Archive for the ‘dinner/lunch’ Category

I’ve been trying to be thrifty this week. I had to buy tables so I could invite people over for a Passover seder.

But I lucked out last Friday to find leftover crudite from some workplace event put out in the staff room. And I had empty lunch containers at the right time, too. I acquired cauliflower, broccoli, grape tomatoes, orange bell pepper, mushrooms, baby carrots, and a decorative yellow chile.

Breakfast Mushroom Sautee

So the mushrooms were something I wanted to eat for breakfast. So I made half a slice of bacon, removed it to drain and left the fat in the pan to cook the rest.

I turned the halves of mushrooms into slices and then sliced up the yellow pepper and an onion. They went in onions, then mushrooms, then pepper. As it was cooking, I cut in some fresh rosemary.

And then I just stirred it until the mushrooms released liquid and then browned a bit.

I spooned this over top a fried egg on toast, and it was enough to have covered 2 or 3 eggs, but I still had my spoon and just went ahead and ate it directly without company.

I didn’t know what to do with the cauliflower, until I remembered the remains of the Saint Agur I’d been thinking would melt into a nice pasta sauce. I also had a random jar of hot pepper garlic pasta sauce that my parents hadn’t gotten around to using, so had passed on to me. And I’m just going to take a moment to give this a review on its own. That jar is not pasta sauce. It might be the random oddly-sized scraps of garlic and hot pepper (red, decently thick fleshed), having been left over from making a pretty jar of pickled peppers, that you decided to put into a jar with some oil… but it is not sauce. It’s a bit harsh. I have a very sturdy constitution, and it was threatening me with heartburn. So it’s an ingredient… a way overpriced one… but it’s not what it claims to be. Luckily, I was just using it to perk up the cheesiness – unluckily, I hadn’t realized how much oil I’d be unable to avoid adding on top of the cheese. Should you try this, just cut up some garlic and hot peppers on your own.

Spicy Cauliflower Penne

Start the water boiling and just start the cauliflower cooking when you put in the pasta – this isn’t going to take much more than the 9-10 minutes the pasta cooks. I think this dish is well suited to a whole wheat or spelt pasta.

Cut up an onion, and got that started in a teaspoon of olive oil.

Then I went through the cauliflower and barely broke it down even more – into a fork-friendly size – and added any extra stem bits into the pan right away to give them more time to cook. Then I turned the heat higher than medium and added the cauliflower, looking to get it softer and a bit browned without actually making it limp.

When the vegetables are two minutes from the right consistency, turn down the heat and add the cheese in clumps. Stir them in to melt evenly. And here I added some of the hot pepper garlic ‘sauce’ and stirred that in – about 2 teaspoons or so, draining out as much of the oil as possible. It benefited from some black pepper ground on top, too.

Then I used a slotted spoon to shift the al dente penne to the cauliflower and stir it in so that it was coated with sauce and absorbed that for the last bit of its time and sucked in flavor, too.

And then I ate most of the broccoli dipped into hummus, but I had a few pieces left when I was trying to decide how to use up the rest of the vegetables. While looking in the fridge, I noticed I still had a partial can of red thai curry paste waiting for use. Perfect! It was only after I started cutting that I noticed just hot very orange this dish was going to be – at least there were a few broccoli pieces to add a little contrast. Actually, that shocking bit of contrast looked amazing on the plate.

Carrot Red Thai Curry

Rice: 1/2 cup short grain rice; 1 cup water; pinch of salt; 1/2 tsp coconut cream – boil, reduce heat to low and cover for 20 minutes.

Curry – wait until there’s only 10 minutes (or less, but I have no patience) left on the rice before starting to cook.

6 ounce cans of coconut milk are the best thing for the single cook!

Shake the can until it sloshes (keeps the fat from sticking to the lid and sides) before opening, and then pour it into your pan to heat. Once the oil starts pooling at the top, add about a third of a pound of baby carrots, sliced in half.

Cook for a few minute before adding the curry paste – 2-3 teaspoons, stirring in and tasting between each addition.

Add the broccoli.

And then add a(n orange) bell pepper, cut into 1 x 4 cm strips).

Stir to coat and cook evenly. When the bell peppers just start to look no longer raw, take them off the heat and you’re ready to plate.

This made two portions.

I’d put the second portion in my freezer and gone out to the porch to eat, when one of my new neighbors came by and asked if I’d made enough for two since she was very hungry. I’d expected her to end up disappointed either because of the lack of protein or the spiciness level, but she came back full of compliments with my container empty.

