Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Garlic butter roasted mushrooms

I'd forgotten how delicious garlic butter is.

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen while I was searching for a way to use a big box of button mushrooms. Voila, I made this for breakfast, served it with crusty bread, and decided this is one of the easiest and best ways to eat a box of mushrooms.

Reprinted below:

1 pound mushrooms such as cremini or white, halved lengthwise if large
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle. Toss mushrooms with capers, garlic, oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper in a 1 1/2- to 2-qt shallow baking dish. Top with butter and roast, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender and golden and bubbly garlic sauce forms below, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and parsley. Serve immediately, with crusty bread on the side for swiping up the juices.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Apple blueberry pie

What do you do with three soft apples and part of a container of blueberries?

Combine them to make pie, of course.

You could also make a crisp; but I felt like pie. I used this pie crust. I peeled and chopped three apples and added a large container of blueberries. To that I added 1 cup of sugar, a few tablespoons of flour, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. I stirred, I poured all that into the pie crust, added the top layer of crust, and brushed it with an egg wash. I baked at 425 for 15 minutes, lowered to 350, and baked for an additional 30 minutes.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sriracha pork mac n' cheese

Last week I cooked up a ginormous pork shoulder, to make a big batch of pulled pork. (Why not; I had a lot of jars of barbecue sauce around.) Hubs and I have been eating pulled pork sandwiches all week, which is delicious, but was becoming tiring.

So today I decided to make a big batch of pork mac and cheese.

I used this mac and cheese recipe, without the greenery, with lots of leftover shredded pork added in. (I used regular cheddar cheese; I bet pepper jack would be fantastic in this.)

On the spur of the moment, I added a healthy amount of Sriracha to the cheese sauce, enough to turn it lightly orange.

The result was a slightly spicy, very porky, very cheesy mac and cheese.

Sriracha and pork make everything better, don't they? To celebrate I made myself a Srirazerac, as well.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Baked eggs in hummus

What to do with a bit of leftover hummus?

Baked eggs, of course.

I spread the leftover hummus (maybe 1 cup worth) between four ramekins, topped each with an egg and a spoonful of tomato sauce, and baked at 400 for 20 minutes.

Verdict: delicious. I scooped out two of the ramekins onto a bed of greens, sprinkled with salt, and had a very filling and nutritious hot breakfast.

Friday, April 26, 2013

I've discovered the joy of iced coffee

My relationship with coffee has always been a complicated one. I used to drink a lot of it--really strong, really black, usually on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.

Then, of course, that blew out the inside of my stomach. I started having intense gastrointestinal problems. Someone suggested that I quit drinking coffee and see if that helped. Regretfully, I stopped. And the problems disappeared. So I resigned myself to a lifetime of tea drinking.

After several years, I started making limited forays back into the world of coffee. (This time, with a little cream, and never on an empty stomach.) Usually it was before a long shift at work--as an additional last-minute caffeine boost. And usually it was a doctored-up shot of espresso, since I didn't want to drink an entire cup of regular coffee. Also because both places I work only have an espresso machine, not a regular drip coffee system.

Slowly, I've gotten to the point where I usually have an espresso (with cream) every day that I work. Every once in a while I'll have half a cup of regular coffee at home. I can't drink bad coffee, but I've also never liked coffee drinks--frappacinos and the like. They taste like bitter coffee-flavored whipped cream to me. Or they taste like a glass full of liquid pumpkin pie, or apple fritters, or whatever chemical nonsense has been added into them. They never taste like a fine-restaurant-quality shot of espresso, which is what I've gotten used to drinking.

Yesterday I got to work early, to make my customary espresso with cream. I needed it desperately, as I worked a double yesterday and was exhausted. I'd already had two espressos at my other job, so I knew a third wasn't going to help much.

Then I saw a coworker making an iced coffee.

Glass full of ice, third of a glass of milk, two healthy hits of simple syrup, with a piping hot shot of espresso poured on top. Stir and drink.

It was warm and sunny yesterday, and all of a sudden my brain said, "Yes. Want."

So I made one. And drank it. And it was exactly what I needed to get through the night.

