Saturday, April 19, 2008

More taters

As I've touched on before, during the summer months there's a lot of need to create food for many. The meats are pretty straightforward, marinate and grill, not much too it. If we want to get creative, perhaps throw a piece of fish on there (I know, crazy). But the sides pose a bit more of a problem. People will eat a grilled steak or chicken thigh until the cows come home (where exactly were the cows supposed to be anyway...but I digress), but no one wants to eat the same veggie or baked potato every day. So I am ever on the lookout for new and interesting sides. So imagine my delight (cue mental image of muffin jumping up and down and clapping hands) when I came upon this recipe for a roasted potato and fennel dish. Easy to make and fancier than your standard roast potatoes.

Roasted Potatoes and Fennel

2 fennel (also known as anise) bulbs, sliced into strips
approx 2 1/2 lbs potatoes, quartered (bite-size pieces)
2-3 large white or yellow onions, sliced
kosher salt

Toss the fennel, potatoes and onions with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper (to taste). Place on a baking sheet (or two for this much). Roast at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until the potatoes soften a bit but still hold their shape.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Muffin and the Mushroom

In the interest of not furthering the limitation of my palate, I've been on this mission to make myself like mushrooms. My initial mushroom opinion was one of extreme hatred, all kinds of mushrooms tasted nasty to me and the only reason I would eat them is if they happened to have some other use (if you know what I'm saying...wink wink, nudge nudge). The main problem I've always had with mushrooms is the texture. In fact, most of the foods I choose not to partake of have textures, rather than flavors, that I intensely dislike (ie - eggplant, okra). With fungi though, there is something about that slimy, mushy-yet-firm combo that really doesn't work for me. But I realized that the inherent flavor is actually quite appealing to me, it's almost meaty. (Interesting side-note: I have a vegetarian friend who stopped eating portobello mushrooms because they tasted too much like meat. I can totally see that, but being the raging carnivore that I am, this only makes me like them more.)

But moving on, I had a couple of rather more pleasant mushroom tasting experiences, and now I want more. So I decided the best course of action would be to actually cook them myself. Then I could make sure to make them how I like them (ie - not the slimy, mushy-yet-firm combo).
I began cooking down the mushrooms in garlic and oil, and this wonderful earthy aroma took over my kitchen. As my astute roommate mentioned (another mushroom disliker, I might add), as they cook down in oil and garlic, they smell like wine. I agree, and who doesn't love the scent of alcohol cooking...anyone?

This recipe is adapted from Food & Wine's Pasta Cookbook.

Pasta with Mushrooms and Parsley

1/2 c olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 lb pasta (I used bucatini, but any rod pasta will work)
4-5 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Begin heating salted water for the pasta.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over med-high heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 min. Add the mushrooms and cook down (they will give off a lot of liquid, let this evaporate off) until they are browned and almost crunchy (approx 10-15 min).
Toss with the pasta, fresh parsley and salt to taste.

Friday, April 11, 2008

a day off

So I recently took a day off, right in the middle of the week! And without any plan for the day, I just stayed in bed and read more of this book, which was lent to me by a cousin and I am thoroughly enjoying. So I got inspired.

The other day I was in our local grocery store (called Foods, I kid you not) and I saw asparagus. And you know what asparagus means, SPRING! I had to get it, even though we have an abundance of vegetables waiting to be prepared already. So I made the recipe below, and it only took me 20 minutes, start to finish, and I'm not lying like they always do in cookbooks. The recipe is from Cook What You Love, a book I've mentioned before. For a book that I bought on a whim, basically just for all the pretty pictures, it's pulled through on numerous occasions. This time I managed to burn my fingers (more than once, let's just say patience isn't one of my virtues) as I tried to eat the scalding asparagus right out of the pan.

A little trip through my recipe folder and I came across an egg salad recipe I printed out from 101 Cookbooks. I made some significant changes to it, but the idea is the same. Egg salad, like potato salad, pasta salad, etc, is one of those things I am skeptical of. I just picture a soupy mess with some semblance of that which it is named for somewhere in the mess. My discovery of German Potato Salad (another one I'm going to have to write about at some point) made me realize there was another way. This egg salad only has about 1 tbsp mayo in it, and lots of crunchy vegetables, mmmm. Warning, this is very filling, don't make yourself a gigantic sandwich and then attempt to eat it in one sitting without scheduling in some recovery/food coma me on this one.

Asparagus with Lemon Juice

1 lb asparagus, trimmed
1 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt and pepper

3 tbsp butter
1-2 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp lemon rind, grated
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400. Toss the asparagus, olive oil, salt and pepper together and lay out (in one layer) on a baking sheet. Cook for approx 8 minutes, until the asparagus is tender.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saute pan over med-high heat. Add the garlic and lemon rind and cook for about one minute. Add the cooked asparagus and the lemon juice, toss.

