My honey’s birthday!

Tomorrow is my honey’s birthday and I’m chefing it up! He requested my acorn squash soup and carrot cake (trying a new recipe from the fabulous new Flour cookbook), and I’m rounding it out with this Tuscan chicken dish I made up and some roasted asparagus. It should be delicious!

One of the reasons I love this meal is that I can make a lot of it in advance. I made the icing yesterday and will make the cake today.  I think I’ll also make the base for the squash soup and the spinach base for the chicken dish tonight. That means that tomorrow all I need to do is reheat and finish the soup, cook my chicken and roast my asparagus. Easy peasy. I think the ability to chug along and make the dishes at a leisurely pace is critical for big weeknight dinners. If I were REALLY smart, I would have come up with something that froze well.

2 good dinners

  1. Thai chicken salad: I marinated a chicken breast in a ginger marinade, grilled it up and sliced it thin. The dressing is fish sauce, lime juice, chilies, a little sugar and grapeseed oil. The greens are mache, spinach and cilantro. Throw in some peanuts, carrot sticks, red bell pepper, and we’re good to go!
  2. Greek pita and salad: First of all, we didn’t need the beet/goat cheese stacks. I had a roasted beet leftover, so I made it. But it was overkill. Just saying.  I made small patties with ground lamb, lemon zest, salt & pepper, and chopped mint. Sauteed those and served in half a whole wheat pita. Top it with greek yogurt mixed with a crushed garlic toe, a whole shredded cucumber, salt & pepper. YUM. The greek salad is just parsley, cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, cucumber and feta, tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Boom

Broiled eggplant parm

I am going to be upfront with you, people. This is not as delicious as eggplant parm. BUT, it is way healthier and easier. That’s worth something, right? My eggplant garden is exploding, so I needed some new cooking methods. I liked it and will certainly make it again, but it does not top the eggplant stuffed with spinach and ricotta. That is divine. I’ll make it/post it next week. In the meantime, this really was quite delicious.

Shown here with my creamy israeli cous-cous (but with whole wheat cous-cous and sauteed mushrooms added…YUM)

  • 2 lbs eggplant (~2 large or 3 medium)
  • 1 T table salt
  • 2 T EVOO
  • 4 t good balsamic
  • 1 toe garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozz (as opposed to grated- just sort of tear it up into small pieces)
  • 6 T fresh grated parm
  • 3 T fresh basil
  • 1/2 C marinara (you can just used good jarred)
  1. Cut off and discard stem and bottom end of each eggplant. Don’t peel. Cut eggplants crosswise into 3/4-inch slices. Lay slices out on a cutting board, sprinkle tops with half the salt, and rub it in with your fingers. Turn eggplant slices over and repeat  with remaining salt. Place eggplant in a colander set over bowl or sink and let eggplant stand for  2 to 3 hours.
  2. Rinse eggplant under cold, running water, rubbing slices lightly in your hands. Shake colander to drain. Lay slices about an inch apart on triple thickness of paper towels or clean dishtowel; cover with another triple layer of towels or clean dishtowel. Using your palms, press each eggplant slice very firmly until it looks green and translucent and feels firm and leathery when pressed between fingertips. You may need to refresh towels if they get too wet.  You can do this and refrigerate up to 3 hours before cooking.
  3. Heat broiler. Mix oil, vinegar, and garlic in small cup. Arrange eggplant slices fairly close together on a baking sheet; brush tops with half of oil mixture. Turn slices over and brush with remaining oil mixture. Broil eggplant slices about 8 inches from heat source until tops turn brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Turn slices over; broil until other sides lighter brown, an additional 4 to 5 minutes. WATCH CAREFULLY.
  4. While broiling, combine mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. When eggplant is broiled on second side, remove and sprinkle slices with cheese mixture; return eggplant to broiler until cheese melts and becomes a little crusty. Sprinkle with basil and serve with marinara.

I’m back!

Good to be back in the kitchen. I had two weeks of crazy travel and fantastic food. Oh my goodness. My honey and I had one meal at The Square in London that was pure insanity. The highlights were a teeny tiny foie gras “ice cream cone” and this crab and pasta “lasagne.” Seriously perfect food. I also went to one restaurant in Paris that was started by one of the world’s best sommeliers. You pick your wine and they just bring you food that pairs well, so you have absolutely no idea what you’re getting until it shows up. It was an adventure!

