Posts Tagged With: tomatoes

birthdays are better with ratatouille

I’m turning 30 on Friday, but this post is about a much more famous birthday.

All you foodie folks probably know that Julia Child, if she were still alive today, would be one of those 100-year-old ladies that Willard Scott always used to introduce on the Today show.

(Does he still do that? Is he even still on the show? I haven’t watched in a decade or two…)

What amazes me about Julia Child?

She wasn’t French, and yet she brought French cooking to America before people could just plop down at a keyboard and Google recipes for beef bourguigneon or ratatouille.

She got people excited about cooking outside their comfort zone.

And she wasn’t pretentious or snooty about French cuisine–her vision was that everyday people could use everyday ingredients to make delicious food. She was down-to-earth, funny, and so charming.

I can’t say Julia’s been a direct influence on my life as a cook, because I don’t own a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (though I’ve adapted a recipe from it at least once) and honestly am not sure I’ve ever seen a full episode of her show.

But she has influenced my cooking–and your cooking and everyone else’s cooking–the same way the Beatles forever changed the face of pop music.

Rock and pop bands today, whether they enjoy the Beatles’ music or not (or, for that matter, whether they’ve ever heard of the Beatles or not) have been influenced by Fab Four. Music today is different, and better, because the Beatles existed.

And cooking nowadays is different, and better, because of Julia.

Now, the ratatouille.

Two weeks ago, I was headed to my good friend Amy’s house for a cookout. Her husband was grilling cornish hens, another friend was bringing bread, dessert was covered, and I was supposed to bring some sort of vegetable.

I had only been back from Portland for a couple of days at this point, and Micah and I had picked up a few things from Daily Groceries, but we didn’t have a lot of any one vegetable. That made it kind of hard for me to come up with any single side dish.

What did we have? Garlic, an onion, a few tomatoes. One eggplant. A huge summer squash. Three bell peppers.

Ratatouille, it turned out, was not just a practical solution for combining all those yummy summer vegetables. It was also delicious, and a natural complement to Trey’s perfectly grilled little chickens.

slow-simmered veggie goodness

Julia Child inspired the recipe I used, which was posted by Priya on her lovely blog, quête saveur. Of course, I not only multiplied the recipe by 1-1/2 for our large group, but I also made some changes. My apologies, Julia!

What did I change? I cooked the vegetables slightly out of order and all together instead of in batches to make this a super-easy one-pot dish. And I seasoned my ratatouille differently from how Julia wanted me to, because I didn’t have any parsley but did have some other stuff that seemed like it would work.

I don’t know how my results compared with Julia’s vision, but this ratatouille was darn good.

What’s in it:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, about 3/4 pound, peeled and diced (salt it and let it sit for ~20 minutes while you prep the other veggies)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, about 3/4 pound, chopped
  • 1 large summer squash, about 3/4 pound, sliced
  • 3 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 3-4 medium tomatoes, about 1-1/2 pounds, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the oil in your biggest skillet over medium heat.
  • When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes or until they start to become translucent.
  • Stir in the bell pepper and squash and saute for another 4-5 minutes.
  • Drain off any water your salted eggplant has released and add the eggplant to the pan. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Finally, add your tomatoes, lemon zest, and herbs.
  • At this point, your ratatouille might look a little dry, not stew-y and delicious. Don’t add water or chicken stock–just let it cook for at least 30 minutes. The vegetables will release plenty of liquid, and you’ll end up with a savory, hearty pot of stew that you can easily sop up with a warm slice of homemade bread.
  • Season to your liking with salt and pepper, and enjoy!

The best thing about ratatouille is that it can be enjoyed in so many different ways.

The night I made the ratatouille, we ate it as a side dish with those aforementioned cornish hens.

The next day, I used the leftovers as a salsa for brunch of leftover steak frites and eggs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I made a second batch at the end of last week, which we ate as an entree. First over some steamed brown rice (which was kind of bland) and then over polenta (oh, my goodness! highly recommended!).

The last of the ratatouille and polenta was also my lunch today, chosen over several other lunch options because, of course, I wanted to commemorate the Julia who inspired it. 🙂

Advertisements
Categories: people, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

not-so-quick lunch – 6.29.12 – a tasty salad (and why I shouldn’t tempt fate)

Some foods just don’t make sense.

Some are oxymorons, like jumbo shrimp.

Others are food products that don’t exist in nature, like fat-free cheese, meatless chicken nuggets, and non-dairy creamer.