I don't think I'll be buying many iced coffees, as I won't be able to control the sweetness or the quality of the coffee that goes into them. But I do think I'll be making myself many more of them.

Most people won't have a professional-grade espresso machine at home, and that's fine. The secret to a good iced coffee is the quality of the ingredients. Use the very best coffee you can afford, with whole milk or half-and-half, and simple syrup (which absorbs into the drink better than regular sugar). Avoid the temptation to add additional fripperies like whipped cream or chocolate or flavorings--that's not an iced coffee, that's dessert in a glass, and for the same calories I'd rather have a big piece of cake.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rhubarb pie

Oh, rhubarb. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

It's fully spring in the Pacific Northwest, which means rhubarb is here, but not quite yet strawberries. Which is fine--while strawberry-rhubarb pie is a tremendous thing, a plain ol' rhubarb pie is also tremendous.

The great thing about this pie is that the tartness of the rhubarb is still present--dulled a little by the flour and sugar, but very delicious.

Use this pie crust.

For the filling:

5 cups sliced rhubarb
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 tablespoons flour
2 pinches cinnamon (or ginger, or cardamom)

Mix together, add to bottom pie crust, and add top pie crust. Decorate/cut vents as you see fit. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then lower the oven to 350 and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Warm mushroom and grated beet salad

This is just cooked mushrooms, with grated roasted beets, and a wee bit of cheese. If you have greenery (spinach, arugula, lettuce), you could serve this over a bed of greens. But I ate it all by itself and it was delicious.

1 box button mushrooms, sliced
2 medium roasted beets, peeled
Butter, olive oil, fresh thyme
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Lightly saute the mushrooms in butter and olive oil until they start to give up some liquid. Add fresh thyme, and grate the beets into the pan. Mix together and continue cooking until the mushrooms are as done as you want them. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, with cheese.

As an aside, this was an excellent way to use up both some old mushrooms and a couple of old beets I found in the vegetable drawer.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Beets and burrata

Another nice thing about working in a restaurant is the inspiration factor. My restaurant is doing a new beet and burrata salad, which looked so delicious I thought I would take a stab at it.

Burrata is fresh mozzarella cheese, with a combination of fresh mozzarella and cream on the inside. I sliced it (well, "sliced," the inside is mostly liquid), drizzled it with olive oil, salt and fresh thyme, and laid it alongside roasted sliced beets. The beets got salt and pepper.

Verdict: not as good as the original, of course, but still an excellent use of beets. The creaminess of the cheese plays really well with roasted beets.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Carrot greens tea

I rescued a bunch of carrot tops from a box headed for the dumpster at work. Some went into a white bean soup. One bunch became carrot greens tea, which is supposed to be very good for your kidneys.

It's just boiling water poured over the greens, let sit for a few minutes. I let the water sit until it was tepid, and the flavor was a little strong for my taste. (Although reheated, with honey, it was fine.) It tasted like carrots and greens and garden dirt all in one.

I didn't notice any difference in my kidneys. But it was a fun experiment. My recommendation with carrot greens is still to use them in soups.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rhubarb crisp

Rhubarb is another one of those great harbingers of spring. Usually paired with strawberries, it's also great on its own (provided you sweeten it a little, as rhubarb is pretty tart). This crisp is sweet and tart together, and trust me, it didn't last long enough to cool down. We scarfed it up hot out of the oven.

3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 cups sliced fresh rhubarb
2 cups sliced peeled apples
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add rhubarb and apples or strawberries; toss to coat. Spoon into an 8-in. square baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until bubbly and fruit is tender. Serve warm with ice cream if desired.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Banana bread

I've made this banana bread before, but I thought I'd try a new recipe this time. This one seems moister to me (then again, I used one more banana than the new recipe called for). It also has the added advantage of being simpler, with fewer ingredients.

Freeze your overripe bananas and save them for banana bread--when you thaw them, they'll turn black, but that's what you want. The bananas will be soft and the flavor will be intensified.

1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup/2 large mashed bananas
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350, and grease a loaf pan. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk eggs, sugar, bananas and oil in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients and stir til just combined. Pour into loaf pan. Bake 60-70 minutes or until done. Let cool in pan 15 minutes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pickled ramps

Ramps are one of the most delicious harbingers of springs. They're wild onions (technically wild leeks) with a oniony-garlickly flavor, found in the mountains of the Eastern US.

