Saturday, October 24, 2009

Vietnamese Inspiration

I am an advocate going into the grocery store with a plan of attack... a definite list based on your menu for the week. When you plan ahead and only buy what you need it wastes less food, costs less money, and is generally healthier because you stay away from impulse buys of packaged food. You get to where you spend most of your time in the produce section.

When you are in foraging mode, though, there is a little room to improvise. I went to the Eden center today. It's in Seven Corners, and is an high density concentration of Vietnamese bakery-delis, music, grocery, restaurants, and hair salons. It is absolutely great. Before setting out, I had a few ideas for the week:
What you see above is some of the haul. There was so much neat stuff there I had to restrain myself. I did however, buy some baby octopus. I just read the NPR article on them and plan to do the Uncle Nick's version they talk about. But I need to borrow a grill! Anyone? I won't be doing this regularly because octopus from Thailand are most probably not sustainably fished. But just this once.

This was my last stop, to get a Banh Mi. My favorite from high school is the meatball, so that's what I got. So delicious! If you haven't had one of these you must try it. There are about a 5 or other kinds I want to go back and try, not to mention the restaurants.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas for your week. I'll post these once I've made them. If you give them a try be sure to leave your comments.

Hit Cookies

Hit! Emily surpassed those European biscuit sandwich cookies with this recipe. They are good tea cookies - two buttery biscuits and a creamy chocolate filling. They were gone the next morning.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Linguine with Clams in a Pepper Broth

Clams and their briny juices transport pasta to places you've been before but forgot were so incredibly delicious. These are cherrystone clams from the Maine Ave Fish Market just down the street. Seafood is the one thing I can actually walk to a real market and buy right when I need it. And a good thing too, because seafood should always be cooked as soon as you get it home. I don't know when the clam season is, but they sure had piles of these, and they were fresh, not feeble and dying like I have seen at other times. This recipe is in the October issue of Martha Stewart. What you are seeing in the picture are little flecks of pepper and bits of bacon and a white wine sauce. The word "clammy" has never been more appealing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mushroom Pizza

Emily's pizza is great every time, but always different. The base recipe is a dough from a Chez Panisse cookbook, made from scratch of course so it only really works if you are home in the afternoon. The sauce is based on a can of diced tomatoes and garlic simmered in a pot, the cheese is mozzarella, and the toppings are whatever you think is yummy. Depending on how thick you stretch out the crust you can get a crispy pizza or a chewy one. I would like to learn how to toss pizza dough, but apparently that only leads to a tough crust. I still think it would be cool.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sausage-Chive-Ricotta-Mozz-Eggs Brunch

We had company for brunch! My list of requisite brunch elements are are eggs, baked good, salad greens, and fruit. Pick something from each category. The eggs here turned out to be a good combo. I've never used ricotta in eggs before but it turned out creamy and good mixed with the mozz. The pain d'epices (or spice bread) was Emily's idea and was very fragrant and wintry and excellent with cream cheese or honey on top. Thank David Lebovitz for that recipe. The salad was a mix of Bibb lettuce and some leftover arugula with a citrus vinagrette. I had some special citrus vinegar from Trader Joe's that makes good dressing when shaken with some olive oil and salt. I like citrus vinaigrettes on Bibb lettuce. Finally, the fruit was apple fritters with the orchard apples we picked the weekend prior. Batter and fry the apples and drizzle with honey. A feast! We were out walking it off all around the city the rest of the day.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Forest

This is Emily's green thumb at work, proving me wrong that you can actually grow things on a balcony in the middle of a city. From front to back we have a Meyer Lemon tree, lots of sweet basil, and a trough of lettuce mix. Not shown are some little pots of oregano and chives. This week most of these guys are going to have to get eaten or come inside because it is getting cold. The Meyer lemon tree is from Stark Bros. Despite looking like a stick when it arrived in the mail, it has grown many new leaves and seems to be thriving. Hopefully it results in the opposite of those pretty looking flowering Home Depot plants that lose everything as soon as they get home. The lettuce is also great because you can pick it to make a side salad and a week or two later you've grown another batch of baby greens and can have another.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Texas Chili

I am no connoisseur of Texas chili, but I know that it is spicy and there are no beans or veggies getting in there and diluting the beefiness. This chili is from Martha Stewart - she actually has 15 recipes online, most of which look pretty good, but this one is in the print magazine so it's not online yet. The trick to why this one is good is that it uses dried chiles and not chili powder. I have either struggled to find or been to cheap to buy a good tasting chili powder - I am not sure which, but I never have much luck. Martha recommended a mix of ancho and guajillo chiles. The anchos are also called pasilla chiles, which means raisin in spanish. They look and smell like raisins. The guajillos are redder and smooth skinned. Toasted, soaked, and blended together, they make a great base flavor. For the beef I used chuck stew meat. You can see it seize up and get very tough when you brown it. Keep cooking that chili over low heat until the meat relaxes and will melt in your mouth. That's when it's done. Try it! Next on my list is her pork and pinto bean chili.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Huevos Tomatillos

