Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crisp

I have been sick for over a week. Really sick. Like, canceled my clients, stayed in bed, got winded when I crossed the room, eventually needed antibiotics because I have a bronchial infection, sick. For the first four or so days, the only things that sounded good to eat was ramen soup, white rice and mac & cheese. Even when things started to sound better, I was too tired to cook.

Today, I finally had some of my energy back. So, I took a look in the fridge to see what I could find to work with, and found that, sadly, a lot of my CSA box (including the fava beans I was so excited about) had turned not so good. Instead of cooking, I was left with cleaning out the bad food from the fridge. A few things are still good (the potatoes, carrots and zucchini are in fine shape). But a lot had to go. I took a look at the rhubarb and the strawberries and decided that may be salvageable in cooked form. I thought about a pie or a tart, but making crust sounded hard. The easier (and just as tasty) option seemed like a crisp.

Here the ingredients for the filling:

4 stalks of rhubarb, chopped
1 pint of strawberries, quartered

4 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoon flour

I started by chopping by rhubarb and strawberries, cutting off and discarding the parts that were too far gone.

I put the fruit in a bowl, along with the sugar and flour, gave it a good toss and then set it aside while I worked on the topping.

Here the ingredients for the topping:

1 cup slivered almonds, toasted and then cooled
1/2 cup oats

2 Tablespoon flour

2 Tablespoon sugar

4 Tablespoon butter

a pinch of salt

I mashed together all the topping ingredients using my fingers (you could use a fork, but fingers is easier). The nuts were still a little warm, so the butter got a little meltier than I would like, but it worked out okay.

The filling had exuded a bit of liquid (which I expected, that's what happens when you put sugar on berries), so I gave it a final stir and split it between two ramekins.

Then I distributed the topping over the berries.

I put the completed dishes on a small baking pan (in case they bubbled over).

Then popped them into a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. I knew they were ready when the topping was nicely browned and the filling was bubbly and thickened.

How was it? Well, if you are only going to cook one thing all week, this is not a bad way too go. Sweet and tart, and even better with a scoop of vanilla on top. Plus, lucky me, the husband deemed this "too tart" for his tastes. So I get to enjoy it again later. My reward for feeling lousy for days.

The day before I got sick...

... I made this for dinner. Chicken and Black Bean Tacos (chicken marinated in spicy vinegar, cumin and chili powder plus black beans with cumin and red onion),

with Corn and Tomato Salsa (frozen corn, green bell pepper, tomato, red onion, lime juice),

and avocado relish (avocado, red onion, garlic, lime juice)


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Artichokes with Sriracha Aioli

I was really excited when I found that I would be getting artichokes in my CSA box this week. I love artichokes, but I hardly ever make them because it just seems like a pain (and let's face it, it is). However, if I just happen to have them, you can bet I'm going to cook them.

The aioli was inspired by the Serious Eats weekend cook and tell. The theme of the weekend is sriracha sauce, inspired by an article in this Wednesday's New York Times.

Here the ingredients for the artichokes:

Yep, just two artichokes

I prepared a steamer basket and a big bowl of acidulated water (as an effort to keep my artichokes from browning). Then I trimmed the points off of the artichokes, cut the artichokes in half, removed the choke and peeled the stem.

I worked quickly and put each half in the acidulated water bath before and after cutting.

I used a pan lid to hold the artichokes under water.

When all the halves were prepped I put them in the steamer for about a half an hour (letting them cook until I could pull a leaf out easily). Then I let them cool for a few minutes.

While the artichokes steamed I started work on my Aioli. I've made a fair amount of mayonnaise at home using an Alton Brown recipe (the party mayonnaise is delicious). This uses the same method.

Here the ingredients.

2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
a pinch of sugar
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Sriracha Sauce
1 cup vegetable oil

I combined everything but the oil in the bowl of my food processor.

Then gave it a few pulses. Once it was combined I started adding the vegetable oil in a slow stream.

With the artichokes cooked it was time to try it out.

Hello, delicious much. So, so good. Really good with the artichokes. I think if I was going to make the mayonnaise again (and I plan too because it was so good) I would probably use more sriracha. However, against the mildness of the artichokes, this was just spicy enough. I have enough mayonnaise left for a tasty sandwich tomorrow. I am looking forward to that already!

Sandwich accomplished. Ham and cheddar with lettuce, tomato and sriracha aioli on sourdough. Delicious.

