Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Holiday Menus, or Holy Crap It's Almost Vigilia

I, like many people I know, am way behind in holiday preparations. I've had vague ideas floating around in my brain about what to serve for Vigila and Christmas dinners, but it wasn't until last night that I sat down to actually think out the menus. (OK, for those of you who are lifelong procrastinators, this may not seem remarkable. But I am a woman who writes out timetables for Thanksgiving dinner and weighs biscotti dough. I am, or at least I used to be, All About Planning. See what having kids does to you?)

Despite my tendency to over-organize prior to an event, I'm not so good at keeping notes on how it all went afterward. Here's where the blogging thing becomes a major bonus: I can check my posts to see what I made for Vigilia (Christmas Eve) last year, and how it came out. (Note to self: don't serve kapusta with cod again).

This year we're going ever farther away from the traditionally meatless Vigilia feast. We'll still be meatless, but I'll be adding two Korean recipes as well: a seafood pancake and a seafood stew. My friend Marta won't be joining us this time; instead, my sister-in-law's family will be with us for the holiday duration. This will be their first Vigilia away from home - my hubby's family usually congregates at my parents-in-law's. We're thrilled that Sis et al. will be making the journey. To keep our nephews happy (I'm not sure how receptive they'll be to Korean seafood stew!) I've kept crabcakes, pierogies (potato-cheese as well as saurkraut-mushroom), and stuffed mushrooms on the menu.

Last night, it occurred to me that (1) although I have eaten several, I have never actually MADE a Korean-style pancake and (2) it might be a good idea to do a trial run before Christmas Eve. So I got out my trusty bag of pancake mix that I purchased at the recently-opened H Mart in Burlington. The instructions couldn't have been simpler: combine pancake mix and water, add seafood, cook. Except that I couldn't stop there and just had to search online for Korean pancake recipes...all of which contained an egg or two. I checked my bag of mix: no egg in the ingredients, no egg in the instructions. Moreover, both the online mix bag instructions directed me to add uncooked veggies and seafood to batter. I was unconvinced that the fillings would cook sufficiently in the time it took to brown the pancake. What to do?

I decided to wing it, of course. One cup pancake mix, one egg, and 3/4 cup water. Veggies (red bell pepper strips, sliced garlic, shredded Napa cabbage, and sliced scallions) and seafood (just shrimp in this trial run) were sauteed until limp/cooked, and then the whole batch of pancake batter was spread on top. Cooked in the skillet until golden, then slid onto a plate and flipped back into the skillet for more golden goodness on the flip side. And it was....yummy. So yummy that I was tempted to make another one tonight. I'm glad I went for it with adding the egg to the batter.

And for Christmas dinner? Very straightforward, just kielbasa and kapusta. With rye bread and creamy horseradish. And some hot mustard. And more pierogies. And...oh, you'll just have to wait and find out what we finally ended up with. It's three days away - I haven't planned my menu yet.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lo Mein of Lamb & Leftovers

Some days, things just don't go as planned.

I've been trying hard to cook with what I need to use, vs. what I feel like eating - a necessary skill when you've invested in both meat and veggie CSAs. A quick survey of the fridge last night told me that tonight's supper would be something along the lines of braised tofu with cabbage (and no, it was not CSA tofu).

Then this morning I arose with, ugh, a sore throat and sniffles. (It is not, I believe, the Dreaded Flu). I was also dismayed to discover that I'd used up the last of my Korean ginger-honey tea concentrate - nothing whacks a sore throat upside the head like a good dose of ginger. So in I went to our local Hong Kong Market (formerly Super 88) in search of more tea, but instead walked out with some fresh shitake mushrooms and a nice bunch of garlic chives. (They were out of the tea).

(An aside: for years, I avoided fresh shitakes. I was introduced to the dried version by a Chinese-American friend who told me to never buy the fresh ones because they have little flavor. I stuck by that for years, until I discovered bibimbap and learned that yes, Virginia, fresh shitakes do have a place on the plate).

Why did I buy the 'shrooms and chives? It's not like I *needed* them; the fridge is already too full. We are still finishing up the Thanksgiving feast, although that (thankfully) is at last down to the final bits of turkey & wild rice soup. I really think I must have some kind of grocery shopping any rate, I knew I was gonna have to face the music when I put the new booty away. As I opened the fridge, the produce stared me down, as if, how could you? There's two-week-old kale in here!

Which brings me to the recipe/method for this post: lo mein. It, along with fried rice, enchiladas and curry of miscellaneous vegetables is one of my standard, clean-out-the-fridge tricks. Because yes, in addition to veggies I didn't need, I bought noodles I didn't need. A friend got me onto using thick, chewy udon noodles for lo mein (which maybe means that I shouldn't be calling it lo mein, if I use a different noodle? I am no expert, for sure, in the nomenclature of noodle dishes). You can find ones that are pre-cooked, which saves a step at dinner time and a dirty pot at cleanup time.

The basic method is to chop up some garlic and onions, whatever veggies you have on hand, and whatever leftover meat you have (or use tofu, or just skip it). Stir-fry the veggies in a little peanut oil or sesame oil, adding the longer-cooking veg to the skillet or wok first. When all the veggies are cooked, dump them into a bowl. Add a little more oil to the pan, add the garlic and cook for a few seconds, then add the meat/tofu/nothing. When the meat is heated through, add that to the bowl. If you are feeling highly motivated, scramble an egg in the pan, turn it out on a plate and chop it with a knife. Finally, add a little more oil to the pan, add the noodles and some seasoning (soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, black vinegar, brown bean sauce, all of the above) and a little water and cook to soften the noodles. Dump the cooked veggies, meat, and egg on top of the noodles and use a big spatula or chan to turn everything over and combine. Taste for seasoning and add some chopped green onion, cilantro, or basil as a garnish.

What was different about tonights lo mein was the leftovers I had to work with: the two-week-old purple kale (which looked surprisingly fresh. Must be something about buying direct from the farmer there!) and a mostly-consumed small leg of lamb. I don't think I've ever seen lamb and kale together, but what do I know, anyway? And then it occurred to me, lamb goes well with garlic, so why not garlic chives? I decided to go for it. Then while I was cooking, the words "hoisin-glazed lamb" surfaced from somewhere deep in the back of my head.

The final result was (surprisingly) tasty, and quite pretty. The purple kale turned almost black when cooked, making a nice contrast with the thick white noodles, the green chives and some red bell pepper (that also needed to be used up). Unfortunately, I don't have a photo to show you because I forgot to take a pic before dinner, and then - we ate it all up.

Of course, I'm still left with the cabbage and tofu, which means that's got to be on the menu for tomorrow night...with mushrooms.

Lo Mein with Leftover Lamb

peanut and sesame oil
1 small red onion (or 1/2 large), sliced
about 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
6-8 fresh shitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
1/2 small bunch purple kale (or other greens), washed well and chopped
about 1 cup diced cooked lamb
about 1/2 cup garlic chives, washed and cut into 1" lengths
1 pound fresh udon or other noodles, cooked 9and drained, if you can't find the precooked variety)
1-2 tablespoons each of soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and ice wine vinegar or black vinegar

Heat a wok or large frypan over high heat. Add a little peanut oil (~1 tablespoon) and the onion and stir-fry for a few minutes, then add the bell pepper. Stir-fry until the onion and pepper are beginning to soften, then add the mushrooms. Stir-fry for a few more minutes, then add the kale and a little water to the pan. Let the veggies simmer, turning occasionally and adding a little more water as needed until the kale is just tender, about 5 minutes (longer if you have tougher or older greens).

Add the lamb and cook for a minute or two, then place the noodles in the pan and pour the soy sauce, hoisin sauce and vinegar on top. Turn down the heat to medium and use a pair of tongs or a wooden spoon to gently nudge the noodles apart. Turn everything over to mix gently, adding the garlic chives. Add a little more water if the pan seems dry or you want a thinner sauce. Taste and correct seasonings (the sauce will be sweet from the hoisin). Eat.

Make 2-4 servings, depending on how hungry you are and if you are making other dishes.

(1) You can, of course, use dried shitakes for this. Save the water that you soak them in (strain it through a coffee filter set in a funnel or sieve) and add it to the wok when you cook the kale. (2) If you can't find garlic chives, or don't want the angst of trying to use up the leftovers, substitute a couple cloves of garlic, finely chopped, and some green onions/scallions cut into 1" sections. Add the garlic to the pan with the meat and the green onions with the soy sauce.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Good Soup Recipe

We just began the extended season of our CSA this week, and received a beautiful bunch of kale. Back in the Spring, I started to run out of ideas of what to do with it, as we had several weeks of kale in a row. Then I remembered about the Portugese kale and linguica soup. A search on the Food Network website's Recipe tab turned up some Spanish recipes with chorizo. I made Bobby Flay's recipe yesterday (click blog title to link to recipe) and it was delicious and comforting -- a keeper. I had a dinner guest who is not fond of beans, so I substituted diced sweet potato, also from the CSA. There is also a recipe for tomato-garlic toast, but I just sprayed slices of ciabatta on both sides, toasted them and then rubbed them with cut garlic (that is, I made crostini). The recipe is time consuming, but you could probably just use jarred sun dried tomatoes as a shortcut. If I did this right, you should be able to link right to the recipe by clicking the title of this blog post. Now I just need to figure out what I'm going to do with the rutabagas and parsnips!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Impromptu Salad

Although I don't dislike it, I don't go crazy about edamame like some people seem to. So I was a little skeptical when it was one of the items in our CSA this week. And I must admit that after I boiled them up and started eating them, they were kind of addictive! We also got more corn, which I've been really enjoying over the past couple of weeks, especially since this is one of the few foods you really need to eat in season.

