Monday, April 28, 2008

behold the pain become the pearl

I've only recently been introduced to the great oyster, and I've still never had them raw. The way things are going with cooked oysters, though, especially with tonight's massively successful Hangtown Fry, I may never bother going the raw route.

I love food with a story, and the Hangtown Fry has a great one. And it was so great to finally have someone to tell stories to! Matty got back into town today, and this was his homecoming dinner.

I chose not to use bacon to save the calories, and I didn't really miss it. I mean, obviously, it would have made it better, but this was so good anyway, it didn't matter. I'd say there were about 6 pre-shucked oysters in the jar I bought from Whole Foods, and to those I added 4 eggs. Instead of slicing up shiitakes, I decided to serve the whole thing in portobello mushrooms that I had baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. All of it was placed on a bed of kale sauteed in olive oil and garlic.

Perfection. So perfect that I'm submitting this to Johanna's Waiter, There's Something In My...Breakfast Favorites. It's definitely a new favorite, and certainly falls under the categories of "luxurious" and "indulgent," no matter what time you choose to have breakfast - even if you choose to have breakfast at 7:00p like we did. :)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

like a rainbow

Talk about simplifying things that were already simple to begin with. I made this Two-Bean Salad the most effortless way I knew how.

I was initially attracted to the recipe because I related to partysugar's story about her brother wanting to change his diet. I'm doing a similar thing, so I'm always looking for interesting recipes since changing your diet that way so often leads to boring meals.

It's also ridiculously hot in LA today, so anything that didn't require me to be near fire was welcome. That's where the simplifying begins. I couldn't be bothered to fire up the stove to steam the green beans, so I substituted sugar snap peas cut into bite-sized pieces. I also didn't have everything I needed to make the tarragon dressing, so I just squeeze the juice of a small lemon over the salad, and drizzled enough olive oil on it to make a nice juicy salad.

I can see myself nibbling on this all day. :)

Friday, April 25, 2008

an easier affair

When I saw this Baby Artichokes, Potatoes, Garlic, Olives and Shrimp concoction over at Mark Bittman's blog, I could think of nothing finer for dinner on a warm spring night. That is, until I saw this ode to polenta earlier today.

What to do? Combine the two, of course. It actually turned out for the best - those potatoes on my counter that I was hoping to save had already long succumbed to the ravishes of old age, so I needed to replace the carb content with something else.

My polenta is kind of ghetto. Just 2 cups of boiled water and 1/2 cup of regular ol' store-brand cornmeal that may or may not have lived in the pantry since the Thanksgiving before last. Whatever. It still tasted awesome. It could also have been the couple chunks of Brie I threw in at the very end. Just water, cornmeal, Brie and some salt. Who knew something so ridiculously boring-sounding could be so yum.

As if Mr. Minimalist's recipe wasn't easy enough, I further simplified the recipe by using canned artichoke hearts. Threw a can in at the same time as a thawed 1-lb. bag of Trader Joe's uncooked shrimp, and tossed some garlic-stuffed green olives on top. It took maybe 10 minutes for the shrimp to turn opaque; then over the polenta went a big spoonful.

I think I had a fairly stupid grin on my face the whole time I was eating because I was so happy with how everything turned out. The olives do give a lot of bite, so I think I'll just use more mellow black olives the next go-around, but other than that, this will at least make one more appearance on the dining table when Matty gets home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

something fishy

Ah, so this is my life with my love away. Dinner in front of the computer, with the phone nearby so I don't miss him when he calls. And dinner being stuff I don't think he'd necessarily want to try. :P

This Pasta with Spicy Anchovy Sauce may have just become one of my favorite pasta dishes, second only to the divine carbonara. Now, anchovies aren't really for everyone, so I do offer that disclaimer, but I couldn't imagine a better dinner tonight.

Taking heed of the Epicurious reviews, I doubled the amount of anchovies; or rather, I kept the amount of anchovies the same while halving the rest of the recipe since it was just me for dinner. Everything came together really quickly. My anchovies came packed in olive oil, so I think next time, I'll just use that oil to cook the onions in. I started the onions as soon as I set a pot of water to boil, so by the time the pasta was done, in with the onions they went. I must have over-eyeballed the oil because it made a really nice sauce without having to add the reserved pasta water.

I didn't garnish it with anything extra (or with the bread crumbs from the original recipe) - it was great straight from the pan. Salty, but not too much so, sweet from the onions and all just so comforting. Carbs do have a way of doing that, don't they?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

(red) velvet, if you please

I love red velvet cake. L-o-v-e. It's just damn magical even if it's nothing more than dyed chocolate cake. My friend Natalie agrees - hence her request for red velvet cupcakes for her birthday gathering.

Since my go-to red velvet recipe makes about 36 cupcakes, and even with our combined love for the stuff, I didn't think the 5 of us girls would be able to handle all of those cupcakes, so I began to think of other forms red velvet cake could take.

I was definitely not going to make a layer cake. I fail miserably at those - frosting is not a marketable skill of mine. It took another website (which escapes me) to remind me that I had bookmarked Bakerella's Red Velvet Cake Balls, and even though I hate/am unskilled with chocolate dipping almost as much as frosting, I decided to go for it.

While I was on Bakerella's blog looking for tips, I came across her entry for Cupcake Pops. Well, hot damn if that's not a brilliant idea. So I had to trek over to Michael's to get lollipop sticks and have a go at those, too.

The cupcakes turned out perfectly, like they always do. I will have to admit, the cake balls/lollies experience further proved to me that I'm not capable of doing anything that requires patience and/or grace (I had quite a bit of trouble with the cookie cutters and ended up just free-forming the pops), but they were a huge hit. They were a little too sweet for me, but everyone loved them, and it didn't stop me from popping one or two to test before I brought them over to Nat's house. :P

Monday, April 14, 2008

stronger than yesterday

In January of 2005, at the ripe old age of 22, I had a cervical cancer scare. No worries - the biopsy came back negative, and I'm totally fine now, but the experience was definitely a rude awakening to the fact that cancer does not discriminate - even against cocky twentysomethings convinced of their invincibility.

More recently, as I've mentioned in previous posts, my aunt was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. They doctors have apparently given her a couple years, but they have also said it could be any day now because it's taken root in more than just her colon. The whole thing is completely terrifying, mainly because I've been lucky enough to never have had to deal with death before. On the upside, I've been visiting my family more because of it, but each visit leaves me completely depressed and unable to do anything else for the rest of the day.

She was doing much better when I visited last, so that at least gave me hope that she'll have some semblance of normalcy in her day-to-day. She's also very much at peace with her diagnosis, so we'll just have to live each day the best we can, and let the powers that be deal with the rest.

This Artichoke and Lemon Anelletti topped with a Crabby Crab Cake is my contribution to A Taste of Yellow, hosted by Barbara at Winos and Foodies.

Both were absolutely delightful - not that I was surprised, considering both of the sources. The pasta is a breeze to make - just make the sauce while the pasta is cooking, and since the sauce doesn't need to be warmed and there's no fear of it congealing or doing anything undesirable, you can just set it aside until your pasta is done.

The crab cake was also very no-fuss. I added curry powder to it to make it yellower, but of course, didn't think about the fact that once I fried it, it would turn brown. And not yellow. Oh well. The additional flavor contrasted very nicely with the fresh, but not too tart-y, lemon-artichoke sauce. I think the only thing I would change the next time I make this crab cake recipe is to take Bittman's suggestion of adding something for crunch - maybe celery or bell pepper.

And the pasta is definitely something I'm going to be making over and over again. Perhaps as one of my carb-loading sessions as I prepare for my very first 10K! I'll be participating in the City of Hope's Underwear Affair come August 2nd. You see, the Underwear Affair, in addition to being fun to say, raises money to uncover cures for cancers below the waist (prostate, colorectal, cervical, ovarian, kidney, bladder, testicular and uterine). Matty and I are running as a team, and he's dubbed us The Running Mates. If you are so inclined, please visit the page and make any donation you can simply by clicking on either of our names.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

how sweet it is

Apparently, yesterday was Grilled Cheese Day (and April is Grilled Cheese Month). Since I missed it, I had to make up for it. I could think of no better way to fuel myself up for the Rose Bowl Flea Market than to have this grilled cheese a la Lucques.

Nothing terribly fancy - just used a couple slices of Brie, toasted the sandwich up on the stove and quartered some strawberries while it finished up in the oven. After I took the photo, I remembered that yumsugar had also talked about putting jam on her grilled cheese sandwiches, and since I thought that was the most brilliant idea ever, I smeared on some pear jam, and happily munched away.

Monday, April 7, 2008

nothing fancy

Been a little uninspired lately. The recipe bookmarking is still occurring at a rapid clip, but I've just not been motivated to cook. I think I'm over cooking for myself.

Elaborate meals aren't worth it, so I've been playing around with simpler recipes. I'm also trying to eat more small meals as opposed to the basic 3, and this Eggless Salad recipe is a total keeper because it satisfies both requirements.

And, it fascinatingly tastes like real egg salad. Half a batch makes more than enough for me. I used extra-firm tofu for better texture, and I added 1/4 c. chopped celery for texture. Equally good on Triscuits, celery sticks, wrapped up in a leaf of lettuce or piled on a toasted slice of Coconut Cream Bread and eaten like a giant crostini.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

brighter than sunshine

So very appropriate that this Marmalade Bread & Butter Pudding Jeanne made was her contribution to A Taste of Yellow 2008 - I took this home for brunch with Dad when my sister and I visited with our aunt, just home from surgery to deal with her colon cancer. I hope to have my own contribution to A Taste of Yellow within the next couple of days.

Not knowing how my very non-foodie sister would respond to something called "Bread & Butter Pudding," I just decided to call it Marmalade French Toast. I used an apricot-marmalade spread I found at TJ's and Celine's Coconut Cream Bread.

Man, that bread was good. It's not overwhelmingly coconut-y; in fact, I considered sprinkling some dessicated coconut over the entire dish before it baked, but I forgot to. It was a little dense - don't know if that was due to the fact that I used APF instead of spelt. The only other deviation from her recipe was that I used a full cup of coconut milk instead of the 2/3 cup coconut cream and 1/3 cup water called for. I have a couple slices leftover that I just can't wait to butter up and wash down with my newest obsession, chocolate soy milk.

The entire dish was magnificent (regardless of what you call it). Instead of sprinkling the orange zest on top, I added it to the egg mixture to try to get it more orange-y. I may even add more marmalade the next go-round, or maybe some orange juice to replace some of the milk/cream. I also let the little marmalade sandwiches sit in the custard for about an hour and a half (mostly in transit from my place to my sister's, and then to my parents') so everything was pretty much completely absorbed. My biggest fear with baked French toasts is to have them come out as bits of bread sitting atop a flavored omelette, so I may even let this soak overnight next time.

And it just made me so happy to see Dad going back into the dish for seconds and thirds. He's been having a rough time dealing with his sister's cancer, so anything to make him happy, or at least distract him from it, is beyond measure right now.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

i try to forget you

Still in a very blah mood, so I thought I'd just keep things simple for dinner tonight and throw together some of my favorite things.

Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts
serves one tired, hungry and listless girl

1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
4 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 c. grated Parmesan

Combine the brussels, 2 T. olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss to coat. Pour everything onto a baking sheet and roast in a preheated 400F oven for about half an hour.

With about 15 minutes left in the roasting process, cook spaghetti according to package instructions.

When all the timers go off, mix everything back together in the brussels bowl, and pig out.

Obviously, I've fallen off the carb wagon. Ah well. I also just got very sad about the thought of brussels leaving stores soon. These days, I find myself sneaking up to the refrigerated veggie section at TJ's hoping to still catch a glimpse of those little bags of goodness. I'm not sure I know what I'll do when I stop seeing them.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

all you need is here

I had a package of chicken breasts in my fridge waiting to be rolled up with something, but as I was working along today, I wanted to trouble with dinner less and less. I knew I had to use it up fairly soon, but that healthy kick I was on at the beginning of the week is starting to wane, and I was filled with regret that I didn't get some more interesting dark meat instead.

I'm still trying to no- to low-carb it, so as I mentally browsed my pantry, I thought of the lentils sitting there, and figured I should try to incorporate them into dinner somehow. Lo, and behold, upon my daily food blog scan, there was a Chicken and Lentil Tagine recipe right on the front page of Leite's Culinaria. And a Bittman recipe, no less.

It satisfied every requirement I had for dinner - something I didn't have to fuss with, something that used up my chicken, something that incorporated lentils. I halved the recipe because I'm still only cooking for one, and the leftovers should do me quite nicely for lunch the next couple of days and perhaps even some funky chicken salad this weekend.

It was nothing terribly exciting, but it was still good. It reminded me of something I used to eat a lot as a kid - guess we had a lot more turmeric in our diet than I realized. The chicken was a little dry, but I'm sure that can be improved simply by using leg pieces. I'm definitely doing that next time.

dreaming wide awake

Day 2 of carb-free living. Don't worry, it's only temporary (read: as long as I can last).

All the way home from work, all I could think about was mozzarella. There are a couple slices in my cheese drawer that really needed some attention, so I kept thinking of ways to use them up.

When I opened up the fridge, I saw a couple slices of pizza left over from happy hour last week with my friend Jodi. Whoops - that should probably be thrown out. And while I was there, I thought to myself, "What else should be checked for signs of decay?" Oh yeah. The beet greens in the crisper.

Sadly, they were on their last legs, but I managed to salvage about 5 leaves. Let the layering begin!

Portabello Pizzas
serves 1 as a main course

6 stuffing portabellos (they come in packages of 6 at TJ's)
3 tsp. of pear spread (my new favorite kind at Whole Foods has mustard flavoring in it)
5 leaves of beet greens, chopped
3 slices of fresh mozzarella, halved
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Snap the stems off the mushrooms and discard. Dollop half a tsp. of pear spread into each mushroom. Divide the greens into sixths and stuff the mushrooms. Top with half a slice of mozzarella.

Drizzle a little olive oil into the bottom of an oven-proof glass pan. Arrange the mushrooms (obviously cap side down), and bake for 20 minutes. Eating all 6 in one sitting may be a bit much, but go ahead - you deserve it!

I was thinking this might be good finger food, but it's probably a bit too big, and it leaches a lot of liquid once you cut/bite into it. Perhaps baking the mushrooms by themselves and sauteeing the greens separately, only combining them afterwards and topping with cheese and broiling might work.

Wow, was that really a sentence? I can't focus enough right now to rethink it. Must be time to go dreaming fast asleep.