Posts Tagged With: veggies

taco night! (and what we did with the leftovers)

Consider, if you will, the following Venn diagram:

milk does NOT go with tacos…..sorry, Mom….

Okay, so I’ve pretty much always liked tacos.

I remember getting really, really, I’m-almost-embarrassed-to-admit-it excited about trips to Taco Bell when I was in middle and high school. That stuff is like crack for teenagers.

Mexican restaurants? Like, the kind with free chips and salsa? Poor-college-kid paradise.

But let me tell you guys, the last couple of years have been a slow, delicious taco revelation.

So, without further ado, let me present to you a list.

Ahem.

Stuff I know now that I didn’t know in my Old El Paso days:

1. You can make your own tortillas.

Scratch that.

You must make your own tortillas.

Buy a big bag of masa harina (which, I learned, is a type of corn flour that’s been nixtamalized ). Mix it with water and a little salt to make dough (there are directions on the bag), form your tortillas, and toast them in a skillet until they look kinda like this:

warm, fresh, delicious

They’re impossibly easy, especially after you’ve successfully whipped up a batch or two, and once you’ve tried these rich, savory circles of toasted corn goodness, you’ll never crave a crumbly shell from a box again.

2. Ground beef is not a necessity, despite the directions on that Old El Paso package.

Use chicken, or tofu, or shrimp, or some other ground meat like pork or turkey. For our taco dinner the other night, we used medium heat pork breakfast sausage.

Yeah, I said breakfast sausage. Sounds weird, but it’s got just a little heat and spice to it that blends perfectly with smoky cumin and a mess o’ fajita-style veggies.

Heck, you could skip the meat altogether if you like and just pile your homemade tortilla down with some deliciously seasoned vegetables, and you’d be in taco heaven.

3. Wait. Veggies?

Yes, please!

I know those Old El Paso-ans suggest that the only vegetables you need for a good taco are some shredded iceberg lettuce, a little tomato, and perhaps a black olive or three.

But we like to pack our tacos with sauteed garlic, onions, and bell peppers, some roasted poblanos, creamy avocado, and roasted tomatillo salsa verde.

Not to mention a bright, beautiful handful of freshly chopped cilantro.

Tacos kinda seem like junk food, but when they’re loaded with all these garden goodies, they might even be good for you. 🙂

4. You don’t need sour cream.

Actually, Micah and I don’t even buy sour cream. Mostly because I don’t care for it, so it never gets used up before it goes bad.

But, really, sour cream is kind of a kitchen unitasker anyway. (I don’t know anyone who just eats the stuff plain.)

So if you can substitute an ingredient that serves multiple purposes and is actually good for you, why wouldn’t you?

It’s easy: any recipe that calls for sour cream will work just fine with plain Greek yogurt instead. (And plain Greek yogurt is a perfectly normal thing to eat by itself, unlike a big bowl of sour cream.)

That’s right. If you’re really craving a little bit of creamy tang on your taco, a little dollop of plain Greek yogurt will do the trick.

*     *     *     *     *

Now that I’ve shared our taco enlightenment, let me tell you about taco night.

this feast makes enough leftovers for several more taco nights, if you’re so inclined

The thing about tacos is that they’re anything but high-brow.

They’re street food, fast food, convenience food, kid food, easy food.

Tacos are what people make when they don’t feel like cooking.

But when you do feel like cooking, or when you’re whipping up a nice dinner to impress company or celebrate with friends, don’t shun the lowly taco.

If you let it, that handheld pocket of savory goodness will wow special guests, add cheer to any celebration, or even spice up a date night with your favorite person in the whole world.

What I’m suggesting here is a little more work than shells from box and a packet of seasoning mix. But it’s worth it.

This is a taco night to remember.

What’s in it (the taco filling):

  • 1 pound medium heat pork breakfast sausage
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked is fabulous)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne or chipotle
  • salt and pepper

Step by step:

  • Brown the sausage over medium heat in a large skillet, stirring and breaking the meat up as it cooks.
  • When the sausage is done, drain off most (but not all) of the fat. Don’t throw it away–this stuff makes a great cooking fat for scrambled eggs tomorrow!
  • Add the garlic, onion, and bell peppers to your skillet o’ sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-8 minutes or until the veggies are tender.
  • Stir in the tomato, herbs, and spices, and cook for about 3-4 more minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

Remember that roasted tomatillo salsa verde that I mentioned earlier? You can make it, too!

