Wednesday, May 31, 2006

one-dish extravaganza

I am normally not a fan of the casserole. It's so 1970s dinner party and anyway, I don't like it when everything has one taste. But I had this tuna steak I had cooked previously (Arizona, just pretend it's chicken!) and didn't really know what to do with it, so a cursory search of my fridge and pantry revealed I could make a healthy dish with a mediterranean flair. One has to be extra creative when one does not have a microwave.

I had cooked the tuna (rare) in sesame oil, garlic, and a smidge of dill last week. I dolloped a bit of oil in the bottom of the dish, threw the fish in, and surrounded it with Roma tomatoes, 1015 onions, kalamata olives, and fresh green beans. The robust tomatoes and fresh, crisp beans were a wonderful complement to the sweet onions and salty olives. I heaped everything in separate piles as to keep the flavors somewhat intact, covered with foil, and heated at 350 until bubbly. Paired with a crisp glass of dry white and Season 2.0 of Battlestar Galactica! Brilliant.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I'll show you mine if you show me yours!

Ripped from the headlines... from Chanelle, from SweetNicks- I proudly (er, not-so-proudly) present... the fridge at Chalet J:

First... the door, ie: the staples. As you can see, I always have onhand:

minced garlic
whole-grain mustard
yellow mustard
sun-dried tomatoes
homemade marinara
salsa verde
mayo (ick, only for tuna salad/chicken salad)
some foreign sauce
Soy Vey!
chicken stock
soy milk
glass jar where I pour my leftover coffee every morning so I always have iced coffee on hand
and of COURSE, an open bottle of wine

Next... pretty much any time you look in the refrigerator here, you'll find cheese and olives. Lots and lots of cheese and olives. At first glance one can see feta, mozzarella, smoked cheddar with carmelised onions, gouda, some weird foreign assortment of wedges, kalamatas, green Queens, and a container of olive tapenade. There's probably a wedge of romano back there, and maybe an old hunk of stilton. Oh look! Hummus!!

Aaand, the produce, of course. Even when I'm only home for 4 days, I buy produce. Always in excess. In the drawer, I have mixed greens, celery, green beans, a lemon (the one I use for my evening twist), mushrooms, and an onion:

And on the counter- tomatoes, zucchini, lemons, pears, apples, and a lone yam:

And of course... for a single gal who travels for a living... the freezer. The place she throws things she knows she won't get to for a few weeks:

soy beans (in and out of the shell)
Italian sausage
steaks (cut in half and frozen as to cook for one)
an ice gel mask (for the morning after the rum, ha!)
and during the summer, always a bowl of frozen grapes

Chanelle, don't make me go into the pantry!!!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Comfort Food

I had a pretty shitty single gal night last night. I don't expect that many of my readers identify with dating at 29, so I'm not even going to go into the details, except to tell you that when I finally pulled myself from bed at 3:30pm, I really needed pasta. (To be honest, I really needed macaroni & cheese, but that wasn't happening without a trip to the store, which wasn't happening in my current physical and emotional state.)

As usual, my cooking is on a what-I-have-on-hand basis, so I took this recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini, and tweaked it to fit my pantry.

1 T olive oil
1 serving pasta
1 C hot chicken stock
1 small zucchini, matchsticked
1/8 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C grated cheese

(For some ungodly reason, I am out of parmesan - I went to the store on Friday but it's such a staple for me I didn't know I was out- instead, I used my new favorite cheese in the world, from Wensleydale- smoked cheddar with carmelised onions. It wasn't easy to grate but it melted well and the sweet, smoky flavor mingled with my dish nicely.)

Heat olive oil in saucepan. Add garlic and onions, and cook for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Add in dry pasta and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until the pasta has a nice coating of oil on it. Add in a cup of hot stock, cover and reduce heat. After about 5 minutes, throw in zucchini and continue to simmer until all the liquid is absorbed. I threw in the grated cheddar at the end and served immediately, with fresh cracked pepper.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


I am not especially fond of raspberries; they are a little too sweet and soft for me. I prefer the dark, tangy wildness of the blackberry, and I intend to make both these recipes with the latter. But for Krysten, who I know adores raspberries, I yanked these two out of The American Way on my cross-country flight today. Literally. I hope the next person didn't want that page.

First, a cocktail, natch: The Berry Sour.

6 raspberries
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup
3/4 oz. raspberry vodka
3/4 oz. vodka
club soda

Muddle raspberries, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a mixing glass. (Note to self: must get muddler before mojito season is over. Oooh, 2nd note to self: speaking of mojitos, this cocktail should be garnished with mint.) Fill glass with ice and vodkas (vodkas plural... *snort*) and shake. Strain into a Collins glass, add fresh ice, top with club soda, and stir. Garnish with aforementioned mint sprig.

Next, a dessert: Baked Ricotta with Raspberry Coulis.

