Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Another Use for Parsley- in Pizza Dough

I know, I know, I keep talking about how hot it is in DC, and then I go and crank up the oven to make pizza.  You don't feel sorry for me anymore, I understand.

My love of pizza transcends the weather, what can I say.  This was an eggplant, red onion and olive pizza.  With a few pieces of pieces of prosciutto tossed onto husband's side for good measure.  

To avoid having the pizza become a watercolor lake scene,  I sliced the eggplant, salted it heavily, and let it drain in a colander for about an hour before putting it on the pizza.  Rinse the salt off thoroughly, and the eggplant is ready to go.  The salting process draws out the moisture before you put it in the oven,  avoiding the creation of a swampy mess on your pizza.

By the way, I am still carefully monitoring the progress of the one eggplant I have growing so far in the garden.  I feel like I should build it a house, or give it shoes or something, given how much time I spend worrying about it.  It's progressed from the size of a large grape to roughly the size of a soda can.  When do I pick it?? I am racked with indecision.  Who knows the answer?? Will it taste better if I pick it earlier?? Crazy city dweller, stressed about when to pick an eggplant, I know. 

Instead of eggplant bounty, I have more flat leaf Italian parsley growing in my garden than any reasonable person could safely incorporate into their dishes in a lifetime.  So, I've had to get stealthy.  I chopped several handfuls of parsley (and basil) and added them to the dough before baking.  The result was lovely.  The dough had a great texture, and the herbs made the whole pizza taste very fresh.  

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Summer Salads

 This was another one of those dinners that had to stand in for what I really wanted: an ice bath.  

I do love summer, I do, I do! But this summer my love is being tested, for the first time really.   I know I'll come out the other side OK.  I would never forsake the refreshing afternoon thundershowers, insanely lush landscape and long nights for a cooler climate. Never, summer, OK? You're safe.

These salads are all quite simple.  The beet salad was my way of using up the last of my beets from the garden.  I lovingly swaddled them one by one in tinfoil... and then delivered them to a 500 degree oven.  They roasted for about an hour, because they weren't the hugest beets.  If you are working with bigger beets, just roast them until they feel tender when pricked with a fork. After removing the foil the skins slide off easily. 

I quartered the beets, and combined them with a healthy amount of dill, allspice berries, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Optimally they should be refrigerated overnight to allow the flavors to combine, but chilling them just until they are cool is OK too. 

Next on the plate clockwise is  a simple tomato, basil, cucumber, red onion and parsley salad.  I combined those ingredients with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Clean and comforting.

Finally, I made a hot zucchini, eggplant, and onion salad.  I simply sauteed chunks of the vegetables in a bit of olive oil, and then seasoned. Voila! It was quite good cold the next day, as well, but someone in my house (not naming names husband) has a real thing for hot food, even when it's so hot out that people's faces are warping.  So, hot salad it was. 

With the salads we had toasted pita and pureed white bean dip. This dinner was fairly virtuous, dietarily speaking, but still very satisfying, perfect for enjoying a summer evening. 

Friday, July 18, 2008

Offering of Beets

Here are the last of the beets from the garden... what to do with them?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Summer Supper: Polenta, Spiced Black Beans with Sauteed Poblano, and Tomato and Corn Salad

It is so hot here in DC that the usually surly population has officially gone off the charts. In "only in Washington" fashion, I observed a character this week,  who I'll call "ridiculously hostile watermelon pusher man", or WP,  for short.  

I had seen him a few weeks prior, camped out on the same corner, a few blocks from DuPont Circle. He'd set up his shop of meanness outside of what was presumably his residence.  (Note: if you ever "work" where you live, try not to be a jerk. People know how to find you.)  The first time I saw him, I thought it had to be some sort of performance art.  Sadly, that was not the case.  

What was he peddling, in the 100 degree heat? Slices of cold watermelon.  Sounds refreshing, right?


WP's brilliant, and yet maniacal business plan, surely one not honed at Wharton, was to give the slices away. That's right, free of charge. Gratis.  Equipped with a blue cooler, lawn chair, and cardboard sign, WP set about trying to foist free produce on the unsuspecting masses.

But like all good city dwellers, the intended beneficiaries were highly suspicious.  Not many souls were brave enough to accept the free fruit. 

How did WP deal with this? By mocking and ridiculing anyone within earshot.  As in, "What the hell is wrong with people in this city?" "What, are you scared? You're scared, aren't you? Scaredy cat!" and, my favorite, "Don't be a loser, eat some freaking watermelon!"  

Further proof that the heat makes people crazy, and that no allegedly good deed goes unpunished. 

Good deed = no punishment; meanness = people avoid you. Think about it, WP.  

The heat has also resulted in me avoiding the oven, and even the stove, whenever possible.

Tonight's dinner was a simple combination of polenta, black beans, and tomatoes and corn.  I served it with a big spinach salad.  Perfectly summer. 

