Sunday, March 31, 2013
I was in Chicago last weekend for a friend’s birthday/graduation party. In between all the planned events, I was able to fit in several delightful meals, including one at Birchwood, in Ukranian Village. Our host and hostess, Davis and Laura, had their rehearsal dinner there. They also have a killer brunch.
I ordered a Croque Vert, which was a version of a Croque Madame, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with egg on top, but with veggies instead of ham. While we were waiting for our food we were curious about the translation of the dish. Turns out that “croque” means crunch in French, indicating the bread is grilled. There’s also a Croque Monsieur (i.e. Mr. Crunch) which is the same as Croque Madame (Mrs. Crunch!) but without the egg…Some good trivia for your next brunch date.
Monday, March 18, 2013
One of my favorite, most-flavor-for-the-least-effort, go-to meals is this white bean stew. I’m amazed I haven’t written about it before. I originally found a version of this recipe in a magazine but I’ve tweaked it so much over the years I have no idea what that recipe was – I just have my version. It comes together in 20 minutes (though it’s better after having chilled out in the fridge for a day). Plus it’s totally easy to make a double batch for a friend or just for the freezer. It goes great with some crusty bread or just a simple salad. Enjoy!
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Now that all that lovey dovey business about Chris and Maria is posted, let’s get down to business: Wheat berries.
In January, during my meat-free month, one of my three goals was to cook a new grain. I make brown rice, basmati rice, jasmine rice, barley, cous cous, quinoa, and arborio (for risotto) with some regularity. But I rarely branch out. The most recent new grain I’d tried was black rice, which I used in this Thai-Inspired Black Rice Salad.
We’re lucky in that Turnip Truck Natural Market is just up the street. They have a bulk grain bin with all kinds of interesting grains in it in addition to nuts, granola, specialty flours and dried beans. I didn’t have to commit to an entire bag of wheat berries – I got just what I needed, and it was cheaper that way too.
Wheat berries are the whole, unprocessed kernels of the grain, and they taste like it. They’re chewy, nutty and substantial. I loved the way they tasted while my husband said they tasted “healthy.”
Too cook these babies, you boil them like pasta in salted water. They could cook from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on how many you have in the pot. I boiled mine about 45 minutes until they were cooked, but still quite toothsome. I might cook them a little longer next time.
Here’s what they looked like before they were cooked.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Today I have a special post. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to share a love story between two friends. If you read all the way to the end, you’ll get to see the step shots for Moussaka, the Greek dish I got to learn as the story unfolded.
Over New Year’s, two longtime friends came to stay with my husband and me. Maria lives in Cyprus and Chris lives in Oakland, Calif. No sooner had they sat down at our kitchen table the night they arrived they announced – much to our delight – they were in love and getting married.
Chris and Maria.
Chris and Maria met nine years ago when they, along with some friends, decided to open a bookstore on the island of Santorini in Greece. The group found a small whitewashed building overlooking the Aegean to rent, and Atlantis Books (you really should click that link and check it out.) was born. Over the years the two became close – almost like siblings. They bickered and fought, and both smart and stubborn, in the early days, they often disagreed about how tasks at the shop should be completed.
Atlantis Books, Santorini. Photo credit: Will Brady
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Don’t panic. It’s not as spicy as it sounds. The only thing spicy about this soup is the hot chili flakes, and you can lighten that amount if you want to. This is probably the best soup I’ve ever made. It is super easy to do (saute, simmer, blend, eat!) and it comes together fast – perfect for weeknights. The carrot, sesame, soy, carrot, ginger, peanut flavor profile is delicious, and really balanced. I highly recommend it! Serve it with a piece of baked fish or some shrimp, or on its own with a delicious salad and call it a day.
With this soup I’ve accomplished the second goal of my vegetarian month – cooking something with an Asian flavor profile. The first was signing up for a winter CSA, and that worked out great. Check out this beauty shot of my first delivery! Next up is trying a new grain, and I’ve got bulgur on the brain. Stay tuned!
Don’t forgo the toppings – the cilantro and green onion add freshness.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
At the start of January I set some goals for my month of meat-free eating. One of them was to sign up for a winter CSA, and I just got my first pickup from Avalon Acres. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and here’s the idea: you pay a farm at the start of a season, kind of like a loan, and they pay you back in what they produce. Your money allows the farm to purchase supplies, pay employees, make repairs, etc. For many farms, a winter CSA offers income they wouldn’t otherwise have since the farm isn’t producing as much during the colder months and many farmers’ markets have closed for the season. Plus you’re keeping your money in the local economy and you’re guaranteed to get tasty, homegrown food.
“But,” you might ask, “It’s winter – if the farm isn’t producing as much, what would I get?” I signed up for a half share of the Preserved Harvest Package from Avalon. According to their website, my bi-monthly baskets could include a mix of peanuts, apple sauce, radishes, carrots, lettuces, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and other winter vegetables as available, homemade pastas and spaghetti sauce, plus canned or frozen sweet corn, green beans, shelled peas, stewed tomatoes, tomato juice, sorghum, honey, jams, jellies, preserves, pickles, apple butter, pear butter, popping corn or corn meal. Check out what was in the first box:
From left, I got green onions, kale, broccoli, white turnips, red potatoes, cabbage, a regular turnip, beets, watermelon jelly, a radish, and parsnips! What a haul. I’ll get a box like this every two weeks.