22
Dec

Roman Barley Risotto

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , ,

I just wrote this up for a friend, so I might as well post it here while I’m at it. Having first tried this dish at one of my Roman Cooking Workshops, this has since become my favorite way to cook barley.

“Wash and crush barley which has been soaking since the previous day. Put on the fire. When it boils add sufficient oil, a small bouquet of dill, dry onion, savory, and leg of pork. Let all this cook with the barley for flavor. Add fresh coriander and salt pounded together, and bring to the boil. When it has boiled well remove the bouquet and transfer the barley to another saucepan, taking care that it does not stick to the pan and burn. Cream well, and strain into a pan over the leg of pork so that it is well covered. Pound pepper, lovage, a little dried pennyroyal, cumin, and dried seseli. Moisten with honey, vinegar, defrutum, and liquamen, and pour into the pan over the leg pork. Cook over a slow fire.” (Apicius IV, IV, 1)

But I did make some changed. For one, no matter how much I love that a leg of pork is an incidental ingredient in this barley recipe, I just don’t have those lying around. I do, however, have a steady supply in my freezer of cubes of leftover roasted pork shoulder (it’s a thing – my mother likes this particular roast, but they suck at eating leftovers).

Also, gruel just sounds like prison food, and I’ve yet to find a congee I like. So I made it with a slow addition of liquid so that it was tender and pleasing but not drippy.

Roman Barley Risotto

Soak barley overnight.

In a nonstick pan, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and sautee some onions and minced stems of parsley and cilantro (I got that trip from the DVD extras of Bend It Like Beckham).

Heat up some stock

When the onion is translucent, drain the barley and add it to the pan. Add some stock.

Bind together a bundle of fresh dill, drop it into the pan and sprinkle in some dried onion flakes, savoury (and/or thyme), and as much roast pork leftovers as looks tasty.

Let cook until the stock has been absorbed, and then add more stock.

Mince cilantro leaves and stir them together with 3/4 teaspoon salt (more or less – this dish can take a lot of salt), crushing and juicing the leaves. I found that the dish could absorb quite a lot of cilantro, so go wild. If you don’t like cilantro, substitute parsley – but the addition of green was a great choice.

Season the barley with the salt and cilantro, stir, taste. How’s the salt level? How’s the texture? Does it need to cook more? Feel free to have another addition of stock. Also, how’s the dill flavor? I might have been tempted to mince in some of the dill, too. If it’s strong enough, go ahead and discard the dill. Note the ingredient seseli in the original recipe – could totally be referring to dill fronds, carrot fronds, parsley, anise, caraway, or even fennel)

Grind cumin and black pepper and add to taste. I was generous with the pepper but more moderate with the cumin, so it would be a background note.

If you don’t have lovage, you can substitute celery or margoram (or skip).

And then once the barley is fully cooked and creamy, you’re finishing by mixing in honey, red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, maneschewitz wine (defrutum is young wine that has been boiled down to only 1/3 the volume of the original), and liquamen/fish sauce.

1
Oct

Chickpeas with Browned Butter and Thai Basil

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , ,

Even though it’s still a time of bountiful farmers’ markets, I’ve been shopping shopping from my pantry in an effort to save money.

Now I’ve always claimed that I could hold of a siege army for 2 months with careful use of my pantry, but even I am impressed with my food budget for this month:

personal food: $146.26
social food: $210.13

I’m defining personal food as groceries and dining out alone and personal food as dining with other people and groceries bought explicitly for food I share with other people.

That’s just extraordinary. We’ll see how well that holds out.

So, I cobbled together something delicious today – a co-worker had brought in massive quantities of thai basil from her garden and all the rest was from my pantry.

Chickpeas with browned butter and thai basil

So I’ve never made a browned butter sauce before, so I looked in my fridge and decided that the ghee was going to waste and was just like butter. So I scooped out some of that, melted it on medium heat, and waited for it to brown. Which it didn’t because the whole reason it’s clarified is so it’ll have a higher cooking temperature.

Right, so I tipped some of it out (I didn’t measure the ghee going in or coming out – it had been slightly more than the minimum to complete cover the bottom of a twelve inch skillet) and replaced that with 3 Tablespoons of butter. It started browning almost immediately and was a lovely sauce base in a minute or so.