I got a handful from work, and decided to pickle them. (Just the white bulb gets pickled--I saved the green tops for another use.) You can find them at farmer's markets and the occasional upscale grocery store.

From Serious Eats:

1 pound ramps, carefully washed, ends trimmed
1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup salt
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon yellow or black mustard seed
6 allspice berries
1 pinch red pepper flakes

Carefully pack ramps into a sterilized quart-sized jar with a screw-top lid. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil, whisking until sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour hot brine over ramps (it should fill the jar completely, if you have excess, discard). Screw on lid and allow to cool at room temperature. Transfer to refrigerator and allow to rest for at least 3 weeks and up to a year before consuming.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Kale and avocado salad with lime-Sriracha viniagrette

You know I can't resist a good raw kale salad. This one has avocados (2 for $1, on sale) and a lime-Sriracha dressing. Yum, yum!

1 head of kale, stripped from the stems and torn into pieces
2 avocados, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper

Juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons Sriracha (or more to taste)
Olive oil

Mix the lime juice and Sriracha together, then drizzle in olive oil while whisking until an emulsified dressing is formed. Add Sriracha to taste. Pour over the salad, then using your hands, massage the dressing into the kale. Let sit for at least an hour. Add salt and pepper and serve.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A face mask for dry skin

Lately my skin has become appallingly dry.

I don't know if it's age or the new climate (maybe both?), but my face is dry all the time. Like, peeling. Even with multiple applications of high-powered facial moisturizer every day. I'm experimenting with different lotions, and I've given up trying to use powder or exfoliators on my face. It's not a reaction to anything, and I'm drinking plenty of water, so maybe it is age. Bleh.

I'm also using this homemade face mask every other day or so. It's one egg yolk, mixed with one tablespoon of honey and one tablespoon of plain yogurt. Mix well, put on your clean dry face, and let sit for 20 minutes or so. Wash off with cool water. It makes my face feel almost hydrated again.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Work as supply

One of the benefits of being a restaurant worker are the secret perks. It's a hard job, physically demanding, with long hours and low and/or inconsistent pay. But the perks can sometimes make up for that.

Perks include: being a known part of the industry, and getting freebies at other restaurants. Getting restaurant leftovers (stale bread, seafood that won't keep through the holidays, half-rolls of toilet paper), being able to purchase wine off the wine list at cost, borrowing cookbooks from the chef's personal library.

And sometimes, other perks. Like my new personal favorite: being able to purchase food, at cost, from the restaurant.

Not prepared food; not the menu items. I mean basic food supplies. Shallots, kale, mushrooms, celery, fresh rhubarb, shrimp, even the occasional steak. The walk-in refrigerator is so much more exciting when you can shop from it.

I've started bringing some things home, including some fresh ramps. (Next project: pickled ramps.) The great thing about this system is that the food is all top-quality and really fresh. It's not crappy supermarket produce, and it's cheaper than the farmer's market. It's also incredibly convenient. I can just grab stuff after work, right before I head home, and save myself a trip to the store.

Hooray for my job!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gardening update

Ha ha! Fooled you! You thought I wouldn't have a garden this year, because I live in a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Seattle now, right?

Well, technically, I still don't. But the apartment building offers metal planting tubs on the roof deck, if you want one. I signed up for one (they're each about six feet long, two feet wide, about three feet high, already filled with dirt) and planted a few seeds each of kale, parsley, and carrots.

I haven't done anything to the plot since I planted the seeds--I figured I'd let the natural sun and rain cycle do its thing while I watched. I haven't watered or fertilized.

The seeds are coming along slowly--I suspect there's not quite enough sunshine--but they are definitely coming along. Maybe once summer gets here, they'll take off.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cleaning out the fridge

Sorry there hasn't been much happening on this blog. While my stepson was in town, I wasn't doing very much cooking at all (outside of spaghetti). I think he ate his weight in sandwiches. Now that he's gone, I'm trying to use up everything that got neglected while he was here.

