30 December 2008

Frittata Fusion

Once again, kudos to Deborah Madison's 'Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone' for serving as a field guide to the recipe I just invented. I took her process for a basic potato 'straw cake' and went a little crazy with it. It turned out well. It's one of those nights where all we had in the fridge was two potatoes, three eggs, and a few random other veggies; but a dish like this makes it look like you did it on purpose. ;)

I created a little semi-roasted topping for these fusion-frittatas which I'll also post here, but one of the great things about potatoes & eggs is that they're so easy to pair with other stuff; feel free to invent your own topping out of whatever leftover veggies you have in your fridge.

By the way, I impressed the hell out of my hubby just by serving the topping in these cool ramekins instead of on the straw cakes or next to them. Presentation is half the battle. (The other half is an easily impressed significant other... ha ha ha...) The ramekins also ensured that just in case the topping failed, it wouldn't taint the frittata, which you really could eat on its own if you felt like it.

Fusion Frittatas

~ 1 lb potatoes, washed & peeled
3 eggs
2 Tbs butter
garlic powder
fresh ground sea salt
fresh ground pepper

Grate the potatoes on the large holes of a grater; if they're high starch, rinse them in cold water and towel-dry. Heat a small cast-iron skillet that's a couple inches deep over medium heat. Once it's hot, melt 1 Tbs butter in it, then add half the potatoes, patting down into a circle. Add garlic powder, cayenne, salt & pepper to taste, then add the other half of the potatoes. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook 10-15 minutes until the bottom is golden brown.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a small bowl and add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Once your eggs are prepped and the potatoes are cooking, it's a good time to prep & make the topping (recipe below).

When it's time to flip your frittata, put a plate over the skillet and flip the whole thing upside down, so that the potatoes are on the plate. Add the other tablespoon of butter and slide the potatoes back into the skillet. Cover again, but turn up the heat a little, to medium-low-ish. After 10 or so minutes (when the bottom is becoming golden), pour the eggs on top and cover again for 3-5 minutes. Uncover and do the plate-flipping thing again, but without adding any more butter, and let the eggs cook on the bottom (without the lid) for another 3-5 minutes to your desired doneness. Slide back onto the plate so that the eggs are still on the bottom, and do one last round of sea salt and a little pepper. Cut into wedges as you would pie, and serve immediately with the topping on the side.

Serves 2.

Red Pepper, Garlic & Tomato Topping

1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 - 1/2 red pepper (about 2 tablespoons), diced
1 roma tomato, finely diced
1/2 Tbs butter
fresh ground salt & pepper to taste
~1/4 tsp smoky seasoning (we love Penzey's Northwoods Fire Seasoning)

Heat a small, thick saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the minced garlic & red pepper and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently and removing from the heat as necessary - you are basically using the hot pan to roast the veggies. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the butter, salt, pepper, and smoky seasoning, and continue stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for about 2 minutes before stirring in the diced tomato. This topping doesn't need to be hot when served with the straw cakes.

Also serves 2.

24 November 2008

My Most Favorite Food Ever

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year. Why? Because nothing, and I mean nothing, beats Mom's mashed potato casserole.

So delicious! It's like mashed potatoes on wonder-drugs. You'll love it. Trust me. You'll be collapsing with joy over every bite. Well, I do anyway.

Mom's Mashed Potato Casserole

~ 4 lbs baking potatoes (about 12 med. or 4-5 large)
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened (don't you dare use low-fat, come on, it's the holidays!)
1 8 oz carton sour cream
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 to 1/4 c chopped chives (fresh is best, but dried's okay too)
2-3 Tbs cold butter
paprika to garnish.

Peel & rinse potatoes, and cut into eighths. Boil potatoes in a large pan of salted water, ~ 20 minutes. Drain water & mash potatoes. Add cream cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper & garlic. Beat at high speed until light & fluffy. Stir in chives. Spoon into lightly buttered 9 x 13 glass dish or 2.5-3 quart casserole. Lightly garnish with paprika. Generously dot with chunks of butter.

