making food from anywhere, with anything

Posts tagged “vegetarian

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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record breaking heat

Hello everyone.

It’s hot here in New Jersey.  I mean, 100+ degrees (F) hot…plus humidity.  To some, this is every day weather and is, therefore, no big deal.  For us, however, this is record-breaking, danger zone, fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement hot.  On days like today, the last thing I want is a heavy meal.  So, what to have?

Ceviche.

Ceviche?  Yes.  You can make something as elegant as ceviche at home.  And with much ease, I might add.  In fact, it’s one of the easiest things I’ve made.  Ceviche, a dish with its relatively unknown roots attributed to South America and Spain, consists of citrus marinated seafood and a few other basic ingredients.  This dish relies on an important chemical reaction between citrus and seafood.  The seafood in ceviche is technically not cooked, as no heat is applied to it.  Instead, the citric acid in the marinade induces what is called denaturation.  De-what?  Well, the citric acid manipulates the proteins in the seafood, changing their physical and chemical properties.  After sitting in the marinade, the seafood turns firm and opaque, just like it had met heat.  So, do you take the same risks with eating seafood in ceviche as with eating sashimi?  Yes, actually.  While the citric acid does modify the seafood protein, it does not kill off any bacteria and such that could potentially be hanging around your fish.  However, if you buy fresh fish, then you really don’t have anything to worry about.  Really.

So, for my ceviche, I used tilapia.  I wanted a firm white fish, and it was either that or cod.  I think tilapia has a meatier texture to it, and cod seemed too flaky for this.  After consulting a variety of sources (like here and here), I began making my citrus marinade.  The following is for just under 1 1/2 lbs. of tilapia.

3 limes, squeezed of their juice

about 1/4-1/3 cup of orange juice (I only used this because I realized I definitely did not have enough lime juice……it worked out well)

about 3 pinches of freshly minced cilantro (fresh is a must. no exceptions.)

about 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 tomato, seeded, diced

about 1/4 of a cup of red onion, diced

salt and freshly cracked black pepper

3 tilapia fillets cut into bite-sized pieces

tilapia ceviche

So, basically all you need to do is get a shallow dish.  Lay out all your fish pieces in the dish.  In a separate bowl, combine all of the above ingredients and then pour over the fish.  Cover with plastic wrap, and throw it in the fridge.  I would marinate this for 20-50 minutes.  If you take it out before 20 minutes, there’s a decent chance the inside of the pieces will be quite raw.  If you like that sort of thing (I certainly don’t mind), then go for it.  If you leave it in longer than 50 minutes, it will probably have the texture of overcooked fish.  Ew.  In any case, my ceviche tasted fresh, bright, and citrusy.  The fish got a huge kick from the cilantro and the onion, and the texture was very meaty.  The pieces of fish had some bite to them, which I really enjoyed.  The garlic undertones complimented the citrus so nicely.  It really hit the spot.

So, what goes along with this awesome ceviche?  How about tostones?  Ah, tostones are awesome. I’ve had good (crunchy on the outside, pillowy and soft on the inside) and bad (rubbery….tough….) ones.  If you like french fries, you’ll like tostones even more.

So, what the hell are tostones?

perfect tostones

Very simply, fried (green) plantains.   Get a cast iron skillet. Fill it about 1/4 inch of the way with vegetable oil. Heat the oil over medium heat.  You’ll know the oil is hot enough when you stick the end of a wooden spoon in and it bubbles.

Grab about 3 green plantains.  Slice the skin lengthwise, and peel off to reveal the plantain itself.  Slice into 1-inch thick pieces on an angle.

Now, you’re going to blanch the pieces in the oil.  Fry the pieces on each side for about 1-2 minutes (until lightly golden).  Do this in batches.  Lay the pieces out on a paper towel lined plate.  Once cooled, take a wooden spoon or the bottom of a small glass — whatever you have on hand — and smash lightly.  The pieces should still be in tact.  Once you’ve done this to all of the pieces, put them back into the oil and fry for another 2-3 minutes on each side, or until the pieces have reached a medium gold color.  It’s okay if some get a little dark (one of mine got kind of crispy….).  Immediately place them onto a paper towel lined plate.  This is so the oil gets wicked away from the pieces, resulting in a crispy crust with a delicate interior.  Sprinkle some salt over top of the tostones, squirt some lemon juice too if you’d like.  These tostones were perfect.  I can’t even be modest about it.  I have never made them before, but they came out so crisp on the outside, yet so tender on the inside.  And with just the right amount of salt and lemon juice, it was a PERFECT addition to the light and airy ceviche.

Usually, tostones are served with a mojo.  I chose to serve mine with some guacamole.  I love avocados.

ultra chunky guacamole

They seem like the perfect fruit (?) to have on a blazing hot day.  They’re creamy, light, decadent, and so damn good for you.  I like my guacamole chunky, so I didn’t mash this as much as I could have.  All I added to this was 1 avocado, juice from 1/2 a lemon, a few pinches of freshly minced cilantro, 1/2 a tomato, diced, 2 TBSP of diced red onion, and a pinch of salt.

I could’ve just spooned this out of the bowl and eaten it.

So, that was probably the perfect meal for a 100 degree day.  Light, citrusy, and satisfying.  Mmmm….


timely

Good morning everyone.

I did say that I would post again in a timely manner, so I’m attempting to make good on my word.

Two items are featured today: polenta that no one in my house liked, and pork that generally everyone felt tasted good.

Let’s begin with the polenta.

I tend not to post my failures on here, partly because I never take pictures of them, and also because I’m thinking of making a worst hits post in the future.

So, polenta.

cheesey, herby polenta cake

Polenta is essentially coarse corn meal cooked in water.  Typically, 1 1/2 cups of polenta is cooked with about 4 cups of water.  The water can be salted, as you would for pasta or potatoes.  The cooking liquid doesn’t have to be just water, of course.  For more flavor, you could substitute any stock of your preference, or you could even add a bit of heavy cream for some deliciously silky polenta.

I decided to just cook it in water.  To a medium sauce pan, add 4 cups of cold water.  Then, add 1 and 1/2 cups of polenta.  Begin stirring, and turn on the heat to high, bring to a boil.  This will need your constant attention…so keep stirring!  If you don’t, it will stick and scorch.  And who wants that?  Once it begins to form a porridge-like consistency, add seasonings, herbs, whatever you want.  After all the water has been absorbed, turn the heat down to medium-low/low and add 1 TBSP of butter.  Then, fold in some cheese, perhaps marscapone or creme fraiche for a really velvety consistency, or some gruyere or cheddar for a nice bite.  And there you have it.

You can serve it like that, or you can preheat your oven to about 350F and pour the polenta into a cast iron skillet (or some other oven-proof dish).  Spread it out so it’s even, top it with more herbs or cheese, and throw it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.  It forms a delicious crust on the outside, and maintains its creaminess on the inside.  *I* thought it was very good.

The other night, we were set to have pork chops.  So, with my day off, I decided to roast them until they were fall-off-the-bone tender.

roasted pork chops with roasted tomatoes and fresh herbs

I generally followed my previous roasted pork recipes and made an interesting sauce prior to putting this all in the oven.  In a medium saucepan, I combined 2 cans of diced tomatoes, about a cup of red wine, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and fresh basil, oregano, and tarragon from my garden.  I am LOVING my basil plant, it is going crazy  out there and it’s REALLY fragrant.  By far one of my favorite herbs.

In some olive oil, saute about half a vidalia onion until soft.  Then add garlic, loads of salt and pepper.  Stir, add the wine and cook out some of the alcohol.  Then, add the tomatoes and mushrooms.  Reduce about 1/4th of the volume.  Then, add the herbs.

Add a generous amount of salt and pepper to the pork chops and place in an oven proof dish.  Pour the sauce over the chops, and put in a preheated 350F oven for about 2 1/2 hours.  Serve with some egg noodles and you’re all set.

Tuesday, I am (hopefully) going to a book signing with Anthony Bourdain.  Holy. Shit.


what do you do with extra phyllo?

Good morning, everyone.  Yes, a morning post.

Yesterday I tried to use up all my remaining phyllo dough by making a version of spanakopita.  However, I had some left over sheets of dough…probably about 6-7 sheets.  What to do with it?  Make more spanakopita?  No.  Already have way too many leftovers.  Make baklava?  Close, but no.  I have none of the necessary ingredients.

After scrounging around my refrigerator, I noticed I had an unopened container of creme fraiche and some pumpkin butter.  What an interesting combination…

phyllo triangles with creme fraiche and pumpkin butter filling

Drizzled very lightly with honey, these triangles make a nice dessert…..or breakfast.

Ingredients:

phyllo dough

olive oil (or unsalted butter, whatever you prefer)

pumpkin butter

creme fraiche

*by the way, when working with phyllo, it always helps to lay it out on a baking sheet or other flat surface, covered with plastic wrap and a damp towel.  it keeps the dough from drying out, which is very important*

Method:

1. preheat oven to 350F.

2.  lay out one sheet of phyllo and brush the top with olive oil (or your fat of choice).  lay another sheet on top.  repeat the process until you have 3-4 sheets.

