24 April 2015

How do I love thee? Let me blah blah blah...

Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks fame

I love sharing brilliant blog posts from all over in the hopes that you will be as inspired as I am by some of the creative, intelligent ideas in food floating around out there.  Some blogs have become staple references for me because their writers just seem to hit the bullseye repeatedly. Today, I'd like to give a shout-out to one of the blogs I've been reading for years, 101 Cookbooks. Food photographer and excellent cook Heidi Swanson blogs from San Francisco about healthy vegetarian meals, often creatively adapted from others' recipes, accompanied by her ethereal, absolutely beautiful photos. I think of her as the Sophia Coppola of food blogs.  She's one of the first places I go when I come home from the store (or inside from the garden) with a piece of produce and no plan for preparing it.  Witness my two latest quandaries, the lacinato kale I brought home and then decided I could not stand one more raw kale salad with pecans and raisins, and the head of cauliflower I always have to dress up in order to get it eaten in my house:


Kale Rice Bowl It's like a beautiful ramen bowl but with rice, and Middle Eastern sauce and seasonings! This is what Swanson does best, I think: mixes and matches different international traditions with ease.  And you can prepare most of the ingredients ahead of time and just build the thing when you come home starving and read to give in to to the Doritos in the pantry. Note to self: stop buying Doritos.

Kale Market Salad OK, it's a salad again, but this dressing is a real keeper for any kind of salad, and the addition of the farro makes this a worthy meal instead of merely another mouthful of raw, scratchy greens.


Spicy Cauliflower with Sesame This works well as a side dish, but it's also delicious tossed some some slippery, still-hot udon and an extra splash of rice vinegar for a lovely lunch.

Black Pepper Cauliflower Salad  I could mention here that I am now too old to digest raw cauliflower.  Go ahead and make a horrified face, you Millennials, you'll get there someday, too.  This recipe is the best of both worlds: a vibrantly flavored salad, cooked enough that I am not doubled over in pain all night.  And with that bit of too much information, I bid you adieu for the weekend...

21 April 2015

You say pizza, I say flatbread...

Call this whatever you want.  It's some stuff spread out on a thin bread-like crust with cheese on top. If you always have some homemade pizza dough on hand  (it freezes--and thaws--very well) and keep some little baby potatoes boiled in the fridge to make salads more interesting (seriously, you should consider this), then this is a pretty quick put-together for surprise guests or just when you feel like an elevated pizza.  Yeah, I said that. My pizza is elevated.  Also, it's a pizza.

Potato, Rosemary, and Kale Flatbread

Serves 4-6

1 homemade whole wheat pizza crust
About ½ pound small red potatoes, boiled and then thinly sliced
1 cup chopped kale
¼ cup sliced kalamata olives
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
½ cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Roll out the pizza dough, stab it with some fork holes, and preheat that baby for about 10 minutes, or until the top of it starts to feel firm and not sticky.

Meanwhile, make the paste: in a mortar and pestle (or a food processor), grind the garlic, salt, and olive oil into a smooth paste.  Add the red pepper flakes and rosemary leaves and grind a little more.  Stir in the lemon juice.

When the pizza dough is ready, smear the paste evenly over the top, leaving a ring of naked dough al around to serve as a handle.  Whatever, you know what a pizza looks like.  Next, sprinkle the kale evenly across the top, do the same with the onion slices, and then lay the potato slices on top of that in a single layer.  Scatter the olives on top, then sprinkle with the cheeses evenly over the whole thing.  Bake until the exposed potato slices and the cheese start to turn brown, about 25 minutes.


fresh out of the oven

ah, just right!

17 April 2015

Simple toppings to make your tacos pop

I don't want to post this on Cinco de Mayo, as the whitest person on the planet, and be a total douchebag.  And I eat tacos (well, things piled on top of small tortillas) like, A LOT, so why wait, anyway?

Fillings: any combination of seasoned ground meat or sausage, scrambled eggs, bacon, seasoned beans or lentils, or grilled vegetables or fish work perfectly well as taco filling.  Then comes the fun stuff, which can make every taco taste different:

Pickles: quick lime-pickled radishes or onions (see master recipe below), a jar of pickled jalapenos or other peppers, or this corn relish will fit the bill.

Cheeses: Of course, crumbled queso is all milky and mild and perfect with anything, but did you know manchego is actually great with chorizo? Pepper jack is nice with pulled pork, and feta often adds a great bite of salt, especially if you're going heavy on the sour-sweet relishes (above).

Herbs: you've got to have some fresh chopped herbs on top of all that.  Try cilantro, parsley, arugula (finely chopped so it's not so clumsy to eat) or dill, and don't go with the most obvious choice for your filling.

Don't forget the lime wedges, hot sauce (I love Tapatio), and chopped red onion, of course.  What are we, wild animals?!

Quick lime-pickled vegetables

Freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced or bunch thinly sliced radishes, or anything else your heart deisres

1. Whisk together lime juice, some water, sugar and salt until the sugar and salt dissolve. Use approximately 1/2 cup of lime juice, 1/2 cup of water (or up to 1/2 cup more to help submerge onions), 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt for every onion. This amount will also work well for a full bunch of radishes from the grocery store.

2. Add red onion to a bowl and cover with lime juice mixture. Allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour. Stir occasionally.

Keeps in the fridge up to two months. 

14 April 2015

Mediterranean Green Bean and Farro Salad with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp

I decided to make these two recipes together the other day, and it was a greatmeal.  But you can keep both of these in your back pocket to mix and match (or not) with other things; the shrimp is my standard recipe for adding to pasta with sauteed vegetables, adding to Hoppin' John, or just eating with crusty bread.  And this green bean and farro salad is great by itself, as a side with any other kind of protein, and a perfect salad to bring to work.  

Fast Lemon-Garlic Shrimp

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon sugar
½  teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons butter
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Juice and zest from one small lemon, divided
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Make the flavored butter: in a small dish, combine the butter, garlic, red pepper, lemon zest, and fresh parley.  Set aside.

Place the raw shrimp in a small bowl and sprinkle with the sugar and one teaspoon of salt; stir to coat and let sit while you begin the cooking process.  Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat.  When it smokes, add the shrimp, carefully making sure each is laying on its side, making full contact with the pan.  Allow to cook without disturbing for 1 minute, then quickly turn each shrimp onto its other side and repeat the process.  The result should be a nice bit of browning on each side of the shrimp without making the inside flesh too rubbery.

Lower the heat and add the lemon juice, scraping the brown bits of the bottom of the pan and stirring them into the juice. Add the flavored butter and stir until melted.  Serve immediately with more lemon wedges on the side.

Mediterranean Green Bean and Farro Salad 

Serves 6

1 cup farro
2 cups water
Zest from ½ lemon
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup dry red wine
Salt and black pepper to taste

Combine the farro and water, along with plenty of salt, in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer and cover.  Cook until tender, about 30 minutes.  Drain, stir in the lemon zest, and set aside.

In another pot or frying pan, heat the oil. Add the garlic and fry it until is becomes fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the green beans, olives, tomatoes, oregano, and about a teaspoon of salt.  Cover and simmer until beans are crisp-tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir in the red wine and season with more salt and black pepper. Turn off the heat and allow the wine to absorb into the sauce, about 30 minutes.

In a large serving dish, combine the farro and tomato sauce.  Can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or cold.