Monday, May 31, 2010

picnic, pool, patio

Three ingredients for summer. YAY SUMMER. I hate everything not summer.

So last night I went here:

original image here

(The annual Capitol lawn memorial day concert). While I’ve had fun going to the beach the past few years for Memorial Day, it’s kind of nice to actually do something meaningful.

Plus, whilst there I saw him:

brad paisley  
Original image here

(Brad Paisley)

Up close he is TINY (I was ~50 feet away, so I got a decent peek- skinny skinny!) but vair vair talented! And definitely the highest caliber of celebrity there (usually it is pretty D List. We’re DC, after all).

We pick-a-nicked, of course. Being a classy family, we packed three courses.



Made Mark Bittman’s “gaucasalsa” (mashed avocado+salsa+lemon juice) and didn’t have tortilla chips but did have tortillas so baked them at 350 in my peppy lil toaster oven with just cooking spray until barely browned and crisp.



More curry-bulgur-mandarin-golden-raisin chicken salad! Which, as these things do, just got more delicious with time. And the curry flavor grew more pronounced, interestingly. Once again with lettuce for wraps (food is inherently more fun eaten 1.Outside and 2. With your hands)


And dessert:


Roasted beets with olive oil and balsamic mmmmmmmmm.

Then today I headed to the pool for the first time where the water was frigid but in the hot sun oh-so-delicious.

Then tonight I had kind of a mystical grilling experience. Real (wo)men use charcoal grills, in my opinion, and I just had perfect synchronicity of timing and heat and flames and… everything!

What I made:


On the lower right are Hebrew National hot dogs. Kosher hot dogs are the only ones that don’t totally skeeve me out. Somehow I feel like having a rabbi around keeps everything more… I mean, kosher.

On the left are a variety of squashies, some of which I marinated (used the same recipe we made for the party in Austin cause it was sooooooo delish) with skewers for kebabage (does anyone ever actually bother soaking them? I don’t!), and the rest of which I thinly sliced to grill for sammiches later this week. Why so much squash?


The farmer’s market had such a beauteous cornucopia that I had to get one of each kind hahahaha. Anyway, here are the finished kebabs (the recipe calls for fresh mint and lemon, but we had no mint and my mom had made a margarita and had lime out so we improvised. So pretty!)


Just lookit that wonderful tasty char. I know it makes things more carcinogenic. It also makes them more delicious. Everything worth doing gives you cancer, I swear.


My doggies, all toasty bun and blistery goodness, with mustard.


And my gorgey gorgey plate (I ended up eating FIVE squash skewers! They were so good. I did not, however, finish my hot dog, hahaha. Plants, man. They are all I ever really want).


Sunday, May 30, 2010

apples to apples

Memorial day weekend= cookouts. Obvi. Two so far. Made two appley dishes.

Cookout #1: Fruit salad!


I was inspired by the flavors in the other day’s chicken salad. I combined chunked Granny Smiths (2.5), a can of mandarin oranges, a banana, the last of the golden raisins, and some walnuts (crunch!). Then dressed with chutney (the last of some mango-ginger and some peach: I swear, the jars in our fridge are breeding, and it’s a constant battle to control the population. Do normal people have multiple chutneys?) and citrus juice (I sprinkled lemon juice directly on the banana to keep it from browning, then mixed lime juice with the chutneys) slightly thinned with water and microwaved for ideal coating!

Served in ridiculous fanciness because it’s the only midsized bowl we have.


This was at my mom’s sister’s. My uncle Louie grilled up some gorgey STEAK!


But in my opinion even more beautiful and delicious were the grilled veg!


I am kind of wincing at all of these pictures because my aunt and uncle both have photography backgrounds. SORRY! But this veggies deserve credit. Grilled shrooms are always great, brussels sprouts taste their best almost black and I now know grilling is just as delicious as roasting but oh my goodness I have to give a special shoutout to those carrots.

Apparently a technique from the local radio personality (?!) who gives cooking advice on Saturday mornings when my uncle goes to pick up his shirts at the cleaners. You just grill a whole raw carrot, dressed as you see fit (he used the steak marinade on everything- obviously not so much for the vegetarians but you could just do something in the vinaigrette family). Louie doesn’t even like cooked carrots but with this technique you really get the best of both worlds- the crunch of the raw carrot with the caramelization from the grill. Mmmmmm.

My platesie, which was heavily dominated by the grillsies!


There was also, going from your 11:00, my aunt’s couscous salad with sun dried tomatoes and asparagus; corn salad; my fruit salad (which turned out really yummy- there was a decent amount left in the bowl but I started chatting with my cousin in the kitchen and picking at it a bit and then… finished it. With my bare hands. Klassy); and my aunt Nan’s salad.


Nan’s salad gets a special shoutout: baby spinach, strawberries, parmesan, some kind of lovely sweet dressing and CAJUN PECANS! Made with pecans, butter, brown sugar, cumin (!) and finished with a splash of vinegar (!). I ate roughly 50,000 of them throughout the course of the evening.

And so we get to today. Today’s event was actually with my dad's family at my dad’s sister's house, but she invited my mom, not my dad. (Hahahahaha he is unpopular). I asked if I could bring anything and she was like “you’ve fed me enough! If you WANT, you can bring a dessert”. So of course I did.

Cookout #2: Apple cake!


I’d had this recipe for Lots O’ Apple Cake marked for quite some time!

Dry (bonus points for being half whole wheat!):




Apples (I halved the recipe and 2.5 cups was EXACTLY two small Granny Smiths):


They said “peeled” but you can see I’m casual about the tops and bottoms. It’s too much of a pain. A little fiber never hurt anyone.

The directions said to add the dry ingredients to the liquid which seemed a little unorthodox but I obeyed. Then I went to fold in the apples and man oh man sticky sticky MESS!


But they made it into the pan (since I halved it I used a 9” pie pan) and after some baking (due to my overeager countertop oven I had to cover it for the last half of the cooking time because it browned so quickly) it came out all gorgey porgey.


Delish! People went kind of crazy on it, actually, I was flattered. Super moist, nice and caramely from the honey, and you really tasted the fruit- don’t other people hate so called “fruit” desserts that are 99% batter?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

siesta key, shoes, soup

This morning> last night.

Had a lovely breakfast/catch up session/retail therapy trip with my pally Lauren.

Where we went in general has very healthful options but does have my number one guilty pleasure:


Oh. Yes.

I had never been to First Watch but Yelp was a fan and it is more or less exactly halfway between Lauren and me, which is always nice. I dug the healthy dishes (and ridiculously un-healthy but catchily named: I’m looking at you, Chicken-changa) on the menu, although it was in my opinion overpriced. I ordered the Siesta Key Cocktail:


Yay organic dairy! I’m trying. The parfait arrived looking absolutely stunning:


But was substantially easier to tackle once rearranged. The “nuts” referred to in the menu seemed to be exclusively CASHEWS! Not at all a problem for me, as I love them.


The muffin of the day looked uninspiring:


And tasted it, too. It took me more than a few bites to even realize that it was (I think?) banana-nut.

Lauren was presh and said “Ooh, let me take a picture of mine!” and her crepes were indeed beautiful (and she had never had crepes before! Girl was missing out!) and I think she shows great potential as a food blogger.


So I received some disappointing news yesterday and then got in a pretty hefty fight with my sister and was… not happy.

Today I was thinking about the life I wanted to lead and I decided I wanted to be the woman who wears these shoes:

DSCF4748 DSCF4749

And then bought them (at DSW! For twenny dollah!)

I am going to an event later today… well, a cookout. I may still wear my black stilettos.

Last night, having not yet moved on to cathartic shopping, I decided to give in to the gloom and make… split pea soup. Yes, okay, it’s late May. In my defense, it was raining.

In a pan I tossed chopped leek, carrot, and celery, and cooked it in a thin film of olive oil for 10 minutes. Then added garlic and fresh rosemary and cooked another 5.


Stirring is good for the soul. I love being in my kitchen making soup.

Once everything was adequately tender, I added split peas, a splash of red wine, and a whole lotta water. (I did 2 cups split peas to 7 cups water)

Brought it to a boil and let it cook for… oh, two hours.

Then I thought, hey, yeah, I’ll add those.


Beet greens. We had ‘em. In my opinion, they are one of the more beautiful foods known to man.


And cooked it for another, oh, hour.

It was gooooooooood and teeeeeeeeeeeender. And quite soothing with some toast.


Followed by some Mad Men and the world felt better.

Friday, May 28, 2010

slab vs. side

I would like for today to be… over. Less than two hours. Good.

Let’s rewind to earlier this week when I had fun recipes (I stockpile posts in a good mood to publish when I’m in a bad! How bipolar of me).

So there are, I think, a lot of Americans who plan dinner based on having a slab of some kind of meat and then from there some things on the side. However, the nutritionists and environmentalists and really even the anthropologists studying food history tell us that it’s the wrong way to go: use meat as an accessory to your meal if you like to add easily accessible protein and flavor, but make it mostly plants!

To that end, I knew Monday’s dinner would involve the using up of some cod. In my heart of hearts I craved fish tacos, but I knew I’d miss the lusciousness of Austin tortillas/salsa/etc., so I decided to take it in a Chinese direction and I’m VERY happy I did cause it was sooooooo good! I used an ingredient that’s been sitting in the pantry for awhile:


Spicy black bean sauce! Fermented black soybeans, soy, a bit of spicy zing. A mix of sauciness and wonderful salty rich slightly chewy black beans. It is a FABULOUS ingredient.

I decided to keep it super simple and just do a classic stir fry. I knew from my Asian stepfamily that the key to a good stir fry is to have everything totally prepped so you can get the oil searing hot, throw everything in, and just cook it for a wee bit.

Soooo I cut my cod (about 7 ounces… for three people. That’s why you stretch it with a veg, see below) into bite sized pieces, and then dusted it with cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Just a light sprinkling- proper dredging is for people with too much time on their hands.


Then I heated a pan to medium-high, added a thin film of peanut oil (high smoking point=best for stir fries), and threw in the fish, stirring constantly until it started to brown on the outside.

At that point I added:

1 cup frozen peas (still frozen- they cooked in the pan and released some liquid for a sauce)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 T. black bean sauce

And lowered the heat, covered it, and let everything steam until the fish and the peas were both cooked through.


This was FABULOUS! The fish was tender and flavorful, the peas added a nice bit of color and their own unique sweetness, and wow the black bean sauce is a great shortcut. TONS of rich, salty, sour, complex flavor using just a small amount! It made this dish realllllly meaty!


For a nice veggie side I tweaked this recipe for Chinese braised red cabbage.

1/2 large red cabbage , finely shredded
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1 t. minced fresh ginger
2 star anise
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 T plus 1 t. rice wine vinegar
1 T soy sauce
2 T brown sugar
1 t. sesame oil
Sesame seeds

Put cabbage through sugar into a medium pan with a lid, and bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes on low until all the liquid has evaporated and then stir more regularly until liquids are sticky and coat cabbage.

Serve scattered with sesame seeds and drizzled with sesame oil.


Also vair nice (and vair necessary- that cabbage was OLD! But that’s the beauty of braising :D)

A bonus (or drawback, depending on how you look at it) of this meal is that it made my house smell like a Chinese restaurant. A delicious one! But that is indeed a strong… olfactory… statement.

Another thing I had to use:


While I was in Austin, my mom made her fabulous roast chicken. I decided chicken salad was in order! But not just any chicken salad. Fabulous chicken salad from a fabulous new cookbook featuring these two fabulous ingredients:


At the library book sale I picked up the fabulous Healthy Cooking for Two (or Just You) because I am tired of constantly mentally halving and fourthing recipes. And new cookbooks are just always fun!

I saw everything that went in this chicken salad and went YES!

The dressing:
2 green onions (I used the equivalent amount in leeks… what we had!)
1/4 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. chutney (I used peach, from the farm stand. Yum!)
2 tsp. curry powder


And then, in fact, the majority of this salad is….


I love bulgur! It’s the easiest to prepare whole grain ever. You can boil it and it takes 10 minutes or you can even just dump boiling water on top of it and let it sit. It has a unique, nutty delicious flavor and a fun shreddy texture.


So dressing plus 1/2 cup bulgur, cooked in your manner of choosing and then add

1 small can mandarin oranges, drained (ours had been sitting on our shelf for legit a decade, and I was delighted to use it!)
2 T raisins
salt and pepper

I put mine on farmer’s market lettuce and did lettuce wraps. Vair delicious and refreshing.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

back to hippie food

Much as I loved my breakfast taco and Malbec diet in Austin, my tummy was starting to rebel by the end.

I guess I am officially an annoying food blogger, because I was straight-up craving a green smoothie. We’re going to gourmet-ify it and call it “chilled soup”, which it is… ish. I do, after all, eat it in a bowl with a spoon.


This one featured another product sent to me by the Youbar people.


Protein exhausts me. If I could, I would mostly ignore it. I like eating fruits and vegetables and carb upon carb upon carb. Well and fat, too. Cheese! Olive oil! Etc.

I am irritated by the artificialness of protein powder, but I like the ease of it- with meat you have the psychological implications of factory farming, the potential biohazards of salmonella and their ilk, and I will crave a burger or a steak maybe once every six months but in general I just don’t need that much meat.

So anyway, to combat the inherent gritty chalkiness of protein powder, I dissolved it with 1/2 cup of water before adding it to my smoothie chilled soup.


And then combined it with:

1 cup frozen spinach, micro-thawed for 1 minute
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup milk
handful of ice


And then to round out my meal I had one of my pear muffins, which was really an antique at this point but had been refrigerated and smelled and tasted okay.

Thoughts on the protein powder? It had a nicely short ingredient list of soy protein, organic cane juice, and organic vanilla powder (wish the soy had been organic too…). The smoothie was a bit chalky, unsurprisingly. I don’t hold protein powder to particularly high standards. It is what it is. Not bad.

And actually everything came together quite nicely when I crumbled the muffin on the smoothie soup smoup :D


Another food blogger lunch- a salad that incorporated as much of the color wheel (and food pyramid) as possible.


Dark Green light green red blue/black orange. Protein fiber calcium lycopene monounsaturated fatty acids!

It’s all about quality ingredients: farmer’s market lettuce, blissful Haas avocado, chipotle salsa, TJ’s black bean dip, and Harry and David Cheddar- the last of it!

I almost didn’t add the cheese (I have been eating RAWTHER a lot of it lately) but then I went ahead and… did! And it tied everything together so perfectly with its wonderful sharp cheesiness mmm mm mm.


And then for lunch… calling this “dessert” is a stretch but I do consider it a treat… ants on a log! Well, actually, just log. Classed-up log of organic celery and almond butter. Mmm mm hippie food!


And THE classic food blogger dessert the other night, one I love and haven’t had in too long- frozen banana soft serve. Mmm mm mm.


There are times (like in Thailand) when I’ve been known to brush aside all other food groups and just eat fruit all day, but my intake has actually been a little low lately. What a wonderful thing to be stepping up my consumption of!