What’s in it (the salsa):

  • 3/4 pound fresh tomatillos, halved (or quartered, if they’re big)
  • olive oil, salt, and pepper for roasting
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice from one lime
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

Step by step:

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the tomatillos on it in a single layer.
  • Brush the tomatillos with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Roast for 10-15 minutes or until they look really juicy and tender and sizzly and good.
  • Let the tomatillos cool for a few minutes, then throw them into the food processor or blender with the avocado, cilantro, lime juice, and cumin. Puree until your salsa as smooth as you like, then season with salt, pepper, and cayenne until it tastes amazing.

You’ve got taco filling and salsa…now what?

Serve those tasty fixins with:

  • homemade tortillas (this recipe is the same one that Micah and I use from DIY Delicious, and basically the same as what you’ll find on a bag of Maseca)
  • steamed rice (I seasoned mine with butter, salt, lime, and fresh cilantro)
  • black beans (Micah stewed ours in the pressure cooker with vegetable broth, chopped onion, garlic, and cumin)
  • roasted poblanos (brush with olive oil, bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, stick in a paper bag for 5-10 minutes, then peel, cut open, remove the seeds, and slice)
  • fresh sliced avocado
  • lots of chopped fresh cilantro
  • a little bit of grated cheese
  • lime wedges
  • Greek yogurt (or, if you must, sour cream)
  • good tequila that you can sip (not shoot) throughout the meal

And the leftovers?

That’s what omelets are for:

mmmm…….

Because taco morning is just as awesome as taco night! (Though at this point I might suggest laying off the tequila. :))

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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. 🙂

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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. 🙂

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supper tonight – 5.29.12 – beet & carrot salad, couscous with lentils (plus a quick lunch with the leftovers)

Root vegetables.

They’re kind of amazing, if you think about it.

All you see above ground are stems and greens. Sometimes tasty, sometimes bitter. Sometimes edible, sometimes poisonous.

Who in our hunter-gatherer ancestry first mined the hidden gems that flourish underground? Who was first curious enough to discover that some plants have wiry tendrils for roots, while others stand on concealed, crisp, bulging nuggets of stored nourishment? Who was first brave or hungry or reckless or stupid enough to unearth and eat one of these mysterious fruits from the earth, willing to risk sickness or death for the sake of a strange thing that might–or might not–be food?

It’s easy to scout your garden for the perkiest basil leaves, the fluffiest fennel fronds, the plumpest strawberries, the tenderest figs.

But until you part the earth to release its buried root treasures, you won’t know whether your carrots are pretty and slender like a maiden’s fingers or knobby and hooked like a witch’s claws. You won’t know what shape your potatoes or yams have taken until they’re out of the soil and in your palm.

(You can estimate size, of course–pretty accurately, even–based on when you planted those veggies and what above-ground signals they’ve transmitted. But really, you will never know for sure until you hold those secrets in your hand.)

Here’s the other thing about root vegetables: you’ve got to work for them.

Fresh herbs? Snip a few sprigs as you need them. Fruit and berries? Pluck ’em from the bush and enjoy. Quick, easy.

But with roots, the magic happens under the soil, and you can’t see it or hold it or taste it until you dig it up, unearth it, get a little grit and grime under your fingernails. Brave the worms and grubs and bugs, brave the mess, brave the unknown.

Carrots and beets? Prepare to get dirty. Prepare to scrub. Prepare for food that doesn’t really look like food at first, not until you’ve shined it up and shown the beauty underneath.

And once you’ve unearthed these treasures, please, do let them shine.

the (mostly) unadorned beauty of roots

Our salad, enjoyed warm, was simple: roasted beets and carrots tossed with crumbled feta and fresh parsley, drizzled with a cumin vinaigrette. The recipe comes from our favorite cookbook, Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South, which I know I’ve written about plenty already. But it’s our favorite, so it’s hard not to cook from it as often as we do. 🙂

What’s in it (the cumin vinaigrette):

  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (another wine vinegar would probably work well)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (Hugh toasts and grinds whole seeds, which we didn’t have–I’m sure this would add even more flavor)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Whisk together the mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, and cumin.
  • Gradually whisk in the olive oil, then the mint.
  • Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

This makes about 3/4 cup of dressing, so you will have extra leftover after you make the salad. You won’t mind, though, because it makes a great dressing for other salads or a crisp cabbage slaw (which I’ll tell you more about in another post).

What’s in it (the salad):

  • 1/2 pound carrots, left whole or halved if they’re very small, or cut up if they’re larger
  • 1/2 pound beets, halved or quartered if they’re very small, or cut up if they’re larger
  • a little olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • 2-3 ounces crumbled feta
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons cumin vinaigrette

Step-by-step:

  • Get a pot of salted water boiling on the stove.
  • Add the carrots, boil for 1 minute, then remove to a bowl to cool.
  • Add the beets and boil until they’re just tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain the beets and allow them to cool for a few minutes.
  • Preheat your oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Toss the carrots in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then spread them out on one side of the baking sheet.
  • Do the same to the beets, then spread them out on the other side of the baking sheet.
  • Roast for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned.
  • Let the vegetables cool for a few minutes.
  • In one bowl, toss the carrots with the feta, half of the parsley, and about a tablespoon of the vinaigrette.
  • In another bowl, toss the beets with the rest of the parsley and another tablespoon of the vinaigrette.
  • Add carrots to your plates first, then top with the beets and a little more of the vinaigrette.

We followed these instructions exactly, but if you don’t mind your beets bleeding a little on the rest of your salad, you could certainly mix them with the carrots on the roasting pan or when you toss the veggies with the vinaigrette at the end. This is probably what we’ll do next time.

The amount of salad this made could easily have been a light lunch for two or sides/starters for four. We were pretty hungry, so we added lentils and couscous to the meal to make it a little heartier, plus a bottle of white wine, because…well, why not?

the whole meal, with Micah waiting patiently in the background

The flavors in our mugs of lentils and couscous paired perfectly with the salad, so I’ll share how I made them, too.

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry lentils
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup dry couscous
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the lentils and stir around for a few minutes to coat them with the oil.
  • Add the tomato paste, diced tomato, orange zest, minced onion, and spices. Stir to incorporate.
  • Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.
  • Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are just tender.
  • Add the couscous. Bring to a boil again, then reduce the heat to very low and cover the pot. Let stand for about 15 minutes.
  • Uncover the pot, stir in the vinegar and white wine, then season with salt and pepper to taste. If you have more liquid then you’d like, you can simmer and reduce for a few minutes.

The orange zest, balsamic vinegar, and white wine brightened up the smoky, earthy flavors of the lentils and paprika, and the Mediterranean-inspired seasonings meshed beautifully with that colorful beet and carrot salad.

Really, the only problem with our lentil and couscous dish was that we made too much. If we’d eaten no salads, or much smaller salads, we would have had plenty of beans and starch for a main course–about 3-1/2 cups. But with our substantial vegetable dish, this was just too much to finish in one meal, so about a third of it went into the refrigerator as leftovers.

I love eating leftovers just as they are, especially if they were good the first time around (as this definitely was). But I also love experimenting with ways to transform old leftovers into something new and different, so of course that’s what I decided to do on Sunday for lunch. 🙂

similar flavors, completely different texture and form

What’s in it:

  • about 1-1/2 cups leftover couscous and lentils
  • 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used panko because that’s what I had in the pantry)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mixed Greek olives, finely chopped (or you could try subbing capers or a ready-made tapenade)

Step-by-step:

  • Use your hands to smoosh together the leftover couscous-lentil mixture, breadcrumbs, and egg (kind of like making a burger).
  • Divide the mixture into fourths and form into patties.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the patties to your pan and cook for about 4 minutes per side or until they’re nicely browned and firm.
  • Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of olives.

Wow. These came out better than I could’ve hoped or expected.

Of course I knew they ought to taste pretty good since we had enjoyed the original dish so much, but I worried about the texture. Needlessly, because the outsides of these couscous lentil cakes were nice and crisp, while the insides were moist and flavorful. Combined with the creamy, tangy yogurt and the salty, briny olives, this lunch was even better than the leftovers that inspired it.

So good, in fact, that I know we’ll have to cook up these little cakes again the next time we make a batch of that splendid root vegetable salad.

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quick lunch (for one) – 5.22.12 – zucchini frittata

What to do when your husband’s out to lunch and you need a quick meal at home?

Make a frittata.

I say this authoritatively, like I do it all the time. But in reality, today was the first time I’ve ever made a frittata, and it’s pretty rare that I’m cooking lunch for one. 

As I had never cooked this Italian omelet-like dish before, I kind of winged it based on my best guess (and what I’ve seen folks do on the Food Network). I knew I needed eggs, plus some kind of vegetable and/or cheese filling, and I knew I needed my skillet o’ stuff to start on the stove and end in the oven.

Apparently, that’s all you really need to know.

you say frit-TAY-ta, I say frit-TAH-ta?

What’s in it:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of a large zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • a sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten with a little more salt and pepper
  • 1 ounce feta, crumbled

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the olive oil in a 6″ oven-proof skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes or until it starts to brown.
  • Add the zucchini, marjoram, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the zucchini is tender and starting to become translucent.
  • Pour in the beaten eggs. Let them cook, without stirring, for 3-5 minutes or until they are starting to set on the bottom.
  • Sprinkle on the feta.
  • Transfer your skillet to the oven and broil for about 5 minutes or until the frittata is golden brown and puffy (it’ll deflate when you take it out of the oven) and the egg is cooked through.
  • Use a heat-resistant silicone spatula to loosen the frittata from the skillet and slide it onto a plate.
  • Enjoy with fresh fruit, a green salad, and/or a slice of crusty bread.

Yum! Now that I know how to cook a frittata, and now that so many beautiful summer veggies are coming in, and now that I’m on vacation from school…I have a feeling I’ll be making more of these soon.

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muffins for Monday – 5.12.12 – carrot zucchini

He moved too quickly. I couldn’t warn him. By the time I realized what he was doing, it was too late.

His teeth sank into the warm muffin.

I waited.

He didn’t gag, didn’t choke, didn’t make a face, didn’t spit it out.

In fact, he gobbled up the whole thing and washed it down with a glass of milk.

Who? My stepdad, Chuck, whose favorite foods include steak, ice cream, Mountain Dew, and Oreo O’s cereal.

What? A whole-wheat muffin packed full of oats, nuts, and…da da DUM!–vegetables.

If you knew Chuck, you would realize how much this doesn’t make sense. At all. At least 47 different laws of nature were defied when that fresh breakfast bread entered his digestive system without being rejected and hastily ejected.

Granted, when Chuck snatched that fresh-from-the-oven muffin from my cooling rack last Saturday morning, he didn’t know at first what he was eating. He was hungry, needed breakfast, saw a muffin. It was only on closer inspection that he noticed this particular muffin “had, like, sticks and twigs in it.”

And so it was that a veggie-filled whole-wheat muffin worked a miracle. Chuck ate something healthy. And liked it.

(And I’ll bet you’ll like it, too!)

the muffin that made the miracle

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 ounces finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup grated zucchini

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F and get a 12-cup muffin pan ready.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and nuts.
  • In a large bowl, beat the two eggs. Add the yogurt and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  • Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, then fold in the carrots and zucchini until just combined. (The batter will be pretty thick–this is okay. The veggies will release more moisture as they cook.)
  • Divide the mixture between the 12 muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes.
  • Let cool and enjoy!

Based on a recipe from Marcus Samuelson’s website, these veggie-flecked miracle muffins were warm, moist, and delicious.

My mom loved them, too, by the way–but this was much less of a surprise as she’s always been a pretty healthy eater. 🙂

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supper tonight – 4.12.12 – an Ethiopian feast!

I mentioned a while back that I was reading the book Cutting for Stone (which, I’m ashamed to admit, I still haven’t finished–things really have been busy around here!).

Anyway, my book club meets monthly, and last Thursday it was my turn to host the group for dinner and conversation about the novel. The story is set mostly in Ethiopa, so I decided I would try cooking some native dishes for us to enjoy.

