Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lemony white bean and arugula salad

Summer has finally arrived here in the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 80s for the next few days. It's sunny and bright, and we're planning to finally drive to Mt. Rainier tomorrow.

However, working in un-air-conditioned restaurants when it's 85 degrees outside is no fun. I had to scamper out to Costco yesterday to buy up some fans for the apartment, and some Gatorade for myself. Today I'll need to cook a bunch of food for the week ahead, but who wants to cook when it's so hot?

So instead, I'm making a bunch of cold dishes. Bean salads, corn salads, pasta salads. First up: this lemony and delicious cold white bean salad, reprinted below:

5 packed cups (5 ounces) arugula (I used mixed greens, that's all I had)
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (I used a shallot)
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad: In a large salad bowl, combine the arugula, beans, red onion, and capers.

Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, maple syrup and lemon zest. Slowly whisk in the oil until smooth and combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well to coat. Serve.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

New clothes

Sometimes you just have to give up and spend money, you know?

Last year we both needed new clothes, but what with my husband being newly unemployed, I couldn't justify the expense. Plus, we knew we were going to move at some point--why not just wait and buy new clothes on the other side?

Well, here we are on the other side. Once we got settled and money started coming in on a regular basis, it became fairly imperative to replace the stained/old/shabby clothes we'd been coasting on for two years.

Step One: work clothes. A sale at Old Navy provided several new pairs of jeans and black pants for me. A trip to the Goodwill provided several t-shirts and a new belt. I laid out real money for new, properly-fitting bras, a new pair of Danskos, and a new pair of tennis shoes for walking to work, plus some fancy marathon-runner socks. Now I can work all week without having to worry about laundry (if I have to). New shoes and support garments were expensive, but necessary.

Step Two: non-work clothes. Another Old Navy sale provided some new threads for my husband: a new pair of jeans, some shorts, some polos, some summer shirts. I got myself a couple pairs of shorts and a few summer blouses.

Step Three: new shoes. New loafers, tennis shoes, and summer shoes for my husband; some casual slip-ons and one sparkly pair of sandals for me. Comfort was key.

It's not a wardrobe overhaul or anything; I didn't buy any dressy clothes or cute summer outfits. (Where would I wear them? I work all the time.) But it feels good to finally cross that off the to-do list, and it also feels good to be able to open my closet and find something I want to wear on my days off.

Besides, we're going on a road trip next month. That calls for new shorts and sandals, right?

As a concession to pretty new things, I bought a few pairs of earrings at Target. Those at least I can wear to work.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rice pudding with salted caramel

When I used to work at Cook & Brown in Providence, I would sometimes end a shift by eating a bowl of this stuff. It's addictive. I'm not usually a rice pudding person, but this stuff is amazing.

I stumbled upon the recipe recently, and decided to make it at home.

I had decidedly mixed results. The pudding was a little runny, the caramel clumped, and so I didn't even bother folding in whipped cream at the end.

But you know what? Still delicious.

Reprinted below:

Rice Pudding:
1.5 cups heavy cream + 3/4 cup heavy cream for later use
2.25 cups whole milk
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon arborio rice (or any other short grained risotto rice)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half and seeds scraped out

Salted Caramel:
1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (kosher salt will also work, but avoid table salt)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

For the rice pudding:

Place 1.5 cups heavy cream, milk, rice, sugar and vanilla bean and seeds in a medium sized, heavy bottomed sauce pan. Over medium-high heat bring to a boil, stirring every couple of minutes to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat to low and cook for 25-35 minutes or until the rice is cooked through and the liquid has reduced by about half. Pour into a casserole dish, remove the vanilla beans and place in the refrigerator. Every 15 minutes or so give the pudding a stir so that no clumps form while cooling.

For the caramel:

Pour the sugar in to a heavy bottomed, small to medium sized sauce pot and place over medium heat. Spread the sugar out in an even layer and wait until it begins to melt and turn a light amber color. When the edges being to caramelize, gently swirl the pan but do not stir with a spoon. When all of the sugar has turned an amber color, remove from the heat and add the butter. Once the butter is fully melted, slowly pour in the cream (Be aware that caramelized sugar is very hot. When adding the cream, the mixture may bubble up and sputter a little. Be very careful during this step.) If the sugar clumps up, simply place the pan back over low heat and stir until the caramel melts completely. Remove from the stove and stir in the salt. Set the caramel aside to cool down.

