Monday, February 28, 2011

Kale chips

Yes, these are chips made from a head of kale. I gotta say, I'm still not sure whether I like these or not. They're very crispy and salty and good, but they taste like kale. If you don't like the taste of kale, don't make these. Then again, my husband pronounced them "kinda weird" and then proceeded to eat an entire bowlful. They're like veggie chips.

1 head of kale, stems removed
2 tablespoons olive oil

Toss the leaves in a bowl with the oil and salt. Spread in a single layer on a baking pan, and bake at 300 for around 20 minutes or until crispy.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I made this for my housewarming party last night. Thanks to everyone who came out!

1 bottle white wine
1 bottle club soda
1 cup vodka
1 cup triple sec or Cointreau
1/2 cup sugar
sliced fruit: I used one sliced orange and two sliced limes

Mix and chill.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

How can this site be more awesome?

That's not a rhetorical question, by the way. :-)

I want to drastically upgrade the design of this site, and I want to start attracting more readers. I also want to know what you, my established readers, want to see more of (or less of). More pictures? More recipes? Fewer recipes? Cooking lessons? Videos? Downloads?

So please, take this very brief 4-question survey (thanks to SurveyMonkey).

Also, please feel free to leave a comment or send an email to with your thoughts.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Collard greens

This is the down-home, old-fashioned way to prepare collard greens. It's not the healthiest or quickest way to prepare them, but it is the porkiest way.

1 head of collard greens, thick part of stems removed and greens chopped
a few slices of bacon, chopped
1-2 dried chili peppers
1 cup water

That's it. Fry the bacon in a big saucepan, until about two-thirds done. Add the water (stand back, it'll sizzle) and the peppers. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes. Then add the greens, stir, cover, and simmer another hour.

What's left after you eat the greens is the "potlikker," or pot liquor. A lot of Southerners will serve the pot liquor right along with the greens, and sop it up with biscuits or cornbread. You can also save it and add it to your next pot of soup. Whatever you do, don't throw it out! That's bacon-y goodness.

Frankly, I'm not a huge fan of slow-cooked greens. I prefer them greener and fresher and crunchier. But to each his own. My grandmother can't serve a vegetable that hasn't been slow-cooked within an inch of its life. Or without biscuits.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pork fried rice

You may remember from yesterday's post that I had most of a pig head left over from my trip to Montreal:

What does one do with a leftover pig head, you may ask? An excellent question. Turns out the answer is pork fried rice, and broth.

If I were a more productive sort of person, I probably would have figured out a way to make head cheese out of the thing. But I'm just not that productive on a weeknight.

I peeled the remaining bits of meat, fat and skin off the pig head (a fairly grisly process) and separated out the meat. The skull, cartilage, fat and skin, along with the lobster shells and half a bag of frozen vegetable scraps, went into the stockpot to make a particularly tasty broth.

Once the leftover meat was chopped up, I had about two cups worth. So I decided to make a version of pork fried rice--I say "version" because I used freshly made rice. If you let the rice sit for a day or two, the fried rice is much tastier.

But it's still pretty tasty with fresh rice. I made a big batch of brown rice (about five cups cooked, two cups uncooked).

When that was done, I put 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in a big skillet.

When it was hot, I added four beaten eggs, and essentially scrambled them.

To the eggs, I added most of a bag of fresh spinach, the rice, the pork, and lots and lots of soy sauce and kept stirring and moving everything around until it was all heated through. (Scallions would have been very good with this, too.) Serve, and done.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


My husband and I spent the long weekend in Montreal, making the trip 1) our first vacation, by ourselves, not involving family, since we got married--which really makes it our honeymoon, and 2) his first trip out of the country. Yes, he lived in San Diego, not 30 miles from Mexico, for all those years and never made it across the border.

We had a great time. It was bitter cold (I don't think the temperatures ever made it into the double digits), but we expected that. And there was less snow on the ground there than there still is in my backyard. The highlight of the trip was, of course, our two dinners out. We did the touristy stuff, saw the museums, walked around the old part of the city, but it was too cold for more than the bare minimum of aimless wandering, and the meals really were awesome.

Things to Know About Montreal:

1. You don't need to know French. It helps, of course, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover my husband remembered enough high school French to be able to tell the waiter that I was probably going to order him the rabbit. Also all the signs are in French. But everyone also speaks English (though usually they'll start off in French, and keep going unless you ask them to switch), and a stop sign is a stop sign, even if it says "Arret" instead of "Stop."

2. The US dollar and the Canadian dollar are about the same. There may be two cents' difference.

3. It's really cold in winter. But they keep the streets crystal clear.

4. We stayed at the cutest B&B, Absolument Montreal. Our room came with a kitchenette (including mini-fridge stocked with free sodas and water), a vestibule, and a hot tub. (Which was outdoors, so I didn't use it. I wasn't about to brave zero-degree night temperatures, even for a hot tub.) Best of all, the room came with a full three-course breakfast, served to us in our room, personally, by the owner. Tea and coffee and fresh orange juice, with a cheese/charcuterie plate to start, followed by something hot--eggs benedict with smoked salmon on day 1, a croque monsieur on a croissant on day 2--followed by fresh fruit and yogurt and pastries. In our room. At whatever time we wanted. So that was pretty awesome.

5. The dining really is top notch.

Warning: during our two dinners, we ate things that may offend squeamish readers. If you're one of those, stop here.

Dinner 1: DNA

One of the Top 5 meals of my life. Definitely #1 with my husband.

This is exactly the kind of restaurant that I love. Hip, great vibe, relaxed, great wine list, amazing food. And none of those things suffers at the hands of any others. DNA has one of the best wine lists in Montreal, specializing in Canadian wine. For some reasons, Quebec hasn't yet caught on that Canada (particularly British Columbia) is making some world-class wines. Their wine lists and wine stores stock a great selection of French wines, but not much else. DNA is trying to change that, and I noticed that their wine list included one of the wines that I fell in love with in Vancouver during my road trip (see blog post about that wine here). Naturally I had to go there, and drink it.

Awesomeness, in order:
1. Decor. Red and orange with really interesting lighting. Sounds tacky, but they did it just right. And they had these great orange bowl sinks in the bathrooms.
2. Bottles of Canadian wine were half off before 7 pm. We got there long before our reservation at 8:30, to hang at the bar, and so I was able to get the bottle of wine I really wanted at a reasonable price--only a few dollars above retail. (See aforementioned blog post.)
3. They seated us early, because we were there.
4. The menu. We ordered:

Pig's ear. (really a pate)

Horse heart tartare.

Housemade charcuterie.

Cornmeal-encrusted rabbit, baked in a cast-iron pan.


Let's take a pause here to appreciate, and celebrate, the fact that we ate horse heart tartare. That is exactly what it sounds like: raw horse heart, chopped fine and served with herbs and things. You can't eat horse in the US for a variety of reasons (even though it's perfectly legal), primarily because for most people, the idea of eating horse is repugnant. Similar to eating dog, or cat. But horse is eaten widely in most other parts of the world--it's usually considered a delicacy, and in fact, much of the world's horsemeat comes from the US. Slaughtered here, and exported. It's much lighter and leaner than beef, softer, tastes sweeter, is a beautiful brilliant red color, and it's free of tuberculosis and tapeworms, thus safer than beef to eat raw.

And it was delicious.

(If you're offended by that, I'm sorry. Take comfort in the fact I won't be eating more horse any time soon.)

That, and the cornmeal-crusted rabbit, were the culinary highlights. The rabbit meat was very light and delicate, almost white--it was definitely farmed rabbit. I've eated wild rabbit before and it was far stringier and gamier. My piglet (really part of a piglet leg, slow-braised and served with parsnips and turnips) was moist and yummy, but paled in comparison.

Our second bottle of wine was nearly as enjoyable as the first: Road 13 Pinot Noir.

At the end of the meal, there were surprise fireworks.

Day 2: Au Pied du Cochon

When I planned the trip, I thought Au Pied du Cochon would be the best meal, and DNA merely a warm-up. In reality, it was almost opposite.

I say "almost" because our entree catapulted an otherwise unmemorable meal into the storytelling stratosphere.

Here is a picture of our entree:

That is an entire pig's head, roasted, with a lobster shoved through the top.

The entire pig's head. Ears, tongue, nose and all. To eat it, you have to cut into its face.

Here's another view:

Yes, we ate pig face.

It was served on a big wooden cutting board, with a steak knife impaled through the top of its head, anchoring it to the board. Half a lobster was then impaled on a wooden skewer, and also shoved through the top of its head. The lobster claw was arranged coming out of its mouth, along with an artfully arranged smear of mashed potatoes. The effect was as if a mutant lobster had attacked the pig through its brain and out its mouth, while the pig bled and vomited mashed potatoes.

