Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Summer weather is here, and that means grilling, outdoor dining and lots of fresh fruits and veggies from the garden. But think twice before you box up that slow cooker for the season. Long considered a standard for cool weather meals, with a little creative thinking, the crockpot can be a helpful tool for your summer cooking.
Like the Q-tip, the name “Crock-Pot” is a trademarked name that became so popular it’s how the entire appliance category is referenced. The Rival Company introduced the Crock-Pot in 1971, hence the olive greens, browns and oranges you may associate with those first slow cookers. I remember my Mother having a brown and tan one with colorful flowers illustrated on it.
There are lots of reasons for the Crock-Pot’s initial popularity that are still relevant today. It’s a great way to prepare inexpensive cuts of meat that benefit from long, slow cooking; it makes a one-pot meal, so cleanup is easier; plus dinner comes together fast after a long day at work.
My Mom bought me my slow cooker when I first moved to Chicago shortly after college. She thought it would help provide warm, home-cooked comfort food on Chicago’s many cold days (she was right). After I moved to Nashville, I stuck it in an out-of-the way cabinet and honestly forgot about it. Maybe it was the warmer weather that turned me off, or maybe it was because I’ve stopped eating as much meat the last few years. Having grown up in the Midwest, I mostly associated Crock-Pot cooking with roasts and meaty stews.
Either way, it stayed in its cupboard until earlier this spring. I pulled it out of storage in an effort to help get dinner on the table earlier – after working full days, it was often close to 9pm before my fiance and I sat down to eat. I soon realized another GREAT benefit of this simple appliance is that it doesn’t heat up the kitchen like using the stovetop and oven do – a nice perk during hot, humid Nashville summers.
The recipe below for Firefly Summertime Chili works great in a slow cooker, and is a good one for warm weather. It utilizes bone-in chicken thighs, which are much more flavorful than their white meat breast counterparts so you need less of them – a plus in the summertime when I’m craving lighter meals. I also like it because it doesn’t need to be piping hot to be eaten. It’s got a Mexican flavor profile, and really benefits from a squeeze of lime juice, the refreshing complement of cilantro and the cool creaminess of avocados – all summer flavors. It’s tasty on its own as a chili but also with tortilla chips like a dip or in a tortilla as a taco (it would be great with a jicama or cabbage slaw!).
Dried beans or chickpeas are ideal ingredients for Crock-Pots, because long, slow cooking will not only effectively hydrate them but will also give whatever spices you’re cooking with time to really penetrate their core. If you’re feeling meaty, try doing a pork shoulder in your Crock-Pot, but instead of eating pulled pork on a bun, serve it over a fresh salad with cornbread croutons. I haven’t tried this myself, but I hear eggplant is good in a slow cooker. The vegetable breaks down and its flesh adds bulk and texture to sauces.
I plan on exploring more with my slow cooker this summer. I’d like to try this Indian-spiced chickpea recipe, and this veggie pasta sauce recipe with eggplant. If I do, I’ll be sure to report back.
Think creatively and you can make this humble appliance a kitchen staple any time of year.
Got any summer-appropriate slow cooking ideas to share?
*This post also appeared in the Tennessean.
Firefly Summertime CHili
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8-10 hours
The corn kernels look like shimmering fireflies amidst the dark beans and tomato-based broth. Serve this chili hot or room temperature, alone or with tortilla chips, over salad or in taco shells.
4 bone-in chicken thighs
1 can black beans, undrained
1 can pinto beans, undrained
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (I prefer Muir Glen brand)
½ can tomato paste
1 4 oz. can green chilies
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cans of water
2 cups frozen corn
Cilantro, lime wedges, avocado, plain greek yogurt or sour cream, green onions and/or shredded cheese for serving
In a non-stick skillet (easier to clean up when you're running off to work), sear chicken thighs over medium high heat until browned on each side.
Place seared chicken thighs in slow cooker and add next 10 ingredients (through water) to crockpot. Cover, and cook on low, 8-10 hours. Shortly before serving, add corn (it will thaw quickly) and serve with your choice of accompaniments.
