Saturday, July 31, 2010

Roasted beet, avocado and bacon grilled cheese sandwiches

Greatest. Sandwich. Ever.

No, really. Roasted beets, avocado and bacon on a grilled cheese sandwich made out of goat cheese. Nothing else, just those four ingredients and bread. It was AMAZING. And just look at the color contrast between the beets and the avocado. Isn't that pretty?

Admittedly, I ran out of goat cheese and switched to Jarlsburg for a couple of sandwiches, which was fine, but not nearly as transcendent as the goat cheese.

To make these, roast two to three beets ahead of time. To roast beets, just wrap them in foil and throw them in a 375 oven for the better part of an hour or until you can pierce them straight through with a fork. Let cool, and peel. (Be careful when peeling and slicing, as beet juice stains abominably.) Then, fry up some bacon and slice some ripe avocadoes. Try not to eat all the bacon. Coat two pieces of bread in goat cheese and pan-fry in a little butter lightly, until the bread is browned and the cheese is melty. Add the beets, avocado and bacon. Pour yourself a glass of sauvignon blanc. Eat, and experience the taste explosion.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Cookbook review: The Art of Eating In

Not really a cookbook (though it does have recipes!). The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove ($16.32 at Amazon) is the story of one New Yorker's two-year commitment to quit spending money on take-out and restaurants, and her blog about the same, She cooks a lot, discovers freeganism, wild foraging, underground restaurants, and cook-offs, and saves tons of money in the process. Plus she gives a shout-out to my hero Michael at A Razor, A Shiny Knife (see accounts of my adventures with ARASK here, here and here).

I could have written this book, which is one of the reasons I found it such an interesting read. Though I never swore off restaurants entirely in New York (much to my credit card's chagrin), I ate out far, far less than everyone around me. In fact, these days, eating out is a rare, much-planned event for me, requiring a significant outlay of time and capital, because I don't see the point in spending money on something I can do better myself--therefore, I'll only eat in restaurants that I'm assured will surpass my own level of cooking. Meaning, I will never spend money at McDonald's, Applebee's or Papa John's again.

So it's not impossible to completely swear off convenience food. In New York, eating out constantly is taken for granted. Witness Carrie's oven in "Sex and the City," which she used for fashion magazine storage. So if writer Cathy Erway (and I) can do it, so can you!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Feta, spinach and bacon pizza

Another yummy pizza combo, using the standard pizza crust. Usually I make a double batch of pizza dough, and make two pizzas. This time I only made one pizza with the double batch, meaning my crust was extra thick and chewy.

I layered, in order:
olive oil
one caramelized onion
lots of pre-cooked bacon, in chunks
a thin layer of shredded mozzarella
one package thawed frozen spinach, with all the water squeezed out
two handfuls of crumbled feta

As always, cook for 15-20 minutes at 475.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fried green tomatoes!

Mmmmm mmmmm, fried green tomatoes. It's not just a sappy chick flick. I know my Southern is showing, but damn, they're good. If you haven't partaken of the joys of fried green tomatoes before, you really need to. These are REALLY good in a BLT on sourdough. Or just by themselves.

Green tomatoes, thickly sliced (ends and all)
1-2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup cornmeal plus 2-3 tablespoons flour
Seasonings (I use salt and dry rub, but cayenne/chili powder or Old Bay would also be good)

Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the eggs in another. Coat the tomato slices in the egg wash, then coat with the cornmeal mixture, and fry until dark golden brown on both sides.

I typically fry mine in bacon grease, 'cause I'm hedonistic like that. But you can also use plain old regular vegetable oil. Make sure you have at least 1/4 inch in the pan, and also make sure that it's good and hot before you put the tomato slices in.

Serve hot, with salt.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Good cheap-ass marinara sauce

The cornerstone of any cheap-ass kitchen is a good all-purpose pasta sauce. Now, granted, any tomato sauce is vastly improved by using fresh tomatoes. If you're overrun with fresh tomatoes, like so many people are this time of year, use those. But I make this with one ginormous 102-oz can of whole tomatoes from Sam's Club (cost: $3.08), and it's still yummy. And easy.

Note: if you're going to use canned tomatoes, use whole canned tomatoes. Canning companies use the very best tomatoes for the cans of whole. Diced tomatoes are second-best quality, and by the time you get down to crushed tomatoes, you're essentially buying tomato trash. Buy the whole ones, they taste better, and use your hand to crush them before adding them to the sauce. It's a great way to take out some aggression. And it tastes better.