If making ahead, refrigerate here & let sit on counter about 30 minutes before baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

23 November 2008

The Pie-tastrophe Story

In honor of Thanksgiving, and all you cooks who are stressing out right about now, I thought I'd resurrect this email to a friend from late November 2005...

So here’s a story for your entertainment: after doing a bunch of cleaning last night, I finally got around to making a ‘test pie’ for the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Understand that my stepmother and her mom are incredible bakers, and that my grandma has taught me to make a pie crust from scratch. The problem is that I only do this once a year or every couple of years, so every time, it’s like starting from square 1, except I don’t have my grandma or Janet there as I did the first time.

So at 10 o’clock last night I call up Janet – fortunately, only 9 p.m. there. I’m covered in flour, the entire kitchen is covered in flour, and I can’t decipher my notes from when I learned the recipe with Grandma. So I call Janet, who has Grandma visiting, but of course is a darn good baker herself. Janet proceeds to talk me through the entire process, but only when I’m rolling the dough on the counter and it’s cracking all over the place – in fact, it looked like a map of Ireland rather than the circle it was meant to be – do we figure out that because the climate here is so freakishly dry, I need a lot more water.

So I put it back in the bowl, add more water mixed with flour, and try working it again. At this point, what is supposed to be adhering to itself in a ball is flaking like freaking Paris Hilton. It’s all over the place. So I add still more water. Now, it strongly resembles play-dough. I roll it out again, and this time manage to achieve something that basically looks like a pig, which is at least rounder than a map of Ireland. I put it in the pie pan, cut off the ragged edges, and pinch the rim into shape. I preheat the oven and make my pumpkin pie filling.

So you’re supposed to bake a pumpkin pie for 10 minutes at 450 degrees and then reduce heat to 325 and bake for 35 minutes. And this works great if you are in Owensboro, Kentucky. But in Colorado, at 6700 feet, this does not work so well. An hour and twenty minutes later, it was close enough to being fully cooked that I just turned the oven off, left the pie in there and went to bed at 1 in the morning.

This morning, Ben and I tried the pie for breakfast. We each had about two bites and threw the rest of the pie out. The crust was hard as a rock, and the filling was still too mushy. At least the flavor was good. Thank god I made a test pie, because I think now I know what to do (and not do) on the next go-round.

And yes, I am buying a ‘back-up pie’ on the pretext of having two flavors!!

05 November 2008

Victory Apple Crisp

We had a few friends over to watch the election last night, and celebrate Obama's win. I wanted to have something patriotically apple-y, but didn't feel like making pie crust. So I made my apple crisp recipe that I first posted here in June '07 - except I added a few things to enhance the yumminess.

Note - the instructions given here have you make this in a baking dish, but this last time I used eight ramekins at the same temp & time, and it worked fine. Hopefully this is common sense, but do not torture yourself trying to split the recipe into eighths - mix it up in a bowl and divvy it out. Riiiight.

Victory Apple Crisp!

6 T cold butter, cut into half-inch pieces
2/3 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c chopped pecans (could also try chopped walnuts)
1/4 c oatmeal
~1/8 c toffee bits
1/4 t salt
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t ground cinnamon

Whisk all ingredients except the butter together in a large bowl. Add the butter and use a mixer with a paddle attachment, pastry blender or your fingers to work it into the remaining ingredients, until the butter pieces are thoroughly coated and the rest of the mixture is coarse and crumbly.

5-6 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced
2 T packed brown sugar
1 T lemon juice
1 t ground cinnamon

Make the topping and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375F. Put the apples into a 2-inch tall, about 2-2 1/2 quart gratin dish and gently toss with the filling's remaining ingredients, evenly coating the apples. Cover the filling with the topping. Place the dish on a baking sheet to catch any dripping juices and place in the middle rack of the oven for 30-45 minutes, until apples are tender, juices are bubbling and the top is golden brown.

Once cooled, it can be covered and stored at room temperature up to two days. Reheat in a 250F oven for 15 minutes (also good cold or microwaved). Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, but also tastes awesome on its own.

15 October 2008

Peace, Love, and Winter Vegetables

I'm so happy it finally feels like autumn outside. I love the chilly weather, and I especially love to cook during chilly weather. It's so homey and fun to get the kitchen all warm and smelling good while the grey skies outside make everything feel cosy. Plus, winter vegetables are so delicious!