I sprinkled in some asafoetida to fry, and then I also sprinkled in some galangal.

To this tasty brown butter I added 1 yellow onion, sliced radially to a medium thickness.

Once the onions had fried enough to be soft, I added chickpeas (drained from a can). I stirred them about and let them cook for about 5 minutes while I stripped the leaves from the basil plant, stacked them, and then sliced roughly through the stack about 4 times. I also grated the zest of one lemon with the leaves.

Once I figured the chickpeas were as soft and cooked as I wanted them, poured in 1 teaspoon of fish sauce (I happened to be using Phu Quoc fish sauce) to give it some saltiness. Just a few stirs, and then I tossed in the leaves and zest.

I’d been planning to also squeeze the lemon’s juice into the dish, but the zest made it lemony enough. So once the leaves had become bright and wilted, I splashed in about an eighth of a cup of apple cider vinegar. I let it cook just until it quit smelling so strongly of vinegar, and then I dished it up.

So there were pretty beets at the market. Well, about a week and a half ago… but they’re still in my fridge. And I’d meant to make my usual beet and purple cabbage shred, but there haven’t been any purple cabbage these days. So I’d been pondering what to do with them.

I didn’t want to substitute a different variety of cabbage because the color bleed would be unfortunate. So I’ve just been sitting around with beets and not using them.

I also have in my pantry a package of black rice noodles. I had a plan to use them in some showy way for company… possibly as a cold soba type salad variation.

And then I just sort of played from there.

Cold Black Rice Noodle and Beet Salad

Julienne 4 raw beets (but it could easily have been a few more).

Boil some water

Julienne carrots until you have about a third the quantity of beets. You could also throw in some red bell pepper or cucumber or whatnot.

Cooking the noodles – do not believe the package! The package says to put the noodles into the cold water, bring it to a boil, and then cook for a few minutes. This will lead to mush and tears. Instead, boil the water, turn the heat OFF, then add the noodles (I did two of the little wrapped packages, so that’s about 5 ounces), and within a minute or so they will be plenty soft. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking even though you will lose starch. Actually, for these purposes, there wasn’t much harm in losing the released starch.

Dump the noodles in with the vegetables.

Squeeze 2 limes, add 2 Tablespoons of black vinegar and about an eight of a cup of plain rice vinegar, sprinkle in about 2 teaspoons of brown sugar, and a healthy glug of toasted sesame oil. Mix that all together and see whether it feels like the proper amount of sauciness and whether the tastes are balanced.

Toast some unsweetened shredded coconut, and add it (this really improved the dish!).

And then feel free to go through your cupboards looking for other fun things. The only thing else I added were some toasted almond slivers, but sesame seeds or tofu or more vegetables all would have been good. Cabbage would be a good addition, too.

The end result was charmingly vegan and gluten free, but I was tempted to try adding a splash of fish sauce, and it’s with noting to people with dietary concerns that the noodles contain corn starch.

And now I know what I’ll be taking to the next food blogger pot luck.

29
Jun

Food from nothing

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , ,

For some reason, when I was getting ready to go to a conference last weekend I decided that I absolutely could not leave any perishables in my house. I did this crazy ramping up of cooking everything that I usually only do before a big trip.

I made a couple dodgy canning adventures, which I need to get someone with more sensitive taste buds than I to evaluate – lime coconut marmalade, roasted garlic white wine mustard, caramelized cherry jam, pickled onions (seriously – couldn’t leave any perishables for some weird compulsive reason), pickled carrots, and a few other things.

And then when I came back, it was hot. And I just never got the motivation to buy more perishables.

But that’s okay – I have a well stocked pantry. But it ends up being the kind of thing where you look at your shelves and think, “Gah – I have all these ingredients, but I’ve got nothing to eat.”

Food from Nothing

Part 1: Rice

Pulled out some white rice, measured out a quarter cup for a single serving.

Found some lime cilantro dressing left over from a take out salad from a local Mexican restaurant – actually more like pesto than your average dressing. Added all of that – let’s say 2 tablespoons – and counted that at the fat and salt.

And then I added slightly less than 1/2 a cup of water because of the volume of the dressing.

Part 2: Beans

Rice and beans make a complete protein, so that’s clearly the next place to look. Aha – a can of black beans. Given a choice between Hanover and Goya, I prefer Goya’s canned beans (this is a relatively new discovery for me).

So I dumped the whole can into a pot and turned on the heat.

