making food from anywhere, with anything

Posts tagged “vegetables

at last, a reprieve

Hello everyone.

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.

(excuse the poor photography)

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.

kuku sabzi

(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.)

Procedure:

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.

awesome cake

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.

Have fun:

Which cheese is the best?
(polls)

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Embarrassment.

Hello everyone.

Hopefully you’ll forgive me for my disappearance.

I really haven’t cooked at all since I’ve been back home, with the exception of Mother’s Day.  Within the last year or so, my Dad and I have successfully joined forces in the kitchen to make good food for my Mom (hi Mom!) – whether for her birthday or Mother’s Day.

This year, I unfortunately had to work the evening of Mother’s Day, but we made an awesomely huge lunch to make up for it.

First up is grilled lamb chops.  Yes, lamb.  As many of you may have observed, this blog is called everything but the baa.  I’ve undoubtedly explained this in the past, but will reiterate here.  I try to avoid eating lamb.  Not because it tastes badly, but because of how much I enjoy living lambs.  I make exceptions for occasions such as these, because lamb is one of my Mom’s favorite things.

Having said that, here is roughly what we did.

grilled lamb chops

with a bright lemon-herb sauce

I have to say, I highly prefer grilled lamb over roasted.   Then again, I find I tend to have a preference toward almost anything grilled.  I enjoy the smokey flavor.  Initially, we thought the sauce’s recipe called for too much lemon zest so we halved it.  Personally, I would have appreciated the full amount, but even with half it tasted wonderfully.  The lemon serves two purposes here.  The zest functions as an aromatic enhancement, while the juice brightens the intensity of all the herbs.  I thought the combination of mint and rosemary with lamb seemed a little tired, and was so happy to find this recipe.  The thyme and parsley pair quite well with lamb.

We decided to go with a surf-and-turf theme and make some serious crab cakes.  Seafood is one of my favorite food groups (in fact, I think it may be THE favorite), but I make it a point to avoid restaurant crab cakes at all cost.  In fact, you should avoid commercial crab cakes as well.  It’s well-known that the cakes are nothing but filler (be it bread crumbs, crushed crackers, or whatever other non-crab ingredient they throw in there).  I actually quite pride myself on these cakes, adopted from here.

UBER crab cakes

I only had 1 lb. of jumbo lump crab meat, so I adjusted the recipe accordingly.  The bottoms were a little crispy, at which I initially freaked out.  However, it worked out well, because crispy crab meat is delicious.   After they came out of the oil, I set them on a plate lined with two paper towels.  Do this, otherwise the oil will sit in the cakes and make them soggy and greasy (and who wants that?).  Next time, I would probably increase the amount of Worcestershire sauce a little bit, as well as the mustard.  I love the taste of crab (more than lobster, if I’m honest), but I wanted some more of the other flavors in the cakes.  Nevertheless, these cakes were great because I was able to control how much filler went into them.  Once you make these, there is no going back to those….excuses you get at most restaurants.

And finally, for the vegetable component to the meal, I blanched some green beans and tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper.  Simple, but so good with lamb.  The beans were so crunchy and full of vibrancy.  In fact, a squirt of lemon juice over them would’ve been great.

crunchy green beans

And that is that!  I made blackberry souffles (first try ever!) for breakfast, but never took pictures.  They turned out nicely, but I wasn’t that enthusiastic about them.  I guess I expected something different (I’ve never had a souffle before).

Oh, fun fact.  I turned 21 this past Tuesday, and to celebrate, I got cannolis instead of a birthday cake.  If you are in the Central Jersey area, PLEASE go to this bakery.  They have a location in Brooklyn (which is what the site links to), and one on Middlesex Ave in Metuchen.  They have some of the finest cannolis I have had the pleasure of eating.  Good bakeries are dying out, so SUPPORT THEM (but leave all the cannolis for me)!

screw cake


The average Australian will consume 18 beef cattle and 90 sheep in his or her lifetime.

Hello everyone.

Yet another fun fact about Australia and food.   I sense a trend…anyone who guesses what sparked my latest obsession with Australia gets a prize.  Seriously, I’ll mail you something food related (disclaimer: this doesn’t count for people who already know the answer)!

Tonight, I decided to use the rest of my frozen phyllo dough.  It’s been in the freezer since February, and I was afraid it was just going to dry out if I kept it in there longer.

So, after consulting this very good site about the basics of spanakopita, I decided to go my own way about it.  For those unfamiliar with Greek cuisine, spanakopita is a spinach pie made with phyllo dough as the crust.  I’ve always been too intimidated to make this, but once you get the hang of working with the dough, it’s really easy.  Really.

a different sort of spanakopita

Ingredients:

1/2 bag of spinach, chopped

1/2 cup of feta, crumbled

1/3 cup marscapone

2 eggs, lightly beaten

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

phyllo dough

other herbs like dill, parsley, or even onions.  you can really put what ever *fresh* herbs you want into this, it’s a blank canvas.  i just had nothing on hand.

Method:

(preheat oven to 350F)

1. mix the spinach, feta, marscapone, salt and pepper in a bowl.  (frustrated because the marscapone is sticking to the spoon you’re haplessly abusing your mix with?  well, the only solution is to use your hands.  sure, it may be gross or…icky, even.  sure, it may make a nasty squishing sound when you dive your hands in.  but, it’s the best method.)

2. brush bottom of an 8×8 (or 9×11, whatever you have) pan with olive oil.

3. place a sheet of phyllo in the pan.  brush the top of it with olive oil.  put another sheet on top of that, and repeat this process until you have 6-8 layers.

4.  place the spinach mixture on top of the phyllo dough layers in the pan.  spread it around evenly.

5.  plae another sheet of phyllo on top of the spinach mixture, and brush with olive oil.  place another sheet on top of that, and repeat this process until you have another 6-8 layers.

6.  bake  until the top is a golden brown, for about 30-50 minutes.

This was so good!  Next time, I will definitely add the fresh herbs because it lacked a little bit of flavor.  However, the marscapone made the filling pretty creamy, which was very pleasant.  Yes, pleasant.


long time, no post.

Hello Everyone, and Happy Monday…..

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, it seems!  Someone special came to visit all the way from Australia (hi Alex!) this past week and a half, so I was quite busy.  However, we ate at a lot of really great restaurants, so hopefully within the next few days I’ll give you some updates on our food experiences.

I told Alex that I would make him something good for dinner the first night he got here.  After about a week of agonizing over what to make, I decided on making Brasato al Barolo. Essentially, beef braised in red wine.   This recipe calls for a Barolo wine, but it’s not exactly cheap.  Really any full-bodied red wine can be used.

(I apologize in advance for the crappy photo quality that is about to be shown, but the lighting in my apartment really, really sucks.)

beef braised in red wine

Beef Braised in Red Wine adapted from here

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (3- to 3 1/2-pound) boneless beef chuck roast (I used a smaller top round roast)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 pound sliced pancetta, finely chopped (I used proscuitto)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 (4- to 6-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
2 (6- to 8-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups Barolo or other full-bodied red wine such as Ripasso Valpolicella, Gigondas, or Côtes du Rhône
2 cups water

*You can use a heavy-bottomed pot for this, or just a roasting pan.  I only had a roasting pan on hand, so I covered it with foil once the meat and everything was in.*

Method:

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

Heat oil in pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.

Meanwhile, pat meat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Brown meat in hot oil on all sides, about 10 minutes total. (If bottom of pot begins to scorch, lower heat to moderate.) Transfer to a plate using a fork and tongs.

Add pancetta to oil in pot and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until browned and fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sauté, stirring, until garlic begins to soften and turn golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and boil until liquid is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a simmer, then return meat along with any juices accumulated on plate to pot. Cover pot with lid and transfer to oven. Braise until meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Transfer meat to a cutting board. Skim fat from surface of sauce and discard along with herb stems. Boil sauce until reduced by about one third, about 5 minutes, then season with salt. Cut meat across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices and return to sauce.

Although I thought the meat came out a little dry (my oven doesn’t really cook things evenly or maintain its temperature), it was really, really good.  It fell apart when you stuck your fork in it, and the sauce was intensely savory.  Red wine adds an awesome richness to food – I love cooking with it.

So, what did we have with the meat?  I took some inspiration from the movie Julie & Julia and made bruschetta.  If you have never seen the movie, Julia makes this AMAZING looking bruschetta in one early scene.

bruschetta

She fries slices of bread in some oil, and then places these succulent-looking tomatoes on top of the bread slices.   Unfortunately, I didn’t have heirloom tomatoes on hand as it’s not tomato season, so grape tomatoes had to suffice.  I diced them, and tossed them in a little bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  I bought this loaf of rosemary-olive oil bread.  I thought the rosemary in the bread would tie in well with the rosemary used with the beef.

green beans

And finally, as if that wasn’t enough, I made some green beans.  They are in season right now, and I wanted a nice springy side dish to offset the ultra-savory beef.  I blanched the beans in boiling water until I saw their green color intensify, then I threw them into some ice water to stop the cooking.  I sauteed them in some olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 3-4 minutes.  I tossed them with some crumbled manchego cheese, which tasted really good against the beans.  Delicious.

