Tuesday, July 31, 2012

two uses

Want a healthy way to make ground beef and also get more use out of it?


So if you want to buy organic ground beef (yes! You do! Is the answer! So your ground beef doesn’t kill you!) you might find yourself more limited in your choices of fat content. I generally am only able to find 80% lean organic ground beef (which means of course 20% fat, of the icky saturated kind generally).

So here is what you do! Brown your beef like normal (I use a nonstick skillet). It’ll yield a lot of fat, which will turn to liquid in the pan. Meanwhile, set up your draining mechanism: a simple strainer over a container to catch what goes through. Now pour the whole mixture, beef, fat, and all, into the container, and quickly pour a lotta water atop.

Here’s what will happen:

The fat will get rinsed off the beef. Then you can season the beef and use it for things like this taco salad:


It’s good to add some moisturizing-type ingredients for the beef, because it will be less moist without its fat in it. I used a lot of fire-roasted tomatoes plus peppers and onions (more moisture!) and of course yummy taco seasoning spices like cumin and chili powder (even a touch of cinnamon), mm. Made into salad with chopped cabbage, avocado (the fat returns, in a very healthy form) and tortillas cut up and baked into strips. Quite nice.


But wait! There’s a container full of beefy water and beef fat!

Here’s what you do: chill the container. The beef fat will float to the top and, being saturated, solidify. Just break it off into little pieces and you know what you have? Beef broth.

Admittedly a little wimpy beef broth, but here’s what you do: slow cook oodles of sliced onions and mushrooms and what do you get? The basis for FRENCH ONION SOUP!

Mm. Not particularly summery, but oh-so-good. Plus bread ‘n gruyere atop, naturally. Let’s be real: french onion soup is a bread and cheese vehicle.


Plus my current summer obsession of salad that’s like… 3 parts dijon mustard, 1 part each olive oil and red wine vinegar. Fresh chives optional but great. OBSESSED.

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You know what’s another great thing to have to put to dual uses? Injera, baby!

Steve’s wrapping up his second Americorps year (and going to grad school at the same time, nbd) and they’re doing an Olympics theme with the kiddos this summer. Equals exploring different countries of the world, including Ethiopia. Equals INJERA!

Agh injera is the best. If you have not had it and don’t have the plethora of Ethiopian establishments we have in the DC area, do yourself a favor and befriend an Ethiopian person and ask them for a recipe. Your life will improve considerably.

So I’m going to preface the pictures of this dinner by saying Steve preceded these items with seven hot dogs. Cause that’s my boyfriend, yep. I’d eaten probably my usual dinner of a bunch of veggies and fifty servings of dessert.

But then he took out the injera and got to topping it. He speedy-quick roasted a tiny eggplant (just poke it with a knife, put it in a 500-degree oven, and leave it alone. The molten stuff that comes out- ideally mixed with olive oil and lemon juice- is revelatory). Down that went. Then, in the corner there? That’s a mixture of plain yogurt and the burn-your-tongue-but-you-dont-care-it’s-so-good African-style hot sauce from the farmer’s market.


Whipped those together.


Then he made this concoction which as I recall involved a great deal of olive oil and walnuts and some Chinese spinach (?!). It was marvelous.


And it was a quality second dinner for us both :)


Monday, July 30, 2012

artichoke adventures

The series continues- things I wrote a billion years ago and never published :) Apologies for slightly-out-of-season-now vegetables.

Artichokes! My faaaaaaaaaaavorite!


Back story- I went to college in Boston, for those of you new to the blog, as did my cousin Steven, son of Tom and Kathy. He was a senior when I was a freshman, and Tom and Kathy would come to visit BOTH of us and take us out for a scrumptious dinner in the North End, Boston’s Little Italy. Then Steven graduated, and they kept coming and taking ME out! This is because Tom and Kathy are awesome (and really really love the North End!)

So one time we got these stuffed artichokes, and it’s safe to say that I spend the next three years thinking about them. They were that good.

And, now that I’ve done it--- so so so easy!

The most formidable task is cutting up the artichoke.

Chop its top off so you can see its swirly innards like so.



Then cut off the pointy parts at the tops of the leaves.


Then once one is done, chuck it in some lemon water to keep it from getting too brown.


And make your stuffing!

