Category Archives: Food

August Succotash

Last week’s CSA box had all the ingredients for a delicious fresh succotash: corn, tomatoes, sweet onions, and lima beans. Get to a farmer’s market this week and enjoy August, using this recipe from Bon Appetit, on Epicurious.IMG_0983

Did I mention fresh basil?
I started a pot of whole grain rice in the cooker while I prepped the succotash. The meal was a hit all around.

Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima Beans, Tomatoes, and Onions

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups chopped red tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 1/4 cups corn kernels cut from 4 ears of corn (preferably 2 ears of white corn and 2 ears of yellow corn)
  • 2 cups fresh lima beans (from about 2 pounds pods) or 10 to 11 ounces frozen lima beans or baby butter beans, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sprinkle with coarse salt. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, corn, and lima beans. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until corn and lima beans are tender and tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before continuing. Stir in basil and serve.

Tofu Jerky

It’s summer. There are beach days, lazy days, hot days spent hiding indoors, and days spent cooking. This has been a summer of preserving, not because of any extraordinary quantities of food, but because it’s something I only recently decided to give some time. This post: dehydrating.

I bought this Nesco Food Dehydrator after figuring out a few things:

  • I didn’t need to spend a lot of money on a deluxe dehydrator, and yes, there are deluxe models and brands. This one was inexpensive, reviewed well in several places, and expandable by adding more round trays to the tower.
  • Internet wisdom indicated that a top heater and fan is preferable to one on the bottom, particularly for foods that drip, and thus drip down to the heating unit.
  • I could make beef jerky for the people in my family who love it, but I could also make tofu jerky for those of us who are vegetarians. Sold.

It is pretty basic, which is not a complaint. I added four more trays and extra inserts for making fruit leather and screens for herbs. There is indeed a heater in the lid unit, with the recommended range of temperature settings. It’s easy to clean, relatively quiet, but needs some shelf space to store.

Yes, there has been tofu jerky, to the delight of many. I’ve been experimenting with different marinades and when the recipe is ready, I’ll share. Contenders have been the barbecue marinade and the basic smoky soy flavor, but you know what? I suspect a bottle of quality teriyaki or mesquite marinade would be worth trying as well.

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Tofu jerky, ready to go.

It’s very good. Going to get better, but already a success.

This week I made beef jerky from three pounds of ground beef, using a prepared mix. The carnivores are happy, but I’ve promised a batch made from whole meat and my own marinade. IMG_0988

Previously I shaped this kind of jerky by rolling the ground beef mixture between two sheets of waxed paper and then cutting into sticks. These were made with a Nesco jerky “gun”. That was kind of fun to use.

I’ve dried pints of blueberries and quarts of cherries. A jar of dried blueberries sitting out on the kitchen counter gets noticed, and everyone is more likely to toss some into a salad or yogurt, or just snack on a few. I’m going to do more cherries while they’re abundant because I often bake a heart-healthy cookie recipe that uses dried cherries, which are expensive and sometimes hard to find.

A handful of dried cherries, leftover from making jam.

A handful of dried cherries, leftover from making jam.

I’ve played with fruit leathers using applesauce as a base. The cherry was delicious; peach, not so much.

Cherry leather, ready to dry.

Cherry leather, ready to dry.

On the list next: tomatoes, herbs, chickpeas. Green beans. I wonder if I can make those yummy dried green beans for snacking?

Got Stale Bread? Panzanella.

Oh yum.

Traditional panzanella is made by moistening stale bread and tossing it with vegetables, usually tomato and cucumber. There are variations, and authentic panzanella – bread salad – is worth making and eating. My usual method, though, is to top chunks of quality stale bread with marinated tomatoes and let the oil and vinegar soak into the bread. Yesterday while rummaging I found a half loaf of ciabatta lunga that was past any recovery, chickpeas, marinated tomatoes, and a charged camera.

Grab a plate, and start adding stuff.