We have one vegetarian in our group, so my search centered around recipes that she could enjoy with us, and except for the chicken stew, the entire meal was not only vegetarian but also super-easy to veganize. Also, each individual recipe was quite easy, though cooking all of them in a few nights proved a bit of a challenge. 🙂

I quickly figured out that before you can cook Ethiopian food, you need two key ingredients:

  • Berbere: a spice mixture that combines the heat of dried chiles with the cozy warmth of all those great pumpkin pie spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)…not to mention a couple of ingredients that I had to shop for (fenugreek, cardamom pods).
  • Nit’r qibe: a spiced butter that aromatics are usually cooked in before other ingredients are added.

So, my first task was making big batches of berbere and nit’r qibe, because almost every recipe I found called for one or both, and I figured they might be good things to have around the house for future cooking adventures. And let me tell you, I fully intend to keep both of these in stock at all times, because they’re really damn good.

I also went ahead and mixed up dough for injera, the traditional Ethiopian sourdough flatbread that customarily serves as both dish and eating utensil. I still planned to provide plates and forks to my guests, but thought the bread would be good for sopping up all the stews and veggies I was making. If I were Ethiopian (or had access to a really good African grocery), I would’ve used teff flour, but I had no idea where to find that, so I followed this recipe instead.

Well, my injera dough was nice and thin like crepe batter, just like the recipe said. My pan was nice and hot, a solid medium-high, just like the recipe said. My dough spread thin and got nice and bubbly on top, just like the recipe said.

But  (why is there always a “but”?) somehow, despite being less than tortilla-thick, my bread was sticky and doughy in the middle no matter how done the outside was.

So, I scrapped that kitchen disaster and got Micah to implement the back-up plan, a mixture of white and brown basmati in the rice cooker. Not the traditional starch for an Ethiopian meal, but it was perfectly fine.

What did we eat with our not-so-Ethiopian rice?

The finished feast:

clockwise from 9:00 - fosoleay, atar alecha,
doro wat with hard-boiled eggs, misr wat,
gomen wat (plus rice in the middle)

Not only was dinner delicious, but we enjoyed a yummy pre-dinner snackie called dabo kolo. These are spicy little peanut-sized nuggets, kind of like a cracker. They’re traditionally fried, but mine were baked per the recipe I used and still ridiculously addictive! In fact, we kind of ate them all before I could snap a photo. But this is what they look like:

well, okay, these are much prettier than mine turned out!
(image from abreadaday.com)

Finally, I was at first saddened to learn that Ethiopia doesn’t really have a traditional dessert. But I did read about a traditional layered fruit drink that sounded light, sweet, cool, and pretty much perfect for ending our hearty, spicy meal. So I made my own version with pureed honey-sweetened avocado, mango, and strawberries:

So thick, you have to eat it with a spoon. The avocado at the bottom was the best part!

Micah and I are still enjoying the leftovers from this delicious feast, though I’m sad to say we’ve already devoured the dabo kolo snackies as well as the entire batch of split peas, so I need to make more. Soon.

I knew nothing about Ethiopian food before last week, and I have no idea if my dishes would pass muster with the natives, but I do highly recommend all of these recipes if you’re eager for some culinary globe-trotting. 🙂

Categories: places, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

supper tonight – 4.5.12 – cauliflower soup & grilled cheese

Sorry it’s been a while (crazy week!), but..

…remember last Tuesday night when I really wanted to make Growandcook’s cauliflower soup, but we ended up making pizza instead?

Well, just as I predicted, we polished off the leftover pizza that Wednesday night (it was just as good the second time, by the way), so Thursday night was soup night!

I couldn’t follow the original recipe exactly as I didn’t have all the ingredients in the same amounts, so I subbed garlic and onion for the leeks and Greek yogurt for the heavy cream. I’m sure this version tastes a little different than it was supposed to, but it was thick and creamy and delicious! And, just as Growandcook promised, it did indeed make excellent leftovers to take to work the next day with some crusty bread and fruit.

Those bright red swirls of smoky, spicy chili oil turned this already-great soup into something really special...

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3/4 pound cauliflower florets (we used frozen, but fresh would be better)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for drizzling (we used Bobby Flay’s guajillo chile oil, which was rich and smoky with just a touch of heat, not to mention a gorgeous shade of fiery red!)

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat.
  • Add the garlic and onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the cauliflower and chicken stock, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer until the cauliflower is nice and tender. (Frozen only took about 5-7 minutes, but fresh will take longer.)
  • Use a stick blender to puree the soup in the pot, or transfer in batches to your regular blender and puree until smooth.
  • Add the yogurt and nutmeg. Blend a little more, until your soup is thick and rich and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  • Divide into bowls (2-4, depending on if this is a main course or starter/side).
  • Drizzle with good olive oil, chile oil, or if you’re feeling fancy, truffle oil. 🙂

It’s that easy! And tasty! We enjoyed our soup with grilled cheese sandwiches:

crispy-crusty-gooey-melty grilled cheese...mmm....

A perfect quick-and-easy weeknight supper.

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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 – 3.26.12 – the easiest broccoli soup you’ll ever make

Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables.

Micah doesn’t like broccoli.

At all.

Of course, this means that half the veggies on most produce party platters are out of the question, as are a handful of steakhouse side dishes.

But Micah doesn’t just avoid broccoli–he’ll pick it right out of already-cooked foods. If we eat at one of those cool Japanese hibachi places where they make choo choo trains out of the onions and crack eggs with a giant meat cleaver…well, a whole bunch of extra stir-fried broccoli mysteriously ends up on my plate. Which I don’t mind at all, since broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables.

(For a guy who will eat kimchi, pickled eggs, liver, pigs’ feet, and sea urchin, Micah is mighty particular about these little green trees.)

In fact, the only broccoli preparation Micah does like is broccoli soup. Broccoli cheese soup from a bread bowl makes sense to me, because it’s basically a ginormous grilled cheese sandwich with just enough broccoli thrown in for people to think it’s healthy. Which it’s not:

(Besides all those calories, this stuff'll knock out your sodium requirements for an entire day!)

I don’t eat at Panera very often, though I’ve been known to knock out one of these giant soup loaves in one sitting (and finish with dessert). But the broccoli soup we usually make at home is probably a better choice for everyday eating, and it really tastes like broccoli…because that’s basically all it is.

Less bread and cheese, more green!

First off, I still haven’t figured out why Micah loves this stuff so much but won’t eat broccoli, because this simple soup tastes very much like the veggies it’s made from. But love it he does, and during late winter when broccoli is in season, we can’t get enough. It’s warm and hearty, it’s super healthy, and it really is the easiest broccoli soup you’ll ever make. Don’t just take our word for it, either: we got this recipe from Gordon Ramsay, who I’m pretty sure knows what he’s talking about.

What’s in it:

  • 1 pound of chopped broccoli, fresh or frozen
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • optional toppings: goat cheese (or your favorite other cheese), walnuts, bacon bits, etc.

Step by step:

  • Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Add the broccoli and cover the pot. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until you can easily slide a knife right through one of those broccoli stems.
  • Use a slotted spoon to scoop your broccoli from the pot into your blender, but don’t dump out all that cooking water. Add cooking liquid to your blender o’ broccoli until the greenish water comes about halfway up the blender.
  • Blend! Start slowly, because the stuff in this fast-moving appliance was boiling just a few minutes ago, so if it splatters out and scalds your arm…well, that would suck.
  • Puree your soup until it’s a nice, even consistency, adding more cooking liquid to get it to the thickness you prefer. (I like mine a little thicker, Micah a little thinner.)
  • Season with salt (I use about 1/2 teaspoon) and pepper (I use about 1/4 teaspoon) and press the magic blender button one more time to mix it in.
  • At this point, your soup will be pretty darn delicious. Pour it into some bowls. Four normal-sized bowls if you’re eating it with sandwiches, two or three giant bowls for a big, hearty main course.
  • Drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Add other toppings if you like. (Ol’ Gordo puts goat cheese and walnuts at the bottom of his bowl before putting in the soup, but then you’ve gotta dig around to find your garnishes, so I like putting mine on top. :))

Not only is this soup ridiculously easy to make, but it really tastes delicious, even to a broccoli-phobe like Micah. And it’s perfect for nights when you really don’t feel like cooking, because all you really have to know how to do is boil water and operate a blender. (This is where the mac ‘n’ cheese and margaritas of your college years will come in handy, if you can remember how you made ’em.)

Give it a try! A soup this good will make it hard for you not to eat your veggies.

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

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