These two ingredients inspired an impromtu salad this morning, which at 9:33 AM, I've almost completely devoured. I had a left over corn on the cob, and scraped the kernals into a bowl to do something with later. Then I spied the bowl of edamame pods on the counter. I shelled them into the bowl with the corn until it looked like they balanced each other. I remembered I had some red onion, so I diced about a tablespoon and added it to the bowl, too. "Hmm. Some olives would go nice in here, too." So I diced and added some black cured olives as well. It still needed something. Tomatoes! And there were the green zebras from last week's CSA haul. In they went. I stuck in the spoon to taste for seasoning, thinking I'd add some olive oil, maybe a little vinegar, and salt and pepper. But it was so good -- the olives added a wee bit of oil and salt -- I just kept digging in with the spoon.

I guess the moral of the story is that you can make some pretty tasty dishes just by looking around the kitchen and seeing what inspires you. Plus, it's fun to improvise!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

More Things You Can Make in a Skillet: Fishy, Fishy, Fish

Now that you've dusted off that oven-proof skillet, here's a main-dish-type thing to make in it. This is my favorite way to cook salmon since it's so speedy (and tasty, of course). You can muck about with side dishes, if you wish, while the skillet is pre-heating; once the fish goes into the oven, dinner is less than 10 minutes away. If you have a cast-iron skillet, all the better because it will retain heat and keep your fish from getting cold whilst you herd your guests to the table.

This cooking method can be used with other types of fish. It works well with skin-on fillets - put them skin side-down in the pan and the fillets will easily slide off the skin when they are cooked. You can cook the fish as is, marinate it, or add a glaze. If I could remember where I first read about this method, I would give credit - the strategy is not original but the tweaks are all mine.

You can also do this on the grill - perfect on a hot summer day when you don't want to heat up the kitchen. I have a gi-normous, 16" cast iron skillet that my in-laws gave me as a gift. My stove can't distribute BTUs evenly over that much surface area, but it's great on the grill. Leave the skillet on a gas grill while you pre-heat (if you're using charcoal, put the skillet on the grill for 10 minutes after the coals are ready).

(A Note: some gas ovens will automatically shut off for a short period of time when the broiler has been on for ~15 minutes. This is normal, and it will turn back on again when the oven temperature cools down a bit).

(A note on my Note: I found out about that gas-oven-shutting-off-automatically thing when I called the oven repairman because I thought that my new oven was broken. What did I know about fancy new thermostats and new-fangled ovens? The last time I lived in a house that had a new oven, I was 3 years old and they didn't let me cook).

With salmon, I like to use a Korean-style marinade (see below) and serve with rice and a mushroom/cabbage saute. But it would be good with any green veggie, or even just a salad and some good bread. Here's the general guidelines for broiling fish in a skillet (and the salmon marinade recipe from the Boston Globe):

Broiled Salmon

1. Get a skin-on fillet of salmon (preferably wild-caught, if you can find it and your budget allows). A 1.5-lb fillet will serve 3-4 people, depending on what else you make as accompaniments.

2. Get out your largest, oven-proof skillet - a cast-iron one is perfect. Make sure that the salmon fillet will fit into the skillet. If the fillet is too large, cut it into two (or more) pieces that will fit comfortably in the skillet.

3. Turn the broiler on high and put the skillet into the oven. The top of the skillet should be 4-6 inches below the flame, so move the oven racks if needed. Let the skillet heat under the broiler for 10 minutes, then CAREFULLY take the skillet out and put it on top of the stove (use hot pads, of course).

4. Place the salmon, skin side down, into the skillet. The salmon will immediately start sizzling. Put the skillet back in the oven and broil the salmon until it is cooked (i.e. the flesh is opaque when you poke at it with a fork). Because the fish is cooking from the top and the bottom at the same time, it should be done in 10 minutes or less.

5. If you want to add a glaze, take the skillet out when the fish is almost done cooking and brush some teriyaki sauce on top of the salmon. Put the fish back under the broiler for a minute or two until the glaze starts to bubble.

6. Eat.

...and here's a marinade for salmon that's based on a recipe that is based on bulgogi...the recipe appeared in the Boston Globe Sunday magazine, by Adam Reid. (An aside: I love Adam Reid's columns. So nice to see more international influence in recipes). One time when I made this, I didn't have green onions, so I left them out. It was fine. But here's the original recipe:

For 2-1/4 lbs salmon fillet (6 servings):
8 scallions, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
8 medium garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2-1/2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup sake (I used a combo of vermouth and dry sherry, since I didn't have sake)
1/3 cup soy sauce (I used the light soy sauce - not low-salt, tho)
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon chili oil (I used Korean chili paste, since that's what I had in the fridge)

Combine everything in a food processor or blender (I didn't bother, just mixed it in a bowl). Place the salmon in a large baking dish and pour the marinade over it, turning to coat the fish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, turning the fish occasionally. Let the excess marinade drain off the fish before you place the fillets in the hot skillet.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Work-at-Home Lunch Dilemma

Since I started working at home three years ago, my biggest challenge hasn't been finding reasonably-priced health insurance, or finding ways to keep from feeling isolated. It's been "What to have for lunch?" It has to be quick. After all, when you work for yourself, time is money. It has to be nutritious. The big advantage of working at home is the flexibility and balance you can maintain in your life so you can better take care of yourself. It has to be satisfying. You don't want to keep hopping up during the afternoon looking for snacks (see "time is money" and taking care of yourself).

Over the winter, I find myself having soup a lot. My best laid plans went awry this year and I mostly ate canned soup rather than the homemade I'd envisioned (will have to share my easy chicken-escarole soup recipe when the temperature changes). Doesn't work so well in the summer, unless I'm on the ball enough to make a cold soup (one of my favorites: the fennel soup from the book Under the Tuscan Sun. Can be served hot or cold.) One strategy that works year-round is the creative use of leftovers. In the winter, I use them to make quesadillas. Sometimes I just reheat them as is. Now that it's finally hot here in New England, I've been doing a lot of salads lately.

Here's how it worked recently: Monday for dinner, I grilled some wild coho salmon I couldn't resist at "Whole Paycheck" (as my friend Doug calls it) and served it with potatoes coated with olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary. (The rosemary taste wasn't as strong as I'd like. Is there a trick to it?) I also made a Marcella Hazan broccoli recipe where you dip the steamed or boiled florets in egg, then dredge in plain bread crumbs and fry in vegetable oil. On Tuesday, we got more green beans for our CSA share, and I still had last week's in the fridge! We also got cherry tomatoes this week. So yesterday's lunch was a green salad (lettuce and cukes also from CSA) with the leftover salmon and broccoli. Today, I steamed last week's share of the green beans, cooled them with cold water and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Then I added the leftover potatoes (cubed), halved cherry tomatoes, capers, Italian tuna, and I even found some small (Niciose?) olives lurking in the back of the fridge. In both cases the dressing was olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. I'm not a fan of creamy dressings by and large, so it's mostly oil and red wine vinegar and an occasionally Dijon vinaigrette. If I use balsamic, it's usually a small portion mixed in with the red wine vinegar. Otherwise too sweet for my taste. I do love using lemon juice in place of vinegar, especially refreshing in the summer, and with fennel. But I digress. Here is what we in our family call "Vera's Dressing," named after its creator, a gourmand friend of our father and excellent cook:
Vera's Dressing
1 part olive oil (I like extra virgin, but my Mom prefers regular olive oil)
1 part red wine vinegar (the important thing is the acidity -- I look for 6 or 7%)
1 teaspoon salt
liberal grindings of pepper
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

I must admit that my motivation for writing, more than wanting to share a particularly satisfying lunch, is the hopes that readers will give me some new ideas! I'm not someone who can have yogurt for lunch. That's dessert. Or the snack you end up having mid-afternoon. So those of you that work at home, please share your favorites!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

CSA Week Number...Oh Lordy, I Have No Idea What Week It Is, But Here's A Tasty Recipe That Uses Lots of Veggies

I make this quick little curry thing a lot. Last week, I served it to a friend for lunch, and told at least two other friends about it, so I figured it was time to write it down and share it with the masses. (Or, ummm, the small group of people who read this blog). It's nice as a side dish with other curries, or meat or chicken (roasted, grilled, baked, whatever you like). Make a big batch of it; it keeps in the fridge for a few days. Serve it over hot rice with a fried egg and some hot sauce; instant dinner! (and yes, that IS a rip-off on bibim bap. I never claimed to be a purist).

This is a clean-out-the fridge recipe, which makes it perfect for a CSA post. There is not strict rule about which vegetables to use, except that you should use veggie you like to eat, of course. For maximum eye appeal, aim to have something red (hot or sweet red peppers), something green (zucchini, green beans, green bell peppers, green peas, broccoli, spinach or other leafys), and something orange (carrots, sweet potato or winter squash) along with something white (potatoes and/or cauliflower), but almost any combination of veggies will work. Mushrooms are quite good in this, too. And chick peas! Or white beans! You get the idea.