A big handful or two of greens. Baby kale here, because that’s what I hadIMG_0688

Top with chunks of stale bread. Good bread, not sliced white stuff. The crustier the better.IMG_0691

Be generous with the marinated tomatoes.IMG_0695

A half-cup of chickpeas makes this a main dish, vegetarian salad. Freshly ground black pepper tops it off. I had about a tablespoon of grated parm leftover in the fridge so I tossed it on, too. IMG_0698

Now walk away for a few minutes. Trust me. Give the bread a chance to soak up the marinade from the tomatoes. Drizzle a little olive oil on top of the whole thing first if you think it’s warranted. Congratulate yourself on making a filling, heart-healthy, nutritionally sound meal.

Eat.

Cooking for Delivery

 

IMG_0108Food. There’s a Christmas present.

Include a promise to keep the food deliveries coming throughout the year, and you have made someone’s day. That’s how it was for my father-in-law, who manages to find his way in the kitchen but hasn’t spent his life cooking, but has now become the chief cook and bottle washer. My husband and I decided that a year of homemade food deliveries would be a good gift for his parents, and it was certainly well received.

The first delivery looked like this, carefully packaged for storage. IMG_0233

 

IMG_0110For the freezer:
  • Lasagna, cut into squares and individually packaged
  • Meatballs packaged 4 to a container
  • Stuffed Baked Potatoes, easily thawed and heated in the microwave
  • Beef Stew, frozen flat in ziploc bags, in bowl-sized portions, and biscuits
  • Cook’s Illustrated’s fabulous make-ahead dinner rolls, requiring a quick counter thaw and time in the oven (A Passionate Plate has illustrated the prep nicely, here.)
  • Lowfat cinnamon crumb muffins
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For the fridge:
  • A jar of steel-cut oats with side containers of chopped nuts and maple syrup
  • Not-even-close-to-lowfat homemade “Reese” cups (These were in the house because we’d been experimenting with them, and thought they might be appreciated. They were.)
  • Cooked and seasoned mixed grains and wild rice.

Out of that list, I’m sharing the recipe for steel-cut oats, because I’m eating a bowl right now. I made a batch yesterday and divided it into short, wide-mouth mason jars for the fridge. (Technically, I’m eating a jar of oatmeal.)

This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated and is one of hundreds of reasons you should subscribe. You can do this in print, for your iPad, or online, or some combination, and it’s worth every penny. I’ve been a follower since they started publication (twenty years!) and have never been disappointed in a recipe.  Three of the recipes from this delivery are theirs, or have morphed from theirs over the years, lending credence to my recommendation.

Perfect OatmeaL

3 cups water
1 cup whole milk (I use skim because that’s what we have.)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup steel cut oats
1/4 tsp table salt
 
Bring water and milk to a simmer in a large saucepan over  medium heat. In the meantime toast the oats in the tablespoon of butter in a small skillet for a few minutes, until they begin to get a little color and start to smell yummy.
 
Stir the toasted oats into the simmering pot of milk & water, reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer gently until it thickens and resembles gravy, about 20 minutes. Add the salt now and stir very gently with a wooden spoon handle (there’s a reason for this but don’t panic if use a regular spoon, just be nice). Continue simmering, stirring with the spoon handle occasionally, until nearly all the liquid is gone and the oatmeal is thick, about 7-10 minutes more. It can stand off heat, uncovered, 5 minutes, to set and absorb more liquid. 
 
Serve, and enjoy the best oatmeal EVER. Topping bar here includes brown sugar, honey, chopped walnuts or pecans, and dried fruit. Serves 3-4.
 

All of the food was appreciated and enjoyed, except the grains, which were something new to their plate. I’ve sent more meatballs and sauce in the meantime, but it’s time to plan another big delivery. All in all, a useful and very good gift idea, adding variety and interest to someone’s diet, especially someone who is perhaps not used to preparing meals.

 

 

Evernote and…beans

I had a brainstorm while stocking up on beans at the Whole Foods bulk section last week. The identifying signs have information I might need, like the fact that one needs a longer soak time, is particularly suited to a dish, is known by alternative names, or has a provenance I want to remember. I’ve scribbled notes on the tags or scraps of  paper, but this time I thought to snap a quick picture of the identifying boards with my phone.

