Archive for the ‘Lunches’ Category

My top tens, and a non-recipe

July 14, 2009

Hello there!  You’re catching me in a rare free moment.  The move has gotten pretty intense.  See the thing is, this whole month has become one giant transition.  My lease in NY started on July 1, and my lease here ends on July 31.  Now, there’s a part of me that considers this a luxury.  I get to move out at my leisure, no rush, no panicked  night-before packing.  But on the other hand, this means that the move takes ALL MONTH.  There is a (very large) part of me that would greatly prefer to just get-er-done.  Yes, maybe it would be a crazy weekend, but at least it wouldn’t drag on.  I’m sure you’ve all had some crazy moving experiences, I’ve heard some great/terrible stories this month that, to tell the truth, have made me really appreciate how many potential moving disasters have NOT occurred (yet).

Anyway, with the kitchen all but packed up, it’s practically toruture to look through food blogs these days!  There are so many recipes that I can’t wait to try once I’m all unpacked and settled down in my new place.  Right now, I’m pretty restricted, but there is one recipe that has become quite the standby.  I’ll include it as number 1 on my top tens… it’s Smitten Kitchen’s Peanut Sesame Noodles.  If you like peanut butter at all, I highly suggest that you make this now.  The thing is, the dish is great as is.  It is easy and versitile.  It can be eaten hot or cold, it’s wonderful either way.  It requires very little heating of anything, all you have to do is boil some pasta, really.  But the best part is that the sesame-peanut sauce is just about the best thing ever in terms of multi-tasking.  Of course I tried it on soba noodles first, but then I had some sauce left over and I started experimenting.  It’s great for dipping veggies.  I cut up some cucumbers and carrots and dipped for a healthy and satisfying snack.  It’s also perfect mixed in with any other grain.  Last night I made some brown rice (with broth in place of water… that’s a valuable secret tip there!) and mixed in butternut squash and some sesame-peanut sauce.  Sounds a little weird, I know, but it was awesome!  It’s also perfect mixed in with greens:  collards, kale, it all works.  I feel like at this point I should note that Deb at Smitten Kitchen is not compensating me in any way to swoon so blatantly over her recipe 😉  Seriously, it’s just good, and it has really made this whole trying-to- eat-well-while-moving thing much more pleasant.

So, with that said, here are my top tens.  You can bet I’ll be tackling a lot of these recipes in August once my life calms down a bit.  If you try any of them first, let me know how it goes!

1. Peanut Sesame Noodles from Smitten Kitchen

2. Chickpea “Blondies” from Have Cake, Will Travel (by the way, I LOVE the design of that site!  So simple and pleasing.)

3. Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini from Orangette (although truthfully, almost all of her recipes are on my to-make list)

4. Thyme-Rosemary Bread from StephChows.  This is the perfect use for my overgrowing Thyme!!

5. Pad Karpow Moo from Chez Pim

6. Aglaia Kremezi’s Fried Potatoes with Yogurt Sauce from The Wednesday Chef

7. Cookies and Cream Cheesecake from Bake or Break (oh man, I don’t even know if I could handle this- so rich looking! but it makes me drool…)

8. Otsu from 101 Cookbooks (looks like the perfect fresh-n-easy summer recipe!)

9. Crispy Halibut wtih Wasabi Panzanella and Early Grey Potatoes from No Recipes (this one’s fancy but looks awesome!)

10. Noodles with Mushrooms and Lemon-Ginger Dressing from Simply Recipes

Well, there’s my list.  I can’t wait to start cooking for real again!  My non-recipe recipe is coming soon, I promise.  I’ll be back later this afternoon.


Barely a Recipe: Spring Greens with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese

June 11, 2009

A funny thing happens to me (and I suspect many others) as summer rolls around.  As much as I love to cook, when the weather gets hot and the days get long, that love kind of fades and turns tepid, and all of a sudden, I’ve just lost the urge.  Now don’t get me wrong, I still think about food all the time.  During the day I dream up recipes, delude myself with notions of elaborate meals that I will somehow have the energy to prepare when I get home, and convince myself that yes, this cooking thing is really going to happen.  But day after day six o’clock rolls around and guess what?  I just don’t feel like it.  Sound familiar?

