Monday, August 31, 2009

Carne Asada Tacos

These are one of my specialties, under consideration for the "best of" cookbook. The recipe comes from a Jeffrey Steingarten book, "It Must've Been Something I Ate." In this article, he is fanatically trying to impersonate the little old Mexican lady who makes these. It's grilled marinated skirt steak (or broiled in my yardless apartment), and three simple sauces, including a spicy thin and smoky chipotle salsa, a chunky salsa ranchera, and lots of guacamole. The best part is that the flour tortillas are made from scratch and the are nothing like the supermarket kind. It's due to a secret ingredient...

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Sambar is the staple of South India. It's spicy and chunky and great on rice or idlis - little fluffy round cakes made from rice flour. Typically it's paired with a coconut chutney, but I didn't spring for the fresh coconut this time. My version comes from the copious recipe notes I took when I was in Chennai. It has the typical veggies available at the grocery store - onions, carrots, tomatoes, green beans - but it also has a couple key ingredients that are a bit more exotic - tamarind and fresh curry leaves. Once I figure out how to jigger up an idli steamer, I'll do the whole thing with the chutney and idlis.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

California Roll Salad

This is another of Mark Bittman's 101 Simple Salads. Its got cucumber, avocado, and rice just like a California roll. We added some furikake to substitute for the nori, and did without the lump crabmeat because it's expensive (but would be really good.) The dressing is a bit of mirin, rice vinegar and soy sauce. If you like sushi, you will shovel this down!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Roasted Red Peppers

Red peppers are great, we don't buy them every day because they are a bit on the expensive side. Roasting your own is actually pretty easy, but unless you get the peppers on super-special it doesn't save you much money. I just put them on a tray under the broiler until they get black, then turn them on each of four sides. It takes a few minutes a side. Take them out and the skin comes right off very easily. Cut out the stem and seeds and put them in a jar and cover with olive oil. Add garlic if you like.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oatmeal-Lavender Bars

Making your own breakfast bars can be worth it. The lavender we used is from the lavender farms in Sequim, WA when we were living out there, and it really gives a muted, but powerful flavor to the bars that's kind of addicting. Lavender actually goes very well with peaches (think peach-lavender ice cream). These bars were a bit too chewy - there is a Nigella Lawson recipe out there for some chunkier bars which are also very good.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


One of Emily's staples is a focaccia variant of the NY Times No-Knead Bread recipe. Basically, it is a quick mix before you go to bed, and some time for a second rise and baking in the morning, which makes it perfect for weekends. Top it with whatever you want - in this case caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, goat cheese, and of course garlic and olive oil.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Peach Puzzler

This is the must-make of every peach season. It's a cool recipe from NPR. In fact, you can find it here. The puzzle is how all the sauce gets into the ramekin in the center. You assemble it upside down, and pour the sauce all over the peaches. The whole peaches cook just enough while bathing in the sauce. Then, while the dish cools, the air trapped in the ramekin contracts and sucks the juice into the cup. With a deft flip and a spoon for the sauce it is ready for the table.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Picnic at the National Botanic Garden

Food tastes best outside. The National Botanic Garden has two nice outdoor gardens, including some with great tables and umbrellas. The feature today was roasted red peppers on walnut bread with some soft goat cheese. If the weather's nice, we're usually picnicking somewhere, so drop us a line.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chipotle Quesadillas

Martha delivers a new twist on the quesadilla with this recipe in the September 2009 issue. The secret ingredient is a little can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce which you use as a marinade for the chicken. It's smokey, spicy, tasty, simple, and easily transfers to a thousand other chicken recipes that could use a kick. The pickled onions are another great idea.

Simple Salads

101 Simple Salads for summertime is one of Mark Bittman's latest lists. I tried these two for the week. The twist on the tomatoes is that its a soy sauce-sesame oil dressing which is quite unexpected. The cabbage has an peanut-lime-cilantro dressing on it. Bittman doesn't do recipes, more like suggestions for combinations of ingredients. They are quick, tasty, and reading the whole list can be an overwhelming flood of ideas. Check him out on the NYTimes.

Walnut Bread

Walnut bread as good as Paul (the European bakery chain) is one of the grails of baking in this household. It was nearly achieved this time. Eat it with butter and honey and you will finish the loaf in one sitting.

Sour Cherry Tart

This picture is not actually from this weekend, but is from this year's sour cherry season. There's usually one, maybe two weekends at Butler's Orchard when blueberry picking and sour cherry picking overlap. This pie is the result. Sour cherries are my absolute favorite pie.

Moong Dal with Spinach

This is step two in building a freezer full of re-heatable Indian dishes that I make from scratch. Some sort of tasty dal usually goes with every meal - this one happens to be a green split moong dal with spinach. I make a large quantity, then freeze multiple servings in Gladware tubs for later. I've got this and a great coconut curry sauce for fish saved up. When I've got enough, we'll have a proper meal with 5 or 6 dishes. Find the recipe at Manjula's Kitchen.

Okra Pickles

Refrigerator pickles are great and simple. Okra is under appreciated in this country. I actually saw these in the store once and immediately bought them to try. The home version is just as good. It takes fresh okra, white vinegar, a chile pepper to our taste, and some salt. A week later (or less) they are ready to eat. They're soft but with a clean bite - on the verge of crisp.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Best BLTs

This was one of those amazing times that ingredients just come together. Emily's homemade bread from the freezer, a fresh tomato, lettuce from the window box, bacon from the freezer, and a pile of blackberries from the farm. I love BLTs. Don't forget the mayo.

Peach-Beet-Tomato Summer Salad

This juicy fruit salad is slurpy and delicious. It's only for the best tomatoes and peaches, but it is great and quenching. The recipe is from Tasty by Roy Finamore. Slice up peaches, tomatoes, roasted beets, and mix with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. It's best if you let it sit at room temp for a couple hours for the flavors to mix.

Peach French Toast

Emily the baker whipped up a quick batch of brioche the night before for breakfast the next morning. I don't know if you've ever had a brioche french toast but it was amazing. You'll have to ask her for the brioche recipe, the french toast batter was a recipe from Cook's Illustrated May/June 1997. The peaches were quickly cooked in a touch of butter and brown sugar. Blackberries take it over the top. Be sure to pile the fruit high over one or two small slices of toast. No syrup needed.

Summer's Bounty for $60

This was our haul last week from Homestead Farm in Poolesville, MD. The best of summer is available there (read peaches, blackberries, tomatoes...) The blackberries are ridiculous. Huge, sweet, and cheap! This was practically all the food we needed for the week.

Ratatouille with Poached Eggs

This August 2009 Martha Stewart Living was quite good with lots of recipes for summer. This ratatouille is perfect for the peak of tomato season because the tomatoes are not cooked, but fresh. The runny poached egg is a great idea. Our little twist was to put this on a thick slice of Panera Tomato Basil bread (otherwise known as Crack).