30 September 2007

a curious little eggplant

I was going to name this post something along the lines of "farmers' market is a chore" because it really felt like one this morning. I didn't wake up early enough to beat the crowds so by the time I got there it was hot and crowded. I just wanted flowers and tamales. In and out, quick quick. The line at the tamale stand was too long so I went to the flower guy first. I picked up some beautiful marigolds. Then the line at the tamale stand was three times as long! So I threw my hands up and begrudgingly settled for some vegetables that I wouldn't have to stand in line for. I know the older me will thank the younger me 30 years from now for choosing vegetables over tamales. But the current me really, really wants to drown in hot cheese.

I don't want this to be a hippie-dippy post about lovingly and carefully selecting my organic vegetables, taking in the smells and scents of fresh herbs and all that crap. This was veggie purchasing in the trenches. A little old man and I were elbowing each other over finding the best red peppers. I was frowning at all the tomatoes. Lots of stuff seemed slightly passed its prime. Someone started to hold up the line discussing the freshness of the eggs. This just wasn't a relaxing activity.

On an impulse, just before I handed over my red peppers for weighing, I grabbed a curious little eggplant. I think it's a kind of Indian eggplant, based on this information from Evergreen Seeds. I don't know what to do with it, but I'm enjoying thinking about it and looking at it. I can't find much information online about how to cook it. Should I stuff it? Slice it up into curry?

No Weekend Herb Blogging for me this week. My activities in the kitchen have been nothing to write home about. But check out Kuchenlatein tomorrow for the weekly summary. Maybe my entry next week will be whatever I end up doing with my little eggplant.

24 September 2007

chili and cornbread

This is a meal that Mike perfected back in his bachelor days. He made it with pork, and while I like the pork, he also developed this potato version that I love. It's a hearty meal, perfect for chilly weather because it warms up the whole house. It feeds several people at once, or the two of us for a week.

1 lb potatoes
1 15-oz. can each of black beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans (or whatever beans you prefer)
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 1-oz. block of baker's chocolate
1 package Carroll Shelby's Chili Kit (Look for the package that looks like a tiny paper bag. It's sometimes on the Mexican-food/taco seasoning shelf, other times with soup mixes.)

Step 1
Quarter the potatoes so they are about bite-sized. Place on a baking sheet and roast at 375 for about 30 minutes. They want to be slightly under-cooked.

Meaty alternatives to the potatoes are slices of pork, browned, or a package of Aidells Habanero and Green Chili Sausage, sliced. (The sausage is precooked so it doesn't need to be browned before using.

While the potatoes are in the oven, open the cans of beans and put them in a colander. Rinse them and leave them in the sink to drain.

Step 2
In a large pot, combine potatoes, beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1 can of water, from the 8-oz. tomato sauce can, chili mix (mix and spices only; save the masa flour and salt for later), and baker's chocolate. (The spice package will warn you that it's super hot n spicy, but it's not. This is pretty tame, heat-wise.) Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Keep simmering for at least 30 minutes. During this time, test-taste to see if salt is needed. Also, for thicker chili add some masa. This can simmer or be kept warm for several hours, until you're actually ready to eat.

Step 3
When you're about 30 to 45 minutes away from being ready to eat, make the cornbread. I use the Orange Cornbread recipe from Bette Hagman's The Gluten-Free Gourmet.
2 cups corn flour (cornmeal is also okay)
2 Tbs sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp grated orange peel

Preheat oven to 400. Grease a 9 by 9 square baking pan.

In mixing bowl, combine corn flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in milk, eggs, oil, and orange peel until smooth. Do not overbeat.

Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

If you want sangria, then you should have started 12 to 24 hours earlier, when you stuff a jar with orange slices and red wine and a pinch or two of sugar. Let it stew in the fridge all day or overnight.

You can start drinking sangria now, because all the work is finished. Be sure to serve it with a splash of something fizzy, like sparkling water.

And thanks to the sangria, I've now sort of lost track of the rest of the post. We like to put a piece of cornbread in the bottom of a bowl and put the chili over it. Then top with shredded cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and some fresh cilantro.

