April, 2005

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WBW #9
Apr 28th, 2005

What: Wine Blogging Wednesday #9
Theme: Think Pink
When: May 11, 2005
Where: Here, and all over the blogosphere
More info

Buy a pretty, pretty pink wine. Forget those nasty Pink Zinfandels, try a chilled dry rose. Or get a Pink Zin if you secretly want an excuse, doesn't matter, just buy the wine, drink it, and post your impressions right here on the 11th of May, the year of our lord 2005.


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Spaghetti al Pomodoro e Arancia
Apr 28th, 2005

"Italian husbands about to leave their office telephone home to say, Butta la pasta - 'throw in the pasta' - in other words, I'm on my way. But woe betide the wife who takes him literally and actuallys (sic) starts to cook it before he is safely home. Overcooked pasta is rejected with a curl of the lip and the verdict, Scotta - overcooked - is a death sentence - to the pasta! Once overcooked it is always thrown away or given to the animals."

-Diane Seed, The Top 100 Pasta Sauces: Authentic Regional Recipes from Italy

Dude, who writes like this? Apparently all over Italy women are sadly feeding pasta to the dog (what if they have goldfish instead?) while their husbands are busy in the dining room perfecting their lip curl. I want to be an Italian husband - Scotta, this prose is overcooked, feed it to the dogs!


Spaghetti with Tomato and Orange Sauce

1 lb spaghetti
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
3 sprigs parsley
4 basil leaves
14 oz can Italian plum tomatoes
salt
juice of one orange


Heat the oil and add the slightly crushed garlic and whole herbs. Stir and add the tomatoes with their juice, crushing them with a fork in the pan. Add salt to taste and cook rapidly for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the orange juice to the sauce and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the garlic and herbs and blend or process the sauce. Keep warm.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water carefully following the directions on the packet to avoid overcooking [Scotta!]. Drain the pasta, toss with the sauce and serve.

Cheese is not served with this recipe. [I served it anyway. Just to spite her. I believe there was even a curl of the lip involved.]

-Diane Seed, The Top 100 Pasta Sauces: Authentic Regional Recipes from Italy
Print Recipe

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Oven-Fried Vegetables
Apr 26th, 2005

This is the last of the recipes I tried from Fresh Start by Julie Rosso.

1 cup plain bread crumbs or Panko (Japanese breading, use this it's light and crispy)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
4 large egg whites
some combination of veggies: cauliflower florets, broccoli florets, large button mushrooms, sliced portobello's, zucchini sticks

Preheat the oven to 450F and combine the breading ingredients in a gallon ziplock bag. Put the egg whites in a shallow bowl and beat them lightly with a fork.

Roll the veggies in the eggs in small batches and then drop in the bag and shake to coat. Lay them on a baking sheet and repeat until you've used up the breading. Spray the finished veggies lightly with oil and pop them in the oven. Cook for about 30 minutes shaking every 10 minutes or so. They may not need the last full ten minute session, 5 might be plenty.

To be honest, these would be really good with blue cheese or ranch dressing, but if you're being good, this dip is tasty too.

Lemon-Pepper Dip (although I left out the pepper)
1 cup nonfat cottage cheese
3 tbsp finely minced fresh dill
1 tsp finely minced lemon zest
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp black pepper (optional in my opinion)

In a blender, process the cottage cheese until smooth. I added about a tablespoon of plain yogurt to get a really smooth consistency. Transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. I added a tiny bit of salt here as well. If you have time, chill before serving - the longer you wait the stronger the lemon flavor gets.


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Turkey Sausage Patties
Apr 25th, 2005

There are two turkey patty recipes in Fresh Start and I kind of melded them together and improvised with what I had on hand.

I enjoyed these for lunch the next day in a sundried tomato and basil wrap with leftover lemon-pepper dip, lettuce, and tiny dill pickles. Black olives would be good too. These are pretty filling, so the best part of the recipe is that you can freeze the leftovers and grab them for lunches.


Turkey Sausage Patties

1.25 lb ground turkey (get the regular lean kind, not the all white meat kind)
1 small onion, finely diced
1 roasted bell pepper, finely diced
cilantro, Thai basil, and Italian parsley - about 5 tbsp all together minced finely
3 cloves of garlic, minced up with the herbs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
some freshly ground pepper


Chop everything really fine and mix it up in a big bowl. If you have a food processor you could chop everything but the meat in there, but a knife and a cutting board works just fine. Make about a dozen patties, 2 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick.

Spray a large nonstick skillet with oil and cook the patties over medium heat, turning once until cooked through (about 15 minutes). Drain on paper towels and serve warm.

-Adapted from Fresh Start by Julie Rosso
Print Recipe

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Review: Fresh Start
Apr 25th, 2005

I pulled out Julee Rosso's Fresh Start cookbook as the latest entry in my cookbook challenge. I've had this cookbook a while, it was published in 1996 and while that's not so long ago, the book feels very dated because it's such a good example of the '90s obsession with taking the fat out of everything. She wants you to eat lots of pasta and potatoes, chicken breasts, ground turkey, nonfat cottage cheese, and egg whites. To be fair, there's some sensible advice in the book about limiting portion sizes and making vegetables and fruits the centerpiece of your meals rather than meat, and I recall a lemon-poppyseed quick bread recipe that I used to like. But I had not cooked anything from it in years before I got it out a few weeks ago.

After reading throught the whole book, there are about 12 or so sticky notes sticking out of the top, marking recipes I want to go back and try - so that's not a huge ratio of interesting recipes, but not so bad either. I had some time on Sunday, so decided to make a whole meal inspired by Fresh Start: Turkey Sausage patties, Oven-Fried Vegetables, and a Lemon-Pepper dipping sauce (based on, what else, cottage cheese). The turkey patties looked good because you start with ground turkey and add your own flavorings and spices, and the oven-fried vegetables are kind of lite version of tempura. I used all white meat ground turkey, as I was sure the author would want me to, but honestly it would be better with the kind that has a bit more fat in it - the all white meat turkey is just too dry. The oven-fried veggies are nice, although I would recommend cauliflower, zucchini, and portobello chunks rather than the cauliflower, broccoli, and button mushroom combo she calls for. They don't reheat well, so only make as much as you can eat in a sitting. And the dip was surprisingly nice - Jim liked it the best out of all - I'm not sure he knew it was cottage cheese!

Recipes to follow.


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Dinner
Apr 21st, 2005

I had an enjoyable dinner the other night. My plate was awash in culinary confusion, as Mexico sidled up to Asia, who in turn nuzzled with Italy. But it worked for me, call it fusion, call it confusion, call it whatever you want, but the tastes were complimentary and it was what I wanted right then and there. As much as I love cookbooks, I have to acknowledge every now and then that often the meals I love the most are those where I follow my own whims and make what sounds good to me. Oddly enough, I think less of a meal if I made it without a recipe. Sometimes that is warranted I guess, as it means we're having the same old uninspired piece of meat and side vegetable again. But I have developed some good kitchen instincts in all this obsessive cookbook following, so I should listen to them more often.

So my dinner consisted of an Open-Faced Chicken Sandwich with Spinach and Salsa, Rice Vinegar and Sesame Spinach w/ Carrot and Onion, and Balsamic Vinegar Strawberries.

For the sandwich, lightly toast one slice of good bread - I used French loaf bread. Add a slice or two from a baked chicken breast, ideally still warm from the oven. Layer a few spoonfulls of good salsa on the chicken and sprinkle with thinly sliced red onion and a chiffonade of spinach. Sprinkle lightly with grated Jack cheese. Place in a hot oven on a cookie sheet for a few minutes until the cheese melts.

For the vegetables, chop half a red onion and one carrot into matchsticks. Saute with a clove of minced garlic over medium-high heat in a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add a few drops of sesame oil to taste. After 3 or 4 minutes sprinkle with salt and rice vinegar. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft. Add one bunch washed spinach and a tablespoon or 2 of oyster sauce if desired. Remove pan from heat after 30 seconds or so and continue stirring until the spinach is wilted and all the ingredients are combined.

Sprinkle some washed and sliced strawberries with good balsamic vinegar and put a few on your plate with the sandwich and spinach. Eat the rest afterwards with plain yogurt drizzled with honey.


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Couscous Salad with Tomato and Cilantro
Apr 10th, 2005

I made this with whole wheat couscous and I really didn't notice any taste difference from the refined stuff. It cooks in the same amount of time as well.

The only problem with this recipe is that it makes approximately a metric buttload of salad, and while I love leftovers, it doesn't taste as good the next day. The grain seems to soak up the dressing and leaves it tasting bland. So I would recommend making only half the recipe, or making the whole thing but only dressing half the first day. Store the rest of the salad and dressing separately and toss half an hour or so before serving so it has time to return to room temperature.


Couscous Salad with Tomato and Cilantro

2 cups water
2 tbsp, plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/8 tsp salt
2 cups couscous (regular or whole wheat)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 pinches cayenne pepper
1 1/4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (parsley can be substituted)
4 tbsp diced red onion


To cook the couscous, in a saucepan, combine the water, the 2 tbsp olive oil, and 1 tsp of the salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and, using a fork, stir in the couscous. Cover and let stand until the water is absorbed and the couscous is tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Uncover and fluff the couscous with the fork. Set the pan aside.

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, the vinegar, garlic, cumin, cayenne, and the remaining 1/8 tsp salt.

Transfer the couscous to a large bowl and fluff again with a fork to loosen the grains. Gently stir in the tomatoes, cilantro, and onion. Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous mixture and again stir gently to mix. Serve warm or at warm temperature.

-Jeff and Jodie Morgan, The Working Parents Cookbook
Print Recipe

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Review: The Working Parents Cookbook
Apr 10th, 2005

Pretty much every Saturday I take the boys to the lovely new library a block and a half from our house. It's just up the street but it usually takes us at least 20 minutes to get there. There are driveways and stairs to investigate, alleys to follow, and dandelions to pick. When we finally get there and the boys tumble happily into the children's section, I usually grab a cookbook from the small collection in the back, perpetually under the delusion that I'll actually have time to kill. I never do, but I usually end up taking that day's selection home with me.

A few weeks back I grabbed The Working Parents Cookbbok by Jeff and Jodie Morgan. I didn't expect much from it, it's got that kind of overly designed cover that makes it look like somthing you might have picked up at Urban Outfitters. It looks like a cookbook for people who like the idea of cooking but don't actually cook. But I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and simplicity of the recipes included. Now your kids would have to be considerably older than mine and considerably less picky to actually eat most of these dishes, but the book really shines as a collection of fairly simple, quick, and nutritious recipes good for weekday dinners and weekend picnics.

All recipes include preparation and cooking time estimates (as usual a bit on the low side unless you've made the recipe before) and rarely take up more than a page for the lists of ingredients and cooking instructions. The first recipe I made was a Couscous salad with Tomato and Cilantro (although I used parsley as Jim is a bit of a cilantro-phobe). It was simple to make and came out tasting better than I thought it would. Other recipes that caught my eye include the Lamb Burger with Cumin, the Lemon Bulgur Salad with Summer Vegetables, and the Chicken Kabobs marinated in Yogurt and Spices.

You don't have to be a parent to enjoy this book. It's a good choice if you're looking for a straight forward collection of basic recipes with a tasty, healthful twist.


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Wintery Chicken Soup
Apr 8th, 2005

Jay had the flu this weekend, it was rainy and windy outside, and there really wasn't anything better for me to do than to spend most of the weekend in the kitchen. And what is more appropriate to make when you have a sick child than chicken soup - even is said sick child will not come within a mile of soup unless it has a red and white Campbells' label on it. It's the thought that counts I guess.

I really am ready to move away from the hearty recipes of winter, but I happened to have all the ingredients (more or less) for this soup on hand, so a wintery chicken soup it was. I swear, the next soup I make will be so swimming in asparagus and snap peas it will practically crawl up on the table and sing 'Spring'.

I had to make a recipe from this cookbook, not only for my cookbook challenge, but because the author's name is really, really fun to say. Crescent Dragonwagon. Try it. Dragonwagon. It's even more fun with a faux German accent - Drahgen Vahgen. Hee! Oh, I slay me.


Wintery Chicken Soup

3 1/4 quarts chicken stock (I used wine for the last half cup or so)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp Pickapeppa sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil or preferably, 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded, and diced butternut squash (about half a squash)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp canola oil
2 large onions, diced
3 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped (peeled & seeded optional)
1/2 pound greens such as turnip, spinach, romaine, collard, or cabbage, washed very well, tough stems or cores removed, leaves sliced into thin ribbons
1 can (15 ounces) chick-peas with liquid (I had none so used pinto beans instead, no matter)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp Garlic Oil (or mince a clove of garlic & 1 tbsp olive oil)
1 1/4 to 2 cups boned and skinned cooked chicken
4 to 6 ounces (dry weight) bowtie noodles or ziti, cooked
Grated parmesan cheese, to pass at the table


In a heavy soup pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer. Whisk in the tomato paste, Pickapeppa sauce, and dried herbs including dried basil, if using. Drop the butternut squash pieces into the simmering stock. Cover and let cook until the squash starts to soften, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a 8- to 9-inch skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until transluscent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and toss in the hot fat for another 3 minutes or so. Scrape the tomatoes and onions from the skillet into the stock mixture. Deglaze the pan with a bit of the stock mixture, and add the pan contents to the soup pot, along with the shredded greens and chick-peas. Continue to simmer the soup, covered.

Add the salt and pepper, the optional garlic oil, and the chopped basil to the soup. Keep seasoning until it's there.

Stir in the chicken and get the soup good and hot. Place a handful of the cooked pasta in each serving bowl, and ladle the steaming soup over it. Serve hot, immediately. Pass the Parmesan cheese at the table.

-Crescent Dragonwagon, Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread
Print Recipe

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Down with the turkey sandwich
Apr 6th, 2005

(Following up on Steph's comment on the previous post looking for lunch alternatives to the turkey sandwich).

I agree, I ate enough turkey sandwiches for lunch while working at Attachmate to last me the rest of my life. Here are some thoughts:

  • Chef's Salad: Get a good mix of lettuces, some crunch and some green, and add a combination of things like chopped up carrot, red bell pepper, green peas, cheese, and ham or turkey. Add a few canned chickpeas or white beans if you have them. A little red or green onion is good too. Put the dressing in a separate container or keep a bottle in the fridge at work. Chop up some apple slices and add a piece of good bread and you're good to go.
  • Tuna Salad: or try a tuna and white bean salad. Drain a can of tuna and toss with salad greens, drained white beans, oil and lemon. A little parmesan is good too, or cherry tomatoes if you have them.
  • Brown rice: make a pot of brown rice and it will last you several lunches. Mix with leftover chicken, parmesan, & basil or arugla; or canned black beans, green onions and cheese w/ maybe a little salsa. White rice is good too, I've just found brown rice fills me up more.
  • Hard boiled eggs: These are good on their own or slice them and lay them on lightly toasted bread with mayo or butter and a little salt. Yummm...Bring pickles or black olives on the side and some carrot sticks.
  • Tasty Bites: Indian food that comes in foil pouches, you just heat up in the microwave. You can even order in bulk from their website (tastybites.com I think). I get tired of these if I eat them too often, but they're my fallback once every week or two when I have no leftovers. I bring cauliflower and steam it in the microwave for 4 minutes to go with, but most people would eat them with rice.
  • Gardenburgers: really good on toasted bread with a little mayo, cheese, and pickle.
  • Leftovers: if you're cooking dinner regularly just make a little bit more than you normally do and think about what you could combine it with the next day to make it stretch a bit and taste a little different. These are usually my best lunches.


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Pan/Oven Grilled Lamb Chops
Apr 6th, 2005

(*At the time I wrote this I had given myself a challenge to cook at least one new recipe out of each of my 100+ cookbooks. I've since realized my folly and dropped the endeavor.*)

Lamb chops have always seemed incredibly cosmopolitan to me. I have no idea why, but if you say the word lamp chop to me I immediately envision a young, attractive, childless couple coming home to their loft at the end of a day spent slaving at some law firm or software company. One of them has a shopping bag (reusable mesh of course) in one hand which holds two lamb chops, a bottle of tasteful semi-expensive wine, and most likely the makings of an arugula salad. They throw the lamp chops on their expensive grill stationed on the patio overlooking Lake Union, toss a sophisticated salad, and drink a glass or two of wine while listening to some fabulous cd. They probably fly to Paris the next day.

Like I said, I have absolutely no idea where I'm getting this image, but it's pretty firmly implanted in my brain. Add this to the fact that I like lamb and no-one else in my household does along with my lack of a fabulous patio with grill and you'll understand why I usually flip sadly past any lamb chop recipe I see. But for some reason when I stopped at the store on my way home Friday night to stock up on the decidedly non-cosmopolitan staples of milk, bread, and bacon, I saw a little pack of lamb chops and threw them in my cart. Jim claimed he and the boys wanted pancakes and bacon for dinner. An idea bloomed, lamb chops for one! But I still had no grill and lamb chop recipes always call for the grill. I don't even have a functioning broiler. Luckily Mark Bittman saved the day with his instructions on how to approximate a grill using your stovetop and oven.

I couldn't decide how I wanted to fix the chops, so I prepared each one a different way: a traditional parsley, garlic, lemon rub for one (with a little mint and sea salt thrown in), and a za'atar spice rub for the other. Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend consisting mainly of thyme, sumac, and paprika. Sadly for me, the traditional rub was much better, but the za'atar did show some promise. I think I'll try it again with the addition of a little sea salt and cumin. You can never go wrong with cumin.

I waffled on whether to include this as my official challenge entry for How to Cook Everything, after all I didn't really get the recipe from the book, just the cooking method. What finally decided me was the fact that I cook from this book all the time, whenever I need some sort of basic pancake, roast, or cookie recipe, so I really don't need a challenge excuse to pick up this book. The Pan/Oven grilling method will do just fine.

How to Pan/Oven "Grill" a Steak or Lamb Chop

Prepare your meat and let it sit in its marinade or spice rub. Place an oven rack on the very bottom rung and preheat the oven to its highest non-broil setting, 500F in my case. Heat an oven-proof skillet (I had no idea whether mine was or wasn't, luckily it survived its trial by fire) on the stove-top over medium high heat. Heat the pan until really hot, smoking a bit really. Sprinkle some coarse salt over the pan and drop in your chops. Immediately put the skillet on the bottom rung of your oven. Cook for about 3 minutes a side, more if your chops are very thick. There will be some smoke generated, so you might want to crack a window. The meat will come out all charry and crusty on the outside, medium-rare on the inside. Yum.


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Poached Halibut with Vegetables and Mustard Sauce
Apr 4th, 2005

This is not a super-attractive dish. It comes out looking kind of beige. But it's really, really good. My only tip would be don't stress if you don't have a full cup of the fish poaching liquid left over for the sauce. Just use what you have, the recipe makes way too much sauce anyway.

Poached Halibut with Vegetables and Mustard Sauce

About 2 cups any fish, chicken, or mild vegetable stock
3 tbsp butter
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 medium onions, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 halibut steaks, 3/4 to 1 pound each

Sauce
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 to 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
minced parsley for garnish


In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Lower the heat, and keep it warm.

In the smallest skillet or casserole that can hold the fish steaks, melt the butter over medium heat. Add all ingredients except fish and stock and cook, stirring, until the vegetables wilt, 5 to 10 minutes.

Place the steaks on top of the vegetables and add the stock. Simmer over medium-low heat until the halibut is almost done, about 8-10 minutes (a thin-bladed knife inserted between bone and flesh should reveal little or no translucence). Remove the steaks and vegetables from the pan, and keep them all warm in a warm oven.

Melt 1 tbsp butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture turns nut-brown, about 3 or 4 minutes. Strain 1 cup of the fish-cooking liquid and whisk it gradually into the butter-flour mixture, stirring constantly to eliminate lumps. Cook until slightly thickened, 4 or 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add 1 to 2 tbsp Dijon mustard, or to taste. Serve the halibut and vegetables topped with the sauce and minced parsley.

-Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything
Print Recipe

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