Served with a bowl of pig head and lobster juice for dipping, of course.

We couldn't eat it for at least five minutes after it was presented. At least half the restaurant stopped eating and came over to us to take pictures.

Then it took us another five minutes to figure out how to eat it. (Remove the lobster parts; start with the cheeks. Leave the knife in.)

I have to admit I didn't eat much of it--I was too fascinated with the presentation. I played with it more than anything. It was delicious, and fatty, and tender, and crunchy-burnt on the outside, but I was preoccupied with the various technical challenges eating such a thing presented. (What happened to the brain? Did they take out the eyeballs, or did they bake away? Ooh, look, the jawbone comes right out! And there are teeth still attached to it! Is that the tongue? Gosh, the ears have a lot of cartilage. Do I eat that part? I wonder how you eat the nose? Should the nose be eaten? And so on.)

I got the world's largest doggie bag to take the copious leftovers home with me--I asked for everything, including the bones and lobster shells (so I could make stock, but also so I could completely deconstruct the dish at home).

Here's the carnage of leftovers:

Other things to know about Au Pied du Cochon:

It's crowded, small, and loud. Definitely not the laid-back, hip, fine dining atmosphere of DNA. We also had the duck charcuterie and a buckwheat-pancake-maple-syrup thing with a big hunk of foie gras on top. I have to say neither one of those dishes impressed me. Also the waiter assured me that the pig head for two was not an abnormal amount of food. That was SUCH a lie.

I would go back, but only if I got an earlier reservation, at an actual table instead of at the bar, and I would order more foie gras-laden dishes, and not listen to the waiter when I asked for recommendations.

Anthony Bourdain ate here.

The Other Place Worth Mentioning:

Dieu Du Ciel, which makes its own craft beers. All of the ones we tried were delicious.

And Marche Jean-Talon, the city's big farmer's market.

The Moral of the Story:

We'll be back. It was only a five-and-a-half-hour drive, meaning much of Eastern Canada is well within weekend road trip distance (everything from Toronto to Newfoundland). The dining in Montreal is world-class, and it's a very European kind of city. And I wasn't made to feel like a retard for not being able to speak French.

I also found one of my most favorite wines in the whole world, Laughing Stock, which is not exported to the US and can only be bought in Canada, so I'll have to go back to get more of it.

When presented with the opportunity to eat weird things, I will. Bless my husband for completely going along with that and eating everything that I did. (He liked all of it as much as I did.) I married a good one.

I really love good wine. And eating. I really love eating.

The end.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wine from my collection: Laughing Stock Portfolio

Here's the story behind Laughing Stock wines:

When I was in Vancouver, during the road trip, I had Laughing Stock chardonnay at a dinner and immediately fell in love with it. And I don't usually like chardonnay. Sadly, I couldn't find any to purchase to take back with me. That turned out to be very unfortunate, as I later discovered you can only get this wine in Canada--they don't export it to the US.

Why am I telling you about a wine most of you will never have the opportunity to drink? Because I was able to drink it this weekend, on my honeymoon. With the man I met on that road trip.

We spent this weekend in Montreal, and I'm currently composing a longer post about that. In the meantime, I'll tell you all about this glorious wine. We had two amazing dinners in Montreal, and the first was at DNA. (More about that later.)

DNA is known for its collection of Canadian wines, and I knew they had Laughing Stock on their wine list. Surprisingly, Canadian wine is not a big thing in Quebec. There are some amazing wines being produced in British Columbia, but the wine stores and wine lists in Montreal tend to have a great selection in French wines and little else. DNA was probably my only chance to get my hands on Laughing Stock.

So we went, and la! (insert angelic chorus here), bottles of Canadian wine were half off before 7 pm. We were able to get a bottle of Laughing Stock Portfolio (retail price: $49, restaurant price: $110) at half off. It was worth the effort to find it: big, rich, jammy, a quality blend of five grapes, and also worth the price tag. Better than the chardonnay I had the first time.

That dinner was the highlight of the trip. (More on that later.) And I was able to find (and purchase) two bottles of the stuff to take home with me.

So, to sum up: I discovered this winery on the road trip on which I met my husband. The next time I drank their wine, I was on my honeymoon with that husband. I foresee many additional trips to Canada, so I can continue drinking these wines.