I spent the entire chilly, grey day yesterday dreaming of using acorn squash and sweet potatoes in my dinner. The nice thing about dreams like that is that it's pretty easy to make them come true. Last night I invented a pretty darn tasty stuffed acorn squash, if I do say so myself, and the basis for it was these absolutely delicious mashers made of a combination of sweet potato and roasted acorn squash. You could easily just serve the mashers as a flavorful, yummy side dish (perfect for Thanksgiving) or use them as the basis of the stuffed squash.

This made two generous servings. If you were using the mashers as a side dish, it would easily serve 4-6. Do yourself a favor and get organic veggies.

Sweet Potato & Acorn Squash Mashers

2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and diced in medium/small pieces
1 largish acorn squash, halved and deseeded
2-3 Tbs. olive oil
2 heaping Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
~2 tsp. rosemary
salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat the cut sides of the acorn squash with olive oil and place them face down on a nonstick cookie sheet. Put the sheet in the oven.

To prepare the sweet potatoes, I recommend a good steamer that sits above your pan of water, not the kind that you insert in the bottom of the saucepan. Bring several inches of water to boil and steam the sweet potatoes for about 25 minutes or until tender. This is also about how long it'll take your acorn squash to roast.

If your sweet potatoes are done before the squash, go ahead and mash them with half the brown sugar, butter & spices while they're hot, then scoop out the squash (try to leave about an inch or so of flesh in the shell, if you're making stuffed squash) and mash it in with the sweet potatoes and the rest of the sugar, butter & spices. Taste & add more salt & pepper as needed.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Additional Ingredients:
2-3 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup diced walnuts
2-3 cloves minced garlic
~ 1 Tbs. fresh minced ginger
1/2 medium white onion, diced
1 large or 2 medium white mushrooms, halved and sliced
1 - 1 1/2 c broccoli, chopped into tiny florets
~ 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
~ 1 tsp. smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
pinch of fenugreek seed (about 1/4 tsp) (if you don't have it, don't stress; the recipe will still taste good)
~ 1 tsp. oregano
salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

Follow the instructions for the sweet potato & acorn squash mashers above, but when you've got about 17 minutes left on the timer for the steaming/roasting veggies, heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat (or a little less than medium). Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the onion, crushed red pepper, paprika, and fenugreek seed and cook another 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Lightly toast the walnuts for about four minutes in the toaster oven, then add those to the saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring often. When there are about 5 minutes left on the timer, add the mushrooms, oregano, salt & pepper; mix thoroughly and let sit, making sure your pan isn't too hot, and stirring occasionally.

As soon as your timer's gone off and you've mashed up the sweet potatoes, put the broccoli in the steamer and let steam for 3-5 minutes, depending on your texture preference. While it's steaming, finish the mashers and spoon the mashed potato/squash mixture back into the squash shells as the bottom layer of the stuffed squash. The mashers should fill up the squash shells to about half an inch from the top, and you should have some left over. Next, spoon the steamed broccoli on top of the mashers in a mound, then pour the walnut-mushroom mixture over top. You should have some of the walnut-mushroom mixture left over too (and/or spillage onto the plate seems inevitable); spoon the rest of the mashers onto the plate too, and top with any remaining walnut-mushroom mixture. It makes for a pretty presentation, and like I said, it's a nice hearty winter meal.

28 September 2008

Odds & Ends Cookies

I wanted to make cookies, so I pulled out my trusty 'Chocolate On the Brain' cookbook. But when I went to the cupboard, I found I didn't have the right ingredients for traditional chocolate chip cookies. Instead of two cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips, I ended up raiding my cabinets and using large bittersweet chocolate chips, some semi-sweet chocolate chips, toffee bits, and semi-sweet baking cocoa to achieve the necessary level of chocolatiness. :) The result was delightfully gooey and chocolicious.

Beneath my impromptu recipe is my paraphrase of the original chocolate chip cookie recipe from 'Chocolate On the Brain'.

