Thursday, April 26, 2012


I like Rubens and Flemish painting in general. I also love the Reuben sandwich. I have my own ideas on it which I will now share. I like to make my Reubens on the skinny side. This makes it easier to balance ratios, not get super messy and reasonable for an any day lunch. I am trying to find the best reuben in our neighborhood, and so far mine wins. (Salonica is the best restaurant reuben we've found so far.)

For this recipe I do not heat the sauerkraut or corned beef ahead of time. It improves the sandwich a bit if you do, but I usually don't want to take the time (I am often already hungry). As usual measurements are approximate.

Best Reuben in Hyde Park

4 slices of Corned beef
2 slices seeded rye (a pumpernickel rye might be even better)
2 oz or so sauerkraut
3 slices swiss cheese
Thousand island dressing (1/2 oz?)
a little mustard

Put the mustard on one slice of bread and top with the corned beef. Put the cheese on the other. (This will insulate the bread from the liquids.) On top of the corned beef put the sauerkraut and top that with the dressing. Close the sandwich.

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Put the sandwich on. Put a weight on the sandwich (like a heavy pot). After a couple of minutes remove the sandwich and melt some more butter in the pan. Put the other side of the sandwich down. Put a weight on the sandwich. Cook for a couple of minutes and then serve. I like to serve it with a pickle spear (Hyde Park Produce's deli section has good pickles) and chips.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Deconstructed guacamole quesa-jitas

I have been threatening to make deconstructed guacamole for a while, and on Saturday I finally followed through. I used it as the key ingredient in dinner, which was something between a quesadilla and fajita. I used up some leftover tofu in it too.

For fellow southsiders, Hyde Park Produce tends to have good avocados at a reasonable (maybe even cheap) price.

Deconstructed guacamole

2 firm avocados, chopped
1/2 tomato, chopped
Corn, optional
Cilantro, optional

Juice of 1/2 lime
1 healthy shake arizona dreaming or other chili powder
1 shake chipotle powder
1 shake cajun seasoning or seasoned salt
2 pinches cumin
1 pinch coriander
1 shake tabasco

Combine ingredients.

I served this on tortillas with sautéed onions, dry fried tofu, tomato slices, cheese, sour cream and jalapenos. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pineapple matcha smoothie

This is a green smoothie, but the green is from matcha (powdered green tea) instead of bona fide greens. It's a delicious way to start the morning, mostly sweet with some bitterness from the tea.

Pineapple matcha smoothie

1/2 banana
1/2 cup orange or pineapple juice
3/4 cup frozen pineapple pieces
1 tsp matcha

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rice-stuffed peppers

I made some stuffed peppers. The stuffing is basically risotto, but made less fussily than we usually do. The measurements below are approximate, but they should give you an idea of what we did. When I make them again I will cook them with plenty of space and rotate occasionally so the whole pepper gets roasted and not just the top. And I'll add some fresh herbs.

Rice-stuffed peppers

Green peppers cored, with seeds removed

1/2 tbsp butter

1 cup Arborio rice

3 cups broth

1/2 large onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tomato, chopped

2 leaves swiss chard, chopped

1/2 ball mozzarella

Heat the broth. In another pot put in the rice with some butter over a low heat. Add one cup of broth to rice, stir and simmer. As the broth gets absorbed add about 1/2 cup of broth at a time to the rice to keep it just submerged. Stir occasionally.

Saute onions about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook about two more. Add tomato and cook until done, about 5 more minutes.

When the rice is done mix with the chard to help wilt the chard slightly. Mix in the sauteed vegetables and mozzarella.

Stuff the peppers.

Cook on 400 for about 30 minutes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Crepe envelopes with mushroom-chard filling

Jon was away last weekend, so I wanted to make something special for him when he came back last night. (I'm like Ina Garten that way.) I decided on these stuffed crepes. We had made them one other time when a friend came over for dinner, but I tweaked and improved the recipe a bit this time. These are buckwheat crepes with a yummy, creamy filling. I decided to go with a crepe recipe that had some wheat flour as well instead of the all-buckwheat version I often make because I thought the wheat would help the crepes stay pliable for folding. Next time I might try with the all-buckwheat ones.

I based the filling on a caramelized leek and mushroom filling I saw in a cookbook, but I used onions instead of leeks because I am not sophisticated enough to care about leeks, and I added chard because I don't like mushrooms that much, and the chard takes some of the focus away from the mushrooms. If I do say so myself, it's a pretty darn good filling: creamy, flavorful, and rich-tasting. Jon is insane and adds Tabasco sauce to his.

This dinner was a bit time-consuming and involved, but I think it's a really nice, elegant looking meal. Jon was very appreciative. Of course, I served it with a salad as well. (And a ginger cake that will appear on the blog soon.)

Crepe envelopes with mushroom-chard filling

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup water, plus extra if necessary
2 tbsp butter, melted

2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 lb assorted mushrooms, sliced (I used a mix of shiitake and crimini, but that's just because the store was low on mushroom variety)
5 leaves Swiss chard, stems separated, both stems and leaves chopped
1/2 tsp salt, divided (1/4 tsp and 1/4 tsp)
zest of 1 lemon
5 leaves sage, julienned
3/4 cup yogurt
1 egg
1/2 cup grated cheese (we used Gruyere, but any hard cheese would probably be good)

To make the crepes: Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and whisk the egg, milk, and 1/3 cup water together in another bowl. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry. Whisk in melted butter. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour. Remove from refrigerator, whisk in a little more water if necessary to make an easy-to-pour batter. Make crepes by heating a crepe or nonstick pan with a flat bottom over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto pan and turn to spread as evenly as possible. Cook until bottom is golden brown. Turn and cook a little more on the other side, so it has brown flecks as well. Repeat, and set crepes aside in a warm oven or microwave to keep them warm and pliable. (I actually made the filling first and then the crepes, so they wouldn't get too cool.)

To make filling: Saute onions in oil until very soft. Add mushrooms, chard stems, and 1/4 tsp salt, and cook until mushrooms are very soft and have given off their water. Add leaves and lemon zest, and cook until leaves are just wilted. Turn off heat and stir in sage leaves.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine yogurt, and egg. Whisk until smooth, and then stir in cheese, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, and vegetable mixture.

To assemble crepes: Spray a baking pan with nonstick spray, and preheat the oven to 350 F. Place one crepe "face"-side down (the face is the first side you cook; it's a little more attractive than the other side). Spoon some filling in the middle. Fold top and bottom over filling, then left and right sides, to make a little pouch. Place seam-side down in your baking pan. Repeat with the rest of the crepes. Bonus points if you have exactly the right amount of filling for the crepes. If you have extra crepes, you can eat them with butter and a little salt.

Bake crepes for 15 minutes or so. I'm not really sure how to tell if they're done visually, but 15 minutes worked for me.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pineapple-spinach smoothie

So far, kale has been my favorite green to put in green smoothies (no surprise there), but I've used spinach and chard too. Spinach has a more assertive taste, and it's been a bit overwhelming in a couple of my smoothies. I found that pineapple stands up to spinach pretty well, so that's been my spinach smoothie strategy. You still get some nice spinach notes without feeling like you're drinking a spinach salad. And the color is gorgeous to boot.

Pineapple-spinach smoothie

1/2 cup orange or pineapple juice
3/4 cup frozen pinapple
1/2 banana
Big handful spinach (maybe about 1/2 cup?)
1 tbsp ground flax seed


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Triple-dairy dal

I checked an Indian cookbook out of the library a few months ago hoping for some new dal ideas, but the recipes are way too rich. Their recipe for this dish calls for 1/2 cup butter (that's an entire stick), 1/2 cup cream, and 1 cup yogurt. I followed the "make it the way the recipe says the first time" rule, and I ended up making another cup of lentils to add to the sauce because it was way too rich. This time, I eighth'd the amount of butter and cream and quartered the amount of yogurt, and it worked a lot better. I made a few other modifications, like adding chard and ginger, and I think those modifications helped too. If you've never tried toor dal, also known as split pigeon peas, it's got a great flavor. I can't describe it very well, but it's a disctinctive nuttiness and richness. I'm really glad we got some back in September on our Indian grocery expedition.

We served this with broccoli we had cooked with mustard, cumin, and coconut. Next time, some rice or naan would be great to soak up the extra sauce, but I didn't think of it until the meal was almost ready.

Triple-dairy dal

1 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas)
3 cups water
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 tbsp butter, divided (1/2 tbsp and 1 tbsp)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

1 tbsp cream
1/4 cup yogurt, plus more for serving
2 leaves Swiss chard, finely sliced

Place the toor dal, water, turmeric, chili powder, and garlic in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until dal texture is to your liking.

In the meantime, melt 1/2 tbsp butter in a small frying pan. Add cumin seeds and about 30 seconds later, add onion and ginger. Saute until onions are soft.

After dal is ready, turn off heat and stir in 1 tbsp butter, cream, and yogurt. Bring to a simmer and cook for another five minutes or so. Then add chard and stir to wilt. Serve with a dollop of yogurt on top.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Eggplants roasting on an open fire

As the weather has been improving in Chicago, I have had an increasing hankering for different salads and spreads. Motivated by this, I have been making a lot of eggplant lately in a new (for me way): Cooking directly over the flame from our gas burner. It makes a really great smokey flavor. I just hold it with a pair of tongs and turn it as it cooks.
Below are some dishes I've made with it. The first has a southeast Asian twist, and the second is more Greek or Turkish, like baba ganoush without the tahini.

Lime-y eggplant spread

1 lb eggplant

1 lime juiced
2 in. ginger diced
1 Tbsp soy
2 dashes toasted sesame oil
1 dash rice vinegar
1/4 tsp honey

Rice noodles

Spring mix
1 tomato sliced
1 red pepper julienned
2 scallions diced

Roast the eggplant over a burner. Peel the blackened skin. Mash it. Add the next six ingredients. Can be made a day ahead.

Cook the rice noodles. Combine rice noodles, spring mix, tomato, red pepper and scallion with the eggplant mixture and serve.

Decadent eggplant spread
1 lb eggplant
lots of olive oil

Roast the eggplant over a burner. Peel the blackened skin. Mash eggplant with olive oil. Keep adding olive oil to the eggplant until it absorbs as much as it can. The mixture may turn whitish. If, when you open the container the next day, a lot of the oil has separated out, dont worry, it means you did it right.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tea eggs

I've made these tea eggs a few times over the past few years. They're a traditional Chinese snack, or so the internet tells me. The flavoring is mostly from soy sauce, but the spices and tea give the eggs a very complex flavor. I don't remember where I got the recipe; I have it written on a piece of paper and stuck to the fridge.
The marbled surface of the eggs comes from partially hardboiling them, then cracking the shells all over before cooking the rest of the way and and steeping them for a few hours or overnight. You have to crack the eggs pretty well to get the marbling. Here's one example of how mine looked before steeping.
Tea eggs

6 eggs
3/4 cups soy sauce
2 star anise
2 tbsp black or oolong tea
1 tsp sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp peppercorns
Some tangerine or orange peel

Place eggs in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 3 minutes.

Run eggs under cold water and, when cool enough to touch, crack all over with a spoon. Return to saucepan with still-hot water.

Add soy sauce, star anise, tea, sugar, cinnamon, peppercorns, and citrus peel. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and simmer for 40 minutes. Turn off heat and let steep for a few hours or overnight.