Sunday, December 4, 2011

Broccoli rabe pizza

This is a pizza recipe I came up with about a month ago to use up some leftover broccoli rabe. Broccoli rabe is a vegetable that I always think I will like more than I do. I don't dislike it, but honestly, I'd rather have broccoli or kale. Anyway, this pizza came about when I was browsing around for broccoli rabe recipes, and I ran across this pizza from smitten kitchen. When I saw the pictures initially, I thought the black blobs were raisins. When it turned out they were olives, I already had my heart set on raisins, so I swapped that out. I also decided to caramelize the onions on the stove instead of roasting them in the oven. I added pine nuts and used fontina cheese instead of mozzarella because I had some I needed to use up.
This pizza was excellent. Jon was rock climbing that afternoon, and he is always really hungry when he gets home from that. He inhaled 2/3 of the pizza and raved about it the whole time, but I don't really trust his judgment when he's that hungry.

Broccoli rabe pizza
Vegetable oil for sauteing
1 large onion, sliced into thin rings
1/2 pound broccoli rabe, washed and chopped
1 pizza crust (I used my standard 1/2 whole wheat crust)
1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese
1/4 cup raisins
2 tbsp pine nuts
Salt to taste

Start by caramelizing your onions. To do this, put a generous amount of oil in a large saute pan and heat it over medium. When it is hot, add the onions and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are brown and soft, between 45 minutes and an hour. Remove onions and set aside. Sometime while the onions are caramelizing, put your pizza stone in the oven and turn it on to 425 F.
Turn heat up to medium and add broccoli rabe to remaining oil. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until broccoli rabe is wilted and bright green, about five minutes.
Roll out pizza crust. Top with cheese, onions, raisins, broccoli rabe, and pine nuts, roughly in that order. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Put the pizza on the stone and bake until done, about 9-12 minutes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Two new drinks

No pictures of these. They're drinks. They look like drinks. Jon and I picked up two new liqueurs a few weeks ago, and these are two drinks we invented using them. The first liqueur is St. Germain, a sweet elderflower liquer. It tastes kind of like lychee to me. It's nice on its own or with soda water, but Jon also invented a gin drink with it. I named it the "fairy kiss." I don't know why. It just felt right.

The second liqueur is Tyku, a melony, citrusy liqueur. It also appeared in these melon pops earlier this summer. I invented a tequila drink using Tyku, which Jon loved and dubbed the "Hyde Park margarita."

These liqueurs make mixology really easy. They're sweet, so you don't have to worry about adding sugar, honey, or simple syrup, and the extra flavors they add make the cocktails more interesting.

Fairy Kiss
3 tbsp gin
1 tbsp St Germain
Juice of a quarter of a lemon
2 ice cubes
Club soda

Combine booze and juice. Add ice cubes. Top with club soda. You can use a little if you just want a touch of sparkle, or a lot if you'd like the drink to be more of a spritzer.

Hyde Park Margarita

3 tbsp tequila
1 tbsp Tyku
Juice of half a lemon
2 ice cubes

Combine booze and lemon juice. Add ice.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Two experimental dals

A few weeks ago, Jon and I went to an Indian neighborhood in Chicago for dinner and grocery shopping. (Also window shopping at some very posh sari boutiques!) In addition to a variety of other products, we ended up with 24 pounds of various beans. Hence, I am on a mission to eat more dal. With the weather getting cooler and cooler, this seems like a good time for it.

The first dal I wanted to try was "val dal," which are apparently skinned and split lablab beans. Helpful, I know. I had never seen it before, and I was intrigued because the beans are bigger than most beans that are split but looked like they would cook more quickly than whole beans. I decided to go rogue on the val dal and just make something up entirely. I always feel nervous about coming up with my own spice ratios for Indian-type dishes because I'm worried I'll do it wrong. But I decided that was kind of silly, so I just went for it. I used "Balti" curry powder from Penzey's, which is not as fragrant as a lot of curry powders and I think works well with root vegetables, along with whole mustard, fennel, and cumin seeds. I might not have used quite enough spice overall, but I thought the ratio worked well.

Another experiment I did was comparing cooking times of a bean I had never made, beets, and potatoes. I didn't think they would all magically have the same cooking time, but I put them in at the same time because I didn't know which ones would be done sooner. It turned out that the potatoes basically melted into the sauce by the time the beets and dal were ready. Now I know.

Oh, one more thing: The Indian cookbook I have calls for mustard oil for most of the dishes. I had never seen it in a store, so I've always used generic vegetable oil instead, but I found it in the grocery store last night and decided to use it today. As I returned the oil to the pantry, I noticed that it is labeled "for external use only." I didn't want to either poison us or waste perfectly good food, so I looked up "mustard oil external use only" on google, and it turns out that some people think it's not safe due to high levels of some kind of fatty acid. Apparently it's been a big controversy. I'm in the "it doesn't seem to have killed the Indians yet" camp, so I left the dal cooking.

The end result was pretty good. I think I will spice and salt it more heavily next time, but it was nice to experiment a little, and I really liked the beets in with the beans. I think it would be great with kale or mustard greens, and I would probably ease back a little on the mustard oil because it's more pungent than I thought it was based on smell. On the whole, though, it was a pretty successful experiment.