The Avalon Acres CSA also offers mix and match packages of meat, cheese, milk, eggs and some baked good. Avalon co-ops with a network of local farmers and offers a lot of flexibility in their share options. You can specify how much of each and what kind (from breakfast sausage to premium beef, goat cheese only or a mix, etc.). I have friends who have been members of Avalon’s CSA for years and really enjoy the flexibility for their family. I intend to add meat and cheese come February.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
One of Andrew’s college buddies, Craig, lived in Sitka, Alaska, for five years. Before he left, he shipped us a box of fresh-caught Alaskan fish as a wedding gift. Best. Gift. Ever. I tracked the crap out of that package on fedex.com! We’ve been slowly eating our way through the halibut, salmon and black cod, savoring it all. Thanks again Craig!
Included in the pack was some ground salmon for salmon burgers. I whipped some up the other night, using one of Craig’s recipes. It’s a recipe I’ll try with tuna or crab as well.
Check out the cool Sitka packaging!
Sunday, January 13, 2013
I definitely enjoy pasta, but I like it best when there’s some texture to it – when it’s more than just pasta and sauce. Last January, I made a bread crumb and caper pasta that was quite delicious. It was from The Gourmet Cookbook, a gigantic tome from Ruth Reichl and the former editors for Gourmet magazine. It has more than 1,000 recipes and is a great resource - it’s my go-to cookbook for recipe ideas.
I decided to recreate the dish with a few additions. First, I roasted half an eggplant with just a bit of cooking spray to a) keep it from sticking and b) because eggplant is really absorbant and since there’s already 1/4 cup olive oil in the pasta sauce I wanted to minimize it here.
Next I chopped my garlic (fresh from the garden – Andrew grew it last spring!), chopped a piece of bread for bread crumbs (you can also use store-bought for this), and got out my other ingredients.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Wow. I just discovered the magic of the mandoline. If you’re not familiar, a mandoline is a cooking utensil used for slicing efficiently. I’d purchased a Benriner Asian Mandoline based on a recommendation from a chef friend at least a year ago, but hadn’t gotten around to using it. My friend likes this brand because it’s thin, small, and very sharp. I loved it! It was like magic. Tired of wrestling baby carrots to chop? Need to slice an apple fast? Don’t feel like cooking radishes, beets or a fennel bulb? Try a mandoline! They’re very easy to use I haven’t worked with all these things yet, but I did make a kick ass salad.
That’s apple, celery, fennel sliced very thinly, a few salad greens and parsley, and a lemony vinaigrette with a few shavings of Parmesan cheese. I made this on New Year’s Day for some friends. This would be delicious for brunch with eggs, lunch with soup or dinner with anything! I could also see tossing it with some cous cous and shrimp and calling that dinner. Yum!
Do you have a favorite cooking tool of the moment?
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
It’s January 2, and that means I’ve made my vegetarian-month pledge for the third year in a row. My husband and I go meat-free in January to cleanse from the holidays and generally start the year on a lighter note. I also enjoy this time because it forces me to cook outside my comfort zone. Last year I made these cute little Breakfast-For-Dinner Egg Cups, for example, but not before going out with a bang with our Porter Road Butcher Last Supper.
This year, in addition to pledging to eat vegetarian for one full month (with the occasional piece of fish), I promise to:
- Experiment with one new grain (farro, spelt, millet, etc.)
- Do something Asian, and I don’t mean stir-fry
- Sign up for a winter CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share
For my first meal, I whipped up a take on Lablabi, a Tunisian stew that “captures the sunny flavors of the southern Mediterranean,” as Organic Gardening magazine puts it.
I didn’t have harissa, a spicy red-pepper paste, so I improvised. My husband loved it – he (jokingly) said it wasn’t the watery, mushy goulag he thought it was going to be. Wow – what a guy!
Tunisian Chickpea Stew
Total Time: 30
The stew base is very simple - it's the toppings that make the dish so flavorful!
3 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4-6 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 slices day old bread, torn into small pieces
sun-dried tomatoes jarred in oil or dried (I used dried), roughly chopped
extra virgin olive oil
dollop of plain greek yogurt
Sririacha Thai Chili Sauce
Add chickpeas to a medium saucepan with 4 cans of water (from chickpea cans), garlic and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Add cumin, coriander and red pepper and let simmer 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, tear bread and place in shallow soup bowls. Chop items for toppings. When soup is ready, ladle soup and broth over bread and top with toppings. Garnish with the first four ingredients, then drizzle with oil and squeeze a lime wedge over each. Serve with a dollop of yogurt with a squirt of Sriracha on top.
Recipe adapted from Organic Gardening, Vol. 60:1