Sunday, October 9, 2011

Corn Stuffing

It is October. It is also, for whatever reason, still in the high 70's here, which seems pretty unusual for this time of year in Minnesota. My seasonal meal planning has shifted over to fall, which must mean I'm ready for it, but the weather outside remains warm and pleasantly breezy.

Presumably it is behaving like fall somewhere, and it will eventually do so here, as well. In the meantime, I'm cooking as though the temperatures are about 30 degrees lower than they are, and that suits me just fine.

Today I roasted a chicken. If you'd like to know how, or to be reminded of how insanely straightforward it is to accomplish this in your very own kitchen, I wrote all about it two winters ago, right here.

I also made corn stuffing today. That I will talk about, because it was my first effort at such a project, and I can heartily recommend it. It so happens that last night I made cornbread (the recipe on the Quaker cornmeal box is quick and easy), and today I realized that I had half a pan of it left, and it occurred to me that perhaps corn stuffing would be just the thing to accompany the chicken I was about to pop in the oven.

Say what you will about Rachael Ray, but her cookbooks contain simple recipes for food I want to eat. In this case, I turned to Get Togethers, which was a thoughtful gift from my sister a few years ago. This cookbook is arranged into meals, but I found a corn stuffing recipe buried in her "Giving Grazie: Italian-Style Thanksgiving" meal, adjusted it slightly (as it called for celery and prosciutto, neither of which I had on hand), and subbed in half a pan of leftover cornbread for the "three corn muffins, crumbled" that the recipe suggests. I also added a can of mushrooms to replace the bulk of those ingredients I skipped.

Here's what I made, and it is delicious:

Corn Stuffing
adjusted from Rachael Ray's "Corn, Sage, and Prosciutto Stuffing"

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small can mushrooms, drained
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tsp poultry seasoning (I used Bell's)
2 sprigs dried sage, chopped (2 Tbsp)
half a pan of leftover cornbread (or 3 corn muffins)
1 cup chicken broth

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, combine olive oil and butter. When the butter melts into the oil, add the onion, mushrooms, salt and pepper, and poultry seasoning. Saute 5 minutes, until onions are softened. Add sage, stir to combine. Crumble cornbread into the pan. Moisten with broth and heat through. Remove from heat, and cover with foil to keep warm.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

That quote is silly, let's just do it ourselves....

So I know I haven't posted since I last said 'oh hey, I'm back, let's get cooking', but let me tell you why.  My boyfriend had the crazy idea to take off the back railing of the deck and build wide stairs into the lawn.  These would connect to the current stairs that go down the back of the house, making them nice wraparound steps into the lawn.  In a few years we said, we'll make it happen. And then we decided to get a quote. $2,500. Holy cow, we thought, that's insane.

And then we had this crazy idea - what if we just build it ourselves?! It can't be that hard, right? And it can't be that expensive.  Well. $1,000 and forty or so hours later - the project is complete. Holy mackerel. The quote totally makes sense now. I mean, we saved $1,500, but we get why that the labor costs were what they were. Granted we didn't know what we were doing, so a lot of time was spent pondering things, undoing, fixing and redoing things, etc, but corner stairs - they're a lot of work. Our neighbor is a contractor and he hollered over from the nice simple square deck he built in an afternoon: "Quite the project you've got there! I've never tried corner stairs, don't plan on it - they're tough!". Yup. The guy who builds decks and stairs for a living said he avoids corner stairs. Ah well.

After one hammer to the mouth (Dan), one face plant in the dark after tripping over the pile of lumber (me) and lots of scrapes, bruises and splinters (both of us) later - we have some gosh darn beautiful steps into the yard. And they've already proven to make it a totally different back yard experience. Now it's no longer 'people eating on the deck and other people playing bocce in the backyard' - it's all one big party! Woohoo.

Here's how it went down in eight tedious totally easy steps:

1. Pull off old railing.
2. Dig a giant hole in the yard. Level it. Lay down weed blocker.
3. Pour paver base over everything. Level it. Lay down super heavy paving stones.  Use a tiny little shovel and paintbrush to carefully apply paving cement between stones. Mist multiple times to harden.

