Wednesday, August 6, 2008

We interrupt your dinner plans with this fire.

I can't resist running this image again

From yesterday's inbox:

The good news of the day is that the house didn't burn down. The bad news is that there was a fire in the oven while I was heating my lunch and the oven is now (and possible permanently) non-operational.
Thankfully, a) S. was right there when the fire started and thus able to contain said fire, and, b) all that we need is a new heating element, not a new stove.

So. Tonight? No zucchini stuffed with cherry tomatoes and feta.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pasta with green beans, roasted potatoes, and pesto, or, Jack Bishop is a god.

Jack Bishop's Pasta e Verdura is out of print, but can be had quite cheaply. This book has not only given me many great dinners, but it has also inspired me and given me the confidence to come up with my own recipes.

Last night we had this new-to-us dish and it already ranks with my favorites.

1 lb small red potatoes
1 lb green beans
2 cups loosely packed basil
1/4 c walnuts
1 clove garlic
extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut the potatoes into 1/2" dice, toss with a couple tablespoons olive oil, salt & pepper to taste, and roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes (the original recipe says 40 minutes, but mine took much less time, fwiw).

2. Place the basil, walnuts, and garlic in a food processor, blitz it for a minute, then slowly add 6T extra virgin olive oil through the feed tube (shouldn't the feed tube be called something else?). Scrape out into a large bowl, salt & pepper to taste. As this pesto doesn't contain any cheese, I found it needed more salt that I would usually go for.

3. Cook 3/4 lb pasta (recipes always call for a full pound, but I really find using a little less works out well for me.)

3. Steam the beans until just done, but still relatively crisp.

4. Toss the beans with the pesto; add the potatoes and pasta, toss together.

I made this with locally grown potatoes (thank you, Walt) and our own homegrown beans and basil. Served with corn on the cob (again: thank you, Walt). Buy local! And grow your own!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Pizza Friday 7/25: the Bodega Bay Pizza?

1/2 onion roughly chopped
1 zucchini, sliced
3 small tomatoes, thinly sliced
handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 lb fresh mozzarella
Dough recipe here.


After the pizza was gone, an unexpected visitor dropped by:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Grilled summer vegetables over quinoa

6 oz baby bella mushrooms
1 large green pepper
2 zucchini
1 yellow squash
3 medium tomatoes
1/2 c fresh basil, coarsely shredded
4T extra virgin olive oil
3T balsamic vinegar
4T pine nuts, toasted

1 1/2 c quinoa
3 c. water

1. Combine quinoa & water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat & simmer for 15 minutes. Fluff with fork.

2. Light the grill.
3. Cut zucchini & squash lengthwise into 1/2 inch think planks. Place ion a baking sheet and coat lightly with olive oil; salt & pepper to taste.
4. Halve green pepper; quarter if need be (you want this relatively flat for grilling.
5. Clean mushrooms & cut off a small bit of the stem.
6. Core and dice tomatoes. Combine in a large bowl (big enough for all the vegetables in the end) with the basil; toss with the oil & vinegar.
7. Grill the zucchini and squash over medium-low heat, turning once. While they are grilling, toss the mushrooms and green pepper on the baking sheet and coat with whatever oil has remained behind.
8. Remove the zucchini and squash when tender (just taking a paring knife without much pressure). Grill the green pepper, turning once, and the mushrooms, turning as needed, until done.
9. Cut the zucchini and squash into 1/2 inch pieces. Quarter the mushrooms. Cut the green pepper into 1/4 inch slices.
10. Throw into the bowl with the tomatoes, etc. Toss well.
11. Serve over the quinoa and top with pine nuts.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pizza Friday

Pizza every Friday. Variations are endless, work is easy, and there's always something on hand to use for toppings.

This week:

yellow squash
baby bella mushrooms
fresh oregano

Crust recipe here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What do you mean, "There's no shrimp"?!