Monday, June 4, 2012
Perhaps it’s obvious by now, but boy do I love Mexican food. I’m not talking about the cheese-smothered, high-fat Americanized version (though every so often who doesn’t need a queso fix), I mean fresh, flavorful REAL Mexican. I’m no purist – I don’t make my own tortillas or smoke my own jalapeños for chipotles. But I do believe in using fresh herbs, spices and ingredients, and trying to keep things authentic. Speaking of authentic Mexican food, here’s a post I did on the best guacamole while helping out a friend in Mexico
I recently tried a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine that I just loved! Shrimp in Adobo was super fast, extremely flavorful and very low in fat, always a plus. The adobo – a thick, dark sauce made with vinegar – would be good with more than just shrimp too. I served the shrimp in whole wheat tortillas with refried beans and feta (a good substitute for queso fresco) and a salad with radishes, cilantro and a lime vinaigrette.
The only tricky part is toasting the chiles in advance. I found my dried ancho chiles at K&S World Market, but I think you could probably find these in most large grocery stores today. When you’re toasting them, you do so in a hot, dry skillet (recipe called for cast iron but I just used a heavy bottom saute pan). Pinch off the stems, then toss in the chiles, turning and lightly pressing down a few times. They’re done in literally just a minute, and be careful not to overcook. I left two on just a bit too long, and after they cooled, they smelled burnt, instead of toasted, so I tossed those. Perhaps plan to toast a few extras, just in case they burn. The rest is self explanatory. Note: The chiles below aren’t burnt, just really black, which is how they come.
Check out how dark, and intense the sauce gets from the chiles. Keep in mind this comes together with just a couple of ingredients. The color makes it look like there’d be more! Note: I only had about half as much shrimp as the recipe called for, so if you do make this, the shrimp won’t be swimming in this much sauce.
The shrimp cook in really just about 4 minutes. I let mine go for 5 just to make sure the sauce was cooked through since it had the shrimp marinating in it.
Shrimp In Adobo
Yield: 4 servings
This would be great with chicken or pork, or go vegetarian and use canned chickpeas or portobellos! It's basically an all-around easy sauce that's super flavorful.
6 dried ancho chiles, stemmed
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (I didn't have any so used pomegranate balsamic and white vinegar)
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sugar
2 lb small or medium uncooked shrimp, preferable wile American, peeled, deveined, cut into 1/4" pieces
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. After removing stems, toast at least 6 dried chiles (consider tossing in a few more in case you over toast the first ones!), for about 1 minute, until chiles begin to puff up and blister. Set chiles aside to cool.
Cut chiles into rings over a small bowl, reserving seeds. Pour 1/2 cup hot water over the rings and let rehydrate for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a blender, toss next six ingredients into a blender. Add in chiles with their soaking liquids and the reserved seeds. Blend well.
Toss shrimp in adobo, then spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil for 4-5 minutes, stirring once. Shrimp will cook fast, so look alive!
Serve in tortillas, over salad, or plain with rice. Enjoy!
Bon Appetit magazine, June 2012
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Do you know what I do? I am the PR/Social Media Manager for Just A Pinch Recipe Club, a new online social network devoted to food and recipe-sharing. And. I. Love. It! Perfect job for a self-described food enthusiast who likes to spread the good word, no? The site is devoted to celebrating real food from real cooks. We don’t mess around with celebrity chefs and fancy techniques – the purpose of the site is to make the regular home cook preparing food for his or her families the focus. There’s a really authentic, communal spirit about the site, which boasts discussion groups, live messaging and photo/video sharing beyond the core recipe-sharing piece.
At just two years old we’re growing like CRAZY. We nearly have a 1/2 million members, we have more than 90,000 recipes posted (all user-generated, a major point of distinction among our competitors), and the social functionality is causing people to start calling it the “facebook of recipe-sharing.” Basically we’re awesome. (Blatant plug? Heck yes – I’m in PR people!!). Anyway…
As the PR/Social Media gal, I’m in charge of working with journalists both in our members’ home towns, while also telling our unique start-up story to national outlets. I also manage our Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Instagram and YouTube presences.