I’ve got a solution… for now, at least.  Make this salad.  It’s simple, but special enough to make you feel like you’ve done something nice for yourself.  It’s also incredibly healthy.  Beets are a nutritional goldmine- they’re loaded with vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C, and surprisingly, are higher in iron than spinach.  Take that Popeye!  They’re also naturally sweet, which means that you’ll be less likely to be craving something sugary for dessert later.

Now, as a pair, beets and goat cheese are nothing new.   Why?  Because they work perfectly together.  The tangy creaminess of the goat cheese is the perfect complement to the beets’ deep earthy sweetness.  And when you toss everything together, the juice from the beets mixes with some of the goat cheese to create a built-in dressing.  It couldn’t be simpler.

To make this salad even simpler to throw together, you can roast the beets the night before.  I like to throw them in the oven after dinner and pull them out before I go to bed.  That way, they practically make themselves!

Spring Greens with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese

2 beets
1 tablespoon olive oil (for drizzling)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 -3 big handfuls salad greens, well washed and dried
2-3 ounces of chevre, or other goat cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil
squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Start by making the beets (as I mentioned, I would highly suggest doing this the night before).  Preheat the oven to 400 (F).  Place the beets in a cast iron skillet (or even an oven-safe pot).  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake, covered loosely with alumninum foil, for 60-90 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.  Remove from the oven and let cool completely before peeling (you should be able to remove the skin easily with your fingers).  Chop into 1/2 inch cubes.

For the salad:  In a bowl, combine the greens and the beets.  Crumble the goat cheese over the top.  At this point, you could really add any dressing, but I just like a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze or two of lemon, and some salt and freshly ground pepper.  Toss and serve.

Go-to dinner

May 12, 2009

Everyone needs to have a dinner for those days when you want to eat at home, but can’t really stand the thought of cooking anything elaborate. Yes, you can snack, or just make some scrambled eggs, but sometime I want something nurturing, deeply satisfying, and delicious. Now, I don’t know if this is odd or not, but I don’t really get junk food cravings, no, I get greens and brown rice cravings. Admittedly, that stuff can be really bland, unless of course you know how to make it tasty. And I do 😉 Lately my go-to meal has been brown rice, kale, and sweet potatoes. To make it extra wonderful, I’ll add an olive-oil fried egg, still runny.

If you haven’t tried greens with sweet potatoes before, I think you should give it a shot. The bitterness of the greens combined with the sweetness of the yams balances perfectly. The brown rice, made with broth for extra flavor, gives the dish heft, and the egg makes it decadent. And the best part is, it’s SO easy. You can make the brown rice ahead of time, or just start it ten minutes before everything else. After that, everything else comes together pretty effortlessly. So here it is:

Brown Rice, Kale, and Sweet Potatoes

For the brown rice:

1 cup brown rice (I used texmati)
2 1/4 cups chicken broth, or water and one bullion cube
(all bullion is definitely not created equal. I use rapunzel and really like it)

For the sweet potatoes:

2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

For the kale:

1 glug olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 small yellow onion, or 1/2 of a large onion, chopped fine
1 tsp cumin
1 pinch salt, ground pepper to taste
1 bunch lacinato kale (any other type would work too), washed and chopped into ribbons

To make the brown rice:

Combine the brown rice and the broth (or the water and the bullion) in a small pot. Cover, and bring to a boil over medium high heat (watch it carefully so it doesn’t boil over!) Once it comes to a boil, bring the heat down to low, stir once, re-cover, and continue cooking for 40 minutes or so until, the rice is tender, but still has a little bit of a bite.

For the potatoes:

While the brown rice is cooking, place the potatoes in a steam basket over simmering water, cover, and steam for 10-15 minutes, until fork tender.

For the kale:

Warm the glug of olive oil in a large pan or pot over medium heat. Toss in the onions and, after a minute or so, the garlic. The oil shouldn’t be hot yet- you want the onions and garlic cook slowly until the onions have softened a bit, about 5 minutes.

