Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Curried Butternut Squash Soup (with sriracha!)

Y'all, it just tastes like fall.

I love spring produce, with its peas and asparagus and loads of fresh herbs, and the way it melts into the berries and tomatoes of summer, but there's just something so very, very satisfying about FALL PRODUCE: the sweet potatoes, the pears, the brussels sprouts, and all manner of decorative gourds!

I bought a butternut squash the other day and roasted it with za'atar. It was lovely, and then the rest of it has been hanging out in my crisper waiting to be made into something special. And today I decided on soup.

Now, I'm not big on sweets. I love salty, I love sour, I love spicy, and when it comes to my veggies, I love savory, savory, savory. I grew up my whole life thinking I hated sweet potatoes, because I'd only ever had them covered in marshmallows!!! Can you believe that nonsense?

This one is super easy, super cheap, and super satisfying on a crisp fall day. Here's what you do: first, swirl some olive oil in a pot and turn the stove on. While it's heating, chop an onion. Cry. Add the onion to the oil, add some salt, and get that to sweating. While the onion is cooking, go ahead and peel/mince a coupla-three garlic cloves and about an inch of fresh garlic. Then grab a butternut squash-- I only used half, but it was probably 3-4 cups, peel that and dice it into cubes.

When the onions turn translucent, add the garlic and ginger, and stir it around for a minute or so until you can smell it, add some more salt, a generous pinch (or two) of hot chile flakes, a dried chile de arbol, and about 2 tablespoons of good curry powder. I used Madras, but use your preferred brand or your own mixture.

Add the squash, mix that all up, and cover it with a quart of vegetable or chicken broth. I used chicken, because it was on sale this week, but if you use veggie, ta-da! your recipe will be veggie. Cover it, bring it to a boil, then back off the heat and simmer until the butternut squash is very tender (as in, you can easily mash it with the back of a spoon). At this point, text the broth and re-season. I found it to need quite a bit more salt.

Now here's the important part: Let it cool a bit. Otherwise when you inevitably end up wearing it like I did, it won't scald the ever-living $&%*! out of you like it did me.

ouch.

So now that we've let it cool, puree it with an immersion blender. Alternatively, you could move it by batches into a stand blender, but that's a lot of work and you should really own an immersion blender.

Puree until smooth-- believe me when I say this needs no cream to be silky-- and then reheat to serving temperature, taste again for seasoning, and top with a glog of good olive oil (and sriracha, if like me, you want it even spicier). 

like a sweater for your insides.

And here's the other important part: do NOT leave off the olive oil. Fat spreads the flavor across your tongue. Fat lets all that deliciousness get down into the grooves of your taste buds. Fat-free food is gross. So twirl some olive oil on top and enjoy your bowl of autumn.



Tuesday, August 06, 2013

sometimes curries fail, but okra is forever

Two weeks ago, I presented to you my favorite creamy tahini dressing, and a promise to blog every Tuesday rain or shine. As usual, my grandiose plans fizzled before take 2. Sigh. Whatever; I'm turning 37 next week and clearly this is who I am meant to be. I'm not going to stop making grandiose plans just because I'm a big fat loser!!!

I skipped last Tuesday because I hadn't cooked anything. FOR A WEEK. In my defense I was moving so the kitchen was in complete disarray but really, wow. Then last night, for Meatless Monday, I was super intent on making a lovely chickpea coconut curry to share with you today, and... it flopped. Not a complete flop, but it definitely didn't sing. It didn't sizzle. It was definitely not worthy of sharing. We have leftovers, too, so I've got some major tweaking to do before I can eat it again. 