That’s not so brilliant, but uploading them to my “Cooking” notebook in Evernote was.  Now they are there, tagged, and searchable. As with all my clipped recipes and notes, I can access them from my laptop, phone, or ipad, wherever I, and the beans, happen to be. This is serious. I travel, and I cook.

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My (mainly vegetarian) kitchen goes through a lot of beans, and I love experimenting with varieties and uses. I can expand the note to indicate which were successful and which should be bought again. 

I love Evernote.

 

Roasted Carrots ‘n Walnuts ‘n Friends

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Just start right off with that, yes?

I’ve had this recipe from the New  York Times in the back of my mind for a few days, and found myself with a hot oven and a few ideas of my own last night. I had a small bunch of long, thin carrots, a half head of cauliflower, and a fat leek.

When I’m being careful not to go overboard with olive oil, I like to put a bit of it in my hands, rub them together, and pick up handfuls of vegetables to coat the pieces with a thin layer. It works well and uses less oil than tossing the vegetables and oil in a bowl together, but needs a third party to pour more into my hands. A small puddle on the cutting board works just as well.

The carrots, side by side on a large sheet, went into a 450 oven for a ten minute head start while a handful of walnuts toasted in a small cast iron skillet. In that time I coarsely chopped, soaked, and drained the leek and the cauliflower. The carrots were then tossed with thyme, the cauliflower and leeks arranged closely but in a single layer next to the carrots, and everything went back in for another 15 minutes or so; these were skinny carrots.

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We drizzled a tiny bit of walnut oil – how delicious – on the carrots before adding the toasted walnuts, and served everything together. I wish there were leftovers for lunch today!

Soldiers on Soldier Beans!

Navy beans probably did indeed feed sailors. Black eyed peas are named, horrifically, for their single black spot. Broad beans are large, black beans are black, and, yes. I get it. Beans have descriptive nomenclature, but I assumed soldier beans were carried by solders, or fed to soldiers, or perhaps given to soldiers by patriotic farmers during the American Revolution or something. I wasn’t prepared to really look at a soldier bean.

Because it has a soldier stamped on it. 

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A tiny little 18th century soldier. Take a closer look.

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The one you remember from your fifth grade history book, a stereotypical British Grenadier, perhaps.

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I am delighted by this discovery. There are hundreds of soldiers simmering on the stove right now, for a soup.

 

Christmas Eve Galettes, Christmas Dinner Prep, and Szechuan Buttons!

Savory galettes with baguettes for the fondue.

Savory galettes, with baguettes for the fondue.

How could I have forgotten to write up all the Christmas cooking? Taking the pictures is not enough. I barely managed to snap these with the iPad, you’d think that in the dozens of times I’ve seen them there I’d have remembered to write about them.

Because we had some good food.

Christmas Eve was awesome, simply spent with my husband, three children, and midway through the evening, daughter-in-law. Many years ago we found ourselves suddenly “alone” on Christmas Eve after decades of extended family dinners, and we decided to create our own tradition of an unusual meal that we would all help plan and prepare, something great to drink, and a game or a late walk. This year we had to prep Christmas dinner as well, so dinner had to be easier and the kitchen was crazy busy. It’s not a massive kitchen but it’s a good size, and I spent many hours working with a strong designer on it. When you can easily fit four cooks in a kitchen, you did a good job planning!

My husband stays on the eating side of the room and cheers us on, but my sons and daughter, all in their 20s, are cooks, and truly carry the day for me when we have a large gathering. There was a moment when I stepped back – literally, in one of the kitchen’s doorways – and studied all of them together, aproned, laughing, bloody (two were handling large cuts of beef), floured (making pastry), my husband opening a bottle of wine – and tried to just burn them into my brain for a day when I need the memory.

The menu for Christmas Eve, short and sweet, since we had a lot to prep for the next day:

Spinach, Pear, Blue Cheese, and Rosemary Galettes made with Walnut Pastry

Cheese Fondue with Baguettes

Buckwheat and Almond Chocolate Cake

Szechuan Buttons!

Galettes, ready for the oven.

Galettes, ready for the oven.

The galettes are a family favorite, and my daughter took over and prepared them for our Christmas Eve meal. They are delicious and quite worth making from this recipe from NPR’s Kitchen Window. We, however, make them with much more filling than they have as written, and use this recipe for Walnut Pastry Dough from eatingwell.com:

 

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 6-7 tablespoons cold water
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  1. Spread walnuts in a pie pan and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool.
  2. Combine the walnuts, flour, sugar and salt in a food processor; process until the walnuts are finely chopped. Add butter and process until incorporated. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Drizzle oil over the flour mixture. Use your fingertips to rub the oil into the mixture. One tablespoon at a time, add water and mix with a fork until dough is crumbly and holds together when pressed.
  4. Divide dough into 2 pieces, 1 slightly larger than the other, and form each into a disk.

For our purposes the dough is divided into smaller pieces and rolled into circles, the amount of filling on hand is divided among the circles, and the galettes are formed. The size of the circles is dictated by how large the galettes will be when finished, which is entirely up to the cook.

The frozen gluten-free baguette from Against the Grain, here with the fondue, is a very good brand, according to GF Son. He made the cheese fondue.

The frozen gluten-free baguette from Against the Grain, here with the fondue, is a very good brand, according to GF Son. He made the cheese fondue.

I have been wanting to try the Buckwheat and Almond Chocolate Cake since the day I bought the La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life cookbook last summer. I have made many of her recipes – multiple times, which is the real test – so it was only a matter of time that one would disappoint.

Buckwheat and Almond Chocolate Cake, looking pretty.

Buckwheat and Almond Chocolate Cake, looking pretty.

Perhaps it was us, maybe we wanted something sweeter, maybe there were too many Godiva chocolates in the house, so try it yourself. It certainly was moist, it was beautiful, and we didn’t turn our noses up at it by any means, but it just wasn’t worth repeating.

Finally, the Szechuan Buttons. If your husband tells you to expect an overnight package and to put it directly in the fridge; worry.

Cute, aren't they?

Cute, aren’t they?

He heard a piece about these little culinary trendy things on NPR and thought it would be great fun to have them in our house for Christmas.

He was right!

They are…electric? Fizzy? Not hot, spicy, bubby, or scary. If you nibble tentatively on one and wait a few seconds, you’ll get the feeling of Pop Rocks, maybe. Have you ever quick touched your tongue to the end of a 9 volt battery to see if it still had a charge? Kinda sorta like that, but not really. It’s just hard to explain. It seems to be more of a sensation than a taste.

They are being ground up and sprinkled on salads, rimmed onto drink glasses, and steeped into alcohol by creative restaurants. My husband was delighted when they came, hid them in the back of the fridge (I was in on it by that time, nothing is hiding from me in my refrigerator) and set about for days steeping some in jars of different types of alcohol. Tasting them was fun, but watching him prepare his surprise, and torture the kids with hints, was way better.

For about a week, down to the last solitary bud, anyone who walked into the house was met with cries of “Try one of these! Here’s something for you!” with varying degrees of success, if success is measured by enjoyment. This is a love or hate sensation, it seems, but definitely fun for your next party!

In the meantime, on this evening, we prepared two huge pots of Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon, a small vegetarian version, finished proofing the dinner rolls, made a dacquoise that I can’t wait to write about, and, of course, prepared the dining room and extra table. That is the next post.

Sunday Corona Beans

The rosemary, sage, and thyme are just gangbusters in their pots on the deck, despite inches of snow weeks ago, and are no doubt loving the unseasonably warm weather. Yesterday morning  I was gazing out the window at those herb pots and thinking about spending the day in the sewing room* when I decided to soak some beans for dinner. Easy meal, fragrant herbs, quality nutrition – done.

Corona beans, aka white runner beans. These were bought in bulk from Whole Foods.

I quick-soaked a few cups of corona beans (the fast method, of bringing them to a boil, covering, and then soaking for several hours) and cooked the beans later in the day. Once they were ready I slivered several cloves of garlic, tossed them into a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet, and warmed the oil. I added whole stems of rosemary and thyme to the pan, and a dozen leaves of sage, before stirring in the beans, salt, and plenty of fresh ground pepper.