What's in the box?

1 bunch Carrots
2 Tomatoes
2 Artichokes
.75 pound Rhubarb

.75 pound Asparagus

.75 pound Zucchini

1.5 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 Hass Avocados
1.25 pounds Garnet Yams
2 Lemons
1 Red Onions

2 Ataulfo Mangos

1 pint Strawberries

I also added a couple of items from the "green grocer" this week:
2 pounds fava beans (I've never cooked these before so it sounded fun)
2 limes (because I wanted to make salsa)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pasta with Grilled Veggies and Tomato Confit

Last week my local QFC had two pounds or grape tomatoes for only $3.99. What a deal. And as I like to say, when life gives you tomatoes make tomato confit.

So, yesterday I did just that. I use the method from the Tom Douglas cookbook Tom's Big Dinners, but I switched the herbs around a bit to use what I had on hand.

I put all the tomatoes I had left (I had to eat a few) on a baking sheet (I used a small one so that I could roast in my toaster oven) added a few cloves of garlic and a bunch of fresh oregano. I topped this off with olive oil (not the really good stuff, just the kinda good stuff) plus a generous helping of salt and fresh ground black pepper.

I roasted this at 225 degrees for 3 hours, then let it cool before stashing it in the fridge (it is sooo much better the next day).

Now, tomato confit is one of my favorite things on the planet. It smells so good while it is cooking and can be used for so many things, as a condiment for meat or poultry (maybe even fish but I haven't tried it) as a bruschetta topping, or, as I am going to use it, as part of a pasta dish.

I took a look in my very full crisper drawer and found a lot of vegetables that I would usually like to roast. The problem with that is, it's almost 80 degrees out, so grilling seems like a much better idea. Luckily I remembered one of my favorite cooking tools, my grill saute basket. With it I'm able to take produce that is too small to grill (broccoli, for example) put it in the basket and get the high heat cooking of roasting with the ease of sauteing.

Here's the ingredients for the veggies:


sugar snap peas


sweet onion

3 clove garlic
olive oil
salt and pepper

You'll notice that I didn't really put any amounts, that is because I used what I had, and other veggies would work here too (cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, etc.).

I chopped the broccoli, carrots and asparagus into bite-sized pieces, julienned the onion and chopped the garlic. In a large bowl, I combined these with the snap peas, olive oil and salt and pepper.

I put all this into my grill basket and put it on the grill.

I tossed the veggies every few minutes (for about a half hour) until they were crisp tender and char-cooked.

For the pasta:

1/2 pound spaghetti
1 Tablespoon olive oil from the tomato confit
1 teaspoon anchovy paste

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

I added the pasta to boiling water and coked it until it was al dente. I drained it, reserving some of the pasta water.

To the now empty pasta pan I added the olive oil and anchovy paste, then stirred in the ricotta cheese and the pasta, adding enough reserved pasta water to loosen it up (make it saucy).

To finish:

1 cup tomato confit
2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

really good Parmesan

I doused the tomatoes with the vinegar and then heated it for one minute in the microwave. Then I stirred in the parsley.

In my bowl I placed my finished pasta, then layered on my grilled veggies, and topped it with the tomato confit and a dusting of Parmesan.

How was it? Well, the tomato confit smelled insanely good while it was cooking, then the grilled veggies smelled insanely good while they were cooking, so I had very high hopes, and I was not disappointed. Each part of this dish was sooo good on it's own, but together, wow. I loved this so much, light, but filling and just good.

The husband, though, well, I have to discount his opinion a bit since he doesn't really like broccoli, asparagus or tomatoes. So while he ate it, he certainly didn't enjoy it as much as me. But it doesn't look like he cares.

As an aside, while I was making my tomato confit, I was also making strawberry sauce and strawberry-rhubarb jam. I have more of this than I know what to do with, so if you would like either one, the first five people that let me know their preference shall receive it.


These are lilacs from my back yard. Lilacs are my favorite flower (with gerbera daisies running a close second).

My mom tells me that lilacs were my dad's favorite too, so maybe it's genetic.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Curried Yam Salad

The weather turned nice again today so my thoughts turned to grilling. I had all the makings for a great cheeseburger, all I needed was a delicious side dish.

I searched my pantry and found garnet yams. First I thought about roasting them, making a sweet potato fry type thing. But that's what I always do, I wanted to try something new. Lately I have been making a shepherd's pie with curried filling and a sweet potato topping that is a tasty combination. I took this as my inspiration.

Here's the ingredients.

4 small garnet yams, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chive blossoms (these could be left out, but they add a nice color)
1/2 cup chives, chopped (more if you don't use the chive blossoms)
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon curry powder
salt to taste

I started by boiling the potatoes until they were fork tender. When they were done I drained them and immediately added the minced garlic and the vinegar (adding the garlic to the hot potatoes cooks the garlic just a tiny bit, then as the potatoes cool the vinegar gets sucked into the potatoes). I set these aside to cool.

Meanwhile I tossed together the chives and chive blossoms in one bowl, and then in a second bowl I mixed the mayo, sour cream and garlic.

Once the potatoes were at room temperature I stirred in the chives and the curry dressing. Tasted for seasoning and it was ready to go.

I served this alongside my tasty burger along with a simple salad of romaine, radishes, goat cheese and a little ranch dressing.

How was it? Well, I loved, loved it (but then I like curry). The slight spice of the curry was a great combination with the sweetness of the yams. I might add a bit more garlic in the future. The husband wasn't much of a fan. He said he didn't hate it, but he wouldn't ask for it by name (too bad for him because this is going on my permanent rotation for summer salads).

Monday, May 11, 2009

Crab Cakes with Two Salads

It's been a few days since I've been in the kitchen. The mother-in-law has been in town and keeping us busy. After a couple of nights of take-out, I was ready to cook.

Once again I took inspiration from the Serious Eats blog feature "Weekend Cook and Tell". This week's theme was "What's in your Pantry". Really, this is a pretty easy theme for me, because I cook from my pantry all the time. However, I have had two cans of crab lurking in my cabinet for some time. I bought them on a lark at Costco, but once I had them home, I was a little scared of them, unsure, just what would be in the cans.

Today was the day, and crab cakes was the dish. The method I use for my crab cakes is based on a Tom Douglas recipe for crab cakes from his Seattle Kitchen cookbook .

Here's the ingredients:

10 slices sourdough bread (because that is what I had in my pantry, white bread would probably be better) with the crusts cut off
1 handful fresh parsley
2 cans crab meat (note it is crab, not krab, a good sign)
1 bell pepper, minced
1 large shallot, minced
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
Sriracha to taste
(there is a lemon in the picture but I decided not to use it)

I started by putting the bread in the food processor and pulsing to make crumbs. Once I was done with the bread, I tossed in the parsley to mince. I combined the bread crumbs and parsley, measured out 1 cup of the mixture and put it in a bowl, them put half of the remaining crumbs in a pyrex dish.

Next I put the minced bell pepper, shallot and crab in a dish towel and squeezed it to remove all the excess moisture. I added this to the bread crumbs in the bowl and added the remaining ingredients stirring to combine and tasting for seasoning. I decided it needed a touch of salt and some black pepper. I divided the mixture into six equal portions.

Then formed the mixture into patties, laying them in the bread crumbs as I finished each one.

Once they were all done, I poured the remaining bread crumbs on top, covered the dish and then stashed it in the fridge until I was ready to cook (it needs to sit for at least one hour).

When I was ready to complete the meal I melted a bit of butter with some olive oil in a pan. I added three of the crab cakes (I didn't want to crowd the pan so the cakes would brown well) and browned them on each side, then I put them on a cookie sheet while I browned the remaining cakes. I popped the pan into a preheated 400 degree oven and let them cook for 12 minutes.

Alongside I made two salads. The first featured red lettuce (that I grew myself, thank you very much), diced tomato, fresh parsley, chives and a lemon vinaigrette. The second had diced mango, chive blossoms, fresh basil and a bit of sea salt.

Now, I tried the crab when I opened the can and to be honest, I was not impressed. It had a weird texture and wasn't super tasty. However, in crab cake form, it was quite good, maybe not fresh-picked crab good, but good. The husband and the mother-in-law both liked it too. The green salad was just meh. but the mango salad was delicious and really good with the slightly spicy crab cakes. If I was to see canned crab at the Costco again, I might just buy it again.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What's in the box?

1 bunch Red Chard
2 Tomatoes
1 Sweet Onions
1 head Purple Garlic
.75 pound Asparagus
2 Green Bell Peppers
1.5 pounds Red Potatoes
1 bunch French Breakfast Radishes
.5 pound Snap Peas
1 bunch Carrots
2 Lemons
1 bunch Broccoli
1 Mango

Today's box included the largest stalk of asparagus ever. On the left, a normal-size asparagus, on the right, the one that was in my box today.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Grilled Pork Loin with Picadillo-Seasoned Mango Stuffing

The meal today was inspired by the Serious Eats blog. The have decided to start something called the Weekend Cook and Tell:

Each Wednesday the food sections from newspapers all over country feature many great ideas and recipes. Here at Serious Eats we are kicking off a new feature called Weekend Cook and Tell. Every Wednesday we are going to share a particularly interesting article or recipe from a food section. We want you to use this as a jumping off point for a weekend cooking project, come up with an idea inspired by the featured article or recipe, cook it over the weekend and then tell us all about it and share photos of your dishes.

For the first go-around they decided to feature an article from the New York Times about "off-cuts" of meat.

These unfamiliar cuts are readily available, inexpensive, and underutilized but full of flavor and really delicious when prepared using the right techniques.
I knew that I had a pork loin (not tenderloin) in the freezer so I started it thawing and considered what to do with it. Now, they recommended it as a cut for roasting, but with the weather warming up I thought grilling was in order. Indirect grilling provides basically the same kind of cooking as roasting, but with the additional deliciousness of charcoal and wood that you can't get from the oven.

A Cook's Illustrated recipe that I had used before came to mind. It featured pork loin stuffed with an apple-cranberry filling. However, apples and cranberries bring to mind feelings of fall and winter, and it is trying desperately to be spring here. I wanted to stick with a fruit filling but the best looking fruit right now is strawberries, and that just didn't seem right. Then I thought about the great mangoes that have just come into season and decided that might be the way to go. I did a little searching online and found a recipe for picadillo that featured mango as one of the ingredients (and seemed like a great start for a flavor profile). After a little more searching and comparing a few different regional recipes, I came up with the following for my version.

Here's the ingredients:

8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 onion, diced
1 mango, diced
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 Tablespoon capers
2 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a couple of dashes cayenne
1/2 cup almonds, toasted
3 lb boneless pork loin

In a saucepan I combined all of the filling ingredients except for the almonds and brought the mixture to a boil.

I turned down the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

After the simmering I strained out all the solids.

Then returned the liquids to the pan so that I could make a glaze.

I let the liquid reduce by half.

Meanwhile, I let my stuffing mixture cool, then I stirred in the almonds.

I butterflied the pork loin.

Spread the stuffing over (to within about a 1/2" of the edges).

Then rolled it back up and tied it.

Unfortunately, I seem to have been distracted at this point and I forgot to take a picture (doh).

I let this sit on the counter while I started my coals. I have a fancy charcoal grill that has not only baskets for indirect grilling, but also, propane ignition. So, I loaded the baskets and set them aflame.

While I waited for the coal to be ready for cooking I put some smoking chips in water to soak.

When the coals were ready, I drained the chips and tossed a handful on the coals. Finally I added my pork loin (which I had basted with oil and seasoned with salt and pepper) to the grill in between the baskets and closed the lid (this is what makes it oven like).

I expected the pork to take about an hour to cook, so after a half-hour I flipped the pork over. When the pork was 15 degrees from being done I started basting it with the glaze

While the USDA would like you to cook pork to 160 degrees, I like my pork to have a remnant of moistness (plus I like to live on the edge). So, I cooked it to 135 degrees and then let it rest, covered The carryover cooking brought it to 145 degrees.

One of the ingredients that seemed to be fairly unanimous for picadillo was green olives, but rather than add it to the filling, I decided to add it to my rice side dish. I cooked up some yellow rice with a little butter and then stirred in some sliced green olives.

I sliced a zucchini into planks, drizzled them with oil, seasoned them with salt and pepper and grilled them once I had removed the pork loin.

Once the loin had rested for 10 minutes I sliced it and plated it with some of the rice and zucchini.

How was it? Delicioso! The filling kept the pork super moist and had a nice mix of sweet and sour. I loved the olives in the rice (and I was glad that I opted to put them in the rice rather than the stuffing). This one is going on the permanent repertoire. I might try it again with peaches instead of mango later in the summer. I think that'll be tasty too.