Note number two: if you're using fresh tomatoes, peel them by dropping them whole into a bot of boiling water. Let them sit in there for a minute, then remove to a bowl of ice water. Make a slit in the bottom, and the skin should peel right off, like removing a sock. From there cut them open and scoop out the seeds. Use the remaining tomato flesh for the sauce.

1 onion, chopped
6-7 cloves of garlic, chopped
olive oil
1 can anchovies
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 102-oz can of whole tomatoes, plus juice
1 cup red wine
Seasonings to taste: basil, oregano, thyme, salt
1-2 bay leaves.

Add the onion and garlic to the olive oil and saute until soft and translucent. Add the can of anchovies and let cook for another minute. Whisk the tomato paste with maybe 1/4 cup of water and add that. Let cook down for another few minutes and add the wine. Let that reduce by 1/3, then add everything else and simmer on low for 2 hours.

102 ounces of tomatoes is a lot, so you can use what you want for dinner and freeze the rest for future use.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cost analysis: what we ate last week

This is a pretty interesting exercise, figuring out how much your meals cost you each week. Everything my husband and I consumed last week, not factoring in the cost of spices and seasonings and the electricity used to run the stove, cost us $32.79. That's not bad for two people, three meals a day (plus snacks), for a week. Almost everything was purchased in bulk.

Green tea: free at work
Consumed outside of work: 5 bags. 160 bags at $7.34 = 5 cents each, so 25 cents total

Breakfast for the week: $3.31, or around 38 cents per breakfast
1.5 cups steel-cut oatmeal, 60 cents
1/2 cup heavy cream, $3.47 for 2 pints so ½ cup = approximately 43 cents
2 cups white peaches, free (scavenged from work)
2 cups strawberries, free (also scavenged)
1/3 bag dried berries, $6.84 / 3 = $2.28

Monday lunch: (which I’m not calculating, as this Sunday’s leftover will stretch to the following Monday’s lunch)
Him: leftover vegetable soup
Me: leftover zucchini cakes from Sunday’s dinner

Monday dinner: refried bean enchiladas. $5.48 for 12, or 45 cents each; 2 per serving so each serving .90
3 cans refried beans at 81 cents each plus lots of hot sauce
1 can tomato sauce at 91 cents, heavily seasoned
12 flour tortillas; $3.98 for 100 so 12 = 4 cents each
¼ block of pepper jack cheese at $6.64; $1.66

Tuesday lunch:
Him: 2 leftover enchiladas
Me: leftover zucchini cakes from Sunday’s dinner (also not counting)

Tuesday dinner:
Leftover enchiladas all around

Wednesday lunch:
Him: 2 leftover enchiladas
Me: 2 bagels with cream cheese (free, scavenged from work)

Wednesday dinner:
Corn and black bean pizza with pepper jack cheese, $1.92 total for four servings or 48 cents per serving
Pizza crust: 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup bread flour, yeast = 50 cents total
4 cups of flour per pound, $3.95 for five pounds of whole wheat flour = 20 cents per cup = 40 cents
1 cup bread flour = $5.99 for 25 pounds = 6 cents
Yeast = $4.28 for 2 16-oz bags = literally maybe 2 cents worth
Black beans: purchased dried, in bulk. 2 cups worth = 40 cents?
Frozen corn: $4.48 for 5 lbs, 2 cups worth = 30 cents?
Barbecue sauce: made myself
1 cup mozzarella: $4.38 for 2 lbs, shredded it myself, 37 cents
1 cup pepper jack: $10.44 for 5 lbs, 35 cents

Thursday lunch: leftover pizza

Thursday dinner: Corn, potato and spinach chowder = $3.89 total for six servings at 65 cents per serving
Frozen corn: $4.48 for 5 lbs, slightly less than 1 lb = 80 cents
5 red potatoes: $4.98 for 10 lbs, maybe 1 ½ lbs = 75 cents
1 box frozen spinach: 99 cents
Vegetable broth: free (made it myself)
1 onion: $5.24 for 10 lbs = 30 cents
½ head of celery: $1.97 for three bunches = 30 cents
1 cup cream = $3.47 for 1 quart = 75 cents

