This weekend, I took a micro-vacation to visit my aunt and uncle in Indiana. Before heading out there, I received a challenge:
It is your job to plan (and assist cooking) our meal for the Saturday evening you are here. The requirements are vegetarian only, no eggplant, keep it simple.
Vegetarian food (by the by, I added a vegetarian tag for my posts…). How would I plan a menu without relying on pasta? Or veggie burgers? Wait, no eggplant?
In any case, I began scouring the blogs I most frequently turn to when in need of something easy, impressive, and adaptable. I also did some consulting (thank you, Alex), and decided I would throw together my take on Iranian food.
Nearly the minute after I got to my aunt and uncle’s house, the cooking began. I began by making Mast o Khiar, which is just yogurt, cucumbers, and mint. We didn’t have any mint, so I substituted with dill. Really, though, you could use whatever herb you have on hand if mint eludes you. It’s probably one of the easiest side dishes to make. All I did was add one English cucumber (the long, seedless variety) to one 16oz tub of plain greek yogurt. I chopped up as much dill as I thought necessary, sprinkled a little salt and pepper, and threw it in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or so. Initially, I was a little skeptical about using greek yogurt out of fear it would be too thick, but it loosens some with the liquid from the cucumber. I would only use greek yogurt for this recipe because I really dislike thin, soupy yogurt. This dish is cool, refreshing, light, and perfect for hot and humid days. With mint, it would have been even better because it’s such a bright herb. I’d even recommend adding a teaspoon of rosewater to add a wonderful aromatic component. Rosewater is wonderful on super hot days.
Up next was my take on a Shirazi salad.
Again, we had no mint, so I switched things up a bit. This is another insanely easy dish to make, and is something you can prepare about an hour or so ahead of time. It calls for cucumber, tomato, red onion, lime juice, a little bit of olive oil, and mint. I won’t bother giving you measurements, because it’ll depend on how many cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions you plan to use. Because we didn’t have mint, I just added salt, pepper, and garlic. (I had to sneak some garlic in somewhere.) Personally, I should have used more lime juice. All in all, it was quite comparable to a salsa. While I wasn’t as enthusiastic about this side dish, fresh vegetables are always an awesome addition to any meal.
And finally, for our main meal, I attempted kuku sabzi. Kuku sabzi is essentially an intensely-herbed frittata. Really, the eggs are more or less a vehicle for the herbs. For about 6 eggs, you should use a cup of fresh: parsley, cilantro, dill, and chives. You can add in about 1/3 cup of walnuts, if you want, and you must also add 1 tsp of baking powder. The baking powder makes the eggs fluffy and sponge-like.
(I promise, the other side of the kuku sabzi was much more herb-dense. The herbs floated to the top of the mix while cooking, which is to be expected.)
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine 6 eggs, salt, pepper, and baking powder. Whisk to combine.
2. Add your chopped herbs and walnuts to the mixture and whisk again.
3. To a medium nonstick skillet, add some olive oil over medium-low heat. Once the oil is hot, add the egg mix and cook for approximately 20 minutes over medium-low heat. Check the bottom of the egg every once and a while to ensure nothing is burning. It should get to be a nice brownish color.
4. Now. You have two options. You can get out two spatulas and try to flip this thing yourself, or you can cut it into quarters and carefully flip each piece. I opted for the two spatula method, with my aunt holding the skillet. After three or so flip attempts, the kuku sabzi flipped with no spillage. Cook the other side for another 20 minutes over medium low. (I got impatient, as I often do, and cranked up the heat so it would cook faster.)
Cut into pieces and serve.
The kuku sabzi was really cool, actually. It was light and airy, and really flavorful because of the herbs. The herbs are the star of this show, so I resisted the urge to add any sort of spices like turmeric or something. Salt and pepper do the job well, allowing the herbs to stand their ground. While some lemon zest would’ve been a nice accompaniment, why mess with tradition (especially on the first time making it)?