Anyway, I took a week after that to recover and now I am back and ready to rumble!

x

Adios for now

I am off for a two-week(ish) trip to fabulous NYC, London and Paris. It’s for work, but I imagine I’ll find a way to sneak in some good times. I’ll start back up in October. Until then, good eating!

R

Sichuan Green Beans

Among other things, my mom instilled in me a deep love of Sichuan green beans. That sweet, spicy, sticky glaze sends me over the moon. I am sorry to be the one to tell you this (if you didn’t already know), but  most restaurant versions are deep fried. That doesn’t entirely cross it off my list, but I do sort of stop counting it as a “veggie” if it’s primary method of cooking is submersion in hot oil. Call me crazy.

Anywho, I found this recipe on Cooks for stir-fried Sichuan green beans and figured I’d give it a go. I edited it a bit, mostly to eliminate some ground pork. Not that pork wouldn’t be good, but I want a veggie dish. Plus, cutting out the pork, but keeping the sauce the same means that the beans are extra saucy and I like that. Boom

Here they are with an Asian cucumber salad and some of those frozen shrimp potstickers I chefed up awhile back:

  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T dry sherry (or vermouth, in a pinch)
  • 1 t sugar
  • ½ t cornstarch
  • ¼ t white pepper
  • ¼ t red pepper
  • ¼ t dry mustard
  • 2 T water
  • 2 T veggie oil
  • 1 lb green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 scallions, white and green thinly sliced
  • 1 t toasted sesame oil
  1. Stir together soy sauce, sherry, sugar, cornstarch, white pepper, pepper flakes, mustard, and water until sugar dissolves; set aside.
  2. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot (just smoking). Add beans and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender and skins are shriveled and blackened in spots, 5 to 8 minutes. If beans darken too quickly, reduce heat to medium-high.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-high and add garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant (~20 seconds). Stir sauce to recombine and add to pan. Toss and cook until sauce is thickened, 5 to 10 seconds.
  4. Remove pan from heat and stir in scallions and sesame oil. Serve immediately and ENJOY!

Green Chile Pork Tacos

Sigh. This is honestly one of my favorite dishes I have ever made in my whole life. SO delicious! Meaty and spicy and tangy and earthy and soft and crunchy. Basically, perfect. Also, easy. Hells bells!

Here’s the problem…I don’t really have a recipe, per se. More like some vague instructions. Still, it’s so easy, I don’t see how it can go wrong. It seems like a lot of steps, but it’s a lot of passive cooking and it literally made 20 tacos.

I’m breaking it down into 4 separate sections- pork, pickled red onions, sauce and tacos.

Pork

  • Slow cooker
  • Pork roast (needs to fit in slow cooker)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Veggie oil
  • Chicken broth
  • Roasted green chiles (I used hatch frozen)
  • Seasoning: Mexican oregano, Salt & Pepper, Flour
  • Yellow onion
  1. Get ~2 T veggie oil heating in large skillet over med-high. Meanwhile, trim the pork of outside fat. Pat dry and season liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with flour and pat in (about 2 Tablespoons). When oil is very hot, add pork and sear on all sides.
  2. While pork is searing, slice onion into thin half moons (pole to pole, then across). Place onions in bottom of slow cooker. When pork is seared, place on top. Add green chiles to taste (I used a full container of hot, so about a cup).
  3. Add enough chicken broth (or water + bouillon) to come 3/4 up roast. Smash and peel garlic, and add whole. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon mexican oregano. Put slow cooker on high for first hour, then cook on low for 6-8 hours. The meat should fall apart.
  4. Remove meat from pot, cover and set aside. When cool enough, strain remaining solids (onion, chiles, garlic) from liquid and set aside for sauce.
  5. Defat liquid by placing in fridge and removing top fat when cool OR by using a fat separator.  Place remaining liquid in small pot and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until reduced to ~1/3-1/2 cup.
  6. Meanwhile, shred meat with two forks or fingers. When liquid is reduced, stir into pork and set mixture aside.

Pickled red onions

  • 1 red onion
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and cut into rings (OPTIONAL)
  1. Thinly slice onions into half moons and place in medium, heat-proof bowl.
  2. Bring vinegar, sugar, salt and optional jalapeno to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. When boiling and sugar fully dissolved, remove from heat and pour over onions.
  3. Stir to combine and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in fridge for 30-60 minutes. Strain liquid and reserve onions.

Green chile sauce

  • Reserved solids from pork
  • Honey
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive oil
  1. Blend reserved solids in blender until smooth. If too thick, add a bit of water.
  2. Add ~1-2 teaspoons honey (you can always add more later, but you can’t take it back) and salt and pepper to taste. It should be spicy and creamy.
  3. With blender running, slowly drizzle in 1-2 tablespoons olive oil to emulsify.

Tacos

  • Corn tortillas
  • Green chile pork
  • Creamy green chile sauce
  • Sweet, sour and spicy pickled red onions
  • Optional: cilantro, feta or cotija cheese, shredded carrots and/or cabbage
  1. Warm corn tortillas over gas burner until slightly charred or wrapped in foil in 350 degree oven.
  2. Place pork in tortilla. Top with pickled onions, green chile sauce and optional toppings. I don’t have a picture of it, but I LOVE it with carrots, so don’t discount that.
  3. Eat!

Pasta Carbonara

My sis sent me this recipe and it was delicious and super easy. It’s not going to win any cooking light awards, but we had a small portion with a big serving of salad, and I did not feel even a little guilty afterwards. The other cool thing, is that you probably have most of this stuff on hand all the time. I love pantry/freezer dinners.

On that note, it has been AGES since I went to the grocery store. I think at least a week.  We’ve definitely eaten out a few times, but I am mostly just pulling together delicious, healthy meals from the freezer and pantry.  I need to do a post about that one of these days. Grrrr….

  • 1 large onion, cut into thin strips (half moons)
  • 1/2 pound bacon, cut into strips
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed through
  • 1 (16 ounce) package fettuccini pasta
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir in bacon, and cook until bacon is evenly browned. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and set aside. You need ~ 1 tablespoon bacon fat. Depending on how much fat is rendered, either keep in pan or pour off and measure out 1 tablespoon.
  2. Over medium heat, stir in onion and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and slightly browned. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Before draining, remove ~ 1 Cup pasta water (TIP: put your measuring cup inside your colander in the sink. You’re less likely to forget to save pasta water that way). Drain pasta, then return it to the pot.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cream, and shredded Parmesan. Pour the bacon and onions over the pasta, then stir in the cream mixture. Thin as needed with reserved pasta water. The mixture will thicken up as it cools, so make it a tad looser than you’d like. Season with salt and pepper.

More good breakfasts

I just cannot make myself actually type up a recipe for this kind of thing. I want to keep track of the good breakfasts and maybe give some other folks a few ideas, but that just has to be good enough. What do you think? Am I lazy?

  1. Eggs scrambled with Mexican oregano on whole grain toast with 1/4 avocado sliced on top (squeezed lime and salted avocado) + golden honeydew and plums
  2. Fresh fruit salad ( peaches, plums, strawberries and raspberries) and mini banana muffins (from freezer after niece’s wedding)

Tomato Gratin

I heard about this recipe on Smitten Kitchen (shocker) and then saw it pop up in a few other places. I haven’t had the best tomato summer, so I was looking for something to do with less than oh-my-god-this-is-heaven tomatoes. This definitely did the job. The tomato flavor comes through like a punch to the jaw, it’s easy, can be made days in advance and is a generally excellent veggie entree.

We had it 3 times so far….

1. Tomato gratin + green beans with toasted garlic + an insanely delicious salad of arugula, fresh cherries, marcona almonds, shaved parrano and balsamic vinaigrette

2. The next morning with a fried egg on top

3. Tomato gratin + asparagus with bacon and parm + a great salad of chopped romaine, shredded havarti dill, shredded carrots, tomatoes, chopped egg and a green chile Caesar dressing

The second time I made it, I went too light on the croutons and it was too loose and lacked some substance. Learn from my mistakes.

  • 3  Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups diced bread, in a 1/2 inch dice with crusts removed (a good french bread works well, but just nothing sour)
  • 1 1/2 lb tomatoes, 1/2 inch dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 Cup fresh slivered basil
  • 1 Cup grated Parm
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in large pan over medium high. Add croutons and toast thoroughly.
  2. Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Let sit at least 3 minutes to release some juices
  3. When croutons are toasted, add tomato mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Place in casserole dish (it won’t rise, so it can be pretty full) and top with cheese.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly.