Saturday, December 20, 2008

Salty Girl Has Moved!

Salty Girl Cooks has a sparkling, new website!

Please visit 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


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


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)


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


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


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)


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

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


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 


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


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)


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


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.