This was our first chili of the season and it was spectacular. It's a little earlier than we usually make it, being only the first day of fall, and it's almost too warm outside, but we really wanted it this weekend.

22 September 2007

eggplant with basil and feta

This recipe is inspired by the Crispy Eggplant with Spicy Tomato-Feta Cheese Sauce in the book Vegetarian Cooking for Today. We've modified it quite a bit for our tastes. It's the recipe that convinced Mike several years ago, after we both read Fast Food Nation, that it's not so bad to cut down on meats. It's also the recipe I wanted to make a couple weeks ago when I had an eggplant but ended up without basil.

1 egg
small bit of milk
pototo starch
bread crumbs
tomato sauce
crushed red pepper
fresh basil
feta cheese

I got a medium eggplant from my Planet Organics delivery on Thursday. Peel it and slice it into rectangles, about 1 inch by 2 inch by 3 inch. Let the pieces sit on a plate, salted, for about 10 minutes to draw out some of the moisture. Pat dry with paper towels. Bread the pieces by dipping in potato starch, an egg-milk mixture, and finally bread crumbs. (I use Gluten-Free Pantry Herbed Crumb Coating. I hate the breading process--it seems to take forever. A little trick I have is to ask Mike to do it for me.) Place breaded pieces on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until the outsides are crispy and the scent of herbed bread crumbs is intoxicating.

While the eggplant is baking, heat up some of your favorite store-bought or homemade tomato sauce in a small sauce pan, adding a pinch of crushed red pepper. Wash and pat dry some basil leaves. Sometimes I slice them into attractive little shreds. Get the pack of feta cheese from the fridge. Place eggplant pieces on plate, spoon sauce over them, then top with basil and crumbled feta.

It's a very satisfying meal, combining some of our favorite flavors. It's warm and filling for cool weather, but if you can get good fresh basil you have great summery flavor. And everything is better when it's topped with feta cheese.

This is my first entry for Weekend Herb Blogging. This is a weekly event that collects recipes for herbs and vegetables, sponsored by Kalyn's Kitchen. This week it's being hosted by Once Upon a Tart, so head over there on Monday to check out the weekly recap of recipes.

21 September 2007

steak salad

1. Make a green salad with your favorite veggies.
2. Top with slices of cold steak leftover from the restaurant the night before.

Isn't that easy?

People who've known me forever might be saying, "Stephanie and steak?" I don't really like red meat and I average about one serving a year. But the menu changed at our favorite steakhouse and their totally delicious chicken dish isn't on it anymore. I'm not a huge fan of fish either. So I found the least steak-tasting steak dish I could find, and it was pretty good. Skewers with onions and red peppers. And it was actually even better on my salad the next night. Maybe I can increase to 3 or 4 servings of red meat a year.

Has anyone else found that the gluten-free diet leaves you craving foods you didn't usually like or eat before? I remember a few weeks into the diet realizing that I wanted to eat a lot more meat than usual. My body definitely felt a void. In the last few years I've expanded to Thai food, Indian food, and some sushi. I eat tofu and broccoli, more because they're good for me than because I like them, but that's part of what it means to be a healthy adult. I'm still a picky eater (still hate eggs!) but I've come a long way from the kid who'd only eat mac 'n' cheese.

19 September 2007

cleaning-out-the-fridge stirfry

Today is grocery shopping day (although I'm putting it off until tomorrow) so last night was eat from the fridge night. Sometimes these forced creativity exercises are more successful than others. Last night's was a success!

Stirfry is theoritcally the sort of dish you can throw almost anything into, but we have some favorites that we always use. We didn't have all those favorites on hand last night though so I had to improvise.