The second bean I played with was "urad dal," which is split black lentils. I made a pretty simple dish with the dal, tomatoes, kale, and just some ginger, turmeric, cumin, and coriander to spice it. I couldn't quite decide whether I wanted it to be soupy or dry, so it's somewhere in between. Once again, I probably could have spiced it a little more heavily. I have trouble knowing what the ratio should be of water/beans to spice when I'm cooking without a recipe. Jon loved this one. It was good comfort food for a chilly night.

Val dal with beets and potatoes

2 tbsp mustard oil
2 tsp balti seasoning or curry powder
1/2 tsp whole mustard seeds
1/2 tsp whole fennel seeds
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 large beet, cut into small cubes
1 medium potato, cut into small cubes
1 cup val dal or other bean
3 cups water

Heat the mustard oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the seasonings and stir to coat with oil. Add the onion and ginger and cook for a few minutes. Add the beet, potato, dal, and water. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until beets and beans are done to your liking. You may have to add more water during the simmering process.

We served this with curry powder basmati rice. It's very simple: melt 1 tbsp butter in a small saucepan. Add 1/2 tsp curry powder, stir to distribute, and then add 1 cup of rice and stir to coat with butter and curry powder. Add 2 cups water and 3/4 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook covered until rice is done.

Urad dal with tomatoes and kale

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp minced ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 can whole tomatoes, including juice
1 cup urad dal
2 cups water

Heat the oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add spices and saute for about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and juices, dal, and water. Raise heat to bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer, stirring and breaking up tomatoes occasionally, until dal is cooked to your liking, 30-40 minutes. You may want to add more water while it cooks. I don't think I actually measured, so the amount in the recipe is just an estimate.
This is one of our other treasures, that yummy breat-freshening stuff you sometimes get at Indian restaurants. It has candy-coated fennel seeds and other stuff in it. Yum!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Japanese spa salad

This recipe is from the September issue of Vegetarian Times. They call it Tofu and Cucumber Salad with Sesame-Ginger Dressing, but I call it Japanese spa salad because it seems like the kind of thing someone would give you at a spa where you went to get "detoxifying" treatments and maybe do some yoga and meditation. It's a great summer salad because it requires absolutely no cooking and makes you feel refreshed. It's definitely not summer here, but I ate it for lunch today because it is so quick to make, especially if you don't bother with the recipe's dressing. (Just drizzle some soy sauce and sesame oil on it instead.)

The brand of soft tofu I have is Phoenix Bean, and it's made here in Chicago. I highly recommend it. It seems beanier than most tofu I've had. According to Yelp, one can go buy their tofu directly from the factory. I'm excited to go there sometime and try their other tofus.

This salad is satisfying without being filling, and it makes me feel light and energized.

Japanese spa salad
Makes 1 salad; multiply recipe as necessary

4 oz. soft tofu, sliced
1/2 avocado, sliced
2 inches cucumber, sliced
1/2 sheet nori, crumbled
1 tsp sesame seeds

Dressing (makes enough dressing for several salads):
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp sugar

Mix dressing ingredients together. Arrange tofu, avocado, and cucumber on a plate. Sprinkle nori and sesame seeds on top. Drizzle with dressing.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Storing my cookie cutters

A friend on facebook mentioned that her mom had their cookie cutter collection hanging on their wall when she was growing up. I decided that would be a fun thing to do with my cookie cutters too. I have a few embroidery hoops lying around from when I used to screen print, so I used one as a frame. I might get super-fancy and paint it later.
This is what it looks like with the rest of the stuff on our kitchen wall:
Those are a poster of exotic fruits and vegetables in Danish and some French food postcards that I taped to a piece of poster board. I'm very pleased with the food-related decorations.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Earl Grey shortbread cookies

This is my second time making this recipe for Earl Grey shortbread cookies. The tea flavor is subtle but nice. I have never been a fan of shortbread cookies, but having a little extra flavor is nice, and I find them much tastier homemade than store-bought. The second time I made them, I changed up the method just a little both to account for the fact that I have a mixer but not a food processor and to make them rolled cookies instead of a log that would then be sliced. The rolling process was pretty time-intensive. I don't know if shortbread is meant to be rolled out, and it was kind of sticking to both the cutting board and the rolling pin. Flouring the pin didn't seem to help, so I'm not quite sure what the best way to deal with that would be, besides just being patient.

I didn't mind taking the time to roll them out since I just got a bunch of cute cookie cutters, as you can see in the above picture. I'm not sure what all of them are. There's definitely a dog, but there's also another one that's either a dog or a sheep. There is a hippo, too. That's nice. The one in the top left is either a foot or a bird that's sitting down. I kind of think it's a foot, so maybe it goes with the shark and umbrella as kind of a beach-themed set.

Earl Grey shortbread cookies

2 tbsp loose-leaf Earl Grey tea
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a coffee grinder or small food processor, grind the tea until it's not powdered but a bit more broken up than it started. Mix tea, flour, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Using a mixer or wooden spoon, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to roll out and cut into fun shapes. (Alternatively, you can follow the original recipe's suggestion that you roll the dough into a log, wrap in saran wrap, refrigerate, and cut into discs.)

Bake at 375 for 12 minutes, or until turning golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet a few minutes before transferring to cooling racks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cucumber-melon rocket pops

This is a work in progress. A few weeks ago, it was pretty hot, and I had half of a delicious melon. I'm not actually sure what kind. It was yellowish on the outside and light green on the inside. It was reminiscent of honeydew, but not quite the same. In any case, it was great: sweet, not too hard or soft, fragrant. We ate a lot of it just as melon, but I also wanted to try a fruit pop with melon. I also had a cucumber that had seen far better days and would have headed to the trash if I hadn't found a use for it. Cucumber and melon are friends, so I cut out the bad bits and added it to the melon. Earlier in the day I had impulse-bought some Tyku liqueur, which has melon and citrus flavors, so I decided to do something similar to the grapefruit-Campari pops I posted back in June. I blended up the melon and cucumber together, added a little sugar and Tyku, and froze them.

They're pretty good. They have a lot more texture than most pops because they're whole fruit rather than juice, and I like the texture a lot, but the mixture separated in the freezer, so the tip of the pop tastes sweet and alcoholic, but the rest of it is milder and has more chunks. I don't know how to keep it from separating, since I think it happens in the freezer before it freezes. Something I would tweak the next time is to add pineapple juice. I think the intense sweet-acid taste would be great with the cucumber and melon. I would probably leave out the alcohol as well. It definitely made a difference, but I don't know if the effect was better than it would have been without the alcohol. I could, however, see this going in the frozen cocktail direction with tequila or gin in place of the liqueur. Anyway, here's the recipe as I made it.

Cucumber-melon pops

2 cups cubed green melon
1 cup cubed cucumber
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup Tyku liqueur

Blend melon and cucumber together. Add sugar and liqueur. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Liptauer cheese spread

I saw this spread on 101 cookbooks months ago and have been wanting to try it since then. I finally got around to it a couple weeks ago. It is delightful on this thinly-sliced rye bread we like. I call it German health bread, but I don't think that's its technical name. We changed the recipe a little bit because we don't care much for capers, and we had green onions instead of shallots. The spread ended up a little salty. I think next time I will see if I can find a less salty goat cheese. I didn't add any salt, so that and the pickle were the only sources.

Liptauer cheese (adapted from 101 cookbooks)

8 oz goat cheese, room temperature
4 oz butter, room temperature
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp carraway seeds
1 green onion, sliced
1 tbsp diced pickle (we used standard dill, but I think a sweet pickle would be nice too)

Mix goat cheese and butter in a medium mixing bowl. Add paprika, mustard, and carraway seeds. Fold in green onion and pickle. Serve on bread or crackers.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Personal salad focaccia

Jon had the brilliant idea of personal focaccia salads, so we made that for lunch today. I don't think I cooked them quite enough, but they were pretty good. We saw figs on sale, so I sliced one up and put it on the focaccia before it cooked, along with some goat cheese. I also sliced one up for the top. Honestly, I felt like the cooked ones might have been a little too desserty. I'm on the fence about it. The concentrated sweetness was a little weird with the other salad ingredients, but the fig and warm goat cheese thing was pretty great. Maybe make one with and one without, and see how you like them.

Personal Salad Focaccia
Delicious lunch for 1.

1/4 recipe focaccia dough
2 figs, sliced
Goat cheese
Mixed greens
Basil leaves
Sliced avocado
Sliced red pepper
Sliced cucumber
Sunflower seeds
Pumpkin seeds
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Prep dough according to directions in this post. Before baking, put one sliced fig and some goat cheese on dough. Bake at 450 degrees for about 12-15 minutes, or until dough is golden. Top with the rest of salad ingredients. Dress to taste with oil and vinegar.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Grape-rosemary focaccia

This recipe from smitten kitchen had been on my to-make list for a long time. We moved into our new apartment last week, which means I finally had access to my stand mixer again. When I saw Concord grapes at the grocery store, I knew it was time to make this recipe! I made one for dinner on Sunday, and we took the other one to a concert in Millennium Park on Monday. They were delicious! It's more work than using the bread maker, mostly because you have to plan on being at home to do various stuff to the dough on a schedule. But darn it, they were tasty. They might work in a bread machine, too. I'll have to try.
I was initially disappointed with the Concord grapes I bought at the store because they didn't taste as Concordy as I thought they should. But the heat of the oven concentrated the flavors, and they were so good with the salt, olive oil, and rosemary. I'm not going to post the recipe because you can just follow the link at the beginning of the post. I made a few changes: I didn't have milk, and yogurt seemed to make a fine substitute. Water probably would have worked, too. I also added about twice as much rosemary for the second one. I thought the rosemary flavor was overwhelmed the first time. Next time, I'll probably add some rosemary to the dough as well. I baked mine on my pizza stone, and I think that (and the olive oil) made the crust really nice and crispy on the outside, but not hard through-and-through. We will probably use this recipe for other focaccias in the future.

I think I have mentioned my friend's blog The Weekly Pizza. Well, we've been inspired, and we're going to try to make weekly pizzas too. I love having structured projects like that, and one that leads me to eat more pizza is an extra bonus. Even though this is focaccia, I've decided that it counts as our first weekly pizza. Thanks for the inspiration, Golda!

I think I should close by gushing about how the kitchen smelled. While the dough was rising, there was a delicious yeasty smell in the air, which gave way to a buttery/olive oil-y bread-baking smell once it hit the oven. It was divine!
Don't expect leftovers.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cabbage-apple slaw

Well, I didn't win that Corner Bakery contest, so I guess I can post the cabbage-apple slaw recipe I referred to in the TLT post.