So. What do you do when you've planned a meal around a nonexistent shellfish? Completely change course, while still using the fine, fine local summer squash & green pepper, that jalapeno you found but can't remember why you bought, cumin seeds, & of course some onion & cheese. Serve with that homemade tomatillo-chipotle salsa that was found hanging out in the back of the fridge.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bollywood Bean Dip

1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 large onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
black pepper
1/2 t cumin
1 t dijon mustard
1 t garam masala
lime juice

1. Saute onion and garlic one minute; add beans and several grinds of pepper, cooking for 5 minutes over medium-low heat.
2. In food processor, puree beans/onion/garlic with the cumin, mustard, and masala, adding enough lime juice to get to a dip-able consistency.

Best served slightly chilled. Three of us ate this up rather quickly, so you may want to double or even triple the recipe for your next screening of Gumnaam. Doubling the proportion of masala may make dance, just like Enid.

Monday, July 7, 2008

M. Hulot's Holiday Soup:
Peppery Zucchini soup with homemade vegetable stock

Just as Jacques Tati's Monsieur Hulot heads out to the beach to celebrate summer, I enjoy the newly available bounty from the farmer's market and roadside stands. Summer squash tends to grow very well around here and you can buy a lot for very little.

As this is also the time of year when strawberries and blackberries become particularly abundant, room must be made in the freezer for storage.....which means cleaning out those vegetable odds and ends that I have been keeping for months with the intention of making my own vegetable stock. It turned out quite well, I think, giving this zucchini soup a very complex flavor.

Regarding pepper: I'm a bit of a pepper junkie when it comes to a lot of soups anyway, but must stress that the pepper is pretty integral to the taste here. I added more to my bowl when I dished it up.

The soup

2 T unsalted butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 1/2 pound zucchini, chopped large
7 c. vegetable stock
2 medium red potatoes, diced
1 t salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil, shredded

1. In a large pot, melt the butter in the olive oil over medium heat.
2. Saute the the onion 4-5 minutes.
3. Add the zucchini, salt, 10 or 12 good grinds of black pepper. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until zucchini begins to soften slightly.
4. Add stock and potatoes; simmer until potatoes are done, 10-15 minutes.
5. Add basil.
6. Puree (in 2 or 3 batches is easiest).

Serve with crackers.

The vegetable stock
I used all the odds and ends I had been storing in the freezer over the past six months: the green parts of leeks, broccoli stems, carrot ends, onion cores, plus added a couple of fresh carrots and a handful each of fresh parsley and fresh thyme. I added two quarts of water, which was just enough to cover all of the veg in the pot, them simmered for....a couple of hours. I spent the time scanning photo negatives in the next room, perfectly complimentary activities as I was able to keep an eye on the stove lest the pot begin to boil over. Multitasking!

The fruit (groan) of our labors

Picking your own strawberries (21 quarts in 2 1/2 hours = $31.50), plus having your own blackberry bushes growing on the beach (currently giving up a couple of quarts per day) yields great rewards.

Best. Pizza. Ever.

There's nothing film-related about this recipe, but I would be remiss if I didn't pass this on to any- and everyone I know. The basic recipe for Gouda and Red Salad Pizza is from the October 1991 issue of Gourmet, now helpfully archived at Epicurious. My only tweaks are substituting Vidalia onion for red and my own homemade crust for the Boboli, and baking at 475 o na pre-heated pizza stone. (The stone is really invaluable, essential in my view for a great homemade pizza.) I'll let the recipe stand as it is at the Epicurious link; my pizza dough recipe is below.

3/4 c warm water (90-100 degrees F)
1 t sugar
2 1/4 t active dry yeast
1 T olive oil

1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. white flour
1 t salt
2 T cornmeal
1 T freshly ground black pepper
1 t dried oregano

1. Dissolve the sugar in the water; sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water. Add the oil and whisk with a fork. Let stand until the yeast has yielded a head that brings the volume up to one cup. Meanwhile...
2. Add the dry ingredients to a food processor; pulse a few times to combine.
3. When the yeast has activated, turn the processor on and add the water in a steady stream. Let the machine run until the dough forms into something resembling a ball.
4. Lightly coat a glass bowl big enough for the dough after it has doubled in size. Put the dough in, flipping in once to make sure it has a thin coating of the oil. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let the dough rise until nearly double in size. No peeking! (That's why you use a glass bowl.) This should take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.

This might sound odd, but sometimes when I make this pizza, I have leftover topping. I don't know how this happens, as the only produce item that really varies in size each time if the radicchio, and even that doesn't have a huge amount of variation. Anyway, any leftover red salad topping makes outstanding panini filling. I declared said sandwich the I'm Not There Sandwich, as the filling had once been something else, what once was the Best Pizza Ever became the Best Grilled Cheese ever not unlike the changing Dylan surrogates of the Todd Haynes film. (Perhaps fittingly, this was conjured up after getting home late from a screening of the film and
discussion with the director.) Is that a stretch?

Don't answer that.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Win some, lose some

Some dishes just don't turn out so well.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Wizard of Oz curry

Inspired by both The Wizard of Oz and Chicken Cashew Curry from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer.

1 onion, chopped
2 red chilies, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large (3"+) piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 cup broth, veg or chicken
1 can coconut milk
5 cups broccoli florets
3 chicken breast halves, on the bone
black pepper
1 t cumin
1 t coriander
1 t turmeric
1 t ground cardamom
2 T plain yogurt
1 handful unsalted dry-roasted peanuts

1. Generously rub the chicken with black pepper and salt.
2. Grill the chicken over moderately high heat until done or nearly done.
3. Remove from the bone, shredding and chopping as you see fit in to bite-size pieces. Set aside.

4. Saute the onions in olive oil for 3-4 minutes.
5. Add the chilies, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
6. Add cumin, coriander, and turmeric. Cook, again stirring, for 1 minute.
7. Add broth, coconut milk, and cardamom. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
8. Add chicken, cook for 5 - 10 minutes.
9. Add broccoli and simmer until done. Be careful during this next to last step not to overcook the broccoli.
10. Stir in peanuts and yogurt.

Serve over brown rice.

garlic & chilies





red chilies


This almost became the Suspiria curry

or the Double Life of Veronique curry

but as I was taking it to the table, the weather outside became very sinister, what with crazy winds over the lake, dark storm clouds to the south, bright sun to the north. The general color of the curry in the bowl (sort of a red-infused yellow) also reminded me of a very strange weather day of a few years ago when the air itself seemed to be a weird electric yellow.

This was also not nearly as spicy as I thought it might be, so it doesn't really send you into a Veronique fugue state, not does it make you feel woozy (in a good way) like Suspiria (plus, shouldn't a Suspiria dish be Italian? Or maybe German? But Jessica Harper is American. Oh, never mind). In the end, it is very flavorful and colorful and relatively healthy, so it would be good for more adventurous kids. Just like The Wizard of Oz.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

New World quesadillas

1/2 large onion, chopped
6 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 medium head broccoli, chopped very small
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
8 ounces Monterey jack cheese, shredded
whole wheat flour tortillas

1. Saute onions in olive oil until slightly soft
2. Add mushrooms; cook until softened and juices released
3. Add broccoli; saute until bright green but not too soft (you still want a slight bit of firmness)
4. Add beans, cook until mixture is fairly dry

5. Place approximately 2T cheese on one half of one side of a tortilla. Add some of the vegetable mixture, top with the same amount of cheese, and fold into a half-moon.
6. Fry over medium heat in a dry nonstick skillet, turning once, until cheese has melted, bonding the quesadilla together, and the tortilla has browned slightly. Keep warm in 200 degree oven while finishing other quesadillas.

Serve with Roasted tomatillo salsa and oven-roasted potatoes.

Inspired by Terrence Malick's mind- and soul-expanding The New World. One bite of these and Wagner will fill your head.

And my photographic interpretation

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Lady Vanishes / spicy stuffed sweet potatoes

A few years ago, the lovely S. and I were living in an apartment with no table suitable for dining. We therefore usually sat on the floor with our dinner and watched a film. One summer night we had spicy-stuffed-double-baked sweet potatoes (or something like that; I'll post the actual recipe from Jack Bishop's indispensable A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen later) and watched Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes. Starring the lovely Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, and the formidable Dame May Whitty, this is one of Hitch's funniest movies anyway, but watching it under the influence of supremely hot food (the potatoes have red Thai curry paste in them) was like being drunk, sleep-deprived, and who knows what else for 97 straight minutes.