Since the version I made this week is most fresh in my mind, that's what I'll write, with the following note: don't get too hung up on amounts. The point of this "recipe" is to use up what you have on hand. So, it says to use 1/2 of a cauliflower because I had already used the other 1/2 for something else. The quantity can be scaled up, and you can add more curry powder if the flavor is not strong enough for you. Just be sure to add the veggies that take longest to cook first; the quicker-cooking ones go in last.

Mixed Vegetable Curry
(A more or less Original Recipe)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion (small, med or large, depending on how much you love onions), chopped
1 tsp or more Madras brand curry powder (I use about 1 tablespoon, but I like spicy salty food)
a few tablespoons of dry sherry, optional
1 can diced tomatoes (don't drain them) or ~2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 pound red-skinned or Yukon gold potatoes (leave them whole if small, cut into 1-2" chunks if large)
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into small floweretts
1/2 lb green beans, cut into 1" pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into strips.
1 small zucchini, cut into strips 1/2" wide and 1" long
chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, optional
lemon or lime juice, optional
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan (skillet, unless you are adding fresh leafy greens - in that case, use a large pot with a lid so you have room to add the greens). Add the chopped onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. If you have time, lower the heat and continue cooking the onion until it is light golden in color, about 20 minutes longer - not necessary but it will give added flavor to your curry.

2. Add the curry powder to the pan. Stir and cook for about a minute over medium heat, until the curry powder is fragrant or someone wanders into the kitchen and says, "mmm what smells so good?"

3. Add the sherry (if using) and stir to combine, then add the tomatoes. Stir well, then simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes. At this point, you can turn off the heat and go do something else for an hour or two.

4. Reheat the pan (if needed) and add the longest-cooking veggies that can take a little overcooking: potatoes (or carrots). Stir well, then cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Add the medium-cooking veggies that you'd prefer to not overcook: cauliflower, green beans and red bell pepper. Stir well, cover and simmer for 10 minutes

6. Add the delicate veggies that turn to mush when overcooked: zucchini (or yellow squash), baby spinach. Stir, cover and simmer another 5 minutes.

7. Poke everything with a fork to make sure it is cooked. Add chopped cilantro or parsley and a squeeze of lime or lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Things You Can Make in a Skillet

I'm talking about a 10-inch-diameter, oven-proof skillet. The one I end up using all the time is cast-iron, but a stainless steel or other oven-safe pan will do. They can be prepared ahead - during naptime, for example - and eaten at room temperature or re-warmed for supper. Leftovers are good the next day (keep them in the fridge overnight). These types of dishes are great for using up whatever bit of veggies you have on hand - perfect for the day before your next CSA pickup!

1. Frittata: You will need 8 eggs and about 1-1/2 cups of leftover cooked veggies. Chop the veggies and warm them in a little butter or oil in the 10" skillet. If you have some leftover cooked chicken, ham, bacon etc. add that too (about 1/2 cup).

Mix the eggs together in a large bowl and add a little salt and pepper. If you have some fresh herbs, mince a couple of tablespoons and add those, too. Pour the eggs over the veggies in the skillet and stir gently with a wooden spoon or heat-proof plastic spatula. If you want to add a little cheese, sprinkle that on top. Cook the frittata gently over low heat until the top is almost set, 10-15 minutes depending on the volume of ingredients in the skillet. Then transfer the skillet (carefully!) to a preheated oven and bake at 350 F for ~10 minutes, until the top is set and starting to brown. To serve, you can attempt to flip the fritatta out of the skillet and onto a plate, but I usually just cut wedges and serve from the skillet directly.

2. Quiche: Don't have enough eggs to make a frittata? Make a quiche instead. In "The Way To Cook," Julia Child says that you don't need to make a crust to have quiche - though you really ought to try her recipe, just once. (Note: you don't need the ovenproof skillet for the quiche with crust, but I'm including it anyway in case you only have 3 eggs and a crust in your freezer).

If you are making a 10" quiche with a crust, you will need 3 eggs and enough milk or cream to make a total of 1 1/2 cups liquid. If you are skipping the crust, use 4 eggs and enough milk to make 2 cups of liquid. (Get it? That's 1/2 cup liquid per egg, including the egg). Most of the time I use whole milk but you should try it just once with cream, on a special occasion.

Melt a little butter in the skillet and spread it around, or use olive oil. Add the chopped leftover veggies (1/2 cup for the crusted quiche; 2/3 to 1 cup for the crustless) and warm them up a little. Add some leftover cooked meat (see about; about 1/3 cup) if desired, to the skillet.

Whisk the eggs and milk or cream in a large bowl and pour over the veggies (or into a prebaked quiche crust). Stir gently; sprinkle on a little cheese if you like. Bake in a preheated oven for ~30 minutes at 375 F, until puffed and browned.

3. Gratin: I wish I could remember where I first saw this idea. The original might be hiding in a pile of recipes somewhere in my kitchen; if it ever surfaces, I'll give full credit.

You'll need some potatoes (the thin-skinned ones, like red-skinned or Yukon gold work best), a couple of zucchini and/or yellow squash, about 1 cup of shredded Swiss (Gruyere is great) or Parmesean cheese. Fresh thyme or other herb is nice to use, too.

Drizzle a little olive oil in the skillet and cover the bottom with a layer of thinly sliced potatoes - 1/8" thick, or as thin as you can get them. Season with salt and pepper. Place a layer of sliced zucchini or squash over the potatoes. Sprinkle on a small handful of shredded cheese and a tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves (or shredded basil leaves, chopped parsley, etc). Drizzle a little more olive oil over everything.

Repeat this layering until (1) the pan is full, (2) you run out of some ingredient, or (3) you run out of patience. Ideally, you will end up with a layer of potatoes on top, but it's not essential. Sprinkle a final bit of cheese over everything and add a little splash of dry vermouth, if you like. (If you have some Parmesean cheese rinds in the fridge or freezer, place them on the top). Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375 F for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes and squash are very tender. If you want a crispy top, remove the foil and bake another 5-10 minutes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Top Five Reasons I Haven't Been Blogging Much

5. Too busy cooking up tasty veggies from CSA; recipes to come soon.

4. Actually working on a short-term project for pay; surprised at how hard it is to squeeze 10 hours out of my week.

3. Compulsive need to re-watch seasons 1 & 2 of Mad Men.

2. Fun activities with visiting family and friends who are out of school for the summer.

1. Compulsive need to be outdoors as much as possible, now that summer weather has finally arrived in New England.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

CSA Week 3, Continued: Three Little Cabbage Recipes

This week we got a beautiful red-veined kale, fennel, lettuce, scallions, and Napa cabbage. I haven't tackled the kale yet but I'm thinking about a kale and mini-meatball soup (thanks to Kate for the inspiration). The fennel and lettuce went into hubby's lunch salads, along with lemony sorrel from the garden and goat cheese with macerated strawberries (thanks Paula). Scallions are everywhere in my cooking so they'll get used up over the course of the week.

As for the cabbage, I buy that frequently anyway and so was thrilled to get a beautiful, big ole Napa cabbage this week. I usually end up using half of it in Korean cabbage salad (see below); the rest gets shredded and put into Asian-style soups, lo mein, or fried rice. For a really fast soup, make some anchovy stock, add shredded or finely sliced Napa cabbage, and sliced fresh mushrooms (or dried ones, after soaking them in hot water). If you have some frozen dumplings, add those too. Instant dinner!

If you like to define cole slaw as a cabbage salad, then here are three different slaw recipes. They are very flexible and you will see that you can omit some ingredients, if you don't happen to have them on hand, and still have a tasty dish. All three can be made ahead of time, and while there's a fair bit of chopping and slicing involved, no heating is necessary - great for hot summer days (if only we would have some of those...).

We eat the Korean cabbage salad as a side dish in bibim bap, or with Korean barbeque (and sometimes with rice for breakfast). The Thai-style slaw is based on a green papaya salad and is great with Thai-style grilled chicken, which I'll get around to posting one day, or other grilled meats. Leftovers are really tasty eaten as a sort of salsa, with tortilla chips. Finally, the Citrus Cucumber relish is meant to be used as a condiment in fish tacos - a quick, easy summer meal that won't heat up your kitchen, especially if you grill the fish.

Napa Cabbage Salad
Adapted from Korean Cuisine by Young Sook Choi

1 lb Napa cabbage
¾ cup sliced Chinese chives (I think they are also called garlic chives)
½ teaspoon minced garlic clove
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon minced ginger root
2 tablespoons Korean red pepper powder
1 tablespoon Korean anchovy sauce (Thai fish sauce is a good substitute)
¾ tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Toasted sesame seeds

1. Wash and drain the cabbage. Cut or tear cabbage leaves lengthwise into two or three strips. [Note: I usually cut the pieces smaller than that, for easier eating].

2. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the cabbage and mix well to coat. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and eat!

Thai-Style Slaw with Chilies and Lime
Adapted from "Real Thai," by Nancie McDermott

6 fresh kii noo chilies, sliced, or 2 fresh serrano chilies thinly sliced, or any amount of fresh or dried hot chilies that you prefer
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
about 3 cups finely sliced or shredded Napa cabbage
9 green beans, end trimmed and cut into 2-inch peices
1 teaspoon palm sugar or sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 lime, quartered lengthwise
7 cherry tomatoes, quartered lengthwise (or ~1/2 cup red bell pepper, cut into thin slivers)
fresh cilantro leaves, as desired

1. On a cutting board, mince the garlic together with the salt, using the flat side of the knife to bash them together into a paste. Transfer the garlic to a large bowl and add the sugar and fish sauce and stir, Squeeze the juice from the lime into the bowl and stir, reserving the lime rinds.