Since that wasn’t enough like food, I looked around for some further seasoning. I found the last tablespoon from a can of red curry paste. Perfect – dumped that in, and I let it simmer down to be a thick sauce holding together mushy beans.

Part 3: Assembly

20 minutes later – everything is cooked.

I pulled out a tortilla, heated it in a skillet, and then wrapped up some of the rice and some of the beans. I didn’t have a cheese that would go with the thai curry flavor, but maybe one of the harder Mexican fresh cheeses crumbled on top would have been good. But I just made burritos out of just rice and beans.

All in all – quite successful.

I used all of the rice over 2-3 burritos, and I had black beans as leftovers for a couple more meals.

I’m not tagging this gluten free friendly because even though it would be easy to leave off the tortilla or use a corn one, I found my flour tortilla in integral part of tying everything together. Your mileage might vary.

6
Apr

Beef tongue

   Posted by: Livia Tags: ,

Friends of mine recently went in for a half share of beef. And then a few months later the couple brought a third into their household – only the new person was vegetarian and had trouble with meat just being cooked in the same room.

It helps that I like the person, but I’d be excited anyway because this is bringing a lot of free beef into my life.

It’s also bringing the weird beef into my life. For some reason half of a cow (or steer, I suppose) yielded 2 tongues. I don’t know.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with this tongue – I wanted to cure it and slice it thinly onto sandwiches. Only I don’t own pink salt, and I didn’t have any other plans for the huge amount I’d have left over. And basically, it was going to end up procrastinated for months taking up space in my freezer.

So I started looking for more options, and happened upon Tacos de Lingas. Woot! Just slow braising the tongue until it reaches joy.

I followed the recipe pretty closely to start, and I put into my soup pot

  • 1 frozen tongue
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • plenty of water to cover
  • and I just added a little sprinkle of salt

And here’s why I skimped on the salt. You see, I’ve just recently written up my recipe for carnitas, and I figured that if I cooked all the liquid out and ended up with something shredded, that would be delicious and would have flavors so concentrated that I’d want to wait on correcting the salt until later.

So I cooked it down until the meat was cooked through, and I took it out to slice into 1″ this rounds, to break up the grain. I also peeled the tongue… to discover that even right underneath the thick skin/membrane there was the same rough tongue texture. So I ended up cutting off the skin, instead of peeling, so that I’d get below the texture.

All back in the pot, and I cooked until there was very little liquid left. Then I poked the meat with a wooden fork – and it didn’t shred. So I added half a pot of water and started cooking it down again, poking occasionally as I went.

Still not shredding.

I tasted the meat, and it was okay, but it could use a little more flavor. So I added some wine. And some ground oregano and black pepper.

Cooked down until there was very little liquid, and it still wasn’t shredding.

So I added a pot full of water again, and about quarter of a cup of balsamic vinegar and another quarter of a cup of red wine vinegar.

By the time this cooked down again (let’s say the total is about 14 hours over a few days), the meat still wasn’t shredding, but it had the lose give of good pot roast. So I declared it done.

Pulled out the meat, and I had about a cup of liquid left behind. I corrected the seasonings (mostly with salt and a bit of pepper), and I starting sifting whole wheat flout into it gradually. About 2 teaspoons later, I had a good dark broth. I remembered that I had some water hanging out in my fridge from reconstituting some dried mushrooms, so I added that, too – it added a nice flavor, but was totally optional.

And then I forgot about the tacos, and I had it over leftover cooked brown rice with gravy.

17
Mar

Carnitas

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , ,

So I have found out via Rick Bayless’ twitter (he’s one of my favorite people to follow!) that the way I make carnitas is not authentic. If you want authentic, go to his recipe.

Because this is slowly cooked in liquid, it might be helpful to think of my carnitas as more in the pulled pork family of swine goodness.

Instead, when I set about to find a recipe after I went to San Diego and decided that this was something I’d have to try more often (but this was before I was on Twitter), I searched recipe and found a huge variety – some cooking in stock, cola,orange juice, beer, milk, or even water… but none in lipids (not that I knew I should be looking for lipids back then).

So I picked a recipe (water (which I partially replaced with stock) and citrus zest with spices and peppers) and followed it and loved the result. If you want a strict recipe, that’s a really good one. Then I tried it again from memory. And I’ve slowly been paring it down to one of those dishes can just be made from whatever’s hanging out in my refrigerator.

