30 August 2016

Sauces and flavorings from The New Mediterranean Table

I checked out Sameh Wadi's The New Mediterranean Table from the library, and it was OK, but I'm not going to make most of those dishes.  They sound great, and like something I would prefer to pay someone else to make for me. Wadi often cites Saffron, his restaurant in Minneapolis, and I plan to go there when I am visiting next year and tell you all about it.

What I do make again and again from this book are these sauces and spice mixture. They make so many dishes better, keep in the fridge for weeks, and they're really not that much of a pain to make.

Tahini Sauce: 1 cup tahini, 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 grated garlic cloves, 3/4 cup water, salt
Use it: as a dip for vegetables; watered down as dressing for a buddha bowl or salad; tossed with hot pasta and steamed broccoli with sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

Charmoula: 1/4 cup garlic cloves
1/4 lemon juice
sea salt
3 tablespoons cumin
3 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups canola oil
Make a paste of the garlic, lemon juice, and salt.  Stir in remaining ingredients. Will keep refrigerated for 1 month.
Use it: as a sauce over fish, grilled tofu steaks, or meat; drizzled over fresh sliced tomatoes before sprinkling with fresh mozarella in a variation on a Caprese salad, stirred into rice with slivered almonds, smeared onto eggplant slices before grilling or broiling.

Za'atar: 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 1 tablespoon dried marjoram, 3 tablespoons ground sumac, 1 teaspoon salt
Use it: sprinkle on popcorn, hummus, guacamole, pureed white beans, or any other dip; over fish or chicken; stirred through quinoa with steamed vegetables.

26 August 2016

Trying the Trends: Zoodles!

Zoodles ("noodles" made from raw zucchini) are all over the internet this summer, because a)cheap spiralizers abound in the stores these days b)if you have even one zucchini plant in your garden, you have too much zucchini and c) (presumably) global warming. I was gifted a spiralizer back in the winter and all of these recipes on Pinterest were finally starting to get to me, so here's what I discovered:

1. I like my noodles raw. Some recipes will have you lightly cook them, but you know what? It's not pasta.  Don't pretend it is, or you'll be disappointed. Instead, enjoy the tender-yet-crunchy texture that is raw, spiralized zucchini as a unique salad item.

2. I dress them lightly. For the same reason I don't cook them, I don't want to drown my zoodles in marinara sauce or other disguise. It just makes me wish I was eating pasta.  But again, as a cold salad, these are delicious with a salad dressing of some kind (ideas below).

3. Spiralized zucchini gives off a ton of water.  If you have ever shredded zucchini to make Midwestern-style zucchini bread or muffins, you already know this.  But I was surprised that the recipes I saw didn't mention it.  No matter what you do, they're going to get more watery as you eat them, so it's important to dress and eat them right away (pretty much).  But you can keep it under some control by spiralizing them into a colander, stirring them up with a pinch of salt, and then letting them drain for 10 minutes or so. Or you can just make your dressing thick and super strong to accommodate the extra water as you eat.

4 medium-to-large zucchini should be able to make four dinner salads with extras listed below. I have settled on three simple preparations I really like for dinner when it's hot:

"GREEK": toss with fresh dill, kalamata olives, walnuts, and roasted red pepper, Lemon-Garlic Dressing. Crumbled feta on top.

"ASIAN": toss with bean sprouts, chopped fresh cilantro and peanuts, and matchstick carrots, Ginger-Miso Dressing

"ITALIAN": toss with chopped fresh basil, tomato, pine nuts, and capers, Balsamic Viniagrette. Crumbled goat cheese on top.

Lemon-Garlic Dressing
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and black pepper to taste

Ginger-Miso Dressing
1 tablespoon white or yellow miso
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 small garlic clove, minced
Pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoons peanut oil or grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt

Balsamic Vinagrette
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons grainy mustard (optional)
1 chopped garlic clove
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

23 August 2016

Summery corn and asparagus risotto (I promise it's easy)

Whenever we have fresh asparagus, my husband wants risotto.  But the gluey texture, and the extreme earthiness of it in most circumstances, kinda makes me want to gag. This last time, I finally got it right: this recipe is as light and summery as the vegetables in it.  Making risotto is always a bit time-consuming, and you may think that my direction to steam the veggies separately is going too far, but you know what? F*** YOU, you don't know!  Just kidding. But seriously, this keeps the whole dish from feeling like pre-chewed mush in your mouth.  So if you're too lazy to chew your food, or if you are a toddler, go ahead and do it all at once.  But if you're a toddler, probably make sure a parent is around to help supervise. Good luck. 

Summer Corn and Asparagus Risotto
Serves 4
2 cups asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 ½” pieces
1 cup corn kernels (frozen is fine, just thaw it)
About 1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Bunch fresh basil, chiffonaded
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small serrano chile, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup any short-grain white rice
2 cups vegetable stock
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, + more for serving
Salt and pepper to taste
Roasted, salted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) for garnish (optional)

First, steam the asparagus and corn until the asparagus is bright green and crisp-tender.  Place in a bowl and stir in the butter, lemon juice, basil leaves and some salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, and serrano until fragrant and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Decrease the heat to low, stir in ½ cup of the broth, and cover. Allow to simmer, checking on it occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Continue to do the same, about ½ cup at a time (you could do more than this if you want to do less babysitting). When it’s a bit soupy and the rice is getting pretty soft, add the wine and cheese, cover again, and check back to make sure it’s soft enough.  If it’s not and you’re out of liquid, just add a little bit of water (maybe ¼ cup) and let is cook some more. 

