Saturday, March 24, 2012

to make it better


This is one of those vegetarian dishes you can pass off to a meat-lover without making them feel they're deprived. Although I no longer have to worry about "tricking" Matty with dishes like these, it's still nice to be able to admire the umami of deeply caramelized mushrooms and onions, especially when it's surrounded by popover batter.

This was good, but could be better. Here's how:

- I got lazy. Instead of popping out the blender to make the batter, I just whisked it by hand. Fewer annoying parts to wash afterwards. However, while I got the popover flavor, I didn't quite get the popover texture. I think the blender would have aerated the batter more.

- I also had no milk and used cream instead. I think that contributed to the heaviness in both myself and the pie.

- Next time, I think I'll swirl the mushroom mixture right into the batter. If you compare the Serious Eats photo to mine, you can see how it looks like the mushrooms are more distributed throughout, whereas mine looks like a mushroom tarte tatin. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

- I need to find a way to remind myself that I SHOULD NOT TOUCH the handle of a pan that's been in the oven WITH MY BARE HANDS. I mean, I spent the entire day with my left hand in a bowl of cold water. If it was possible to burn off your fingerprints, my thumb would be naked.

Mushroom Popover Pie
adapted from Serious Eats

2 T. olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, stems removed, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/4 t. salt, divided
2 sprigs thyme, leaves only
1 T. butter
3 large eggs
1 c. milk
1 c. all-purpose flour

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add olive oil to a 10-inch stainless steel or cast-iron skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about five minutes.

2. Add mushrooms, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid from mushrooms has evaporated and they start to brown, 5-10 minutes. Add the butter and stir to melt.

3. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, milk, flour and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender and whizz until smooth.

4, Pat the mushrooms out into an even layer, and pour in the batter. Transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until the mixture has puffed up slightly and is starting to brown on top, 25 to 30 minutes.

5. Carefully remove pan from the oven, and cut into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, March 19, 2012

ain't nothing like it used to be


I'm back! To the land of the omnivores! Yay!

Although I wasn't completely blown away by my restaurant choices to celebrate my first day back yesterday, I will admit that first bite of bacon last night nearly threw me onto the floor. And I have nothing but happy vibes about my first pastrami sandwich from Greenblatt's tomorrow. But overall, I'm not really sure I'm going to be raring back as hard as I thought I would be. Sure I'm going to have the occasional steak, and I'm going to order it rare, but dare I say I may have lost interest in most animal-based protein?

Take, for example, tonight's dinner. Buttermilk Roast Chicken that's been in a buttermilk brine for over 24 hours. Nothing but salt, pepper and smoked paprika, my 3 favorite spices. Roasted simply, then put under the broiler for a touch of color because it looked too sad and pale to eat just out of the oven. And it was really good - tender, juicy, all things one could want in roast chicken.

But it was the Green Beans with Almond Pesto that had me coming back for seconds. At first I was really wary of the main ingredient being parsley since I've started to realize I hate parsley, but I'm glad I stuck with the recipe because the almonds really mellowed and sweetened that irritating grassiness. I may grab another bunch on the way home tomorrow to make more pesto.

Buttermilk Roast Chicken
from Smitten Kitchen

2 c. buttermilk
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 T. salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 T. sugar
1 1/2 t. smoked paprika, plus extra for sprinkling
black pepper
3 lbs. chicken legs
drizzle of olive oil

1. In a 2-cup measuring cup, comine the buttermilk with garlic, salt, sugar and smoked paprika and stir to dissolve spices. Place chicken parts in a gallon-sized freezer bag and pour buttermilk brine over them. Seal the bag and turn a few times to thoroughly coat the chicken. Refrigerate for 24 hours, turning the bag once in the morning.

2. When ready to roast, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil. Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and arrange in dish. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with additional paprika and salt. Roast for 30 minutes, until brown and a bit scorched in spots. Serve immediately.

Green Beans with Almond Pesto
from The Kitchn

12 oz. haricots verts, trimmed
1 large clove garlic
one 0.75-oz. package of parsley, stems included
1/3 c. olive oil
1/3 c. raw almonds

1. Have ready a large bowl of ice water. Bring a large saucepan of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the beans all at once and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge the beans into ice water. Set aside.

2. In a food processor, combine the garlic, parsley and almonds and process until everything is finely chopped. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a slow steady stream and process until a coarse purée forms.

3. Drain the beans and pat dry. Put them in a large bowl, add the pesto, and toss to coat evenly. Serve at room temperature.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

when it rains


There is nothing quite like chopping mirepoix to the rhythm of the raindrops. There's something so casually comforting, so sweet and domestic, about making soup when it's pouring outside. Especially the kind that simmers on the stove for a couple hours, perfuming the house and steaming up the windows. I should make every Saturday a Souper Saturday, rain or shine (except I guess it should be a cold shine).

This Lentil + Coconut Soup was almost nothing like I expected, but still everything I wanted. First of all, I have no idea how Kenji got that gorgeous yellow in his soup. Mine = brown. I also expected it to be a lot more coconut-y, but I guess one 14-oz. can of coconut milk has nothing on 12 cups of water. About an hour into the simmering process, when the liquid was a little low, I added another can of coconut milk. I'm not sure it added anything in terms of coconut flavor, but I think it made it slightly richer. I also think it's necessary to blend at least some of the soup to add a touch of velvet-y texture. I just took an immersion blender to it for about 10 trips around the pot, but if you have a regular blender, I'd completely puree a couple cups of the soup and return it to the pot.

The original recipe is probably a lot spicier - I only used 2 jalapenos instead of the serrano or habanero suggested in the original. And for me the Frank's hot sauce didn't really add as much heat as it did a good touch of acidity. That and the lime juice really added the right amount of brightness to a soup that otherwise might be too earthy with all the lentils and cumin, but add both elements to taste, one Tablespoon at a time. Some of that earthiness is good! Souper even!

Lentil + Coconut Soup
adapted from Serious Eats

1/4 c. olive oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced (about 1 1/2 c.)
1 large onion, finely diced (about 1 1/2 c.)
2 stalks celery, finely diced (about 3/4 c.)
4 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane grater
2 inches peeled, fresh ginger, grated on a microplane grater
1 jalapeno peppers, seeds and ribs removed, flesh finely chopped
1/2 t. ground cumin
1 lb. dry brown lentils
12 c. water
2 bay leaves
2 14-oz. cans coconut milk
1 T. soy sauce
0.75-oz. container of cilantro, finely chopped
1 T. hot sauce, such as Frank's
2 T. fresh lime juice
salt

1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add carrots, onions and celery, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno and cumin, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute longer.

2. Add lentils, water, bay leaves, coconut milk and soy salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are completely tender and have started to break down and thicken the soup, about 1 1/2 hours, adding more water if soup begins to get too thick. Add chopped cilantro and stir to incorporate.

3. Discard bay leaves. If desired, partially puree some of the soup with a hand blender or in a standing blender to thicken. Set aside and let cool for 30 minutes. Add hot sauce and lime juice, and stir to combine. Season to taste with kosher salt.

4. Ladle into individual bowls and serve with naan bread on the side.

Monday, March 12, 2012

bad bad day


Today has been a real bear of a day. As I usually do when I have a tough day, I drowned myself in food. Breakfast was about half a pound of that addicting Darrel Lea strawberry liquorice from Trader Joe's, and lunch was two kinds of cheese - the fried kind, and the kind that gets baked into ziti. I mean, I could barely lift the bag of take-out when it arrived. After briefly pondering that the weight I was lifting was likely the weight to be added to my hips, I shrugged, and proceeded to embarrass even myself with the volume of cheese I ingested.

In an effort to scrub myself clean of that shame, I made a salad for dinner. But not just any salad. A salad that would still fill me up after my stomach's been stretched out from lunch. And I hate the visual brought about by the title "Warm Salad," so this will just be Artichoke Mushroom Salad.

It was exactly what I needed - super healthy, but I didn't feel deprived. It was a good combination of flavors as well as textures from the lightly dressed greens to the sauteed mushrooms and artichoke hearts. And the next time I feel like indulging in more carbs, this would also make an excellent pasta topping.

Artichoke Mushroom Salad
adapted from YumSugar
Serves 2

1 14-oz. can of artichoke hearts, drained and hearts quartered
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper
5 oz. mixed greens
olive oil and balsamic vinegar
2 T. blue cheese crumbles (optional)

1. Heat 2 T. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 7 minutes or until the mushrooms start to turn golden-brown.

2. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to heat through.

3. Place the mixed greens in a medium bowl and dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss to thoroughly combine. Divide the greens between two plates, and top with the artichoke and mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with the blue cheese (optional) and serve immediately.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

i'll make the most of it


My mini Ottolenghi marathon ended in semi-failure. I was originally going to make his Parsnip Dumplings in Broth, and I was so excited. An unusual-sounding broth that included prunes, and dumplings that, in my mind, sounded like a sweeter version of gnocchi.

Now stock-making, I love. This whole thing came about because I couldn't sleep one morning, and just started chopping and simmering. And then didn't feel like soup that night because, apparently, we're not going to get winter in LA. It stayed in the fridge for a day or two, just about as long as the aroma stayed in our house. Every time we walked in the door, we were floored by the deliciousness. Just swoon-worthy.

A couple days later it actually threatened to rain (yay, weather!), but of course, it didn't (boo!). It was still chilly enough for soup, though, so I took the dumpling dough out of the fridge and started forming them into gnocchi-sized pieces. Eight went into the water, floated to the top, were done, and tasted. And spit out. Oh boy. Dinner that night was vegetable soup (I had taken out all the carrots, celery and celeriac when straining the stock, diced them small and returned them to the pot) with a poached egg in it. Perfect comfort food.

Then, Matty put out a dinner request for a rice dish, and since my fall-back response to that is risotto, I pulled out the remaining precious stock and got to work. I used all of the veggie bits still in the soup when I made the risotto - some of the celery and celeriac broke down and lent a great creamy sweetness to the rice. The carrots remained relatively intact and were augmented by roasted Brussels sprouts and the two remaining parsnips that escaped the fate of the dumplings.

Roasted Vegetable Risotto
with Vegetable Broth from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty

For the broth
3 T. olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
5 celery stalk, cut into chunks
1 large onion, quartered
1/2 celery root, peeled and roughly chopped
7 garlic cloves, peeled
5 thyme sprigs
2 small bunches of parsley
10 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
8 prunes
12 c. water

For the risotto
1 c. arborio rice
1 medium onion, diced
3 T. olive oil, divided
8 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan, optional

1. Heat up the olive oil in a large pot. Add all the vegetables and garlic and saute for a few minutes until they color lightly. Add the herbs, spices and prunes, and cover with water. Simmer for up to 1 1/2 hours.

2. Strain the broth through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Add some of the carrots, celery and celeriac, if you like. Set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the Brussels sprouts and parsnips with 1 T. olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, turning once or twice.

4. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and stir until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to toast for about 2 minutes. Add the vegetable broth one cup at a time until the rice is soft, stirring often and waiting until each cup of broth is absorbed before adding another. You'll need about 4-6 cups of broth total.

5. When the risotto is done, the roasted vegetables should be as well. Fold the Brussels sprouts and parsnips in with the rice and finish with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

i get bored


I'm getting a little bored with this vegetarian thing. I actually think it's making me unhealthy because I'm defaulting to carbs and cheese when I can't come up with anything else. I keep telling myself that I'm working out so much that I need the carbs. Right? I haven't figured out how the cheese fits in yet.

But there's no cheese in this here, so I'm halfway there. Great as a filling entree (for me), a side for Matty (to his steak) or even a breakfast option (leftovers tomorrow). The crispy potatoes make it nice and comforting, but the Brussels sprouts make you feel like you're doing something good for yourself.

Potato-Mushroom-Brussels Sprouts Rosti
adapted from Serious Eats

5 T. olive oil
1 lb. golden potatoes, shredded on a box grater
1 c. diced onion
4 oz. mushrooms, finely sliced
8 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved and finely sliced
salt and pepper

1. Heat 1 T. oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and mushrooms and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Add brussels sprouts and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small bowl and wipe out skillet.

2. Heat another 2 T. oil in skillet over medum heat until shimmering. Add half of the potatoes and press into bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula. Season with salt and pepper. Spread onion/mushroom/Brussels sprouts mixture evenly over the potatoes and top with remaining potatoes. Press down into an even disk shape using a rubber spatula. Season top with salt and pepper.

3. Cook, swirling and shaking pan occasionally until deep golden brown and crisp on the first side, about 7 minutes. Carefully slide rosti to a large plate. Set another plate on top of it upside down, grip the edges, and invert the whole thing so the rösti is now cooked-side-up. Heat remaining two tablespoons oil in the skillet and slide rösti back in. Continue cooking, swirling and shaking pan occasionally until deep golden brown and crisp on the second side, about 7 minutes longer. Slide rösti to a cutting board. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

tuesday's gone


Something for Taco Tuesday that I made a week and a half ago, meant to post last Tuesday, and then promptly forgot what day it was when Tuesday rolled around. This is why I can't watch series television. I never know what day it is anymore.

These Flautas were originally tacos with soy protein crumbles in place of ground meat, but I wasn't ready to stand for that. I don't think there's a need to make faux meat when there are so many vegetables and grains and legumes to play with.

Ingredients like lentils. Which, when heated through with the chile-espresso seasoning, made as hearty a flauta filling as the ground meat mixture I made for Matty. It also felt extra sneaky to get the fun of the crispy taco without completely deep-frying the flautas. Sure, it's a little more time-consuming, but you can use the free time while they're in the oven to knock out a few things. Like figuring out what day it is.

Chile-Espresso Flautas
adapted from Je Mange La Ville

For the seasoning
3 T. chile powder
2 T. cumin
1 t. instant coffee
1/2 t. dried cilantro
1/4 t. dried orange peel

For the flautas
2 T. vegetable oil, divided, plus additional for tortillas
1 c. dried lentils, cooked according to package directions
1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, diced
24 6-inch corn tortillas

1. Combine all seasoning ingredients. Divide evenly into two medium saucepans. Heat over medium heat for a minute or so, until you can smell all of the spices.

2. Add 1 T. of oil to each pan, and mix until you have a thick paste. Add the half of the onion, half of the bell pepper and half o the jalapeno to each pan and saute until soft, 3-4 minutes. Add the cooked lentils to one pan and the ground beef to the other. Heat the lentils until warmed through, and cook the beef until no longer pink. Set both mixtures aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

4. Heat about 1/4 c. oil in a 10-inch pan and heat over medium heat. Fry the tortillas, one at a time, for about 2-3 seconds on each side, just enough to soften the tortillas. As they're done, transfer the tortillas onto a foil-lined baking sheet.

5. When all of the tortillas have been fried, start assembling the flautas. Add a scant 2 T. of filling (either the beef or the lentils) in a line in the middle of each tortillas. Roll up tightly and leave seam-side down on the baking sheet. When they are all filled, bake them for 25-30 minutes until golden brown all over. Let cool slightly and serve with sour cream (or Greek yogurt) and guacamole.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

need a little sugar


I blame Matty for these cookies. Him, and a crazy day filled with gymming, open-housing, and Laker-ing, that delightfully screwed up our schedule so that we were eating dinner at 5:00p, and jonesing for dessert by 8.

All of these were easily rustled up with ingredients I already had, so other than them not being good for us, I really had no excuse. Matty wanted the chocolate-peanut butter, but I wanted to test out these Brown Sugar Cookies I've had bookmarked for a while, so we compromised and made half and half. The same brown sugar base was used for both cookies, and I just added cocoa powder and peanut butter chips to half of the dough. Note: the variation listed at the end is the amount you'd use if you were making the whole batch chocolate-PB. If we're making half and half like we did, cut the cocoa and PB by half.

They came out fantastic. Totally hit the spot. Matty was concerned because 1/4 c. cocoa powder didn't sound like much, but it went a long way - the chocolate-PB cookies were intensely chocolate-y. The times below make for some fairly chewy cookies. If you like them crisp (why?), add 2 minutes to the baking time and let them cool directly on the baking sheet rather than on a wire rack.

Brown Sugar Cookies
adapted from Leite's Culinaria
Makes 40 cookies

6 T. butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and beat well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, and beat until everything is incorporated.

3. Form the cookie dough into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until just done. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Variation
Add 1/2 c. of dark cocoa powder and 1 c. peanut butter chips and beat to combine. They don't spread as much as the brown sugar cookies, so if you prefer a flatter cookie, squish them down a bit before baking.

f.u.n.


I've gotten to the point where I don't have time to actually read any of my favorite blogs any more. I still try to make time to catch up on them whenever I can, but especially with the food blogs, I'm just looking at the pictures. Scanning to see if anything looks like what I want to make before clicking on the next link.

Originally, when I first saw Deb's post on Fried Egg Sandwiches with Bacon + Blue Cheese, I closed the window immediately. Don't tempt me, sweet bacon. I've still got 2 weeks of vegetarianism left to observe. (Don't worry, that photo above is Matty's sandwich. I put arugula on mine). Besides, while the sandwich indeed looked like something I would want to make in the very near future, I also didn't figure there was anything particularly complicated about the recipe. I can fry an egg, fry some bacon, put both on bread, sprinkle on some blue cheese and call it a day. No need to read the post for instructions.

But then I got to thinking - part of the reason I love food blogs is the writing. Imagine! Sure, it's helped build up my cooking repertoire, but I really got into them because of the great stories that these amazing writers were able to tell, welcoming me/their readers into their lives from miles and miles away. So I buckled down one night and just took some time to read.

It's a damn good thing I revisited Deb's post, or I would never have seen the link to her contribution to A Cup of Jo for the most fun-looking egg sandwich preparation technique I have ever seen in my life. An egg packet filled with cheese? Sign me up!

Lazy Egg-and-Cheese Sandwich
from Deb at Smitten Kitchen via A Cup of Jo

an English muffin or 2 slices bread of your choice
1/2 T. butter
1 egg
Salt and pepper
1 slice of cheese or a tiny pile of grated or crumbled cheese

1. Toast the bread. Heat a 10-inch skillet, preferably nonstick, on medium.

2. Beat one egg with a couple pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper with a fork until just blended.

3. Melt the butter in the pan. Pour in the egg and roll them around so they cover the pan, as a thin crepe would.

4. Immediately plop a slice of cheese or a small pile of grated cheese in the middle.

5. When the egg is cooked enough so that no loose egg comes through the skillet when you poke it, fold the part of the egg closest to you over the cheese, like the first part of a business letter fold. Repeat this on the three remaining "sides," forming a small square. Leave the folded egg-and-cheese in the center of the skillet to cook for another 30 seconds, then slide onto you muffin or toast. Top the sandwich with the other half and serve immediately.

My sous chef hasn't quite become my action photographer yet, so I don't have all the fun step-by-step photos provided at A Cup of Jo, but here's what the egg looks like when it's cooked enough for the cheese to go down and start the folding process. See? Fun!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

like velvet


Sous Chef Matty and I are back at it again! And we're once again reminded that we need a bigger kitchen if this is going to start being a regular thing.

On today's menu is Cheese Enchiladas. Not just any cheese enchiladas, though, mind you. With Chili Gravy. I know. What? Yes. Chili gravy.

At first, I thought it was going to be actual chili - like beans and ground meat chili. But as I read closer, it turns out it's just a flour-roux gravy intensified with lots of chili powder and fun spices. (By the way, what's the difference between regular oregano and Mexican oregano?)

And of course, by "just" a flour-roux gravy, I mean the loveliest, richest enchilada sauce ever. I mean, the only thing that could make this sauce richer is if it started with butter rather than veggie oil. And I can only imagine how delicious an actual chili (with beans and meat) would be with this gravy as its base - more velvety stew than anything else. The only thing I would change for next time would be to double the recipe to have leftovers.

Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Gravy
adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 2 (let's be honest, here)

For the Chili Gravy
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. flour
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1 t. salt
1 1/2 t. powdered garlic
2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. dried oregano
2 T. chili powder
2 c. vegetable broth

For the Cheese Enchiladas
1/2 c. vegetable oil
8 6-inch corn tortillas
1 c. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese +
1 c. shredded pepper jack cheese, tossed together
1 onion, finely diced

1. Add the vegetable oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When warm, whisk in the flour until there are no lumps. Continue stirring with the whisk until the roux is light brown, three to four minutes. Add all the dry ingredients, stir well, and let cook for one minute.

2. Pour in the vegetable broth and whisk until mixture is smooth. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low to maintain a slow simmer. Cook until thick and rich, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

3. Adjust oven rack to bottom third position, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Add the vegetable oil to an 8-inch skillet set over medium-high heat. When oil starts to shimmer, add one of the corn tortillas. Cook until puffed up and lightly browned, about 30 seconds total. Flip halfway through with a pair of tongs. When done, transfer the tortilla to some paper towels. Repeat the process with remaining tortillas.

4. Take a tortilla and add about 2 T. of the cheese mixture and 1 tablespoon of chopped onion along the middle. Roll it up, burrito-style (close the ends vs. just rolling them and leaving the ends open) and place them, seam side down, in an 8x8 pan. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Top with the chili gravy and remaining cheese and onion.

5. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has completely melted, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve.