Friday, August 31, 2012

Lentil salad with zucchini, tomatoes and arugula

From the LA Times:

1/4 pound zucchini, cut in 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided, plus more to taste
1 cup lentils
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup torn arugula leaves
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Place the diced zucchini in a colander and sprinkle liberally with 1 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat evenly and set aside to drain until the zucchini has begun to soften (the cut edges will appear slightly rounded), about 30 minutes. Rinse well under running water and pat dry with a tea towel.

Meanwhile, rinse the lentils under running water and add them to a large pot of rapidly boiling, liberally salted water. Return to a simmer and cook until they are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain the lentils, rinse under running water to stop the cooking, and turn them out into a tea towel to dry and finish cooling.

Stir the lentils, chives and garlic together in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with with one-half teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper, or to taste. The mixture should be highly seasoned.

Stir in the zucchini, cherry tomatoes and lemon juice. Gently fold in arugula leaves. Add just enough olive oil to barely moisten the arugula (you may not need to add any). Stir in the pine nuts and serve at room temperature.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Egg and pesto stuffed tomatoes

I'm back from a mini-vacation to Montreal; I'll get a post up all about it soon!

In the meantime, I'm fixing quick and easy dishes using what's already in the fridge. In this case, egg and pesto stuffed tomatoes.

Slice the top off each tomatoes, and a sliver from the bottom, so that the tomato will stand upright. Scoop out the inside. Place a big spoonful of pesto inside each one, and crack an egg in. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or so.

Roasted tomato, egg, melty pesto. What could be better?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Barley with truffle oil

Barley makes a great substitute for brown rice, and will happily thicken up a soup, salad, or casserole. It also makes a nice side dish all on its very own. Here, I added a little truffle oil at the very end, and ohmygoodness was it delicious.

No recipe needed; just cook pearled barley (just like you would rice). Add truffle oil and salt to taste. Enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Chicken pot pie

What better way to use up a bunch of summer vegetables and leftover chicken?

This is not so much a recipe as it is a guideline. Feel free to use different vegetables. Peas, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, and other kinds of squash are easy substitutions. If you like more sauce, use fewer vegetables. (I like my chicken pot pie not very saucy.) This made two big 8x13 casserole dishes of chicken pot pie, so scale back if you need to.

2 zucchini, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 package mushrooms, sliced
Cooked leftover barley or rice (you could substitute potatoes too)
Cooked leftover chicken

For sauce:
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth

2 pie crusts
1 egg, beaten

Saute the veggies in olive oil until they begin to soften. Add leftover barley or rice to heat through. Stir in the chicken to heat through. Season with salt and pepper, and whatever fresh herbs you may have. (I used parsley, basil, and a little oregano.)

For the sauce, combine the flour and melted butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk together. Slowly add the chicken broth, and then the cream and milk. Continue whisking over medium heat until it boils. At this point it will be visibly thicker, like a cream sauce. Remove from the heat, stir in a few drops of Tabasco, and combine with the chicken and veggie mixture.

Pour into two casserole dishes. Place a rolled-out pie crust on top of each. Slice into the pie crust to create vents, and brush each with the beaten egg.

Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes, or until the crusts are nicely browned.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Lang

Remember Rhuby? My best friend made a new drink with it. I'm totally in love with it. I've named it after her.

She mixes like I do: by sight. So I'm transcribing her recipe exactly as she wrote it down. You'll need to experiment to get the proportions the way you like them.

Rhuby: largest pour
Cointreau: next largest
Kirsch: more than the bitters, less than the others
Cherry bitters: 2 drops
Blood orange bitters: 2 drops

Shake over ice, strain into a martini glass.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


You know you want some.

3 avocados
1 lime
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 jalapeno, minced
1-2 tomatoes, chopped
Fresh cilantro to taste

Peel and pit the avocados, and mash together with the other ingredients. Salt to taste.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Summer veggie burgers

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small red onion, halved
2 cloves garlic
1 minced jalapeno
1 medium zucchini, grated
2 cups fresh corn kernels
3/4 cup cornmeal

Puree the onion, garlic, and jalapeno until almost smooth. Add to a hot pan with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Add the grated zucchini with 1/2 cup corn. Puree the remaining corn and let the machine run until it becomes a thick paste. Cook the zucchini mixture until the vegetables release their water and it starts to evaporate, 5 minutes. Add the corn paste and cornmeal. Remove from the heat, cover, and let rest 10 minutes.

If the mixture is wet, add a little flour. Form 4-6 patties and let rest for a few minutes. Cook in the same pan with olive oil, 5 minutes on each side, until nicely browned.