The recipes were so simple as to not really be worth mentioning.  For the polenta, I used a 50/50 mix of finely and coarsely ground corn, which I find to produce the best consistency.  The black beans were already prepared for me: I bought a can of seasoned beans.  To the beans, I added sauteed diced poblano and  few garlic cloves.  The corn and tomato salad featured fresh corn, cut off the cob, and San Marzano tomatoes.   San Marzano tomatoes are worth the extra cost-- they are so sweet, perfect with summer corn.  I added salt, pepper, sugar, and fresh basil.  

Very few of the ingredients had to be purchased; most were ingredients I had at home. Just a couple of seasonal ingredients can really make dinner special.

This concludes my Martha Stewart Moment for the day. Thank you. 

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Linguini with Anchovies, Parsley and Capers

Sometimes you realize that you've lived near a major city for your whole life. Times like when you see an eggplant growing, and are surprised that it's actually purple. For some reason, I was pretty convinced they started out white. Like how some kids' eyes start out blue, and then turn darker. Anyway, turns out even baby eggplants are purple.

Here's the baby picture:

It's about the size of a large grape right now. Hopefully it'll make it out of infancy so I can eat it. While the garden incubates eggplant, it's turning out parsley in alarming quantities.

Hence, this quick and easy pasta features parsley. This is great for a weeknight, or any other time you're cooking from your pantry and have some fresh herbs to toss in the mix.

Linguini with Anchovies, Parsley and Capers
1/2 lb linguini
8-10 anchovies in oil, oil reserved
1/4 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely minced
red pepper flakes
2 TB capers
1 TB caper juice
2 c chopped parsley
1TB lemon zest
freshly ground black pepper


Cook linguini, according to directions in salted water. Reserve 1c of cooking water, then drain, and set pasta aside.

In large skillet, heat anchovy oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes and sautee until soft. Turn heat to low-medium and add anchovies to skillet and sautee another 3-4 minutes, using spoon to break up the fish. Add capers, caper juice, and parsley and sautee for about a minute. Remove mixture from heat.
Combine anchovy mixture and pasta in skillet. Add pasta water as needed to achieve desired consistency. Stir in lemon zest. Season liberally with freshly ground pepper. Serves 4.

Pasta Salad with Eggplant and Red Peppers tossed in Chickpea Sauce

This salad was made for a bbq, that turned out to be less bbq, and more inside air conditioned affair. I have a sadistic love of the heat in DC, so I was disappointed. Everyone else was quite comfortable.

I pulled this salad together on Saturday morning, in my wee kitchen, my hulking figure hunched over the stove. OK, so I'm not Godzilla, but sometimes I like to think of myself as a big action figure in a small doll house. It makes city living seem more reasonable. Otherwise, why the heck would two people and a cat voluntarily share so few square feet?? Must be for the entertainment factor.

After salad making was done (note: sadly, no offers to turn the adventure into a comic strip have come in), husband (he's still unnamed; shall we have a contest?) and I went for a bike ride, again taking advantage of the 95 degree weather. All was fine, even fabulous, until about mile 30. At that point, I abruptly abandoned my new road bike and sprinted in the direction of a suburban sprinkler system, prepared to roll around in their lawn, if need be.

The passers-by in their air conditioned cars looked horrified, but I was downright gleeful. Unfortunately, even after a good soaking, I was still speaking jiberish and threatening to completely jump ship if my head didn't cool off a little.

We biked a few more miles to a grocery store, where husband announced that what I needed in life at that very moment was a banana. I haven't had a banana in probably a year, because they always seem like such a commitment. And it's so easy for the texture to feel like pureed cardboard. But the reunion was sweeter than I ever could have imagined.

The banana was the perfect temperature (grocery store cool) and ripeness-- bright yellow, with no green, but also no brown. For about ten minutes, I communed with this fabulous fruit, and we had an earnest conversation, the banana and I.  I promised to eat more in the future. My sanity having been restored, we continued the ride back into the city. I'd like to dedicate Saturday to that banana; it was so humble, yet so heavenly.

Moral of the story: dehydration makes you loopy. Even salty girl's salt balances get out of whack from time to time. Eat bananas, be happy.

Pasta Salad with Eggplant and Red Peppers tossed in Chickpea Sauce 


1/2 lb shaped pasta
2TB olive oil 
1/4 white onion, chopped finely 
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red pepper, sliced thinly into 1 inch strips
1 medium eggplant, cubed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper 
1.5 c chickpeas
1 TB ricotta 
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 c Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped 


Cook pasta in salted water.  Remove pasta and drain when quite al dente.  Reserve 1 c of cooking liquid.  Run pasta under cold water for several minutes to stop cooking. Set aside. 

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions and saute until soft.  Add garlic, and red peppers saute an additional 3-4 minutes.  Add eggplant, stirring to coat in oil.  Add red pepper flakes, and stir to combine.  

Turn heat down to low-medium, and add a few tablespoons of water to skillet.  Stir well, and cover skillet.  Cook covered, stirring frequently, until eggplant softens.  Take mixture off of heat before eggplant begins to fall apart. Season with salt and pepper to taste.   Set mixture aside, and allow to cool. 

To prepare sauce, add chickpeas and ricotta to food processor, and combine. Add pasta water slowly, until sauce is consistency of tomato sauce. 

To prepare salad, combine pasta, eggplant mixture, and chick-pea sauce in a large bowl.  Add lemon juice and parsley to mixture.  Serve room temperature, or refrigerate for an hour prior to serving. Serves 4.  

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Salmon with Lemon Basil Dressing

I never thought I'd be saying this so soon after my lovely friend fell ill, but she is doing tremendously. I feel incredibly blessed. Thank you to everyone for your kind thoughts and emails!

Life continues. This salmon was a kick-off to the weekend, otherwise known as Thursday in my house. Don't get hostile on me, it's only on occasion, with my flex schedule. And this Friday (like most) I did have to work. (I know, shed a teeny, tiny tear for me. )

Salmon can break the bank if you're buying the more environmentally friendly and sustainable wild-caught versions, but it's so tasty. I generally lean towards a sharp dijon sauce to cut the substantial fat content in salmon, but my garden is growing basil like its life depends on it. So, basil with lemon dressing it was.

Simply grill or pan grill the salmon filets, to the doneness that you desire. Heat a pan that you've sprayed with nonstick spray over medium-high heat. There's no need to use extra oil when cooking salmon, unless you prefer to. Season the non-skin side, and cook skin side down for about 3-5 minutes. Flip salmon and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
I like to take it off the stove while it's still a little translucent and pink in the center, and let it finish cooking on the plate. Salmon is very forgiving-- it's hard to overcook because it's so fatty. But a perfectly cooked piece of salmon is sublime, in my book. Total cooking time for 1-inch thick filets is normally 6-10 minutes.

This very simple dressing would also be delicious on salads, tofu or more mild fish.

Lemon Basil Dressing


2 handfuls of basil
juice of 1 lemon
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


In a food processor, chop basil until coursely chopped. Add lemon juice and olive oil, and combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over salmon before serving. Sauce serves 4 portions of salmon.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Tofu Caprese

Tofu Caprese


3 TB extra virgin olive oil
(2)14 oz blocks extra firm tofu, each block well drained, sliced into quarters lengthwise, and seasoned generously with salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic, pressed
2 dry pints grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 c pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
2 TB balsamic vinegar
8 oz fresh mozzeralla, sliced into 1 oz slices
2 large handfuls basil
salt & pepper to taste


Heat 1TB olive oil in large skillet. When skillet is heated, add tofu slices, and cook for about 6 minutes per side over medium-high heat, or until tofu is crispy. Try not to move tofu while cooking, so as to allow tofu to crisp. Once tofu is done cooking, set aside.

In a smaller skillet, heat 1TB olive oil. When oil is heated, add garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes, over very low heat. Add grape tomatoes to skillet. Mix together well, and turn heat to medium. Cover mixture, and cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tomatoes begin to soften and release juices.
Uncover, and add olives and balsamic vinegar. Mix well, and cook uncovered over medium heat for 3-4 additional minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve dish, layer once slice of crispy tofu, and then two slices of mozzeralla. Generously spoon tomato olive mixture on top. Add several basil leaves, and top with another layer of crispy tofu. Finish with several spoonfuls of tomato olive mixture on top of stack. Drizzle remaining olive oil on the four stacks. Serves 4.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rigatoni with Pesto,Yellow Squash Ribbons, and Grilled Grape Tomatoes

Rigatoni with Pesto, Yellow Squash Ribbons, and Grilled Grape Tomatoes


1/3 c toasted almonds
3-4 handfuls basil leaves
4 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. Rigatoni
1 dry pint grape tomatoes
2 squash, peeled into ribbons using Y peeler (discard center, seeded part of squash)
1/3 c grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste


In food processor, combine almonds and basil. Drizzle olive oil in (reserving 2tsp), and combine. Remove mixture from food processor, and mix in parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. 

Cook pasta according to directions in salted water. Reserve about a cup of cooking water prior to draining.

Meanwhile, drizzle 2tsp olive oil in a grill pan, and heat. When oil is almost smoking, add grape tomatoes. Grill, turning occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Return pasta to empty pot. Add pesto and squash ribbons. Add pasta water  and cheese until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper. Top with grilled tomatoes before serving. Serves 4.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Before and After

Readers, my dearest friend fell seriously ill last Friday. She survived a cardiac arrest, and is recovering slowly, but surely. I will continue posting recipes; however, I can't gaurantee too much wit or commentary beyond that for the timebeing. One of the reasons I love food is because it brings people together, in all kinds of times. This is the craziest time I've ever had in my life, and I plan to cook through it. Cheers to dear Kate!