Egg Salad

6 hardboiled eggs
1 tbsp mayo
couple drops lemon juice
salt & pepper
5-7 scallions, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped

Note: I tried hardboiling the eggs in the way suggested, (7 minutes with the heat off after bringing to a boil, instead of my usual 13) and they were good, but a royal pain in the ass to peel. Very moist though, which is good for this salad because I like to go easy on the mayo.

Peel the eggs and put them in a bowl. Add the mayo, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mash with a fork but leave quite chunky.
Add the scallions and celery.

I made a sandwich with toasted oat bread, iceberg lettuce and this salad and it definitely hit the spot.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Here's a little trip down memory lane. Early in my cooking career (ok, before I knew how to make anything besides a sandwich), I was living in Chicago, far from the amazing home-cooked meals I was used to. So basically, I was pining away for those familiar tastes, the ones I grew up with. And one of the things that I just couldn't get anywhere else is the salad dressing my mom makes. So I got motivated. I called to get the recipe, wrote it down, and went to the store to buy the ingredients for the dressing and the salad it was going to accompany. I followed the instructions, and it looked pretty good, just the way it was supposed to. Then I tasted it...and there was something very wrong. My roomies at the time agreed, and there was nothing to do but throw it away (mind you, I was a starving college student at the time, so throwing stuff away was not taken lightly). It had to go, no getting around it.

So for many years after this, I was petrified to try and make it again. Worried that I would yet again fail and never be able to replicate this awesome-ness that I love so much. Salads would never be the same. But I eventually got over this apocalyptic mind-frame, and have successfully created this numerous times. To this day, I have no idea what I did wrong. The recipe is so simple, how could I fuck it up so royally?

There's probably a moral to this story, but I'm not really into that whole moral thing. Perhaps, "shit happens" would be most apt?

Mom's Salad Dressing

large bouquet of parsley, chopped (probably about 5 or 6 tbsp)
5 scallions, both white and green parts, chopped
1 tbsp salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tbsp mustard
approximately 1 1/2 c olive oil

Combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in a plastic container. I use the medium size plastic take-out container, you know the one.
Mix together (this should form a sort of chunky paste, sounds appetizing, no?)
Let the mixture sit until the salad is ready, then fill the container with olive oil.
Blend with a fork and toss with salad.

Note: this makes a lot, enough for many salads, but keeps nicely in the fridge. The oil will congeal, but if you stir it up with a fork it becomes liquid again pretty quickly. Also, this is a pretty rich dressing so make sure not to over-dress, no one likes a soggy salad!

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Fact: Muffin loves garlic....loves garlic. If something doesn't have garlic in it, I'm immediately distrustful, of the cookbook, of the cook, whatever, something ain't right. I also have this habit of doubling (at least) the recommended amount. (Insert garlic breath joke of choice here.) So when I discovered the recipe below, it was like it was made just for me. 44 cloves of one dish...yum.

This also gave me the opportunity to use one of my favorite kitchen appliances, the immersion blender. If you've ever watched Iron Chef, you've probably seen an industrial one. It's such a nice alternative to the blender or food processor, those space-hogging, horrible to clean, kitchen monsters. I get excited, like a kid at a candy store, every time I get to use it. Ok, so maybe that's an exaggeration (I'm not actually crazy), but it is fun, even if I accidentally spray myself with boiling hot soup mixture in the process.

Garlic peeling trick: place cloves in a metal bowl with a lid and cover it. Pick up the bowl and shake it hard. When you uncover it, voila! They're pretty much peeled or at least loosened from their stubborn peels.

44 Garlic Clove Soup

44 cloves garlic (26 unpeeled, 18 peeled)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large onions, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
4 c chicken stock
1 c heavy cream
salt & pepper

Toss the 26 unpeeled cloves with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in a sealed oven-proof container (I used my all-clad saucepan) and roast at 350 degrees for 45 min. Remove and let cool, then remove the cloves from their skins.
Melt the butter in a large soup pot over med-high heat. Add the onions and thyme and saute until the onions are translucent (about 5 min). Add the raw and roasted garlic cloves and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken stock, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes (until the raw garlic is quite tender).
Puree the soup mixture.
Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer.

Serve with thick slices of bread, preferable a rustic white or a baguette.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

slack slack slacking

Because of various time conflicts (work, I'm looking at you), I haven't been working so hard on becoming the kitchen diva I so long to be. But now that Said-Large-Work-Thing has passed, and that large weight has been mostly lifted, I'm gonna try and continue to "bring it with the tastiness" like I promise. I've got my trusty Gourmet magazines in hand, my cookbooks at the ready, and the interwebs full of potentially yummy information...

I begin again tonight...more to come, I promise.