You can also add 1/2 cup grated cheddar, mozzarella, or parmesan with the cornmeal for a richer burger.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Blueberry frozen yogurt

Pardon the lateness of this post, I spent all morning drinking beer on a sailboat in the sun. Awesomeness factor = 11.

1 1/2 cups plain whole milk yogurt
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups blueberries
1 teaspoon kirsch
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Puree the yogurt, sugar and blueberries together, then press through a fine sieve to separate out the blueberry seeds and skins. Add the kirsch and lemon juice, and chill. Freeze in your ice cream maker.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Beer battered chicken

Oh yeah.

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon each salt and paprika
2 eggs
4 tablespoons oil
2 cups flat beer
2 extra egg whites
4-6 lbs chicken parts

Sift the dry ingredients together. Beat the whole eggs, oil and beer together. Blend the two together until smooth, and chill 2 hours.

Stir again, beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Flavor with curry powder (optional), roll the chicken in, and fry.

Go here for tips on frying chicken.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Zucchini and polenta casserole

Any summer squash will do. I used green and yellow zucchini, and doubled the recipe.

1/2 tablespoon each olive oil and butter
1 small onion, minced
2 small green peppers, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 medium-to-large zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup parmesan
1 teaspoon each fresh thyme, salt and pepper
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Saute the onion and peppers in the olive oil and butter until partially softened; add the garlic and cook for another two minutes. Add the zucchini and cook 4-5 minutes.

Mix the cornmeal, flour, parmesan, thyme, salt and pepper in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs; whisk into the cornmeal mix. Add the cooked veggies to the batter and stir together.

Pour into a buttered casserole dish and bake at 350 until firm, 30 minutes or so. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ginger-cornmeal pound cake

Bonus points: I used up all the rest of the crystallized ginger and a large scoop of cornmeal.

Extra bonus points: This is a very delicious cake.

2 sticks unsalted butter, soft
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
5 eggs, separated
2-4 tablespoons crystallized ginger (or 1 teaspoon vanilla, if not using ginger)

Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt and set aside. Beat the two sticks of butter until they're smooth. Add 3/4 cup sugar and mix til well blended. Add the egg yolks one at a time; add the ginger (or vanilla) and blend well.

Mix in the dry ingredients by hand until just smooth; do not overmix or beat. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, with the 1/4 cup sugar. Fold gently but thoroughly into the batter (the base batter is very thick).

Turn into a greased 9x5 loaf pan and bake at 325 until a toothpick comes out clean, 1 hour and 15 minutes or so. Let rest in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting. Cool before slicing.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Spicy tomato hummus

Another pool party hit, and perfect with veggie sticks.

This hummus, with a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and 6-8 canned tomatoes added. Puree and adjust seasonings.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Black bean dip

I'm going to a pool party today with some very old and dear friends from college. I'm taking this, with some chips.

2 can black beans (or the equivalent amount of dried beans, soaked and cooked)
1 tomato
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled
juice of 1 lime
1 jalapeno, chopped
1/2 teaspoon each cumin, chili powder, and oregano
salt and pepper

Puree everything together in your food processor, and adjust the seasonings.

Friday, August 17, 2012

My first cherry tomato!

Isn't it a beauty? I'm hoping the next couple of weeks provide me with a bounty of cherry tomatoes.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Molasses cookies with lemon glaze

I've been baking a lot lately. Not sure why. Partly it's to use up some stuff in my pantry, but partly it's because suddenly I feel like baking. I don't normally have much of a sweet tooth, so maybe it's some sort of prolonged sugar craving.

Regardless, I currently have five different types of cookies in my house, plus banana bread. Here's today's batch, which utilizes my supply of molasses, brown sugar, and crystallized ginger. These taste kind of like pumpkin pie.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 tablespoons crystallized ginger (optional)
2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
granulated sugar

Whip the butter with the olive oil, molasses, and brown sugar. When fluffy, add the egg and whip til smooth. Whip in the grated ginger and its juice.

Add the flour, salt, baking soda, spices and crystallized ginger. Stir until thoroughly combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap (it will be very soft) and refrigerate until firm.

Pour about 1/2 cup granulated sugar into a bowl. Form walnut-sized balls of dough, and roll them in the sugar. Place onto cookie sheets that have been covered with parchment paper.

Bake at 350 for 12 minutes, switching the pans from bottom to top at 6 minutes. The cookies will have a cake-like texture when done.

