Monday, June 29, 2009

Tomato Salad ala Eggplant

I guess little dish falls under the category of Middle Eastern Experimentation that's been happening quite a bit around our house lately. Having recently realized that, though my body belongs in Cambridge and my heart belongs south of the Mason-Dixon Line, my tastebuds are ever yearning for the Mediterranean. I picked up (ok, Amazon shipped me) two or three great books on this subject lately--see here and here--and I've been devouring them like a 14-year-old with Harry Potter sequels. Or my 29-year-old sister with Harry Potter sequels.

Today's lunch was a function of fridge contents + techniques from my books + laziness, but turned out pretty tasty. The whole thing happened in a matter of about 20 minutes, thanks to the George Foreman--going strong since sophomore year of college, thank you. Oh the things that George has seen...

Tomato Salad ala Eggplant, with Tahini Yogurt
(serves 2; takes about a half-hour)

2-4 big, thick slices of eggplant (or one very small guy)
1 tomato, diced
2-3 Tbsp onion, verrrry thinly sliced
1 Tbsp chopped mint
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup yogurt, thick (greek-style) yogurt works best
1 Tbsp tahini paste
1 tsp salt
olive oil
  1. Start with the eggplant. Make nice, thick slices (at least 1 1/2 inches) --peeling is optional. If the eggplant is small, you could just slice it in half long ways; in this situation, definitely peel, at least some. Brush both sides with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Either grill on the George or broil in the oven (10-12 minutes, flipping halfway through) or saute in a skillet (same).
  2. While that cooks, combine diced tomato, thin sliced onion, mint, cumin, paprika, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, and a little olive oil in a medium bowl. Toss and season with salt and pepper as desired.

  3. Lastly, Take your tahini and stir it into the yogurt with 1 tsp salt and remaining 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Taste, adding more lemon juice if it's too sharp.
  4. To assemble, place hot eggplant on plate, slather with tahini yogurt, and spoon salad over top. Consume with fork and knife. Alternately, get (or make) some flatbread, scoop it all in there, and eat it taco-style.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

M. Y. O. Y. (Make Your Own Yogurt)

Yogurt is pretty cool. It's a very, very old food that I'm pretty sure was discovered entirely by accident. Somewhere along the line, someone left the milk out. For a couple of weeks. The resulting bacteria-infused dairy treat, with that characteristic tang, was likely born in central/western Asia, where it would be a boon to have fermented milk -- lasts much longer than fresh milk.

An added benefit of the fermentation process is the conversion of lactose into lactic acid, making yogurt infinitely more digestible than milk. This is great news for about 80% of the globe. It was really us caucasians who made the domestication of cattle and the production of their resultant dairy products part of our way of life. If you think about it, we really weren't designed to drink milk in any quantities after, you know, the breast. Only because we in the West are encouraged to down gallon after gallon from a young age--for a couple of centuries now--have we adapted. So fear not, Lactose Unsteady. Make some yogurt.

So why make your own? I really have no good reason. Because you can, I guess. I was thinking about this the other day--why, when you have to go to the store to get the milk anyway, do you need to make the yogurt at home? When there are perfectly delicious organic yogurts by the case?

My only possible answer is this: practice, practice, practice for when you secure that great source of local, raw and/or organic milk, and become your own dairy maid. You'll have it down pat by then. In any case, here's a method that works for me. Really, it's a basic formula. You'll need a thermometer, a sealable container, and a big towel.

Homemade Yogurt
(5-8 hours, depending on how tangy you want your yogurt to be)

4 cups milk (any fat content is fine, I use 1%)
1/4 cup yogurt (must have active cultures; that's your starter)
1/4 cup (scant) powdered milk