One of my very favorite parts about my job is planning and managing our Blue Ribbon Recipe Showcases. We run national recipe contests quarterly, and as part of the prize we fly the winner to Nashville for a $1,000 shopping spree at The Viking Store (small world ‘eh?), Grand Ole Opry tickets, and a Recipe Showcase where they prepare their winning recipe in front of a live audience! They are so stinking fun. We invite regional club members to attend, and when everyone gets there, it’s like one big love fest! Everyone is so kind, and happy to meet fellow cooks in person.
Recently one of our contest winners, the fabulous Melissa Sperka, asked me to write a guest post on her blog, Melissa’s Southern Style Kitchen. Check it out here. I was so proud and honored she asked!
Here are some photos from the last Recipe Showcase featuring the charming Jackie Mento. You can also check out the video of Melissa’s showcase here.
Jackie Mento, Cookie Celebration winner, with her “Hazies” hazelnut cookies!
Taping Jackie’s pre-show interview
Jackie, preparing her Hazies in front of a live audience
On the left is Janet Tharpe, Just A Pinch Food Editor, winner Jackie, and Melissa Sperka, former contest winner and Showcase emcee!
At Viking during Jackie’s $1,000 shopping spree!
The next Showcase will be in June or July for the Heirloom Recipe Contest. We challenged cooks to submit family – that is, heirloom – recipes along with the family stories that go with them. Did you know we got more than 1,ooo entries?! That’s A LOT! We’ll announce the winner in a couple of weeks on the site. Check it out! (There’s that PR thing again…)
Just a little window into my world. I feel so lucky to have found Just A Pinch and really look forward to the future. We’re only two years old and we’re growing so fast. I’m excited for what’s to come!
Friday, May 18, 2012
I’ve always wanted a good falafel recipe. I love falafel, and it’s an interesting non-meat option to serve my veg-centric friends (and feed myself and my fiance when we’re avoiding carnivorous endeavors like we were here).
I found a recipe for Edamame Falafel with a Spicy Coriander Sauce in Everyday Food magazine that seemed simple enough. It called for dried chickpeas plus edamame along with cumin, parsley and lemon juice. I followed the recipe pretty closely, but used canned chickpeas instead of dried.
I know falafel is typically fried and this recipe called for frying, but I was hoping I could try some alternative cooking methods in addition to the deep frying. I wanted to follow the recipe properly, so I went ahead and heated an inch or so of oil in a skillet, and dropped in about 6 small falafel disks, reserving the rest of the dough for other preparation methods. After about 8 minutes in the oil, the falafel fell apart completely! It was an epic falafel fail! Literally the chickpea-edamame mixture disintegrated in the oil. It was completely ruined. I was totally bummed, and worried that I hadn’t gotten the oil hot enough, or perhaps it was the shape of the falafel — I’d flattened the balls into disks to fit in pitas better. I also had guessed on the conversion between dried chickpeas and canned chickpeas, so perhaps that was it.
I ended up pan-frying the remaining falafel disks in a non-stick skillet in just a bit of oil until they were slightly browned on each side and heated through, and that actually worked just fine. There was no need to finish them in the oven as the skillet heated them sufficiently. Out of the ashes rose a pretty tasty falafel meal, with quite a few left over I enjoyed over salad greens. Without deep frying them they were a bit dry but the spicy coriander sauce the recipe called and some fresh salad greens definitely helped with that.
Once I sat down to write this post, I found other bloggers had had this exact same trouble with this recipe! The fellas from The Bitten Word in D.C. experienced dissolved falafel, as did a blogger from Maine who the Bitten boys linked to.
Vindication! The moral of the story, it turns out, is add an egg to bind it all together. I’ll try that next time, though I did like the effect — and fewer calories — pan-frying had. Enjoy!