I diced some super-frim tofu and sliced some red pepper. I stirfried the tofu with garlic in peanut oil. I added the red pepper slices toward the end just to warm them up. Meanwhile Mike heated up Monday night's leftover rice in the microwave. We took 2 big bowls and filled them with the rice, tofu, and red peppers, and mixed in the last of the Chinese peanut sauce. Voila! A quick, filling, delicious dinner of leftovers.

tandoori chicken with yogurt sauce

I first mentioned this recipe from Everyday Food a few weeks ago because it inspired the apple yogurt slaw I like to serve with other dishes. Sometimes though we like to do this complete recipe.
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 bone-in, skinless chicken breasts halves (10 to 12 ounces each)
2 Granny Smith apples
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 475°. In a large bowl, mix together 1/2 cup yogurt, garlic, turmeric, ginger, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken; turn to coat.
2. Transfer chicken to a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast (avoiding bone) registers 160°, 25 to 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, peel apple; coarsely grate into a medium bowl. Add cilantro and remaining 1/2 cup yogurt; season with salt and pepper. Serve sauce alongside chicken, with rice, if desired.

I like to use 2 boneless chicken breasts instead, for faster, easier cooking. Also, I use whatever apples I have on-hand and I like to add lime juice to the apple slaw. And we always make rice for the side.

We had this on Sunday. Last night was marinated, grilled pork chops. Tomorrow we're going to a steakhouse for dinner. So tonight it's tofu, veggies, and water.

17 September 2007

Bob's Red Mill Hearty Whole Grain Bread

Getting enough whole grains on the gluten-free diet is a concern of mine. I can't just walk into any supermarket and buy whole grain breads and cereals. Everyone thinks of wheat when they think of whole grains. So when I'm eating grains, how do I know they're the whole grains that are good for me?

When I noticed Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Hearty Whole Grain Bread mix I decided to give it a try. I like his Wonderful Sandwich Bread. Bob's bread mixes seem to work better than any others in my bread machine. I was placing an order anyway so decided to go for it.

I was skeptical when I first openned the package. It smelled funny. I checked the ingredients, and they include onion powder. They also include cocoa, which accounts for the darkness of the mix. I put my trust in Bob and threw everything in my bread machine. (You need water, eggs, and cider vinegar. The mix comes with yeast.)

I was concerned during the mixing and kneading because the dough stayed very wet and blobby, not forming the "dough ball" it's supposed to. And once it entered the baking cycle it didn't smell as pleasing as baked bread is supposed to smell.

The bread is actually pretty good. It's moist, not crumbly. It's a savory bread and with all the caraway seed it tastes very much like rye bread. I've been enjoying it simply with butter alongside all my dinners. It seem like such a luxury to have a slice of bread with butter every day!

16 September 2007

carrot cake

I was looking forward to the abundance of carrots in my produce delivery this week because for some reason I had a hankerin' for carrot cake. I can't remember the last time I ate carrot cake. It's not something I usually crave, but I have always loved the cream cheese icing.

I found a recipe in one of my gluten-free baking books and I was so diligent about making sure I had all the ingredients on my shopping list when I went to the store earlier this week. It uses some exotic flours, like almond meal and teff, which I have in my pantry. It calls for fava bean flour but I figured I could substitute with soy flour, which is easier to get on short notice. I cleared a few hours yesterday afternoon so I could hunker down in the kitchen. Opened my book and... I didn't have enough eggs. The recipe calls for 4 and I only had 3. Shoot.

I looked through 6 of my cooking and baking books. I could always do a Fanny Farmer and substitute the regular flour with my gf flour mix. The Fanny Farmer calls for a lot of ingredients though. Better Homes and Gardens calls for 4 eggs. This one calls for too many eggs. That one uses ingredients I don't have on hand. I was ready to give up hope.

Then I cracked open a book I hadn't used before. Some friends from New Zealand gave us a cookbook as a wedding present, Edmonds Classics: New Zealanders' Favourite Recipes. Much like the Betty Crocker cookbooks of yesteryear (which I love and have several from the 60s), it centers around Edmonds brand baking soda and other specific brands of flour and other ingredients. It has all the kitsch of the Betty Crocker books, plus the added quaintness of being from New Zealand.

Not only does the Edmonds carrot cake recipe use only 3 eggs, but it uses two other elements I was sad to give up if I had to use a recipe other than the one I originally wanted to use: pineapple and a bundt pan. Pineapples and bundt pans are so fancy! They turn any old cake into a celebration.
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup Amco canola oil
2 cups Champion standard grade flour
1 tsp Edmonds baking powder
1 tsp Edmonds baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 cups grated carrots
3/4 cup (225 g can) drained unsweetened crushed pineapple
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp grated orange zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease a deep 20 cm ring tin. Line base with baking paper. Beat together eggs and sugar for 5 minutes until thick. Add oil and beat for 1 minute. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Combine carrot, pineapple, walnuts and orange zest. Fold into egg mixture. Fold in dry ingredients. Spoon mixture into prepared tin. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave in tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. When cold, spread with Cream Cheese Icing and garnish with orange zest and coconut.

The handy conversion table in the front of the book told me that 180 C is about 350 F. I did not check my bundt pan to see if it was anywhere near the size of a "20 cm ring tin." I figured it was roughly the same shape and I'd keep a close eye on it while it's in the oven.

For the New Zealand brand ingredients, obviously, use whatever counterparts you'd normally use. Of course I used Bob's Red Mill GF All-Purpose Baking Flour. I also used chopped pecans instead of walnuts because I like them better. I had the orange zest on hand so I added it. The can of pineapple I had said 227 grams, but after draining I assumed it would be close enough. (I reserved the juice in case I needed to make the batter moister.)

This was not a quick recipe for me. I'm slow in the kitchen. First I sifted together my dry ingredients, then I grated the carrots--by hand--and put the carrot mixture together. Then I turned on the oven, greased the pan (I didn't use paper because my pan is rounded), and got the eggs-sugar mixture going.

It was at this point I learned that you should not stick a rubber spatula into a KitchenAid Mixer while it's turned on. A kitchen angel must have been watching me because thankfully the damage was minimal. I think the worst part was the awful clanking sound as the whisk went awry and the bowl popped off the stand. Mike came running into the kitchen, certain I had chopped my fingers off or something. But not even any eggs-sugar had spilled! Mike was able to bend the whisk back into useable shape and I learned a very valuable lesson.

The rest of the mixing went quickly. The batter poured easily into my bundt pan and I put it in the oven. Somewhere between 40 and 45 minutes I checked it, and it was golden brown on top and the toothpick came out clean so I took it out. It slid from the pan gracefully and looked so pretty! Nice and golden brown.

This morning I made the icing. I used the cream cheese icing that goes with the carrot cake recipe I had planned on using in the Best-Ever Wheat- and Gluten-Free Baking Book. This book lists the ingredients for the icing but forgot the instructions.
3 oz (85 g) GF cream cheese, softened
2 cups (200 g) GF confectioners' sugar
2 Tbs (30 ml) milk
1 tsp almond flavoring or extract

I put the cream cheese, milk, and almond extract into my mixing bowl, started it up, and added the sugar gradually. This made a thick frosting. I wanted a thin, drizzly icing so I added quite a bit of water until I got the consistency I wanted.

As I was spooning the icing over the cake, Mike said, "Wow, that looks like a picture!" This cake is so pretty and so delicious that it might have to make an appearance at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

I think carrot cake is a recipe that works well with the gluten-free "translation" because the carrots and the pineapple make the batter very moist. Moisture is always a factor in gluten-free baking. I did not need to add the reserved pineapple juice--this batter was perfect.

This icing and cake combination is perfect. This is a very understated, mild carrot cake, and the small dose of super-sweet icing complements it perfectly. I guess it turned out to be serendipitous that I didn't have enough eggs for the recipe I first wanted to use, which has more spice and sugar. Mike's always claimed he hates carrot cake, but he likes this one.

**Dairy-free if you omit the cream cheese icing.

13 September 2007

chinese peanut sauce

All this produce from Planet Organics is sending me on searches for new recipes. When I first saw the price of their broccoli, I thought it was outrageous. But I decided to get some anyway. Holy cow! The amount of broccoli they give you is enormous. It's about 3 times the amount I usually buy for a week. Even though I don't love broccoli, it's good for me and I'm trying to eat more of it. And Mike loves it. So, since one of the points of getting this produce delivery is to introduce more fruits and veggies into our diets, surely I can find a pallatable way to serve all this broccoli. I add it to stir-fry, I add it to quinoa, I add it to rice. But I need more.