Odds & Ends Cookies

2 sticks of butter, softened to room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c semi-sweet baking cocoa
1 c bittersweet chocolate chips
1/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 c toffee bits

Preheat oven to 350F (high altitude 375F) and grease two cookie sheets. In a large bowl, mix together butter and sugars, either with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer. Add egg and vanilla and mix again. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa and mix until thoroughly blended. Add chocolate chips & toffee bits and mix again.

Pinch small portions of dough and roll in your hands to make balls about 1 inch across. Place in 5 rows of 3 cookies each on a cookie sheet. Bake one sheet at a time, about 7 minutes each. Remove from oven and let sit for about 3 minutes, then move to rack. Let the cookie sheet sit another minute or two so it's not too hot for the dough.

Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks of butter, softened to room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F (high altitude 375F) and grease two cookie sheets. In a large bowl, mix together butter and sugars, either with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer. Add egg and vanilla and mix again. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and mix until thoroughly blended. Add chocolate chips and mix again.

Pinch small portions of dough and roll in your hands to make balls about 1 inch across. Place in 5 rows of 3 cookies each on a cookie sheet. Bake one sheet at a time, about 7 minutes each. Remove from oven and let sit for about 3 minutes, then move to rack. Let the cookie sheet sit another minute or two so it's not too hot for the dough.

24 September 2008

Mmm, sweet potatoes...

I just invented these sort of sweet potato chips. They turned out to be so yummy that we ate them all out of the pan while the rest of dinner cooked. So, I guess I'd recommend these as an appetizer. :) I was originally going for a side dish. Either way, it serves 2.

Sweet Potato Chips

1 good-sized sweet potato, sliced into thin rounds
~4 tbs olive oil
~1/8 tsp smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
~1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it)
~1/4 tsp rosemary
1 tbs brown sugar

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan over medium heat. Add the sweet potato slices and stir to coat with oil. Stir every 2-3 minutes. After about 10 minutes, add the remaining ingredients and stir to coat. Cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring often, until tender. Serve hot (or eat right out of the pan).

Mixed Straw Cakes

The inspiration for this recipe begins with that vegetarian bible, Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, but I took it in a completely different direction. In fact, this recipe is still in evolution, so I may come back and update it later. The idea was to make potato pancakes, but they ended up not sticking together very well, so turned out more like yummy, bizarre hash browns. I only used one egg, so I'm thinking two eggs will give it more cohesiveness.

This serves two.

1 sweet potato - peeled, and grated on the large holes of the grater
1 large potato - same as above; rinse high-starch potatoes in water, then blot dry with a paper towel.
2 eggs
1 tbs fresh dill
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp sage
fresh ground sea salt & black pepper to taste
4 tbs butter

Set a heavy 10-inch skillet over medium heat and melt half the butter. While it's melting, mix the shredded sweet potato and potato together in a medium bowl, then stir in the eggs. Next add all the spices except the salt & pepper, and mix thoroughly.

Take half the mixture and flatten it in the skillet, neatening the edges of the cake. Salt & pepper the top of this layer, then do the same with the other half of the mixture. (If you wish to include a sauteed vegetable filling, spread it on top of the bottom layer and cover with the top layer.) Cook over medium to medium low for 15 to 20 minutes, then slide onto a plate (good luck - this is according to the cookbook, but I've never really managed to accomplish it). Add the rest of the butter to the skillet and flip the cake so it cooks on its other side, another 10 or so minutes. Serve hot. Top with a sauce or just eat straight, with a side of some steamed or sauteed veggies.

06 July 2008

Couscous makes life so easy...

I swear, couscous is the lazy vegetarian foodie's best friend. Five minutes to cook - you've gotta love it. The other night, I invented a recipe involving couscous, artichoke hearts and butter beans that turned out rather well. Now let's see if I can get through this post without my beloved cat somehow making me exit the Internet, which is what he did the last time I tried to post this recipe.

One note - I am not so scientific in my spice measurements, tending to do a dash of this, a couple pinches of that, and once or twice around the pot with the salt or pepper grinders. So I've attempted to put approximate teaspoon or tablespoon measurements, but you'll have to judge according to your own taste. Also, we tend to like things a little spicy, so of course a bit of adjustment is a good thing for your own preferences anyway.