Edamame Falafel with Spicy Coriander Sauce
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 30 minutes
A healthier take on falafel.
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed
10 ounces frozen edamame, thawed
3/4 cup parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pita, salad greens, cucumber and any other toppers you'd like
Spicy Coriander Sauce
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
a bit of lime juice
Combine ingredients for Spicy Coriander Sauce and chill until ready to use.
In a food processor, pulse chickpeas, edamame, parsley, cumin and salt until well chopped. Mix in yogurt, mayo, coriander and cayenne. Roll mixture into about 20 balls.
Heat nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add enough oil to coat bottom. Add falafel balls, several at a time, flattening as you add them to the pan so they fit in the pita better. Cook until browned, then flip. Repeat with remaining falafel balls.
Assemble pitas with coriander sauce and your favorite toppers, and enjoy!
Adapted from Everyday Food magazine
Friday, March 30, 2012
I love tilapia. It’s one of the most sustainable fish, its mild flavor makes it a blank canvas for seasonings, plus it’s inexpensive. I prefer the Publix brand, as they come frozen and individually wrapped in plastic and make it very easy to grab one or two filets from the package to thaw overnight in the fridge.
I usually prepare tilapia on a baking sheet with a drizzle of oil and some kind of herb and spice blend. Though the April edition of Everyday Food magazine gave me a great new idea. There was a recipe for parchment-wrapped salmon with ginger and oranges gracing the cover. I’d seen this cooking technique used before with fish, but had never tried it myself. It was so easy with the tilapia! The texture was amazing – it honestly tasted like a different fish! It was super moist and really creamy and buttery. The parchment essentially steams the fish in the hot oven, making for a low fat cooking method and very easy clean up. The grapefruit was so tender and mild, and just melted with the spinach, avocado and feta.
Pre-baked fish, nice and neatly stacked.
Rolled to make a seam with ends folded under.
A big heap of goodness.
Parchment-Baked Tilapia with Grapefruit
Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
A fast, easy, healthy dinner, perfect for a busy weeknight.
2 tilapia filets, thawed
1/2 a grapefruit, to taste
1/4 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 clove of garlic sliced
2 handfuls of spinach
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 avocado, sliced
1/8 cup feta, divided
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut two 16-in-long pieces of parchment. Place parchment on a rimmed baking sheet. Cut ends off grapefruit so fruit stands on end. Take knife and carefully cut rest of peel and pith off grapefruit taking strips off vertically. Slice grapefruit into 1/4-inch thick rounds, then in half.
Stack ingredients in this order: spinach, grapefruit, tilapia, onions, garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bring long ends together and fold three times so parchment is snug around the top of the fish. Tuck ends of parchment under the fish. Bake for 15 minutes, or until fish is cooked through (you'll have to open one packet to check).
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody! How did this day become synonymous with sweets? Was it a ploy by the chocolate or sugar industries to get people to buy more? Is there some historical reasoning like maybe St. Valentine had a sweet tooth? It probably has something to do with the rumor that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. Though this is not a post about chocolate.
For my Valentine this evening, I intend to make a Naked Berry Pie. While I do appreciate chocolate, a free form berry pie — in winter no less — feels like more of a treat. Plus I have some blueberries that I picked this summer still frozen. It just dawned on me the irony of the recipe title, though I assure you it was accidental! Sheesh.
The recipe comes from “Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe,” by Alisa Huntsman, Artisan, 2011. I was lucky enough to be invited to the cookbook launch party out at Loveless where guests got to sample a dozen or so of the desserts featured in the book as well as a lovely brunch spread including those famous biscuits. It was as awesome as it sounds.
I like this cookbook for a few reasons. First, Alisa does a great job of selecting classic, simple desserts to feature in the book. No elaborate baking techniques here – just straightforward preparations for straightforward Southern desserts. She even includes prepared pie crusts as an option for some of the recipes. While I enjoy a homemade pastry as much as the next person, there are times when a more convenient option is needed. I appreciate a classically trained chef who can embrace that flexibility.