For the lemon glaze:
2 lemons, juiced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar

Whisk together, pour over the cookies while they're cooling.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Welcome to my 1,000th post!

I had no idea this milestone was coming up until this morning. I can't believe it's been almost three years!

In celebration, I'm dusting off my favorite post:

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

I hope you'll stick around for the next 1,000!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pine nut cookies

I'm currently on a mission to use up the more esoteric ingredients in my pantry, in preparation for any possible move. Pine nuts, saffron, crystallized ginger, juniper berries, semolina flour, barley, molasses: all these things and more!

This recipe is awesome because it tackles both pine nuts and semolina flour.

These aren't sweet cookies. They're more savory, like tea cookies. (Which means I feel completely justified in eating them for breakfast.)

A couple of notes: the cookies will not spread. Whatever shape they are when you put them on the cookie sheet, they'll stay that way. Also, they'll leak some residual butter while baking. If you have a flat cookie sheet, you may want to put some foil or something underneath to catch drips.

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix the butter and sugar together until just combined. On low speed, add the egg yolk, then the pine nuts, flours and salt, mixing on low until the mixture just holds together.

Shape the dough into a log; wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Unwrap the dough and slice it 1/4-inch thick. Put the slices on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 325 until the cookies are firm but not browning, 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on them while baking.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lentil and potato curry

No posts for the last couple of days because I haven't been around to cook anything. I've been working pretty much continuously, but now it's my day off! This is what I'm making.

From Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: 1 cup dried brown lentils, washed and picked over

3 1/2 cups water, coconut milk, or stock, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 medium starchy potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Yogurt and chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

1. Combine the lentils, liquid, and curry powder in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low so that the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils start to absorb the water a bit, about 15 minutes.

2. Add the potatoes and cover the pan completely. Cook undisturbed for 10 minutes or so, then stir gently and check to make sure the lentils aren't too dry. (At this point, you can add 2 tablespoons butter for a smoother mixture, if you want.) If they are, add a bit more liquid. Add salt as the lentils become tender.

3. Cover and continue cooking until the lentils are soft and beginning to turn to mush and the potatoes are tender at the center, another 5 to 10 minutes; add liquid if necessary. The mixture should be moist but not soupy. Add lots of black pepper, stir, then taste and adjust the seasoning and serve, garnished with yogurt and cilantro.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Grilled romaine

Yes, Virginia, you CAN grill salad.

Or romaine, in this case. It's the easiest thing in the world: cut romaine hearts in half lengthwise, leaving the bottom intact (you want the whole thing to stay together while it's on the grill). Grill, cut side down, until the leaves get a little char and are just starting to get wilty. Remove. Maybe sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese or lemon juice. Serve with grilled meats.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Potato and corn frittata

Remember this zucchini and potato frittata? This uses fresh summer corn; some of the kernels will almost caramelize, which is too delicious for words.

3 tablespoons olive oil or bacon grease
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, sliced
1 large baking potato, peeled and sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups corn kernels
6 eggs
1 cup coarsely shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oil (I used bacon grease) in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, and add the garlic, onion, potato, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, resisting the urge to stir. Remove the lid, flip the mixture so the other side can brown, and then cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the corn and cook for a few minutes longer, to heat through.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, then add the cheese, parsley, cream, and salt and pepper. Pour into the skillet, stirring just to mix with the potatoes. Cook without stirring (shaking occasionally to loosen it) until the bottom is golden but the top is still runny, 8 to 10 minutes. Finish the frittata by placing it in the oven; bake at 400 until the top is just set. Remove and serve.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Orzo pasta salad with corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and pine nuts

This is a great, quick pasta salad. The nice thing about pasta salad this time of year is that you can eat it cold. Bonus: this one isn't full of mayo and heavy.

1 box orzo, cooked and drained
2-3 large tomatoes, chopped
2 ears of corn, with the corn cut off
2 cucumbers, chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
A handful of fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup grated mozzarella
Olive oil
Tarragon vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together; combine with olive oil and vinegar until the taste/consistency is what you like. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Almond coffee cake

While cleaning out my fridge the other day, I found an unopened tube of almond paste. And since I'm currently trying to use things up, I figured it was time for some almond cake.

Warning: this makes 2. You will eat both. With extra icing.

Reprinted from Two Tarts:

Yield: 2 coffee cakes, each serves 8. Before the final rise (*noted in instructions below), the coffee cakes can be frozen for future use if desired.