And then there are foods that flat-out laugh in the face of the laws of science: baked Alaska, fried ice cream, fried mozzarella sticks, Paula Deen’s deep-fried butter balls.

How do you heat something that’s supposed to melt–a substance that should barely survive room temperature, much less a 400-degree oven or a vat of bubbling oil–and end up with a cooked item that retains its shape like a solid rather than oozing like the liquid it rightfully should be?

I’ve never trusted myself to cook any of these nature-defying treats because, frankly, I have a hard enough time avoiding kitchen disasters when I follow recipes that do make sense.

The more I cook, the better I succeed at averting catastrophe, but some rules just weren’t meant to be broken.

At least, not by a klutz like me.

I’ve dropped entire pans of cookies on the floor; turned out many a busted Bundt cake or pan of crumbled cornbread; shredded wooden spoons with the whirring blades of my blender; burned my hands, arms, and face–yes, my face–making mashed potatoes.

Kitchens are minefields, and it’s a wonder I haven’t yet blown off my legs.

Over the years, I’ve come to terms with my kitchen clumsiness, often taking extra precautions to compensate for being accident-prone.

I make Micah pick up heavy things like Dutch ovens and cast-iron skillets.

I stand on stepstools instead of tiptoes to reach glass items on high shelves.

And I tend not to cook things like baked Alaska or fried cheese because, really, why push my luck?

So when the folks at Putney Farm shared gorgeous photos of a salad topped with golden brown and crispy baked goat cheese,

  1. I should have stopped before even reading the recipe.
  2. I should have definitely not commented on their post about how intimidated I am by science-defying baked cheeses, which only invited an encouraging reply from the friendly folk at Putney Farm.
  3. I should have absolutely not let the thought cross my mind that we happened to have goat cheese in the refrigerator and panko bread crumbs in the pantry.
  4. And, once instilled with ingredient excitement and a false sense of security, I should have without a doubt NOT attempted to bake that goat cheese myself.

Especially while also juggling a salad spinner full of greens, a pile of tomatoes and pickled beets to slice, a vinaigrette to whisk, a cast-iron skillet of bacon to crisp and pecans to toast and peaches to roast.

But I did read the recipe, did comment on it, did receive warm encouragement, did scan the contents of my kitchen for the needed ingredients, did bake my own goat cheese in the midst of all my other salad prep.

I tempted fate.

And when you test the kitchen gods, you’d better be prepared to deal with the consequence.

The consequence should’ve been a golden brown and crispy disc of firm but gooey cheese, solid enough to pick up and place atop my crisp, cool salad, but baked just enough to ooze creamy goodness into every green bite. A delicious trophy rewarding my culinary bravery.

Instead, my consequence was a searing hot baking sheet flowing with a lava-like lake of breadcrumb-speckled, melted, messy goat cheese.

My cheese didn’t defy the laws of science.

It followed them precisely.

Not pretty.

But damn it, I wanted goat cheese on my salad, and I hadn’t endured that harrowing trial just to scrape my cheesy clustercuss into the trash.

Instead, I scraped that gooey, gloppy puddle together into two misshapen globs and slapped ’em onto our salads anyway.

It wasn’t pretty, but we ate it.

And it was good.

well, okay, the salad was pretty…but the goat cheese was not

What’s in it:

  • 4 ounces goat cheese (use something kind of firm, NOT Humboldt fog  this is where I went wrong)
  • a little bit of olive oil
  • a handful of your favorite herbs
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3-4 cups salad greens
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1/4 cup halved pecans
  • 2 small peaches, quartered
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/4 cup pickled beets, sliced into slivers
  • a quick vinaigrette (2 teaspoons brown mustard, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 4 tablespoons olive oil, salt & pepper to taste)

Step-by-step:

  • Cut or mold your goat cheese into discs. Sprinkle the discs with herbs, drizzle with olive oil, and let marinate while you preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Dredge the discs of cheese in the breadcrumbs to lightly coat them on all sides, arrange them on the pan, and bake for about 6 minutes. Pray your cheese doesn’t spread like frosting all over your pan. 🙂
  • Meanwhile, heat the bacon in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Cook it until it’s nice and crispy, then remove the bacon to cool–but leave all that tasty bacon fat in the pan.
  • Add the pecans to the skillet and cook ’em in the bacon grease until they start to smell warm and toasty–just a few minutes–then scoop out the pecans and add the peach quarters, cut sides down.
  • By this time, your cheese should be out of the oven. That’s good, because now it’s time to put your skillet o’ peaches into that 400°F oven and roast the fruit for about 10 minutes while you assemble your salad.
  • Divide your greens between two really big plates. Artfully decorate the greens with tomatoes and beets. Crumble one slice of bacon over each salad, then sprinkle on some toasted pecans.
  • Whisk together your vinaigrette if you haven’t already, then drizzle it over the salads.
  • Top your salads with warm peaches and your (hopefully lovely) baked goat cheese crouton.