The star of my stuffing is these sun dried tomato bits that have been in my cupboard for, I’m not even kidding, a billion years. They’re great. You could just use sun-dried tomatoes, obviously.


All mixed up: breadcrumbs, garlic, olive oil, herbs, cheese- tasty things! Obviously this is something that is open to interpretation. You know what I bet’d be great in there? Pine nuts. Might try that next time.


Getting the choke out is essential to have room for the filling (and to prevent the people who are eating these from choking to death, an admirable goal as a chef). I used a kinda pointy ice cream scoop to hollow it out. A grapefruit spoon would work too.


It’ll look like this:


I used just a spoon to smush filling in between the layers. Starting on the outside and working my way in worked well for me.


Give it a long bakesie in some broth and that’s that!

So good! Make these! You’ll feel like you’re in the Italian countryside.


Stuffed Artichokes

2 c. breadcrumbs
1/2 c. grated parmesan
2/3 cup finely chopped sun dried tomatoes (I used a dried seasoning mix that included herbs; you could use straight up sun dried tomatoes, optionally adding your favorite herbs. If you use oil-packed, cut back on the oil)
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 T olive oil
4 large artichokes
2 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups water
half a lemon

Make the stuffing: Combine breadcrumbs through 1 T olive oil.

Prep the artichokes- cut off the top 1 inch of leaves and trim the remaining ones so they aren’t sharp on top (I use scissors). Cut the stem so only half an inch or so remains. Pull out the center leaves until you can see the choke (the fluffy, spiky bit) and remove, using a grapefruit spoon or, as I did, an ice cream scooper with a pointy edge. Put the artichokes in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice to keep them from browning excessively.

Spoon the stuffing inside the artichokes. I found the easiest way to do this was by squeezing a small spoon between the layers of leaves, and stuffing a large amount of stuffing into the middle.

Put the artichokes in the Dutch oven, and sprinkle each artichoke with 1/2 tsp. with the remaining olive oil. Put on the lid, transfer the pot to a 375 degree oven, and bake until tender, about 50 minutes. Then uncover and bake until filling browns, another ten minutes or so.



So we had some more artichokes, and for these I decided to go classic and just steam em and eat em with mayonnaise. I am not someone who puts mayonnaise on sandwiches or in potato salads but man oh man the only thing I want with fresh artichokes is mayonnaise.

But wait! Mark Bittman has a recipe for homemade mayonnaise!

The first time I tried to make it, using the supposedly idiot proof food processor method, it was a disaaaaaaaaster. A hot mess. It did not emulsify at all.

So… I did it by hand! Rather, I did it by hand with the invaluable assistance of my sister. SO much easier when you have someone to stream the oil while you whisk/switch with you when you think your arm will fall off.


AGH HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE IS SO GOOD! Particularly using farmer’s market egg yolk. So rich and flavorful!

Parceled the mayo into adorable individual containers.


Happy dunking! This combination just makes me so happy.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

why I love electricity

This begins a series of blog posts that I planned and took pictures for a billion years ago but didn’t get it together to publish til now. Enjoy!

The most ambitious “cooking” one can make when the power is out and it is 100 degrees out:


So living in Northern Virginia we were part of the exceedingly exciting derecho that knocked out billions of peoples’ power. Well millions. Okay maybe hundreds of thousands. Still.

While the storm was actually happening, I was enjoying a tasty post-Magic Mike beer with a friend. Heh. The power flickered a bit, and the bartender generously announced that if any women were feeling afraid, he’d be happy to give them a comforting cuddle. Heh. Anyway, then we left and the power was out in the garage in which we’d both parked. Eesh number one. I walked her to her car, she drove me to mine. Safety! Then I pulled out of the garage and quickly realized how insane the storm had been when there was no electricity around me for my entire drive home. Let me tell you, it is a frightening experience. Driving down one four-lane turnpike, I gave thanks for my highbeams as they helped me avoid the tree branches/limbs/trunks blocking much of the entire right lane. I tried multiple routes into my neighborhood, all unsuccessfully blocked by fallen trees. At this point on the verge of hysteria, I reached my sister and learned she and my mother were, yknow, alive, and got a tip on how to get in my neighborhood.

Getting home and looking up at the beautiful and mysterious owl atop the power line, seemingly guarding our driveway, I was reminded what’s important and what isn’t.

