9pm dinner for one: Vegetarian food FTW

Without really meaning to, I've been leaning towards vegetarian meals in the last couple of days.  It's up for debate whether it is really more healthy because I end up eating more dairy/cheese/eggs, but there's no question that this is just as delicious as anything I've made with meat, and moreover I haven't really felt the absence of meat at all.  Pretty remarkable for someone who really loves her meat.

I just made this rich, crispity-crusty, super flavorful savory bread pudding with mushrooms. I had to improvise a bit because I didn't have 8 eggs, or parmesan.  I did manage to buy some heavy whipping cream (calories be darned) and am so glad I didn't try to use milk or some other such horror.  

Changes I made:

  • Made one quarter of the recipe
  • Used week old bread (it was like sawing a rock apart)
  • Skipped the step of pre-toasting the bread altogether since it was so dried out already, which meant I skipped the fresh thyme too
  • Used a mix of portobello and brown crimini mushrooms
  • Used smoked cheddar instead of Parmesan because that's all I had
  • Skipped the bell peppers; I HATE cooked green bell peppers
  • Probably added way more onion and garlic than was necessary
  • Used a mix of olive oil and butter instead of all-butter
  • Added chrysanthemum leaves (I had some sitting in my fridge for a while, and I got the idea from the savory bread pudding I had once at Bar Tartine which used nettles of all things) as well as some homemade leek confit I had in the fridge
  • Skipped the parsley

All told, I don't think I really missed any of the stuff I skipped because the end result was PHENOMENALLY YUMMY. I had it with a side salad of heirloom tomatoes marinated in balsamic, olive oil, and basil leaves, sitting on a small bed of arugula, topped with pine nuts.

On Saturday I made up a relatively quick, totally veggie sandwich:

  • Toasted pepper bagel from Noah's (my favorite!)
  • Smoked babaghanoush (eggplant dip) from Bi-Rite market (omg sooo good!)
  • Aforementioned leek confit
  • Goat cheese crumbles from TJ's
  • Sliced zucchini sauteed in olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Aforementioned arugula
  • Hummus

In the end, I think the only missing were tomatoes.  That would have really put it over the edge.

Lastly, for brunch on Sunday I made a creamy scramble with sauteed diced zucchini, portobello mushrooms, shallots, and spinach.  Topped with jalapeno jack cheese.  Yom.  Now I have to worry about what I'm going to eat for lunch tomorrow.

Food from the past couple of weeks...starting with 9pm supper for one.

  • 9pm supper for one: fried purple potatoes with onions, rosemary and smoked chicken sausage, plus a salad of dandelion greens, fancy radishes, heirloom tomatoes, pine nuts, brie cheese and Vidalia onion dressing
  • Peach picking at Farmer's Daughter: hanging out by the barn with a picnic under a big tree (that's the life!), stone fruit galette I made with the spoils
  • Dumpling-making: like old ladies around a kitchen table.  Pork potstickers steam-fried.
  • 'Off the Grid' roaming mobile food party: tuna and pickled eggplant rice balls from Onigilly, assortment of tacos from Kung Fu Tacos, pork belly and spicy chicken from Chairman Bao
  • Artful dinner at Jules': sesame panna cotta topped with blackberry mousse, seared figs and bananas, mediterranean chicken stewed with prunes and potatoes, broccoli rabe, and couscous.

Dear Mom and Dad, hope you enjoy these oatmeal cranberry cookies. Love, Steph

Adapted from this Allrecipes recipe.  Mostly I reduced the sugar.

1c butter, softened
3/4 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c dried cranberries (or mix of raisins and cranberries. Or chocolate chips)
3 c rolled oats (use quick-cooking if you prefer)
2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 c. sliced almonds or chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat butter with the sugars, eggs, and vanilla, until fluffy (about 5 min).  Stir in dried fruit.

In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing each time. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets, about 1 inch apart.  Bake 12-14 min or until light golden brown.  Makes, I dunno, about 30-32.

9pm dinner for two: I made a lovely steak.