2. Add the chilies, cabbage, green beans and tomatoes (or red bell pepper) and mix well. Add fresh cilantro, chopped, as desired or garnish with whole cilantro leaves. If desired, slice the squeezed lime thinly and add it to the bowl. Taste the "juice" in the bottom of the bowl and add salt, sugar, lime juice, or chilies as desired to balance the sweet, salty, sour and hot flavors to your liking.

Citrus Cucumber Relish
Adapted from "Mesa Mexicana," by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feninger

3 small "pickling" cucumbers, or 1 regular cucumber, ends trimmed and peeled
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
3 Roma tomatoes, cored and sliced into strips (or ~1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise)
1 cup shredded white cabbage (any cabbage will work, but since this post is about Napa, you should use Napa)
1-2 serrano or other chilies, stemmed, seeded if desired (to make the relish less spicy) and finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tabelspoons grapefruit juice (optional, though it's great if you have it)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon salt

1. Cut the cucumbers into thin slices, then into fine julienne strips. Place in a bowl and add the other ingredients. Mix well and let stand for 30 minutes or longer. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

To make fish or seafood tacos, grill, broil or bake fish or seafood (Mary Sue and Susan recommend lobster, crab, shrimp or salmon; I generally use a white fish like Tilapia or cod). Warm up small corn tortillas by wrapping in foil and placing in an oven set to 300 F. On each tortilla, place a small piece of lettuce, a bit of the fish or seafood, and ~ 2 tablespoons of the cucumber relish. Add any (or all) of the following: sliced ripe avocado, sour cream, sweet green peas, sliced radish, cilantro leaves, a squeeze of lime juice, a drizzle of olive oil. These are messy to eat but oh so good!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

CSA Week 3: Too Many Recipes for Just One Post

I'm short on time and long on ideas for this week's bounty, so I'm gonna blurt things out here as I think of them. Our share this week included a bunch of scallions, which I use all the time so I was happy to have them. If you're not such the scallion freak, try using them in these pancakes: they are deliciously buttery, mildly onion-y, and one batch will use up your whole bunch of scallions.

I've had this recipe for ~15 years, in a binder of full of recipes clipped from various cooking magazines. Unfortunately, I didn't make a note of the original source, but based on the style of font in the clipping I think it came from Gourmet magazine. The original recipe suggests serving these pancakes as a side dish with fried chicken, but we usually just eat them for breakfast with maple syrup. Leftover pancakes can be frozen.

Green Onion Pancakes
Source: Gourmet magazine, I think….

2/3 cup finely chopped scallions
1 recipe cornmeal pancake batter (see below), reducing the sugar from 2 tablespoons to 1 teaspoon
Bacon fat for frying [or you can use oil, but they are sooo much better with bacon grease!]

1. Stir the scallion into the pancake batter. Heat 1/8” depth of fat in a heavy skillet until hot, but not smoking. Fry tablespoons of the batter in batches for 1 minute or until the undersides are golden. Turn the pancakes, fry them for 1 minute more. Makes about 24 pancakes [I think it makes a bit more than that, I can’t remember though…]

Cornmeal pancake batter

1 cup cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour [can be whole wheat flour]
2 tablespoons sugar [can be omitted altogether, if you prefer less sweet pancakes]
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 ¼ cups buttermilk [buttermilk tastes the best but you can substitute ¾ cup plain yogurt plus ½ cup milk]
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Sift together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk, and butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until the batter is smooth. Let the batter stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.

P.S. Macerating Strawberries

A delicious way to do this is to drizzle sliced strawberries (0r any type of berry, I would think) with balsamic vinegar -- as good a quality as you can afford. You don't need much. I sometimes add sugar or honey, but for me the berries are sweet enough without them. I'm guessing the vinegar probably helps keep the berries, too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Long-Awaited Post About Anchovy Stock

First, I give you the recipe for anchovy stock, to show you how quick and simple it is to make.

Per cup of water: 1 small dried anchovy and 1 piece of dried dashima (kombu), about 1x2"

Place water, anchovies, and dashima in a pot. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove anchovies and dashima before using.

That's it. Now here's the backstory (there's always a backstory).

When we traveled to Seoul in 2006, I spent a fair amount of time browsing around markets and food halls. I took several pictures of impressive displays of things like this:

and like this:

without knowing what they were, or what they were for. Well, okay, the items in the first picture were obviously small silvery fish sorted into piles according to size, but what they were for was a mystery. Similarly, I surmised that the long black bar-like things in the second picture were seaweed, but had no idea how to cook it - or even get it into your car. (Some pieces were ~6 feet long - maybe the store staff sliced off sections for you?).

Fast forward a couple of years during which I acquired several Korean cookbooks. The piles of fish were probably anchovies, to be used with the seaweed to make anchovy stock (please correct me if I'm wrong, dear readers).

I love anchovy stock now and use it in lots of Asian-style dishes, not just Korean food. It's quicker to make than dashi (no soaking of bonito flakes required). It also works as a substitute for fish stock in Western-style recipes. The flavor is very light and not at all "seaweed-y" which is great for my hubby - something about the iodine in seaweed usually tastes too strong to him. He won't touch nori or the roasted seaweed (kim) that I buy for my son's snacks, but he likes anchovy broth just fine.

There are a lot of little variations on this recipe - some books tell you to pre-soak the seaweed, or to behead and gut the anchovies before cooking them. My palate is not so refined as to notice differences in the finished product, so I skip those steps. I am careful, however, to heed warnings of overcooking the anchovies and I only simmer the brother for 10 minutes. And if I happen to have a daikon radish on hand, I'll throw a slice of that in the broth, too.

Look for dried anchovies at an Asian market. The ones I bought are about 2" long; I store them in the fridge in a zip-top bag. The seaweed to use for this is kelp, known as dashima or kombu (the Japanese name for dashima). They sell it at Whole Foods as well as Asian markets.

And just what can you do with this little marvel? Other than make kimchee stew or brasied tofu, I use it in soup. I can make the stock while I'm prepping other ingredients (Napa cabbage, sliced daikon radish, etc...bit of foreshadowing here for this week's CSA post) and have a tasty meal ready in half an hour.

Monday, June 22, 2009

More Recipes for Spring Produce

I too, like Karen, signed up for a half-share in the CSA, but unlike Karen, I do not have two other mouths to share it with. So for me the challenge of what do with all those greens was compounded. So my first thought was to consult my vegetarian cookbooks (for the record, I’m an omnivore). Several years ago a friend, and roommate at the time, gave me Annie Somerville’s Field of Greens cookbook as a Christmas gift. It contains recipes from the highly-rated, vegetarian Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. I haven’t made as many recipes as I’d like because many are labor intensive, but I did adapt the following recipe the other night. I didn’t have kale or currants, so I omitted the former and substituted craisins for the latter. Brown butter is made by melting butter over low heat and then simmering gently for about 8 minutes. Then strain it through cheesecloth or paper toweling.

Winter Greens with Currants, Pine Nuts, and Brown Butter
2 to 3 T. brown butter
¼ hot water
6 c. hot water
6 c. shard leaves with a few stems
6 c. spinach leaves
1 T. olive oil
1 finely chopped garlic clove
¼ cup water
Salt and pepper
1 T toasted pine nuts
While the butter is cooking, soak the currants in hot water to plump. Separately , tear the kale and chard leaves from the stems, reserving a few of the chard stems. Discard the stems and any browned or yellowed spinach leaves. Wash all greens separately in a salad spinner. Thinly slice the chard stems.

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the chard stems, garlic water and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Sauté for about a minute. Add the kale and sauté for another minute. Add the chard, ¼ t. salt, and a little more pepper. Toss the greens until just tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Lower the heat and add the brown butter, spinach, currants and pine nuts. Cook until the spinach is just wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Include the pan juices when serving.

Serves 4.

She also had a simpler recipe for Wilted Spinach with Pine Nuts. You use olive oil instead of brown butter and include lemon juice. I might try that next.

Unlike Karen, I never tire of green vegetables cooked in olive oil and garlic – as long as it’s not the same green veggie over and over! One recipe I like for chard is Marcella Hazan’s Erbette Salate per la Piadina (sautéed greens for Piadina). Piadina is a roman flatbread that I confess I have yet to make. I serve the greens as a side. I won’t give the whole recipe here, but it’s basically a mix of par-cooked Swiss chard, broccoli rabe, and Savoy cabbage, then tossed in olive oil and garlic heated in a pan. You can substitute spinach for the chard (but don’t par cook it of course), and dandelion or other bitter field greens for the broccoli rabe.

And for the strawberries, I reprised a recipe I had during the Back to Basics course I recently took at the Cambridge School for Culinary Arts (that experience for a future blog): spread Nutella on a crepe, top with sliced strawberries, and roll them up in the crepe. Very easy, once you make the crepes. I found if I added butter to the non-stick pan, the batter globbed up instead of making a nice thin round. Looked more like a moth eaten doily! I think they might have added a little milk to the Nutella because mine didn’t seem to spread as easily. Also, you could macerate the strawberries first.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Braised Greens with Sausage

I ended up making this for lunch today - I couldn't hold out until dinnertime. Plus, my son was occupying himself nicely so it seemed prudent to seize the opportunity and get cooking.

You can use almost any types of greens in this, and almost any type of sausage. I had collards and turnip greens on hand from this weeks' CSA delivery. I put the collards in the pot first and let them wilt down before adding the turnip greens, since the collards take a bit longer to cook. As for sausage, I prefer smoked pork ones like kielbasa; chorizo and linguica are really good too. But any type of sausage would probably do - whatever you have on hand (or is on sale). If you get a low-fat variety, keep an eye on it during the browning step - it seems like lower-fat sausages burn more quickly (maybe the add extra sugar to the cure?). If you're in a hurry, you can skip the sausage-browning step altogether. It does add a lot of flavor, though, so I do it whenever I have time.

Leftovers make a great soup - cut the sausages and greens into bite-sized pieces. Add chicken stock (or a stock made from shrimp shells - YUM) and some cubed potatoes or white beans (aka cannellini), simmer until the potatoes are cooked and EAT.

Braised Greens with Smoked Sausages
Serves 2-4 people, depending on how hungry you are

a few tablespoons olive oil or bacon grease
1 pound smoked sausage, cut into 3-4" long pieces and sliced in half lengthwise
1 medium onion, cut in half and sliced thin
3-4 big cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed down with the side of a chef's knife or small plate (or minced, if you prefer)
a splash of vermouth
2 bunches of greens (collards, kale, turnip, mustard, etc), washed and coarsely chopped

1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot (8-quart) set over medium heat. Add the sausage pieces, cut side down, and cook until they are starting to brown. Flip them over and let brown a bit on the other side, keeping an eye on the drippings in the pot - you don't want them to burn.

2. Take the sausages out of the pot and set them on a plate. Add the sliced onion and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to soften. Add a splash of vermouth or water and stir to get up the good browned stuff.

3. Put the chopped greens in the pan and cover. Let them cook for a few minutes, then uncover the pot and stir to bring the greens from the bottom up on top. Cover and cook until all of the greens are wilted (5-10 minutes, total). If you have a lot of greens, you may need to add half of them, cook until wilted, and then add the other half.

4. Uncover the pot and lay the sausages back on top of the greens. Sprinkle with ground black pepper and simmer, covered, over medium-low heat until the greens are tender, another 10-20 minutes (taste the greens after 10 minutes to see if they are done to your liking. The stems of the collards should be tender). Taste for seasoning (I don't usually add salt, because the sausage is salty enough) and serve with some good crusty bread.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CSA Week 2: A Case of Fairly Bad Timing

Another one of my little concerns with going the CSA route was, will I use everything up each week? One reason that I've stopped "meal planning" a week's worth of meals at a time is that things often change and you end up eating out one night, or you just can't work up the energy to make borscht another, and then there you are with all those beets. Even though I'd signed up for a half/single share with the CSA, I was still worried about having too many veggies. So it was with great relief, and no small quantity of smugness, that I used the last of last week's share on Monday.

Then on Tuesday, a nice man came to our house and repainted our circa-1940's glazed-enamel kitchen sink. This was significant because Tuesday is also the day for our weekly veggie pickup. Usually I like to wash some of the greens right away - prewashing them gets a somewhat messy and time-consuming step out of the way, and most greens will be OK for a day or two if you dry them well before you store them in the fridge. On Tuesday, however, the whole kitchen was masked off to protect it from paint spray, and we were under strict instructions to refrain from using the sink for the next 10 hours: conditions not ideal for washing, let alone cooking, a big haul of leafy greens. Plus, my hubby had a business dinner, and I was too tired from the day too even think about cooking. No veggies, therefore, were consumed on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, my hubby jetted off on a three-day business trip, leaving me with a head of lettuce, a bunch of collard greens, a bunch of baby turnips, two wicked big bunches of bok choy, and two garlic scapes all to myself. (Well, okay, my son is here, but three-year-olds aren't generally known to be voracious veggie eaters). What to do?

What to do. The collards are pretty young, so a quick braise with some garlic and kielbasa should do nicely for them. I like sausage-and-greens dishes, because the leftovers keep well and when you think you can't eat them anymore, they can be sliced up and turned into soup (add some diced potatoes or cannellini beans). So that's on the menu for tomorrow night. The bok choy should be able to hold out until Friday when I'll stir-fry it with a Player To Be Named Later. Thanks to the trusty Internet I've just learned that garlic scapes can be stir-fried (and also, what the heck garlic scapes are). But how about those turnips? They were billed as "salad turnips," meaning that they can be eaten raw, such as sliced up in a salad. They still have their greens attached, so I'll add those to tomorrow night's collards and kielbasa. I sliced up a turnip to taste a sample and it reminded me of daikon radish, and that made me think of radish kimchee.

I love radish kimchee. Sometimes I buy it in a jar, but mostly I make it at home using a recipe from Korean Cuisine by Young Sook Choi (note: I bought this book in the English/Chinese version from Amazon, but currently only the Korean edition is listed. Caveat emptor). It's not really a fermented kimchee - it only sits out for a day - but it's easy, quick and oh so yummy. (Well, if you like spicy food). I usually serve it as a side dish when I make Korean food or any Asian-style barbequed meat for dinner. You can also use it as one of the veggie dishes in bibim bap. Or for a really fast dinner, cook some rice, add a fried egg and some radish (or any other, for that matter) kimchee. Sometimes I even eat it with a little leftover rice for breakfast. And, radish kimchee can be kept in the refrigerator for a week - and if you have any left by then, you can add a little anchovy broth to whip up a kimchee stew (or a modified radish soup, which I'll post someday). (And now I really need to write that post on anchovy broth!).

Since the salad turnips tasted so much like radishes, I decided to give this a whirl. I think it's pretty tasty. One note; I don't think there's a substitute for Korean red pepper powder; you can try it with other red chilies but I just don't think it'll be the same. Make space in your cupboard for some go chu ga ru (red pepper powder) and in your fridge for some go chu jang (Korean hot pepper paste; not used in this particular recipe but in many others that I love); with those two things, you can make a lot of really great food.

Turnip Kimchee

A warning: this stuff is pretty addictive. I've eaten about a third of the batch, just while I was writing up this post. So much for "preserving the harvest."

8-10 oz baby turnips (1 small bunch, about 7 2-3" baby turnips), washed but not peeled, sliced thin
1 scallion, chopped into small pieces (1/2" or less
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Korean red pepper powder
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced or finely grated fresh ginger (optional).

Mix everything together. Transfer into a sealed container and let it sit around at room temperature for a while (up to overnight). Keeps refrigerated for one week.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Recipe Report, and More on What to do with Chard

So here's my review of Cod with Swiss Chard and Potatoes, in a nutshell: It was good. It was easy. I'll make it again.

More details, you say? OK, I'll spill, but be forewarned: this will read like one of those reviews I've poked fun at before (if I'm gonna give it, I guess I've gotta take it, too). Here's what happened: as predicted, I didn't use the fennel and basil called for in the original recipe. I didn't end up using the sorrel that I *thought* I would go with, either, because it turns out that that can of fire-roasted tomatoes in my cupboard also had roasted chilies in it. Hot chilies, not the mild green ones. I decided to skip the sauce-reducing step and served the whole thing in came out kind of like a spicy fish stew. I should have added some smoked Spanish paprika, but thought of it too late.

I still had a bunch of chard in the fridge, so tonight I decided to try something out. This is very loosely based on a recipe for kimchee stew - not because it has kimchee in it, but because of the general method of preparation. I've mentioned before that I've been searching for a way to cook tofu so that my meat-and-potatoes-loving hubby will eat it. Both of us prefer the texture of firm tofu that's cooked gently in liquid, but if fried tofu is your idea of heaven then by all means, go ahead and fry it before you add the broth in this recipe. I need to write a separate post on anchovy broth, 'cause it's really simple to make and pretty good for you too, but that will have to wait and for now I leave you in suspense.

This came out really, really well. Manly meat-eating hubby even commented that he's starting to really like tofu. The Swiss chard was of the red variety, and it turned the broth a lovely shade of pink - made a very pretty contrast with the white tofu and green chard leaves. And it comes together fast: you can wash the chard during the first 2 steps of cooking, so dinner can be ready in 20 minutes. It's also, I daresay, a Ludicrously Healthy recipe. I'll definitely be making this again and trying out other types of greens as the season progresses.

Braised Tofu with Swiss Chard
Makes about 4 main-dish servings

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small or 1/2 large onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
1-3 cloves of garlic, minced (or pressed)
1 1/2 cups anchovy broth, chicken broth, or water
1 lb (drained weight) firm tofu, sliced into 2x3x1/2" pieces
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
a dash of hot pepper flakes (optional)
1 bunch Swiss chard, washed, stemmed, and leave torn into 2-3" sized pieces
1 scallion, chopped finely
ground pepper and possibly salt (I didn't think it needed any).

1. Heat the olive oil in a large (6-quart or bigger) stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and stir until the onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes.

2. Pour in the anchovy broth and bring it to a simmer. Lay the slices of tofu into the broth, and add the soy sauce, vinegar, and hot pepper flakes, if you're using them. Bring to a simmer and add the Swiss chard.

3. Cover and cook until the chard is wilted and tender, 5-10 minutes, depending on how large your chard leaves are (younger chard cooks faster). You may need to use a pair of tongs to turn the chard over if the pot is very full).

4. Uncover the pot, sprinkle on the chopped scallion and season with pepper (and salt, if you think it needs it). Serve in large bowls with a scoop of hot rice.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

CSA week 1: Lots of Leafys

The veggie CSA that we're participating in started up this week. I was excited to see what we'd be getting, though I knew that, with this being New England and all, the selection would be limited. We ended up with lettuce, Swiss Chard, and spinach (and also strawberries and rhubarb, since I purchased a fruit share in addition to the veggies). Everything looked great and really fresh. (One of my pet peeves about "certified organic" produce is that it often suffers from a lack of proper storage. If you're going to all the trouble to grow "organic," why not keep the potatoes at a proper temperature until you sell them? It's not rocket science; it's a root cellar).

What to do with this bounty? This question seemed especially important since it's likely that the same players will be featured in next week's share, so I need to be ready. My hubby likes to have a salad for lunch everyday so I wasn't too worried about using that up. And I make Korean food often enough that the recipe for sesame spinach (also known as spinach salad) has full occupancy in my brain (and better yet, uses up a lot of spinach). My son ate the entire quart of strawberries within a day, and I found a good recipe for rhubarb bread, so those two were taken care of, too.

But the Swiss chard...I love the taste of leafy greens, but I hit a cook's block (kind of like a writer's block, but in the kitchen) when it comes to remembering ways to cook them. One can eat only so much chard sauteed with garlic. Then I remembered this recipe that was published in the Boston Globe Magazine (who hopefully won't hunt me down and sue me since I credit them fully). As a service to my fellow CSA members (who are also challenged by chard) and myself (who is just plain forgetful) I'm reposting the recipe here.

I must disclose that I haven't made this recipe yet - I'm going to make it for dinner tomorrow night. I'm posting it now, though, because (1) I have made other, very similar recipes and I liked them a lot, so I'm brashly confident that it'll turn out okay (I'll probably skip the fennel 'cause I don't have any right now, and use sorrel instead of basil because that's what's in the garden), (2) this recipe was one of the winners in a "one-pot meals" cooking contest, and (3) there will be wine with dinner tomorrow night, which means I'll be too sleepy to post it after I eat it. Therefore, I will take the risk and post an untested recipe: eater beware.

Cod with Swiss Chard and Potatoes
Source: The Boston Globe, February 17, 2008
Serves 6 (note: can be scaled down to serve fewer people)

2 1 1/2-pound skinless cod fillets
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced and set aside in a bowl of water
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
6 cups coarsely chopped Swiss chard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped fresh basil (optional)

Rinse the cod, pat dry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Squeeze the lemon over the fillets and set the fish aside.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and fennel, season with salt and pepper, and cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Mix in the tomatoes and simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes.

Remove the potato slices from the water, dry them on paper towels, and arrange them on top of the tomato mixture. Season with more salt and pepper, add the chicken broth, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

Lay the cod fillets on top of the potatoes and put the Swiss chard on top of the fish. Cover again and cook until the chard is wilted and the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and divide the chard among 6 plates. Divide the fish into portions and place on top of the chard, then divide and arrange the potatoes around the fish.

Put the pan back on the heat, add the butter to the sauce, and stir to mix. Reduce for about 2 minutes, then adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add basil, if using, to the sauce, stir to mix, and spoon over the fish. Serve immediately.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mmmmm Muffins

Dish Gal was looking for some healthy muffins, so I decided that I would post these two recipes that I developed when I wanted to make some healthy baked goods for my son. The term "healthy" can mean different things to different people, so first I offer up my philosophy:

1. I mostly try to make nutritious food. That means I'm willing to keep the fat in a recipe if there are other nutritious elements (i.e. protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals).

2. I prefer to develop recipes around the items that I use frequently, such as whole-milk yogurt. It saves me money when I don't have to throw away a container of fat-free sour cream that I didn't finish, and mental anguish when I don't have to figure out how to use up a container of fat-free sour cream. (I don't buy sour cream, fat-free or otherwise, much at all anymore. In most cases, whole-milk yogurt works just fine - try it on a baked potato sometime). To use up leftover buttermilk from these recipes, you can always make waffles or soda bread.

3. I try to include whole grains in my baking, but again, I don't want to have a lot of extra stuff lying around that I won't use up. So, these recipes as well as my waffles include a little whole-wheat flour along with unbleached white flour and some other grains. If you want to go all-whole-grain, try out the "white whole wheat" flour from King Arthur; it has a lighter texture than regular whole wheat flour.

4. With respect to muffins, you may have to adjust your expectations. Starbucks does not make muffins in Life-Sustaining Portions. Have you looked at a muffin tin lately? A 12-muffin muffin tin? It holds about 1/3 cup of batter in each muffin. So don't get carried away with portions; respect the muffin for what it is. I like to think of them as nutritious snacks for me and my toddler (and sometimes they double as entertainment).

Most muffins taste best on the day that they are baked. I freeze the leftovers: pop them in a zip-top bag and eat them all week (20 seconds in the microwave, or a couple of hours in your purse while you commute to work is sufficient to thaw them). If you want to store them longer, wrap them individually in foil or plastic wrap before you store them in the zip-top bag and freeze.

Pumpkin Bread or muffins
Recipe adapted from

1 cup pumpkin or squash puree (canned, homemade, whatever)
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2-3 tablespoons walnut oil (or olive oil)
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup buttermilk
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease a 9x5” loaf pan or muffin tins (6 large, 12 regular or 24 mini-muffins).

3. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk the pumpkin, brown sugar, buttermilk, egg and oil until well blended.

5. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir well to combine. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Pour the batter in to the loaf pan or spoon it into the muffin tins.

6. Bake the loaf for 1 hour, muffins 20-35 minutes depending on size until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Blueberry corn muffins
Recipe adapted from

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups fresh blueberries, dredged in flour

1. Heat oven to 375 F. Grease a 12-cup muffin or 24-cup mini-muffin tin.

2. In a large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

3. Add the egg and buttermilk, mix only until absorbed. Fold in the berries.

4. Pour the batter into cups, making each cup 2/3 full.

5. Bake 15-20 minutes or until browned and the center springs back when gently pressed. Cool on a wire rack.

Stalking Asparagus

Tidbit #1: I'm one of those strange people who actually enjoys grocery shopping. (Maybe I shouldn't say "one of those" people - for all I know, I'm the ONLY person who enjoys grocery shopping). I don't know why, exactly; there's just something enticing about all that food on display. Whenever I travel I always make sure to visit a local grocery store, just to "see what they have," and I usually end up bringing home more than a few items. (This is actually a good strategy for souvenir shopping). It's become a bit of a problem in that I've had to learn to steel myself to not overbuy, even if the asparagus is on sale, or I end up with much more food than I have time to cook.

Tidbit #2: I recently joined a couple of CSAs (community supported agriculture). As someone who grew up with a vegetable garden in the backyard and home cooked dinners on the table, this is not a terribly radical thing to do - the sad truth is that, despite my best efforts, my current backyard garden just isn't putting out enough. (I have read several of those books lately that exhort us to get back to the land, eat seasonally and locally, etc. etc. The politics of this is discussed extensively on the web, so I won't get into it here). We do have a farmer's market in Malden and other towns nearby, and I plan to keep visiting them as well.

What links those two tidbits? More food from a CSA = less shopping. And I love grocery shopping. As much as I look forward to picking up my bag of locally grown organic produce every week, I can't help but wonder - will I miss the thrill of the hunt? The challenge of planning the week's meals around fennel, only to discover that the fennel is dreadful but the rapini is dreamy (and maybe, just maybe, I could swap in zucchini)? I'm not sure what this says about me as a person (and if it's a good idea to reveal it on the Internet) but I really enjoy that aspect of shopping and cooking. If I don't get my fix at the grocery store, am I going to be making excuses to go out and shop anyway?

We had a preview of our CSA this week, though, and I think it's going to be OK. I happened to be sitting at my computer one afternoon when an email came in that some asparagus was going to be available. This was a special, additional thing to the usual bag-o-goods; the total amount of asparagus to be released, and when, was nebulous and weather-dependent. Excited, I replied immediately to put my name on the list.

What happened next is that I compulsively checked my email for two days, waiting for the word that I had made the cut - there are 240 members in this CSA, and not that much asapargus. When the announcement finally came, I was thrilled to see that I was #7 on the list (I did say that I was sitting at my computer when the asparagus email arrived) and that, barring a freakish hailstorm in the next 24 hours, I should be among the lucky recipients in the first round of asparagus delivery . I happily announced to my parents (who happened to be visiting) that fresh asparagus would be on the menu tomorrow night!

The following day, I checked the CSA website even more compulsively to see when the spears would be available for pickup. With each update, my anticipation grew: at 9 am - asparagus is being harvested! At noon - they've left the farm! At 3 pm - they're in Marblehead! At 5 pm - they're in Salem! At 5:30 pm - my parents grumble because we realize that the asparagus will be arriving at our depot pickup too late for tonight's supper! At 6 pm - the spears are in Melrose! The minute my hubby got home from work, I zipped off to make the pickup. Truth be told, I felt a little funny walking up onto someone's porch, signing my name to a clipboard and walking off with my precious little bundle. In some neighborhoods that I've lived in, that would be construed as an entirely different sort of activity. Nonetheless I found completion in the thrill of the hunt for our very, very fresh asparagus.