Friday lunch: leftover soup

Friday dinner: cheese, salami and crackers (What? You don’t have cheese for dinner?) = $4.76
Block of Manchego = $10.08, ¼ of that = $2.50
Salami = $7.88, perhaps 1/5 of that, = $1.58
Crackers = $6.88 for five boxes, 1 sleeve = 68 cents

Saturday lunch: Penne with marinara = $8.27 = at least 8 servings for a little over $1 each
2 bags of penne at $1 each = $2
1 102-oz can of whole tomatoes, $3.08
1 onion = 30 cents
½ head of garlic = 2 lbs for $2.98 = 10 cents
1 cup wine = $8 for the bottle so maybe $1
1 can anchovies = $1.79

Saturday dinner: leftover penne

Sunday lunch: leftover soup

Sunday dinner:
Feta, spinach and bacon pizza = $4.91 total for four servings or $1.23 per serving
Pizza crust: 4 cups bread flour, yeast = 25 cents total
1 cup bread flour = $5.99 for 25 pounds = 6 cents
Yeast = $4.28 for 2 16-oz bags = literally maybe 2 cents worth
1 box frozen spinach = 99 cents
Bacon = 4 lbs for $12.88, ½ lb = $1.61
Feta = 1/3 lb of feta at 2 lbs for $8.31 = $1.39
1 onion = 30 cents
1 cup mozzarella: $4.38 for 2 lbs, shredded it myself, 37 cents


1 pan peanut butter fudge = $2.06
1 cup peanut butter = $7.88 for 2 40-oz jars = 50 cents
1 cup cocoa = 6.17 for 23 oz = 50 cents
1/6 bag of confectionary sugar = 3.22 for 4 lbs = 54 cents
1 stick of butter = $8.26 for 4 lbs = 52 cents

2 handfuls pecans as snacks = maybe ½ cup total = $1.43
$11.43 for 2 lbs

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Winner announced!

Nicole, you win! Send an email to with your address and I'll send your bottle of bourbon-aged soy sauce today!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Another giveaway!

This morning I became an aunt for the first time, to Leah, 8 lbs 3 oz. In honor of this momentous occasion, I'm giving away a bottle of Bluegrass Soy Sauce from the fine folks at Bourbon Barrel Foods.

This soy sauce is microbrewed in small batches, using Kentucky-grown non-GMO soybeans, then aged in repurposed bourbon barrels. Soy sauce with a hint of bourbon--who can resist? It's the only soy sauce I'll have in my kitchen now.

So leave a comment by midnight tonight, and I'll randomly select a winner from the comments! Extra points if you use your comment to wish Leah a happy birthday!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mint syrup

I don't know about you, but my mint is absolutely overflowing. Don't you love summer?

Of course, everyone's mint is going bonkers, that's what mint does. It's a weed. Last night I cut it way back, netting me an armful of fresh mint. I typically do one of two things with fresh mint--make tabbouleh, or use it in a cocktail. I've detailed my mint syrup recipe before, in Mojitos, but I'm reprising here.

The syrup can be used in any number of drinks--mojitos, mint juleps, caipirinhas, even plain old iced tea.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Stir over high heat until combined. Add a whole bunch of mint, stir, remove from heat and let steep. When it's cooled, strain it into a jar and keep in the refrigerator.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Corn and black bean pizza with pepper jack cheese

Last night I made a corn and black bean pizza with pepper jack cheese, on a whole wheat pizza crust. If you're using my recipe for pizza crust, just substitute up to 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour and/or rye flour. I like to use bread flour for the other 1 1/2 - 2 cups of flour the recipe calls for, it has more gluten than all-purpose flour and therefore keeps the whole wheat from drying everything out, but all-purpose will work fine as well.

When I make pizza, I generally start the dough as soon as I get home from work, to give it time to rise. Then I make myself a Manhattan:

(That step is strictly optional.)

When the dough has risen sufficiently, I assemble the pizza. For the corn and black bean pizza, I layered, in order:

Olive oil
Barbecue sauce
Shredded mozzarella
Two handfuls of pre-cooked black beans (canned would work too)
Two handfuls of frozen corn
Shredded pepper jack cheese
A tablespoon or so of dried red chili flakes

And baked at 450 for 15-20 minutes. Yum! If I'd had it, some fresh pico de gallo on top of the finished product would have been really good.

