29 September 2015

Barley bowl with miso dressing

This may seem like a lot of work for a warm salad, but it's so worth it.  I cannot even describe how satisfying this meal is, or how much better your life will be with this recipe for miso dressing.  Because preparing all the ingredients of this dish requires some labor, make plenty of extra; multiply the amounts here as many times as you want.  Every bit of it will freeze, so you can keep putting bowls together for dinner when you come home late and hungry, to pack for a not-sad-desk-lunch, etc. You get the picture.  Now get to work!

Barley Bowl with Miso Dressing

Serves 4

For the bowl:
1 cup rinsed barley, farro, or wheat berries
1/2 head broccoli, cut into florets and bite-sized stem pieces
1/2 small butternut squash
1 block tofu, pressed and drained of excess water

Miso Dressing:
1 rounded tablespoon white or yellow miso
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar, or 1 tablespoon rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 small garlic press, minced or put through a press
Pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt 

Chopped fresh cilantro and lime wedges, for serving

In a large saucepan, combine the barley and 2 cups of well-salted water.  Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender and water has evaporated, about 30 minutes. Check occasionally and add more water if it's boiling off too fast. 

Combine all dressing ingredients EXCEPT yogurt. Cut the tofu into bite-sized chunks, dunk them in the miso mixture, and set in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the oven at 375 degrees (no need to preheat) and bake until browned, flipping once, for about 30 minutes. Then you can add the yogurt and whisk to complete the dressing. 

Steam the broccoli and squash, which can be done with a steamer insert over your barley or in a separate pan.  Cook until the squash is tender but still firm.

To assemble the bowl: place a quarter of the barley in a large bowl or on a plate.  Scatter a quarter of the vegetables and tofu on top and drizzle with the miso dressing.  Sprinkle some fresh cilantro on top and squeeze a liberal amount of lime juice over the whole thing.  

Bonus: the dressing will keep for a week in the refrigerator, and it's delicious over salad, roasted vegetables, and warm and cold soba noodles.

25 September 2015

A simple tomato salad

Caprese salads, margherita pizza, puttanesca sauce...why does everything tomato-centric have to be Italian? This recipe may sound wacky, but trust. You'll love it. (And you can throw in a cooked grain to make it a meal.)

Southeast Asian Tomato Salad

Serves 4 as a side

2 teaspoons fish sauce, or to taste
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
3 large or 4 medium tomatoes,cut into chunks
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh Thai or regular basil, cut into a chiffonade
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts

Whisk together the fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

Add the sliced tomato, scallions, and jalapeño, basil, and cilantro; gently toss to coat. Top with peanuts and serve. 

22 September 2015

Pasta e fagioli on a plate

The combination of white beans, cabbage, and cheese is heavenly, and not at all odd in northern Italy, near the Swiss and Austrian borders.  Eat this for lunch, and then add some vegetable or bean broth to enjoy leftovers as a soup. 

Pasta e fagioli on a plate

Serves 4

2 cups small paste shape
½ yellow onion, diced
1 ½ cups (or 15 oz.) cooked cannellini or garbanzo beans
½ cup shredded green cabbage
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large tomato, cored and chopped
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
2 teaspoons fresh basil, chiffonaded
Zest and juice from half a lemon
Olive oil
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to boil.  Cook pasta al dente according to package directions.

In a large sauté pan, heat a teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cabbage and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Add the beans and garlic, and continue to cook until garlic is fragrant, another 2 minutes or so. Stir in the tomato, salt, red pepper, and chopped herbs and remove from heat.

Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the pan.  Toss with the lemon zest and juice, and drizzle with a little olive oil if it seems to need it.  Sprinkle with cheese or just offer it on the side.

18 September 2015

cleaning out the peanut butter container and other adventures in using food scraps

Sorry for the long title--I think I just had a grad school flashback. Perhaps this will one day become a dissertation (I'll only have to add fifteen more words to make it an academically worthy title!), but for now it's a list of easy stuff to do with those last little bits of things that seem a shame to throw away.

leftover peanut butter +
soy sauce
hot sauce
rice vinegar
= salad dressing, marinade, dip, soba noodle sauce...

Pour all ingredients to taste directly into the offending peanut butter jar with sickly remains clinging to the sides.  Shake vigorously and pour.

vegetable scraps (tossed into a container and kept in the freezer until ready)
= broth

Simmer scraps in salted water until flavorful, which can take up to an hour depending on how many and what kind of scraps you have.  Strain and make your soup. Every time I make a salad, I add the scraps to the freezer container, and eventually I have enough to make a broth.

apple peels+
3-4 C water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (or 1 cinnamon stick)
1 T honey
1 T lemon juice

Place about 6 full apple peels in a sauce pan and cover with water and lemon juice and cinnamon. Boil about 10 minutes, then strain.  Add the honey to taste and serve.

broccoli stems become pickles in this genius recipe from Purple Kale Kitchen Works.

bread crusts+
food processor
= breadcrumbs (keep in freezer if not used quickly)

stale bread+
olive oil
dried herbs
= croutons
Allow to dry out thoroughly, chop into small pieces and coat with oil, salt, and herbs.  Toast in the oven at 350F, turning once, until golden.

15 September 2015

Smokey baba ganoush with a secret ingredient

My neighbor is growing eggplants, but he hates them.  Now we have free eggplants regularly left on our doorstep (thanks, Ernest!). Eggplant Parm is fun for a while, but I think this might be my favorite trick: baba ganoush made from grilled eggplant.  It's a great dip, sandwich spread, or thick pasta sauce (add a bit of the past cooking water to help it spread better).  And the magic ingredient?...see if you can find it below.  Trust. It's good.

Smokey & Tangy Baba Ganoush

1 large eggplant
1⁄4 cup tahini
3 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt, to taste
extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon ketchup

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill.
Cut the eggplant into thick slices. Oil and salt generously on both sides and place on the grill rack 4 to 5 inches from the fire.Grill, turning frequently, until they begin to blacken and the flesh is soft, 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from the grill, let cool slightly, and peel off and discard the skin. Place the eggplant flesh in a blender and add all remaining ingredients. Taste for seasoning and add more of anything you like. 

11 September 2015

a late-summer Sunday dinner

I'm not much of a traditionalist when it comes to how I spend my Sundays, but I do love a good excuse to unwind at the table with comforting food and friends.  In my childhood, that often meant a pot roast or (my favorite) a pork roast with mashed potatoes and rich gravy.  But right now, it means firing up the grill and enjoying what's left of summer produce and bright flavors. Here's a sample menu we put together last weekend at home, and it was glorious (and easy).

Spicy Grilled Chicken (adapted from Food & Wine's September 2015 issue)

Serves 6 with leftovers

1/2 cup kosher salt
6-8 chicken thighs
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

In a large bowl, whisk the salt with 6 cups of cold water until dissolved. Add the chicken and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Wipe out the bowl.

In the same bowl, whisk the olive oil with the garlic, rosemary, lemon zest and crushed red pepper. Add the chicken and turn to coat, rubbing some of the marinade under the skin. Marinate the chicken at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Grill the chicken over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and 
an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each leg registers 165°, about 25 minutes.

Smacked Up Taters

(I pre-cook these in the microwave to get maximum browning time from the grill, but you could do it all on the grill and take a brief pause for the smacking if you prefer.)

Medium-sized red potatoes (one per person)
Olive oil

Clean (but leave skins on), de-eye, and generously stab potatoes.  Place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave until they are firm but cooked (I just use the “potato” button, turn them over, and do it again).   Remove potatoes from microwave and, one at a time, gently smash them with the bottom of a heavy frying pan or something similar.  You want the potatoes to hold their shape and to resemble very fat hamburger patties.  Then, using your hand, coat each smashed potatoes in olive oil and generously salt on each side. Grill on high heat approx. 8 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crispy.  

Because sometimes standing around the fire getting smoke in your eyes gets old...

Steam 2 pounds fresh green beans; drain and set aside. Wipe out the pan you used for this and heat a teaspoon of olive oil. Saute 6 oz. mushrooms and one large minced garlic clove until soft and fragrant.  Stir in the juice and zest of one lemon, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, 1/8 cup white wine, and cook to reduce slightly. Add the green beans and a small pat of cold butter, stir to incorporate, and serve hot or at room temperature.

tomato, corn green onions, and cucumber dressed with white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, sugar, and fish sauce

The best entertainment at a dinner party.

And for DESSERT? Don't trouble yourself; whip up this brilliant batch of cold-brew coffee ahead of time and throw out some dark chocolates for everyone.

08 September 2015

Tabouleh 2.0

I like the idea of tabouleh, but I always get tired of it before I've run out, and it's not terribly substantial.  By adding some protein, more veggies, and a little richness from tomato paste, it becomes a great packable lunch that also helps you clean out your fridge. For example, vary the vegetables and herbs you use to accommodate what you already have in the garden or pantry, and as you can see, you can use any cooked grain you happen to come upon.

Tabouleh 2.0

Serves 4 as a salad

For the salad:
2 cups cooked bulgar wheat, farro, barley, or other hearty grain of your choice
1 cup cooked lentils or mung beans
2 cups packed fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
½ cup packed fresh mint leaves, chiffonaded
1 medium tomato, cored and chopped
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
3-4 beets, cooked and chopped

For the Dressing:
1 teaspoon tomato paste
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper

Place all dressing ingredients in a large serving bowl and whisk thoroughly.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper if you prefer.  Add all salad ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.

04 September 2015

Rye & Rhubarb Cake

Who doesn't love cake?!  Actually, I often don't love cake, because it's dry and boring, and basically a mouthful of white flour and sugar.  This recipe caught my attention because the rye sounded substantial, but the rhubarb compote promised to keep it moist. I couldn't resist adding some cardamom to the batter, because, well, cardamom.  And when my compote turned out too thin (see below), I just strained the rest off and kept it as a rhubarb simple syrup for drinks.  

This adaptation started its life in Bon Apetit magazine involving chocolate, was transformed by the rye on Food 52, and has been slightly Swedish-ized by me, below. (PS--This cake is totally appropriate for breakfast.)

Rye & Rhubarb Cake adapted from Food 52

For the rhubarb compote:

1pound rhubarb (about 4 large stalks), roughly chopped into small pieces (about 1/4-inch big)
1 cup brown sugar
1cup white wine
Zest of 1 orange
1cup golden raisins

For the cake:
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (3 5/8 ounces) rye flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Juice from 1/2 an orange, plus enough milk to equal 1 cup total of liquid

Make the compote: combine all of the compote ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil, uncovered, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb has mostly broken down, the raisins are fat, and most of the liquid has absorbed. This can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes (or more) depending on heat of your burner and your impatience. If your mixture starts to get dry, add a small amount of water. When the compote is finished, set it aside and make the cake batter.

If your compote looks liquidy but has been cooking forever, put it through a fine mesh strainer or a colander with small holes to separate any excess liquid. Use the excess liquid as a rhubarb simple syrup, which keeps well in a jar in the refrigerator for weeks, and goes well with 2 oz. gin (+ club soda + lime wedge).

Preheat the oven to 350° F and butter an 9-inch springform pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: all-purpose flour through salt.

In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or creaming vigorously with a wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the almond extract and mix to incorporate.
With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture. Once it is just incorporated, add 1/2 of the orange juice and milk mixture. Add another 1/3 of the flour, the remaining milk, and then the last of the flour. Mix just to combine.

Use a spatula to transfer the batter to the pan. Spoon the compote over top of the batter, then swirl it in, leaving some big compote clumps.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on top and the edges are starting to pull away from the sides. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack, then turn it out onto a plate and then invert it once more. 

01 September 2015

Blackened Fish, the Yankee Way

When I was a freshman in college, the most exotic meal I tried was blackened catfish.  I had never heard of, let alone tasted, anything so vigorously seasoned at that point in my life. It was cooked by our token Southern professor, who probably got a real kick out of watching us dairy-fed Midwesterners poke at the dark slabs of fish, hoping it wouldn't burn our mouths too terribly.  I loved it, and that was my introduction to the magical world of Southern dishes.  

I still love blackened seasoning, but I don't do the ten pounds of butter or the frying so much.  I also think catfish is kind of a pain, with all those stupid bones to pick around.  So, here's a quick, healthy, and easy way to try to recapture some of the weird wonderfulness that was Dr. Hearne's blackened catfish back in 1993. You'll excuse me, I hope, if it's not as authentic as a Paula Deen recipe, but I promise it won't give you diabetes. 

Blackened Broiled Tilapia

Serves 4

1 pound tilapia fillets
olive or canola oil

Blackening Rub:
3 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon garlic powder

In a medium bowl, combine all blackening ingredients thoroughly.

Line a broiler pan with foil and add 2 T olive oil. Brush it over the foil in any area that will have fish.
Rinse and pat dry 1 pound of tilapia. Brush with olive oil. Cover the fillets with the spices and rub it in (both sides).

Place fish on broiler pan, then broil about 4 inches from heat for about 5 minutes on each side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

*If you decide to drop this onto the grill instead, which is delicious, don't bother with the liquid smoke.