1 pint ricotta
1 pint fresh raspberries
1/4 C water
2 T Grand Marnier
zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 375. Oil the inside of a 9" pie plate or quiche dish. Shape the ricotta into a low, flat mound so its edges don't quite extend to the sides of the pan. Bake from 40 minutes up to an hour and 20 minutes -- long enough that the top begins to turn golden brown and the ricotta is firm enough to come free when lifted with a spatula. (Note: low-fat ricotta will need to be cooked longer. But why on earth would someone use low-fat ricotta?) Place the raspberries and water in a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Crush the softening berries with a potato masher. To get a seedless sauce, place the berries in a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Gather the edges of the cloth to make a ball, and squeeze to express as much juice as possible; return juice to saucepan. Add the liqueur and lemon zest and simmer another 5 minutes. The coulis can either be poured over the top of the baked ricotta mound in a decorative spiral or lattice pattern (Chanelle's feelers just went up -- remember those decorative pastry leaves??), or just spoon the coulis over each wedge-shaped serving of ricotta (my probable route).

Krys, it reminded me of that Orgasmic Cherry-Amaretto Sauce we made... did I ever post that???

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Friday Night dinner and a movie:

I almost hate to give away my olive tapenade recipe, because of the rave reviews it gets when I take it to parties. Everyone thinks I'm a culinary goddess, and it's really so easy I think of it as my little secret weapon. But it's just too good to hoard.

First, you will need a really good food processor. Now, I feel about my Cuisinart the way other foodies feel about their Kitchenaids, that is to say, it's among the things I would take with me if my apartment was burning down, so if you don't have one, I suggest you go the Cuisinart route. This is the one I have, and I love it, but I gotta say that if someone wanted to get my this bebe one for my impending 30th, I would be ecstatic.

Olives. Mmmmm, olives. I love olives. They're firm and juicy and salty and oily and all the good things the world of food presents. The texture of the black ones is a little mealy for me, although but sometimes I use them for my tapenade or my puttanesca. This time, however, I went to Central Market and they have an olive bar. Hello!!! I got a large container (a pint, maybe?) of pimento-stuffed Spanish queens and a smaller container (about a cup) of pitted Kalamatas.

1 large jar or container of green olives, pitted and drained
1 small jar or container of black or kalamata olives, pitted and drained
2 T capers
3 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1/2 a lemon
tiny squeeze of anchovy paste (optional)
fresh cracked pepper

Pulse in your processor until the consistency is even, then s-l-o-w-l-y drizzle in extra-virgin olive oil while the blades are running. Probably about 1/4 C, but it will depend on how oily your olives are. You can also throw in some fresh herbs (basil and/or oregano) at the last minute. I serve with feta on top; you could also use some flaked parmesan or romano. Eat with crackers.

NEXT: pizza. What's better for a night on the couch than pizza?? Now, I think I've mentioned before, I'm violently allergic to yeast, so pizza crust is somewhat of a trial for me. However, I've perfected my yeast-free version- it's the right texture, if a little bland, and is a perfect vehicle for the toppings of my choosing.

1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C corn meal
1-2 T salt
1/2 t baking powder
couple of pinches of dried oregano
1 1/2 C +/- of cold (but not ice) water
drizzle of olive oil

Mix all the dry ingredients and add the water a little at a time. The dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball naturally. Roll it out on the counter to about the size of your pizza stone (and don't even THINK of making homemade pizza without a pizza stone). Scatter some cornmeal on your stone and transfer the crust. I brush it with a little bit of olive oil, but don't use too much or it will get soggy. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes.

THEN... add your toppings. I always keep homemade sauce in my freezer (onions, roasted garlic, basil, and oregano) and that can go on at room temperature. This pizza is sweet Italian sausage (cooked and drained), mushrooms, and basil- but I like to use baby spinach, onions, fresh tomatoes, olives, or whatever other veggies I happen to have lying around. Top with medallions of fresh buffalo mozzarella (not shredded) and cook for another 15 minutes. Voila! The perfect Friday night dinner!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Everybody's doing it... why can't I??

Modified from Krysten, modified from Matt, according to the ingredients I had to work with at the time, in the very few moments I had to spare:

Summer Jimica Salad:
1 C of jimaca, sliced
coupla handfuls of grape tomatoes, halved
handful of cilantro, loosely chopped
'bout 1/2C coarsely chopped onions, 1015s, natch

2 T white vinegar
1 T olive oil
1 T lime juice

I just tossed everything together and put a dollop of prepared salsa verde on top. If I wasn't so lazy I would have thrown in some rinsed black beans and corn for color, but as is, it turned out tart and summery and crispy and perfect!

On a side note: before I left last week, I threw a ziploc bag containing a damp paper towel and freshly washed cilantro into the freezer, because I was going to be gone. I got it out today not knowing what to expect, but lo and behold, it retained its color and taste! I hate wasting food, so I'm glad to know that it'll keep if need be. Bonus: it was SO EASY to chop!

Monday, May 01, 2006

my new obsession

I know I'm always damn-the-man-save-the-empire about Starbucks-- and I stick to my crappy over-priced coffee opinion-- but sometimes when I'm traveling, I have slim to zero choices in the non-starbucks coffee genre, and since I'd rather pull my eyeballs out that go without, meet my new obsession: