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Archive for the ‘Quick’ Category

OK – so I lied. I thought that I’d be able to keep up my cooking in the warm months, but I just couldnt do it. My dinners usually consisted of cheese, crackers, fruit, nuts, a slice of salami… or something along those lines. Anything to keep my stove off. In fact, my gas bill for the last 2 months has been $2 over the minimum charge for delivery fees. Now? The leaves are starting to turn, the apples are ready to be picked, my radiator was on this morning, my peacoats are out, and my cookbooks are marked. Dear Fall – I’m ready!

Apples

Apple picking in New England is the thing to do in the fall – it’s not something that us Californians do back at home. Sure we have apple farms, but we have every type of farm. Apples, I guess, dont make a special list. I wanted to go to a smaller farm, one that didnt have hay rides or t-shirts for sale. Something simple. I wanted to meet the real farmers and walk around filling my bag with whatever I wanted. and I did. I went with a couple friends of mine to Harvard, MA (no, nothing to do with Harvard University… that’s in Cambridge) to a small farm called Carlson Orchards. $23 for half a bushel (however much that is) we filled our bag and wandered around the farm in the cool foggy mist. We climbed the (low) branches, sampled from the trees, and navigated the acres of apples – by ourselves.  Arriving a little before 5PM, we were the last ones there. My favorite of of them all? Empires – a cross between Red Delicious and Macintosh. They are dark red, firm, juicy, and sweet – but not too sweet. The perfect apple for cooking with.

A couple days later we made two sour cream pies – sweet, spiced, creamy, pies. The pies were too hot for me to take home, and unfortunately they spoiled because I found out they never made it in the fridge. The parts were delicious, so I can only imagine the completed piece of work would have been too. This soup was my second attempt at doing something with the apples other than just having them for breakfast. With the weather finally in the 50*s, I thought it was time for soup. I mean, who doesnt love soup on a cold cloudy day?

Bacon Bitsapple and squash simmer.

This recipe is very simple and very easy. The hardest part is peeling the butternut squash and apple – be sure to have your vegetable peeler on hand. I couldnt find mine for a couple minutes, and trying to peel a squash with a pairing knife wasnt fun. Also be sure to cut up the pieces into small cubes. The squash and apple are browned and almost cooked entirely from the oil, which is why the recipe only calls for 6-8 minutes of simmering. The larger the cubes, the more time you’ll have to add at the end simmering.

Soup's ready!

Apple and Butternut Squash Soup
based on recipe in Fine Cooking Magazine, April 2010

Ingredients:
8 slices of bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4″ strips
2.5 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2- inch dice
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4- inch dice
1 quart low sodium chicken stock
1 tbs dried sage
salt and pepper
splash of white wine vinegar, or to taste

1. Cook the bacon in a large pot until crispy, about 8-10 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a plate with paper towels.
2. Add butternut squash cubes to bacon fat and brown for 6-8 minutes. Be sure not to stir too often or the squash wont brown.
3. Mix in the apples, sage, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.
4. Pour the chicken stock into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
5. Stir in 3/4 of the bacon bits, and puree with an immersion blender.
6. Season with a splash of vinegar, salt, and pepper.
7. Garnish with remaining bacon bits in bowls, and serve warm.

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Farmers Abbie buying eggs

Spring means many things. Remembering what the sun feels like, spending time outdoors, ditching the wool peacoat for short sleeves and dresses, cherry blossoms, (allergies)… and the return of farmer’s markets with produce other than root vegetables!

There’s nothing quite like farmers markets and talking to the individuals who grow/bake/produce the goods you buy from the local farms. I miss the days when I used to go down the street in San Francisco every Saturday and buy all my produce – even in the dead of “winter.” Boston is a little slow bringing this spring delight back so I decided that a short trip to Rhode Island was in order. I didnt want to wait until the end of this month to get my first fresh produce from Boston (we’re having our first ones open up this weekend!)

I was thinking about fruit, farm fresh eggs/chicken, baked bread, vegetables, local cheese, and… ramps.

Food fads are a lot like fashion – every year there is a new “hot” item. Last year for food it was pomegranates and acai – the super antioxidant food. This year its ramps – the wild garlic/onion spring favorite. They are all over menus, in food magazines, blogs, news paper articles, pictures – everywhere. Me? I’ve never had them. Since they’re famous for their fleeting availability in early spring, I was determined to get my hands on some. Maybe I’d make a souffle? Braise them? Serve with pasta and olive oil? Put on pizza? Scramble with some eggs. I was so excited.

But had no luck finding them. I must have walked up and down the aisle 10x looking around, talking to farmers – no one had any left.

Flowers

However, this trip was still delightful. We went to a local diner, drank some coffee milk (not something we have in the Bay Area), and I bought some beautiful flowers, eggs, various vegetables, a whole chicken, and a lamb chop – all with great company.

Marinated Meat 2

Lamb is one of my favorite meats. I dont eat it very often – but it is quite irresistible. Lamb chops are small, juicy and tender with a small t-bone that separates the tenderloin from the eye. I know a lot of people have issues with eating young meat. Trust me, someone cooked me veal one time and couldnt bring myself to eat it. I just sat there looking at the plate, refusing to eat it. But for some reason I don’t have that same issue with lamb. (It doesn’t make sense, I know). I’m always looking for new lamb recipes to try out.

Roasted Bell Pepper

This recipe comes from one of my new cookbooks that I got at my favorite bookstore, Strand, while I was in New York City this weekend. The mint and vinegar make a bright fresh marinade, that is complemented nicely with a slight sweet/salty flavor.

The original recipe tells you to grill the lamb chops on a charcoal or gas grill. I dont have any outdoor space or a grill, so I chose to use my broiler instead. If you do choose to grill these watch them carefully, as they may not take very long to reach medium-rare. And wait until after the meat has marinated to add the salt – it’s a great addition that adds depth to the marinade.

I served it with baked potatoes and roasted red peppers – all from the farmer’s market.

Mint Marinated Lamb Chops
adapted from Best of the Best, vol. 11

1/4 c white wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/3 cup mint
4-6 lamb chops, 2 inches thick
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine vinegar, sugar, and mint leaves into a blender or food processor. Blend until the mint is finely chopped.
2. Let lamb chops marinate in mixture for 10-20 minutes at room temperature.
3. Turn broiler on. Sprinkle salt on each side right and cook lamb chops for 6-8 minutes per side, until medium-rare.

Lamb Chop Dinner

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Sage Popcorn

Popcorn Bowl

Popcorn is one of my favorite foods (if you can call it a food). The smell – just think about it. It instantly makes you hungry, even if you thought you weren’t. At work or at home the smell will linger in the air. Like a candy bowl , its a great way to get people to come talk to you at work. Everyone loves popcorn. And it disappears from the bowl/bag way too soon – you know what I’m talking about.

There are many ways to eat popcorn – the traditional microwaveable bags, jiffy pop for camping, movie theater popcorn with butter flavored oil, and… stove top popcorn. Now stove top popcorn may be old news to many of you, but it’s a brand new concept for me. I have long thought of buying an air popcorn maker (they’re so expensive!) but luckily my friend Abbie introduced me to this new concept a couple weeks ago. I think I’ve made popcorn almost every other night since then.

Ingredients

It’s cheap, you have complete control over how much sodium, fat (butter or olive oil), calories, and sugar goes into it, there are no preservatives, you can pronounce all the ingredients AND it tastes better. No more having to worry about 90 calorie cardboard. How fantastic is that?

The other great thing about making your own popcorn is that there are endless flavor possibilities. Feel like something sweet? Use clarified butter (see note below), cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg.  Feel like something salty? Just add some olive oil and salt. You could add curry, paprika, cayenne pepper, etc. Personally, I like my popcorn with a hard cheese and some herbs so this “recipe” includes sage and grated pecorino romano.

Pop

Sage Popcorn

Ingredients:
1/3 c popcorn kernels
2-3 tbs sage
1/3 c hard cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs olive oil, plus more for seasoning (or clarified butter, see below)

1. Add 2 tbs olive oil and a few kernels to a medium sized pot over medium-high heat
2. Once the kernels pop, add enough popcorn kernels to cover the bottom of a 3 quart pot (approximately 1/3 cup) and cover.
3. Once the kernels begin to pop vigorously, gently shake the pot back and forth to keep the bottom kernels from burning.
4. Listen carefully to the pops. Once the popping slows to several seconds between, remove the pan from the heat, take off the lid, and pour the popcorn immediately into a large bowl.
5. Add seasoning to popcorn, mix well, and ENJOY!

Clarified Butter:

Note about butter: Movie theaters use butter-flavored oil, which has a lower water percentage than butter so it makes popcorn less soggy. You can make clarified butter at home, which removes the milk solids and has the same effect.

1. Melt down 2 sticks butter in a glass container in the microwave until it has all liquefied.
2. Remove the container from the microwave and let sit for a few minutes.
3. As the butter begins to cool, it will separate into 3 layers. Skim off the top layer of foam, then slowly pour the clarified butter (the middle layer) into a heatproof container. Throw away the bottom layer of milk solids.
4. Use 2 tablespoons of the clarified butter for your popcorn;

You can refrigerate the rest and use for sauteeing or pastries; will keep for several months.

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Black Bean Quinoa Salad

Bean Salad
I have a thing for colorful food. I mean, look at that picture. The red, yellow, black, and green contrasted against the tan – how could you not want to eat it? Beautiful? Check. Healthy? Check check. It’s perfect. Well, hopefully my coworkers agree because this is my contribution to salad/soup group this week. We’ll find out tomorrow.

You know what helps add color to all my foods? Balanced meals. While running my first 5k today (more like a run/walk, but hey, I finished. baby steps), I was talking to my coworker about food (per usual) and realized that I’m really funny about the composition of my meals. For every meal that I eat I need a protein, a carb, and some sort of vegetable or fruit. Every one. I think in terms of this when I go to the grocery store – ok I have my meat, now I need rice/pasta/bread.. ok… now I need a vegetable that is a different color than the other two… ok. Done.

Some times this results in cheese, crackers, a seasoned avocado, and some salami. A meal doesn’t feel complete without having all three elements – like I know I’ll still be hungry if I’m missing something. And it doesnt look right to me if I dont have a bunch of different colors. Does that make sense? Surprisingly this started way before I took pictures of some of my meals. I did read an article in Food and Wine magazine that said the best way to add nutrients to your meal is to add colors. But I think it’s my mom’s influence (Happy Mothers day!). She’s always been very good about a balanced meal with healthy colorful foods too.

Quinoa is one of those ingredients that was unfamiliar to me before soup/salad group. It’s been popping up everywhere in my food magazines so I thought I’d give it a try. Now let me just say that I had absolutely no idea how to cook it. I saw the instructions list on epicurious and that seemed ok, but I didnt really feel like steaming the quinoa (and I dont have a sieve to cook with). So I googled around for a bit and found that I could use my rice cooker. I’m sure it would have been ‘fluffier” if I steamed it, but I liked it this way. The salad dressing, beans, corn, and bell pepper breaks the grains up nicely on its own.

p.s. I have quite an exciting week ahead. Started off today with my first 5k race in Somerville, Tuesday some of my coworkers and I are going to a Red Sox game , Thursday I’m cruising the Boston Harbor on the VinoVoyage, and last, but most certainly not least, I’m going to New York City for the weekend!! Oh, the endless food possibilities! I think it’s safe to say that I’m looking forward to Monday (and I dont say that very often).

Black Bean Quinoa Salad
adapted from Gourmet

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c quinoa
1 can black beans
1 can whole kernel corn
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeño chile, minced (remove the seeds for milder flavor)
1/4 c fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

For dressing:
5 tbs fresh lime juice
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbs Sherry vinegar (or red-wine vinegar), or to taste

To make in a rice cooker (this is how I made it):
1. Rise the quinoa thoroughly in warm water until the water runs clear, 4-6 times.
2. Place the quinoa in the rice maker with the water and turn on the rice maker, about 20 minutes.
3. After the rice cooker has turned off, place a towel over the rice maker and under the lid after it is done cooking for 5-10 minutes. This will help make the quinoa fluffier.