4. Attach pre-made stringers. Spend half a day making the darn corner stringer.

5. Measure and cut wood. For days. Don't forget to dip the cut ends in wood preservative for 3 minutes each.
6. Put it together. Piece by piece by piece.

7. Have friends over even though it's not done - enjoy what you've got.
8. Finish by the light of a lamp you brought out from the living room. Revel in the glory of the project being complete.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Avocado Corn Salad

I recently posted about a salad that looks, tastes, and is very healthy. However, this salad that I made today looks, tastes, and is the most delicious way to consume summer vegetables that I may ever have experienced - and, what's truly great, is that it is healthy, as well. The dressing is lime juice, after all.

The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook never ceases to amaze, and this is just another fine example of how their easy and straightforward recipes are just incredible. I was flipping through this cookbook in search of a cucumber recipe, actually, but the page landed open at this Avocado Corn Salad, and I realized that I just so happened to have all the ingredients on hand -and so I made it immediately. I suggest that you do the same.

Avocado Corn Salad
Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
Serves 2 (or one hungry person)

1 cup fresh or frozen cut corn
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes

1 medium avocado
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 medium red bell pepper
2 Tbsp minced red onion
salt to taste
dash of hot sauce (I'm partial to Frank's)
whole or chopped cilantro leaves (optional)

In a skillet, combine the corn, oil, water, cumin, and optional cayenne or red pepper flakes. Cook, covered, on medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the corn is tender. Uncover and cook for an additional minute or two to evaporate the excess moisture. Set aside to cool.

Slice the avocado in half lengthwise, and gently twist to remove the pit. Make lengthwise and crosswise cuts in the flesh every 1/2 inch. Scoop the avocado cubes out of the shells and into a large bowl. Gently stir in the lime juice. Cut the bell pepper into 1/2 inch pieces and add to the bowl. Stir in the red onion and cooked corn. Stir. Add salt and hot sauce to taste, and top with cilantro if you like.

Serve immediately, or chill for 30 minutes and then serve.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cream of Broccoli Soup

I have committed to consuming a big box of fresh and local vegetables every two weeks. Sometimes, that's the easiest way to think about my CSA deal. It being August, there's an awful lot of broccoli showing up at my door, and since the temperatures have been hovering somewhere nearer to 70 than 100 lately, the idea of soup didn't seem so bad, all of a sudden. It being summer, and as you can see in this picture, I also chopped up some small tomatoes with basil and drizzled oil and vinegar over the top.

Mark Bittman, and his How to Cook Everything cookbook, suggested a Cream of Broccoli Soup that sounded just fine to me - and it was both simple and delicious. He notes that it works with lots of vegetables - carrots, cauliflower, celery... you know, the standard "Cream of ___ Soup" options.

If you do include rice, as I did, be sure to puree it pretty thoroughly - otherwise you get sort of distracting rice bits in each spoonful. This is an excellent candidate for the immersion blender - it removes the entire "transfer to a blender without burning yourself, blend the hot soup, wash the pan, put the puree back in the pan and heat without boiling" portion of the event.

I made half a recipe, but I'm including the full recipe here.

Cream of Broccoli Soup
adapted from How to Cook Everything
Serves 4

1 lb broccoli, trimmed and cut up (I peeled and sliced the stalks to include, too). 1 pound of broccoli is about 4 loosely packed cups.
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup rice or 1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into quarters
4 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or water
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1 cup heavy or light cream or half-and-half
minced fresh parsley leaves or chives for garnish

Chop up the broccoli and set aside. Chop up the onion and cook it at a low temperature in the butter for a few minutes, or until softened. Add the broccoli and cook for a few minutes. Add the rice and stock and turn the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes.

Cool slightly, then puree in a food mill or a blender. Return to the pot and reheat over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper, add the cream. Heat through again, garnish and serve.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Salads are Healthy

There's this idea that most salads are healthy. I have to admit, though, that I usually find the most delicious salads to be the ones that involve things like... steak, or blue cheese, or hard-boiled eggs, or all of the above. Those salads, however, would be just put to shame if placed in a healthy salads contest with the one I just made and ate. It was delicious, but boy-oh-boy, it was primarily healthy. If that's what you're looking for, this might be just the thing.

My grand CSA adventure continues this summer, and this recipe - Lebanese Chard & Bean Salad - was provided by the newsletter writers at Driftless Organics. They have this delightful habit of sharing recipes that include (and help to use up) some of the vegetables in the accompanying CSA veggie box. This is one of those recipes. I have no idea if this is truly a Lebanese recipe or not, but I can confirm that it's a healthy salad that looks nice and tastes good.

By the way, take a look at these Dragon Tongue Beans. They are so pretty. Once cooked, they lose their nifty purple detailing (which the CSA newsletter warned me about), so I took a picture of them prepped but pre-cooked.

Lebanese Chard & Bean Salad
4 cups chard (I used some greens - arugula and purple mizuna)
1 cup green, purple or dragon tongue beans, cut into thirds
1/2 medium onion, finely sliced
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted (I got lazy and didn't include these)
1/2 cup sweet peppers, very thinly sliced

Steam chard for a minute or two, until just wilted. Run under cold water to cool & drain. Arrange it on a serving platter. Steam beans for a couple of minutes, cool, drain, & place on top of wilted greens. Arrange onion & sweet pepper slices on top of beans. Mix yogurt, lemon juice and parsley together in a small bowl and drizzle over salad. Top with walnuts and extra parsley for garnish. Add toasted pita wedges for a complete meal!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My thoughts about the Aug. 16th Primary

So this blog is 99.9% about cooking, but I'm going to digress today, just for this one post, to write about something that I am equally passionate about: politics.  If you're not a Washington State voter, and even more specifically, not a Seattle voter, you can ignore this post, but if you're local, read on! Primaries are tough, they're in the middle of summer, the elections are just narrowing it down to the final two, and it's not a singular day everyone in the nation is out voting, so primaries tend to get lost in the excitement of summer. But primary ballots have other stuff on them too - propositions and referendums. If you miss a vote on this one, or vote misinformed, there's no hope of correcting that vote later on. This is it, and they're important this year. A few of my friends have mentioned that they would love a rundown of the primary ballot and my personal opinion* on how to vote, so here you go.

King County Proposition 1: Approve

Proposition 1 asks if you want to renew the Veterans and Human Services Levy.  Originally approved in 2005, this levy provides funding for programs that aid veterans and other families in need. I've yet to find anyone that is against this proposition, and for good reason. In my opinion, it's unbelievably important that we take care of our veterans, so vote to approve this proposition!

Seattle City Council, Position 1: Bobby Forch

There are three major players in this race: Jean Godden (incumbent), Maurice Classen and Bobby Forch. Except for Mike O'Brien, and occasionally the Sally's (Bagshaw and Clark), I'm rarely impressed by the current city council, though keep in mind that the tunnel issue (REJECT REF 1) is very much on my mind, and the Seattle City Council has done little to please me in that respect, so I'm pretty eager to see a fresh face in the mix.

I've been fortunate enough to get to know Bobby Forch this summer, as his campaign headquarters are located next door to my office. Bobby is energetic, progressive, passionate and knowledgeable about Seattle and last but not least, damn friendly. But on to the issues. Bobby has worked his way up the ladder during his career at SDOT, showing both his drive and his ability to lead. He's progressive and his genuine top priority is police accountability and public safety, which is fantastic to see. As a Ballard resident, I also really appreciate his push for a transit system that better connects our neighborhoods. I second what the The Stranger said in their endorsement of Bobby though. They put their weight behind him, but wish he'd strongly reconsider his tunnel stance. It's not that he's pro-tunnel, he just isn't anti-tunnel, as, from what I understand, his biggest issue is that a decision just be made, a plan put in action. He's keenly aware of the importance of replacing the Viaduct, and wishes to see it taken down sooner than later. But I really wish he'd be firmly anti-tunnel Ah well. At least he's not pro-tunnel like Classen and Godden.

Vote Bobby Forch. He's smart, progressive and, well, kind of hard not to like.

Seattle City Council, Position 9: Sally Clark

This race is between Sally Clark (incumbent), Dian Ferguson and  Fathi Karshie. Fathi hasn't really gotten a strong campaign going, so I'm afraid that's a non starter - maybe we'll see more of him in future years. Since it's a primary, the goal here is just to be in the top two, so it's pretty clear that Sally Clark and Dian Furguson will be the top two, but if you still care to know who and why...

Sally Clark is an incumbent. She's behind the tunnel, which stinks, but so is Dian Furguson. Otherwise, Clark is progressive and seems to do a good job of being really well informed and giving due diligence to the issues.  My vote's for Clark, but I'm hoping to hear more from both candidates this fall before I make my decision about who to vote for in the November election.

City of Seattle Referendum 1: REJECT, REJECT, REJECT

Okay. Whew. There are few things that rile me up as much as the tunnel does.  I know people just want a decision made and I know people think the tunnel is already started and it's too late to turn back, AND I know that a lot of people just don't know much about the issue and so they say 'might as well'. But please please please don't be apathetic about this.  Following presentations from people on both sides of the issue and after reading hundreds of pages of documents by WDOT and SDOT, research papers by transportation and transit planners, and case studies of similar cases, I had to write a 20 page paper analyzing the Viaduct replacement for my transportation and land use class last fall. I can honestly say if you read all of the documents, it's really hard to imagine anyone thinking the tunnel is a good idea.  I could go on for days, but I'll bore you, so I'm going to give a short list of some main points, and suggest that if you wish to read more, you read this overview from The Stranger, this guest editorial on Crosscut, this collection of interviews, articles and charts from Sightline, and last but not least, if you can, browse the thousand plus page Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which can also be found in print at your local branch of the Seattle Public Library.

1. More than two thirds of SR99 traffic enters or exits downtown, yet the tunnel cannot provide downtown exits.  Add to this the fact that there will be tolls and that the tunnel plan provides no funds for transit, and it's easy to understand why the FEIS shows that downtown Seattle traffic will be the same if not worse than if the tunnel simply got taken down and nothing was done. Pioneer Square's narrow, bumpy streets will be flooded with diverted cars and the waterfront that the pro-tunnel campaign keeps touting will be designed for low-flow traffic but will also see a huge surge in traffic looking to avoid the toll and exit downtown.

2. The tunnel will cost nearly $7 billion when it's all said and done, and that's not counting if the tunnel boring machine (the largest ever made) breaks. It's the most expensive option. That's a huge price tag for something that won't improve traffic and will make it worse in many places.

3. Everyone agrees that the viaduct is unsafe. Everyone. But the tunnel plan is the only one that keeps the viaduct up past 2012. It keeps the viaduct intact and in use until 2016.

Really it comes down to this. If you know that two different plans create similar traffic situations, but Option A costs billions more and keeps an unsafe structure open for 4 extra years and Option B includes money for transit and takes the unsafe structure down next year....which one would you pick? (Hint: there is no way in hell you would pick Option A).

And I know what you've heard, "it's too late to stop it now" or "the referendum doesn't matter anyway". Well guess what? It's never too late to stop a project with a $7 billion price tag, especially when the project is only under way because the state started awarding contracts before the FEIS came out (which is illegal, by the way) showing that the tunnel won't actually improve traffic. And yeah, the referendum is about if you wish to authorize the City Council to move forward with agreements, not a way to outright block the tunnel. But it's something. Don't take this lightly.

* Wondering why and how I have such strong opinions? Well, I'm a Masters candidate at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs, so just generally I have studied, read case studies, and written papers about some of these topics (ahem, the tunnel). I also read the endorsements written by my local PCO, progressive groups, local newspapers and local legislative districts. I don't always agree with them, and certainly you can't take what one paper says as the end all to be all, but if you read them all, it's a great way to parse out the consistent bits and decide for yourself what you think.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pie in a jar. A very small jar.

There is a wonderful blog that goes by the name not martha. This woman (Megan) makes the most absurdly awesome things - crafts AND food. Her blog really is fantastic, and a friend of mine often sends me links from the blog with a note that says something along the lines of 'I don't have the patience for this, but you should try making it!'. The one that has been nagging at me, one that I really thought 'that's my kinda baked good, I could pull that off', was a post about mini pies, baked in tiny little canning jars.  If you've ever been in my kitchen, you know that I love mini things. Mini whisks, mini spatulas, mini bowls, mini cheese knives.

So finally, after pondering this idea of making mini pies for about two years, we made them last weekend! We made mini pies in a jar! I was in charge of the crust and my friend was in charge of the filling (blueberry and apricot). We made two dozen pies and a dozen crumbles, since we ran out of pie crust.  Our crust didn't look nearly as nice as Megan's did, but we made it work. First we tried cramming circles into the jars, which just lead to way too much crust in one place. Then I tried cutting a wedge out of the circle and then putting the crust in, which worked a bit better. By the end I was just cutting strips a little wider than the width of the jar and putting two per jar, perpendicular to each other. I say play around and see what works for you.

The details:

Jars: We used 4 oz jars. The key is to use a jar that is wider than it is tall, and of course, it should be wide mouth. If you get frustrated easily, or don't have tiny nimble hands, I suggest you at least consider 8 oz jars.

Crust: I am extremely loyal to the Cook's Illustrated pie crust that uses half butter half shortening, but you can do as you wish. The recipe on not martha used the Cook's Illustrated all butter crust. We found that one crust (for a covered pie) made 12 jar pies. So convenient!

Filling: Personal preference. My friend was in charge of filling, so I'm not positive, but she precooked the berries on the stove so that they wouldn't make the pie in the jar soggy and so there would be a bit less of a cooked over mess.

For step by step directions, I'm going to direct you to the original post on not martha: pies baked in tiny jars. But I will outline the general step by step. Also. I really recommend the two person approach. If one handles the crust and one handles the filling, it really does make everything less hectic and much more fun.

1. Make the crust, as it needs to sit in the fridge for at least half an hour before you start rolling it out.

2. Prepare the filling, if you're using a filling that is super juicy, pre cook it a bit. Basically, pick what kind of pie you want to make, look up how the filling is handled for a normal big pie, and do that.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 375 F or so.

4. Roll out the pie crust and get the jars outfitted with crust, leaving a fair amount of crust at the top. Also make sure to leave enough crust to make a top layer.

5. Pour in the filling, add the top crust and fold over the tall sides of the bottom crust to make a nice little edge.  Cut some slits in the crust so steam can escape.

6. If there are way more mini pies than you think you can eat in a week, put the cover on the extras and stick 'em in the freezer for baking at a later date. Defrost those puppies for a bit before you put 'em in a hot oven though.

7. Put all of your mini jars on a rimmed baking dish and stick it in the oven. Let cook for at least 45 minutes - even though it's mini, a pie is a pie.

8. Once the jars have cooled a bit, move them to a casserole dish and add warm water until it reaches the threads where the top screws on.  This will clean off much of the messy, sticky stuff that bubbled out of the pie during baking.

9. Once the jars have fully cooled, stick the covers on the jars and you're done!  not martha suggested removing them from the jar, but I personally loved having the jar as the serving dish and it was SUPER handy to be able to toss a jar into my lunch bag and have pie for a nice little afternoon snack at work.

 Now if only I wasn't so intimidated by the tiny gingerbread houses...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sauteed Greens

Something that grows really well in Seattle is green things - lettuce, chard, kale, etc. We're starting to eat from the garden, and the other night we had a full colander of cherries from the tree out front, and from the garden we had radishes, a young walla walla (pulled it for thinning purposes) and lots of beautiful rainbow chard.  I wanted to share my favorite recipe for cooking chard and kale.  I prefer chard over other types of braising greens, but they can all be delicious prepared the right way. This is best cooked in a giant skillet - a wide one with high walls if you have it, and it must have a cover. A cast iron will work well too, as long as you have a cover for it. Also - I like to use carrots and a turnip to add a bit of substance. They're not necessary, but I think they add nice flavor. Radishes also work really well.

Ingredients: 1 yellow onion, 2 carrots, 1 turnip, 3-4 cloves garlic, 2 T olive oil, salt and pepper (sea salt is great if you have it), 1-2 bunches of greens

Directions:  The end goal of this step is to have all of the non-green items in the pan, but timing is semi-important. Since I like to saute the onion a bit, whereas the carrots and turnip I'm just trying to soften up, and the garlic I'm worried about burning, I usually follow this pattern: dice onions, then get the oil going while you peel and slice the carrot into smallish pieces, then add the onions to the pan and let them brown just a little. Peel and dice the turnip into 1/2 inch pieces while you do this, then I add the carrot and turnip, saute for just a few seconds in order to mix everything around, then put the cover on. Mince the garlic and set it aside.  Check on the sauteing/steaming items and stir them a bit.

Wash the greens thoroughly and chop into 3 inch trips.  I personally don't love the stalks, but many people do (like my boyfriend), so I usually cut the very bottom of the stock off and then chop the rest of it into little 1/2 inch pieces that I use.  When you're about ready to put the greens in, remove the lid, add the garlic, salt and pepper and stir the ingredients until while mixed.

Add the greens (as many as can fit), turn the heat up just a little bit and put the lid on.  Check every five minutes or so to stir the greens.  Once the greens have cooked down a little, add remaining greens. Continue to cook with the cover on until greens are like cooked spinach. Keep in mind that the greens will cook down a ton.  Once greens are cooked down, add more salt and pepper, stir, and serve!
Happy healthy eating!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dive Bomb Tortas - a guest recipe

A recent off-the-cuff recipe from my wonderful boyfriend...

  • Chicken breasts (pounded flat to ¼”)
  • Avocado (sliced into thin wedges)
  • Heirloom tomatoes (sliced into thin wedges)
  • Lettuce
  • Marinade (See below)
  • Adobo butter (See below)
  • Mini French baguettes
  • Mayo (optional)
Chicken Spice Rub / Marinade:
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Fresh chives
  • Oregano (Fresh & Dry)
  • Sweet paprika
  • Ground coriander
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Garlic

Adobo Butter
  • 8Tb Butter (room temp)
  • 1Tb adobo sauce
  • 1Tb honey
  • 1-2 Ancho chile in adobo sauce (crushed with back of fork into butter)
Marinade chicken for 20 minutes and grill
Spread adobo butter on inside baguettes and grill
Assemble remaining ingredients
Note: I started graduate school in September and life got a bit hectic. When I did manage to find time to cook creatively, I didn't seem to have any time leftover to blog. But it's summer now, and I'm trying to get back on the blogging train, as I've been cooking up a storm! To get me started, here's a guest recipe from my boyfriend. He made these sandwiches this weekend, which we ate on a lovely summer evening while sipping mojitos on a lovely backyard patio at a friends house. I highly recommend both the sandwich and the setting!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pasta Primavera

A few months ago, when spring-like vegetables were beginning to show up at the grocery store, but it was still rather chilly and rainy outside (and in these northern states, spring-like vegetables were still very much in hibernation), I made this pasta for book club. It was a big hit, and I suspect that now that it is mid-June, those of us in northern climates can obtain many of these ingredients locally – maybe even at farmer’s markets.

Gourmet published a “Passover Pasta Primavera” recipe in April 2008 that included a way to make the pasta from matzo meal, and in March 2011, rounded up “7 Fresh Ideas for Spring Pastas” and this one made the cut. I used standard linguine rather than making the matzo meal pasta, but otherwise I followed the recipe quite precisely, and I was pleased with the results.

I recommend cutting all the vegetables, but particularly the asparagus, at an angle. Big diagonal “coins” look nice and cook quickly, and take less effort than painstakingly cutting long skinny vegetables into a million small discs. Apparently in cooking lingo, I’m talking about “Bias Slicing” – and if you’d like an explanation, with photos, you can find that on the Better Homes and Gardens website.

Pasta Primavera
1 lb pasta (linguine or fettucine)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced, leaving tips whole
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup frozen peas
6 scallions, thinly sliced, keeping white and pale green parts separate from greens
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus some for serving
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Cook in a pasta pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then saute asparagus, zucchini, peas, white and pale green parts of scallions, and 1/2 tsp salt, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup reserved cooking water to vegetables and cook, shaking skillet occasionally, until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in pasta and scallion greens until just coated with sauce. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and zest. Stir in more reserved water if desired. Serve with additional parmesan.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spectacular Potato Salad

I have recently claimed that some recipes are too good to be kept to oneself, and this potato salad is one such recipe. As many people know, the folks at America’s Test Kitchen truly know what they are up to in the kitchen. I love (love, love, love) my copy of Cook’s Country, which is chock full of the kind of recipes that grandmothers pass down, but better. They took the recipes that lots of grandmothers passed down, compared them, took the best parts of each, tested ingredients and cooking times, and recommend here the foolproof (in my experience) version with the best results. In the case of potato salad, it seems straightforward enough, right? Cook up some potatoes, cook up some eggs, mix them together with mayonnaise and some chives or something, and call it a day.

Sure, sometimes that works. And sometimes the potatoes are too soft, the eggs are too smashed up, the mayonnaise becomes soupy, or the whole thing tastes like…. potatoes and eggs, sitting in mayonnaise.

Enter Cook’s Country, and their genius potato salad recipe. I made it this weekend as a barbeque contribution, and the host jokingly asked guests not to take too much, as she wanted to be sure to have leftovers. It’s that good. Follow this recipe closely and I feel that you can not go wrong.

All-American Potato Salad
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
3 Tbsp dill pickle juice
1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickles
1 Tbsp yellow mustard
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 celery rib, chopped fine
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, add 1 tsp salt, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Drain the potatoes thoroughly, then spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet. Mix 2 Tbsp of the pickle juice and the mustard together in a small bowl, drizzle the pickle juice mixture over the potatoes, and toss until evenly coated. Refrigerate until cooled, about 30 minutes.

Mix the remaining 1 Tbsp pickle juice, the chopped pickles, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, celery seed, mayonnaise, sour cream, red onion, and celery in a large bowl. Toss in the cooled potatoes, cover, and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes. Gently stir in the eggs, just before serving. The salad can be refrigerated in an air tight container for up to 2 days.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hello, again.

Well. It's not like hundreds of people were ever reading this blog, but I do believe that we've had some loyal followers in the past. Perhaps if we're ever so apologetic about the large gap in our posts (yikes, our last post was in November!!), a few of you will continue to keep an eye on this effort. I won't bore you with the details about how busy we have been, but life has its way of throwing surprises at you, and before you know it, you look up and it's June of 2011. Imagine that!

Rest assured that I have been making delicious food, and I know that my one and only sister has been doing so, as well. In fact, I've made some food so delicious that I felt rather bad keeping it to myself. Good recipes should be shared, I believe. (Perhaps that sister of mine will share a recipe or two sometime soon, as well!) On that note, here's one that I made this morning, with outstanding results. It's from Molly Wizenberg's blog, Orangette, which I highly recommend. She actually wrote about it last spring, in a post called "You Deserve a Waffle" - and what a good point she makes, really. I made this waffle last summer, noted "Delicious!" on the scrap of paper on which it was printed, and tucked it away. Since then, I made some other waffle recipes that were dreadfully disappointing, and those experiences taught me not to take a good waffle recipe for granted. This is a seriously good waffle recipe. If you don't own a waffle iron, this recipe is good enough reason to purchase one.

A Great Make-the-Morning-of-Waffle
adapted from the "Waffle of Insane Greatness" recipe

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup whole milk (I used 2%, which worked fine)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil, such as canola
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Whisk well. Add the milk, buttermilk, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla extract. Whisk to blend well, so that few (if any) lumps remain. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat a waffle iron. Follow your waffle maker's instruction manual, or aim for medium-high. (My waffle iron just has "on" and "off" - so I just plugged it in, and that worked fine). There's no need to grease the waffle iron.

Pour an appropriate amount of batter into your hot waffle maker - this takes some practice to determine, actually, but try not to put so much that it oozes out the sides. Cook until golden and crisp.