I know it won't always be like that, but I'm feeling more optimistic about the CSA experience. Maybe the excitement of opening "the bag" will be enough to keep me going through the summer months. Or maybe the quality of the vegetables will make up for my grocery store longings - that was some mighty fine asparagus. (I drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted it in a 425 F oven for about 10 minutes, and we ate it out of hand. And yes, my parents got to have some. Just in case you were wondering).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This Little Piggy (Shoulder) From The Market

A few weeks ago, I wanted to make this recipe for pork stew with butternut squash and fennel. Butternut squash was one of the success stories of last year's garden and I still have a few of them lounging around in my laundry room. I mostly use the squash in soups and muffins, but I was yearning for a change (must be the coming spring). Plus, I've been buying a lot of fennel lately, to put into salads, so this stew seemed quite the thing to make.

When I buy pork shoulder (a.k.a. Boston butt or picnic shoulder), it's usually to make pulled pork. So the fact that this cut comes with the skin still intact isn't a problem - the skin slips off easily after the pork is slow-cooked for hours and hours. For this stew, though, the skin needs to be removed and the meat cut into pieces prior to cooking. It's been a while since I last made the stew and I forgot how tricky it could be to trim the this case it was even trickier because my pork shoulder contained the actual shoulder joint - not so easy to remove, that. And, I couldn't decide whether it was better to remove the skin and then cut out the bone, or to remove the bone and then cut off the skin. (For the record: remove the skin first. Hopefully I'll remember that, next time).

The shoulder is an (relative to pork loin) inexpensive cut of meat - I paid $1.49 per pound; sometimes it goes on sale for just $0.99/lb. After trimming off the skin and fat, and cutting out the bone, I was looking at a sizeable pile of stuff that was NOT going into my stew. Ever curious, I got out my trusty kitchen scale. The total weight of the roast was 5.34 lb. Of that, the skin and trimmed-off fat weighed almost a pound, and the bone itself weighed 1 lb. Sooo the remaining ~3lb of pork meat for the stew actually cost $7.96 (total cost for a 5.34-lb roast) / 3 lb of stew meat = $2.65/lb.

What to do??!? The bone was a no-brainer: it went into the freezer to be added to a stock someday. The skin and fat, well, I tried to render the lard out of the pork skin like I render the fat out of duck skin: slice the skin into strips and place it in a heavy pan with a little water, a little vermouth, and a couple of bay leaves. Heat over low heat until it simmers and cook for a couple of hours until the fat is rendered and the skin is crispy and browned. It sort of worked: I was expecting to produce something like pork rinds, but the pig skin never really got all that crispy (unlike the duck skin). I did get about a half-cup of rendered pork fat, which I stored in the fridge and used to fry some potatoes later in the week.

A bit of extra effort, but I got the most out of that little shoulder. Oh, and the stew itself was delicious...but after the fact, I realized that this recipe is not the one that I'd made before, after all. I dimly recall that the other recipe directst you to saute the fennel with the onions; it cooks so long in the stew that it practically melts away. If I can find that recipe again, I'll post it here. In the meanwhile, you can enjoy this one.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Brownie Follow-Up

I made them again today.

I will try my best to NOT eat the whole pan, this time.

FYI, I tried using two whole eggs in the batter, instead of one egg and two whites. It worked just fine, and I didn't notice a big difference in the brownies (although the two-egg version may have been slightly fudgier).

I also tried sprinkling a little bit of Fleur de Sel (a.k.a. wicked expensive sea salt) over the batter just before baking. Still haven't tried those Sea Salt Brownies from Trader Joe's, but I'm guessing they must be something similar. The hubby was a bit dubious about salty brownies, but it works - kind of like those Sea Salt Caramels that are suddenly everywhere.

Next time I make these, I want to try baking the batter in mini-muffin pans - to approximate those Two Bite Brownies sold in chichi grocery stores. Stay tuned...

Suggest A Show

Do you live in Malden? Have a special recipe that you'd like to share? Let us know! Heck, you don't even have to be a resident to suggest a topic for a show - we're interested in all ideas. (Of course, since it takes us 2-3 months to tape and edit each episode, you may have to wait a while before your great idea makes it into our schedule...we are volunteers doing this in our free time, after all).

We're especially interested in featuring local cooks from diverse backgrounds - in fact, the Malden Cultural Council funded our grant application to do just that. So send us an email, or make your suggestion in the comment section below. We look forward to hearing from you!


We can't put an "official" Guestbook up on our website just yet, so we're using this post as a work-around. Please leave your message in the comments section below. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Gauntlet Has Been Thrown

A few clips from the guy's shows to help you decide...don't forget to vote in the poll!

Saturday, and Beyond

I bought my first waffle maker in the early 90s. Why did I buy a waffle maker? I'm not all that sure, actually. I think it was because I'd read a recipe for raised waffles (as in, made-with-yeast-waffles, not resurrected waffles) and wanted to try it. In those days, I was the sort of person who bought a kitchen gadget just to make a specific recipe (as in, a youngish person who has not yet overstuffed their kitchen with gadgets).

As I recall, I carefully researched options and decided upon a classic round waffler with nonstick finish. I think I sunk about 50 bucks into that waffler, which was a lot of money back then. Five batches of waffles later, I finally realized that "nonstick finish" does not mean "waffles will not stick." Even though I kept spraying the grids with cooking spray, it still took some time for that sucker to build up what I like to call seasoning or, to be even more euphemistic, patina. I'm still not sure what kept me from carrying out my threat to toss the waffler out the window, but I'm glad that I hung in there. Waffle batter #6 was my lucky batch; we've been waffling ever since. (Note: if you do not currently own a waffle maker and are considering buying one, don't be put off by this story. I'm sure that waffler coating technology has advanced in the last 15 years).

My waffle-making made great technical advances when I discovered the book, "Waffles: From Morning To Midnight" by Dorie Greenspan. Here I learned that, by heating one's oven to ~180 F, already-cooked waffles could be kept warm and waiting. Thus it was possible to make a whole batch and then serve everyone at once, including the waffle slave. This opened up a whole new realm of waffle consumption...for a couple of years, we'd get together every Saturday morning with friends to watch cartoons, drink too much coffee, and take turns making breakfast. (We called it the CAB club for caffeine, animation, and breakfast). When our turn was up we'd often make waffles.

After its CAB heyday, the waffle maker sat idle for a few years. I rediscovered it when my son was ready to start eating solid foods and I wanted to include more whole grains in his Recommended Daily Serving Of Starch. So, I started tinkering around with a couple of recipes from Ms. Greenspan's book. To be honest, though, there wasn't that much tinkering to be done; a couple of her recipes almost fit the bill as-is.

I usually have either buttermilk or plain yogurt in my fridge, so I developed a recipe for each one. (Buttermilk comes in low- and non-fat options; either will work. I usually buy whole milk and whole-milk yogurt but I think you could sub in the low-fat versions). I like a waffle that stands up to its syrup, so both recipes produce a fairly sturdy waffle although the yogurt one is a bit softer. Buttermilk will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator; if you don't want to make waffles again the next weekend, try this recipe for Brown Soda Bread from Bon Appetit to use up the extra.

Each recipe makes 5-7 waffles, depending on how much batter you need for your waffle maker. (Mine takes a little more than 1/2 cup per waffle). Leftover waffles can be frozen in zip-top bags and reheated for quick breakfasts during the week - pop them into the toaster for a few minutes, or microwave them, or wrap them in foil and put them in your diaper bag for an on-the-go toddler snack. (My son eats them, still frozen, straight from the freezer). Waffles make great snacks for toddlers because they don't crumble and make a big mess.

A note about oats: I always have "old-fashioned" rolled oats in the pantry because that's what I use to make granola. (Yes, I do have four different kinds of salt, but I only buy one kind of oats...well actually two because there's the steel-cut oats for oatmeal, but I digress). I soak the oats in milk (or whatever liquid the recipe calls for) just so that there aren't any dry oat bits in the final product. The soaking step is not essential. And, if you have "quick" rolled oats, the soaking isn't necessary. Just don't use "instant" oats. (Actually, I've never tried these recipes with instant oats, so I don't know what would happen - if you do try it, let me know).

And another note about sweeteners: I like to use maple syrup, but you can use honey, sugar, brown sugar...whatever you like. You can even skip the sweetener altogether, as I found out last weekend when I forgot to add the syrup: the waffles still taste pretty OK, especially if you put syrup on top. The vanilla and cinnamon add a hint of sweetness on their own.

Multigrain Buttermilk Waffles
Adapted from “Waffles from Morning to Midnight” by Dorie Greenspan

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup old-fashioned oats (not instant oats)
½ cup all-purpose flour (preferably unbleached)
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1½ cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla
Optional: 2 medium-size ripe bananas, thickly sliced crosswise or 1 cup blueberries, washed and drained

1. Place the buttermilk in a medium bowl. Add the oats and stir well; set aside for the oats to soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. (Letting the oats soften in the buttermilk makes them chewier in the waffles).

2. Preheat the oven to 190 F. Place the oven rack in the upper and lower third of the oven and set a couple of cooling racks on them.

3. Melt the butter in a glass dish in the microwave (about 30 seconds) on in a small pot on the stove.

4. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg with a whisk.

5. Crack the eggs and add them to the bowl with the oats and buttermilk. Add the maple syrup and vanilla to the same bowl. Use a fork to beat the eggs together, then stir everything in the bowl together.

6. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients. Use a spatula to mix and fold everything together until it is almost completely mixed. Drizzle the butter over the batter, add the optional fruit, and fold it in.

7. Let the batter rest for a few minutes while you preheat the waffle iron. The batter will puff up and increase in volume; it will become quite thick.

8. Lightly grease the grids on the waffle iron or spray with cooking spray. Scoop out a generous ½ cup of batter onto the waffle iron and use the measuring cup or a spatula to spread the batter over the grid. The batter is very thick; you will probably need ~1/3 more than the manufacturer’s recommended amount of batter for each waffle.

9. As each waffle is cooked, transfer it to the oven rack to keep warm until serving time. This recipe makes a sturdy waffle, but the oven-resting step can help to crisp up a soft waffle.

Multigrain Honey-Yogurt Waffles
Also adapted from “Waffles from Morning to Midnight” by Dorie Greenspan

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Proceed as in the above recipe, letting the oats soak in the milk while you prepare the other ingredients.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New Poll, and a Very Special Episode

We've been promising a new poll, and at long last it's arrived. The last two episodes of our show featured prominent Malden bachelors learning their way around the kitchen. Since these men are also friends and colleagues, it's not surprising that a little good-natured rivalry has blossomed. Now it's time for the viewers to decide: which bachelor reigns supreme??

For those of you who are not familiar with the shows, a brief summary: in the first installment, City Councillor Gary Christenson graciously invited us into his home, where we helped him get acquainted with his kitchen by showing him two easy recipes. Part II of the bachelor cook-off featured fellow MATV member (and host of "Giving Back" The Bread of Life Television Show") Mike Cherone learning to make lasagna, like he rememebred from his childhood Sunday suppers. Both gentlemen did an excellent job.

We've been a bit slow at getting our shows up online, but you can watch Mike's episode by visiting his blog for "Giving Back." (Click on the picture of the lasagna. If you want to see Mike interview us about his appearance on our show, click the link for Episode 10). Hopefully we'll get Gary's episode online soon, too.

thanks for watching, and don't forget to vote!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Brownie Made Me Do It

I was ambushed by a box of brownies today. There I was, happily shopping at Trader Joe's, filling my basket with all manner of healthy foods when I turned a corner and there they were: small, dark and fudgy. Made with sea salt! Sea salt brownies, of all things. The sneaky little devils almost made it into my hands but then reality set in. Brownies are easy to make - did I really want to drop five bucks on something so simple?

Back at home a few hours later, I remembered this wonderful recipe from Alice Medrich's "Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts." I don't usually try to make dessert low-fat, but I do like this book. These brownies, in particular, are quick and delicious, and the low(er)-fat part is just the, uh, icing on the cake (sorry...). Alice instructs you to melt the butter, mix the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls, and then combine everything together, but you can mix everything in one pan if you're careful to let the butter cool before you add the eggs. One-bowl, low-fat brownies? Yes, dreams do come true.

I'm also posting a companion dessert to use up the 2 egg yolks that are leftover from the brownie recipe. (I told you, I'm not into low-fat desserts, per se, and I don't like to waste food). Granola pudding is (1) better than it sounds, and (2) a variation on Grapenut Pudding. I had never heard of Grapenut pudding until a few years ago but I'm totally addicted to it. I don't usually have Grapenuts in the house, whereas I do have granola; I therefore give you Granola Pudding.

Michael's Fudge Brownies

1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee granules (optional - you can omit it if you don't have it on hand)
1 teaspoon hot water
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 tablespoons butter or margarine -- melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg whites -- lightly beaten
1 egg -- lightly beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt (use sea salt, for a more expensive brownie)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Vegetable cooking spray

1. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat (or in a large, microwaveable bowl). Let the butter cool a bit, the stir in the sugar, vanilla, egg whites and egg. Combine the coffee granules and hot water in a small bowl; add to the egg mixture and stir well.

2. Add the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder; stir well with a fork or wooden spoon. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan or bowl to make sure that everything is well combined.

3. Spread batter into an 8" square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes; let cool in pan. Yield: 16 brownies (serving size: 1 brownie). (Uh, don't know about you, but I can't stop at 1 brownie!)

Granola Pudding
The custard recipe is Baked Vanilla Custard, from Marion Cunningham's "The Supper Book"

2 egg yolks
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar (I prefer 1/3 cup)
3 cups very hot milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup homemade granola (I like this recipe from Bon Appetit)
salt to taste

1. Heat the oven to 325 F. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Set a shallow pan large enough to hold the baking dish in the oven, and fill it with 1 inch of hot water (I use a large frying pan).

2. Mix the yolks and eggs together until just blended. Stir in the sugar and salt and slowly add the hot milk, stirring constantly. Add the vanilla. Strain into the baking dish and sprinkle the granola over the top.

3. Put the dish or ramekins in the shallow pan and bake for about 45 minutes; the custard is set when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake; remove it from the oven when the very center of the custard still trembles a little bit. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled (it will keep in the refrigerator for a few days).

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tofu and Broccoli in Black Bean Sauce

Some smart cook once said that if you don't like something, you should figure out a way to prepare it so that even you will eat it.

I've never been all that crazy about tofu. Not that I have anything against it, exactly, I'm just not a big fan. Nevertheless, I've been trying to eat more of it lately, for a number of reasons that I won't go on about right now. My husband is even less enthusiastic than I am about tofu, but he's being a good sport and eating along. (My son, on the other hand, loves it and that's one reason that I'm using it more...but then I said I wasn't going to get into that. Oops).

Most of the tofu that shows up on my table appears in Korean dishes such as kimchee chigae (a kind of soup/stew) or soy sauce braised tofu. In a pinch, I give it to my hungry toddler to eat as is, straight from the package. We've eaten enough of the stuff that I now have an idea of how to prepare it so that we'll all enjoy it - even if my hubby doesn't exactly shout "Hooray, it's tofu night!" when I tell him what's for dinner. I made this recipe tonight in an attempt to branch out into other tofu dishes. It's based on a recipe for chicken and asparagus in black bean sauce, from an old Sunset Magazine cookbook on Chinese food.

I first met fermented soybeans (aka the black beans in black bean sauce) through a roommate when I was in grad school. Fermented soybeans are small, dark, and smelly; my roomie taught me to store them in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator. In small doses, however, they make a mighty tasty sauce when smashed up with a little garlic and soy sauce.

Back in those grad school days, when I first started trying to cook Asian food, I made dishes in black bean sauce a lot. As my repertoire expanded into Thai, Indian, and Korean the realities of limited storage space pushed those beans out of my refrigerator - I just didn't use them often enough to justify their tying up prime real estate. I got thinking about fermented soybeans again, though, when a friend asked for recipes that use tofu, and I picked up a jar of black bean sauce with garlic. A few days later, with bean sauce on hand and tofu and broccoli needing to be used, I tried out the following dish. It turned out tasty enough that I'm even willing to post it here.

This was quick, easy and because there are so few ingredients, prep work was fast. Get your rice cooker started just before you start heating the wok, and dinner will be ready in 20 minutes. You can substitute other green vegetables, such as asparagus or zucchini, for the broccoli. You can also substitute chicken for the tofu, since that was the original recipe, but then you won't be eating tofu now will you. If you want to be a purist and not use a purchased black bean sauce, smash 2 tablespoons of fermented black soybeans with ~1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic, a pinch of salt and add an extra tablespoon or so of soy sauce.

(A note: there are no pictures to go with this post for a reason. I am learning that I am not a particularly good food photographer. This is bad news, because one of the great things about blogging is that you can show all these wonderful pictures...assuming that you have the necessary skills to get wonderful pictures of your food. I'd rather that you have to use your imagination than look at a less-than-appetizing photo of my recipes).

A few tablespoons of sesame oil (or peanut oil, or whatever you have on hand)
1 small onion (or 1/2 of a large onion)
4 fresh shitake mushrooms (or ~1 cup of any fresh mushroom), sliced
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth, or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
14 oz firm tofu, cut into cubes
1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1-2 tablespoons of water

1. Cut the root and stem ends off of the onion. Cut the onion in half and then slice it into thin strips.

2. Heat a wok over high heat and add a tablespoon of sesame oil. Swirl the oil around in the wok to coat the surface.

3. Add the sliced onion to the wok and stir-fry until the onion starts to soften or "wilt."

4. Add the mushrooms to the wok and stir-fry until they soften and begin to shrink (they may give off some liquid, but if the heat is high enough this will evaporate quickly).

5. Take the wok off of the heat and let it cool for a moment, then add the broth and soy sauce. Add the tofu and black bean sauce and gently stir so that all of the tofu is partially submerged in the liquid. Return the wok to the burner and bring the broth to a boil. Turn down the heat a bit and simmer for 5 minutes.

6. Arrange the broccoli on top of the tofu and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the broccoli is partially cooked. (You can cover the wok to help steam the broccoli but it's not absolutely necessary).

7. Stir very gently to combine everything (a big spatula works well to turn the ingredients over, without breaking up the tofu) and simmer another minute or two.

8. Add the cornstarch-water and stir gently again to combine everything. Stir one or two more times as the sauce thickens.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Current episode is now online!

We keep meaning to get our shows up on Google video, but haven't quite figured it out yet. Fortunately, the guest on our current episode is much more Web-savy and he posted it for us. Visit to see Mike Cherone, fellow MATV member and the host of "Giving Back: The Bread of life Television Show" in his cooking-show debut!