3. vertically, cut about 2 1/2 – 3 inch wide strips.  at the top of each strip, add maybe……2 tsp of creme fraiche and 2 tsp of pumpkin butter.  fold as you would a flag (i posted a youtube video on how to do this in an earlier post)

4. continue this process until you’ve used up all your dough.

5.  line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and place all the triangles on.  throw in the oven and bake until the triangles are golden brown.  i’d say…about 15-30 minutes depending on your oven.  just keep an eye on them.

a breakfast treat

The creme fraiche and pumpkin butter turned out to be a really good combination.  It sort of tasted like a creamier pumpkin pie wrapped in buttery phyllo.  You can fill these with anything, though, to make them either sweet or savory.  I had some last night fresh out of the oven and they were so crunchy and gooey.  This morning, I had some that had been in the refrigerator.  They weren’t as gross as I thought they would be.  In fact, the filling hardened slightly, and it was actually really enjoyable (at the expensive of the phyllo’s crunch).  Drizzled with honey, it was a perfect pastry-esque breakfast to have with some good coffee (I would’ve preferred an espresso, but whatever).


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.


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.


waiting for rice to cook.

Good evening, everyone.

As many of you probably know, waiting for rice to cook when you’re really quite hungry is well, excruciating.

I often find myself standing over the pot, staring into its glass lid scrutinizing the dark, boiling water for evidence of absorption.  This is, of course, a futile process.  As I pace back to my computer, feigning preoccupation, I find myself getting up to check the progress (or lack thereof) of my rice almost as quickly as I sat down at my desk.  Sigh.  Note to self: start buying white rice; it cooks way faster.  In what feels like 45 minutes, 3 have managed to pass.  It is only when I find myself beginning to consider the virtues of eating very al dente rice that I even pry myself away from the stove.

And that was the beginning of my tahdig with lavash venture.  This is my second tahdig attempt; the first was with potato slices.  I was not enthusiastic about how tahdig #1 came out, and so I persisted in using lavash.  Lavash, on its own, is fantastic.  Better than tortillas, I’d argue.  Although, maybe not.  It’s all contextual, really.

tahdig with lavash

And there it is, people.  My first successful tahdig.  The lavash became so damn crunchy, I cut into it like a pie.

So, how did this happen without totally burning to a crisp?  Here’s what I did after cooking the rice:

In a medium saucepan, dump in 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil along with 1 tablespoon of saffron water.  Stir with a wooden spoon to combine the olive oil and water as best as you possibly can.  Cover the bottom with the lavash.  You can do either one or two layers, I did one.  Put the cooked rice on top of the lavash, cover and cook.

This can happen in a few ways.  You can cook it over low heat for about 45 minutes to an hour, or if you’re impatient (as I was), you can cook this over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes.  My advice to you:  let some of the lavash come up the sides so you can take a fork and pull it back to check its level of doneness.  This is probably cheating, probably a little unorthodox, but for your first time I’d say go for it.  You need to be able to gauge how done it gets over time.

When it’s done, take a plate big enough to fit over the saucepan, and put it over the pan.  Flip the pan so the tahdig is on the plate, and you’ve got something awesome.

delicious tahdig

Tomorrow night, I am going to a cooking demonstration with Judith Jones.  For those of you who don’t know, Judith Jones was the editor of Julia Child’s most famous cook book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The subject of the demonstration is cooking for one, something I’ve grown quite fond of.   I will, of course, take tons of pictures!


sweet and savory

Hello everyone.

I feel like it has rained every Tuesday for the past month.  It’s starting to bum me out.

So, to lift my spirits, I made something special for lunch today.  And by special, I mean not a sandwich.

strawberries and almond butter on lavash

Yummm.  It is spring, which means strawberries.  These, unfortunately, were the last of my little stash.  The almond butter and strawberry combination is one of the most mood-lifting tastes out there.  Something about strawberries always puts me in a good mood, though.  I slathered a piece of lavash bread (a Lebanese flatbread) with almond butter (the more, the better in my opinion) and topped it with about 5 sliced strawberries.  Then, roll.

mmm....

So, it comes out kind of like a skinny burrito of sorts.  But it’s so, so good.  And not to mention, healthy.  I try not to endorse the “EAT THIS, AND A LOT OF IT….BECAUSE IT’S HEALTHY” attitude that so often circulates throughout mainstream culture in the US, but this is damn good.  Drizzle a little honey over top the strawberries and almond butter for a little something extra, and you’ve got an awesome lunch.  There’s tons of protein in the almond butter, this lavash bread has a lot of fiber to it, and strawberries are full of carbohydrates (among many other good things) to keep you energized throughout your afternoon.