And if any of you are Canadian, or will one day go to Canada, you must seek out this wine and drink some.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cookbook review: Recipes from the Root Cellar

So many people don't know what to do with winter vegetables. (Or any kind of vegetable, for that matter.) Potatoes and carrots are familiar territory, but butternut squash, turnips, rutabagas and mustard greens, not so much.

This is a great introductory book to the wild and wonderful world of winter vegetables. Recipes from the Root Cellar has a bunch of really flavorful, interesting things to do with these veggies, and they're not all soup, either. I'm already planning to make a carrot risotto. And a wild rice salad with roasted squash and fennel. It's a great book to have on hand, especially if you have access to a winter CSA.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cookbook review: Around My French Table

Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan has gotten a lot of press lately, since it's been nominated for a bunch of awards. I checked this out from the library (since it's big, and expensive), and realized I was going to have to buy it.

It's big, it's beautiful, it's useful. It's not a Julia Child-type introduction to French cooking, it's more personal than that. The author has lived in Paris for a long time, and these are the recipes she's created over the years. She introduces many of them as "not authentic"--just her interpretations of classic French fare. Which I love! That's exactly the kind of cooking I do.

The recipe for Swiss chard pancakes I made the other day came from here. Then I had to take it back to the library with pancake batter stuck to the page.

So you see, I'm going to have to buy this cookbook.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chicken tagine with preserved lemons

My new favorite way to prepare chicken!

First, a story. As you know, I usually only buy whole chickens. Cheaper, taste better, you can use the scraps for broth. Every once in a while I'll buy chicken parts on sale (still, usually bone and skin on--cheaper, taste better). But currently I only had two whole chickens in the freezer.

And this recipe called for chicken parts.

There are two ways to get around this problem, without buying something new. 1) Re-jigger the recipe so you can use a whole chicken, or 2) Cut up the chicken. Normally I'd go with 1). But this recipe (as you'll see below) resisted tinkering with in that way, so I was going to have to cut up the chicken myself.

I'd never cut up a whole chicken into its component parts before, and it was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. So I can now recommend this method.

But before you go butchering your own chicken carcass, make sure you have a really good, really heavy-duty pair of kitchen shears. I do, and I'd much rather use those than try to do it with a knife. I have super-sharp, top of the line knives, and I still feel like they're inadequate to serious butchery (as my adventures in fish gutting with the kitchen shears have proven).

So I used the scissors to cut up the chicken--literally--and broke it down into its component parts: two wings, two legs + thighs, two breasts. A good pair of scissors will cut right through a ball-and-socket joint. The giblets and backbone I threw into a stockpot, along with a freezer bag full of vegetable scraps, to make chicken broth.

Then I made this chicken tagine.

1 whole chicken (or equivalent), in parts (or just chicken thighs)
1 teaspoon saffron threads (saffron is expensive--if you don't have any, skip this part and just add more turmeric, below)
olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons each ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, lime juice
1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped
2 preserved lemons, pulp removed and chopped, and skins cut up into small dice
1 cup green olives, halved

Toast the saffron in a small skillet and set aside. (Like I said, it's expensive, so if you don't already have some, just skip this part.)

In a Dutch oven or large skillet with lid, saute the onions and garlic in oil until soft. Add spices, half of the cilantro, the saffron, and salt and pepper. Stir, and add the chicken parts, on top of the onions. Sprinkle the cut-up lemon pulp over the chicken.  Add a cup or so of water and cover. Let simmer 30-45  minutes or until chicken is cooked through. (Check periodically and add more water if necessary.)

Add olives and simmer 10 more minutes. Add reserved lemon peel and rest of the cilantro. Salt to taste. Serve with rice.

This is a great Middle Eastern dish, with a really nice combination of flavors. Easy to whip up, flavorful enough for a dinner party.

Cost: one whole chicken (purchased in bulk), $4. Preserved lemons, made myself (cost of lemons, maybe $4, also in bulk, and I used only two of those, so 50 cents). Olives, $3.50 from deli. Cilantro, $1.59. Everything else, excluding the cost of the saffron, maybe 75 cents. Total: A little over $10 total, for six adult servings, not including the rice. If we include another $1 for the rice (I used brown rice, which is a little more expensive), that's still only $1.80 per serving.

Friday, February 18, 2011


We're having a heat wave here in MA--it might get all the way up to 50 degrees today. I never thought the sound of melting snow would be so glorious.