When the risotto is still a little loose but the rice seems done enough, stir in your steamed vegetable mixture.  Uncover and allow the liquid to reduce to your liking, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with pepitas if you prefer. Sprinkle more cheese on top, or place it on the table for individual cheese monsters. 

19 August 2016

Grilled tofu banh mi

You know what's super delish? Grilled tofu!  But the smokiness can be a little too intense for a Thai curry.  However, it stands on its own so well, you'll never miss meat in things like this banh mi, below. You can also cut it up and put it in wraps (collard green wraps, anyone?) or a vegan Caesar salad, for that matter.  

First, you're going to have grill (or bake, it's equally good) your tofu. Keep this recipe handy, because it's about to be your new favorite protein source:

Crispy Tofu, Baked or Grilled

One block tofu, cut width-wise into two thinner steaks
Marinade, if desired
Salt and black pepper

Press and cut the tofu.  If you’re going to marinade it, do that first, for 15-30 minutes, making sure to flip once for even marination. 

Cover a dinner plate with a light sprinkling of cornstarch Season the steaks with salt and pepper on both sides (you can skip this step if you marinade) and then dredge both sides in the cornstarch, shaking off any thick clumps and spreading it around so it’s even-ish on both sides.

To grill: cook over medium heat until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes on each side.  
To bake: place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake in a 400⁰F oven until golden on both sides, about 12 minutes on each side.

Possible marinades:
·         1 tablespoon brown sugar + 1 tablespoon soy sauce + 1 tablespoon lime juice

·         1 tablespoon brown sugar + 2 tablespoons soy sauce + 1 tablespoon rice vinegar + 1 teaspoon (or more) garlic-chili sauce

Then, make your sandwich:

Grilled Tofu Banh Mi

Serves 4

1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 ounces hothouse cucumber, julienned
4 ounces radish, julienned
4 ounces multicolored carrots, peeled and julienned
1 block of crispy baked or grilled tofu
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 baguette (about 20 inches long), halved lengthwise
Thinly sliced serrano or jalapeño chiles and cilantro sprigs, for garnish

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic and 1/2 cup of hot water and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Add the cucumber, radish, and carrots and mix well. Let stand for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Drain the pickled vegetables and pick out and discard the garlic.
Spread the mayonnaise on the top half of the split baguette, then top with the tofu and pickled vegetables. Garnish with chiles and cilantro sprigs. Close the sandwiches, cut into 4 pieces and serve. (If you have leftover pickled vegetables, they'll keep in the fridge for a week or so.)

16 August 2016

Another hearty salad to keep you away from the stove

If you're noticing a theme in my recipes lately, it's because it's still super hot here every day in Northern Colorado.  I guess we'll all look back on these posts and laugh in early December when we've got two feet of snow on the ground...

Asian Grain Slaw

Serves 6-8

Salad ingredients:
4 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups cooked small grain, like quinoa, couscous, bulgar, or short-grain brown rice
2 cups shredded carrots
2/3 cup thinly-sliced green onions
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
salt and black pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together until combined. Add salad ingredients and stir to coat thoroughly.  Bonus: this also works well as filling for a collard green wrap, or as a topping to fish tacos.

12 August 2016

That iconic summer casserole, a bit lighter

Yellow summer squash are ubiquitous in summer gardens, and a little too prolific.  They are also bland--pleasant, but bland. So it's no wonder the Southerners came up with this cheesy, crunchy concoction for getting through the vegetable you wish you hadn't bothered to plant. It is delicious, but the original is awfully unhealthy, filled with sour cream and/or mayonnaise, a ton of cheese, and Ritz crackers for the top (and that's how you know it's Southern). I swapped out the white goo for yogurt, cut the amount of cheese, and switched to light panko bread crumbs. It's still not as good for you as a kale smoothie, but you'll live. 

Summer Squash Casserole
Serves 8-10 as a side

2 teaspoons olive oil
6 medium yellow summer squash, thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 serrano pepper, minced (optional)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar or other cheese of your choice
1/2 cup Greek-style, plain yogurt
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 ½ Panko bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, shredded cheese, scallions, and a pinch of salt.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the squash, onion, serrano, and thyme until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into the prepared casserole dish and stir in the cheese mixture.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the top. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly.

09 August 2016

Make this Cold Noodle Salad + Wraps to keep the kitchen cool!

Everyone is blogging about ways to eat without heating up the kitchen on these hot days, and I'm following the trend. If you use bean thread noodles (aka Mai fun, rice vermicelli, etc.), you don't even have to cook those.  This salad is satisfying and bright in flavor, and as a bonus, it also works really well as wrap filling for spring rolls or, my preference, collard green wraps. Bring it to a party, a picnic, or to work.  Or just sit around on the porch sweating and snacking on this while you drink beer and dribble everything down the front of your shirt.  That's how I'm doing it. 

Cold Noodle Salad + Wraps

Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 - 3 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon maple syrup or brown sugar

4 ounces cooked bean thread noodles or angel hair pasta, drained
2 radishes, peeled and julienned
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and julienned
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
2 cups julienned purple cabbage
3 scallions, ends trimmed and cut into matchsticks
2 cups loosely packed baby spinch leaves (omit if making wraps)
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, tough stems removed
2-3 tablespoons chopped peanuts (optional)

Combine all dressing ingredients, then add salad ingredients and stir thoroughly to coat.  If you prefer, you can use clean, trimmed collard green leaves as wraps; just fill 6-8 leaves (depending on size) with equal amounts of the salad.  To prepare leaves for use, cut off stem and use a small knife to trim the spine of the collard down the middle of the leaf. Cut it so that the spine is flat with the rest of the collard.

05 August 2016

Aspiring plans for a trip to Maine

I was meant to be in Portland, Maine right now, but here I sit, sweating in my wooden chair from Ikea in northern Colorado, drinking a Coors Light. If any of you get the chance to try out this itinerary before I do, can you let us all know how it goes? (Thanks to NYTimes, Serious Eats, and Design*Sponge for all the suggestions).

Stop for a drink on the deck of Portland Lobster Co.where a local band might be playing blues or rock.  Liquid Riot Bottling Co. is a restaurant, bar, and also a distillery and brewing establishment, churning out an impressive list of libations, including beer, rum, whiskey, vodka and what its website touts as “Maine’s first Fernet.” Or try the kombucha, mead, and fruit beers at Urban Farm Fermentory.

Eat an overflowing plate of fried clams on the skeevy patio of 3 Buoys Seafood Shanty & GrilleHave blueberry pie at Two Fat Cats Bakery. Belgian fries at Duckfat. Spudnuts at  the Holy Donut.  And for dinner,  Scales looks pricey, but the menu recently included a creamy, briny lobster bisque and pan-roasted halibut with hazelnuts and brown butter. Order the Parker House rolls if only for the raw cream butter served alongside. Dinner, about $80, with drinks.

The seating is communal and the dishes are funky at Honey Paw, an East-meets-New England menu including smoked lamb khao soi, with house-made noodles, fermented mustard greens, lime and Burmese coconut curry, and lobster won tons with confit mushrooms. Get small plates at Central Provisionswith dishes like rich caramelized sheep cheese embedded with Bosc pear slices.

Becky’s Diner has kitschy Formica tables beneath a press-tinned ceiling and fills you up on buttermilk pancakes, eggs done any way you want, and huge sides of home fries for cheap. Oh yeah, they have lobster rolls later in the day, too.

 Portland Observatory: Climb the 104 stairs of this former maritime signaling tower, which offers a 360-degree view. Captain Moody, who originally built this place, has a burial site among the tombs and tilting gravestones in nearby Eastern Cemetery, which is also supposed to be quite lovely.

Below a row of rambling, mostly turn-of-the-last-century houses, the Eastern Promenade is one of two parks that curve around either side of old Portland. Above the bayside trail, Fort Allen Park, with its gazebo and sloping lawn, offers a serene glimpse of the bay. Several blocks away is the wood-and-brick Abyssinian Meeting House, once a hub on Portland’s Underground Railroad and one of more than a dozen sites on the city’sFreedom TrailPortland had a robust anti-slavery movement:who knew?

CatchCasco Bay Lines’ ferry to Peaks Island. Rent a bike at CycleMania in East Bayside and hit the trails. One choice for an hour-long ride is the Back Cove trail, which curves 3.6 miles around a circular cove.

 the Portland Museum of Art offers weekly tours of native son Winslow Homer's home and studio, as well as some 18,000 works by artists like N.C. and Andrew Wyeth, Alex Katz, Louise Nevelson, Monet, Matisse and Kandinsky, among others. Congress Street has lots of galleries, including She-Bear, with a strong focus on regional artists, and Space, a visual arts and performance arts venue. The Wadsworth-Longfellow House, dating from the late 18th century, is also nearby, and has a great garden for contemplating the meaning of life. Danforth Street, is home toVictoria Mansion, an Italianate mansion with a grand flying staircase and lavish interiors by Gustave Herter.

02 August 2016

Craving junky take-out? Make these!

I am cheap, and I love cooking at home. Also, I live in a restaurant wasteland (though I do enjoy checking out amazing restaurants in other towns), so I often end up getting whiny about my inability to go out for [fill-in-the-blank], and then I just do it myself.  Sometimes my recipes turn out to be wonderfully healthy and basically function as a DIY fountain of youth (well, I mean, almost always), and sometimes they reveal my darker, artery-clogged, junk-food loving side.  I realized that I have enough of these recipes to categorize them, starting with rip-offs of Asian yummies:

Black Pepper Tofu
Chinese Noodles with Egg and Tomato
Hot and Sour Sickie Soup
Mapo Tofu
Spicy Thai Eggplant Stir Fry
Szechuan Green Beans