Monday, March 31, 2014

Going Green


Tomorrow is already April 1st. I pity the fool! Isn't it time for fava beans and morels and garlic scapes and peas?? Well, I haven't seen much in the way of spring veg. In fact, my little local farmers market (apostrophe optional...discuss) has yet to open for the season. It's quite small so they wisely avoid the coldest months and in December, pass the torch to the French Canadians who sell some pretty great looking (and smelling) Christmas trees. No one else wants their space from January to April, I guess, as all that is usually for sale (on the ground) are some VERY used paperbacks. But I confess. I digress. (I'm a poet and I didn't even know it!)


While hoping for some new veggies to finally inspire me to mix things up, I found the most GINORMOUS bushels of parsley at Whole Foods. WTF? Kinda weird, right? Number 1: Are they on steroids? Number 2: When you use parsley, don't you need, like, a chopped tablespoon at most? What does one do with all the rest? Well, I searched for the answer and found a parsley pesto that requires a bit more parsley than a garnish, but you'd really have to double or triple the recipe (and make some tabouli) to use all of the parsley that I had. And as much as you might prefer a basil pesto, which is pretty fabulous, this is super tasty. And, I know that this is totally off topic but…the Mad Men final season starts soon!!


Walnut-Parsley Pesto Pasta
Adapted from Food & Wine

1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley with thick stems removed
1 clove garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 pound cut pasta
1 tablespoon butter


1. In a food processor or blender, pulse the walnuts, parsley, garlic, Parmesan, oil, salt, and pepper to a coarse puree.

2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until just done. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Toss the pasta with 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water, the walnut pesto, and the butter. If the pasta seems dry, add more of the reserved pasta water. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan and pass more at the table. Serves 4 - 6.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pantry Pasta


What do you make when your fridge breaks down and you leave town for a week? Nothing. You order in, duh. Or you make the most random pasta ever.

Raw onions can be polarizing, but caramelized onions are ah-maz-ing. Add them to sandwiches, salads, dips, pizza, eggs...Why not make them the main ingredient in a pasta? There's no reason not to. Unless it happens to be the first day of spring and you can actually find something green!


Caramelized Onion Pantry Pasta

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pasta 
Toasted pine nuts
Parmesan Cheese

1. Melt the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and ½ teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally to loosen any onions that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the onions are deep golden brown, about 30 minutes more.  

2. Meanwhile, cook your preferred pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to the skillet, along with a few tablespoons of pasta cooking liquid, and toss with the onions to coat. Add more butter if desired, season to taste, and serve with toasted pine nuts and Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Un-Frozen


I don't know what's up with my apartment, but right after dealing with the lack of heat, my stupid refrigerator died on me! And it's not the first time that this has happened! Of course it died the day after I made two new batches of soup to freeze for future snowstorms. What a waste of time and money and food! At least I got to sample (and photograph) my white bean soup before throwing it down the trash chute. Annoying!

I think the key to this recipe is cooking the base vegetables in bacon fat in order to infuse the soup with the essence of bacon. Then, if you wait to top each bowl with freshly cooked bacon right before serving, you can retain the crispy texture. Bacon!

Even though it has been strangely warm this weekend, I know that another snowstorm has to be lurking just around the corner. So while I am dreaming of enjoying a glass of rosé on a beach somewhere warm, I'll make another batch of soup in anticipation of a potential blizzard, with my fingers crossed that it won't actually happen. The blizzard of course, not the rosé!


White Bean with Bacon Soup
The Ski House Cookbook

5 strips thick-sliced bacon
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 medium shallot, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini or other small white bean, drained
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Gratuitous bacon shot
1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove the bacon to drain on paper towels.

2. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pot. Add the onion, carrot, celery and shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and bay leaf and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beans and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook the soup over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the beans begin to fall apart.

3. Discard the bay leaf and puree the soup until smooth with an immersion blender. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to bowls. Crumble or chop the cooked bacon, garnish the soup and serve. Serves 4 - 6.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cold Comfort

I also use my meat thermometer to read the temp in my apt. It's VERY rare!

When it's 8˚ outside the last thing that I want to do is get up in the dark to go to a 6:30 am spin class. Especially when my apartment is only 55˚ to start with. Thanks landlords! It's super comfy! I think the shivering is helping me to burn extra calories so I don't even have to go to the freaking gym! (Fortunately, because now my gym has no heat or water. Gross.)

Even though I sadly do have to get up supes early to go to the gym and/or work, I'd really rather sleep in and have a snow day like some peeps enjoyed earlier this week. And what I'd love to eat is a giant batch of homemade waffles. (Served to me on a silver platter, thanks.) I'm not talking about the crazy yeasted version that I made here, just your good old-fashioned basic recipe. Mostly I just need a way to consume the six or so bottles worth of maple syrup that I have stashed from purveyors such as Crown in NY,  Gillingham's in VT, and a generic bottle from MI. 

Though I did try, I'm obviously not very good at estimating the amount of batter required to make a full waffle on my waffle iron. The first one didn't have any edges at all. At least my photo below shows improvement. I need help. Who's coming over to cook for me? BTW: BYO space heater.



Quick Waffles
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled
Peanut oil

1. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl to blend. Whisk the whole milk, 2 large eggs, and melted butter in medium bowl to blend. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until the batter is smooth. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let batter stand at room temperature.

2. Heat the waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions (medium-high heat). Brush the grids lightly with peanut oil (don't miss any crevices or you waffle may stick like mine did). Pour enough batter onto each waffle grid to cover generously (about heaping 1/2 cup batter for 4 1/2x3 1/2-inch grid); spread evenly with an offset spatula. Close the waffle iron and cook until the waffles are golden brown and crisp on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes.

3. Divide the waffles among 4 plates. Dust with powdered sugar or dollop with unsalted butter or smother with real maple syrup, or do all three. Serves four.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Frozen


While packing to go away on a trip, I try to also spend the time to empty out my fridge so that I don't return to a science experiment gone terribly wrong. The only problem with this plan is that when I do finally come home, especially if it's later in the evening, the only thing I have left to eat are ice cubes. Yeah, yeah... I could order in, but then I'll just order too much, spend too much, and eat too much.

When I returned from my latest trip just after New Years and rummaged through my freezer to gnaw on some ice cubes, I found a container of lentil soup that I had frozen during Christmas week. I had totally forgotten about it. For me, stocking up for future trips or just the winter to come is key, especially since my apartment has been hovering around 55 degrees so far this winter, incidentally the minimum required by NYC law. Coincidence? Doubt it. Someone's trying to save some dollar bills and it ain't me.

Anyhoo, I decided to make a variation of a lentil soup which I first wrote about here. It's supes quick to make, freezes really well, and is also delicious served over basmati rice. (Check out the recipe below.) I also made a batch of vegetable soup, which I guess you could call minestrone, and even threw in a leftover Parmesan cheese rind. Instead of throwing them away, you can freeze rinds and then add to soups to flavor them. The addition of pasta is optional depending on how you're feeling about carbs after the holidays. One option is to make the soup without the pasta and then add it in when you are reheating the soup, if you have the calories to spare. I don't, but added some anyway. It's still better than ordering (and eating) pad thai.


Minestrone (aka vegetable) Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 large celery stalk, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 medium bunch kale, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can small white beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
1 (2-inch) piece of parmesan rind
3/4 cup small dried pasta (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 - 8 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes, kale, beans, broth and Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the pasta, if using and cook for ten minutes more, or until the pasta is al dente. Discard the cheese rind and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan if desired. Serves 6 - 8.


Curried Lentil Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons (or more) curry powder
1 cup green lentils
4 cups water
Cilantro and lemon wedges, for serving

1. Heat the olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes longer. Add the curry powder and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. 

2. Add the lentils and 4 cups of water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to bring to boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Pulse briefly with an immersion blender to desired consistency. Top with cilantro and serve with lemon wedges. Serves 6.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hey, Blondie!


My quick go-to recipe for a sweet treat is always brownies. Always. You can't beat a warm brownie right out of the oven. Maybe with a little vanilla ice cream? But for the same amount of ingredients (if you don't count the nuts and chips), you can make blondies, essentially a quicker version of chocolate chip cookies but with a richer butterscotch flavor. Try it. I bake a lot and was recently told that it was the best thing I ever made. I'm not so sure about that, but I'll take it!


Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
Adapted from Martha Stewart

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Brush an 8-inch square baking pan with butter.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugars until smooth. Whisk in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour and salt. Mix just until moistened (do not overmix). Fold in 1/2 cup each chocolate chips and walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth the top. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and walnuts.

3. Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack, and let cool completely. Using parchment overhang, lift cake from pan and transfer to a cutting board; cut into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container up to 2 days.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Story


It's Christmas Eve ya'll! Time to get ready for 24 hours of A Christmas Story! TBS gives us all a gift that we don't have to wait until Christmas morning to open, starting at 8:00 pm tonight. And BTW, did you know that you can even visit Ralphie's house?!? You're welcome. Since I won't be in Cleveland to experience it in person, I will be hunkered down in front of my TV laughing at Ralphie dressed as a deranged Easter Bunny, scarfing down the last of my holiday cookies (not soap!).

If you need a last minute cookie recipe, try these oatmeal lace cookies, one of my mom's faves. They're great because you don't need that many ingredients and you can whip them up in, like, 15 minutes (including baking time). You'll end up with an impressive crisp, delicious cookie that may also be quite fragile. FRA-GEE-LAY. Must be Italian.


Oatmeal Lace Cookies

1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl. Stir to combine.

2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper (or a silicone baking mat). Drop the batter, one scant teaspoon at a time, leaving 3 inches between cookies. Bake for 5 - 7 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely before removing from sheets. Makes 24 cookies.