I still don't think I'll see grass in my backyard before April, but it's a relief to see the tops of the stone pillars and scrubby bushes again.

So this has got me thinking about gardening.

My sister sent me some leftover seeds from her garden last year--several different kinds of tomatoes and peppers, cucumbers, and various herbs. I filled that out with a seed order for the rest of the herbs, some additional tomatoes and peppers, greens (spinach, arugula, kale, chard, mache, sorrel), corn, peas, bush beans, beets, pie pumpkins, carrots, butternut squash, zucchini, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, leeks, scallions and strawberries.

The full complement of herbs will include three different kinds of basil (regular, purple, Thai), oregano, sage, rosemary, chives, mint, borage, chervil, cilantro, dill, marjoram, tarragon, thyme, catnip and catgrass, two different kinds of parsley, and lavendar. I threw in blue hyssop and nasturtiums, as well. Blue hyssop will attract bees and butterflies, and the nasturtiums are edible flowers.

A good all-around garden, no? Plus I still have all those containers from my patio garden in San Diego, so the herbs can go in there for close-to-year-round harvesting.

So, my first question is:

Should I continue my CSA membership through the summer?

Logic would dictate yes, since if the garden doesn't take off, I'll still have fresh fruits and vegetables all summer long. (And the membership runs from May to November.) But it's an additional cost, obviously, and I fear being up to my eyeballs in greenery and vegetables by July. Perhaps I'll continue the membership for this year, see how everything does, and adjust accordingly next year.

And the next question is:

How and when should I start all these seeds?

The sunroom is the obvious choice for seed starting, since it gets the most direct sunlight and it's out of the way. But it's COLD in there this time of year. I'd either have to heat the room (an exhorbitant cost, given the three glass walls) or keep the seeds on heating pads constantly--and I don't know if that would be enough, given the 40-degree ambient temperature. Also, given that I couldn't put the plants into the ground until (I'm assuming) late May at the earliest, do I start those now? Or wait a bit, and hope the sunroom warms up a tad?

Either way I'm starting the herbs and the cold-weather crops now.

Any gardeners out there, feel free to weigh in...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Radish salsa

Yes, radish salsa. It's shockingly good.

I served this with yesterday's Swiss chard pancakes, but this would also be excellent with fish tacos, or regular tacos, or chips, or practically anything you'd have with regular salsa. The radishes give it a great crunch, and let's be honest: you can't find a decent tomato this time of year to save your life.

I peeled and grated two great big white radishes (courtesy of my CSA) in my super-awesome food processor; and while I was at it, I added a peeled small onion and two jalapenos to the gizmo. Then all I had to do was chop some cilantro and parsley, squeeze two limes, and mix the whole thing together.

Peeled radishes (any kind)
half a medium onion, chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped
a handful each cilantro and parsley, chopped
fresh lime juice
a little olive oil

Mix and serve.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Swiss chard pancakes

These aren't pancakes so much as they are kind of a thick crepe. It's a very French thing to eat. They're very good with a salad, or with this radish salsa I made (pictured). Yes, radish salsa. You'll hear about that tomorrow.

I adapted this recipe from Around My French Table (which you'll also hear about later).

2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups flour
3 large eggs
1 small onion
2 peeled garlic cloves
fresh parsley
several large chard leaves, center stem removed (spinach will also work, if you don't have chard)
peanut, grapeseed or vegetable oil

Whiz the chard, the onion, and the garlic in your food processor until well mixed. In another bowl, mix the other stuff (except for the oil), and add the chard mixture.

Heat the oil in a large skillet until very hot, then fry the pancakes in batches until golden brown on each side. (Note: I used vegetable oil, and the pancakes were fine, but I think peanut oil would have imparted a much more interesting flavor.)

My husband remarked, "These would make a nice burger." By which he meant (I think) you could make them a little thicker and dress them up as a sandwich. However you eat them, they'll freeze nicely.

Cost: bunch of Swiss chard, maybe $2. Eggs, milk, flour: 75 cents. Everything else: another 50 cents. Total: $3.25, and this made 16 pancakes. 3 pancakes each (with salsa) was a full adult serving, so that's 5 adult servings from the one batch, for a per-serving cost of 65 cents.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Carrot cake

Mmmm, carrot cake.

And because it has carrots in it, it's healthy! (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

I used The Pioneer Woman's carrot cake recipe for this, because she's my hero. She took a blog about cooking and her wacky life and turned into a media empire. Which I'll do one day, never fear. I'm putting the final touches on the Broke Foodie Cookbook as we speak!