I have a lot of trouble going through a quart of orange juice, so I usually pull this out when I start nearing the orange juice expiration and need to use it up.

Carnitas

Meat
Yeah, so you’d think that you’d want a nice fatty shoulder for ideal flavor. But I started with a cheap ass pork loin with no fat at all, and I loved the results. This will still get tender and juicy and lovely even if you buy the cheapest and leanest option out there (don’t you love when those two occur together?).

When I buy a whole pork loin, I usually cut it into three large roasts and freeze them. So I usually work with a 3-4 pound lump of meat.

Feel free to put it in the soup pot without even defrosting it.

Liquid
Add some orange juice (1-4 cups)

Add some stock (I have quarts of vegetable stock right these days)

Add a splash of wine or beer or tequila – whatever makes you happy.

Feel free to squeeze in a lime

With this much flavorful liquid, you can add some water if the roast still isn’t covered.

You do not need to add any extra fat/oil

More flavor
If you like onion, you can either half an onion and plan to remove it later, or cut up an onion decently finely so it won’t be stringier than the meat.

Mince up some garlic, if you like. Oddly, I usually skip it.

Feel free to grate in some citrus zest. My first recipe that was heavy on the zest ended up with a slightly too strong citrus flavor, but I still like some – whatever I have that’s easy.

pinch off the head of a couple cloves (the spice) and crush with your fingers into powder

Add some cinnamon, if you like it.

I like to add some ground oregano and some ground thyme. (If you have fresh cilantro, either wait until the dish is ready to serve or add just the stems, finely minced, this early in cooking)

And you can add some crushed pepper now, but I recommend waiting because it’s important to realize that just a little bit of pepper will accumulate a lot of heat the longer it cooks in wet heat.

Cooking
So bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

An hour or so later, when the meat it thoroughly thawed, carefully pull out the roast (let it drip a bit) and move it to a cutting board. With a large knife, cut it into 1″ to 1.5″ slices – against the grain. This will keep it from getting too stringy as it disintegrates.

note: if you were starting from fresh meat, you could have done it at the beginning, but it’s fine to wait, too.

Return the meat to the pot. Check that you still have a pretty mild simmer going on.

And hour later, come by and start poking at it with a wooden spoon. See if you can just poke a hole through the slices – or break them into halves. Just start encouraging it to fall apart.

Check your water level – it’s probably still scarily high and you’re wondering if you’re going to have to drain the meat later. Be patient.

But about now I start checking at half hour intervals – but that’s because I like poking at my food.

Hey, now would be a good time to add a conservative amount of crushed pepper, if you want.

Cook, cook, cook.

Is it starting to fall apart? Pinch off a bit and taste it. If the flavors are good, but a bit mild, that’s perfect.

Cook, cook, cook.

Okay, start paying attention to the level of liquid when it starts being stew-ish, rather than soup-ish. Stir more frequently and make sure you’re in the same room so that you can tell when it starts to smell drier (I know this sounds odd, but watch the liquid and smell – the sound of the cooking will also change a bit).

Okay, once it’s mostly dry, it’s a fairly harrowing time. Well, if you have fancy enameled cookware, just keep going until you get a little burny crisp around the edges.

I, however, have cheap, thin nonstick cookware, so I don’t want to go that far. Sometimes I have the right combination of attentiveness/patience to get it just perfectly dry without burning. Sometimes I drain it a little at the end – with pulling out not more that a cup or so of liquid, you really do want all those flavors absorbed into the meat (and then I use the liquid of tasty joy to make rice).

More cooking?
You can put it into batches and freeze now. Or you can crisp it up some first.

This is the time to add salt, pepper, and lipids.

Get a big casserole dish and put an inch thick layer of pork (you might have to do more than one batch) – pour over some olive oil (or, you know, bacon fat) and salt and pepper it.

Roast in a 375F oven (Hella hot, but not so hot you have a fire, because that would be bad) until is starts to crisp up.

Take out of the oven. Stir. Put back in the oven. Crisp. Out. Stir. In. Crisp. Out. Taste. Moan.

Seriously!

ETA: I have since come across this recipe for cochinita pibil, which (with the addition of annatto) might be a more direct antececent of this dish

Cooking fish is a milestone for me in the land of cooking.

I grew up with a father who did not like fish, not even the smell of it in the house. And since I’ve moved out on my own, I’ve mostly stuck with cheaper meat options (with a goal price point of $2/lb or less – though, yes, I’ve been reconsidering my ethics lately). Also, Philadelphia is not known for its seafood, so I don’t know of a reliable fish monger near me.