What this salad wasn’t: easy to make, stress-free, boring.

What it was: a tasty mix of hot and cold, crispy and gooey, sweet and salty, light and hearty. Delicious, and pretty perfect for a summertime lunch.

Even if it was a disaster.

you know how people turn their Christmas trees to “the good side”?
yeah, same with a sloppy mess of a baked goat cheese salad.

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

quick lunch – 7.2.12 – a bowl of Southern summer goodness

Summer in the South is a magical time.

A time when tomatoes plump to their juiciest fullness, when squashes just grow and grow and grow, when sweet corn practically bursts from its husks, when a myriad of hot and sweet peppers are ripe for the picking, when okra pods stretch to that perfect two or three inches, when pungent onions and garlic just beg to be dug up and sauteed in a bit of butter to mellow out and flavor everything you eat.

A time when, goshdarnit, I just can’t get away from Athens Locally Grown or Daily Groceries without spending ungodly sums of money on all those gorgeous, flavorful local veggies.

And, since I’m a teacher, summer is also the time when I can cook at least two meals a day if I want–and that’s quite often the case, because heaven knows there’s not so much time for culinary tomfoolery once school starts back in August.

So when I surveyed the contents of our kitchen a few weeks ago after a particularly splurge-y spree at the market, looking for lunchtime inspiration, here’s what I found:

all that’s missing is one of those fancy wicker cornucopias

A most inspiring collection of colors and flavors, if I do say so myself.

So I set to slicing and dicing and sauteing and stirring, and here’s what I came up with:

bright, beautiful, delicious!

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium sweet onion (or, in my case, 3 tiny ones), diced
  • 1 medium bell pepper, quartered and sliced
  • 1 medium summer squash or zucchini (I used zephyr), quartered and sliced
  • 1 ear of corn, cut from the cob
  • 6 okra pods, thinly sliced (the smaller okra is, the sweeter and more tender it’ll be–look for pods that are 2-3″ long)
  • a big handful of cherry tomatoes (ours were sungolds)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a big handful of fresh basil, cut into slivers

Step-by-step:

  • In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the quinoa and toast it in the oil for about 5 minutes.
  • Pour in the stock/broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
  • Cover the quinoa and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  • While the quinoa cooks, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the garlic, onion, and bell pepper. Saute for 3-4 minutes or until the onion starts to look translucent.
  • Stir in the squash and corn. Saute for another 5-7 minutes or until the squash is almost tender.
  • Mix in the okra and tomatoes and cook for about 5 more minutes.
  • Add the cooked quinoa to the skillet and stir just until the mixture is combined.
  • Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  • Divide your veggies and quinoa between two bowls and top with the fresh basil.
  • Eat up!

Our bowls of Southern summer goodness were enjoyed warm as a light but satisfying entree. For dinner, add your favorite protein for a heartier meal. (I’m betting shrimp would be amazing.) Or try this recipe as an excellent summer salad. Just chill it in the fridge for a few hours to serve cold alongside smoky burgers, crispy fried chicken, or your favorite grilled seafood.

And, of course, I whipped this meal up from a huge heap o’ veggies that I happened to have on hand, but you could easily adjust the recipe to match your own vegetable availability and tastes. As long as you use what’s fresh and in season, there’s really no way this quinoa veggie bowl could turn out anything less than fabulous. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

quick lunch extravaganza – when life gives you bread, make sandwiches

Our house has been infested.

With fleas, earlier in the summer, and lately with some very persistent ants.

But, mostly, with bread.

It started when I overbought buns for a cookout a few weeks ago. Micah was smoking a pork picnic roast and grilling burgers for almost 20 people, so I cleaned out the Daily Groceries bakery case and brought home enough buns for everyone to have two.

My calculations didn’t account for folks going bread-less, which many of them did (in order, I’m sure, to consume more of the delicious meats and veggies on the table).

So after the cookout, we still had about twenty buns leftover, but only enough uneaten burgers and barbecue for about half that.

Oops.