Recently I remembered that a couple years ago I'd made a peanut sauce that I really liked. But I hadn't liked the veggies I'd prepared with it so I put it out of my mind and never thought about making it again. Until yesterday. I found the recipe in my Moosewood and made Chinese peanut sauce and steamed broccoli for lunch. And it was delicious.
1/2 cup good peanut butter
1/2 cup hot water
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. sugar
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1 to 2 Tbs minced fresh cilantro
cayenne, to taste
salt, to taste (if peanut butter is unsalted)

1) Place peanut butter in a small bowl. Add the hot water, and stir patiently with a spoon or a small whisk until uniformly mixed.
2) Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Let come to room temperature before serving.

I used a chunky peanut butter for some crunchy texture. For soy sauce I use San-J Organic Tamari Wheat Free Soy Sauce.

This peanut sauce keeps in the fridge for a couple days and can be used on a variety of grilled or steamed vegetables. Or as a dipping sauce for spring rolls or fried tofu or something like that. Or even as a salad dressing. Add a little water to thin it to your needs.

Now we are down to about one serving of broccoli left. However our next produce delivery is today. We will have a broccoli surplus on our hands.

**Gotta go! My produce arrived as I was giving this post a final edit.**

11 September 2007

rosemary butter cookies

It's likely that we'll be moving within the next 6 months to a year and I've decided that my several years' worth of Martha Stewart magazines is baggage that doesn't need to move with me again. I've been going through them ripping out some of my favorite crafts and recipes. When this one caught my eye last night I said to myself, "Hmmm, I have about 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary that needs to be used up soon. Why not?" I can't find this exact recipe online. I think it might actually have come from one of the Weddings magazines.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup fine sanding sugar

1. Put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer; mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Add flour, rosemary, and salt; mix on low speed until incorporated.

2. Divide dough in half; shape each piece into a log. Place each log on a 12-by-16-inch sheet of parchment. Roll in parchment to 1-1/2 inches in diameter, pressing a ruler along edge of parchment at each turn to narrow log and force out air. Transfer to paper-towel tubes. Freeze 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll logs in sanding sugar; slice 1/4 inch thick. Arrange 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake until edges are golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool.

Makes about 5 dozen.

I used Bob's Red Mill GF All-Purpose Baking Flour. And I'm never certain when I should be sifting before measuring and when I should be sifting after. I chose after. And I used a Martha trick of stirring it with a whisk rather than pushing it through a sifter. In place of sanding sugar, which sounds very fancy-shmancy, I found that the Trader Joe's Organic Evaporated Cane Juice Sugar is fine enough for the job.

My cookies don't look as pretty as Martha's. I didn't understand the instructions about the ruler, and looking at the accompanying picture in the magazine didn't help to explain it at all. So they're sort of squiggly around the edges rather than smoothly round. Also, the first batch is a little over-done. I think I sliced them too thin. They're dry, but in a yummy shortbread kind of way.

The taste is buttery delicious! And the rosemary makes them seem so classy, like they should be served with high tea. File under "in case the queen comes to lunch."

09 September 2007

book review: Cookoff

Cookoff: Recipe Fever in America, by Amy Sutherland

Plain and simple, Americans love competetion and Americans love food. Competetive cooking is a natural.

I'm actually not a Food Network watcher, but I may start. This book was fascinating. If you thought that cook-offs are for homemakers at the state fair, you are wrong. There are cooking competitions for the every-day home cook that have prizes worth thousands of dollars. Women who have high-profile, stressful jobs and Type A pesonalities turn to "contesting" as a semi-professional hobby and have kitchens filled with millions of dollars worth of prizes to show for their efforts. Men who have tinkered around in the kitchen once or twice suddenly find themselves with a grand-prize-winning recipe in their hands.

The book is also a discussion of America's love of convenience foods. The author points out that we will spend hours upon hours commuting or watching television without batting an eye, but when Americans cook the food has to be ready in 30 minutes or less. These competitions, particularly the Pilsbury Bake Off, also rely on processed foods, and even the "light" entries are often not that healthy for you.

The contesters who enter dozens of competitions every year are constantly thinking of the mass appeal of a dish, assuming that's what the judges look for in a winning dish. Many believe spinach doesn't have family appeal, for instance. One entrant had to change the name of her dish from Morroccan Chicken to Couscous and Chicken because the judges didn't want a winning dish to sound so "ethnic." In a way, rather than broadening the minds of Americans, foodwise, these competitions dumb down food to the lowest common denominator.

But there's no coverup involved here. Everyone knows the point of these competitions is to sell more product. These competions are a cheap way for Pilsbury or the National Beef Council, or whichever corporation is sponsoring the event, to create recipe libraries without the upkeep of test kitchens. The kitchens of America are the test kitchens. And thousands of recipes are tested and mailed in every year.

I'm now considering Googling "cooking contests" and submitting a recipe or two. I can't eat any of the winning recipes that are published in the book. It would be nice to have a little gluten-free representation out there.

07 September 2007

baked eggplant with feta and tomatoes

AFter my produce delivery left me without basil, I had to change my plans from the egglplant with basil and feta that I'd been craving. I remembered that a couple years ago I jotted down a recipe from a seed catalog at my mom's house, stuck it in my recipe notebook, and never made it. Left with a giant eggplant and handfuls of tomatoes but no basil, it seemed like a good time to try it.

From the Seeds of Change print catalog (they don't appear to have this recipe on their website). I've typed this in here exactly as I wrote it down at the time. The original recipe in the catalog might be different.
4 eggplants
1/3 cup olive oil
feta cheese
salt & pepper
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

Preheat oven to 375. Slice eggplant in half lengthwise and score cut sides in criss-cross pattern. Heat 3 Tbl oil in large skillet. Add eggplant, cut sides down, and fry over medium-high heat until golden. Fry other side for a few minutes then remove to plate and salt and pepper. Wipe out pan. Heat 1 Tbl oil, add tomatoes and cook over medium-high heat until broken down into chunky sauce, 5 to 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Put eggplant cut sides up in a baking dish. Crumble cheese, spoon tomato over, sprinkle with dried oregano. Cover and bake until eggplant is tender, about 40 minutes. Uncover and back 5 minutes more.

First off, I used just one eggplant for the two of us (we still ended up with some leftovers). I had to pan fry the eggplant slices one at a time, and the eggplants soak up a lot of oil. But maybe I used too little; I didn't measure. Be very careful when handling slippery eggplant halves around hot oil! I had a bit of a splash and thankfully didn't get any oil on my skin, but hopefully did not ruin a favorite pair of shorts.

I used 5 or 6 roma tomatoes, which weren't very juicy. I chopped them ahead of time, not removing the skins or seeds--we like lots of chunky texture. I let them sit in a bowl for a bit with some salt to help bring out the juice and I minced 3 cloves of garlic and tossed it in to sit with the tomatoes.

The garlicky tomatoes smelled so good during their heating up time that I became very hopeful for this dish. I don't really like eggplant that much but it's a good vehicle for foods I do like. I spooned my tomatoes over the eggplant and crumbled my feta, then put it in the oven and forgot about it for 40 minutes. I forgot to add any dried herbs, but I think I'll add them next time. I also think I'll pay closer attention to the eggplants while baking because they were a tad too mushy. I think a few minutes less would have been better.

Anyway, it's a pretty basic meal, and I'm sure just about everyone out there can do something better with eggplant than I can.

(For a premeal snack we had cantaloupe and prosciutto, both from my food delivery yesterday. Super yummy.)

06 September 2007

organic produce delivery

I think my place in hell has been reserved. You know, in that special area set aside for smug San Francisco-area people. This morning I received my first delivery from Planet Organics, and I love it. I haven't figured out yet if it's saved me any time or money, and I'm not sure I care. It's so convenient. And it does help with the shopping and meal prep organizing that I'm trying to bring under control.

I'm not particularly concerned with organic and non-organic. My concern is delicious produce that's affordable. I spend a lot of time pouring over every piece of fruit I buy, whether it's from Safeway, Whole Foods, or farmers' market. With Planet Organics, someone else spends their time picking the good stuff for me and the price is about the same as what I'm paying elsewhere.

And I'm not so terribly busy that I don't have the time to go shopping. I can do it. I just don't like to. Why not get a little package delivered to my door every week?

They offer some specialty grocery products, so I can treat us to the occassional prosciutto or fancy cheese.

You can choose a variety of delivery options, such as all fruit, all veggies, 2/3 fruit, or half-n-half. You can set up a standard order and be surprised with each delivery or you can specify exactly what you want from their available stock that week. It comes in a reusable plastic tote box with minimal packing materials. After you've put your groceries away, throw the packing materials back in the tote and give it back to the delivery person next time.

I like knowing what I'm going to get so I can plan meals. However, I didn't know basil would be out of stock until I opened my tote today, and I'd planned several meals around fresh basil. I wanted one more week of summertime basil! I guess I'll live, but I haven't figured out yet what to do with all the tomatoes I'd gotten to eat with all the basil.

rosemary roasted pork tenderloin

A couple years ago I came home with a handful of fresh, beautiful rosemary from farmers' market and had no idea what to do with it. (I tend to make impulse produce purchases.) A Google search for rosemary recipes led me to this one on About.com.
2 pork tenderloins, about 2 pounds
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, or about 1 tablespoon dried
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, halved
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking pan with foil, spray with cooking spray and place in oven. Trim fat from pork tenderloins and butterfly the meat, cutting them nearly in half lengthwise. Open the pork tenderloins and lay out, pounding to flatten with the palm of the hand or the bottom of a heavy skillet.

Chop rosemary if using fresh. Rub pork tenderloins all over with cut sides of garlic halves then olive oil, then sprinkle rosemary on both sides.

Remove baking pan from the oven and place pork on hot tray. Return to oven and roast for about 20 minutes (about 155° to 160° internal temp). Remove and let stand 5 minutes, then slice.

Rosemary roasted pork tenderloin serves 4 to 6.

We've modified it a bit for ourselves. Last night for the first time we did just one tenderloin, and it worked out much better for our dinner and leftovers needs. I always forget to spray the aluminum foil with oil and it doesn't seem to matter. We love garlic, so we use several cloves sliced into spears, and stick them into the meat for roasting.

On the side I had a small plate of red pepper slices and cucumber spears; it's still summer afterall, so we should be eating lots of cool, crisp veggies. I also roasted some potatoes--a handful of fingerlings, a purple one, and a sweet potato--with salt and pepper, and I tossed in one of the rosemary sprigs.

05 September 2007

jamaican jerk-rubbed pork, black beans w/ mango, and rice

This was a big meal.

Pork tenderloins are packaged in twos, and I always forget that when I bring the package home and throw it into the freezer. Then I end up defrosting two and having to cook two at the same time, giving us way more leftovers than we can possibly eat. And until recently, I only had one really good tenderloin recipe, and even the best food will get boring if you have too much of it.

Searching for something else to do with pork tenderloins led me to this spice rub on Recipe Source.

Jamaican Jerk Rub
4 Tbs ground allspice
1 Tbs dried thyme
1 Tbs paprika
1 tsp ground red pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Mike sliced one of the tenderloins into little medallions and spice-rubbed them. The other went into the fridge for a couple days (it will be tonight's dinner--my other tenderloin recipe). In order to keep them from slipping through the grill, he put foil over the grill but made little indents and poked holes for the grease to run off. This was to ensure they were grilled rather than pan-fried.

For the side dish I was thinking something with rice. Eventually I decided on black beans, and then I was inspired to add some mango. I searched around Recipe Source and Mollie Katzen Online for ideas on exactly how to cook black beans. I ended up sauteeing in olive oil about a tablespoon of chopped white onion and 3 cloves minced garlic. I added a can of black beans, including the water. When it started simmering I added one diced mango and a few leaves of fresh cilantro. It simmered on the stove top for about 15 minutes until the liquid was down. I thought it could use a little extra seasoning, but Mike thought it was perfect, so I added a dash of salt and pepper once it was on my plate.

I don't know how we lived before we had a rice cooker. Started it up first thing and forgot about it until it was time to plate and eat.

02 September 2007


In an amazing burst of energy yesterday I decided to take my first crack at making felafel. It's so easy, I don't know why I didn't try it sooner! I could make the batter whilst feeling energetic, then fry the patties later for a quick hot meal. We were both feeling pretty exhausted by dinner time and took turns frying, but the spicy little patties did wonders for our congestion!

I used the recipe in Moosewood, halving it and using one 15-oz. can of chickpeas and Bob's Red Mill GF Baking Flour for the small amount of flour called for. I probably could have used any of the flours I have on hand, like potato flour, or my gf bread crumbs also.

So, chickpeas, fresh garlic, cumin, tumeric, salt, onion or scallions, parsley, water, lemon juice, cayenne. For the quick version, throw it all in a food processor. For the longer version, mince and mash everything by hand. (I opted for the quick version.) Then mix in the flour. At this point you can put it in an air-tight container and store it in the fridge for a few days. When you're ready to cook, heat up some oil in a deep skillet and drop spoonfuls of the batter, flattening them out a little when they hit the oil. Cook for a few minutes on each side, until crispy on the outside and hot on the inside.

Taste-wise, these turned out fantastically. I need to work on my batter consistency and frying time though. They were a little too crispy on the outside and a tad gooey on the inside. I think I should have used more flour and slightly less-hot oil.

We had these in combination with the leftover tabouli from the night before and a bit of plain yogurt* and a hummus I'd bought at Safeway that turned out to be not as good as the fresh stuff we buy at farmers' market. (I was desperate and I took a chance. We bought the good stuff at farmers' market this morning and as much as we're trying to be economical with our grocery budget these days, sometimes you have to know when to just toss something out and move on.) Mike also had pita with his. (I didn't have the energy to try making my own pitas yesterday, although the hot air on the balcony would have been great for dough-rising.)

Oh, and the yogurt turned out to be vanilla! I wondered why my meal was oddly sweet. I thought it was my cold, or the weird-tasting hummus. Why do they use the same color container for vanilla and plain?

We have a small amount of batter left that I'm thinking will be a nice hot lunch for me one day soon. Maybe after I've bought some plain yogurt.

*For vegan, omit the yogurt on the side.

01 September 2007

pizza and beer in edinburgh

Run, don't walk, to Mamma's in Edinburgh. It's an American-style pizzaria that offers a gluten-free crust, plus other gluten-free entrees, desserts, and beer alongside all the "regular" food. It was delicious. It was just like regular pizza. And it was such a mental pick-me-up, to be able to sit down and order pizza and beer just like everyone else.

We went to the Grassmarket location. The website says it's take-out, but they had a sit-down restaurant. You can see their full menu online. Most of the toppings are gluten-free as well, but I didn't want anything fancy. Just plain cheese and pepperoni for me. Mike had a bite and thought it was comparable to his crust. He said neither pizza lived up to his New York standards, but both were superior to the pizza slop they serve in California.

(Clicking on the image will take you to vacation pics on flickr.)

it's great to be back in my own kitchen

While I didn't have a terrible time finding food to eat overseas, just like when I'm traveling in the U.S. it's still a relief to be home. Yesterday I made sweet pepper and black bean quesadillas for lunch and made quinoa tabouli for dinner. Yay for cooking at home again!

I had some food projects in mind before we left and I'm anxious to get to work on them, as soon as I get over this stupid cold. (Making the tabouli last night was my last official act before succombing to the germs. Now it's cereal and orange juice for a couple days.)



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