So, that was dinner.  It was delicious, and there were lots of leftovers (which is always good).  That is the last thing I cooked in this apartment, as we either went out for dinner or got takeout every night the following week.  I’ll update on the awesome Easter dinner we had, along with all the restaurants we hit in Boston, later this week.


oeufs et asperge

Hello everyone.

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.

asparagus omelet with collard greens and caramelized onions

(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.


an early st. patrick’s day dinner

Greetings from a very wet Boston.  This rain sucks – our ceiling is leaking…and it drips on me every so often.

Anyway….

My last dinner home involved one of my favorite things: corned beef.  I’ve been on a corned beef and pastrami bender lately, and this topped it off really nicely.   Like many Americans, we made corned beef and cabbage in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.  This only begs the question: Is corned beef and cabbage a traditional Irish dish?  Well, not technically.  It’s as Irish as spaghetti and meatballs is Italian: sure, spaghetti and meatballs are rooted in traditional Italian cuisine – but not served together (if you really want to get into it, spaghetti is typically enjoyed doused in a good olive oil, not tomato sauce…but I digress).  Here’s my understanding of the corned beef phenomenon:  Corned beef is quite traditionally Irish in and of itself.  Back in the day, cows were prized for their milk, and weren’t often killed for their meat.  However, when they were, the brisket was brined for days and then boiled.  The meat was then served with potatoes or other vegetables, but not cabbage.  So, when did the cabbage come in?  Well, there’s another traditional Irish dish consisting of bacon and cabbage.  A large hunk of bacon was boiled for a long period of time and then served up with cabbage.  When Irish immigrants came to the US, they looked for the same bacon meat they used to make this dish, but to no avail.  They found that the Jewish immigrants’ corned beef tasted rather like their bacon, and had a similar texture.  Thus, corned beef and cabbage.

As with many foods in this culture, corned beef and cabbage is an immigrant improvisation.  And it’s so, so delicious.

corned beef fresh out of the pot

While corned beef is traditionally brined for a few days before cooking, we sort of decided to have this on reeeeally short notice, so brining wasn’t an option.  Nevertheless, it was absolutely delicious.  It was salty, beefy, and fell apart.  I don’t know how to describe it, other than…it was delicious corned beef.  Side note:  why “corned”, you ask?  Well, brining it involved rubbing it in tons of salt.  The salt would take the shape of corn kernels, so there you go.

corned beef, carrots, potatoes

I’m not sure I’ll bother with posting a recipe, as we used the prepackaged meat.  Essentially, after brining the meat, you simmer it in a stockpot for 2 1/2-3 hours so it gets really tender.  During the last 20 or 30 minutes of the cooking, throw in your carrots, potatoes, and cabbage.  For this, we used about 6 or 7 medium to small carrots, 5 red potatoes, and 1 medium head of cabbage.

irish soda bread

My mom also made some delicious Irish Soda Bread from scratch earlier that day.  It was a bit of a marathon baking day, as she was making batches upon batches of cookies for the school she works at (I had the pleasure of being the official tester/cookie dough eater).  The bread had the most crispy crust and yet a delicate, not too dry interior.  Irish Soda Bread gets extremely dry if not done well.  I wish I had room in my suitcase to take a chunk of it (as well as some cookies) back with me.

Irish Soda Bread as adapted from here

4 cups flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 tbsp. butter
1 cup raisins
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk * the original recipe calls for 2 cups, but a correction was made


Method:

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.

2. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, work butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then stir in raisins.

3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix in with a wooden spoon until dough is too stiff to stir. Dust hands with a little flour, then gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a rough ball. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf.

4. Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased cast-iron skillet or a baking sheet. Using a serrated knife, score top of dough about 1/2” deep in an “X” shape. Transfer to oven and bake until bread is golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped with a knife, about 40 minutes. Transfer bread to a rack to let cool briefly. Serve bread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted.

We baked our bread for about 35 minutes because the outside of the bread started to look a little too brown, but I guess it depends on how evenly your oven cooks.

The night ended, as all nights should, with a cannoli from a local Italian bakery.  And I’ve come full circle.  Break started and ended with an excellent cannoli.

So, I have relatively no food here with the exception of pasta and some leftovers.  Perhaps there will be a chicken or pasta dish somewhere during the week.  Other than that, updates may be sparse….


“Noncooks think it’s silly to invest two hours’ work in two minutes’ enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet.”

Bet you can’t guess who was quoted saying that.  Wise words, in my opinion.  Still can’t guess?  Well, perhaps this dish will give you a hint.

I spent yesterday with my Grandma, and we decided to cook something epic for dinner.  I don’t think we’ve ever really cooked anything before, but we should more often because this came out marvelously.  Yes, marvelously.

delicious.

Mmmm.  Look at those mushrooms and pear onions.  Just smothered in the most delicious sauce.

But still, what could it be?

Why, it was Boeuf a la Bourguignonne. Again, straight out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.


boeuf bourguignonne

Boeuf Bourguignonne

Ingredients:

1 6oz chunk of bacon (a slab of bacon will have a rind on it)

a 9- to 10-inch fireproof casserole 3 inches deep

1 TB olive oil

a slotted spoon

3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes

1 sliced carrot

1 sliced onion

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 TB flour

3 cups full-bodied young red wine such as a Chianti, Burgundy or Bordeaux

2-3 cups brown beef stock

1 TB tomato paste

2 cloves mashed garlic

1/2 tsp thyme

a crumbled bay leaf

18-24 small white onions, brown-braised in stock

1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms sauteed in butter

parsley sprigs

Method:

preheat oven to 450 degrees

1. cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). simmer the lardons and rind for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. drain and dry.

2. in the casserole described above, or a pan, saute the bacon in the oil over moderate heat to brown lightly. remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. set casserole aside. reheat until fat is almost smoking before you saute the beef. add some olive oil here if the pan is too dry.

3. dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. saute it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. add it to the bacon.

4. in the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. pour out the sauteing fat.

5. return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. set casserole uncovered in middle position of pre-heated oven for 4 minutes. toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (this browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust). remove casserole, then turn oven down to 325 degrees.

6. stir in the wine, and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs (thyme and bay leaf), and bacon rind. bring to simmer on top of the stove. then cover the casserole and set it in lower third of preheated oven. regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. the meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

7. while the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. set them aside until needed. (for the onions: peel and put in a skillet with some butter. brown them. then, place in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of beef stock and a bouquet garni of a few sprigs of parsley, 1/4 tsp thyme, and 1/2 a bay leaf.  simmer for 40-50 minutes or until the onions are tender, but still have their shape///for the mushrooms: place in a saute pan with some butter and brown.  don’t crowd the pan – they will not brown!)

8. when the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

9.  skim fat off the sauce. simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. you should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.  if too thin, boil it down rapidly. if too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock. taste for seasoning. pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

***up until this point, the recipe can be made in advance***

now, for immediate serving:

10. cover the casserole and simmer for 2-3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. serve in its casserole or on a platter surrounded by potatoes, noodles, or rice. garnish with some parsley.

now, for later serving:

10. when cold, cover and refrigerate. about 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to a simmer. cover and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

And there you have it.  This recipe starts out pretty labor intensive, but once you get a handle on things, it’s a pretty smooth process.  We didn’t realize it was going to take up to 3 hours, so our kitchen was a little chaotic at first.  However, once the meat was in the oven, there was a good hour…hour and a half of downtime.  What to do with the time? Have a glass of wine (we did) and enjoy the smell your efforts cooking in the oven.  We only had a Shiraz on hand, so that’s what we went with for this.  It still came out amazingly.  Also, we did not buy a 6 oz slab of bacon, we just bought a package of presliced bacon.  It worked out.  We chose to serve it with egg noodles, however this meal is traditionally served with boiled potatoes.  So, you can either do as the French do, or… do what you want. If you want to serve a green vegetable with this dish, Julia says buttered peas are your best choice.  Buttered peas sound pretty good, actually.  But anything buttered sounds good.

a pile of deliciousness

So, I feel pretty accomplished.  The sauce was so good.  So…good. I could’ve put it in a glass and drank it.  Seriously.  Everything was so…so flavorful.  I can’t even properly describe it.  All I can say is, if you’ve got a lazy Sunday ahead of you, DO THIS.  MAKE THIS.  This recipe is difficult, but it’s not insurmountable.  Everyone you make it for will fall over in ecstasy.

Perhaps another post later…I made psychedelic cupcakes this morning.


an odd number of eggs

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.

spinach and feta omelet

Ingredients:

3 eggs

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

Method:

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.

spinach salad with pecans

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)!


cleaning out

Good evening everyone.

Check that out, I changed the layout.  It was time for a change.  Things needed brightening up.

Tonight, for a lack of better ideas, I decided to throw the most random ingredients I had together.  As we all know, sometimes this works out, other times it doesn’t.  Tonight, the combination involved olive tapenade, caramelized dates, and feta cheese in cabbage cups.  I needed to use the cabbage and tapenade I had hanging around before leaving for break.   This recipe involved literally 5 minutes of cooking, and perhaps 2 minutes of assembly.  It would make a good lunch, or in my case, a light dinner.

cabbage cups with olive tapenade, feta cheese, and balsamic dates

Ingredients:

4 cabbage leaves

approximately 1/3 cup of olive tapenade

approximately 1/4 cup chopped dates

2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

3-4 TBSP balsamic vinegar

Method:

1. prepare the olive tapenade.  this involves throwing some olives (preferably kalamata) into a food processor with some olive oil and blitz.  if you don’t have a food processor, then you can mince the olives.

2. chop up the dates, set aside.  heat some olive oil in a pan over medium heat.

3. take 4 leaves off of the cabbage head.  lay 1-2 TBSP of the olive tapenade in the cups.

4. once the olive oil becomes fragrant, add the dates and saute for about 1 or 2 minutes.  add the balsamic vinegar and saute until all the liquid is gone (this takes about 1 minute).  take off the heat.

5. place the dates on top of the olive tapenade.  garnish with some feta cheese.

I took inspiration for this weird combination from the bacon wrapped dates.  Sweet and salty is always an awesome combination.  In fact, it’s one of my favorites.  This dish has a little acidic kick from the balsamic vinegar, which accents the dates quite nicely.  The sharpness of the feta also adds an edge to the saltiness of the olives.  And, of course, the cabbage tempers the flavors well.  It’s fun to experiment, especially when you have absolutely no idea what to expect for the end result.  When cleaning out your pantry or refrigerator, go for it!  Do anything, do everything.  Let me know your weirdest combination, I’m always up for something new.

Perhaps tomorrow is breakfast for dinner?


quite possibly the best carrots i have ever had.

Good evening.

It’s cold. It’s rainy. It’s miserable, and this storm is going to linger over Boston for the better part of the next five days.  Yes, five days.  Five days of gray wetness.  If there is one weather phenomenon I absolutely detest, it is Boston’s horizontally falling rain.  Usually accompanied by intense wind, this rain renders umbrellas completely useless and you, reader, unforgivably drenched.

Enough about the weather, you came here for something about awesome carrots.  Skeptics may wonder how the words carrot and awesome ever managed to find themselves in the same sentence.  Those in the know are waiting anxiously to hear about this probably not-so-new revelation I’ve had tonight.  If you find yourself as the former, prepare to be converted.

I bought these carrots a while ago for the goulash I made.  That was probably two weeks ago.  Maybe more.  Surprisingly, they’ve lasted (but that could be because our refrigerator seems to be freezing things lately…).  This dish, as with many of my dishes, was a freak accident.  I chopped the carrots and threw random spices on them.  Luckily, they came out absolutely delicious.  And, in the spirit of catering to those who want to cook things quickly in an effort to save time on week nights, this side is ready in 10-15 minutes.

delicious spicy glazed carrots

Spice Glazed Carrots

Ingredients

3 medium sized carrots, chopped into whatever size and shape you fancy

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3 tsp cinnamon*

3 tsp cumin*

1 tsp ground ginger*

2 tsp ground cayenne pepper or chili powder*

1/4 cup water

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

*these are gross approximations.  I probably used a little more, particularly with the cinnamon.  I don’t measure things.  Use your judgment.

Method

1. wash and chop your carrots

2. in a large sautee pan over medium, heat the olive oil.  Once fragrant, dump your carrots in.  Move them around, get them nice and coated.  Add the spices gradually, so as to ensure even coating.  If you want, you can combine the spices and carrots together in a bowl before even putting them in the pan.

3. Add the balsamic vinegar, reduce the heat to medium-low.  If you feel there isn’t enough vinegar in the pan, add the water.  If you think it’s okay, leave it.  Cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes.  You want the vinegar to meld with the spices and carroty goodness to create one of the most delicious sauces I have ever tasted.  Seriously, I could have licked the pan.

4. Once the carrots are tender, remove from heat and serve, drizzling the remaining liquid over the carrots.

I preferred the almost burnt parts of the carrots.  Carrots caramelize beautifully, which makes them quite good for roasting.  They exude this sweet flavor, while still retaining a great crunch.  These carrots, in particular, come at you with a few different flavors.  The acidity from the vinegar balances everything out while the heat from the chili powder and the sweetness from the cinnamon complement each other.  The ginger serves as an excellent accent to the cinnamon, as does the cumin with the chili powder.  Although balsamic vinegar is a tad overused, and subsequently overrated, it WORKS with this dish so well.  The reduction sauce is so good, you may even want to bathe in it.  The whole flavor profile makes the carrots absolutely mouth-wateringly delicious.  I could’ve had about 10 of these carrots for dinner, and then some.