Find recipe classics like Still Holler Blackberry Pie, Blueberry Peach Corn Bread Buckle and Harpeth Valley Hummingbird Cake in this book.
At the brunch, I was given a copy of the book to give away. If you’d like to participate in the giveaway, you can enter up to three times. Simply:
1) Follow @annakatet on twitter
2) Tweet this: I just entered to win a copy of “Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe” by Alisa Huntsman from @annakatet at www.LaAguacate.com!
3) Like the Loveless Facebook page.
4) Tell me what your favorite Southern Dessert is!
Please leave a separate comment for any you choose to do. I’ll select one winner at random on Friday at noon CST. Good luck!
[THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. CONGRATS TO KELLI FOR WINNING THE COOKBOOK!]
Naked Berry Pie
Yield: Makes 4 free-form pies
Recipe and recipe photo courtesy “Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe,” by Alisa Huntsman, Artisan, 2011
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 sticks (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoons cold milk
1. Place the flour, confectioners' sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor and pulse briefly to mix. Add the butter and pulse until it is cut in and the mixture resembles coars meal. Add the egg yolks and milk and process just until the dough is smooth and evenly moistened. Do not process until the dough forms a ball, or it will be tough.
2. Remove dough from the processor and press into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap well, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.
2 cups raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, or a mixture
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 sturdy baking sheets with parchment paper or foil and grease the liners lightly. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each out to an 8-inch circle. Arrange the dough circles on the baking sheets.
2. Just before you're ready to bake, place the berries in a medium bowl. Add the granulated sugar, flour, orange zest, vanilla, and cardamom and toss gently until the berries are coated. Immediately spoon a heaping 1/2 cup of berries on the middle of each dough circle. Fold the edges in toward the center, pleating the dough as necessary and leaving at least a 2-inch circle of fruit exposed. Brush the crust with egg wash and sprinkle the coarse sugar evenly over the tops.
3. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow juices to thicken.
Monday, February 6, 2012
Perhaps the crowning jewel of my vegetarian month was this hearty bread pudding. I riffed off a few recipes I found, and in the process created a savory, flavorful and wholesome fast, easy dinner. I’ll definitely make this again.
Like many of the vegetarian recipes I post here, it’s customizable to your own tastes and preferences – or to whatever you have on hand. I was lucky enough to use a lot of local foods in this including eggs, milk, bread (Provence rolls I had frozen) and some goat cheese feta (thanks Bloomy Rind!). The veggies were just what I happened to have in the fridge/freezer. Cooked (and drained) spinach, leeks, kale, broccoli would all be good. Lots of possibilities! Experiment freely, and if you hit on a good combination, report back! Enjoy.
And you know, now that vegetarian month is over, I just might add a little bit of crumbled bacon to this. Though, for the record, this hearty dish totally stands on its own without the addition of meat. But a little bacon sure never hurt anything.
Savory Veggie Bread Pudding
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: About an hour
This savory bread pudding would be good for brunch or dinner and is tasty reheated. Hearty and filling, you'll especially want to enjoy it when it's cold and rainy outside, mark my words.
half loaf of bread
1 bunch scallions
1 c frozen peas
1 c milk
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 pkg sliced mushrooms
1 medium bell pepper, diced
1/2 c feta cheese, crumbled
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 glass baking dish with cooking spray or coat with oil. Set aside. Coarsely chop bread into cubes and bake on a rimmed baking sheet until toasted and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, add milk, scallions and frozen peas, and bring to a boil (to scald milk). Once boiling, immediately remove milk from heat and cover to steep.