Anyway, the carrot cake. See PW's link for the actual recipe, but it's your basic standard carrot cake. Grated carrots, flour, sugar, vegetable oil, cream cheese frosting. PW put pecans in her cream cheese frosting, but I left them out.

Mmmmm, cream cheese frosting.

I think the icing costs more than the actual cake here. The cake ingredients were all bulk purchased (flour, sugar, eggs, carrots, etc.; cost estimation maybe $1.20); the icing calls for a package of cream cheese ($1.50), a stick of butter ($1) and a pound of confectionary sugar ($1). So $3.50 for the frosting, but only a little over a dollar for the cake itself.

But you can't have carrot cake without cream cheese frosting.

I'm going to go have another piece for breakfast right now.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Potato-carrot tart

Happy Valentine's Day!

I had several bunches of carrots that needed to be used up in some fashion, thanks to my winter CSA (and let's not even talk about how many potatoes I've been getting). Including a beautiful bunch of rainbow carrots. So I decided to make something particularly colorful (and healthy) for V-Day. I mean, anyone can write about pork tenderloin or steak or chocolate for V-Day; how many blogs write about carrots?

(I know, it's lame. But tomorrow I'm posting the carrot cake I made!)

(For chocolate recipes, I refer you back to chocolate mousse, or possibly to these chocolate chip-Nutella pastries.)

1 medium or two small potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1-2 cups grated carrots (depending on how big you want the tart to be; I made two, one with only a little grated carrot and one with quite a lot, and there was no discernible difference in overall quality)
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used Manchego and parmesan; Gruyere or Swiss would also work)

First, let me sidetrack and sing the wonders of my food processor. I used it to shred the cheese, then the carrots, and then to slice the potatoes. And it all took about 30 seconds, total.

Mix the butter, thyme, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl, and toss with the potato slices. Layer those in a pie pan (I used these beautiful purple potatoes):

Bake that for 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven, or until the potatoes are nicely crispy. You really want them crispy.

Meanwhile, saute the onion and grated carrot in a little olive oil, until the onion is nicely browned.

When the potatoes are crispy, take the pie pan out of the oven and add the carrot mix, then top with grated cheese. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and browned.

Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.

You could easily substitute olive oil for the butter and leave off the cheese to make this a yummy vegan dish.

Cost: my goodness, practically nothing this time of year. I can get a 15-pound bag of potatoes for $5, a 10-pound bag of onions for $5, and a 3-pound bag of carrots for $2, making the non-cheese cost of this...50 cents? Maybe? Plus let's say another 50 cents for the cheese. $1 total for this gorgeous, healthy tart with four generous adult servings.

If you're going out to a decadent V-Day dinner tonight, you could have this with a green salad for lunch and feel very virtuous (also, that would leave more room for the chocolate-chip Nutella pastries).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Beet gratin

Well, you knew any self-respecting Valentine's Day recipe would include beets, right?

I used one big red beet and one small golden beet for this, and still got six individual gratins. Look at the colors:

Isn't that gorgeous?

The basic idea is to layer beets with grated cheese (Gruyere, Comte, Manchego, even parmesan would work in a pinch) and maybe some fresh thyme if you have it, and roast in individual ramekins. I peeled the beets raw and roasted them like that, but they took a lot longer to roast than I thought they would. So I'm revising the recipe slightly.

I think it's better to roast the beets ahead of time, then peel and slice and layer with the cheese in individual ramekins, and then roast them just long enough to melt the cheese and meld the flavors.

So, then, here's the recipe:

2 beets, roasted, peeled and sliced thinly
shredded cheese (Gruyere is best)
fresh thyme (but I used dried, because that's all I had)

Roast the beets ahead of time by wrapping them in foil and leaving them in a 400-degree oven for an hour or so. (This part can be done hours or even a day or two in advance. Just throw the foil packets whole into the fridge until you're ready.) When they cool, slip the skins off and slice thinly.

Layer in ramekins: beet slice, cheese, thyme (the beet slice may fit perfectly).

Like so:

Roast again at 400 just until the cheese on top is browned and bubbly.

I just love those colors:

Eat, and enjoy!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Red cabbage, caramelized onion, and goat cheese pizza

Because Valentine's Day is right around the corner, I'm going to be featuring pretty red foods this weekend. Starting with this red cabbage pizza. (Which, okay, is really more purple than red, but it's still a gorgeous color.)

I know you're thinking, "Cabbage on pizza? Really?" But this was really good. Not cabbagey at all. And healthy, despite all the cheese!

On a whole-wheat pizza crust, I layered:
olive oil
caramelized onions
a handful of gorgonzola (optional)
a handful of mozzarella (optional)
one whole gently sauteed chopped red cabbage
lots of goat cheese

...and baked at 475 until the crust was done.

To caramelize onions, slice two thinly and let them cook down on medium-low for a long time, at least 45 minutes. They'll turn a dark brown, and get very sweet. To saute the cabbage, chop in half, remove the stem, slice thinly, and add to a hot pan with a little olive oil. Just for a few minutes, just enough time for the cabbage to start to get soft. Any more than that, and it will start to lose its pretty color.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Preserved Meyer lemon martini (or, The Dirty Pucker)

If you like dirty martinis, you'll like this. If not, well, beware. It's very briny.

3 oz gin or vodka
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/4 - 1/2 oz preserved lemon brine
a piece of preserved lemon
a few drops of lemon bitters

Combine the liquids, shake, pour, garnish with lemon piece.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Israeli couscous with butternut squash and preserved lemons

Remember those preserved Meyer lemons I started a while ago?

This is an excellent use for them.

(Adapted from Epicurious.)

1 preserved lemon (regular or Meyer)

1 1/2 pound butternut squash, roasted, peeled and seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 3/4 cups Israeli couscous
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries (I used currants)
Halve lemon and scoop out flesh, keeping both flesh and peel. Cut enough peel into 1/4-inch dice to measure 1/4 cup. Put lemon flesh in a sieve set over a bowl and press with back of a spoon to extract juice.

Saute onion in olive oil until soft, and toss with roasted squash. Cook couscous with cinnamon stick in a large pot of boiling salted water 10 minutes, or until just tender, and drain in a colander (do not rinse). Add couscous to vegetables and toss with 2 tablespoons oil to coat. Add lemon peel and juice, parsley, nuts, and fruit, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to mix well.

This is really good and surprisingly hearty; another half a preserved lemon wouldn't hurt anything.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My twin blog

Just wanted to give a big shout-out to my new favorite blog, Poor Girl Gourmet.

That title seems familiar, right? Kind of like this blog, right? Well, guess what--she lives right near me! It's like we're blog soul sisters! One day soon our blogs are going to have a play date.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spice-brined pecans

I adapted this recipe for spice-brined pecans from Food52.

2 cups of raw pecan halves
2 teaspoons of sea salt
½ of a cinnamon stick, broken into 3 or 4 pieces
½ teaspoon ground mace
3 whole cloves
2 pieces of orange peel, each 1” x 3” (I used tangerine peel)
  1. Combine 1 ½ cups of boiling water in a glass or ceramic bowl with all of the other ingredients except the pecan halves. Cool to lukewarm, then stir well.
  2. Add the nuts and allow them to soak for 6-8 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. With a slotted spoon, remove the pecans from the brining liquid and spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Remove the whole spices and the orange peel.
  5. Roast for 10-12 hours, stirring occasionally.
  6. Enjoy!
Notes: my oven only went down to 170, and I was doing this during the week. So my pecans sat in the brine for the better part of a day, then I roasted them in two spurts, one night for five hours and the next night for five hours (I left them in the oven the whole time).

And they were still delish.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Zapp's potato chips

Another local find. Zapp's are made in Louisiana, and guess what--you can't find them in the rest of the country. (Naturally I only like things I can't actually get on a regular basis.)

Their Crawtator chips are my favorite. (No crawfish were involved in the making of these chips--they're covered with a spicy blend of flavorings typically used on seafood, kind of like Old Bay.) But the limited-edition Voodoo chips are a close second.

Whenever I visit my sister in Gulfport, I make sure to stock up on these chips.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My favorite beer

I write so much about wine, I just wanted to let everyone know that I like beer, too.

This one is my favorite: Abita Turbodog. Abita beer is made in Abita Springs, Louisiana, and as a result can sometimes be hard to find in the rest of the country. Fortunately, they seem to be getting better market share in the last couple of years. I usually don't have a problem finding it at places that stock specialty beers. It tastes like a lighter version of Guiness--the website bills it as "a dark brown ale brewed with Willamette hops and a combination of pale, crystal and chocolate malts. This combination gives Turbodog its rich body and color and a sweet chocolate toffee-like flavor." Mmmm-mmmm.

Price: anywhere from $7.99 to $11.99 for a six-pack, depending on what part of the country I'm in.

Their Purple Haze is pretty darn good, too.

My second favorite beer is the oatmeal stout my brother-in-law made for my wedding. Unfortunately, you won't be able to find that anywhere in the country (except, possibly, his basement).

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gratin Dauphinois

...which is really just a fancy way of saying scalloped potatoes, or potatoes au gratin. It's finely sliced potatoes with cream and cheese, baked until oooey-gooey-delicious.

Note: I used the slicer blade for my food processor for this. I can't imagine why I don't use it more. If you have one, I highly recommend using it for slicing potatoes. (If they don't fit down the feeding tube, just cut them in half lengthwise.) I didn't even peel them first. Prepping 8 potatoes for this dish therefore took roughly 45 seconds.

I also used big red-skinned potatoes, but really any kind of potato will work.

3 cups heavy cream
6-8 potatoes, very thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1-2 cups grated Gruyere or Comte cheese
chives or scallions for garnish, optional

Bring 2 cups of the cream up to a simmer in a big saucepan. Add the potatoes and cook for 3 minutes. The cream will start to thicken slightly. Dump into a big casserole dish, add plenty of salt and pepper, add teh rest of the cream, and sprinkle the cheese all over the top. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or so, until the potatoes are tender and the cheese is bubbly. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle chives or scallions on top.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Blog meet-and-greet rescheduled!

Hi Boston- and Providence-area readers! Due to this weekend's weather forecast (YET MORE SNOW), I'm rescheduling to Saturday, February 26. I'll post a reminder closer to the date.

For those of you in the rest of the country, be very, very glad you don't live in the Northeast. There's currently five feet of snow in my backyard, with no prayer of any of it melting any time soon. All my easy living in San Diego last year is being punished, in spades. Sigh.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Head cheese

I didn't make the head cheese--it was part of my meat CSA offering last week.

Despite the name, there's no actual cheese. It's kind of a meat jelly--pork scraps held together with aspic or gelatin, a more gelatinous version of country pâté. The scraps are generally taken from the head (hence "head cheese"), flavored with onion, black pepper, allspice, bay leaf, salt, and vinegar.

Some versions are more gelatinous than others, of course. I cut this one open and it's pretty solid.


It's great on crackers or bread. Think of it as upscale French lunchmeat.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cookbook review: Twelve Months of Monastery Salads

I found this cookbook, Twelve Months of Monastery Salads: 200 Divine Recipes for All Seasons by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette, at the Salvation Army for $1.

So already it's a pretty good cookbook.

I'm not sure if it's still in print, you may have to hunt for a used copy--or better yet, see if your local library has it. (I always preview cookbooks from the library before I spend money on them.)

But it'll be worth the hunt. I'm not usually a fan of salad cookbooks ("salad cookbook" is a contradiction in terms), but this one is pretty neat. Among the 200 recipes you'll find: Monastery Deviled Egg Salad, St. Scholastica Fennel Salad (with Roquefort & Blue Cheese), St. Joseph Spinach Salad (with Mustard Vinaigrette), St. Benedict Cucumber Salad (with Curry Mayonnaise), St. John the Baptist Potato Salad and Transfiguration Wild Rice & Chickpea Salad (with Hazelnut dressing).

OK, the names are a little hokey, but the salads are not. They're divided by months, depending on what's in season, so that April has Fava Bean Salad, Egyptian Style, and November has a Pear and Watercress salad.

Apparently he's also written Twelve Months of Monastery Soups--I'm definitely going to try to find that!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ham and bean soup

For the second week of my meat CSA, I got four handmade Italian sausages and...this.

They claim this is ham. But this doesn't look like any kind of ham I've ever seen.

Nevertheless, it was definitely pork, so I decided to throw it into a soup and call it a day.

1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 big carrots, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped

Saute all that in some olive oil until the veggies are soft. Add to it:

4-5 cups of soaked, pre-cooked white beans
1 cup chopped ham, or some other sort of pork product
enough broth to float the whole thing
a bay leaf

Let that cook down for a while, then add seasonings: Italian, cumin, salt and pepper. I threw in a head of kale, chopped, as well, since I had it. But that's strictly optional.

A good, cheap, all-purpose (if uninspiring) soup.