I am the Eggman. This was my latest brainstorm for filling up a corn tortilla. Eggs go very well as taco filling and I like them better with corn tortillas heated through on the skillet. Cast iron if you have it. Corn tortillas really have so much more flavor and less fat than flour tortillas - just don't ever try to eat them cold. Wheat tortillas can be good too, but you get more of a California type of taste when you put eggs in them. The veggies in here are 1 poblano pepper, 1 anaheim chile, 1/2 onion, and 3 tomatillos. Everything diced and cooked just soft. Start with sauteing the onions, then go to the peppers, and add tomatillos at the very end... this way everything cooks for the proper length of time and isn't soggy. Then clear the pan and make the eggs. Serve with Sriacha if you want more heat. You'll see more egg taco creations soon since I make them all the time, and one of these days some tips on scrambled eggs.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Arugula Potato Green Bean Salad with Creamy Walnut Dressing

This is an arugula based salad with a salty yogurt-based vinaigrette, which tastes good when spread evenly over the salad. The potatoes and green beans can be cooked in the same pot for ease of clean up. It makes a nice dinner with some good, crusty bread on the side.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Smoked Turkey and White Bean Soup

A great moment for improvisation: leftover turkey leg from the picnic, beans from the squash recipe, carrots getting old in the fridge, and tons of home made chicken stock in the freezer - they all came together in this soup. The key ingredient is really the stock base which could make anything taste good, but it is helped by the smokiness of the turkey. Start out by cutting up the carrots and sauteing them in some olive oil. They go in first because they take longest. Add in onions and garlic, and then the stock when everything is a bit browed. The turkey and beans can be warmed in the liquid close to serving time. Everything comes together quite quickly this way.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Two-crust Apple Pie

Emily whipped up one of her famous pies for me after we went apple picking on Saturday. Two-crust is my favorite so that was my special request. For a little extra zing she made a ginger-caramel sauce for topping. There are still a few pieces left!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Squash and White Bean Salad

I barely got to taste this recipe because Emily whisked it away to work for multiple lunches. The recipe is here, however my version is a bit less fancy than the one Chocolate and Zucchini puts up. You can compare photos for yourself. It's one of the more interesting recipes I have tried I wanted to get two pieces into it for sure: the almond butter (try Trader Joe's) and the orange blossom water (international section of Shopper's). The squash I picked was one I hadn't heard of but had deep ridges that made it hard to peel. I'd go with butternut if I did it again. The taste is very light and complex, and fairly delicious. Don't be afraid to plan ahead and cook the beans the way the recipe describes. They come out way better than canned and really infused with salt and rosemary scent.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Okay, I know a lot of you aren't bean-lovers out there, but I am because I have been to Brazil and tasted Feijoada. This is not a feijoada, but it is a simple black bean recipe - it isn't the whole deal but is something I have been playing with to perfect. The starting point is the back of the Goya bag, which is not half bad, but could use a little experimentation. I've added some extra frozen pork butt to the beans for slow cooking, and garnished with some of my refrigerator pickles. When the recipe is perfect I will post it. This version I serve mixed with rice with a fried banana on the side. One day I will do a feijoada, but to do it properly about 15 of you are going to have to come over to eat it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sky Meadows Picnic

So we stopped at Whole Foods on the way out to Sky Meadows this weekend for picnic supplies, then hiked up the ridge and sat down for lunch. There are some things even at Whole Foods that are good deals for a picnic. The base is a baguette, which you eat with a fresh tomato and some cheese. We chose a soft sheep's cheese from Spain I think. Delicious, but the most expensive thing - get some smelly cheese to make it worth it! A few little pears go nicely too. A great thing about Whole Foods is their smoked meat case. We got a turkey leg for $3, but they had some nice smoked chorizo that was very tempting and would have been neater. For dessert, a bottle of chocolate milk that was the best I have had. Find it in the produce section.

Pepita Flautas

Flautas are crispy, corny and very satisfying under a mountain of shredded lettuce, tomato, and a bit of sour cream. This recipe from Martha's October issue is a very interesting alternative to bland chicken or ground beef fillings that I've tried before. It is based on pepitas, or roasted pumpkin seeds. I couldn't these in the international section, but I did find them with the specialty nuts in the produce area. They get ground up with cilantro and are very nutty and satisfying as a filling with some monterey jack cheese. I didn't do the lettuce in this picture but it would have been even better that way.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Palak Tofu

Okay, palak means spinach, but this is usually palak paneer - which is that yummy indian cheese. Where is this tofu coming in? Well, I had tofu in the fridge, and I fried it up just the same as the paneer, so it works even if it's not quite as satisfying. Probably a bit healthier too, but don't get me wrong - if Shopper's carried paneer that would've been in here. This is comfort food and I could eat it nonstop for a long time. Use canned diced tomatoes for better flavor. The recipe is here.