Heat oil in skillet. Add onions and cook, 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add mushrooms and saute until mushrooms begin to release their juices. Add peppers and saute until mushrooms and peppers are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Beat eggs until smooth; add milk mixture (slightly cooled so eggs don't cook). Place bread crumbs in prepared dish, toss with cooked veggies and feta. Pour milk/egg mixture over bread/veggie mixture and, using a large spoon or spatula, mix a few times until just combined. Add a bit more milk if mixture appears dry. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until cooked through and not jiggly in the middle. Enjoy with a simple tossed green salad.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
I roast vegetables a lot. I love tossing a combination of chopped sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, onion wedges, garlic cloves, broccoli florets and/or butternut squash with a little olive oil, kosher salt and maybe some fresh thyme and then roasting on a rimmed baking sheet. They’ll be finished in 30-40 minutes if you roast at a higher heat (I usually start at 425 degrees F) and hte veggies will be nice and caramelized. At this point I’ll toss them with a bit of lemon juice.
In a recent edition of Food & Wine, I saw this fabulous recipe from Chef Art Smith (of Oprah personal chef fame) in Chicago. It’s a simple melange of roasted vegetables, tossed with an orange-honey and balsamic vinaigrette over mizuna. This salad is reminiscent of the Garbage Salad I wrote about earlier, but the dressing is slightly different and I used different veggies.
The vinaigrette was so scrumptious! And I loved the texture of the roasted roots with the soft, peppery arugula as I didn’t have mizuna. I also didn’t have the exact root veggies he called for, so I improvised. The sweet, piquant dressing will definitely get used in our house over many a salad to come. This is a real keeper, and a perfect vegetarian meal for our meat-free January. I served it with a simple bread crumb and caper pasta with garlic and olive oil. It was kind of a lot of starch for one meal, but it satisfied as a comfort-food meal on a cold Sunday. Enjoy!
Yield: 4 servings
Total Time: 1 hour
This would make a great side dish to a lean protein or fish, or an excellend main-dish salad if tossed with some brown rice or cous cous.
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
4 whole carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias into discs
6 medium turnips, peeled and halved or quartered
1 dozen Brussels sprouts, halved
1 medium onion, quartered
6 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon minced red onion
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
3 cups packed arugula
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss first seven ingredients (through rosemary) with 1/4 cup olive oil in a large bowl. Sprinkle to taste with salt and pepper. Spread vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Reserve bowl.Roast for 30-40 minutes until veggies are caramelized in places and cooked until softened.
Meanwhile, in a 1/2 pint jar, combine remaining olive oil red onion, orange juice, vinegar and honey. With lid tightly secured, shake dressing until emulsified.
After roasting, toss veggies with arugula and dressing in reserved bowl. Serve immediately.
Art Smith, Food & Wine, February 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Since going meatless January 1, I’ve made a lot of vegetarian meals. We’ve had salads and grilled cheese, roasted root vegetables, fish tacos, soups, packaged veggie burgers and Silly Goose takeout. It all turned out pretty well, but everything was based on my regular culinary repertoire, or it was made for us. As I noted in the last post, I want to use this month not so much to focus on avoiding meat, but to really explore other kinds of cuisine that don’t focus on meat, in an effort to expand my own culinary horizons.
I used my Magazines.com gift card from the amazing Food Blog Forum goodie bags (I wrote about the event here) last October for a subscription to “Everyday Food” magazine. I love that little pub, but it’d been awhile since I’d subscribed. I found a recipe for Denver Omelet Cups in the January issue that I tore out, so I tried a variation of it for dinner last night. What a treat! It was easy, tasty, relatively healthy and meatless. Plus, it’s unusual “cup” shape on the plate is impressive for a weeknight meal.
Next time I’d use slightly less shredded potatoes as there was barely enough room in the “cup” to hold everything and I’d prefer more sauteed veggies than potatoes. The eggs in the photo at left are about to run out of the cups, but amazingly there was just enough space. I’d also use my own shredded potatoes instead of the frozen kind (which I had on-hand) so I could leave the skins on for more nutrients. This recipe comes together really fast – you pre-bake the potato “cups” for 15 minutes, so while those are cooking you can saute the veggies and grate the cheese. After they finished baking, they popped right out of the pan without any trouble at all.
Alongside these eggy delights I served a grapefruit, orange, avocado, green onion salad over arugula and drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. This also came from “Everyday Food, and the recipe is just as simple as it sounds. The flavors didn’t quite go with the egg cups by traditional rules (citrus and eggs doesn’t really do anything for me) but I liked the brightness of both dishes’ flavors. Plus it was light and nutritious for a cold winter night.
Breakfast-For-Dinner Omelet Cups
Yield: 6 "cups"
Total Time: 30 min
This recipe would be great really anytime of day, though it's hearty enough for dinner. It makes six "cups," and two for dinner was plenty. I reheated a leftover for breakfast the next morning in the toaster oven and it was delish! The original recipe called for ham steak - I omitted that and added spinach. This recipe is easily customizable to your tastes and preferences.
nonstick cooking spray
4 cups frozen hash browns (1 pound), thawed
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small red onion, diced small
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced small
6 ounces fresh spinach
3 ounces shredded or crumbled cheese (I used feta)
8 large eggs
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Coat 6 nonstick muffin cups with cooking spray or rub with oil. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt 4 teaspoons butter. Add hash browns and 2 egg whites; season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Place 1/2 cup mixture into each muffin cup, firmly pressing into bottom and up side of each cup with a spoon or your fingers. Bake 15 minutes; potato "cups" will be beginning to brown around the edges.
Meanwhile, heat a small nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add olive oil. Add red onion and bell pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add spinach. Cover until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Divide vegetable mixture evenly among cups and top with cheese. Bake 2 minutes. Remove from oven and crack 1 egg into each cup. Season with salt and pepper and bake until whites are set but yolks are still runny, 8 minutes was just enough time. With a small offset spatula, remove cups from pan and serve immediately.
Everyday Food, January/February 2012 http://www.marthastewart.com/872743/denver-omelet-cups
Friday, January 6, 2012
On my way home from work on the Friday before New Year’s Day, I was feeling crummy. I wanted to do something to perk up. It was Friday night after all, and the eve of a three day holiday weekend. So I decided to stop into my neighborhood butcher and cheese monger to pick up something fun for dinner: Porter Road Butcher and The Bloomy Rind which are housed in the same building off Galatin Road in East Nashville.
How many neighborhoods the size of this one can boast awesome artisan food purveyors such as these? I feel like one lucky gal. Read my post on that very topic here.
I also thought it’d be fun to indulge in a big ol’ piece of meat since as is our tradition for the second year running, come January 1, we cut out meat for one full month. So, Porter Road Butcher, with its array of locally- and sustainably-raised meat options hooked me up with this beautiful, well-marbled, bone-in, inch-and-a-half thick, 24-ounce ribeye. Oh man. Definitely the most intense meat purchase of my life.
At $19 a pound this cowboy steak was not cheap, but it was a good piece of meat and I felt worth it. I knew where it came from, it was a special occasion, and it was going to taste great lightly sprinkled with salt and pan-seared to medium rare perfection. I purchased it intentionally, thoughtfully and aware that it was an indulgence. I split it with my fiance and we savored every morsel.
In 2012, I want to eat less but better meat. I will try to purchase or enjoy it from PRB, the farmer’s market, a CSA, a locally-focused restaurant or even a hunter (my parent’s got some kick ass deer baloney from a friend who shot the deer himself and processed all the meat for family and friends), as much as I can. That probably won’t be the case 100% of the time, but hey – it’ll be a step in the right direction for me nutritionally, environmentally and ethically.
As far as the Bloomy Rind goes, I purchased some goat cheese that had a layer of ash around it. The center was so soft it was nearly liquid. I shared it with no one. Kathleen Cotter rules.
I like taking a month each year not so much with the focus of avoiding meat, but with the intention of broadening my vegetarian horizons to try new techniques, ingredients, flavor profiles and menu items that I might have otherwise overlooked. So for the next few weeks, I’ll share the exploits of my vegetarian (and pescetarian – we’re still eating fish) adventures in the kitchen here.
I’d also love some recommendations on favorite creative and healthful veg-centric concoctions. Please leave a comment with any and all suggestions!
Welcome to the party 2012 – I’ll bring the good meats and cheese.