At this point, add the salt and the cumin, and stir to mix. Let the cumin warm up for a minute or so, then turn up the heat a little and add the kale. Stir it all around to distribute the onions and garlic throughout the kale, and then cook until the kale wilts, about five minutes or so. Some kale has more structure than others, so if you’re using a really hearty variety, you may want to add a tablespoon or so of water, cover the pot, and steam for a couple of minutes. Season with ground pepper, and more salt if it needs it.

Now, there are a few ways to eat this. You can combine it all in the pot and mix it there, or you can do a layered type of presentation in a bowl. The latter is my favorite. I like to put some brown rice on the bottom, then the kale, and then the sweet potatoes. I usually drizzle a little bit of soy sauce over the whole thing.

Also, at this point, you could also fry up an egg in some olive oil and lay it over everything so that when you cut into it, the yolk runs down over everything, making a kind of a sauce. That’s what I did tonight.

How to make ragu like a nonna:

December 29, 2008


Well, here is the first part of my attempt to be back here on a regular basis. I have been really missing the blog, and although I’ve been cooking regularly, I’ve been so busy that most of the food I’ve made has been weird, thrown together meals that I like but would be embarrassed to post. I mean, who wants a recipe for a couple of eggs thrown on a trader joe’s tortilla with some mashed up black beans and pesto? Besides that, I moved to a new apartment in August and to tell the truth, the light in the kitchen is downright crappy and I just can’t get that enthusiastic about trying to take pictures of my food with almost no natural light. Well. Enough of the complaints. I have a plan for getting better light (a supersize mirror to redirect the sunlight down my alley and in my kitchen window, perhaps?) and will hopefully be back here more regularly from now on. Wish me luck. For now, here’s this ragu.

I don’t kid when I say that this is the real stuff. I won’t say it’s the best, because in my mind, there are a lot of wonderful ways to dress a pasta, and it would be a shame to pick just one favorite. I mean, I wouldn’t want to insult all the other sauces that make me stop dead in my tracks, fork in mouth, and let out a little whimper. But here’s the deal. This is the sauce to warm up a winter night. It doesn’t take more than half an hour of active prep, but it tastes like you’ve been slaving over it all day. And it just gets better after a day in the fridge.

Do yourself a favor and use the ragu sparingly with good pasta. It’s the Italian way to barely coat the pasta with sauce, and if the ragu seems too thick as you’re stirring it into your pasta, toss in a spoonful or two of the pasta water to thin it out just a bit. The starch from the pasta water will help the ragu cling to your pasta.

Ragu Bolognese
Adapted from Mario Batali

Makes about 5 cups

¼ C extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 pound ground veal
1 pound ground pork
(you can get the veal and pork ground together at the butcher)
4 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, run through the medium holes of the butcher’s grinder (or chopped fine in the food processor)
One 6-ounce can of tomato paste
1 C whole milk
1 C white wine
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Get the meat ready- if you haven’t had the pancetta ground at the butcher, chop it and then give it a few rounds in the food processor until it’s finely chopped.

Place a 6-8 quart heavy bottomed pot over high heat. When the pan is hot, throw in half the meat (veal, pork, and pancetta combined) and let it brown, lowering the temperature as necessary to avoid burning the meat. This will take about ten to fifteen minutes, you need to get all the water out of the meat before it will brown. Resist the urge to move it around too much!

When the first batch of meat has browned remove it to a bowl and drain off any of the extra fat, if there is any. Throw in the second half of the meat and brown that too.

While the meat is browning, chop the vegetables.



After the second batch of meat is brown and you’ve moved it to the bowl, add the olive oil to the pan and then the vegetables, scraping the browned bits up off the bottom of the pan. This should be pretty easy, as the water from the vegetables cooking will help the brown bits release from the bottom of the pan.
Saute the vegetables until translucent and slightly soft, but not brown, about five minutes.

Add the meat back into the pot and then add the tomato paste, milk, wine, and thyme and bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours.  When it is done, it will look like this.  Don’t expect it to be too liquidy, a proper ragu has just enough liquid to moisten the meat.
Season the ragu with salt and pepper, remove from the heat and let cool. The ragu can be refrigerated for up to two days (I think it’s better on the second day, for sure) and can be frozen for up to one month.

Serve over pasta (fresh is best, but I also love this with a good rigatoni like DeCecco) and garnish with freshly grated parmesan, salt and pepper.
A little tip: If you want to freeze some of the ragu, freeze it in an ice cube tray and once frozen, dump the cubes into a Ziploc freezer bag. That way, you can defrost only as much as you need.

When eating healthy is so, so, good.

March 31, 2008

Today was one of those days: too many vegetables in the fridge, not too much motivation to cook. What I almost always do in those situations is fire up the oven, get out the cutting board, and get ready to roast. Here’s some of my best advice. If you don’t already oven-roast vegetables on a regular basis, you really should start. It’s so, so easy, as healthy as you want it to be, and always leaves you with the most delicious, crispy edged, salt-kissed, olive oil caressed vegetables that took almost no effort at all. So turn on your oven already and roast something!

Really though, I’m not kidding. Almost every vegetable is good this way. Maybe I’m a bit obsessed but I swear, toss a vegetable with some olive oil, salt and pepper (and maybe some rosemary, or cumin-coriander-turmeric, depending on what you’re going for), put it in a hot oven (I usually do 450), and it will be good, promise.

Some suggestions are:

  • Broccoli with rosemary (the edges of the broccoli get all crispy and awesome)
  • Cauliflower with CCT (yes ok it’s a little bit Rachael Ray of me but it’s a lot to type out!)
  • Carrots with just olive oil, salt and pepper (or with CCT, that’s good too)
  • Zucchini (I like it best simple, with just olive oil, salt and pepper)
  • Rutabagas or Potatoes (both are good with almost anything, although I especially love potatoes with rosemary)

Seriously, the possibilities are endless.

This time I had rutabagas, red bliss potatoes, spinach, and edamame. I roasted the cubed the rutabagas and potatoes and roasted them with some cumin until their edges were browned and crisp. I sauteed the spinach with a bit of garlic, and just used the edamame as they were. Wanting something a bit more substantial than a side dish, I made some quinoa (one of my favorite grains) and scrambled an egg to add in as well. The only other thing I did was make a quick lemon-tahini dressing and this lunch (with enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow) was ready to go. I highly, highly recommend it.

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables and Tahini-Lemon Dressing
(serves 4 as a small main dish)

1 C uncooked quinoa

2 rutabagas, cubed
2 small red bliss potatoes
1 C edamame, thawed if frozen
4 C spinach, uncooked
1/4 C calamata olives, roughly chopped, or more to taste

One egg (just leave it out if you’d like the recipe to be vegan- maybe add some sesame/soy marinated tofu instead…)

1 teaspoon cumin

1 clove garlic, minced, or more to taste
1T tahini
1T lemon juice and a pinch of lemon zest

1/4 C Marcona almonds, sliced or chopped (for sprinkling on top)

Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for sautéing

For the Quinoa
Rinse and drain the quinoa. Boil 2C of water in a small pot and then add the quinoa. Let cook, covered, over medium low heat for about 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa grains look like little curly cues. Take off the heat and set aside.

For the Root Vegetables
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees farenheit.
Peel the rutabagas and wash the potatoes (I like to leave the skin on). Cut both into half-inch cubes and then throw them on a heavy pan or cookie sheet with a glug of good olive oil. Sprinkle the cumin on top and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper (don’t go crazy, you can always add more later!)
Let cook until browned and crispy on edges (check after 15 minutes). Toss to get browning on other sides.

To finish and assemble the salad
Sautee the spinach in a small pan with a bit of olive oil and the garlic. Remove from the pan, and just use the same pan to scramble the egg, adding a bit of salt and pepper if you’d like.

Add the spinach, scrambled egg, edamame, olives, and roasted root vegetables to a bowl with the quinoa and toss quickly. Whisk together the tahini, lemon zest, and lemon juice and pour over, tossing again to coat. If necessary, add a bit more olive oil to the salad. Sprinkle the almonds over the top, and serve at room temperature.