We would’ve frozen the extra bread, but our freezer was already getting out of hand.

Which meant that, after the extra pork and beef were gone, we still needed to eat eight more buns, because of course I just couldn’t bring myself to waste them.

Four buns became vehicles for our delicious berbere-spiced sloppy joes disorderly josephs.

A couple of onion rolls were transformed into savory French toast sandwiches with tarragon and some of Micah’s crispy home-cured bacon.

the roundest French toast I’ve ever made

Step-by step:

  • Cook a few slices of bacon and set it aside, but leave the grease in the pan.
  • Whisk together one egg with a little milk, salt, pepper, and dried tarragon.
  • Batter the buns in the egg mixture.
  • Cook in the bacon grease over medium heat until browned and crispy.
  • Layer on a plate with bacon and top with a drizzle of maple syrup.

This French toast was not only quick and easy, but also a tasty way to repurpose those extra onion rolls. They soaked up the egg-and-milk batter beautifully, creating a fluffy, moist French toast that paired perfectly with the salty crunch of the bacon.

And when we finally got down to the last two bits of our booming bounty of buns, we made these:

toasted sorta-caprese sandwich….gooey and melty….yum…

This sandwich was also laughably simple, but so tasty.

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  • Split two sandwich buns and brush the insides of both halves with olive oil, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add a few thick pieces of cheese (we used Edam) and some sliced tomatoes (we used a handful of halved sungold cherries).
  • Close the sandwiches and wrap them in foil.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the sandwiches are nice and warm and the cheese has melted.
  • Add a big handful of fresh basil to each sandwich and enjoy!

The same day that we ate these delicious sandwiches, my friend Jackie brought me a jar of her generations-old sourdough starter, with instructions to feed the starter the next day and then bake with it the day after that.

I dutifully followed Jackie’s feeding instructions (minus the potato flakes/potato water), and that jar of yeasty goodness responded by giving me three large loaves of lovely bread:

fresh out of the oven, fluffy, and delicious

I’m very excited to have a sourdough starter and a fantastic recipe now–but dang, we ended up with so much bread! Fortunately, I was able to share this stuff with two of my best friends, so Micah and I only had one big loaf left to eat ourselves.

Next time (tomorrow!), I plan on tweaking the feeding and baking proportions of this recipe to yield just one or two loaves at a time, and I’m also excited to try using my sourdough starter to make other yummy baked goods like cinnamon rolls or pizza dough. If you want to make sourdough but don’t have any starter, ask around to some bakerly friends and you can probably find someone who has extra. Or, you can always make your own like my blogging buddy Stephanie did a while back. 🙂

Anyway, so right when Micah and I thought we’d found the light at the end of the starch tunnel, we now had another very large loaf of bread to eat.

So we did what any sane person would do in this situation.

We made more sandwiches.

bread + bacon + tomatoes + pesto

These sandwiches were salty and crunchy from the bacon, savory and spicy from the pesto, sweet and juicy from the tomatoes, and crispy and hearty from cooking in just a little bit of bacon grease. You could use your favorite pesto recipe or some store-bought pesto–or if you can hold out for one more post, you can use the parsley pistachio pesto we enjoyed (I’ll give you the recipe next time I write!).

Sourdough sandwiches, round two:

grilled cheese with pickled beets and fresh basil

The pickled beets and onions gave this tasty sandwich a fantastic tangy sweetness that played nicely with the spicy fresh basil, creamy Edam, and sharp cheddar.

We enjoyed crusty hunks of toasted bread with a few other meals throughout the week until finally, today, there was only one big two-sandwich hunk of bread left.

So today (no pictures of this one–sorry!), we sliced up that last hunk of bread and filled our sandwiches with pesto, bacon, and cheddar for a yummy concoction that went perfectly with the free potato salad we got with our weekly Earth Fare coupons on Sunday.

Why devote an entire blog post to this most humble of feasts, this I-don’t-know-what-to-eat-so-I-guess-I’m-stuck-with-sandwiches brown bag filler?

What’s so great about the lowly sandwich?

Sandwiches can be boring, can make you feel like you’re in a mindless, hopeless bread-filling rut.

But that’s not how I feel about sandwiches at all.

To me, a sandwich is a blank slate, a beautifully clean canvas.

If you stuff your sandwich bread with wilted iceberg lettuce and a sad, sad slice of processed ham, then of course it’s not going to be a masterpiece.

But if you let yourself think outside the lunchbox, you can turn plain old bread into a delicious work of art. 🙂

Categories: musings, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

gluten-free experiments, part two: fruity nutty cocoa bites, cranberry coconut almond muffins, and a bonus recipe: peach & tomato gazpacho!

I know the title of this post promises an overflow of information, so I’m going to try to keep the hemming and hawing to a minimum and get quickly to the recipes!

The reason I’m sharing so many at once here is because in the last two weeks, I made two more batches of gluten-free goodies to share with my Red Clay buddies, and then I made some peach and tomato gazpacho (both vegan and gluten-free) to bring to the end-of-institute potluck dinner on Tuesday. All this food was for the same audience of eaters, so I decided to put it all in the same blog post, too, for easy sharing. 🙂

For my third-ever gluten-free experiment last Monday, I decided I wanted to make some of those no-bake fruit-and-nut balls that I’ve seen around the blogosphere/interwebs. I looked at a few recipes to get an idea of the proportions, then (of course) winged it based on what I actually had in the cupboard. In the end, these chewy little bites ended up being rich, a little sweet and a little salty, and overall pretty darn tasty!

worried about sticking, I used little paper mini-muffin cups to transport
these safely (probably unnecessary, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt)

What’s in it:

  • 6 dates, pitted
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup dried, unsweetened shredded coconut

Step-by-step:

  • Blend all of the ingredients except for the coconut in a food processor until you have a thick mixture, almost like cookie dough.
  • Put the coconut in a shallow dish.
  • Use your hands or a cookie scoop to pick up about 1-2 teaspoons of the mixture at a time; roll and press your scoop of dough into a tightly packed ball. (Warning: your hands will get sticky!)
  • Roll the ball in the dried coconut.
  • Repeat until you run out of stuff! 🙂

For me, this made about 3 dozen little bites, which was perfect for sharing with a group. Though I’ll admit, I probably ate a little more than my fair share. 🙂

Next up was my attempt at gluten-free muffins for this Monday, which I adapted from a recipe on the Gluten Free in Boulder site (with minor changes, as always, because I didn’t have blueberries or quite enough cornmeal.)

stacked upside down because, well, why not?

What’s in it:

  • 2/3 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup dried, unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1-1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup honey (I would reduce this to 1/4 cup next time)
  • 2-1/2 cups milk (I would reduce this to 1 1/2 cups next time)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups dried cranberries

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F and prepare two 12-cup muffin pans. (I would recommend using liners as I didn’t and my muffins were a little too sticky!)
  • In a food processor, blend together the almonds, coconut, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt until you have a coarse meal that looks kind of like sand.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, milk, and honey.
  • Add the dry ingredients from the food processor and whisk until combined. If you follow the original recipe like I did, your batter will be pretty soupy, which was kind of hard to work with and made for a fragile muffin–so if I make these again, I’ll adjust the recipe.
  • Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into each of 24 muffin cups. Top each muffin with dried cranberries.
  • Bake for about 25-30 minutes. (After the original recipe’s recommended 15, my muffins were nowhere near done!)
  • Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before (carefully) removing them to a wire rack to reach room temperature.

Like I said, these muffins were very delicate when they came out of the oven, I think because the batter was just too wet, so I would reduce the liquid as noted above. And I also thought they were a little too sweet, so for my personal tastes, I would reduce the honey, too. Still, made following the directions posted here, these sweet and nutty little cakes were a big hit with my classmates.

and the last leftover muffin was pretty tasty
warmed up and topped with some vanilla ice cream

The last thing I made for my Red Clay friends was for our potluck on Tuesday evening. Since it’s been so dang hot here in Georgia, and since it’s the perfect time of year for peaches (free from Earth Fare!) and fresh local tomatoes…

tomato or not tomato, that is the question….

…I decided to resurrect one of my favorite soups from last summer, a cool and refreshing peach and tomato gazpacho from Epicurious. Besides doubling the recipe, here are the changes I made:

  • I used dried tarragon instead of fresh (so, 1 teaspoon dried in place of 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • I used rice wine vinegar in place of the white wine vinegar
  • I doubled the ice and skipped the water
  • I didn’t strain it at the end (and straining wasn’t really necessary anyway!)

I think last year I might have also added a dollop of Greek yogurt to this, but this time I wanted to make it vegan. And since I pretty much stuck to the original recipe, I won’t re-type it up here. But I will show you how lovely it was!

mental note: parsley looks pretty on this soup, but it’s not the best flavor
combination….more tarragon or maybe some mint would have been better!

This stuff got polished off at the party, but I did save just a little bit for Micah and me to enjoy with dinner later in the week.

But more on that in my next post. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

supper tonight – 5.24.12 – stewed andouille

When we got the andouille links out of the freezer a few days ago to thaw, we thought we might grill them last night with…well, something. We didn’t really have a plan (when do we ever?), but we were sure we could come up with some wonderful meal using those smoky, savory Cajun sausages.

We considered defrosting a pound of shrimp to make a jambalaya, but Micah didn’t really feel like beheading and shelling and deveining a bunch of shellfish last night.

We always get our shrimp with the heads on them so we can freeze the shells and noggins for stock. When we’re really lucky (as we were a couple of weeks ago), we’re able to get fresh Georgia shrimp from Athens Locally Grown or Fook’s Foods for just $5-6 a pound. It’s pretty amazing stuff!

What we ended up making was still pretty similar to traditional jambalaya in the veggies and seasonings–just a little different in the technique, since we winged it instead of following a nice, straightforward recipe like the one I linked above. 🙂

In any case, the resulting dinner was rich, spicy, and full of flavor, with the added bonus of leftovers for lunch today!

not only did the fresh veggies make this taste extra good, but the
green and yellow peppers looked lovely with those bright red tomatoes!

What’s in it:

  • olive oil for the pan
  • 3/4 pound andouille sausage links (or another smoky, spicy sausage of your choice)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, diced (or you could used canned)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the sausage links and cook for about 6-8 minutes per side, turning frequently to keep them from burning.
  • Remove the cooked links to a cutting board to rest.
  • Pour a tad more oil into your skillet if you need to. Add the garlic, onion, and peppers, and saute for about 5-6 minutes or until they’re starting to soften and brown.
  • Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir until incorporated.
  • Pour in the white wine, scraping with your spoon or spatula to get all the stuck bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the chicken stock and smoked paprika.
  • While the contents of your skillet heat back up, cut your sausage links lengthwise and then slice into half-moons. Or, you can slice the whole link thinly on the bias. Add the cut-up sausage to your skillet.
  • Let this simmer on the stove for a while. (I had a meeting last night and was gone for almost two hours, so we just let ours cook on the absolute lowest heat we could while I was gone!)
  • When your vegetables are super tender and the liquid has thickened into a rich sauce, it’s ready to eat. Season with salt and pepper to your liking, and feel free to sprinkle in some cayenne for an extra kick.

We spooned this over bowls of steamed white rice (long-grain basmati, specifically, because that’s what we had in the pantry), but Micah suggested it would be fantastic over grits or polenta, and I’d also bet it would be tasty with mashed potatoes or pasta. So, in the spirit of winging it (like we always seem to), serve this with your carb of choice.

And don’t forget to finish the rest of that bottle of white wine while you’re at it.

And enjoy!

We definitely did. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

supper tonight – 5.10.12 – pizza margherita

a delicious mosaic of red, white, and green

So the story goes, Queen Margherita of Italy was journeying with her husband Umberto around her kingdom’s countryside around 1889 and observed the peasants enjoying tasty flatbreads that they called pizzas. She tried and loved this rustic food (much to the disdain of her peers in the nobility), and she commissioned a pizza chef named Rafaelle Esposito to make the humble delicacy for her. Chef Rafaelle not only made Queen Margherita the pizza she asked for, but he specially created a pie that incorporated the red, white, and green of the Italian flag using tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Thus, the traditional “pizza margherita” was born.

I first tried pizza margherita on a trip to Sicily my senior year of college. I’d grown up eating the Americanized pies peddled by chains like Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Papa Johns, and Dominoes, plus the fancy pizza offerings at the college-kid favorite around here, the Georgia-based Mellow Mushroom. But pizza in Italy was different. The crust was warm and doughy, like good bread. The sauce was minimal or nonexistent, and cheese was included, but not a greasy blanket of it. The toppings were simple–no pizzas with names like “super supreme” or “kitchen sink.” And my favorite was the simplest of all, the pizza margherita.

love pizza? you’ll love this!

So Thursday night, when we needed a quick dinner, and we just happened to have fresh tomatoes, some beautiful basil, and a little deli tub of mozzarella floating in salty brine, it was pretty easy to figure out our course of action.

Step-by-step:

  • Make your pizza crust. Micah liked the crust recipe we used last time, but this time he asked if we could make it thinner and crispier. So we did. We only mixed up half as much dough, but we spread the dough extra thin over the same big pizza pan. Then, we pre-baked it for about 8 minutes at 450°F to get it good and crispy before we added the toppings.
  • Once your crust is ready, spread on a very thin layer of pizza or pasta sauce (we just happened to get a jar of Cugino’s Classic Marinara in our wine club bag from Shiraz last week, which was perfect!). Top the sauce with thin slices of mozzarella and fresh tomato.
  • Bake at 450°F directly on the oven rack for about 10 minutes, or until your crust is extra crispy and your cheese is nice and melty.
  • While the pizza bakes, chop some fresh basil. (To make a pretty chiffonade/ribbon cut, take a stack of basil leaves, roll them up like a sleeping bag, and then slice the roll of leaves like a jellyroll. When you let go, you’ll have a big, pretty pile of basil streamers!)
  • Top the finished pizza with the basil, then sprinkle with a little salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  • Slice and enjoy! You’ll probably want to eat the whole thing, and that’s totally okay.

see how thin and crispy that is?

Thanks, Chef Rafaelle, for inventing this pizza! It is truly fit for a queen. Or a couple of hungry peasants like Micah and me. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

quick lunch – 5.7.12 – quinoa with tomatoes, feta, and mint

Maybe I caught a little bug, or maybe it’s just the last few weeks’ insane rush of activity catching up with me, but I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather these last two days. My symptoms (headache, stomach cramps and discomfort, and some serious fatigue) don’t point to anything specific that I can think of, but I’m hoping that taking a sick day today and spending most of it working from home in my pajamas will help me recover enough to return to school tomorrow.

Yes, working from home. Since our students only have a week and a half left of school, today was the day to send overdue notices home with kids who still haven’t returned their library books. I’m also working on suggested summer reading lists that will go home with the kids in the next few days. So while I did stay home sick, I’ve actually done about half of the work that I planned to accomplished at school today anyway. Which still puts me a half day (or more) behind….but that’s pretty normal. 🙂

Sick or well, a gal’s gotta eat. Breakfast was easy–reheating a pear oatmeal muffin and brewing some coffee–but we don’t really keep much easy lunch food around the house since we usually take dinner leftovers to work with us during the week…and today, we didn’t have any leftovers left. So, I had to come up with something quick that I could cook without much effort.

Quick starches in our pantry included pappardelle, couscous, and the last of the rainbow quinoa, so I gave Micah his pick. He chose the quinoa (surprising, because although he likes the flavor, he usually gripes about it getting stuck in his teeth).

This was the result:

the mint was the best part…

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided in half
  • 2/3 cup quinoa (we used rainbow)
  • 1-1/3 cup stock or broth (we used chicken)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Step-by-step:

  • Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the quinoa and toast it in the oil for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the stock/broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover for about 20 minutes. (I forgot to set my timer and let ours go a little long. Oops.)
  • While the quinoa cooks, crumble your feta, dice your tomato, and chop your mint.
  • When the quinoa is finished cooking, remove it from the heat. Stir in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, along with the vinegar, tomatoes, mint, and feta.
  • Divide between two bowls and enjoy! (We ate this warm, but I’ll bet it would be delicious chilled as well.)

I thought our lunch turned out pretty tasty, and Micah loved it. The feta, an Athens Locally Grown item from Greendale Farm in Madison, GA, was really delicious–Micah said it was the best feta he’d ever tasted! And I might just have to agree. That sharp, tangy, salty cheese made very good friends with the cool mint and the sweet tomatoes.

My favorite thing about this recipe is that I can see so many possibilities for yummy variations. Our lunch was kind of Greek/Mediterranean, but why not go Italian by replacing the sherry vinegar, mint, and feta with balsamic vinegar, basil, and cubes of fresh mozzarella? Or travel south of the border with fresh lime juice, cilantro, and crumbled cotija?

I’m still not back to 100%, but enjoying such an easy, delicious lunch definitely made me feel a little better. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

supper tonight – 4.6.12 – grilled pork chops & veggies

The weather thwarted our outdoor steak plans last time, but a warm and sunny evening invited Micah outside on Friday to grill some pork chops.

The warm weather has also welcomed one of our favorite summer veggies to the party a little early—zephyr squash! I love any kind of summer squash—crookneck, zucchini, pattypan—but these buttery little heirlooms are absolutely the best summer squash I’ve ever had. And the fact that we got to enjoy them with asparagus (which is usually out-of-season by the time summer squash arrives) was pretty magical.

Micah’s masterpiece:

smoky, charred perfection

We topped our succulent pork chops with a stewed green tomato relish from our favorite cookbook, Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South. Hugh serves the relish with crispy-crunchy pan-fried chicken, which we’ve made and devoured several times now. But we thought—correctly, I might add—that the relish would also be sublime on a thick, juicy, bone-in pork chop.

(And, as always, we made a few adjustments based on what we had on hand.)

What’s in it:

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped pickled green tomatoes
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon water or chicken stock
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and saute until translucent.
  • Add the fresh tomatoes, pickled green tomatoes, ground cayenne, and water or stock. Stir around and cook until the onions and tomatoes are tender and most of the liquid is reduced.
  • Toss in the chopped cilantro and parsley, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

The pork chops, squash, and asparagus, were cooked very simply: brushed with a little olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, grilled to perfection. The sweet, salty, tangy relish perfectly complemented the smoky-charred outside and tender inside of the pork chop, and the vegetables made a perfect side dish for those big, juicy hunks of meat.

Grilling season has officially begun in the Hudson household! Have you broken out the barbecue yet?

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

supper tonight – 4.3.12 – arugula, goat cheese, and tomato pizza

Last night, I wanted to make Growandcook’s cauliflower soup for dinner.

Micah said he wanted something heartier than soup.

I said I could make grilled cheese sandwiches to go with it.

Micah said he wanted something heartier than soup and sandwiches.

I said I could save the soup recipe for later and make some nice, hearty pasta with arugula, goat cheese, and tomatoes.

Micah thought about it for a minute, agreed that pasta would be okay…but then said, “Just make the soup. I’ll eat something else if I’m still hungry.”

Argghh!

At this point, I was already a bit hangry (hungry+angry, see previous post about this here), and no matter how whole-heck-of-a-lot-much I love Micah, one thing that drives me absolutely bonkers is when he disagrees with me until I change my mind…and then decides to change his.

“So what are you in the mood for, anyway?”

“I don’t know. Pizza or something?”

Eureka! This conversation might’ve only taken you a minute to read, but I’m transcribing the condensed version. The actual exchange took at least five or six excruciating minutes.

My normal recipe for pizza dough (and bread, and dinner rolls, and calzones) takes a good three to four hours, as do many yeasty-dough-type procedures with mixing, rising, shaping, rising, and (finally) baking. No way in hell was that going to work.

So, my good friend Google helped me find many, many recipes with titles that combined the words “quick” and “pizza dough.” Some that required instant yeast (which I don’t keep around), and several that weren’t as expedient as advertised. Then, I found this little gem at Oven Love and decided to give it a shot.

The verdict? Although not quite as chewy-crispy-crusty as the long-rising recipe I know and love, this pizza was freaking awesome. And just as quick and easy as Natalie promised it would be.

I might've gone a tad OCD with the spacing of the toppings...

If you ever need to make a pizza from scratch in an hour or less, I highly recommend this recipe. Or even if you’ve got all the time in the world and just want to make a pizza really fast….well, this recipe rocks.

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm (105-115°F) water
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 4 ounces fresh arugula (we used whole leaves, but would chop it next time for easier biting)
  • 4 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on how big they are
  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F. Grease a pizza pan.
  • Put the yeast, sugar, and water in a large bowl (if you have a stand mixer, use the bowl for that).
  • Add the flour, salt, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix until the dough comes together, then knead for 5 minutes (by way of your stand mixer’s dough hook, or by hand on a lightly floured surface).

The dough really does turn out this beautiful! (image by Natalie from Oven Love - click to visit)

  • Press the dough onto your greased pizza pan, spreading it all the way to the edges. 
  • Brush with the 3rd tablespoon of olive oil.
  • If you like a not-so-crispy crust:
    • Go ahead and add your toppings (arugula, tomatoes, goat cheese) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    • Bake for about 15 minutes.
  • If you like a crispy crust: 
    • Slide your pizza pan in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. 
    • Remove the partially baked crust to a cutting board. 
    • Top with the arugula, tomatoes, and goat cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    • Bake for 8-10 more minutes directly on the oven rack. 
  • Stuff your face with piping hot, delicious pizza! 

The last step: give your husband a big hug and apologize for being so cranky earlier about cooking dinner. And plan to cook the cauliflower soup the day after tomorrow, because tomorrow night, you’ll want to eat the rest of this pizza. 🙂

Categories: links, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: