Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET (Series – 8)
May 20, 2015

Last night I made one of my favorite pasta dishes for our dinner.  It’s a pasta dish I’ve made for years and it varies from time to time but always satisfies.  Happily, last night’s version made use of our abundant crop of swiss chard and zucchini!  This is a sort of kitchen sink pasta dish.  It’s healthy, forgiving and fast!

Whole Grain Pasta with Sausage & Greens

For two:

Pasta – I like this with penne but have done it with just about everything.  Whole grain is best.

1/2 onion (any kind you have) – diced
Two mild Italian sausages removed from casing (pork, turkey, chicken – whatever you prefer or have on hand)
Two big handfuls of greens (Swiss chard, kale, spinach, super greens – again whatever you like or have)
1 teaspoon fennel pollen
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cloves of garlic – grated or minced
1/4 cup chicken broth, tomato sauce, or veggie stock
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 tablespoonish of butter (to finish)

While the pasta is cooking, add a tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet and add the onions and sausage.  Saute for a few minutes until the onion soften and sausage breaks up into small pieces.  Add the fennel pollen and red pepper flakes and stir to incorporate.  Add the greens and whatever liquid you decided to use. Once the greens wilt, add the garlic, salt & pepper.  Finish with the butter – it will slightly thicken the sauce.  Toss warm pasta in the skillet and serve.

I like to have mine with a small handful of chopped walnuts and a little bit of goat cheese crumbled over.  Dan prefers his with just a dousing of parmesan cheese.  Last night we added zucchini to the mix too.  (I added it just after the onions and sausage started cooking).  I’ve also added sundried tomatoes too, which is a great addition!

It’s super easy and always very tasty!  Definitely one my favorite weeknight pasta dishes.

LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET (Series – 7)
April 3, 2015

We are a multicultural family. My husband is Jewish, and I am, well, spiritual in my own way. My brother’s family is the same, his wife and daughters are Jewish, and he’s his own guide. Multiculturalism has become so common; nearly all of our friends are too.  A nice thing, besides exposing our kids to different practices, etc., is that families develop their own traditions.

One such family invited us to a potluck Passover dinner this evening. The event is being held at their new home, and while respectful of the traditions and holiday, the meal will not be entirely kosher or in keeping with the tradition. They assigned the dishes each guest would bring. We were assigned to bring chicken liver. I think traditionally it’s a chopped chicken liver dish with hard boiled egg and some other things mixed in but I’m honestly not a big fan of the most rustic versions of chicken liver pates so I made the Chicken Liver Pate from Animal’s recipe (Animal is a James Beard Award winning, top restaurant in LA that has an amazing chicken liver toast dish on their menu that I LOVE).

I had to overcome the ick factor of raw liver. I had never cooked it and am really only a fan of it in smooth, buttery rich pates. Snobbery, perhaps, but I managed to get the slimy livers into a buttery pan and cook them off without actually ever touching them!

Just let me say, it was all worth it. It was actually not as terribly as I imagined it would be and the pate came out beautifully. It tastes like Animal’s! I feel embolden! I can make pate! I scooped it into some jam jars, a couple for the party and smaller ones to share with a couple of office mates who are also fans of Animal’s dish.

Happy Passover, Good Friday, Easter…whatever you honor. It’s nearly the weekend, which pleases me!

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ANIMAL’s CHICKEN LIVER TOASTS (I tripled this recipe for a party of 30 people)

  1. 1 stick, plus 2 tablespoons unsalted, grass fed butter, softened
  2. 1 pound chicken livers, trimmed
  3. Salt
  4. Freshly ground black pepper
  5. 1 medium red onion, diced
  6. 4 thyme sprigs
  7. 20 ¼ inch think warm baguette toasts
  8. Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
  9. 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  10. Shallot Jam (recipe included)

Brush the bread slices lightly with olive oil. Grill or toast the bread until crispy. Rub with garlic.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Season the livers with salt & pepper. Cook over high heat until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Set aside on a plate.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet. Add the onion and thyme and cook over moderate heat until the onion is translucent and softened, about ten minutes. Add the livers and cook until heated through for about 2 more minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly. Discard the thyme.

In a food processor, puree the liver mixture and remaining 6 tablespoons of butter until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and season well with salt. Transfer mixture to serving bowl, jars and cover with plastic wrap pressed onto surface. Refrigerate until chilled and firm.

Spread onto the toasts and top with Shallot Jam for garnish.

SHALLOT JAM

  1. 2 tablespoons canola oil
  2. 4 large shallots, thinly sliced
  3. ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
  4. 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  5. Pinch of salt

In a skillet, heat the oil. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat until softened and translucent, about ten minutes. Add the vinegar and sugar and cook until thick and jam like, about five minutes. Season with salt to taste.

LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET (Series – 6)
March 24, 2015

We planted a bevy of vegetables and herbs this past weekend. My husband built some raised beds and we finally filled a couple of them, as well as some existing pots, with four different tomatoes, two squash plants, loads of different chiles and peppers, radishes, scallions, fennel and heirloom onions, plus a bed full of herbs for kitchen use. Corn, eggplant and cucumbers will follow. If all goes well, or rather, grows well, we’ll be enjoying the fruits of our efforts all summer. Just planting was inspiring to me. We enjoyed the below crostini with a garlicky herb grilled bit of chicken. It felt and tasted like Spring! The textures of crunchy bread, creamy, smooth ricotta, and fresh snap peas and herbs were amazing. The crostini alone would make a lovely light meal…

SNAP PEA CROSTINI

  1. ½ pound Sugar Snap Peas, trimmed if necessary
  2. ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
  3. ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
  4. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  5. Fresh cracked black pepper
  6. Maldon sea salt
  7. Baguette or other crusty bread – sliced on the diagonal in ½ inch slices
  8. Olive oil for brushing on bread to toast
  9. Fresh Ricotta cheese
  10. ¼ cup fresh chives, minced
  11. Lemon zest and juice

Brush the bread slices lightly with olive oil. Grill or toast the bread until crispy.

Mix the chives, lemon zest and 1 big squeeze of lemon juice into the ricotta cheese. Smear a generous layer of the ricotta mixture onto the toasted bread.

Blanch the sugar snap peas in boiling water for about two minutes. Plunge into ice water to stop cooking and cool the peas. Slice the peas roughly lengthwise. Mix the herbs and peas with the olive oil, a pinch of salt, and crack of black pepper. Pile the pea mixture onto the cheese topped toasts. Drizzle very lightly with olive oil and a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt. Indulge!

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LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET (Series – 5)
March 5, 2015

When my husband travels it’s hard for me to motivate to cook much. I have a tendency to make a lot scrambles and random things like a bowl full of refried beans with a handful of grated cheese, eaten with a spoon, or avocado toast with tomatoes. Not really meals exactly but comfort and some nourishment. Cooking for one kind of makes me sad for some reason. However, this trip, while he’s in Austin eating some sort of bbq every day (he’s a bit of a bbq junkie), I was craving Thai food so I got a curry and some garlic rice and ended up with some left over rice so I decided to make my own Thai influenced fried rice with it:

MY PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE

1. Handful of sliced cabbage
2. One half of a small onion thinkly sliced
3. 1 Egg, beaten
4. Handful of fresh pineapple in bite sized chunks
5. One half of a zucchini, cut into ¼’ half moons
6. Handful of water chestnuts (okay, I use a whole small can because I LOVE them)
7. 1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
8. 1 cup left over garlic rice
9. Splash of soy sauce
10. Splash of fish sauce
11. ½ tsp toasted sesame oil
12. ¼ cup fresh cilantro
13. ½ cup thinly sliced scallions
14. handful of toasted cashews
15. Squeeze of fresh lime juice

Heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick skillet. Add the onions, cabbage, zucchini and water chestnuts and cook until the onions are translucent and the other veggies are slightly soft. Remove from pan, and scramble the egg. Remove the scrambled egg and add the rice with the fresh ginger, soy and fish sauces and sesame oil. Toss together and return the veggies to the pan. Add the pineapple, scallions, cashews, cilantro and egg to the pan and mix well. Squeeze a bit of lime over the top and indulge.

The fact of the matter is, you can use any veggies you have around and can also include a protein if you want. It’s one of those dishes that is so simple but comforting and healthy.

LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET (Series – 4)
February 10, 2015

When I’m in organized mode, I do some cooking on Sundays so that we have meals that are easy to prepare during the week. I’ll make a big batch of turkey chili and freeze a few containers for the coming couple of months, maybe a soup, a veggie laden chicken pot pie filling (my husband’s favorite), and simple things like turkey meat balls, easy to throw into sauce with pasta, on toasted garlicky bread for an open faced sandwich, or sliced to top my husband’s amazing homemade pizza…Then all that’s needed is a toss into the oven, or quick stove top prep and maybe a simple tossed salad. It helps keep us on track and ensures that we have healthy meals. Today, I made a couple of turkey meatloaves, one for the week and one for the freezer. I made this recipe up and vary it depending on what I have on hand but it always comes out moist, flavorful and is great cold for a sandwich or on it’s own. It’s a bit healthier than the usual versions because there’s loads of veggies in the mix.

TURKEY MEATLOAF

1 pound Ground Turkey
1 medium onion
1 peeled carrot
1 stalks of celery
3 cloves of garlic
2 generous handfuls of greens – Whatever you have…spinach, super greens, kale
Handful of flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Worchester sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 egg
½ cup breadcrumbs or panko

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Throw all of the veggies into a food processor and pulse until everything is chopped finely but not pureed.
3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the veggie mixture and sauté for a few minutes.
4. Add the Worchester sauce and tomato paste and heat until everything is incorporated.
5. Remove from heat and let veggies cool.
6. Mix the veggies, ground turkey, egg and breadcrumbs in a large bowl until well incorporated. I use my hands.
7. Pour mixture into a loaf pan and press evenly into the pan.
8. Bake for 45 minutes.

LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET (Series – 3)
January 26, 2015

I decided to try to make my own energy bars. I like the bars that are just dried fruit and nuts so it seems more economical to make my own, and it gives me the ability to design my own combinations. They’ll be great for mid-afternoon snack at work…a cup of green tea and a little bar make for a perfect afternoon pick me up.

Cherry Almond Date Bars:

1 cup of dried Bing Cherries
1 cup of raw almonds
1 ½ cups pitted dates

1. Throw everything into a food processor and pulse until it’s well incorporated. I left mine a little chunky in terms of the almonds because I prefer the bit of crunch from the nut as opposed to it being more a paste. You can do whatever pleases you.

2. Tumble the mixture into an 8×8 pan, pressing it so it’s flat and smooth. Cover with wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least two hours to set. Cut into bars. Alternatively, you can roll the mixture into balls too if that’s more pleasing to you.

3. They’ll keep for about a week or two if stored in the fridge.

They came out really well. I love the combination of flavors and the simplicity of them. There’s just enough sweetness from the dates, complimented by the tart cherries and crunchy almonds. The bars are tasty and satisfying.

I think next time I make some bars I’m going to add a few other things. You need the dates to hold things together but you can play with the amount if want less sweetness, cut it back to one cup. Then go wild…try different fruit and nut combinations, add some granola or chia seeds, for more depth, add cacao nibs or cocoa powder, or a bit of almond butter for a creamier texture…you can even dip them in melted dark chocolate to make them feel really decadent.

LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET (Series – 2)
January 17, 2015

One of my husband’s oldest and dearest friends is coming to visit from Baltimore, arriving later today. He’s been a vegan for his entire adult life. We will be sharing lots of meals over the next few days so I want to cook and not just take out food. We always bring in Indian food so I wanted to do something different. We don’t intentionally prepare vegan meals for no other reason than we don’t have to. There are things I randomly make that are vegan in nature, though I often compromise them by adding cheese to finish thing like ratatouille, one of my favorite things ever! I decided, to add protein to the meal, I’d start with a quinoa base and serve some sort of veggie mix over it.

Quinoa is a great base for savory and sweet. I’ve made this basic recipe and added dried fruits and nuts with a drizzle of maple syrup for an easy, satisfying breakfast. I’ve also added left over peppers and onions to it with a fried egg, sprinkled with some Aleppo peppers for a savory breakfast.

For Josh, I’m going to do a fall veggie stew…Inspired by the great squashes and greens in the market right now. I might add some toasted walnuts to it but below is my initial recipe…straight out of my head…

Basic Quinoa Recipe
1 cup quinoa
1/3/4 cup water
Sea or kosher salt to taste

1. Rinse or soak the quinoa before cooking.
2. Place the quinoa, water and a hearty pinch of salt in a large pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer.
3. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed (but the quinoa is still wet) and the germs have begun to spiral.
4. Turn off the heat, place a dry paper towel between the pot and the lid, and let sit for at least 5 minutes.
5. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Roasted Fall Vegetables
Butternut squash or any favorite pumpkin or squash – peeled and cubed into 1 inch pieces
Mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces or if small enough left whole
Cipollini onions, peeled and left whole if small enough or cut in half
Cauliflower, broken down into bite sized pieces
Red Swiss Chard – leaves removed from stems and cut or torn into fairly large pieces
Garlic – add chopped cloves to taste – I love garlic so I’d use maybe four cloves
Aleppo Chili Flakes – big pinch
Fresh Thyme – about a tablespoon of the leaves removed from stems
Olive Oil
Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

1. Toss everything together on a sheet tray, making sure all of the veggies are coated with the olive oil and spices.
2. Roast at 400 degrees in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes until everything is tender and carmelized.
3. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and sherry vinegar. Add a touch more salt and/or pepper if necessary.

Toasted walnuts would be a great addition to add a little crunch and earthiness, and of course, if you’re me, and not a vegan, a smattering of goat cheese would be a luscious addition…

LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET (Series – 1)
January 12, 2015

I love to cook. I’m considered a decent home cook by my friends and family and am pretty adept at off the cuff recipes and recreations of dishes I’ve adored in restaurants. I started cooking when I was a teen. At some point, I decided I wanted to be a vegetarian. My mom supported this but wasn’t up for making separate meals for my brother, dad and herself, so she said I’d have to make my own meals. I’d always liked cooking with her and with my dad, who never followed recipes, creating sometimes, amazing dishes, and sometimes terrible – the grape jelly omelets were among the worse!

As my cooking skills improved, I started doing stray dinners for mostly the boys in my life. I’d host Saturday night dinners so we had nourishment before we went clubbing. Among the favorites were seafood pasta (oh how I wish I could remember how I made that now!) and spinach strudel.

Sharing meals and cooking for friends has always been an expression of my affection. When I have no words of condolence that seem helpful, I bring food. I make treat baskets for our neighbors, the postal carrier and gardener during the holidays, and I often make extra batches of dinners to share with my mom and her boyfriend. Cooking makes me happy. Everything about cooking, from the supermarket, to the preparation to the final touches, pleases and relaxes me.

With the demands of my life now I don’t have the chance to experiment as much as I once did. We do try to cook dinner at home most nights, avoiding take-out as much as possible (unless there’s a mad craving for ramen!). We plan our meals each weekend and head to the supermarket and Trader Joe’s to procure everything. Sometimes we wait until Sunday mornings to be inspired by our local farmer’s market but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. Then, I’ll try to do a couple of dishes on the weekend so we have easy prep for weeknight dinners.

Lately however I’ve been in a bit of a rut. I feel like the weeknight meals are starting to all look alike. There are a dozen or so meals that we do with regularity largely because they’re relatively healthy and easy. Time runs short on weeknights. I don’t get home until 7pm from work, and Cole goes to bed around 8-8:30pm, so time is precious. Cole usually has had his dinner (he’s fed via g-tube as I’ve mentioned) by the time I’m home, so it’s just the two of us, but also bath and sometimes homework and reading, and then bed for the boy. It goes quickly! Definitely not the time to be experimenting with new recipes!

That said, I’m determined to incorporate new recipes into our repertoire. I plan to introduce a new recipe, especially new grain and veggie based dishes, each week or two. Some may become regulars, and some may be one offs. But we’ll vary our meals and maybe find some new favorites. Stay tuned for the first new recipe and results!