Nom nom nom.
SO. Let's get to the okra. I found these lovely specimens at the Sunday farmers' market and was thrilled. Now, I love love love fried okra. Fried okra is one of my very favorite things. I'm from the South, y'all. I'd eat fried okra at the movies if they sold it to me in a paper bag with salt and pepper. But I have neither time nor inclination to deep fry at home. What a mess. Boiling/steaming = slime. No time for stewing or pickling. I thought I'd try my tried-and-true method of roasting... but that didn't seem quite right either. That's when my stroke of genius hit: cornmeal.

prep time: 5 minutes

I washed the pods and sliced them on the bias, then tossed to coat with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a mixture of cornmeal and coarser-ground polenta. Into the oven they went, 425, in a glass casserole big enough to give them room to crisp.

close-enough-to-fried

It took about half an hour, tossing every 10 minutes or so, and it turned out par-fried: perfectly done on the inside, not a wisp of slime anywhere, crisp and caramelized on the outside, and crunchy. I can only imagine that it is healthier than its deep-fried cousin, but certainly no less tasty. This is bound to become a staple in my house during okra season.

this helping could have been bigger.

I served them with this chicken from the latest issue of Bon App├ętit, and I could have happily gobbled up at least twice the amount I made. I even stole some from the mister when he wasn't looking. And bought more okra this week!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

back to blogging, in a creamy tahini-lemon dressing

I've decided to give this whole blog thing another stab. When I started, approximately one million bottles of sriracha ago, blogging was a whole different thing. We didn't even have facebook! I just had to TELL people to read it!! I've always missed having a place to write, which I love, about cooking, which I love even more.

I feel like blogging fell out of style and is making a baby resurgence, so I'm going to try it again. Every Tuesday, rain or shine. In the meantime you can always check out my tumblr and/or instagram links to the left.

Looking back through ye olde food blog, I seem to constantly be on a food journey. I've been a vegetarian, a pescatarian, a flexitarian, and a dainty little carnivore. These days I'm roughly "sometimes" gluten-free and "mostly" dairy-free. The bottom line is that I have always wanted what I want when I want it, as long as it doesn't make me too fat. That's the dream, right?

In my attempts to go dairy-free, I've finally perfected my favorite "creamy" salad dressing. I've had several friends ask for the recipe, and now I'm obliging.

Caveat emptor: I always cook and prepare in VERY broad strokes (partly because I wait too long to eat, get super HANGRY and have to make do with what's in front of me at that very moment, but mostly because I am very, very bad at following directions). So keep in mind when I give YOU directions, you are allowed and encouraged to riff on them how you please.


kale with white beans, quinoa, and a leftover dill/caper/parsley relish

I prefer to build my salad dressing in the bottom of a large stainless steel bowl. It's easier to whisk and then I can make the salad on top, thus dirtying one less dish. Since my dishwasher is my two hands, I always prefer to use as few utensils as possible.

Start with a large spoonful of tahini. If you're not familiar with tahini, it's basically ground sesame seeds. It's thicker than oil, but thinner than a nut butter. It's most often used to make hummus. Here in the city it's at any corner market, but if you haven't seen it before, check the ethnic section of your grocery store.

I add the juice of one lemon, one garlic clove, microplaned, a pinch of hot pepper flakes, and a pinch of Maldon sea salt, and whisk in extra virgin olive oil to the desired consistency:




It's perfectly creamy, and coats all manner of things in the best, exquisitely clingy way. I most often have kale around these parts, but you can put it on anything you like.


raw kale, roasted brussels sprouts & broccoli, pre-cooked chicken


Ingredients:
1 TBSP tahini
1 lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, microplaned
1 pinch hot chile flakes
1 pinch good sea salt
olive oil

Tools:
large stainless steel bowl
microplane
whisk

Directions:
Add first 5 ingredients to bowl. Whisk in olive oil to desired consistency.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

baked french toast casserole

Lookit, I love The Pioneer Woman. Truly, I do. Her wild rice and corn casserole is slap-your-mama good. Her stuffed mushrooms? To die for. But I always find myself tweaking her recipes to contain less fat-- not that it's not delicious, but if I ate her recipes as is I would be roughly the size of the Goodyear Blimp. I'd love to know her secret!

When I came across her recipe for baked french toast that contained 2 cups of whole milk PLUS 1 cup of heavy cream PLUS A WHOLE STICK OF BUTTER, my eyes almost fell out of my head. So I gave it a loving revision. And it's still delicious. Lemme tell you how:

the insides:
1 loaf of sourdough (or bread of your choosing, enough to rip up and fill a 9x12 casserole dish)
nonstick spray
12 eggs
1 C buttermilk, I used 2%
4 T sugar
4 T bourbon* (*optional, I guess)
2 T vanilla

the topping:
1/2 C - 1 C pecans, toasted
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C flour
1 T cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1/2 stick butter, cubed and very, very cold



Directions: rip up your bread and fill your greased casserole dish. In a large bowl combine 12 eggs, buttermilk, sugar, bourbon, and vanilla and beat lightly with a fork. Pour it over the bread, cover with foil, and stick in the fridge for at least 4 hours (I say overnight. I mean dude, that took what, 5 min? Perfect thing to do before bed on Christmas Eve.)

For the topping, throw the toasted pecans in your food processor with flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Add in the cold butter cubes and pulse until it resembles small pebbles. Stick that in the refrigerator too.



The next morning, sprinkle the topping on and bake at 350 for 45 min to 1 hour, depending on if you like yours eggy vs. toasty. I put maple syrup on mine and served it with cayenne & brown sugared bacon.

Serves 12, and if you care: 400 calories, 20g fat, 12g protein, 3g fiber.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

gribiche

Seriously, almost a year? I'm so flighty with this thing. But I'm unemployed now so I SWEAR to start posting more often. At least once a month. Will you guys help keep me accountable?

Today I am making a sauce gribiche. In all honesty I am making it because I have an almost limp bunch of parsley that really needs to be used, and stat. But also, because I love it-- it's delicious, and fun to make, and so very, very French. And it's really, really adaptable. I've used it on asparagus in the past, and once in a pasta dish with flaked salmon. Tonight I'm putting on steaks, like this guy. But doesn't it sound great on roasted potatoes?

When I first tried it, I read David Lebovitz' recipe, because I love his style, and also Orangette's, ditto, and since then I've played around with the ingredients, and what I have, what I like, etc, and found my perfect gribiche.




Ingredients: one egg, olive oil, capers, fresh parsley, whole-grain mustard. (You'll notice there are cornichons in the photo above. Now I love love LOVE cornichons, but my personal opinion is that they add one too many flavors to this sauce, so I leave them out now.)

Start by soft-boiling your egg. You want the white firm and the yolk runny. FIRST, make sure your egg is at room temperature so it doesn't crack when you lower it into the boiling water. Bring a pot of water to a boil, turn it down to a steady simmer, and carefully lower in the egg with a slotted spoon. Exactly 5 minutes later, remove with the slotted spoon and run under cool water until you can peel it.



Drop it into your glass bowl with a spoonful of whole grain mustard. Mash around with a fork until the white is crumbled up, and start adding olive oil little by little until it looks sort of like lumpy mayonnaise. Appetizing, right? (I didn't take a photo of that step.)

Next, add chopped capers and flat-leaf parsley. Like, a LOT of parsley. Don't worry. Parsley is delicious. Taste and season to your preference with salt, black and/or red pepper. Keep adding and mixing and tasting until you get it just so. You'll know when it's right.



Feel free to experiment and make it your own. Use a mixture of herbs. Add a clove of minced raw garlic. Brighten up with a splash of acid, like lemon juice or red wine vinegar. It's up to you and your taste buds!

Cover with plastic wrap and it will store for a few days in the refrigerator. However, I like it room temperature, served over something simple. Cold roasted chicken. Poached fish. Leftover steak or potatoes. Scrambled eggs? The possibilities are endless.


Saturday, December 04, 2010

skillet carrots

Sweet Lord baby Jesus, you guys. I just ate about a pound of cooked carrots. Truly.

COOKED CARROTS? That sounds deplorable.

But I saw this recipe on Orangette's food blog, and seriously, that girl has never steered me wrong. And I love thyme. So I gave it a shot. Honestly, I think the French (and Orangette) are just genius.

I decided to use a mixture of carrots and parsnips (about 2:1) because the lonely parsnips at the market always make me so sad. Have you ever had one? It's sort of like a carrot, and sort of like a potato, and has that good, solid, earthy feel & taste that we gravitate toward in the foggy winter months. I love them.




I also used white balsamic vinegar because for some unholy reason my pantry is out of red wine vinegar (an injustice that will be remedied on my next trip out the door). It was fine-- the vinegar just sort of brightens the dish, not flavors it. But I think red wine vinegar would have been better. Oh, and while I was cooking, this happened:



So that took some time. And some sweeping. And I'm still crunching sea salt under my feet every time I walk into the kitchen. LE SIGH.

Ingredients:
2 large carrots
1 large parsnip
1 white onion
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
sea salt
olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar

Tools:
Large flat-bottomed skillet with a lid



So you take a skillet, and heat up some olive oil. A little more than you think. Really coat the bottom of the pan. When it's hot, throw in 1/2 a white onion, cut stem to root (like this; as Orangette points out, it's very important to the integrity of the onion). Let the onions soften a while-- she says don't brown them but what is better than caramelized onions? so I just let them go to town while I sliced my carrots and parsnips.

Add the carrots, parsnips, thyme, and a generous pinch (or two) of sea salt. Toss to coat everything well and cover.

Let stew/sautee/steam for 15-20 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Test with a toothpick. They're ready when they reach your desired texture. I prefer them a little al dente myself, but it's totally up to you.

Sprinkle with vinegar, give a quick stir, and remove from heat. Serve immediately.

Note: this recipe should make 2-3 side servings, but I ate the entire thing by myself. Don't judge. At least I'm eating my vegetables.



Monday, November 15, 2010

the lazy frittata

There are many not-so-wonderful things about being single, but there are many wonderful things as well, and since I'm a glass-half-full kinda gal, I choose to be happy about the fact that one of the greatest things about being single is that I always get to eat what I want, when I want it. I don't have to take any one else's stomach, or allergies, or nutritional needs, or whims into consideration except my own, and I, for one, like having complete control over my food and drink intake.

There have been many books written on this subject by far better cooks and far better writers than I-- Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, for one, and The Pleasures of Cooking for One, for another-- but I'm here today to tell you about the lazy frittata.




The down side of cooking for one is cleaning for one. Sometimes you don't want to make a huge mess in the kitchen for something that's going to last all of 10 minutes and be shared with no one. So I've taught myself some tricks and shortcuts, and this frittata is one of my laziest. As I almost always have leftovers, the veggies and sometimes the cheese are hanging out in the refrigerator already prepared, so besides something to beat the eggs in, I only use one pan and one plate. (And honestly, I've been known to eat it from the pan!)




Ingredients:
olive oil or butter
2 eggs, beaten with a T of milk or water or ahem... half & half if that's what you have on hand
leftover vegetable(s) of your choice
leftover herb(s) of your choice
some sort of cheese
salt & pepper

Directions:
Preheat your broiler. Heat a swirl of olive oil over medium heat, and toss in whatever vegetables and/or fresh herbs you have on hand. Today I used 3 large handfuls of baby spinach and some green onions. Mushrooms and thyme would also delicious, as are zucchini and dill, roasted tomatoes and red onions, or any combination of what you have available. Season with salt & pepper. Once the veggies are cooked through, pour the egg mixture over the top and turn the heat to low. Don't touch!

Let cook until you can slide a spatula around the edges and see that it's done on the bottom. Now, sprinkle the (still raw) top with cheese (today I used a gruyere/emmenthaler mixture left over from fondue night, but anything you have will do) and more pepper, because you can never have too much black pepper with eggs, and pop under the broiler -- ***making sure you leave the handle sticking out or wrap it in foil*** and finish cooking until the top is golden brown and delicious. Serve immediately and then wash your one pan!