In a bowl or glass, alternate spoonfuls of the rice pudding with thin layers of caramel. Finish with a dollop of caramel on top and garnish with a few flakes of large grained sea salt.

Meanwhile, place the remaining 3/4 cup of heavy cream in a bowl or stand mixer and whisk until it forms medium peaks. Fold this into the rice pudding until the whole mixture is light and creamy.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Blueberry cobbler

From Real Simple:

2 pints blueberries
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Heat oven to 375° F. In a shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dish or a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate, toss the blueberries, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon flour. In a medium bowl, combine the baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and the remaining flour and sugar. Add the butter and blend with your fingers or 2 knives until coarse crumbs form. Add 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cream and mix until a shaggy dough forms. Drop mounds of dough over the blueberry mixture. Bake until the berries are bubbling and the top is golden, 35 to 40 minutes.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The End of the Night

Sorry for the radio silence this week: it's been a long, busy one. The last two nights were lucrative, at least, but both nights were so busy I consider that blood money. On top of an already long and tiring week. I bought new tennis shoes to help with the off-hours foot soreness (did you know you can't buy tennis shoes in plain old white or black anymore? They're all combinations of day-glo neon colors), and discovered that frozen golf balls make an excellent foot massager. I also spent most of the week worrying about my cat, who wasn't eating or drinking. He seems to be fine now, fortunately, but only after an expensive vet trip and a lot of wet cat food (which I don't normally give him).

On the plus side, the week is now officially over, and I have two days off in front of me.

This drink is, quite honestly, the only thing that got me through the last two nights.

I don't know if it has an official name, so I'm calling it The End of the Night.

1 1/2 oz resposado tequila
3/4 oz rhubarb shrub
1/4 oz Cynar
1/4 oz lime

Shake over ice and strain. Garnish with lime.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


I found the easiest way ever to make meatballs.

Take one 1-lb package of Italian sausage meat (I used spicy). Add 1 egg and enough breadcrumbs to bind. (The sausage meat is already seasoned.) Bake, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, at 350 for 25-35 minutes. Remove and add to tomato sauce. Simmer for an additional few minutes.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Chicken salad puff pastry sandwiches

Leftover chicken = chicken salad, right?

Chicken salad is basically just cooked chopped chicken, some celery, some raw onion (I use shallots), and enough mayo to hold it together. Salt and pepper to taste. I threw in some pecans and an apple, too.

Then I took two thawed sheets of puff pastry, cut each into 6 rectangles, and baked those at 400 for 10 minutes. Layer and eat.

Warning: this is flaky and delicious. It will make a mess. A tasty mess.

Monday, June 10, 2013

This week's cooking

My husband has been sick all week--some variant of flu, which means he hasn't been consuming much outside of water and NyQuil. The black bean soup I made last week was mostly untouched, so I put those containers into the freezer to save for another time. That also means I'll have to do less cooking for the week ahead--there's still some chicken curry left over.

So I thawed the last whole chicken in the freezer, and roasted it with the last of the potatoes. I made a mac and cheese with frozen spinach, made myself some wraps, and called it a day. Hubs can supplement that with fruit and salad, and if for some reason we run out of prepared food before I have a chance to make more, there are always the containers of soup in the freezer.

Added bonus: I can put off grocery shopping until next weekend.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Cardamom chicken curry

Sometimes you have most of the ingredients of a recipe, but not all. Depending on how you feel about improvising, you have a few options. You can simply proceed without those ingredients, and see what happens; you can substitute something similar; or you can go out and buy those things. Almost always I'll choose 1 or 2. Occasionally I'll get a final result that's nothing like the original. But that's okay too, because it's usually still pretty good.

As happened with this chicken curry. I wanted something to use up two packages of chicken thighs, and I liked the idea of a curry made with yogurt. This is the original recipe. I had green cardamom and turmeric, but not the other more exotic spices. I decided to make it anyway. I skipped a few ingredients that I didn't have (cilantro, fresh ginger, black cardamom); it ended up more like a spiced yogurt version of chicken cacciatore.

But you know what? Still pretty tasty.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A wine geek moment

I don't normally feel like I know something about wine--I mean, I do, some, but I'm still learning the wine list at work and so usually I defer to the sommelier when someone has a wine question. However, I got to stump the sommelier this weekend.

When I got to Seattle, I got on the mailing list for Garagiste. They import small-batch wines, available to those on the email list. Typically I'll get 1-2 emails a day from them, with new wines for sale. I've bought a couple of things, here and there. The first of the orders arrived this weekend, so I made an appointment to go pick it up.

Oh. My. God.

The warehouse--which is utterly nondescript and in a weird part of town--also had a retail showroom. Meaning I could browse the shelves and buy more wine. And it was the most eclectic, most heart-warming wine collection I've seen in a while. Half the stuff on the shelves was stuff I recognized from the Craigie on Main wine list, stuff I thought I'd left behind forever because most of it doesn't get imported to the West Coast.

Naturally I had to buy some. I stopped myself at two bottles, because otherwise it could have gotten ridiculous, but I may have to go back next weekend and get some more.

One of the bottles I got was Susucaru 2. I won't go into the details, you can look that up for yourself if you're interested, but it's a funky, hard-to-find rose from Sicily. It's completely unfiltered, no sulfites or preservatives added, and it's incredibly lean. Super-acidic, lots of gunk floating it it, made from native Sicilian grapes no one's ever heard of.

I took it into work to crack open after service, and the sommelier and I had a good time geeking out over the bottle. It started off almost all acid, but the fruit opened up nicely after a few minutes and by the end of the bottle I found myself wanting more. The warehouse had more wines by that same producer (red wines); I want to go back and try those next week.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Succotash with ramps

Succotash (traditionally a mixture of lima beans, corn, possibly black-eyed peas, and bacon) can be a meal in itself, especially with the bacon. I like it because it doesn't require any fresh ingredients: you can pull a bag of frozen lima beans and a bag of frozen corn out of your freezer and have something delicious to eat 20 minutes later.

I've made this succotash before, but this one had a bunch of fresh ramps added in--greens and all. The ramps gave it a great green-oniony element. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tabbouleh with radishes and peppers

I love tabbouleh, but it's hard to find decent tomatoes ten months out of the year. Occasionally I'll make a no-tomato tabbouleh just to mix things up a little. This one has thinly sliced raw breakfast radishes and one raw yellow pepper, plus parsley and mint, minus the usual tomato and cucumber. I also added some pickled ramps, for onion flavor.

The great thing about tabbouleh is that you can make it ahead of time, eat it cold or at room temperature, or throw it into a wrap with some greenery. It's very versatile, very forgiving (you can leave it in a hot car), and very delicious.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Roasted cauliflower with bacon

I found cauliflower on sale at the farmer's market, so I turned it into a quick, hearty side dish. (I've also made roasted cauliflower with paprika.)

1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
3 slices of uncooked bacon, in bite-size pieces
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
Olive oil

Toss everything together and drizzle with olive oil. Roast at 375 for 15-20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is starting to color and the bacon is crisp. Salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Black bean and andouille sausage soup

Since I'm now working four doubles in a row each week (16-hour days Tuesday through Friday), naturally it's become imperative to do a bunch of cooking on my two days off. I started this week's lineup with an easy soup, using up a bag of dried beans and some leftover sausage.

1 bag of dried black beans, soaked overnight and pre-cooked in a CrockPot
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 red pepper (or green), chopped
1 package andouille sausage, sliced
2 cups tomato sauce, or one can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 quarts broth
Seasonings to taste: salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne

In a big soup pot, add some olive oil (or bacon fat) over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, carrot, and celery until the onion is soft. Add the pepper and the sausage and saute for another couple of minutes. Add the beans, the tomatoes, and enough broth to float everything. Let cook down on medium-low heat, covered, until everything is cooked through. (If the beans are pre-cooked, 20-30 minutes; if not, 1-2 hours.) Season to taste and allow to simmer another five minutes or so.

Note: it would be very easy to add, say, a bag of frozen corn into this soup.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Salad with baby kale, radish and pickled ramps

Sometimes simple things are the best.

I made a salad of mixed greens, with some baby kale from my little roof garden, a thinly sliced breakfast radish, and a few finely chopped pickled ramps. I added salt, pepper, olive oil, and some rose vinegar.

I drank it with a glass of funky, acidic rose wine, and the pairing was perfect. The texture of the baby kale, with the peppery crunch of the radish and the vinegar bite of the pickled ramps was perfect.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Salted, buttered radishes

I'm having a love affair with radishes lately. I don't know why. But there are so many different kinds of radishes; if all you've had are the little red ones that come in a bag from the supermarket, you owe it to yourself to branch out.

My new favorite way to eat them is raw, heavily salted, dipped into soft butter. For an extra level of awesome, have a glass of rose at the same time.

I got some beautiful breakfast radishes at the market yesterday, and I'm looking forward to eating them.