As another side dish, I attempted to make hummus without tahini. Word to the wise (or perhaps the not so wise), this doesn’t work. Don’t even.
Before I began my marathon dinner preparation, my aunt and I made this awesome bunt cake a la Betty Crocker.
It came out sooooo good. While I’m not a confident baker, this cake was rather easy to make. It used sour cream, and we put this awesome cinnamon-sugar-walnut mixture between layers of batter. And who doesn’t love gooey cinnamon sugar in their cake?
So, what did we learn today? Vegetarian food doesn’t always have to involve pasta, eggplant, or processed soy. It can be bright, inventive, flavorful, and best of all, simple.
For the first time since beginning college, I went home for Easter. Although Easter does not seem to hold quite as much importance to our family as does Thanksgiving or Christmas, it still meant a lot to come home. Of course, it means a lot any time I go home.
While most of my Easter memories involve a honey glazed ham of sorts, this year we decided to go with pork shoulder. My appreciation for pork is growing (I never used to like it), and this recipe pushed me over the edge in to full-on pork love.
I spotted the recipe here and thought it sounded delicious. It involves braising the pork in a champagne vinegar mixture. To be honest, I have never heard of champagne vinegar so this recipe was exciting. New ingredients are always exciting. I won’t bother reposting the recipe, as you can just follow the link over to Food & Wine.
As you can probably tell, the pork was damn good. Perfectly cooked, if I may say so (I had nothing to do with the cooking, which is probably why!). It was moist, tender, and fell apart when sliced with a fork. For whatever reason, there ended up being about a half a gallon of sauce (yes, a half a gallon!) which is rather excessive. Nevertheless, it was a delicious sauce. I was wary of including the grapes, and we toyed with omitting them. In the end, I’m glad we kept them in. They added a subtle sweetness to the pork. I personally hate the honey-glazed ham crap because I think it’s too sweet, so this was just the right amount of sweetness for my liking.
With the pork, my mom and I tried our hand at making dinner rolls. We dug out the bread machine to use to make the dough. To the original recipe, we added some thyme and tarragon so they would have a nice herby feel.
They came out really well for our first try at making them. They were soft, and the egg wash made them look store bought (at least, I thought so). They had a slight sweetness to them, which was really nice along with all the savory food. The recipe was out of a cookbook we have at home.
In addition to the rolls, we had prosciutto-wrapped roasted asparagus with a citronette found here. The original recipe calls for pancetta, but we opted for prosciutto. This side dish could not be easier, and can be prepped the night before if need be. All you have to do is wrap the asparagus in some prosciutto and keep them covered in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them. The citronette was actually really, really good. It was a little sweet, and the citrus really balanced the intense salty flavor of the prosciutto well.
It has become a rather well-known and accepted fact that my mother makes the best deviled eggs, and these were certainly no exception. Alex never had deviled eggs before visiting for Easter, and I would argue that these were probably the best introduction to this side dish. Although deviled eggs are commonly had during the summer for picnics and such, we had lots of eggs and who doesn’t love deviled eggs?
For dessert, we bought a cheesecake. It was really good, but I’m a little biased.
I think I can safely say that this was the most delicious Easter I’ve had yet.
Ordinarily, Thursday is the day I plan out the following week’s meals. Then Friday, I go grocery shopping to pick up any random ingredients or pantry items that I’m low on.
That didn’t happen this week. I’m not sure why, but I felt myself starting to lose inspiration. While I waxed lyrical yesterday about how eye-opening Judith Jones’s perspective was, I’m still not really feeling into it. I took this as a sign: I need to start cooking more challenging dishes. I noticed one of the local grocery stores sells honeycomb tripe every now and then, so after hitting the gym, I headed there yesterday to get some. Tripe? Yes. Really? Oh yes. One of the points Judith Jones made was that Americans are too afraid to eat offal and other less common bits of animals. And why should we be? Seriously, why?
So, off I walked to the store in hopes of diving into personally uncharted culinary territory. I had no idea how I would make the tripe if I managed to score some. I stalled by the vegetables for a bit trying to think up a recipe while picking up a small bunch of asparagus and a small box of juicy, red strawberries; the nice fruits and vegetables that would hold my hand as I walked to the meat section. Once there, I scoured the meats. No tripe. I looked again. No, still nothing. What the hell! I got all in the mood for some tripe only to be disappointed. sigh–Maybe next time.
The store did, however, have pork sirloin chops on a buy one get one free sale. So, I now have lots of pork. Ordinarily, I buy chicken and the occasional beef. Yes, very boring. While it’s true I do not like pork chops (I find them tasteless), I want to branch out. Admittedly, I have no idea what pork sirloin chops are. I have never seen that labeling before. However, I’m determined to make pork chops taste good — that is tonight’s mission.
Disheartened after my grocery store fail, I had no idea what to do for dinner yesterday. I didn’t want meat. I didn’t even want to cook. I even toyed with the notion of getting take out from somewhere. However, I did just buy some asparagus and marscapone cheese….and I did buy eggs a while ago for, well, I don’t remember what. Sounded like all the fixings for a spring omelet.
(As you can see, I’ve yet to master the art of folding an omelet.) I believe somewhere in this blog, I posted an omelet recipe, so check that out if you don’t know the basics of making an omelet. When whisking the eggs, I added some marscapone cheese instead of creme fraiche or milk. I have never used marscapone before, and I’d say it’s got the texture of cream cheese with the taste of ricotta. It’s quite good, actually.
As for the asparagus and onions, I thought they would taste nice in a balsamic reduction of some sort. So, I drizzled olive oil into a saute pan, chopped one half of an onion (I had a half laying around in the refrigerator) and sauteed the pieces until caramelized. Just before the onions turned full-on brown, I added about 5 stalks of chopped asparagus. You can leave the asparagus raw if you want the crunch. Then, I added a little bit of balsamic vinegar diluted in some water along with generous amounts of pepper and salt, and let the liquid reduce out. I also sauteed some collard greens because I need to use what I’ve got before it all goes bad. When you have your eggs set up in a saute pan, add some of the onion and asparagus mixture to it, and continue with the omelet-making process.
I have some asparagus and onions left over…no idea what I’ll end up doing with it. They might be nice in a baguette with some cheese.
So, tonight? Pork. Good pork.
Good evening, everyone.
I am officially on spring break! Tomorrow morning, I’ll be on my way back to New Jersey. Ah, home.
Anyway, in yet another concerted effort to clear out the fridge, I made an omelet. This is actually the first omelet I’ve made in this kitchen, now that I think about it. When deciding what to do for dinner tonight, I felt like some breakfast. Too bad I had no bacon.
Making an omelet is a good way to use up a lot of eggs, I discovered. The flavor and texture of this omelet were stepped up a bit with the use of my new favorite ingredient: creme fraiche. I believe I’ve mentioned that I don’t buy milk, so this was an awesome, dairy-centric alternative to throwing a little water into the beaten eggs. Because I also had quite a bit of spinach left, I decided to have a spinach salad topped with pecans along with my…spinach and feta omelet.
1/4 cup creme fraiche
a few handfuls of spinach
1-2 TBSP crumbled feta cheese
1-2 TBSP olive oil
pepper to taste
1/2 TBSP dried oregano
1. get some olive oil heated over medium in a saute pan.
2. while that heats, break the eggs into a bowl. beat them lightly. add the creme fraiche and whisk until combined. if your creme fraiche just came out of the refrigerator (as mine had), it’ll take about 3 minutes for it to come together – not a big deal.
3. add some pepper and the oregano. mix well.
4. add the egg mixture to the pan. i’ll assume you’ve never made an omelet before, just to be on the safe side. after you’ve added the eggs to the pan, drag the egg edges toward the center. let that sit for a minute or so, then repeat. you want as much of the raw egg to hit the pan as possible. if there’s still too much gooey egg in the center for you, tilt the pan so it spills toward the edges. add as much spinach and feta as you want at this point, and try to keep it to one side (i find this makes folding a bit easier when there’s nothing in the middle). shake the pan back and forth. if the omelet does not stick and moves as well, it’s probably done. check the bottom of the omelet. is it brown? if yes, then flip one side over and you’re done. there are many methods of making an omelet, and this is just one. well, it’s my way. some people don’t like any browning. some people don’t like any runny egg mess.
5. fold one side, serve.
I’m continually marveled by creme fraiche. I can’t lie – at first, the texture and taste didn’t really agree with me. However now, I want to eat it out of the tub (gross fantasy, I know. but hey, there are worse things). The creme fraiche makes the eggs creamy and fluffy, just the way they should be in my opinion. It also adds a hint of subtle, tangy flavor to the rich egg yolks. Very nice.
I did make a spinach salad to go along with this. And by make, I mean I put spinach in a bowl, drizzled some balsamic vinegar over it, and threw some pecans on top. It was nice.
Omelets are one of the most versatile dishes. You can do some serious experimentation with them. Unfortunately, I was limited to what I was purposely trying to use up, but I may just have to start buying eggs more regularly…
Well, that does it for the ‘use everything that will rot in a week’ week. It was fun throwing random things together. Although I’ll be on break, I’ll definitely be updating. I’ve been thinking about adding a page about restaurants in both New Jersey and Boston. So, even if I’m not cooking, I’ll certainly be eating (and writing)!
Happy Hump Day, everyone.
Usually my Wednesdays are leftover days because I get out of class rather late. However, I strayed from routine and ate my leftover chicken biryani yesterday. Paying for overpriced popcorn and candy didn’t really appeal, so I ate while waiting in line to see a free screening of “Shutter Island” (which comes out Friday and I highly recommend seeing it). Tonight’s dinner choices are fairly limited, as the only leftover meal I have thawed in the fridge is pasta (ugh). I totally forgot I bought eggs this Monday (I rarely buy them), and decided to experiment (at least within the limits of my pantry). Eggs could not be easier to cook (I say this without having poached one), and while terribly bored at work, I came up with this recipe for a light dinner – of course, this could be a breakfast and lunch dish as well. Since I had Manchego cheese on hand, I ran with a Spanishesque theme. Why the hell not.
Scrambled Eggs with Caramelized Onions, Paprika, Manchego cheese, and toast
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 sprig rosemary, minced finely
3 sprigs thyme, minced finely
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 slices of manchego cheese cut into small pieces, plus more for garnish if desired
freshly ground pepper & salt to taste
1 slice rye bread, toasted (or two, depending on the size of your bread, your hunger, etc.)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2-1 tbsp butter
water or milk
1.chop herbs, onions, cheese, etc.
2.in a small skillet, heat up the 1/2-1 tbsp butter over medium-high heat. once foaming, add the sliced onion. you can season these with pepper or whatever other spice you want. sautee until completely caramelized – about 8 minutes or so. stir every now and then to avoid sticking and burning.
3.while the onions are happening, whisk egg and milk/water together in a mixing bowl. add the paprika, rosemary, thyme, sliced cheese, salt & pepper to taste. you might want to throw your toast on now, too.
4.in a larger skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. once fragrant, dump the egg mixture in. assuming you’ve never made scrambled eggs before, rake your spatula from all sides of the pan toward the center, creating lumps in the egg mix. continue this, swirling and stirring as much or as little as you want. you want chunks of egg to be your result, basically. it takes maybe about 5-7 minutes for this to cook.
5.remove eggs from skillet, put on a plate. garnish with some paprika and cheese.
note: you can opt to add the cheese once the eggs are in the skillet instead of putting it in the egg mixture. I did not use milk because I have none, and felt that the cheese would add a little extra fluff to the eggs if combined beforehand.
I love breakfast for dinner. Had I any challah or brioche, I would’ve made french toast instead. Nevertheless, this light and fragrant dish wins.