But I just happened to be out today in the vicinity of a reputable source of seafood – Ippolito’s – so I stepped in and professed my cluelessness. I did ask for something a little more challenging that a salmon steak, so I ended up selecting a beautiful 18″-ish striped bass. And since I don’t have fish-worth knives at home, I did ask them to filet it for me, but to also include the head, tail, and bones for stock.

Turns out that I only ended up with the meat. I’m a little disappointed, but I suppose that any day I call ahead and go there asking for a bag of random fish scraps, I’ll be able to get them for fairly cheaply… and I wasn’t going back today because it took a lot of looking to find a decent parking spot that wasn’t on a snow emergency route.

So after I did the dishes and cleared a workspace, the first thing I did was open up my packet and fondle my meat. Erm… I mean notice that there weren’t any miscellaneous bits. And then I pulled out only three tiny bones that the store missed. And, yes, my eyes had been right – the flesh felt smooth and supple and there was no fish smell even this close.

So, being an amateur, the first thing I did was to cut the filets down so that one was 4 ounces and the other 3.5 ounces. I did that by trimming off the thinner flaps on the side and down by the tail so that the filets would have a more even thickness. I have no idea whether that is acceptable in formal fish circles or not, but it seemed logical to me.

I then had about 2.5 ounces of very fresh fish to play with.

Ceviche

So I diced the fish finely, slightly less than 1cm x 1cm x .5cm, and I did not bother with removing the skin except in a couple spots where it wasn’t cutting easily.

I added half a jalapeno, minced. And then I added about 2 tablespoons of finely minced red onion. I stirred that about and tasted it.

Oh, right, I was missing the acid – that’s key to ceviche. So I pulled out a lemon and a lime and ending up that I wanted to use the lime. The juice of a whole lime seemed a bit too much after I added it. Hmmm…

I also minced up some fresh flat-leaf parsley (I love the small salad spinner I got for my birthday!). And I added some salt, pepper, and a chunk of gingerj.

Now I think I’ve covered all of the basics of ceviche, but it still wasn’t tasting any good, even after marinating for half an hour. So I started looking around my kitchen – ah, yes, the persimmons.

I diced up one, and even with their odd skin/flesh texture, the persimmon was the perfect answer. Well, I suspect any particularly strong fruit. But instantly (well, with even more salt, too) the flavors came together and the ceviche was tasty.

So I spent the rest of the day googling recipes for striped bass, calling my mother for advice, and seriously pondering the fail-proof parchment method, which showed up in such a timely fashion on my twitter feed.

And then I sucked it up and reminded myself that I had managed to find exceptionally fresh fish, so I’d better just trust my ingredients.

Pan Seared Striped Bass

So I took out a good, thick skillet, and I heated it up fairly high (medium-high, actually, so not as hot as for steak) with a teaspoon of olive oil in the pan.

When hot, I took my nice, even-thickness 4 ounce filet, and lay it down (I put the skin down first). And then I didn’t let myself look at it or poke at it to monitor.

I just waited 3 minutes. And then I sprinkled salt and pepper on the up side, flipped it, and sprinkled the skin side, too.

Ever so slightly more than three more minutes later (I don’t know why I held off, but it seemed right), I served up onto a plate a perfect piece of fish with nice browning on both sides, easy flake, and just oozing juicy tenderness.

I’d say it was as good as the best fish I’ve had in a restaurant. Wow!

I still have one more filet, so I’ll see if I can duplicate my results and call it skill/intuition or if it was just beginner’s luck.

And how did I manage not to poke at the fish? By assembling a salad for the side. This was my second run with this basic salad frame, but the first one was too acidic, so I was more generous this time with the more oily ingredients.

Persimmon & Arugula Salad

Cold parts
2.5 ounces of arugula, washed – and spun!
2 persimmons, cut up and scattered artfully
a dozen dry roasted almonds (unsalted) roughly broken up with a knife
2 ounces of semi-soft mild flavored cheese

Dressing
1/2 tsp brown mustard
1/2 tsp tamarind sauce/chutney
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar

23
Feb

Eggplant and pasta + Salt question

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , , , ,

Many of my food experiments are directly the result of instigation from my friend Meghan. And her latest blog post about eggplant sludge, though not attractively named, was also inspiring.

Luckily, another friend had recently gifted me with an eggplant from her organic produce delivery service, which was getting on in days and needed to be eaten quickly in a dish where appearances didn’t matter.

Eggplant and Pasta

In 1 teaspoon of olive oil, I sauteed 1 diced yellow onion and then 3 minced cloves of garlic.

Once the onions cooked to translucency, I peeled the eggplant and cut out any brown spots, and then I took my box grater and just grated it right into the pan.

In reference to my friend Meghan’s post, I’d been chatting with her about whether or not salting eggplants was useful, and there was googling. The end conclusion was that pre-salting doesn’t ‘draw out bitterness,’ but saltiness does counteract bitterness.

So I salted the hell out of this dish. Erm, buy which I mean that I took three chunks of fancy pink Himalayan salt and ground them down into regular powder and added that to the dish such that I was pleased with the saltiness and there was not noticeable bitterness.

I also cut small and added two dried peppers – one cayenne and one other one I dried, which memory tells me was a red jalapeno but could have been something else similar, too.

When it looked a little dry, I peeled and cut in the edible half of the tomato my friend had also given me for urgent consumption.

And then I cooked it until the eggplant was not only soft, but also releasing liquid, then seasoned with a generous amount of cinnamon and black pepper.

Shamelessly (well, mostly shamelessly), I then added about half a cup of jarred tomato sauce. (Yes, I’ve had bad jarred tomato sauce, and I see why you don’t like it. But Classico rarely has off flavors, has a wonderful product as a base for sauces, and I love the jars for reuse.)

Mixed in 4 ounces of cooked macaroni (selected because that box was in front of the queue, but it was a good pairing for the sauce), and that made two generous portions.

Because I’m back on the Weight Watchers wagon, I topped it with 2 thinly sliced scallions and about a teaspoon of freshly grated parmesan.

So please explain to me what to do with this fancy Himalayan Pink Salt.

The crystals are too large to sprinkle on top to finish.

And when you grind it down, it only looks pink next to other salt.

Is it mostly useful in a pretty, transparent grinder and then used as you would regular salt?

Or is there a way to take advantage of the pretty without having to buy purely decorative hardware?

note: This salt was given to me gratis for review by Marx Foods as a result of the entry I made for their free black garlic. There were many more things in the new sampler, too, so there will be several entries mentioning them in the near future.

I bought and made so much food this weekend.

First, there was the farmers’ market out by my parents’, which I had to go to because I’d bought very promising looking butter there last weekend, but found it had gone off, when I tried it as soon as I got home. So I took it back in hopes of swapping for fresher butter, but they hadn’t made any this past week – so I swapped for two butternut squash, instead. And I bought a 4 pound sweet roasting squash on impulse.

And then I bought stuff for the Roman cooking workshop. And some broccoli rabe that looked gorgeous. And what’s a couple (or 7) beets for a buck?

So then I met up with my parents so we could try breakfast at an “authentic British pub”. And, yes, they had sourced the right kind of bacon and there was both black and white pudding. And beans from a can. But the eggs were standard tasteless American eggs and there was no grilled tomato… and the tea was only halfway in between the two countries’. I may sound a little down on it, but that’s less because of the quality of the food and more because the entire breakfast run had only one waitress, so the food wasn’t quite as hot as it could have been.

And then my parents wanted to go to a large, indoor farmers’ market. And there was a gorgeous, large, pristine, beautiful head of cauliflower. Locally picked. And some huge white mushrooms picked locally the day before. And we split 3 dozen eggs (I only took one of them) from happy, pasture raised chickens (with flavor!).

And then… just to tempt me further, they wanted to stop and show me their new fancy supermarket, which was very much like a small, off-brand whole foods. I bought an environment-friendly dish soap so that I can finally declare the Dr. Bronner’s experiment a failure. And then I binged on comforting grains – two kinds of oatmeal and some barley. Also, for you doubters of the corporate benefits of social media – I totally impulse bought an unnecessary jar of salsa because I enjoy following the guy’s twitter feed.

Then I went home.

I had completely run out of frozen leftovers for lunch, so last week I had made some desperate bulk quantities of dinner food:

  • leftover pasta salad suddenly turned into dinners
  • mexican-ish rice with chicken and beans
  • macaroni with (homemade) pesto, chicken, and zucchini

You don’t want recipes for those, do you?

This week – There was the Roman Cooking workshop.