1 tube almond paste (7 ounces)
6 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 1/3 cups warm milk (110ºF)
1/3 cup honey
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted
3 egg yolks (reserve whites for topping)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4½ cups flour, plus extra for work surface
1 package rapid-rise or instant yeast
2 tsp. salt

3 large egg whites
½ cup sliced almonds
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp. milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling: Fit stand mixer with paddle attachment and mix almond paste, confectioners’ sugar, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and cream cheese until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the dough: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 200ºF. When oven reaches 200, shut it off. Lightly grease large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix milk, honey, melted butter, yolks, and vanilla in large measuring cup. Mix flour, yeast, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn mixer to low and slowly add milk mixture. After dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until shiny and smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. (Dough will be sticky.) Turn dough onto heavily floured work surface, shape into ball, and transfer to greased bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough is nearly doubled, about 20 minutes.

On lightly floured work surface, divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll dough into 18-by-9-inch rectangle with long side facing you. Spread with half of filling and roll up dough. Brush top edge with water, then press to seal and transfer, seam side down, to parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Shape each cylinder into a ring or horseshoe. *Once dough is shaped into a horseshoe, it can be wrapped in foil and frozen for future use. Using paring knife, make cuts around outside of dough, about 1½ inches apart, leaving about an inch of intact dough at the top of your cut. In other words you are making slices but keeping the cake together as one unit. With your fingers, turn each “slice” of dough so that the filling is showing. Cover with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray and return to oven until rings have puffed slightly, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and heat oven to 375ºF.

For the topping, whisk reserved egg whites in a small bowl, then brush rings with egg whites. Sprinkle with almonds and bake until deep brown, about 25 minutes, switching and rotating pans halfway through baking. 

For the icing: While rings are baking or cooling, whisk confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, milk, and vanilla in small bowl until smooth. Drizzle icing over baked coffee cakes and serve warm.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Chartreuse Smash

As my husband put it, "This is one of the very few drinks I've had with Chartreuse that I actually like."

1 fresh sage leaf
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 lime, in wedges
2 tablespoons each gin and green Chartreuse

Muddle together the sage, honey and lime. Add the gin and Chartreuse, and strain over crushed ice. Garnish with more fresh sage.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pecan-crusted fish

2 lbs fish fillets (grouper, swordfish, catfish or tilapia all work well)
Blackening seasoning (BBQ dry rub also works well)
2 cups flour
1/3 cup ground pecans
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
Canola oil

Pat the fish dry. Stir together flour and nuts in a shallow dish. Season the fish with salt, pepper, and seasoning mix to taste. In a separate dish, whisk together the eggs and milk. Dredge the fish in the egg mixture, then the flour mixture. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat; when hot, add the canola oil. Fry the fish in batches until golden-brown on both sides. Don't overcrowd the pan. Drain on paper towels and serve.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Watermelon and goat cheese salad with lemon verbena vinaigrette

Mmmm, watermelon.

fresh lemon verbena
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 seedless watermelon in 1-inch cubes, cold
1/2 cup unsalted pistachios
4-6 oz fresh goat cheese
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Crush the lemon verbena well in a mortar and pestle with the salt for 2-3 minutes. Leave that for 1 hour at room temperature. Toast the pistachios and chop them. Whisk them into the verbena mixture with the olive oil and vinegar. To serve, lay out the cold watermelon cubes, dot with goat cheese, and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Four bean and bacon ragout with green pepper puree and poached egg

This is a less-fancy copy of something we've been serving at the restaurant lately. As you might imagine, it is very delicious, even in the less-fancy version.

I used a combination of four different kinds of dried beans: garbanzo, red kidney, black, and pinto. I soaked them for a day, then threw them into the CrockPot with water and pork broth until they were cooked through.

I then fried up some bacon, and mixed that with the cooked beans. I added salt and pepper to taste.

I cut up two bell peppers, steamed them in a pan with a little chicken broth, then dumped all that into the food processor and pureed it.

To serve, put some green pepper puree in the bottom of a bowl, and top that with bean and bacon ragout. Add a poached egg on top, and more salt and pepper to taste.

It's the most exciting thing I've done with beans in a while.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Zucchini risotto

With this dish, I managed to use up a bunch of random squash and zucchini ends (from work) and the last of the arborio rice.

You can use this recipe as a guideline. This is a standard risotto, with grated zucchini/squash (1 large, or a few small). About halfway through the cooking process, add the grated squash. It will cook quickly, and adopt a really nice melty texture. Add parmesan and the juice of a lemon at the end, and season with salt and pepper.

Fresh dill or basil would be a really nice addition, too.