Also, it looks like I'm going to continue to be the primary breadwinner for a bit longer. Which means an increased interest in keeping grocery costs to a minimum.

So, I made a baked pasta thing (used up: box of rigatoni, a container of tomato sauce, a box of frozen spinach, some cheese) and an herb risotto (used up: a bunch of fresh herbs--cilantro, parsley, basil--about to go slimy, some broth, and some pesto). Next I'll make a batch of gumbo (to use up: a package of chicken and andouille sausage). I'll freeze what's left of the milk, to save for yogurt-making. After that, corn and potato chowder.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Rhuby Boomershine

I've invented a cocktail for work.

And look! It's on the menu!

It's 1 oz each of Rhuby (now renamed Rhubarb Tea) and the rhubarb shrub I wrote about a couple of weeks ago--which is equal parts chopped rhubarb, brown sugar, and vinegar, left to sit for a few days. Pour over ice, top with Dry Rhubarb soda, and mix well.

It's light and refreshing, like rhubarb lemonade without the lemons. It makes you want to sit in the sun and drink three of them.

And it's paired with a bite of foie gras wrapped in pastry. What could be more awesome?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Teenage boy update

We've returned to normalcy. That is, a teenage stepson who won't actually eat anything.

I'm not sure what prompted Sunday's gorging: maybe this is how kids eat? A day of eating constantly, followed by a week of picking? Since then, he's been picking. Taking the lettuce out of his sandwiches, eating around the green stuff, and generally claiming to not be hungry.

Then again, he's still consuming more than he has in the past. And while most of what he's eaten has been sandwiches, at least he's eating the crusts.

I haven't been cooking much. I made a baked rigatoni thing with frozen spinach, and a new batch of cookies. Some salads and wraps. I return to work tonight, so I suspect I won't need to cook much more before he leaves this weekend. Maybe some more chicken, a batch of mac and cheese, something like that.

We've been doing some good sightseeing. Sorry the blog has been uninteresting--I hope to have some new recipes soon.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Olympic National Park, WA

Another day, another national park.

We've had a string of spectacular days in Seattle--cloudless, sunny, almost 70 degrees. One of those days is pretty rare; to have 2 or 3 of them in a row is a first for me. On Saturday, we got up early and went to Discovery Park. We hiked out to the point to see the fantastic views.

Yesterday (Easter Sunday), we got up even earlier. We took the ferry across, to my stepson's delight, and spent the day in Olympic National Park. It's not really a driving park; most of it is wilderness, and it's big, and there's no road that goes across it. However, we saw the highlights in three vastly different ecosystems: Hurricane Ridge at the top of the mountains, where we got to see 12-foot snowbanks and glaciers; Rialto Beach, a rocky, surf-torn Pacific Beach covered with massive logs of driftwood; and Hoh rainforest, North America's only rainforest, with massive moss-covered trees and ferns everywhere.

(My Southern California-raised stepson on the rain forest: "There's something wrong with this stream! I can see all the way to the bottom of it! The water is perfectly clear! It's not supposed to be like that!")

We ended the day at Kalaloch Lodge with burgers and beers, overlooking the ocean. Why? Because my stepson has finally discovered his appetite. I packed what I thought would be a day's worth of food for three people, lunch and dinner: six sandwiches, several bottles of water, plus a totebag full of apples, bananas, dried fruit, a gallon Ziploc bag of popcorn, some protein bars, some cookies, etc.

All that food was gone by 3 pm.

I got one sandwich and an apple for lunch. My stepson ate everything else. Then he ate a burger and fries at the Lodge, and had the last sandwich for dessert.

I'm not complaining. Yesterday he ate more food than I've ever seen him eat, cumulatively. And he didn't pick at the sandwiches, and leave the crusts, and take the nuts out of the cookies, or eat only half the apples, or otherwise pretend to eat like I've seen him do so often. He ate everything. Even the crusts.

I was so proud.

So it was a good day. A lot of driving, and a long day overall, but the weather was perfect, the scenery was amazing, and there was very little traffic. I really like spending a beautiful day like that on the road, seeing new things, out away from the crowds.

And next time, I'll pack more sandwiches.