Cost: Minimal. Everything was purchased in bulk, including the yeast in the dough, except for the whole wheat flour. The beans were dried, which I pre-prepared by soaking overnight and then cooking in my crockpot. Maybe 30 cents of ingredients in the crust, another 50 cents for the beans and frozen corn, another 75 cents for the two handfuls of cheese. I made the barbecue sauce myself. Let's say $1.75 total, which produced two pizzas--dinner for two adults, plus two lunches today, at 44 cents per serving.

(That doesn't include the Manhattan.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

...And the winner is...

...Miguel! Thanks, Miguel! Your VinniBag is in the mail!

I'll be running more giveaways, starting next week. My number of followers is still pitifully small, compared to the number of people who are actually reading this blog, so what are you waiting for? Sign up!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reminder: Become a follower! By midnight tonight!

No, I'm not asking you to drink the Kool-Aid. Just to follow my blog! See that box down there on the right-hand column? Where it says "Followers"? Under the Facebook fan box? Yeah, right there. Add your name to that box and you could win a VinniBag! That's one of these:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Follow my blog and win one of these!

Nifty, huh? This is a VinniBag, an inflatable wine bottle cushion thingey. Suitable for transporting wine in your luggage, for example. And it deflates back down when you're not using it. It's really super cool.

So, I'm announcing my first blog giveaway! Sign up as a follower of Broke Foodie by 12 midnight PST tomorrow night (Tuesday, July 20), and automatically be entered to win one of these! Winner announced on Wednesday.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wine from my collection: Two-Buck Chuck Sauvignon Blanc

What can I say? It costs $1.99. It doesn't really matter what it tastes like.

Except that of course it does. And considering its only competition in this price range is Mad Dog 20/20, I can safely say it tastes a hell of a lot better than Mad Dog 20/20. It's a bit sweet for my taste--it doesn't have those crisp grassy notes that a really good Sauvignon Blanc has. But so what? It costs $1.99. I love you, Charles Shaw!

Friday, July 16, 2010


Someone in my office has been bringing in bushels of fresh-picked fruit lately, and leaving all of it in the kitchen for people to take. Last week it was bags of fresh apricots, and yesterday it was about 15 pounds worth of white peaches. Being the opportunistic vulture that I am, I helped myself to all of it, less a couple of handfuls (I'm not completely unmannered). Even though the peaches were no bigger than golf balls, and they were all either very overripe or very underripe, it was still a significant score.

So last night I sorted the ripe from the unripe (which I'll let ripen and then cut up and freeze for later use), and turned the ripe ones into a big bubbly peach cobbler.

The quickest way to process a lot of peaches like that is to blanch them. Drop them into a pot of boiling water for a minute or two, then remove them and drop them into a sink of ice water. Make a small slit in the skin. If they're ripe, the skin will slip right off, just like a sock. From there, it's easy to remove the pit and drop the two halves into a separate bowl. You can use the same process for tomatoes, to turn them into sauce.

I did this for a while, as there were many pounds of golf ball-sized peaches (as my husband marveled at the blanching process--"I never would have thought of that!") and by the time I was done, the peaches had already macerated down into a half-liquid mass of peachy goodness. To the bowl, I added a tablespoon or two each of ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, and maybe 1/4 cup of sugar. I dumped that whole thing into a buttered 8 x 12 pyrex dish.

To make the cobbler topping, I took two cups of all-purpose flour and added 2 teaspoons of baking powder, a little salt, and cut in four tablespoons of butter. I added enough cream to pull the whole thing together in a dough, and dropped that by blobs onto the top of the peach mess. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

Cost: free! Plus maybe 50 cents worth of stuff for the topping.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Italian sausage burgers with lentil-cucumber-feta salad

Last night I used up two things I needed to use up: four links of hot Italian sausage, and some lentils leftover from when I made lentil burgers a couple of nights ago. Italian sausage burgers are the easiest thing in the world: just squeeze out all the meat, mash it together into burger shapes, and cook. The meat is already seasoned! Either hot or sweet Italian sausage works, or you could get crazy and do a mixture of both. I topped mine with a little melted Jarlsburg and barbecue sauce. Yum.

For the lentil salad, I took the cold lentils and added three small diced cucumbers, a handful of crumbled feta, and a few green onion tops. I made a little dressing with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, and a teaspoon or so of dry mustard, which I mixed together and then added to the lentil mix. Salt and pepper over all.

With my $1.99 bottle of Two Buck Chuck, it was a lovely midsummer meal.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How to save tons of money by grocery shopping once every three months

Obviously, this isn’t an approach that works for everyone. But I cut our food expenditures from $500+ a month to an average of $164 a month. For two people. For every meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day.

When my now-husband and I got engaged, we realized quickly that we were going to end up footing most of the bill for the wedding ourselves. Fortunately, we didn’t want a big, fancy affair, but we still needed to save up a few thousand dollars, stat. Complicating matters were our massive joint debt load. So I combined our finances and slashed spending to the bone. It was tough, but we were able to save the entire amount in five months and pay for the entire wedding in cash. (A shade over $10,000, and that included the rings, photography, and cross-country airfare.)

During that time, we had no life. We didn’t go out, didn’t buy anything, dropped our cable plan, and put everything on power strips that we then kept turned off whenever possible. (Cutting our electric bill from $70-something a month to $20-something a month.) It’s not as draconian as it sounds—we went to the beach a lot (free), walked to the library every week (free), and watched a lot of Netflix movies. It also means we didn’t buy groceries.

Fortunately, I cook. More fortunately, I had a very well-stocked pantry prior to The Saving Time. So until we got married, we ate solely out of the pantry. By the time we left for the wedding, I was sick to death of soup, and our pantry was almost completely bare. I think there may have been a tube of anchovy paste and some pickles left. (Let’s not even talk about the depleted state of the liquor cabinet.) But we ate well for those months, and we didn’t spend a dime on food or alcohol.

So when we returned, I decided to follow that template again. We had some money left over after the wedding, which I used to completely restock the pantry and liquor cabinet, in preparation for another three-month run. Here’s how to do it.

1. Shop in bulk wherever possible. I buy whatever I can at Sam’s Club and only then go to the grocery store.

2. Forget soda, convenience foods, frozen dinners, and brand-name loyalty. The plan worked because I cooked from scratch, with an eye toward using up leftovers and some sense of variety, in that order. We ate a lot of soup, a lot of variations on beans and rice, and a lot of pasta. But we also ate fresh-baked whole-grain bread, roasted beet pizza, butternut squash stuffed with Italian sausage and wild rice, and black bean and spinach enchiladas with cilantro pesto. I cooked enough so that every dinner yielded four portions, dinner plus lunch for the both of us the next day. I don’t buy canned soups or vegetables (other than tomatoes), bread or pancake mixes, breakfast cereals, soda, or anything processed. Basically, don't buy things in packages.

3. Join a CSA. We get a big box of fresh fruits and vegetables every two weeks, year-round (living in California is great for that). It costs $177 for six boxes (12 weeks), prepaid. Meaning our three-month supply of fresh fruits and vegetables is done, right there, with a new influx of fruits and vegetables every other Sunday. I don’t buy anything else—not bananas or grapes or whatever. I eat only what comes in the box. (Although I do buy onions, garlic and potatoes in bulk, as I consider those more cooking essentials than “vegetables.”)

4. Become one with your freezer. Because I only use milk for cooking (our breakfast is usually steel-cut oatmeal or homemade muffins, no breakfast cereal), I buy a half-gallon and freeze it in small amounts, taking only what I’ll need out of the freezer. Same for butter, cheese, and meat in bulk. I can buy a three-month supply of parmesan cheese, freeze what I don’t need immediately, and shred only small amounts at a time. You can freeze bread, cheese, milk, buttermilk, vegetable scraps for broth making (see $6), chopped fruits and vegetables that are about to turn, the list goes on and on.

5. I grow my own herbs.

6. I make my own vegetable stock from vegetable scraps. Occasionally I’ll roast a whole chicken; the scraps from that become chicken stock. What I’m not using immediately goes right into the freezer. A never-ending supply of free homemade broth = a never-ending supply of delicious homemade soup.

7. I use meat more as flavoring and less as the centerpiece of a meal. The traditional “meat plus sides” meal format is expensive and fattening. Usually I make one thing for dinner, and we both eat that one thing until we’re full. Risotto, spaghetti, salad, pizza, whatever. One thing.

Like I said, it’s not for everyone. But we eat very well, and we have completely eliminated the need for a second car. If we don’t need to run errands all the time, we can use our one car exclusively for commuting and then relax on the weekends. No fear of impulse shopping, or walking into the grocery store to pick up one thing and coming out with 12. Because I either have to make do with what I have or do without, my recipes have become a lot more inventive and a lot more versatile. (Out of parsley? Can’t run down to the store to get more…what can I use instead?)

I don't spend all my time in the kitchen, either. I spend an average of 30 minutes a night preparing dinner, and maybe an hour a day on the weekends to prepare breakfasts, bread, prep dried beans, cook in bulk, that sort of thing. Menu planning is much more precise than it used to be, but I also don’t have to worry about tracking sales or clipping coupons.
Bonus points: we’ve both lost weight (especially him, since he quit drinking soda and going out to lunch with his coworkers every day) and we’re walking a lot more.

Best of all, we can spend that money on other more important things (savings account; debt repayment; new car).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Restaurant review: Addison

Saturday night we utilized one of our best wedding presents--a gift certificate to Addison, San Diego's only five-star restaurant. Some preliminary research revealed our largesse would not stretch far enough to cover dinner for two with wine pairings, so instead of a half-assed dinner, we decided to spend our money instead on some really nice wine. Just wine, no dinner. (Okay, we did get a cheese plate.) We ended up getting two bottles of different styles, though the first was by far and away the best one.

This was the first wine:

And this was the second one:

The first was a Rhone Valley Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Really lovely, fruit forward but also earthy, with some nice hints of truffle and blue cheese. Lush, good mouth feel. I'll be drinking a lot more Rhone Valley wines in the near future.

The second was Californian, so we had an Old World wine and then a New World one. It was just what you'd expect from a big Californian cab--big, jammy, tannic, lots of alcohol. Good, but anything would have been a disappointment after that first wine.

The experience was wonderful--getting dressed up, sitting at the elegant bar drinking our expensive wine, acting like sophisticated-type adult people, and not like old married people who can't afford to eat out ever and will be going home to change into old bathrobes and reheat some leftover chili for dinner. Alas that our budget can't stretch to cover evenings like that more often!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cookbook review: The Babbo Cookbook

The Babbo Cookbook ($26.40 at Amazon) is the cookbook from Mario Batali's flagship restaurant, Babbo. I ate there once--see review here--and it was phenomenal. So I got the cookbook. Now, granted, I find this book a hell of a lot more useful than the average home cook would. If your idea of a good recipe includes a can of cream of mushroom soup, you're not likely to find a recipe for beef cheek ravioli to be enlightening. That being said, it's very pretty and very inspirational, and I've successfully recreated several of the recipes, including one for bitter greens ravioli.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cookbook review: The Union Square Cafe Cookbook

The Union Square Cafe Cookbook  ($25.05 at Amazon) is a restaurant cookbook that's worth owning. Many aren't: they're great for general food porn/inspirational purposes (as in The French Laundry Cookbook) but aren't practical for home kitchens. Side note: I generally don't buy cookbooks without giving them a test run from the library first. If you haven't visited your local library in a while, go. Those books are free (as are the DVDs, CDs, and magazines), and hey, your tax dollars bought them. Go use them. The Union Square Cafe Cookbook is as unpretentious as its namesake; I've eaten there several times--I used to be roommates with their maitre d'--and I've used several of its recipes on a regular basis.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cookbook review: Bones

Bones  ($23.07 at Amazon) is the companion piece to Jennifer McLagan's Fat (reviewed by me here). True to its name, the book is about utilizing bones. Most people's usage of bones extends merely to giving them to the dog, and maybe using them to make stock. Maybe. But there are many other flavorful way to use bones (including roasting them for the marrow) and a great many different ways to use them in stocks and soups. Plus, let's be honest: boneless skinless chicken breasts are one of the most tasteless and uninspiring things to eat ever. Any meat automatically becomes more flavorful and succulent if you cook it on the bone. This, and Fat, are great cookbooks to get from the library: give them a test run. If you think you'll open them more than once (like me), they're great to have.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cookbook review: Country Cooking of France

Country Cooking of France  ($31.50 at Amazon) is--I'm gonna be honest--one of those really pretty, really inspiring cookbooks that gets looked at a lot but not utilized a lot. I love looking at this cookbook, and using it for general inspiration, but I think I've tried one, maybe two, recipes in here. Part of that is that Julia Child's masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, covers so much of the same cuisine in a more user-friendly way. Part of it is that it's often hard/expensive to find truely French ingredients (duck confit, foie gras, etc.). And part of it is sheer laziness on my part. I should really dig around in this book and start adapting some of the yummier-sounding recipes. In the meantime, put this on your "It's nice to own but not a requirement by any stretch of the imagination" list.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

White bean and chicken chili variation

I used reconstituted dried peppers in this, but any kind of fresh pepper (jalapenos, serranos, etc.) will work just as well. In fact, better.

Here's what I used, in order of addition to the big stock pot:
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Two chicken breasts, diced
1 large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
Several chiles/jalapenos/whatever, diced
3 cups white beans
Enough vegetable or chicken stock to cover the top of everything
Seasonings: cumin, cayenne, chili powder, chili flakes, paprika, salt

Let this cook down until the chicken and beans are cooked through. You can serve with bread, croutons, or maybe a little pepper jack cheese on top.

Cost: the chicken was bought in bulk; I got about 12 breasts for $12, so $1 each. I bought the beans dried, in bulk, and made the stock myself. $2 for the chicken, maybe 40 cents worth of beans, $1 for the rest of the produce and seasonings. Around $3.50 for the entire vat, which was about 6-7 adult servings, for around 50 to 55 cents per serving.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What to do with dried peppers

I rediscovered a bag of dried chiles from New Mexico this weekend. I had some thawed chicken that needed to be used, and some white beans, so I thought, why not make a batch of white bean-chicken chili? The problem being I didn't have any jalapenos. So I dug out the bag of dried peppers, determined to put them to good use.

For lack of a better option, I decided to treat them like dried mushrooms. I cut off the stems and removed the dried seeds (I'll plant them in my container garden and see what happens) and poured boiling water over the lot. I let them reconstitute for about half an hour, until they were reasonably supple, and then pureed them in my food processor. I added the puree and the leftover pepper-reconstituting water to the soup, and voila! A spicy, peppery white bean chili.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cookbook review: Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker  ($10.17 at Amazon) is a great cookbook for meat eaters, too. This is a good cookbook for people who want to get better acquainted with their Crock Pots, and let me tell you, the Crock Pot is probably the single most useful kitchen appliance for lazy people ever invented. Don't know how/want to cook? Throw some beans, broth and vegetables in your Crock Pot, go to work, come home, and voila: dinner is ready. The recipes in here can easily be adapted to include meat, but it's a good introduction to using beans, lentils, winter vegetables, etc., which a lot of people are not overly familiar with. I use this cookbook more than any of the other slow cooker cookbooks I have, and I'm nowhere near a vegetarian.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cookbook review: Ad Hoc At Home

Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller ($28.47 at Amazon) is the most accessible of Thomas Keller's cookbooks. For those that don't know, Thomas Keller is one of the premiere chefs in America, and the genius behind The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon. I have two of his other cookbooks, The French Laundry and Bouchon, and they're fantastic cookbooks--but they fall squarely into the category of food porn. They're not for everyday home cooks. I have yet to recreate a single recipe out of either one of them, though I dream about it sometimes. Keller's latest cookbook, Ad Hoc At Home, is more for real people and home cooks. It's a big luscious book, full of practical recipes (fried chicken, salad dressing, etc.) and is also a gateway drug to the more complicated Keller cookbooks.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Israeli couscous and chard

More Israeli couscous! I love this stuff. The recipe is basically just the two ingredients. Cook the couscous in water, while sauteing the chopped greens in a little olive oil and maybe some garlic, until just wilted down. Add the couscous, stir together, add salt and pepper to taste. Done. You can also use beet greens, or kale, or collards, or really any kind of bitter green.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cookbook review: Pig

Pig by James Villas ($23.07 at Amazon) is pretty self-explanatory. Pork, and lots of it. I like the layout, and while there were a few too many basic recipes for my taste (how many recipes do we need for pork chops?), there were also plenty of more inventive recipes to warm the cockles of my foodie heart--like Bacon Waffles. Now, come on. How can you not love a cookbook that has a recipe for Bacon Waffles?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Israeli couscous with apples and cranberries

Israeli couscous is the big kind--it looks kind of like small beige peas. This can be served warm or cold, another great thing to eat when it's too hot to eat. You can also substitute barley or orzo for the couscous.

1 box or 2 cups Israeli couscous
olive oil
2-3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
a handful of fresh parsley, rosemary and thyme, chopped
1 medium apple, diced
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cups sliced or slivered almonds

Toast the couscous in the olive oil for a few minutes until browned and aromatic. Add the broth and let it cook down until the couscous is done/the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat, add rest, toss together.

You can make a quick vinaigrette with 3-4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar with 1 tablespoon maple syrup, salt and pepper to taste, and 3-4 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk together and stir into the couscous salad.