To make on a stove (instructions from epicurious):
1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook quinoa for 10 minutes.
2. Drain quinoa and rinse under cold water.
3. Place a sieve over a pot of boiling water covered with a kitchen towel and lid, and steam quinoa until fluffy for approximately 10 minutes.

While waiting for quinoa to cook, wisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Once quinoa is finished, transfer to a large bowl. Add corn, beans, dressing, and cilantro. Mix well.

This can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

Qunioa Goodness

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Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

Chickpeas

Today I feel like sharing more than I feel like writing. So I’ll make this sweet and simple – just like recipe. Hopefully the pictures can speak for themselves.

Small note: I will hopefully be updating this more often in the coming weeks once I buy a new light source. The lack of entries isnt because I dont have recipes and such to share, but because I’d be embarrassed to publish the photos.  I went to a fantastic dinner on Friday hosted by a chef in his own home (I’ll tell you all about it later) and noticed the light source that his wife uses to photograph the dishes. I spoke to him about my white balance/blurry picture problem and he recommended the one they have. Stay tuned!

Oh, and Happy Monday!

Fire Roasted Tomato Soup
adapted from Orangette

Ingredients:
2 15oz cans chickpeas
3 tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 shallot, roughly chopped
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles removed and finely chopped
2 15oz cans fire roasted tomatoes
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt (feel free to omit this if your stock is high in sodium)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3.5 c veggie stock

1. Head the olive oil in large pot on low heat. Add garlic, shallot, and rosemary – cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, 1 can of the chickpeas, and the stock.
2. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. After the soup is boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes – 15 minutes covered, 10 minutes uncovered.
3. Wait until the soup has cooled slightly, and puree it in small batches in a blender or food processor. If using an immersion blender, you can do this step in the pot.
4. Add second can of chickpeas and serve warm.

This soup can be made ahead and stored for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Soup

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Cilantro Pistachio Pesto

Ingredients

At work we have whats called a soup group.  Each Monday nine of us get together to share lunch in our cafe and on a rotating basis three people will make a soup, one will make a carb – it’s fantastic. Not only are the soups incredible, our weekly “meeting” forces us to eat away from our desk and gives us something to look forward to on dreary Mondays like yesterday in Boston (please go away rain….). My favorite part is that we all get to try different recipes that we may not have attempted to make ourselves. For example, I never had quinoa or vegetarian sausage before our gatherings (both good btw). I love eating with people who eat differently than I do. I’d like to think that I’m up for trying anything at least once. I may not eat it again, but I’m not the type to rule out an ingredient because I’m scared of it.

pistachios garlic and cheese Pesto

It was my turn this week and I decided to make a Thai curry soup. Along with the many vegetables, the recipe called for cilantro as garnish. Now, I’m notorious for searching through my inspirations (lately food and wine magazine and smitten kitchen) and choosing 2-3 recipes that ask for VERY different ingredients. This week was no different. Only needing a small portion of the cilantro bunch for the soup, there was a ton left over. I’m on a mission to stop throwing away so much food – it’s sad how much bad produce ends up in my fridge. I have to learn to make recipes that have common ingredients.

I decided to make a pesto. Google found recipes for making basil pesto and I eventually came up with my own combination that reflected similar ratios with different ingredients. It’s amazing and simple. There is a nice crisp/spicy flavor that is complimented with the nutty flavor of the pistachios. If you prefer creamy pesto, adding a tablespoon or two of a cream base (plain yogurt, whole milk, cream, etc.) would work well. I didnt think it needed it.

dinner

Cilantro Pistachio Pesto

1 bunch washed cilantro
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pistachios
1-2 oz of parmesan or other hard cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Top with cover and process 1 minute or until smooth, scraping sides of container occasionally.

Serve on top of your favorite pasta. I served it with whole wheat pasta with flax seeds.

(quick. easy. delicious)

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