Saturday, September 19, 2015

You really don't need the special equipment

The long commute to and from my job does not leave me a lot of time to cook. My weekends are often spent socializing, and in June I was diagnosed with cancer.

As cancer patients go, I am so far one of the luckiest women on the planet. The cancer was not invasive, the surgery had no complications, I do not need chemotherapy. I am getting radiation therapy, but after week 3, the side effects aren't debilitating. We'll see how things are next week.

Between the diagnosis and recovering from the surgery, my creative juices went on holiday. Somewhere in that time, the people at Epicurious started sending out a newsletter and a few weeks ago this recipe caught my eye.

My darling Nexx loves skirt steak, and I thought the combination of white beans and broccolini would be tasty. When I read the recipe, I thought two things. 1) I don't have a wire basket 2) This needs red pepper.

I didn't change anything from the base recipe:
  • 4 garlic cloves, divided (I probably used a bit more)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) skirt steak, cut crosswise into 2 equal pieces
  • 1 bunch broccolini (about 10 ounces), trimmed, halved lengthwise (quartered lengthwise if large) (and I'm sure broccoli would be fine if you sliced it thinly enough)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed, drained

It smelled delcious coming together, though in retrospect a bit more oregano would have been good, and a touch less mustard.

Finely chop 2 garlic cloves. Place in a large bowl or shallow baking dish, then whisk in vinegar, Dijon, 1/2 cup oil, 1 Tbsp. oregano, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. 

Reserve 1/4 cup vinaigrette for serving; add steak to remaining vinaigrette and turn to coat. Let marinate at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour. (I think I gave it two hours. A nap may have been involved)

Meanwhile, preheat broiler and thinly slice remaining 2 garlic cloves. Toss broccolini, remaining 2 Tbsp. oil, 1 Tbsp. oregano, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper on rimmed baking sheet. Broil 5 minutes, then remove from oven. Add beans and garlic and toss to combine. Set wire rack on top of broccolini mixture. Place steak on rack; discard vinaigrette.

I just put the steak on top of the beans and broccolini. Everything came out just fine.

Broil steak, turning halfway through, until cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. (a little more than that actually. 3 minutes a side gave us quite rare)

Let steak rest 5 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer broccolini mixture to a medium bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp. reserved vinaigrette, then divide among 4 plates. Thinly slice steak against the grain and serve with broccolini mixture and remaining vinaigrette alongside.

It did, in the end, need the red pepper, in our humble opinions. It just added a wonderful dash of brightness and a little heat that was so delicious it brought everything up a level. Overall, something I would make again with my addition.

Next time: a different take on linguine and clam sauce.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

It didn't really go with the soup

When I made the curried cauliflower soup several weeks ago, I wanted something fresh and herbal to go alongside it. I thought, "cilantro," which often comes as a garnish on curries. I also figured chicken, to keep things light.

I came across this recipe on Epicurious and was sufficiently intrigued. I love pesto in many shapes and forms. Basil, sun-dried tomato, olive, and a cilantro one seemed like just the ticket. I did however, make one major change, and then when eating the leftovers, one minor one. I'll be interested in what y'all think.

  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/3 cup salted roasted macadamia nuts 
  • 1/4 cup chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 7 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin (I went with boneless thighs here. They're cheaper, have more flavor and I really don't like poultry skin)
The big change I made was not switching out the breasts for thighs, but I substituted cashews for the macadamia nuts. I already had to buy the cashews and I thought this would tie the two dishes together.
Combine first 5 ingredients in processor (If you don't have a processor, you can use a blender, but be prepared to dig a lot of the pesto out from under the blades). Blend until nuts are finely chopped. Add 6 tablespoons oil and process until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before using.)
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sauté until brown and cooked through, about 6 minutes per side. 
Transfer chicken breasts to plates. Top each with some pesto and serve.
As you can see from the title of the post, they didn't go well with the curried cauliflower soup. On their own, they're delicious, but the pesto was a bit thick and it really needed a little bit of acid somewhere. Nexx suggested lime juice, which I squeezed over the leftover. That made a lot of difference and is definitely on the list of things to use when I make it again. Possibly a touch of black pepper as well, but only a touch. I'm excited to make this for friends because it's so different. It's also suitable for the friends I have on low-carb diets, though some Old Bay potato salad with crispy onions might work for those of us who do eat carbs.

If you make it, with cashews or macadamias, let me know!

You can also friend me on Facebook and comment there. Just let me know you read the blog when you send the friend request.


Friday, February 13, 2015

I haven't made anything curried in a while

This was something I picked up a while ago--I actually made it back in January.  Like a lot of people, I need to eat more vegetables, and I couldn't recall last time I had made anything with cauliflower. I've made curried carrot soup, and I've made aloo gobi, and this recipe seemed to evoke some of the best of both: 

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • 2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to season
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds), trimmed and cut into florets 
  • 4 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Freshly-ground black pepper, to season
  • 1/4 cup roasted cashew halves, for garnish (optional, see Recipe Note)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)
  • red chile pepper flakes, for garnish (optional)

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Cook the onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt until onions are soft and transluscent, 8-9 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add garlic and cook for 2 additional minutes. Add cauliflower, vegetable broth, coriander, turmeric, cumin, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring pot to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer until cauliflower is fork-tender, about 15-17 minutes
Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender until smooth, and then return the soup to the soup pot. (Alternatively, use an immersion blender to purée the soup right in the pot.) Stir in the coconut milk and warm the soup. Taste and add more salt, pepper or spices if you’d like.
To serve, ladle the soup into favorite bowls and garnish with a handful of toasted cashews, a few springs of parsley, sprinkle of red chile flakes and a dash of olive oil to top.
Maybe it's because I smoked for many years, but I do have a heavy taste for spice. I tripled the spices, and keep thinking I maybe just should have gone with garam masala. The flavor was tasty, and very warming, but not spicy on the tongue. I felt like there was something missing. The condiments did make a lot of difference. The hot pepper was a nice contrast and the cashews added a richness not present in the cauliflower naturally. I tried some cilantro on top, but it didn't work for me. The addition of the olive oil was nice as well, especially when I had some pita bread with the soup.
Nexx suggested the addition of ginger next time and I tried that with some of the leftovers. It added a brightness that made a lot of difference, so that's definitely going in next time. Overall, a decidedly worthy experiment. There's also a link to a recipe to a roasted cauliflower and potato soup with dill that you may be seeing a blog entry about in the future.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Chili therapy

When I turned 30, one of my nearest and dearest gave me a copy of Gloria Steinem's Revolution From Within. It's a self-esteem book, and at that time I was in a relationship that wasn't very healthy, depressed a lot, and probably quite tiring. I love Steinem's writing and some stories at the end of the book stayed with me.

They were about creating as therapy. Painting, throwing pots, using your senses in the process of making something beautiful.

Oddly enough, she did not mention cooking, but I can't think of a better example. Cooking uses all the senses. Does the lamb look lean or fatty? Toast the seeds until you hear them pop. Does the fragrance of one spice stand out or did they all blend well? Do the vegetables feel firm under your hands? I could go on about kneading bread dough, but I think I have in a previous entry and this is about chili. This is all before you even get around to tasting things.

Guess what I did this afternoon? It was going to be tomorrow morning because I thought I was going to a write-in today, but the write-in is tomorrow, so chili today. Currently simmering on the stove I have:

  • 2 pounds of cubed lamb
  • One bulb of garlic, minced
  • 4 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes with green chiles 
  • 4 15oz cans of Goya small red beans. They smell pretty sweet.
  • 3 baseball-sized onions, chopped
  • 2 poblano peppers, chopped
  • 2 T ground dried chiles (more on that below)
  • 2 T ground cumin
  • 1 T chopped ginger (there's always at least one jar in the fridge)
  • 1 dried habanero, crumbled to bits
  • 2 shakes of ground coriander
  • 2 bottles of Magic Hat not-quite-pale ale

The apartment smells fabulous, but the chili won't be ready for hours. It will simmer for quite a while, then be reheated in the morning, and it will be served with some crusty rolls. I'll try to get Nexx to comment.

When I went into my severely overloaded spice cabinet for the chili powder, I found two things that made me smile. Dried red chiles (the type you find in some of your spicy Asian dishes in American restaurants. (I am not getting into Asian authenticity here. You can't make me.) Also a bag of dried chiles de arbol. There was also cumin seed, probably from my last batch of garam masala.

So, I used my trusty spice grinder instead of the usual jarred stuff. Assuming this isn't atomically hot, I think this chili will be quite tasty.

It was certainly sensuous.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

In which Kate ruminates on egg salad

The first time I saw egg salad was probably in the sandwich of one of my elementary school peers. I thought it looked absolutely disgusting. I was not that fond of mayonaise anyway I still rarely use it. I have had jars of may go bad in my fridge from non-use. Turkey sammiches after Thanksgiving and tuna salad is about it. Anyway, and it just didn't appeal at all.

I love eggs. I make omelettes that I've had some fabulous feedback on. Nexx, who doesn't like scrambled eggs, gobbles them up when I make them. I've made a lovely green chile quiche (and lost the damn recipe, I will have to look into that). I've never been overly fond of cold eggs, though. I usually don't eat deviled eggs either. Call it a quirk.

But, once you've figured out the exact amount of time you need to make yourself a boiled egg, there is nothing like it. It's a simple thing, totally self-contained. You can, if you wish, simply peel, salt, and eat.

I took to making warm egg salads a couple decades ago. I didn't want to spend the fussing of making an omelette, and I wanted something simple and comforting. I soft-boiled the egg until the yolk was just set. Since your kitchen and your altitude are guaranteed to vary. I am not going to tell you how to boil an egg. I can tell you a story about a relative who needed a cookbook to fry one, but it's a short story and more sad than funny.

I've mushed an egg with the yolk not quite set with with black pepper and crackers and that was quite delightful. I've since moved on to various combinations of mushables. If you have some ideas let me know. Here are some of mine.

  • hot sauce. One favorite of mine is called Jump Up and Kiss Me. Cajun Power garlic sauce is also awesome here.
  • Sriahcha. Rooster power!
  • Curry powder and minced onions (figure about 2 teaspoons of mince onion per egg. Curry powder to taste)
  • Dried basil and parmesan cheese with a dab of olive oil (almost like pesto)
  • Cheese, onion, and mustard. I have five kinds of mustard in the fridge, but some dry hot Chinese mustard in the cupboard. My sweetie has asked me not to buy any more for a while.
  • Dried rosemary and crushed garlic (because I am lazy and keep garlic in a jar on hand)
Crackers are not necessary, though toast could also be delicious if you wanted to treat a warm egg salad as a spread. I tend to treat my egg salad as a dip and scoop it out of the bowl with the crackers. My current favorite crackers and made from lentils and corn. The brand name escapes me. I wouldn't go with too buttery of a cracker, it might overwhelm the egg.  Nexx found the lentil crackers in the gluten-free aisle and we find them delicious, though neither of us is medically required to avoid wheat.

If you try some these, let me know how you like them, or how you improved them!

and happy new year!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What to get at the Asian Market

I've had this recipe on my tablet for a while, meaning to either ask Nexx to write up an entry or to just put it up myself. It's a great side dish, though I'm damned if I can remember just what we served it with.

I have, in learning about Asian food, come to enjoy the lightness and tang of some side dishes and salads. An easy snack is slicking cucumbers adding black sesame seeds and stirring them up with some ponzu. Ponzu, if you have not experienced it, is a citrus-based sauce. A lot of what you see in stores is actually ponzu shoyu, which means there is soy sauce involved, but it's commonly called ponzu.

I love cabbage, maybe it's the Polish ancestry. I love a good coleslaw, kraut, or golabki. I have on occasion made "lazy pierogie" which is fried cabbage and onions stirred up with medium-sized pasta shells.

But I digress (surprise, surprise). The following recipe is easy, tasty and light, which is perfect for summer days ahead. I think I'll serve it alongside next time Austin grills some salmon with an Asian-themed sauce.

Napa Cabbage Salad (serves 2)

10 leaves of Napa cabbage
1 dried kombu
60 g bonito flakes (which are also delicious stirred up with rice and soy sauce. A great way to use up leftover rice)
15 g of ponzu

Slice off the bottom 5 cm of the cabbage leaves and set them aside for another use (soup comes to mind). Pour boiling water on the kombu and let it rest while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Cut the cabbage leaves horizontally into strips about 1 cm wide (figure half an inch). Cut the kombu into strips about 2 cm long and 5 mm wide. Mix the cabbage, kombu, bonito and ponzu in a bowl. Serve chilled.

Delicious, light and nicely crunchy. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A rustic take on vodka sauce

I game on a lot of Saturdays. Sometimes it's D&D, sometimes it's board games. Of late, we've been working on putting Shadowrun characters together. If Austin doesn't fire up the grill or make chili, we usually send out to the pizza place. 

Not usually for pizza, though. Salads, calzone, sandwiches, wings. Most recently, a couple of us got penne vodka. It was merely okay. I thought I could do better, so I mulled it over for a week and this is what I came up with.

1 Cup diced yellow onion
2 T unsalted butter
4 oz diced pancetta
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
6 oz can of tomato paste. I use Contadina. The ingredients read: Tomatoes. Nothing else.
1.5 cups of your favorite vodka (I used Chopin. Nexx thinks I should have used a grain vodka instead of potato)
Juice of half a lemon
1 t black pepper
1 pound of your favorite pasta. Penne is traditional, but honestly, I find it boring. And if I'm putting this much effort into a sauce, I want something that holds on to it. I used fusilli, but as you wish.
approx 1 cup heavy cream
grated parmesan (optional)

Melt the butter in a skillet on medium-low heat. Stir in the onions, and keep stirring until they are your favorite shade of brown and well caramelized. Set aside.

Cut the sundried tomatoes into strips. Place in a bowl, a mortar & pestle, a food processer and smush them into a chunky paste. Set aside.

 In a sauté pan, cook the pancetta until crisp. Remove the pancetta, but leave about 1T of the fat in the pan. Deglaze the pan with 3/4 cup of the vodka and keep the heat down low. Scrape up all the brown bits.

When brown bits are all incorporated into the liquid, gradually add the tomato paste, the sun-dried tomatoes, the lemon juice, the onion and the pancetta. Stir well to combine, goose the heat up a little bit.

Start your pasta water boiling. Continue to stir the sauce. Add in the pepper and bring to a slow boil. Gradually add the rest of the vodka. Keep the temperature to where you have tiny bubbles, but not a rolling boil.

Cook pasta to your idea of doneness. Drain. Slowly stir in the cream until you think it's the proper color and taste. Return pasta to pot. Pour sauce over. Gently stir so you don't break the pasta and serve. Top with parmesan. Completely forget about the salad you were going to make.

I loved how this came out. The tomato wasn't too sweet, the chunky texture I'll experiment with a grain vodka. I tend to prefer potato because I find it to have a softer taste, and Chopin because it's Polish. 

What pasta would you put this over? Inquiring minds want to know.