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


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


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 


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. 


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


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


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


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


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. 

Friday, August 8, 2008

Curried Tofu Salad & Tomato Blueberry Salsa

The weather in Washington lately has been sublime, almost early fall-like. That combined with the fact that the city has begun its annual emptying-out has left this lady one un-salty girl.  

Also, I have these new sunglasses that literally make the world look like a nicer place. I am not kidding! Driving over the Delaware Memorial Bridge recently with them on was practically a religious experience.  The tilt of the bridge, the sugariness of the clouds and the sea foam (don't pretend like that wasn't the best Crayola crayon color) glint of the painted steel sent me swooning.  Thank you, Sisley, for making colors seems just Photo-Shopped enough that I've become convinced I am in my own Pixar movie. Divine. 

Every August, the slowing down of the city is a pleasant surprise. (Thank you, amnesia, apparently).  Every year I become convinced that life here doesn't have to feel hectic, and that just maybe Washingtonians understand that there's more to life than politics.  Restaurants aren't as busy, there's less traffic, people seem more easy-going.  I know from experience that it won't last, but I do love this incarnation of the city. 

For dinner Thursday I made curried tofu salad.  I also made a tasty salsa, that didn't go with the salad at all, it turns out.  But it was refreshing in its own right.  The tofu salad was very satisfying and perfect for a weeknight dinner.  

As always, I intend for my recipes to be a starting point, rather than a commandment.  The addition of a few chopped hard boiled eggs would be welcome as well, although definitely not necessary. Feel free as well to use full fat or low-fat yogurt rather than nonfat.  Whatever grade of dairy product pleases you, pleases me.  Enjoy! 

Curried Tofu Salad


1 TB olive oil 
2 blocks extra firm tofu, well drained, and sliced into thirds lengthwise
6-8 celery ribs, finely chopped
4 scallions, white and some green part finely chopped
handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 TB chopped jalapeno (use more or less to taste)
1 c nonfat yogurt 
1TB curry (or more to taste)
1/2 TB turmeric 
juice of 1/2- 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste 


Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add cooking spray or olive oil to coat skillet.  Pan fry tofu until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Cool slabs of tofu on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.  Cube tofu and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine celery, scallions, parsley and jalapeno.  Add yogurt, curry, turmeric and tofu to bowl.  Using your hands, gently combine all ingredients until tofu is thoroughly coated with yogurt.  Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 4-6.  

Tomato Blueberry Salsa 


2 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 c blueberries, chopped
1/4 red onion, very finely chopped
small handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped 
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste


Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  Refrigerate for at least a half hour to allow flavors to combine.  Serves 4.  

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pasta with Garden Vegetable Sauce

I do apologize for being so out of touch! I've been by the sea, and other fun fabulous locales. This lazy summer afternoon finds me at the Cocoa Bar in Brooklyn- I highly recommend it. Lovely garden behind the shop and very tasty iced coffee. Perfect.

In my absence, my trusty garden has been hard at work. I overcame my doubts and finally plucked my one eggplant. Now I know how only children must feel- so much pressure. Anyway, the eggplant shined, it was only my heavy-handedness in picking it that caused the jewel distress. The stems of eggplants are very reedy and woody, and apparently snap if you twist them. Who knew! So, the plant did sustain some trauma (the branch the eggplant was on split in two) but hopefully, it will knit itself back together.

Thank you now for indulging in my cheesy vegetable-scape:

These were all the veggies I found waiting for me when I returned from my eastern seaboard adventure. Those vaguely albino looking fellows are yellow peppers. And the squash in front is a mutant pattypan, grown beyond all reason.

With these vegetables, I made a lovely pasta sauce:

Pasta with Garden Vegetable Sauce


1/2 lb pasta
1 TB olive oil 
1/2 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large eggplant, cubed
2 peppers, any color, chopped
2 lbs assorted squash, cubed
1/2 c water
2 TB tomato paste
2 TB capers
1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives
Freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste


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

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic and saute until soft, about four minutes.  Add eggplant, peppers, and squash to pan.  Turn vegetables to coat with onions and garlic.  Saute for two minutes, stirring often.   

Turn heat to low, and add 1/4 cup water to skillet, and cover. Add more water periodically as needed to prevent vegetables from sticking to bottom of pan.  Cook until vegetables are soft, about five- seven minutes.  

Uncover mixture and add tomato paste, olives and capers.  Combine thoroughly and cook over low heat for two minutes to allow flavors to combine.  Season with pepper. Season with salt to taste. (Note: salt may not be necessary as the olives and capers bring much saltiness to the sauce.) 

To serve, top portions of pasta with sauce.  Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Serves four.