And now, for dinner.  In keeping with the berry theme my lunch ran with, I made some chicken with a raspberry and red wine vinegar sauce. The original recipe is blackberry and balsamic roast quail…but I had neither quail nor blackberries, so chicken thighs and raspberries worked.  I haven’t been using my red wine vinegar lately, so I used it instead of the seemingly omnipresent balsamic vinegar.

Chicken with a Raspberry and Red Wine Vinegar Sauce adapted from here

2 chicken thighs

1/2 c raspberries

1/2 c red wine vinegar

2 tsp thyme

salt and pepper

generous bunch of collard greens

extra virgin olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

Method

1.  Heat vinegar and raspberries in a small saucepan.  Mash the raspberries and reduce the liquid to half the volume, add in thyme, salt, pepper – set aside and let cool.

2.  Heat some olive oil over medium-high heat.  Saute onions until translucent or caramelized, then transfer to raspberry mix.

3. Heat some more olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan with sides.  Add the collard greens.  Cover and cook until wilted.  Add some salt and pepper.

4.  Rinse and pat dry the chicken thighs.  Coat with salt and pepper.  In yet another saute pan, heat some oil over medium.  Add the chicken, and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until chicken is firm to the touch.

5.  Pour sauce over chicken, serve.

chicken with raspberry sauce

I’ve gotta say, the sauce was really good.  I’m not a huge fan of the sweet-savory combination, but this was good.  I made some deviations from the original recipe, as you can see.  I definitely intend to try the original recipe at some point, it looks delicious.

And for dessert, I had (a lot of) cheese and a pear.  I love cheese.

All right, perhaps Thursday I will make a second attempt at tahdig using lavash bread instead of potatoes.  Though, what to make with the tahdig is still being decided….


spring is on its way…

Good evening everyone.

It feels great to still see the sun at 6:30 in the evening.  The tree below the window next to me is budding and the grass is definitely coming back to life.  Flowers are peaking out of the ground, and birds are slowly coming back (yes, we get the occasional non-pigeon bird).

Although it was tempting to grab a burrito on my way home from the gym and eat it somewhere outside, I came home and made a big pot of Israeli couscous.  If you buy the small-grained couscous in a box with those seasoning packets, you’ll likely be a little surprised at the look of Israeli couscous.  Its grains are larger, and it’s often called pearl couscous.  It may be used as a rice substitute, or you can do as I did and make a meal out of it.

Israeli couscous

Ingredients:

About 1 1/4 cup of Israeli couscous (I just used the rest of the bag I had)

1/2 lime

1/2 lemon

1 tbsp dried cilantro

1/2 tbsp dried parsley

1/2 tbsp cajun seasoning

1 smoked chile pepper, cut in half

1/2 onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Method:

1. Chop the onion and mince the garlic.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  When fragrant, add the onions and saute until browned.  This will take 5-7 minutes or so.  If your pan gets too dry, add more olive oil.

2. Meanwhile, a good ratio to keep in mind.  For 1 cup of couscous, boil 1 and 1/4 cup of water.  I had a little over 1 cup of couscous, and so I eyeballed the amount of water.  In a saucepan, let the water come to a boil and add the couscous.  Bring it back down to a simmer.  Cover for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Just like cooking rice.

3. Once the onions are browned to your liking (feel free to go all out and caramelize them, I was going to but I grew impatient), add the garlic and the chili pepper.  It helps to cut the chili pepper in half to expose the seeds and veins to the onions and garlic.  All the heat is in the pepper, and that’s what you want.  Add your cilantro, parsley, salt and pepper at this point also. Saute for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat.

4. Uncover your couscous when it’s done and stir in the onion mix.  Combine well.  Squeeze some lime juice and stir again.  Add more salt and pepper, as necessary and mix that through.  If you want more heat (I did), add some cajun seasoning.  This is a seasoning blend I picked up from the store.  If you don’t have it, here is some idea of what is in it.  Add some lemon juice and maybe 1/2 tbsp more olive oil, and mix yet again.

At this point, you can do a few things.  You can serve it as it is, you can let it come to room temperature, or you can set it in the refrigerator and let it sit in the lemon and lime juices for a while.  It’s great hot because the warmth of the food enhances the kick from the chili.  It’d probably be better cold, though, because it would have an opportunity to marinade in the juices and oil. I sprinkled a little feta cheese on top of my first helping.  The saltiness of the feta was perfect with the acidity of the lemon and lime juice, plus it offset the heat of the pepper a little.  And the couscous was so tender, unlike how it came out the first time I cooked it (it was a soggy, unappetizing mess).

So there you have it.  A very easy and healthy meal/side dish.  Fun nutrition facts: couscous is so great because it’s loaded with complex carbohydrates (which means it won’t send your blood sugar skyrocketing), and even has a fair amount of protein to boot.


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)!