Couscous with Artichoke Hearts, Butter Beans and Pine Nuts

1/2 c couscous
1/2 c water
2 t olive oil
1/4 tsp dry mustard powder, if desired

1 can butter beans, rinsed and drained
1 can artichoke hearts in water, drained
1/4 c pine nuts, lightly toasted
2-3 cloves garlic
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
fresh ground black pepper to taste
fresh ground sea salt to taste
dash of cayenne pepper (~ 1/8 tsp)
pinch of marjoram (~ 1/8 tsp)
healthy pinch of sage (~ 1/4 tsp)
a couple dashes dill weed (~ 1/4 tsp)
lot of basil (~ 1 tsp dried)
whole lot of oregano (~ 2 tsp dried)
1-2 spring onions, sliced (optional)

Mix couscous, water, olive oil and mustard powder (or whatever other spice you prefer) together and put on to boil. As soon as steam starts escaping the pot, remove from heat and let sit at least five minutes. (Fluff the couscous with a fork before serving.)

Heat olive oil several minutes over medium heat, then reduce heat to medium low. Add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and let simmer til the garlic is golden and smells delicious. Either lightly toast pine nuts in a toaster oven or add to the olive oil to toast. Once you've pulled the couscous off the heat, add the butter beans and artichoke hearts to the olive oil and garlic. Add all the remaining spices, except the salt, and stir it up. Taste the sauce and add salt to taste. Wait until the very end to mix in the spring onions, they are most flavorful uncooked.

Serves two.

14 May 2008

Black Bean Burgers

So my friend Leigh sent me this recipe after checking out this-here blog, and I have to say, I haven't even tried it yet but it sounds so yummy I just had to post it. Also, Leigh's a really good cook, so if it passes her approval I'm pretty darn sure it's blog-worthy. ;) She noted that she modified the recipe from Cooking Light. Sounds perfect for a good old summertime cookout. Thanks, Leelee!

Black Bean Burger

1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, grated - food processor works great to do this
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup salsa - I like green tomatilla salsa, but could use any kind
2 tablespoons self-rising cornmeal mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano or parsley if you have any growing out back)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

8 whole-grain buns
Whole grain mustard
Sliced cheese
Tomato slices

Sauté first 4 ingredients in hot olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 8 minutes or until onion is tender. Mash black beans in a large bowl; stir in onion mixture, salsa, and next 4 ingredients. Cover and chill 30 minutes. Shape mixture into 8 patties. Place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet with a little olive oil smeared on it. Chill 30 minutes.

Bake at 400° for 10 minutes, flip and cook another 5 minutes, then put slices of cheese on top for another 5 minutes.Toast buns if you like them that way. Fix up to your liking. :)

30 April 2008

Adventures in Spinach Dip

This weekend I was reminded of the cook's most invaluable tool: flexibility. It's very hard to be OCD and enjoy cooking; there are just too many variables beyond your control. If you're a novice cook and intimidated by forays into the kitchen, figuring that you're going to mess something up or do it wrong somehow, let me just say now that 1. it happens to the best of us sometimes, and 2. really, no cooking mistake is so serious that you can't just throw it in the trash and order some pizza. Oh, and also, cooking misadventures can make for highly entertaining experiences - as long as you can keep your sense of humor about you.

For example, this weekend I flew to DC to throw my dear friend a baby shower. We decided to make several easy recipes, including the spinach-artichoke dip mentioned in the previous post. I chose to include the dip because it requires so little thought and effort; you can make it in about 30 minutes or less.

Assuming you have a working food processor, that is.

Can you see the writing on the wall? First I made a couple other dishes, saving the spinach dip for last because - say it with me - it was so easy. And quick, did I mention quick? Yah. So I prep all the ingredients, throw them into my friend's combo blender/food processor, and hit the button. ...Not much happens. A lot of noise, but not a lot of results. I decide there must be too many ingredients in there, and dump half of it into a bowl. I hit puree again. ...Not much happens. Then I experiment with every button the processor possesses. Still not much. So I dump the rest of the ingredients out, including - at the very, very bottom - a puree that looks a lot like baby food, and look at the machine.

'Those look a lot like blender blades,' I think to myself. I ask my friend if there are other blades that come with this thing, and she replies that she did indeed notice other parts in the box. At this point, she also says they received this thing as a wedding gift and have used it all of twice, but it worked fine those times. We retrieve the other parts, which turns out to be the food processor bowl and blades, all of which still have the original packaging on them. Now I'm figuring we have resolved the problem. I remove the packaging, wash off the stuff and attach it to the base. I dump half the ingredients into the processor. I hit the button. ...Not much happens. Still making a lot of noise, but to no avail.

I'll spare you the rest of the painful details, but eventually, we figure out that the food processor blades aren't even turning, reattach the blender, puree it in small batches as best we can, and finally take a hand-held electric beater to it in a final attempt to achieve dip. Finally, a scant TWO HOURS after beginning this recipe, I say while laughing not-quite-hysterically, "It's just going to be a chunky dip," and carry it to the table. I was gratified to see that despite the chunkiness, it was very well received.

So remember, when you're beset on all sides by uncooperative kitchen equipment, just keep your chin up and keep laughing!

25 April 2008

Artichoke hearts make everything better.

Seriously. The other day I was going through the index of a cookbook I like pretty well, and discovered that there were no entries under artichokes. Now that just ain't right. I officially think less of that cookbook.

But anyway. Wanted to post two yummy recipes for easy potluck/cookout salads that involve artichoke hearts. One's a spinach dip sure to delight all you vegans and fellow lactose-intolerants out there; it uses pureed beans as creamy goodness instead of cheese or sour cream. The other is pretty much your classic three-bean salad, which I looked at and decided it needed artichoke hearts to really make people happy. Or at least to make ME happy.

The spinach artichoke heart dip comes from the great vegetarian cookbook, "Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites". The three-bean salad one I just kinda made up after reading a few different online recipes & deciding what I wanted; I made it with red wine vinegar, whereas they're often made with cider vinegar, and it was pretty darn tasty.

Spinach Artichoke Heart Dip

5 oz fresh organic spinach, rinsed & stemmed
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 1/2 c cooked cannellini beans (or butter beans) (this equals one 15-oz can, drained and rinsed)
1 c chopped scallions
2 T chopped fresh basil
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste (or seriously, just use reaLemon if you're in a hurry)
5-6 artichoke hearts or bottoms, minced (15-oz can)
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Using only the water that's on the leaves after rinsing, steam the spinach just until wilted, 2-3 minutes. Drain.
In a food processor, puree the spinach, garlic, beans, scallions, basil and 2T of lemon juice until very smooth. Fold in the minced artichoke hearts; add more lemon juice, and the salt and pepper to taste.
Serve chilled or at room temp.

Ann's Super-Easy Deluxe Three-Bean Salad

15 oz can organic kidney beans, rinsed & drained
15 oz can organic green beans, rinsed & drained
15 oz can organic garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained
15 oz can artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, minced
1/3 c cider or red wine vinegar
1/3 c olive oil
1/3 c sugar
2 T oregano
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Combine beans, artichoke hearts and onion in a large bowl. In a small separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, sugar, and oregano. Drizzle over the beans, add salt and pepper to taste, toss gently and taste again, adding more salt & pepper if needed. Recommended to let chill several hours before serving, so the salad can marinate.

18 April 2008

Potato Salad

Summertime's a-comin... time for some cook-outs! My mom just sent me a potato salad recipe that looks absolutely delish. I haven't even tried it yet, but it looks so tasty that I wanted to share it. I love potato salad... of course, almost anything involving potatoes is a pretty easy sell for me. Mom got this from the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. Why it's patriotic, I'm not totally sure... but we don't question good food.

Patriotic Potato Salad

14 small new red potatoes, scrubbed clean
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
2 medium scallions, sliced
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mayonniase

Heat a medium-sized saucepan of water to boiling. Add the potatoes and cook just until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, cool, and cut in half (or quarters). Combine the eggs, potatoes, carrot, and scallions in a large bowl. Add the dill, parsley, caraway, salt & pepper, and gently toss to combine. Mix the sour cream and mayo; gently fold into the potato mixture.
Refrigerate for several hours before serving, to allow flavors to blend.

Serves 8

16 March 2008

Emerging from Hibernation

The snow's falling fast and thick outside, but the time has come for my blogs to emerge - however briefly - from hibernation. Even though I'm in the midst of special event hell, planning for the biggest event of the year at work, it's time for a little blogging. Actually, maybe now is a better time than ever for my blogs; I don't really have the time to cook, but I can throw something in the toaster oven or microwave and spend a little time on the old blog instead (while scattering crumbs all over the couch - eating while typing is never easy).

Credit goes to my dear friend Pam, foodie extraordinaire, who faithfully checks this blog even though it's been more than three months since I updated it. This one's for you, Pam. :)

Ironically, I've had a recipe in mind to share ever since Christmas, when we went for our usual Outer Banks family retreat and celebrated the season of giving with a veritable orgy of fresh seafood. I freaking live for that week all year. While we were stuffing ourselves with a variety of mercury-laden yumminess, I managed to perfect my recipe for crab cakes, which has been evolving for lo these many years.

There's no doubt that crab cakes are best made with fresh crab, but regardless of whether you live on the coast, I firmly believe the secret to great crab cakes is for the crab to bread ratio to weigh far more heavily on the crab side. You might be scoffing, "Thank you, Captain Obvious," but I've eaten at plenty of restaurants where people actually paid to cook have got the wrong end of the stick, crabcake-wise.

The quantities on this might be a little screwy, because I was cooking for five instead of my usual two, and ended up making way too much food, so I'm going to try and scale this to sensible proportions for four people. Still, common sense warning; adjust as you see fit.

Ann's Super-Fantastic Crab Cakes

~2 lbs fresh or canned crab
2-3 slices day-old bread, torn into breadcrumbs (can also tear up & lightly toast crumbs)
3 eggs
1 T horseradish
2 t minced garlic
1 T lemon juice
1 T minced shallots
~ 1 t dry mustard
1 t cayenne pepper
1 t fresh ground black pepper
1-2 T fresh chives or spring onions

1-2 T butter or olive oil

Blend all ingredients together except chives/spring onions; stir those in after the other ingredients are well blended. Form into cakes ~2 inches in diameter. Place on plate or wax paper and let sit in fridge for several hours, if desired (this can help the cakes hold their shape better, and is nice if you have afternoon plans but know you'll come back hungry).

Heat a flat skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat. Once heated, add butter or olive oil one tablespoon at a time, and swirl around the pan. Cook crab cakes at least 4-5 minutes a side, to desired brownness (that is now a word, if it wasn't before).

Good with all sorts of dressings; honey-mustard, sesame-ginger, a homemade pico de gallo, etc. Cocktail sauce works too. :)

Update - November 24, 2008
Last night I made mini-crabcakes for a Thanksgiving potluck using this recipe. I've updated the recipe a little, and it definitely makes a ton of crabcakes - it made 24 mini-crabcakes, so regardless of the occasion, you could easily serve 6 people or more. If you're just cooking for two or one, cut it by half (use two eggs) or a third and you should have enough to stuff yourself happy.

I'm experimenting with baking crabcakes, too, at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, flipping once. We'll see how those turn out.

I made a pretty tasty butter-dill sauce to top the cakes with. I've tried to scale this for the full recipe, since I just made the sauce for the four we ate for dinner last night (using a half-stick of butter, a heaping t of garlic and about 1/8 c fresh dill):

Butter-Dill Sauce

3 sticks unsalted butter
2 generous T minced garlic
3/4 c fresh dill, chopped/snipped
fresh ground black pepper to taste
dash sea salt

Melt butter & saute garlic for a minute over medium heat. Stir in dill, pepper & salt til thoroughly mixed, then serve immediately. You can top the crabcakes with it and then serve them, or serve the sauce in a little ramekin on the side. Garnish the crabcakes with a little fresh dill if desired.

P.S. The butter-dill sauce is also good with some cayenne or smoked paprika thrown in - I'd probably start with 2 t and rachet it up according to taste.