Anyway, following an unsatisfying night of sleep, I brewed some sun tea! Not iced tea. Warm tea. A little weird but very flavorful.


But really we were WIMPS and almost immediately (say, 40 hours in) bailed and went to my aunt and uncle’s, who have a generator.

They cooled us and fed us, sheesh. Lucky us. This was SO GOOD. Salad (we contributed farmer’s market tomatoes) and seafood pasta (made with Trader Joe’s seafood mix, which is SO GOOD and I should REMEMBER TO BUY, as well as some extra shrimp). Plus Trader Joe’s garlic naan, mmm.


This wine tastes like grapefruit and is fantastic.


The rest of the time at my aunt and uncle’s consisted of walking on the beautiful GW trail along the Potomac (I saw a great blue heron catch a fish!) and reading THE BEST BOOK I’VE READ THIS YEAR-

Attention loyal blog readers, YOU MUST READ Neversink, a completely enchanting and beautifully written (for what is ostensibly a children’s book, no less) mythological tale about PUFFINS! Get it. You want to. It’s also by a really good friend of ours :)

Continuing with the luxurious life at the generator-owners’ home, lunch was preceded by a delicious cheese plate:


And I used farmer’s market green beans and eggs we’d rescued from our fridge to make a rather spectacular salade nicoise.


So duh-licious!


Saturday, July 28, 2012

cmon memories!

Here is when I decided to get it together with blogging:

Steve and I were on a ROMANTIC SUMMER PICNIC, looking out at the Potomac GLISTENING UNDER THE SUNSET, with BIRDS OF PREY FLYING OVERHEAD. We were eating a SUBLIME DINNER prepared entirely by Steve (delicious salads of greens, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds, smoked gouda and balsamic vinaigrette; smoked salmon; peanut butter and banana and honey sandwiches; Greek yogurt with honey; and fresh beautiful cherries), and I DIDN’T HAVE MY CAMERA.

That’s rubbish. That’s what memories are made of.

Get it together, Lele.

(He also very sweetly said that he missed my blog, so Stove, this is for you.)

Anyway, chronology or narrative or actually including proper recipes be damned, here are a few things that have rocked my world this summer:

Plums! Mmm, plum tart.


Here’s what happened: we had too many plums going mushy at work (fyi, I work at a food bank). Though I hope in the future we’ll have the kind of commercial kitchens that can do rescue operations (making jam outta mushy plums, making sauce out of beat-up tomatoes, making banana bread outta brown bananas, etc.), for now… that role falls to me. I haaaaaaaaaate wasting food.

So a gazillion plums were lovingly (ish) pitted and peeled by me and my long-suffering boyfriend and went into a crockpot with some sugar, lemon peel and lavender just for funsies.They turned into a wonderful thick puree.

My stepmother’s birthday was last weekend and my dad had planned a cookout, so I threw together

Improvised Asian-inspired Plum Barbecue sauce with: plum puree, soy sauce, Sriracha, dry mustard, brown sugar, sun dried tomatoes, ketchup, seasoned rice vinegar, and so on and so forth. Huge hit.

Still had a ton of plum puree.

So I improvised Sweet and nutty tart crust by whirring together: sweetened coconut flakes (that I confess had been in my freezer forever), butter, walnuts, oats, flour, and some of the plum puree.

Looked nice, tasted awesomely rich.


Baked it til it smelled amazing.


Poured the plum puree on top and topped with one of the least mushy plums, sliced up; and more coconut. 



This tart was a big hit at the party—it still had a nice tart zing from the plums, and I think it’s nice in the summer to have desserts that highlight seasonal fruit and aren’t necessarily chocolate/caramel/butter/cream-drenched. They’re a little more refreshing.

Also made my grandmother’s plum cake but must consult with my aunties on this one, because though it tasted as glorious as it did when she made it, it looked a hot mess. It calls for an entire tablespoon of cinnamon sprinkled atop it and mine ended up looking like… a brown powdery mess.

So… still have a TON of plum puree! Dear readers, I ask (ESPECIALLY YOU RACHEL IF YOU’RE READING THIS), how would you use a great deal of plum puree?

Right now it’s in my freezer, while I bide my time.

Here’s another great thing I made this summer- Martha Stewart's grilled whole chicken with lemon and oregano. Agh so easy! So delicious! My vegetarian best friend was joining us for dinner, and I totally think she was considering eating it (I also casually dropped that it was Halal and organic, so she should feel fairly virtuous doing so)

I went out to flip it partway through and I had to take a picture cause it already looked so fab.


Annnnnd off the grill.


Annnnnnd carved and ready to go into peoples’ bellies. GOSH it was so good. Tastes like the chicken you eat in Greece, those in the know. For those who haven’t experienced it, the combined forces of fire, lemon, olive oil, and oregano (plus that happy, un-factory-sourced chicken) makes one tasty meal.


Plus Indian-seasoned grilled squash kabobs, looking pleasantly jarring on their extremely bright orange platter.


Thursday, July 5, 2012


Gahh, how is my BABY SISTER 21 years old?! She is six! Yet somehow… she is 21!

My sister is home for the summer and it is SO NICE.There’s something wonderful about both being (sort of… not at all but at least looking like it on the outside) grownups. Less bickering. More enjoyable times spent together.

Like this nice meal I demanded we eat by candlelight (to enjoy the last few minutes of natural light; avoid harsh flourescence; and set a totally romantic mood hah).


Sister is good sport.


Dinner was guh-reat. Caprese salad (okay, not MEGA classily sliced mozz, but it tasted good), roasted chickpeas (olive oil, garlic salt, cumin, paprika; GREAT); some leftover potatoes from a previous evening; and a tuna and pasta salad my sister made.


I love dinners that are comprised of a lot of tastes of a variety of things. Which is why if I could I’d get many more meals at tapas establishments and the Whole Foods salad bar. But that is a separate (financial, largely) discussion.


On my sister’s request, courtesy of some amaaaaazing local shiitakes I got while camping as well as some very tasty cabbage, I made our fave tofu recipe. It’s Japanese comfort food: cooked cabbage, mushrooms, and crumbled tofu, simply seasoned with soy sauce and mirin. A little peculiar for the gajillion degree weather we’ve been having, but good.


And so we arrive to Malindi’s birthday itself, the day I arrived home from work to find my front lawn looking like so:


So many questions so little time. Inflated kiddie pool? Watering can? Duct tape? Only the beer bottles were an obvious choice.

There was a lottttt of agonizing about where Malindi wanted to go for her birthday. Various ideas were discussed (All you can eat Korean buffet? Plate with a gazillion beers?) and it was discussed whether it was worth going into DC, whether the dinner should be combined with going-out-ing, but finally after Malindi seemed unenthusiastic about any of the things she was suggesting, I went “Ooh! I know exactly where to go!” And then we went to the place with this lovely chill-yet casual, enjoyable Mediterranean vibe:


Cava! Cava is the BEST. They have GREAT food, GREAT drinks and a GREAT vibe. My friend, via her sister who lives in DC, taught me about it. It is a great place to go with a group, whether to celebrate a special occasion or just catch up with an old friend :)

The birthday girl got a spiced pear martini. She loved it. Courtney (seated next to her) approved.


Gosh my sister is so beautiful right?!

Great food, poor pictures.

Grilled halloumi (uh-mazing. Grilled cheese! It’s grilled! And cheese!)


Zucchini fritters that had the most amazing molten-licious dill-y filling and the most wonderful crispy outside, with decadently rich tzaziki (whole milk yogurt for sure!)


Amazing spicy/cheesy mussels


Courtney got their version of the half smoke (DC’s famous chili dog) which involved tomatoes and feta and other awesomeness and looked amazing.

Being newly 21, Malindi went for another round: our waiter’s recommendation of this amaaaaaaaazingly refreshing gin, lemon ‘n cucumber concoction. So perfection for summer!

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Then when Malindi went to the bathroom, our waiter, who’d already hinted at a birthday surprise, asked me, “Have you ever had the French toast?”

He brought out this beautiful creation and the thoroughly inebriated table to our right thoroughly enjoyed singing Happy Birthday to my sister.


So what was it?

Okay, have any of you been to a Greek festival? Inevitably they had loukomades, amaaazing fried donuts soaked in a wonderful lemony honey-rich syrup. This was a GIANT LOUKOMADE. With the added benefit of a mountain of whipped cream. Which, I suspect from its enjoyable licoricey note, had some ouzo thrown in for fun.