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).