We made a pork loin roast boiled in salt water and bay leaves (now I’ve heard of brining, but there was no mention of roasting this meat or any cooking method other than boiling. So I left it in until it started to shred, but I pulled it out then because it was already quite salty. It makes an okay sandwich with mayonnaise (almost tasting like canned chicken). But this morning I started a pot of red beans on the stove, and I used the pork with no additional salt for the beans.

And then we make the barley stew with pork – it turned out almost like risotto, and despite only having two people come to the workshop, there were no leftovers. I might need to make it again soon.

The mushrooms were very tasty (as almost always) and made a great companion to the barley.

Because it wasn’t entirely clear whether the cabbage was to be made with fresh cilantro or dried coriander seeds, I did each half differently – there was a preference for the coriander, but neither one was really exciting, and I do have a lot of leftovers for those. I’ll need to think of a way to repurpose it into something that will freeze.

The fried carrots in wine and fish sauce smelled like ass – fishy ass – while cooking, but ended up tasty enough that I didn’t get to try the finish product.

And then I was pretty much done, especially with only having two people over. SO I handed over the book, and let them select the last recipe. And sweet egg cakes were chosen. Well, it was 4 eggs to 1/2 a pint of milk (with an ounce of oil) to be cooked in a shallow pan (I don’t have the recipe in front of me for the specifics, but it was distinctly not supposed to be custard because that was the recipe above). Because the mixture was so thin and I happened to have a brand new nonstick skillet, I suggested that we could pour many thin layers and treat them as crepes. While not a single one was removed as a flat sheet, we kind of had to bundle it together into a central pile to move it successfully. Oh, and then it’s dressed with honey and black pepper before serving – and it is some tasty! Well chosen!

And then after they left on Sunday, I made two more dinners that I could pack up for lunches:

  • Smitten Kitchen’s pasta with Cauliflower, walnuts, and feta – for which I did substitute regular pasta for whole wheat because I have boxes sitting around that I’m using up before I buy more pasta – and I’m not 100% sure that either the walnuts or the feta will take well to freezing, but the recipe was too tempting to pass up. I did taste a small portion that was didn’t fit evenly into the containers, and it was amazing fresh. I’d almost forgotten the few drops of lemon juice and vinegar (apple cider), but they really brought the flavors together.

    ETA: when she says this reheats well as leftovers, she wasn’t kidding. I was seriously dubious about freezing this one on account of both the nuts and the feta – but thawing it before microwaving has produced consistently tasty leftovers

  • gobhi bharta – inspired by the recipe in my favorite Indian cookbook, but then I took a left turn with the seasonings when I saw an opportunity to use up more of my mother’s extraneous Penzey’s spice mixes – so I used Rogan Josh seasoning with sumac instead or pomegranate powder to tartness and some extra hot pepper. The recipe also called for mustard seeds, so I toasted them in a little bit of my mustard oil I keep meaning to experiment with more. For all of that, it still wasn’t particularly strongly flavored, and it might have been a mistake to put up with rice, but I’d started making it when I started cooking, and I didn’t want to have to think up another use for it.

And then this morning I made one more: pasta with stuff

First, I cooked down a diced purple onion, 2 large mushrooms having been diced, and a bunch of (homemade) turkey meatballs I have in my freezer. Once everything was softer and the meatballs were browner, I splashed some sweet red wine in the pan.

As soon as the pan was dry again, I added 2 small-medium zucchini and some cauliflower (all diced small). Cook cook cook. As soon as it started to soften, I poured in 1/3 cup pasta sauce from a jar. Stir, cook, cook. And then I added macaroni (the pasta box in front, not my first choice of shape) and another 1/3 cup of sauce. And then I took it up into containers. Would be good with cheese.

Oh, and I also did laundry this morning.

And then I pondered whether I wanted to make another set of lunches or whether I wanted to start turning over dirt for restructuring the flower bed out back. And I decided to take a nap, instead.

Now I want soup, and tea, and hot chocolate. And another nap.

I think I’m going to use the remaining stock to make risotto to use up all the surplus mushrooms, so I need to also put on more stock so I can make soup with some of these winter squashes.

I also need to make the brussel sprout and beef stir fry before the brussel sprouts go off.

And I need to figure out something to do with the beautiful broccoli rabe before it starts to taste like nail varnish remover, like the last few bunches I bought did because I didn’t use them right away.

Anyone want to come over for random dinners at 10pm this week?