becoming unbearable, the princess began to say some rather unroyal things.  Hotter and hotter the small kitchen grew as the prince and princess tried to relocate the floppy, topping laden pizza onto a 500 degree slab of rock from a cutting board that weighed an unreasonable amount.  Finally, the princess, dripping in sweat, and exhausted from swearing,  veritably dumped the pizza onto the stone, slammed the oven shut, and swore to never, ever use the pizza stone again.   Kitchen appliances should never drive a princess to be so undignified, she thought. 

 When the pizza came out, the crust was indeed fabulous, but in the end, her marriage was more important than a super crispy crust.  From that day on, the princess returned to a regular baking sheet.  She found that if you didn't line the sheet with anything, the resulting pizza was as good, if not better than if it had been made on a divorce stone. The prince and princess continued to enjoy pizza often, and eventually, some months later, were able to laugh politely about the stone. The end. 

Pizza dough 


1 c warm water
1 packet quick rising yeast
pinch sugar of dash of honey
3 c unbleached, all purpose, white flour, plus more for counter
1 tsp salt
1 TB extra virgin oil
1 tsp salt
1 c whole wheat flour


Place water in large mixing bowl. Add packet of yeast, and either sugar or honey. Stir. Let mixture sit for five minutes.  Add 2 1/2 c white flour, salt, and olive oil to bowl and mix using a wooden spoon or metal fork.  When mixture is holding some form, turn out onto well floured surface.  Slowly add remaining white flour, kneading mixture with hands.  Add whole wheat flour slowly, until dough is no longer sticky while being kneaded.  Amount of flour needed will vary; total will be between 3-4 c. Avoid adding too much flour, as dough will become stiff. 

Knead dough until smooth and elastic, about five-ten minutes.  Place in well-oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Put bowl in a non-drafty location, and allow dough to rise.  After about an hour, punch dough down to remove air pockets.  Dough can now be used.  However, if time allows, let dough rise again for at least an hour, and punch down again before using.  Roll dough out or use hands to stretch dough into an oiled baking sheet. Top pizza, and cook for 15-20 minutes at 500 degrees. Makes enough dough for 1 large pizza, or 2 small.