Izzy came over again and I made a steak.  A perfect steak, really.  This is what I did: defrosted a rib-eye in the fridge overnight.  Made a marinade that I invented in my head: juice from half a lemon, olive oil, 1 small shallot and 2 cloves garlic plus chili powder, salt, pepper, and a little bit of cumin.  Marinated on a plate for about half an hour before pan frying about 4-5 minutes each side (covering the steak for the last 1 minutes on each side).  It was perfectly medium and delicious (the lemon juice added a nice tang!).

That weird blue sheen is from my TV.  I also sauteed some kohlrabi with garlic, and Izzy made tomatoes and eggs, a very traditional Chinese dish that her mom made all the time for her.  We ate it with rice.  It was yum.

Sunday 8pm dinner for two

My cousin and I made the most delicious food for dinner tonight: risotto alla primavera (i.e. spring greens risotto) and a simple grilled rib eye steak.  I'd never made risotto before in my life, but my cousin showed me how to do it:

  • Chopped shallots and leeks
  • 2 c. arborio rice
  • A bit of white wine
  • 6-7 c. chicken broth
  • Asparagus
  • Fava beans (so labor intensive but soooo worth it!)
  • Yellow crookneck squash
  • Crimini mushrooms
  • Butter
  • Parmesan cheese
The results were so creamy and flavorful, I swear I'll never order risotto in a restaurant again (like I'll never order butternut squash ravioli).  My cousin also made me try some of her fresh garbanzo beans, which she had personally shelled while watching TV last night, then sauteed in some olive oil with salt and pepper.  The flavor and texture of these little green beans was outstanding!

Foodie Tuesday: Salt-Baked Fish

I first heard of cooking things in a crust of salt from none other than clementine's posterous.  She featured chicken roasted in salt over a fire, and it was at the same time one of the craziest, and yet totally intriguing things I'd heard about.  And I kept thinking about it for a year and a half before I finally worked up the nerve to try it.

So the thing about roasting in salt is that it's not nearly as scary as it sounds - burying your meat in a mound of salt.  But the salt forms a cohesive sort of cave, an oven-within-an-oven, if you will, within which the meat sort of dry steams (oxymoron, I know) in its own juicy flavors.  The meat stays moist and tender, and the salt draws away moisture so it doesn't get soggy at all.  Afterwards, you crack the salt crust open and eat the meat inside - as long as you are careful not to crumble the salt crust, your meat won't be too salty.
The result is delicate, warm and fragrant.  And very delicious.  Not to mention this was one of the easiest dishes I've made all year.
1) Buy the freshest fish you can get your paws on.  I went to the fishmonger at the local Chinese supermarket and pointed to fish swimming in tanks and had them catch, kill (he used swift strokes of a mallet to their heads!), and clean them.  I wasn't sure which kind to commit to, so I got both a striped bass and a rainbow trout (the trout ended up being way tastier).  I'd never bought live fish before and felt very accomplished, even though I didn't do anything other than point and pay.
2) When you get home with the fish, rinse and pat dry.
3) On your baking dish, lay out a generous layer of kosher salt.  I didn't really understand why it had to be kosher salt until I tried it out for myself.  Trust me - take the trouble to buy kosher salt, because I don't think regular table salt will crust the way you need it to.
4) Lay out some bay leaves, then lay out your fish on top of them.  Stuff its belly with some freshly sliced lemon and sprigs of parsley.  You can get fancier herbs if you want to, but I found this to be simple and delicious.
5) Now, cover the fish in salt.  Anywhere from 2 cups to 2 lbs, whatever it will take to form a nice crust (mine was between 1/3 to 1/2 an inch thick).
6) Roast in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for about 25-30 min.  I left mine in for too long and the bass got a little tough, but the trout was still moist and flavorful.
7) Crack open the salt crust and enjoy!  We had our fish with steamed wild rice and stir-fried bok choy.  Nom nom nom.
Some more pictures from Saturday - that Kung Fu riesling sure packs a punch!  I drank one small little glass and got drunker than I have in a long time.  And there are videos to prove it.