Garlic, herbs, olive oil, and beans – the simplest dish.

The beans simmered, with the addition of some of the cooking water, until everything was flavorful and the rest of the meal was ready. The rest of the meal, in this case, was kale chips and a bit of this pasta.

I don’t know why I can’t ever remember the name of this particular cut of pasta.

Whenever I serve beans prepared this way, I simmer until all the liquid is gone. The herb stems are, of course, removed. A drizzle of olive oil over the top is required!

*I did spend a large percentage of the day in the sewing room, carefully fitting a princess-seamed knit tunic pattern, making all the adjustments, and working up a nice enough knit that it could have been a wearable muslin. Hated it. Hate. Ed. It. It’s easy to burn with frustration over “wasted” time, especially during December when there is so much to do, so much fun stuff to do, but ultimately, it’s all valuable, all a learning experience. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Garlic Scapes, Kale Salad, and the CSA Box

It makes me so happy to be in CSA season again!

  • The food is fresh.
  • I don’t have to go to the grocery store.
  • It’s local, organic or IPM.
  • I like the reverse engineering menu planning aspect. Someone else gives you the food, you figure out what to make.
  • Did I mention not needing to go to the grocery store?

This week’s box: Kale, collards, red potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, asparagus, garlic scapes, zucchini, a bunch of fresh dill, and red lettuce. In addition I picked up my co-op store order of milk and mushrooms, a dozen eggs from my egg share, and two pints of strawberries from the fruit share.

Dinner last night, in the midst of all this food, was fast and easy: foil packets of potatoes and garlic scapes served next to a big spoonful of black lentils sprinkled with pine nuts. 

Garlic scapes and potatoes lined up and waiting for seasoning.

They were delicious, but when have you ever had a potato that wasn’t? And foil  packets just send me right back to being an 8 year old at a picnic table. I used three garlic scapes for the four servings and sprinkled everything with salt, pepper, fresh parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil. At 450 they were ready in about 45 minutes.

I also made, for the second week in a row, a raw kale salad. It sounds wrong but tastes great, lasts for a good three days in the fridge, and stands at the top of the Goodforyou Things to  Eat list. I cannot recommend this salad enough! Easy, versatile, healthful, fresh, and a good way to add vegetables to your plate. This is the kind of leafy green we are supposed to be eating.

There are versions of this, but don’t even stress over a recipe. Do this:

Curly kale, red kale, black kale, – kale
Salt & pepper
Lemon and olive oil or lemon and walnut oil or any other combination you like
3 tablespoons pepitas or sunflower seeds, or both
 

Pull the stems off a bunch or two of kale, and discard. Drop the leaves into a big bowl of water and rinse them carefully. Drain and pat dry, or spin.

Roll a few leaves at a time into cigar shapes and slice thinly, shaping ribbons. Keep slicing, and you will end up with a  large bowl of kale ribbons, more than you’ll think you can ever eat. It’s ok, they’ll shrink!

Drizzle a few teaspoons of oil onto the kale ribbons, and either the juice of half a lemon or a teaspoon of your vinegar. Add a generous sprinkle of salt and then start scrunching up the kale with your hands. Both hands, don’t be shy. Don’t squeeze it to bruise, but rough it up for two to three minutes and it will start to break down. You’re actually tenderizing the kale.

The kale will greatly reduce in volume. Add seeds, a bit more salt, and a few generous grinds of pepper. Prepare a dressing using about 1/4 cup of the oil you’re using with either the rest of the lemon or 1 tablespoon of your vinegar, and toss everything together.

That’s it! My pile of kale turned into this manageable container of kale salad, ready for the fridge, and for serving as is or dressing up.

Last week’s salad went something like this:

  • With strawberries, for breakfast. Really.
  • With crumbled feta and a few chopped walnuts.
  • As a topping for a tossed salad – that was brilliant!
  • A base for a scoop of leftover marrow beans.
  • Tossed into a leftover pasta and bean bowl.

And then it was gone.