  1. Place milk in a saucepan and clip a thermometer on. Over medium heat, bring the milk to 180º. DO NOT BOIL You're trying to kill some things but not others, I forget what exactly. Take off heat and let cool to about 110º. Meanwhile, turn your oven to "warm."
  2. Once the milk is cooled, whisk in the yogurt and dry milk. Pour immediately into your container, seal it, and wrap in a bath towel. Stow in the oven for at least 4 hours, preferably 6 or 8. The longer it sits, the thicker and tangier it will become.
  3. When you feel comfortable with the yogurt's consistency, put it in the fridge to cool.
Here's some things to know:
  • You'll need a store-bought yogurt starter (i.e., a small cup of plain yogurt). Once you've got the process down, just make sure you save a few tablespoons of each batch to start the next.
  • The ratio that works for me is this: 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp yogurt + 1 Tbsp dry milk. Do as much or as little as you want; but since it takes several hours each time, I air on the much side.
  • I've only done 1% milk, but I hear tell that if you use whole or even 2%, you don't need the dry milk. Try it out.
  • Like I said, the longer you let it ferment, the thicker and tangier it will get; adjust your wait time according to how you like your yogurt. If you're uncomfortable (like I am) leaving a towel in your functioning gas oven for many unsupervised hours, just turn the thing on warm for a bit then turn it off. The oven will retain heat for a while. Do this a couple of times over the course of the fermenting.
  • If you want, set your yogurt in a sieve with a coffee filter over a bowl and stash it in the fridge for a few hours. Voila! Greek-style strained yogurt. Overnight: lebneh or yogurt cheese!

Choco-Peanut Butter S'mores!

Got a few homemade marshmallows leftover? Only a few days before they start tasting like store-bought? Well now is the time to toast them! But you're all Hersheys-and-Honeymaided out. I know, I know. So I got to thinking: instead of smearing chocolate on a cracker, why not start with a chocolate cracker? Kill two birds, eh? Besides, somewhere down the line, my palette stopped craving milk chocolate, preferring instead its darker, sexier cousin.

Let's make a thin, dark chocolate cookie then, shall we? We'll spread just a layer of melted chocolate over it, and maybe a little peanut butter too--for good measure. Our mallows will never know what hit 'em.

Here's what's great about this dough, what's great about any cookie dough, really--SECRET ALERT--anything butter based does beautifully in the fridge and/or freezer. So make this already downsized recipe, roll it up in plastic, throw it in the icebox, and just slice off a little as needed. You can play this game with almost any cookie recipe.

Thin Chocolate Cookies
(c/o Bon Appetit, Dec '07; makes 10-15 super thin cookies; start-to-finish, about 3 hours: must chill!)

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp each baking powder, soda, and salt
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 Tbsp butter, soft
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp beaten egg (or egg sub)
1/8 tsp vanilla
  1. Stir together dry ingredients and set aside. Slowly melt chopped chocolate, either in the microwave or on the stovetop. Go slow and be gentle with the chocolate, it can burn easily.
  2. Next, beat butter in a medium bowl until creamy, about a minute. Add sugar and beat until pale and fluffy, 1-2 min more. Add egg and beat again. What next? Vanilla and chocolate (beat). Then dry mix, beat on low--just until combined.
  3. Press the dough into a cube as best you can (this makes for good cracker slicing later) and wrap tightly with plastic. You may want to let it sit in the fridge for a bit, then press again into cube shape--it will hold better chilled. Stick it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or the freezer for 1.
  4. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350º. You have two options here: either roll thin and cut into squares, or take a big knife and slice off very thin (1/8 inch) cookies. Place them on a parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet. Cook about 7-8 minutes.
  5. If you want to get fancy, melt a little more dark chocolate with a touch of butter, shortening, or corn syrup in a small bowl. Brush undersides of warm cookies with a thin layer of chocolate and let cool together.

To eat some s'mores:
Get out those marshmallows and toast them up. Slather a layer of peanut butter (preferably natural) on your cooled cookies. Squeeze perfectly browned mallow between.

Thanks to Max for hand modeling!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Greens Gratin

I've been going to the farmer's markets for work lately, peddling our baked beauties to all the Boston suburbs. It's exhausting and lately very soggy, but ultimately really fun. I feel like I'm a part of the local economy, participating in the community, getting all hippie dippie.

Now, let me tell you about the best part of the market day: when the clock strikes and you're done, the real shopping begins. Got an extra loaf-or-5 of bread? Maybe trade it for those juicy tomatoes, a pound of sugar snaps, or a glistening quart of strawberries. You're sick of seeing your own bread, and Farmer Joe is sick of lugging around his time-sensitive produce, and if you're lucky, both will want what the other has.

Enter the mysterious but heavenly greens I brought home last week. The guy at the stand said that the seeds for this plant are impossible to get, but he has secured them--from an international source--and grown them very carefully (read: stealthily). I have no idea what plant these leaves came from, but I have never tasted a green like them. Exquisite.

The moral of this story is: go to the farmer's market. See what the farmer is growing. Buy it, even if you've never heard of it. Take it home and eat it. You will thank me.

Ok, so, for dinner we made a gratin out of these babies. What's that? You want to learn about gratin? Well, ok... The term "gratin" (pronounced grah-tan, emphasis on the "tan") comes from an archaic French word (gratte) that referred to the part of a cooked dish that stuck to the pan and had to be scraped off, so as not to waste--see above photo. This description lent itself to cooks who later started baking things with an intentionally crusty top, achieved with bread crumbs or grated cheese. The term "au gratin" to us Americans usually means "with cheese on top, please," though "gratin" can be created in more than just this one way.

The process is easy and fairly quick, though it takes a few steps. I adapted the recipe from one of my new favorite cookbooks, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. For anyone trying to incorporate more veggies into their diet, this tome is highly recommended.

Greens Gratin
(serves 2, start to finish, about an hour)

1 big bunch of greens (whatever your pleasure), stemmed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp flour (any flour, I used whole wheat)
1/4 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup broth (or 1 full cup milk if you have no broth)
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup grated gruyere (or other swiss cheese)
dash nutmeg
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
Salt & pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375º. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Plunge your greens in and cook 3-5 minutes, until they are bright, bright green and tender. Drain and run under cold water. Squeeze dry and finely chop.
  2. Meanwhile, make your bechamel sauce (vocab alert: this is basically just a cheesy cream sauce). Heat oil in a small pot on medium-high heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt and cook until translucent, 3ish minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Throw in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Stir together milk and broth and add to pot in three separate additions, whisking well after each pour. Bring back to a simmer in order to thicken. Taste, adding salt and pepper as needed.
  3. Now, butter a small dish and sprinkle about 1 Tbsp of your grated parmesan in it, shaking to coat. In a bowl, combine chopped greens, cream sauce, remaining cheeses, and a dash of nutmeg. Stir to combine and slop it in your prepared dish. Cover with bread crumbs that have been tossed with a little olive oil or melted butter (or just spray the whole thing with cooking spray). As we know, it's not a gratin without that crusty top.
  4. Place in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, or until a little bubbly on the sides and super crusty on top. Take out and let sit 7-10 minutes before serving. Serve with some good bread and a light, green salad.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Minor Failure: Tortilla de Patatas

Even though this morning's breakfast experiment was something of a bust, it had so darn much potential that I had to post it anyway. Plus, I think I know how it can be fixed!

If you are not yet familiar with the deliciosity of the Spanish tortilla de patatas, allow me to introduce you. It's a dish consisting of many layers of thin-sliced potatoes, semi-fried in olive oil, then mixed with eggs and pressed into a pan, then slowly fried again until it becomes a thick mass of tubery goodness. Once cooked, you slice it like a piece of pie and enjoy with just as much calorie-ignoring fervor. (It's often cut bite-size and served as tapas.) Just do a google image search of it, go on . . . now, tell me you're not sprinting to your stove. You're not even reading this anymore, are you?

Well, in case you are, here's a lazy version adapted for the impatient and pants-size-conscious cook. I scoured the net and read many-a-recipe, finally settling on a bastardized version of all of them. I microwaved the potatoes instead of frying them to cut down on time and the copious oil called for in every recipe (ok, and probably some of the flavor too). I threw in some garlic scapes because I had them (that's the green you see), but they're not a necessity. As usual, you could toss in any (cooked) item you think would be tasty.

Tortilla de Patatas
(My proposed fix to an irreverent first stab at a classic recipe; serves 2 as a main, 4 as part of 'this balanced breakfast'; takes about 30 minutes)

1 lb yukon gold or red potatoes
1/2 onion, sliced thin
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp water or chicken broth
salt and pepper
  • Start by slicing your potatoes VERY thin. I used the slicing attachment on my food processor. If you have a mandoline, set it to 1/8 inch. Otherwise, slice as thin as humanly possible by hand. Toss them with the onions and a few healthy pinches of salt in a microwave safe bowl. Cover with a microwave safe plate and cook for 10-12 minutes on high, stirring partway through. [I cooked only for 8 and they were definitely underdone. You want them cooked through but not mushy.] Pour into a colander set over the sink and let cool 5ish minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in an even bigger bowl, beat the eggs with another healthy pinch of salt and 1 T water or broth (to break up the eggs). Add potato-onion mixture and smush down so potatoes are as submerged as possible in the eggs. Let sit 10 minutes.
  • When ready, heat 1 Tbsp oil in a small, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Tilt bowl and pour mixture into skillet, pressing down to flatten; cook 6 minutes. Run a rubber spatula around the edges every now and then to keep from sticking. Now is the fun part. Grab your microwaved plate and set it upside-down on the skillet. Flip! And then slide the tortilla [cooked side up] back into the skillet. Press down again.

  • Lower heat and cook 3 more minutes. Flip again, as before, and cook 1 final minute. Slide out onto plate and slice. This baby can be eaten warm or at room temperature.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Faker Naan

We've been doing a lot of Moroccan food around these parts lately, a LOT. While you're desperately trying to pass the time waiting for that post, why don't you practice mastering the flatbread that is most certainly necessary to any Middle Eastern meal?

Because I may be a genius, I took the Moroccan bread recipe from Paula Wolfert's classic Moroccan cookbook and adapted it to Zoe Francois' brilliant no-knead method. The result? Easy-as-pie flatbread, with really no effort. You just need a little patience.

No-knead Flatbread
Takes about 2 1/2 hours

3/4 cup warm milk
3/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
olive oil
  • Combine milk, water, yeast, salt, sugar and garlic in a big bowl or food container. Stir in flour until well mixed. Cover lightly with plastic and walk away. For two hours. That's it. I took pictures so you would believe me. Before (left) and after (right):

  • Ok, after 2 hours, dump your dough out onto a really well-floured surface. With well-floured hands, divide into 4 (or as many as 8) balls. Roll or press into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Let rest while your pan heats up.
  • Heat a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, till hot and smoky. Brush one side of bread with olive oil and place oiled-side-down in pan. It will bubble and rise. Brush the other side with oil. When you can move it with tongs (1-2 minutes) but before it's fully charred, flip and cook one minute more.
  • Repeat until all dough is cooked, keeping cooked flatbreads wrapped in a clean kitchen towel (for softness).
  • Eat warm!

You know what else you really need with this? A cucumber yogurt sauce. Take 1/2 cup plain yogurt, stir in 1 Tbsp finely chopped cucumber and 1-2 tsp (depending on your taste) finely chopped red onion. If you have fresh mint, chop that up and throw it in too. Season with plenty of salt and dippity-doo-dah!

Homemade Marshmallows

Why make your own marshmallows? Well, I happen to have a few reasons:
  1. Because it's cool to make your own food.
  2. Because you like to learn new things.
  3. Because they're friggin delicious.
  4. Because marshmallows are squishy and fun.
  5. Because you will not even recognize the store-bought chew-fests after you're done here.
  6. Because sometimes you forget that things you can buy at the store don't actually have to be made in a factory somewhere.
  7. Because s'mores will never taste the same.
  8. Because you CAN.
This recipe definitely requires equipment (hand-held or stand mixer and candy thermometer), but in execution it is SO EASY. These mallows come together in about 10 minutes, then you just have to hang out until they set up. I packed them into a 8x4 loaf pan, then sliced them into oversize cubes for fantastical s'mores.

Homemade Marshmallows
c/o Epicurious; takes about 2 hours (including set-up time)

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 Tbsp + 2 1/2 Tbsp cold water (divided)
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp corn syrup
pinch salt
*1 medium egg white
1/2 tsp vanilla
powdered sugar

*About that egg white: there is a real difference in volume between med-large-and-XL eggs. You only want a medium egg's-worth of white, so if all you have is large or XL, just don't use the whole thing.
  • Place 2T cold water in a mixer bowl and sprinkle gelatin over top to soften. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, place sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining 2 1/2 T water in a small pot and set over medium heat. Bring to 240º (watch carefully! it can happen fast!) and remove from heat. Pour into gelatin mixture and whisk to combine. Then hit it with the whisk attachment. Beat on high for 6 minutes (may take longer with hand-held, as many as 10)
  • In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg white on high until it holds stiff peaks. Add beaten white and vanilla, then whisk again until well mixed.
  • Grab a pan that will allow you to make the size marshmallows you want -- i.e. if you want little mallows, spread them thin into a large pan; if you want biggies, go with a smaller receptacle. Grease it well, then scoop mixture in and spread (cooking spray on the spatula goes a long way here). Sprinkle with 2-3 Tbsp powdered sugar and toss in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  • When they're ready, dump them out and have the powdered sugar ready. Cut with a greased knife or pair of shears into desired sizes. Toss in plenty of powdered sugar to coat and store in an airtight container for a couple of weeks--if they last!
P.S. You can, in fact, make s'mores on a gas stove. Despite what the fire department might say. Just be aware: without jet-puffed stabilizers, these guys will cook fast, so keep the heat low and be prepared to catch the melting mallow with your handy graham.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fruity Crumb Cake

Whoa. I really don't have anything to say about this crumb cake, but whoa. I snagged the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, a truly entertaining and deeply enjoyable blog. Follow it. Read it. Great pictures.

Could have probably gone even smaller with this downslice, but we had a friend over for dinner and I was feeling magnanimous. Plus David has started complaining that I am getting too good with the math, leaving us with approximately no leftovers. So it served three, healthily, with one slice to spare.

Deb at the Smitten Kitchen uses rhubarb in her crumb cake, which looks absolutely divine. I think tart fruits (rhubarb, blueberries, raspberries, etc.) work best in this recipe, because sweet ones (strawberries, peaches, any other fruit) tend to be a little too mellow. We had peaches and blues, so that's what went in, but I'm dying to try rhubarb. Maybe the CSA will come through. Who knows?

Fruity Crumb Cake
(c/o Smitten Kitchen; serves 4; total time about 1 hr)

1/4 lb. fruit (I used 1 peach + 1/3 cup blueberries)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch

2 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
4 Tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp flour (cake or all purpose)

2 1/2 Tbsp sour cream
1 egg
1 tsp vanila
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp soda
1/4 tsp powder
pinch salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350º and grease 5-inch round or 4-6 inch square pan.
  2. For the fruit: combine fruit, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl; set aside.
  3. For the topping: melt butter in medium bowl and stir in sugars, cinnamon, salt, and flour. It will look like a regular dough (not crumbly). Do not fret.
  4. For the cake: In a small bowl, combine sour cream, egg and vanilla. In another bowl, mix together flour through salt. Add butter and a scoop of sour cream mix to dry ingredients. Beat until moistened. Add rest of sour cream mix and beat until combined. Pour into prepared pan, reserving about 1/4 cup of batter. Top with fruit, then gently spread remaining batter. Crumble topping over surface, aiming for uniform-ish size. Pop in the oven and bake 30-35 minutes, until tester inserted comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes.
  5. Grab some powered sugar and pour into a sieve (or, in my case, a tea brewer). Sift over top for a pretty presentation.

I Heart CSA + Shrimp Stir Fry

Ode to my CSA:

What can I say?
Every Tuesday
A secret cache,
A veritable buffet
Of vegetables on display.
A strawberry bouquet,
Spinach to survey,
A tomato soiree!
The flavors, they play--
True goodness to convey--
My tastebuds to sway
Those supermarket fakers to betray.
Please never go away.
You're seriously frigging good.

Today's post is all about CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture. The gist of this concept is that a farm near you will accept your payment sometime in the winter for a delivery of fresh produce throughout the summer and fall. This way, they get the money they need when they need it (during planting season) and you get the goods you want when you want it (during the summer when you want everything to taste super fresh). Just google "CSA" and "your city".

Granted, this whole "local" thing is nothing new, but for those of us in urban zip codes, where it is impossible to till the sidewalk outside our apartment and shopping organic gets real expensive real fast (and there's no dude on the corner of Highway 167 selling his watermelons), this CSA thing is a real bargain. Talk about organic, local, and produce-the-way-it-was-meant-to-taste for pennies a week. We get a haul of food every week from June through October, and we paid ahead of time, which means it's like shopping for free! It may be too late to sign up for a 2009 CSA, but put this bee in your bonnet for 2010. In the meantime, shop farmer's markets. You will never look at a supermarket tomato the same way again.

This week, the first week of our CSA delivery--which, by the way, was FEATURED in a NPR broadcast (that's my farm!!) on local agriculture, not one but TWICE!--we received tat soi. What? It's a cousin of bok choy and tastes absolutely delicious after a quick sear and a little soy sauce. The following technique can be used with any combination of meats and vegetables (or just vegetables), for a super-speedy stir fry any night of the week.

Shrimp and Vegetable Stir Fry
(serves 2; rice takes 20 minutes, stir fry takes about 5)

1/2 cup jasmine or basmati rice
1/2 lb. frozen (deveined) shrimp, thawed and peeled
1 carrot, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch
8-10 sugar snap peas, trimmed
3-4 cups tat soi or bok choy stems
Canola or peanut oil
1/4 cup broth
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar (or any white vinegar)
1/4 soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp cornstarch
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
1/2 inch fresh garlic or 1/2 tsp dried
red pepper flakes to taste (start with 1/4 tsp)
2-3 Green onions, sliced thin
  1. Place rice in a small pot. Add enough water to come 1 knuckle's length above rice. Place on burner and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer about 20 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Rice will be sticky.
  2. Have all vegetables and shrimp ready, because cooking will happen like THAT (I'm snapping). Combine broth through garlic in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat, until smoking. Add shrimp and cook 1 1/2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.
  3. Add carrots and cook 1 minute, restoring oil if needed. Throw in sugar snaps and tat soi (or whatever you're using) and stir for 1 minute. Whisk liquid mixture to make sure it's all combined and pour into pan, along with almost-cooked shrimp. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened and is bubbly. Turn off heat. Pour over hot rice, and top with green onions.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

David's Delicious Insta-Barbecue

But seriously, folks, do I have a talented husband or what? Not only a scholar, a decent squash player, a knower of ridiculous sports facts, and an amateur coffee snob, this man made some mad-delicious barbecue two nights ago in approximately 12 minutes flat.

The technique came from an issue of Cook's Country I freeloaded a couple months back when I attended a "focus group" at their tasty headquarters. You are crazy if you think that, when they said, "Sure, take whatever magazines you like," I didn't swipe every single copy of every single issue on display. My near-embarrassment was outweighed by the bazillions of good dinners I knew would come from it. I should start carrying a bigger purse for times like these.

Another thing about David you should probably know is that he is a marketer's dream. This is the man advertisements were made for. Commercial for McDonald's? He's out the door for a Big Mac. Checkout counter batteries? He probably needs more. Ad in the paper for enchanting travel location? He's already bought tickets. So when we witnessed a barbecue-off on TV recently, it was all he could do to wait until dinner time to eat.

Alright the genius of this meal is twofold: (1) store bought barbecue sauce of your choosing [we really liked Stubbs] and (2) pork tenderloin. This cut of the pig goes a long way toward approximating the tenderness of slow-cooked meat without all the time needed to achieve it.

Faux Pulled-Pork Barbecue
(Adapted from Cook's Country; serves 2; start to finish - 20 minutes or less)
1 pork tenderloin
1 tsp chili powder (less if your chili powder is super hot)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup (or so) bottled barbecue sauce
  1. Trim silver skin and visible fat from the pork tenderloin and cut into 1-inch slices. Whisk together spices and toss pork slices in mixture. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place pork slices in a single layer and cook 5 minutes; flip and cook 5 minutes more. Remove to a large plate or bowl.
  2. Reduce heat and add barbecue sauce (to warm). Meanwhile, take two forks and shred the tenderloin into bite-size pieces. Return to sauce and stir altogether until heated through.
  3. Serve over a big piece of toast or on buns with cole slaw.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Crusty Cod with Spring Vegetables

Ok, so I'm spoiled. I live in a city pretty much surrounded by water, with a whole section of town identified by its proximity to the harbor. The tourist merchandise has lobsters on it. You can't walk out the door without tripping over some scrod. I exaggerate, but my point is that it's really easy for us to eat a lot of fish up here. Which, despite your potential distance to a body of water, is becoming easier for you to do too.

In case you haven't heard, fish is particularly good for you. It's a solid, lean protein with oodles of vitamins and Omega-3s lurking underneath those scales. And since you've been waiting approximately forever to be able to evaluate the menu or the fish counter from the comfort of your iPhone, you'll be happy to start using FishPhone -- a texting service that will shoot you nutrition and sustainability information about any fish you query. I am not making this up. (You can also check Fish Watch and the Blue Ocean Institute's Guide to Ocean Friendly Fish.) These guides are designed to help you become more familiar with the way different fish are farmed, fished, or otherwise brought to your plate, so you have a better shot at choosing an ocean friendly dinner.

Tonight, we had cod. Delicious, buttery cod over a bed of sauteed spring vegetables. Gourmet was the inspiration, and 30 minutes was all the time required.

Crusty Cod with Spring Vegetables
(serves 2 generously, start-to-finish: 25 minutes)

2 6-oz. fish fillets (cod, hake, haddock, or any other firm white fish will do)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
4 green onions, chopped in 1-inch segments
1/2 bunch asparagus, chopped in 1-inch segments
1 medium zucchini, in 1/2-inch slices
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 head romaine, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • Preheat oven to 450º. Salt and pepper both sides of the fish filets, coat in dijon mustard then smush with bread crumbs. Drizzle with olive oil. [NOTE: you can make your own panko! Simply take some bread, grind it in the food processor until some small chunks remain--not completely fine--and then either let it sit out overnight or cook it in the oven at about 300º for 20ish minutes. Store in a zipper bag in the freezer.] Cook 8-10 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Toss in green onions, asparagus, zucchini and sprinkle in some salt. Cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add peas, romaine, garlic, and water; cover and cook 3 minutes more. Remove lid and take off heat. Stir in mint.
  • Serve crispy fish over bed of spring vegetables.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Panna Cotta Classic

Alright, I know I've already extolled the
virtues of panna cotta -- the rich, creamy, ridiculously easy Italian dessert -- around these parts, so I won't spend our precious time convincing you to make it. You're already convinced, right? Just need that two-person-sized recipe, right?

Well wait no longer, friends. Take this wonderfully simple recipe from Lynne Rossetto Kasper of the Splendid Table, and just trim it a tad. Lynne adds sour cream just before molding and chilling to lend a real depth of flavor, which works quite well in my humble opinion. This whole thing takes about 15 minutes total (plus a few hours' chilling), and as you can see here, you don't even have to unmold to enjoy.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Fresh Cherries and a Pomegranate-Cherry Reduction
(Serves 2-3; total time, about 4 1/2 hours [includes chilling])

1/3 tsp unflavored gelatin
2 tsp cold water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2-3 Tbsp sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup sour cream

Fresh cherries, pitted
1 cup pomegranate-cherry juice
2 Tbsp sugar
  1. Place water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 5 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, combine the cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Warm mixture, make sure everything is dissolved, but do not boil! Once combined, stir in gelatin mixture and whisk it in. Take off heat and let sit 5 minutes, then gently stir warm cream mixture into sour cream, a little at a time.
  2. Divide between 2-3 ramekins, coffee cups, or other serving dish of your choice. Cover and stash in the fridge at least 4 hours.
  3. While your panna cotta is chilling, put the juice and sugar in a small pan over medium heat. Bring to boil and just let 'er rip for a long while, until reduced by 2/3rds and syrupy.
  4. Serve panna cottas with chopped cherries and fruit reduction.