This bright, refreshing salad is a great side for sandwiches. You can use a milder crisp apple, like a Fuji, instead of the Granny Smith if you want to tone down the tartness. The amount of dressing may not sound like enough, but the goal is just to kiss the cabbage and apples with dressing so their flavor and crunch get to shine.

2 cups shredded red cabbage

1/2 Granny Smith apple, sliced into matchsticks

2 tbsp sliced almonds, toasted

1/2-inch slice fresh ginger, peeled and minced

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp soy sauce

Combine cabbage, apple, and almonds in a large bowl and stir or toss to mix. Combine ginger, lime juice, sesame oil, and soy sauce in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Pour dressing over cabbage, apple, and almonds. Toss to combine.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brown butter and corn quinoarborio risotto

I think that sometime in college or grad school I must have had some disappointing corn on the cob, because I was convinced that frozen corn was pretty much as good as fresh. Well, this summer, Jon has convinced me to get fresh ears, and I can't believe what a fool I was! This dish came about as an idea of how to use a corn broth if we were to make one with the leftover cobs. While I was making it, I discovered that I only had 2/3 of the arborio rice I needed, so I supplemented with some quinoa. The risotto was still nice and starchy, and I think the extra taste and texture from the quinoa was subtle but interesting. We put corn into the risotto while it cooked and garnished with fresh, raw kernels to get two different corn experiences.

We really loved this risotto. The brown butter base was rich, but it also allowed the corn flavor to shine. It made very comfy Sunday dinner.

Brown butter and corn quinoarborio risotto

3 ears corn, kernels separated from cobs
6 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp basil, divided
4 tbsp butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Cover corn cobs with water in a medium to large saucepan. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp basil and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Drain broth into another saucepan, squeezing liquid from cobs if possible. You can make the broth in advance. Just heat it up before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

Place butter in another medium to large saucepan, perhaps the one you just made broth in. Melt over medium heat and let cook until light brown, stirring or shaking pan occasionally. Add onion and 1/2 tsp basil and cook for about five minutes. Add 2/3 of the corn (about 3/4 cups) and cook until onions are soft. Add rice and quinoa and stir to coat with butter. Add about a cup of corn broth to the pot, stirring to combine. Let simmer. When most of the liquid has been absorbed, repeat until rice is tender. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Garnish with raw corn kernels.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Tempeh has always disappointed me. It is a fermented soy and grain product, and I always think it should taste way more interesting by itself than it actually does. The texture is interesting, but like tofu and soy milk, the taste by itself is rather bland. I rarely buy or eat it, but the other day I saw a good price and decided to try it again in the form of the veg deli standby, the TLT. I marinated the tempeh in soy sauce and liquid smoke to give it a little flavor. I thought the sandwiches were pretty good, and Jon really enjoyed them, so they might go into the rotation.

I served these sandwiches with the cabbage-apple slaw shown above. I entered that recipe into the Corner Bakery recipe contest, which does not allow recipes that have been published or posted online, so I'll hold off on sharing it. (I'm entering the contest both because it's fun to enter contests and because my mom told me about it. The grand prize is a trip to the company headquarters in Dallas. She wants me to win so I'll go visit her.)

This picture isn't quite as well-lit as the first one, but I forgot the lettuce in the first one.

For two sandwiches:

About 1/3 pack of tempeh, cut into 1/4-inch slices (five slices per sandwich was what we used)

Soy sauce

Liquid smoke

Vegetable oil for sautéing

1/3 cup mayo

1/2 tsp Penzey's Arizona Dreaming seasoning or other chili powder, optional

4 slices of bread

1 tomato, sliced

Butter, softened

2 leaves of lettuce

Marinate the tempeh in a little soy sauce and liquid smoke for a few minutes. Then saute in vegetable oil until browned. Set aside.

Mix Arizona Dreaming with mayo if you want to spice up your mayo a little. Spread on all pieces of bread. Place five tempeh strips and two or three tomato slices on two pieces of bread and then put the other pieces of bread on top. Melt a little butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and place the sandwiches on the skillet. Butter the tops. After a few minutes, flip the sandwiches, trying not to let the tempeh and tomato slices escape. Fry for a few more minutes and remove from heat. Add lettuce.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Jungle Sundaes

I've never disliked avocados, but the past few months I've been especially fond of them. Mostly, we add them to salads and sandwiches, but I decided to get a little crazy with them last week. The night before, I had made us a really simple banana split. Banana is unusual in that it is a creamy fruit. The next day as I was cutting into the salad avocado, I remembered that avocado was also a creamy fruit, and a delightfully wacky idea took form: avocado sundae! So we tried it that night: half an avocado, roughly chopped up, covered in cookies and cream ice cream, chocolate sauce, and chopped brazil nuts and cashews. Filled with trepidation, we dug into it, only to barely be able to taste the avocado. It tasted as good as any bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce and nuts, which is to say, good.

Emboldened by the fact that it didn't suck, we decided to decrease the ice cream to get more of the avocado flavor. I scooped half an avocado into a bowl, put two small scoops of ice cream on it, and drizzled, instead of drenched, it with chocolate sauce and brazil nuts. I wasn't hungry that night, but Jon wolfed it down and enjoyed it.

The next time, we decided to combine the creamy fruits and made what we have dubbed the Jungle Sundae:

1/2 banana, 1/2 avocado, 2 scoops vanilla ice cream, chopped brazil nuts and cashews, chocolate sauce.

It's a little big for one person, but so is a banana split. I don't actually know if avocados grow in the jungle. I think of them as coming from California and Mexico. But the other ingredients (bananas, vanilla, nuts, cacao) could come from the jungle, right?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Beet, basil, and cheese crackers

While Jon was waiting in line at the deli counter a few days ago, I spotted this intriguing Greek cheese called manouri. (you might remember it from the composed salad I posted yesterday.) The sticker near it said it was made with the whey from feta and sheep's milk cream. It wasn't very expensive, so I bought a little to try. We really enjoyed it. It's not as salty as feta, and it has a nice creamy texture that is kind of hard when it's still cold and gets very soft when it sits out a while. It's like a cross between feta and mozzarella.

These crackers were an after-dinner snack for me when dinner hadn't been quite enough, but I think they would also make nice summer party food. I think crostini would work in place of the crackers, too. I think beet instead of tomato on the cracker is tasty and a little different from what you might expect.

For two crackers:

2 Wasa or other sturdy crackers

4 slices manouri or other semi-soft cheese

4 leaves basil

1 medium beet, cooked, peeled, and sliced into rounds

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Top each cracker with 2 slices of cheese, 2 basil leaves, and half the beet rounds. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a tiny drizzle of olive oil.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Composed salad

This was the grand finale of salad week. I think the presentation of this salad was beautiful but highly impractical. Jon put the portions for both of us on one plate, and then we scooped it into our own bowls to eat. This made the lettuce end up at the top of the bowls, which was not ideal. I think in the future, we'll assemble it on two plates and either tear the lettuce or use knives to cut it up while we're eating.

I guess since this is the first time meat has appeared on this blog, now is a good time to come out as non-veg. To make a long story short, I started eating vegetarian about nine years ago for a variety of reasons, and I don't feel as strongly about them anymore, so I've reintroduced a little meat to the diet. But you probably won't see much meat here; I find a lot of it pretty boring.

Here's what was on our salad:

Romaine lettuce

Diced beet

Sliced hardboiled eggs

Cubed manouri cheese

Genoa salami

Green beans

Julienned cucumbers

Carrot coins




Jon made a lemon-basil vinaigrette that was just divine as the dressing.

It was a fittingly decadent end to salad week.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pasta salad

We took this salad to a lovely concert in Millennium Park. There is not much dressing but we found it to be plenty with the basil, feta and olives.

1/2 lb mini penne (I think shells or rotini would work well too)

2 big kale leaves

1/2 lb broccoli crown chopped small

20 grape tomatoes halved

10 olives (I used Kalamata and Alphonso) diced

feta crumbled

fresh basil sliced fine


1/2 lemon

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp olive oil




ground mustard


Cook the pasta in salted water. Add the broccoli 2 minutes before it is done. Drain in a colander lined with the kale. Let cool. Combine the ingredients. Dress with the dressing.

Dressing. Combine all ingredients except the oil. Let sit. Add the oil and stir well.

Jon's lemony potato salad:

This is a take on a potato salad from the New Basics cookbook. I like to not use much mayonnaise and to really taste the potato. I may use less than the recipe below.

Zest of 1 lemon

1/3 cup mayo

6 medium new potatoes

1/4 lb green beans

Lettuce, baby spinach or mixed greens


Combine mayo and lemon zest. Let sit for at least a couple hours. Or better yet refrigerate over night.

Remove the ends of the green beans. Chop into 1 in. pieces.

Quarter or eighth the potatoes (after cleaning them). Boil them in salted water until just a bit before desired doneness. Add green beans for 1 minute. Strain in a colander. Let cool.

Combine potatoes and beans with dressing and toss. Serve over the mixed greens.

Rice noodle salad (salad week begins)

Ev and I were in Utah for 25 days or so. We cooked a lot while we were there but we did not have many of our supplies, so we were kind of limited. We also did eat out more than we are used to. So when we got back on Tuesday we were craving a return to our usual food. So began our week of salads. This is a rice noodle salad, which is mostly uncooked. I resisted the urge to put eggplant in because lately I have been feeling that I add it to everything. As always with my recipes, the measurements are very approximate guesses. As you can see from the pictures, I arranged Evelyn's very artfully on a plate and threw mine in a bowl.

Rice noodle salad:

3 big leaves of kale torn into pieces

6 oz. rice noodles

grape tomatoes

r. pepper sliced thin

16 slices cucumber

extra firm tofu, pressed

sliced white mushrooms (my salad only; Ev doesn't like mushrooms that much)


2 in fresh ginger minced

1 1/2 Tbs soy

1 1/2 Tbs rice vinegar

1 pinch sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

Boil water and cook rice noodles.

Fry the tofu in a dry (un-oiled) non-stick pan over medium high heat. It will take a while for it to release its water, during which time it does not really brown. Continue until the tofu is brown all over (flip it occasionally of course). When done remove and turn off heat. Put the kale on the still hot pan. This should be enough to cook the kale if you make sure all parts spend some time touching the hot pan.

Combine the non-dressing ingredients. Then pour the dressing over.


Combine the first 4 ingredients and let sit. Add the sesame oil and stir well.

This was quite a good salad.

Weird corn salad

This next salad was based on the fact that corn was on sale and I love fresh corn. One can make all sorts of great corn salads that are more or less bean-y and more or less salsa-ish. I wanted to do something different. It ended up tasting good because all of the components were good but it is not all the way there yet.

3 ears corn (these were smallish)

1/2 lb eggplant

14 grape or cherry tomatoes quartered

15 mint leaves finely chopped.

1/2 lime

Cook the corn. Cut it off the cob and let cool.

Slice eggplant and salt. Let sit for about 20 minutes. Rinse and then dice. Fry in oil. Put between paper towels to remove oil and let cool.

When cool combine the ingredients and squeeze the lime over the top.


Ev suggested removing the eggplant. She did not think that its texture worked. She also suggested adding black beans and avocado and maybe some basil. This would end up as a take on the classic bean-y corn salad with mint and basil in place of cilantro and grape tomatoes instead of usual tomatoes. It would probably be pretty good (classics get that way for a reason).

I, however, want to go big. Ditch the tomatoes (too acidic). Roast (or grill) the diced eggplant. Juice the lime separately and add honey to it. Add some diced chicken. I still feel like it needs something else. Can you help me?

We have not tried either of these variations.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Two things to do with radishes

A few weeks ago, The Weekly Pizza got me thinking about radishes. I don't do that very much. I don't dislike radishes, but I have never felt compelled to eat them much. To me, they are basically boring crunchy, slightly peppery things that I ignore at salad bars. Then I saw this sugar snap salad recipe with radishes, feta, and sumac in the most recent Bon Appetit and decided to give it a try. I have also heard that slicing radishes and putting them on buttered bread is good, so I had that on the side for dinner.

Slicing radishes is really fun. I was pleased with how thin I could get them. I actually had to keep myself from slicing as thinly as possible because the flavor was more pronounced with thicker slices. They made me feel like a knife skills champ.
The salad was pretty good. I think my sumac is a bit old, so fresh sumac would probably have even more punch. And my good olive oil was very nice in this recipe. I will definitely keep it in the summer potluck rotation. I've been using my lentil and quinoa salads a lot, and it's nice to have something else to toss in there. I am a leftover fan, but the leftovers of the salad weren't great. They weren't bad, but the radishes lost most of their crunch, and the pink leached out of their skins, so the feta was a weird rosy color. So I'd recommend making just as much as you think you can eat in one sitting.

The buttered bread with radishes was good, but I don't think it was any better than buttered bread without radishes. So if you feel the need to eat some radishes, both of these dishes are good, but I still don't think I like radishes enough to spend money on them on a regular basis. I haven't tried the radish leaves yet, though. I think they might be a nice addition to a regular lettuce salad. Perhaps I'll start buying radish bunches just for the leaves. I kind of do that with beets already. Beets are good, but I like beet greens even more.

I'm not including the recipes because I followed the magazine recipe basically word-for-word, so you can just use the link above, and I'm pretty sure you're smart enough to slice up radishes and put them on buttered bread without a recipe.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Two things to do with olive oil

As I mentioned in a recent post, we got some really good olive oil recently. It's this stuff from California.
In the past, I've mostly stuck to imported Greek and Italian olive oils, but they had samples of this out at a local grocery store, and it's a great finishing oil. It's fairly bitter and grassy and assertive, but still fresh. While dousing bread in olive oil and balsamic is awesome, I've been trying to highlight this excellent oil in other ways as well. Here are two recipes I made this week that tasted good and let the olive oil stand out. The bulgur salad is a variation on something we do pretty often. The crostini came about because I saw a pickled cherry recipe in a recent Bon Appetit and just had to make it. (By the way, I didn't pit the cherries before pickling them, and I think they're fine.) It's pretty good, but I'll probably tinker with it when I make it again. I find it a little too acidic, and I feel like the cherry flavor would stand out more if I left them in the hot liquid for a shorter amount of time and decreased the vinegar a bit. But the rosemary is great in there! This seemed like a logical way to use up some pickled cherries. I think the crostini would be even better with a nice creamy chevre in place of the feta, but feta was what I had.

Bulgur salad

1 cup coarsely ground bulgur
pinch of salt
3/4 cups halved grapes
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
a big spring of mint, leaves julienned
juice of 1/2 lemon
olive oil

Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add the bulgur and a pinch of salt, turn off heat, and let bulgur steam until the water has been absorbed. If all the water has been absorbed and the bulgur isn't tender enough, add another 1/4-1/2 cup of water, bring to a boil, and turn off heat to let it steam a little more. In the meantime, place the grapes and celery in a medium mixing bowl. Add the cooked bulgur and dress with mint, lemon juice, and oil. Serve by itself or over a regular salad with lettuce, tomatoes, red peppers, and cucumbers, like I did.

Pickled cherry and feta crostini
Makes 1. Increase as necessary.

1 slice Italian bread
2 tsp crumbled feta cheese or a big smear of goat cheese
4 pickled cherries, pits removed and cherries chopped into 8ths
Black pepper
Olive oil

Toast the bread. I don't have a toaster, so I spread a little butter on it and fried it for a few minutes in a skillet, but toasting/grilling/broiling would work too. (I didn't want to use the oven for just one piece of bread.) Place cheese on bread and add cherries to the top. Sprinkle with black pepper and pour a little olive oil on it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Featured bike date

We're featured in Simply Bike's {bike date} series today. Hop on over to read about a day spent riding through the vineyards of Burgundy!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


We impulse-bought a loaf of nice Italian bread one evening last week because we got some great olive oil and wanted to have an excuse to sop it up. The next day, the half we hadn't eaten was rock-hard, so we made this panzanella to use it up. I have always been wary of panzanella and fattoush, a Middle Eastern bread salad, because I don't like soggy bread. One of the only dishes Jon has made that I have disliked to the point of not eating it was a gazpacho that was thickened with bread. Yuck! (I'm not wild about cold soup anyway, which I probably should have mentioned when he suggested a gazpacho. I want to like gazpacho, but I just prefer my soups hot.) But last year, my friend Bridget brought a panzanella to a potluck, and I really liked it, so when life handed me really stale bread, I decided to try it.

I used the dressing recipe that Bridget did, which was Ina Garten's, but I improvised the rest of the ingredients. The dressing called for raw garlic, which I usually shy away from, but it was alright. I might try sauteing the garlic next time to take the edge off. This was a nice light supper, and we managed to eat the whole thing. I don't think leftover panzanella would be good.

Panzanella (source: Ina Garten, via my friend)

1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 pinch salt
Ground pepper to taste
Dried basil, thyme, and oregano, to taste

1/2 loaf stale bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, cut into 1-inch chunks
8 Kalamata olives, halved
2 tbsp feta cheese, crumbled

Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. A few minutes before you want to eat, dress the salad and stir it around to distribute. Let it sit for a few minutes, then serve.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Corn and red pepper quiche

We bought a couple ears of corn last week but didn't get around to using them for a while. Quiche was on the menu for the week. We were thinking about going with broccoli, but I thought a corn and red pepper quiche might be just crazy enough to work. I was thinking of the texture of corn pudding or very soft cornbread with whole-kernel corn in it, and what we ended up with was similar to that. The contrast between the crunchy kernels and the soft egg is a little strange, but we liked it. Fresh basil would be great in this, but we only had dried.

Corn and red pepper quiche

1 quiche shell

1/2 tbsp butter
2 ears corn, kernels cut off the cob
1 red pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, cut into thin slices
1/2 tsp dried basil

3 eggs
1 cup half-and-half or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup cream
1/3 cup cheese (we used a combination of Gruyere and another Swiss we had), grated or finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt

Prebake the quiche shell in a 375 oven for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, melt the butter in a saute pan and saute the corn and red pepper, stirring occasionally, until they have some nice browning action going on. Let cool.

Combine the eggs, half-and-half, cheese, and salt in a mixing bowl. When the corn mixture has cooled, add it to the egg mixture and pour into the quiche shell. Bake at 375 until the quiche has set, about 30-40 minutes.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Jerk miscellany

I gave away most of our pantry foods before leaving Houston, but spices are small and expensive enough that it was worthwhile to bring them up to Chicago. While I was cleaning out my spice cabinet, I discovered this jerk seasoning blend I had made, used once, and forgotten about, so when I got up here, I wanted to use it. We made this last week as a fridge clean-out meal. We had half a butternut squash leftover from an excellent risotto, some cooked rice from making burritos, and part of a bunch of kale that was on its last legs. Without the rice, I think this would also make a good filling for a savory pie. I've never actually had Jamaican meat or veggie pies, so I don't really know, but it seems plausible.

Jerk miscellany

1 tbsp oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 lb butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
3/2-inch piece ginger, minced
5/4 tsp jerk seasoning
1/4 tsp salt
1 can black beans, or 2 cups cooked black beans (if using non-canned, add more salt)
1 cup cooked rice
5 leaves of kale, hard stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped

Saute the onion, squash, and pepper in the oil until the squash is almost tender. Add the garlic, ginger, jerk seasoning, and salt, stir to combine, and cook for one minute. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until squash is done and kale is wilted.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Grapefruit-Campari rocket pops

I have successfully moved from Houston to Chicago, so Jon and I are together again! The weather here has been a bit unpredictable. It was perfect the day I got here, rainy and cold for the next five days, sticky-hot for the next two, perfect again yesterday, and pretty good today, but on the hot/humid side. Our apartment has no air conditioning or fans, and because of the position on the building and the fact that we only have windows on one side, we get very little breeze, so the sticky-hot days were nearly unbearable. It's very strange for me. I am used to being warm, and I even like it. Except for a few days when my mom was visiting, I used no air conditioning in the summer of 2007, which I spent in Houston. But I had a fan and a great breeze coming in over my bed at night. Without those, it's really tough to make it through the summer. So we're going to have to invest in a fan or air conditioning, since we can't do much about the breeze thing.

Until then, we're eating these popsicles to cool down! I based it on this recipe in the most recent Bon Appetit, but I subbed grapefruit for orange juice and omitted the lemon juice altogether. I love grapefruit and Campari, both separately and together, so it seemed natural to me. I froze them in these cute rocket popsicle molds. The recipe made about twice as much liquid as the molds could take, so I still have some in the fridge for when we've eaten more pops. I had six molds, and they hold a little over 1/4 cup each, so if you make them, you might want to halve the recipe. The next time I make these, I might omit the simple syrup altogether. The pops are pleasant as is, but I have a high tolerance for bitter flavors, so I might like them without the sugar.

When I was a kid, my mom was the queen of juice popsicles. I think she used concentrated fruit juice and reconstituted it to about double strength and froze them in these great molds that had sippy straws at the bottom so as it melted, you could sip the juice out. The rocket molds lack that important feature. Getting out the last bit of juice invoves more contortions and has a high probability of a sticky face. I don't know how many popsicles she made every day during the summers. There were three kids, our friends, and my dad, who is quite the frozen dessert lover. I think she had at least four sets of six molds, and she probably went through them all several times a week, trying to keep us in somewhat-healthier-than-sugar-water popsicles.

Grapefruit-Campari pops

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 3/4 cups grapefruit juice
1/3 cup Campari

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Refrigerate syrup until cold. When cold, combine all ingredients, stir, and pour into popsicle molds. Freeze until frozen (ours were not quite ready at the four-hour mark, but we ate one anyway).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The best ever asparagus tart

My mom has made this tart (I would call it a quiche, but what do I know?) several times, most recently yesterday for lunch with some of her church lady friends and today for lunch with my grandparents. It's delicious and makes a great meal with fruit or a green salad. It comes from a cookbook written by former First Lady of Alabama Patsy Riley. One of my second cousins was the social secretary for the governor, Bob Riley, and one year she gave us the cookbook for Christmas. Her husband was the head of security for the governor, and he is even mentioned in the book on page 47! The cookbook has a more varied selection than you might expect. It has a lot of standard Southern recipes, but she also included a section with a recipe from the first family of every state (the Palins sent a salmon recipe and a black cod recipe, both of which look pretty good) and a section of recipes from a few of the first ladies of the nation. The one for Abigail Adams involves larding a salmon with a skinned eel. I don't think I'll be attempting that. My mom has had fun trying some of the recipes, and this one is definitely a keeper!

Best Ever Asparagus Tart
(from When the Dinner Bells Rings at the Governor's Mansion by Patsy Riley)

1 pie crust, store-bought or homemade
1 lb asparagus spears
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup half and half
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 eggs
2 cups (about 8 oz) shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup (about 4 oz) grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Place the pie crust in a lightly greased 9-inch pie or tart pan and bake for 12 minutes. Let stand until cool, and leave the oven on.

Snap or cut off the bottom of the asparagus spears. Cut the spears into 3-inch pieces. Steam or blanch the asparagus, drain, and set aside.

Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and saute until tender, about 7 minutes.

Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, half and half, flour, and eggs in a mixing bowl and beat until blended. Stir in the onion mixture and Swiss cheese. Arrange the asparagus in the pie shell and pour the cream cheese mixture on top. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Jasmine tapioca pudding

This rather unphotogenic pudding is like eating bubble tea: milk, jasmine tea, and tapioca. I saw the idea in a cookbook but based the recipe on the back of the box of tapioca. I was trying to use the last of the tapioca before my move (in just eight days!), so I added about twice the amount of tapioca, and it was definitely too congealed. The recipe below reflects what I think would be a better ratio. I found the jasmine taste to be a little strong and soapy the first day, but it mellowed as it aged, and it's really nice a few days later.

Jasmine tapioca pudding

2 3/4 cups milk
3 tbsp loose jasmine tea
1/4 cup minute tapioca (or quick-cooking, not the stuff you have to soak overnight)
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten

Bring milk and tea to steaming point (probably around 180 F) in a medium saucepan. Turn off heat and steep for ten minutes. Strain and discard tea leaves.
Combine milk, tapioca, sugar, and egg in saucepan again. Let sit for five minutes. Turn heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and eat warm, room temperature, or chilled.

Monday, May 2, 2011

BBQ pizza

Inspired by Golda of The Weekly Pizza, whose mission I admire very much, I decided to make a bbq pizza for lunch on Saturday. I used my go-to half whole wheat crust. I jazzed it up a bit more than Golda did, adding kale and pineapple, two of my favorite pizza ingredients. Next time, I might use more sauce or a spicy wing sauce like she did. The sauce kind of disappeared, even though I thought I put a pretty thick layer on. My sauce was sweet prepared bbq sauce mixed with a spicier steak sauce in equal portions.
I intended to use both "pizza blend" and blue cheese, but I forgot to add the blue cheese. That might have been too much, though, with the extra ingredients. The end result was a pretty satisfying pizza, and I think it was even better as dinner the next day, although maybe that's just because I was really hungry!

BBQ pizza

1/3 cup steak sauce
1/3 cup prepared BBQ sauce1/4 pound firm tofu, pressed and cut into 1-inch cubes
Vegetable oil for sauteing
1/2 medium onion, sliced into half-rings
3 kale leaves, washed and coarsely chopped
1 pizza dough, rolled out
1 cup (or so-I didn't measure) pizza cheese
8 oz diced pineapple

Mix steak sauce and BBQ sauce in a medium bowl. Place tofu in a large container with a sealable lid and spoon some sauce onto it until it's covered. Marinate for about 30 minutes. Spread in a single layer on a baking pan. Bake in an oven or toaster oven at 350 for about 30 minutes, turning once while cooking. The tofu should be a little chewy. Set aside.

Pour oil into a saute pan. Add onion and cook, disturbing only occasionally, until onion is soft and has browned a little. Add the kale and cook until wilted. Set aside.

Spread remaining sauce on pizza dough, or make up some more if necessary. Cover with pizza cheese and add tofu, pineapple, and kale, in that order. Bake in preheated 425-degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until crust is done.