Friday, November 30, 2007
Eggplant curry (recipe in the comments)
Steamed broccoli with lemon
Mint M & Ms (Uh-oh, these could become a habit)
I bought The Moosewood Cookbook (source for tonight's curry) and Enchanted Broccoli Forest (the sequel) when I first went off board as a sophomore in college. These were some of the first books M and I cooked out of and, while they are often too heavy for our taste now, they have a very special place in my heart. These are the recipes of two very young cooks, struggling to make good food and a good relationship. Well, both seem to have worked. It's a miracle.
Eggplant curry is one of the stand-by recipes that has stood the test of time. We first made this in 1997 - 10 years ago. We've altered the recipe very little and still love it. It helps that we're eggplant fanatics and that we love Indian food. This recipe convinced us that we could do pretty authentic Indian at home. For those of you worried about protein, the sesame seeds and eggplant contribute a lot, but this is excellent with a bit of well browned tofu tossed in.
Difficulty: Moderate (easy to make, but long to cook)
Chopping: Onion, eggplant, cilantro
Time: 45 minutes
Make ahead: Saves like a dream.
J: "Did you notice it's vegan? I bet you didn't."
M: "Eggplant = YUM."
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Tortellini with spinach in broth (recipe in the comments)
Sauteed zucchini and red onion in balsamic
Mint M & Ms (which J ate pre-dinner while M talked to his mom)
Cherry Garcia (which M finished over Mythbusters)
This is one of the first recipes we made out of our original wedding gift subscription to Cooking Light. It has been a long standing "speed meal" of choice, by which we meal a meal that is speedy to prepare, not to eat! It has the class of a much harder dish - the wine gives the broth an unexpected elegance - with the ease of packaged tortellini. This is a wonderful meal after a stressful day when you just want to crash. It takes no time to prepare, but makes you feel pampered.
Difficulty: Super easy
Chopping: Garlic, tomato, zucchini, onion
Time: 20 minutes
Make ahead: It's best fresh since the tortellini absorbs a lot of broth if you keep it, but the soup can be refreshed by adding dilute broth.
J: "How can so fast be so good???"
M: "I'm a tortellini monster."
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Pasta with chickpea and garlic sauce (recipe in the comments)
Broccoli and cauliflower with lemon
This is one of our more unusual recipes. You puree a chickpea, garlic, and broth mixture to form a sauce base, adding raw garlic, grape tomatoes, parsley and lemon to finish the sauce. The result is a creamy, protein-rich yum-fest. Most people have never had a pasta like this, which is unusual for any pasta recipe these days. It's fast to prepare as well. This is another recipe that benefits from a stick blender (immersion blender), but you can puree the sauce base in a regular blender (just remove the center of the top (to vent the steam), cover with a dish towel, and blend away - do it in two batches). The results tonight were especially good - if only we knew what we did right!
Chopping: Garlic (crushed and minced), grape tomatoes, parsley
Time: 35 minutes
Make ahead: Make the sauce ahead and toss over freshly cooked pasta.
J: "Better than ever! Wish we knew what we did differently :)"
M: "Get your daily serving of garlic!"
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Egg drop soup
Chicken with ginger and garlic sauce
Hunan double delight (supposedly)
Vegetable lo mein
There is little as depressing as eating food that's supposed to be a splurge and having it turn out to be mediocre. This has just happened to us. M and I had a take out night scheduled for this week and tonight we both had a hankering for Chinese. We had recently enjoyed the food from a place near us called Panda House, but tonight's dinner was really disappointing. The food was greasy, heavy, and not very flavorful. Worst, what was supposed to be Hunan double delight (spicy shrimp and beef) turned out to be an unidentified pork dish. Now I'm thinking longingly of the meals in our line-up that we could have had and enjoyed. Oh well, luckily there's always tomorrow.
M: "Generic Chinese - ugh."
That said, I'm intrigued to read his "defense" of the fast food industry and new ideas on the obesity epidemic he's not certain exists.
I doubt it will all be stellar (especially as I've read the NY Times' opinion), but I'm excited about the prospect.
I do not have time to post but I was wondering if you all had discovered Anasazi Beans yet? If not, look em up. I order them in 50 lb bags organically grown. They are a great high protein bean - fantastic flavor cooked (quickly!) with just an onion in a pot of water – no soaking. Add a bit of butter when done. Substitute for almost any other red bean.
This has encouraged me to go look for them. We will probably make them like we make Soup Beans. A new bean could only be a good addition to our repertoire!
Here's an online source for anasazis (I've heard good things about Homegrown Harvest and I'll buy from them if I can't find them locally).
Monday, November 26, 2007
Barbara’s Peppery Pecans – Cooking Light
Makes 1 lb pecans
1 t butter
1 T sugar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t kosher salt
¼ t cayenne
¼ t cinnamon
1 lb pecan halves
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover a jelly roll pan in aluminum foil, sprayed with cooking spray.
Melt butter in a large bowl (microwave for 15 seconds). Toss sugar, Worcestershire, salt, cayenne, cinnamon, and pecans in melted butter. Combine well.
Spread pecans evenly onto pan. Coat nuts with cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes.
Cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
Red beans and rice with chorizo (recipe in the comments)
Herb salad with grape tomatoes
Dark chocolate dipped shortbread
This is another Whole Foods recipe. M and I love beans and rice in all forms and many of our standard recipes contain that yummy combo. Stick with the daily meals for long enough and you'll see recipes for beans and rice from most cuisines. You can make this with frozen rice (a great timesaver, but not the most ecologically oriented or cheap) or you can use an equal amount of cooked rice. We use chicken chorizo, not pork, to keep this relatively healthy.
Chopping: Onion, celery, pepper, garlic, chorizo, tomatoes
Time: 15minutes to prep, 30 minutes to cook
Make ahead: Not a problem.
J: "Our whole house smells yummy."
M: "Stick to your ribs goodness."
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Warm turkey and spinach salad with cranberry vinaigrette (recipe in the comments)
Herb focaccia bread (Trader Joe's)
M and I spent today raking leaves and putting up our outdoor Christmas lights. Needless to say, we're tired. However, just as we were getting ready to put T to bed, it began to snow - a heavy, wet snow that was TOTALLY unpredicted. Even more magically, it has stuck to the grass and the roads (despite Accuweather swearing it's 34 out there!) and so our new light display is twinkling grandly from under a soft blanket of white. What a miracle! On such an auspicious evening, this was a wonderful simple meal. It takes advantage of two common Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey and cranberry sauce) and is a breeze to prepare. With such ease of preparation, the end taste just knocks you over. Yes, it's that good. We settled our weary bodies in front of our living room picture window, gazed at the snowy landscape, and tucked in to a lovely meal.
Chopping: Turkey, butter lettuce, shallots, garlic
Time: 30 minutes
Make ahead: It's best made fresh.
J: "The main reason to cook a turkey."
M: "Gobble gobble."
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Pasta with pesto (frozen from last summer, pesto recipe in the comments)
Kit kats (J)
Cocoa almonds (M)
M and I currently have a pretty empty freezer. We often have two or three dinners frozen from recipes that make lots of food. Not so right now. However, we knew that we'd want something defrost-and-heat-easy for the first evening after all our guests had left. Thus, pesto. Through late spring and summer, we have a pretty extensive herb garden and had a bumper basil and Italian parsley crop this year, meaning we ate a lot of pesto. By the end of the summer we regularly made double or triple recipes and froze the extra to perk up dreary winter meals. Well, here's pesto meal number one. It was a flashback to glorious summer and the ease of prep was amazingly refreshing. My stepmom left the mini Kit Kats, and you know you just can't let those things sit around :)
Difficulty: Super easy (It's "easy" when you make the pesto fresh)
Time: 20 minutes
Make ahead: Apparently.
J: "Summer's glory when I can see the remnants of our first snow."
M: "Summer in a bowl."
In honor of my parents' last night here we went out to dinner again - this time to eve in Kerrytown. M and I had heard lots of good things about eve, especially positive contrasts between eve and restaurants in downtown A2. I went prepared to be impressed. The reality was that while eve is a very good restaurant, it's not a great restaurant. The service was very good, the decor was lovely, the drinks and wine were wonderful, and the food was generally good. That said, none of the food could be described as transcendent, or even especially unique. Also, several of the dishes, didn't quite work. Both my stepmother and I had a mixed green salad with garlic crouton and fresh cheese. Each of these components was lovely, but they did not combine well (crouton too garlic-y for the light salad, cheese to mild to be paired with the vinegar in the dressing). My father had an asparagus salad, where the asparagus were grilled and then served cold. The spears were tough, and the raisins and pine nuts on top were too sweet for the fresh asparagus. M had mussels in curry cream and the mussels were overcooked. All of our entrees were fine, and we especially enjoyed the sides (coconut ginger rice for me, cinnamon rose quinoa for my dad and M, fresh brussel sprouts for all). However, in the final analysis, we all felt we could have gotten similar fare for less money at a good seafood restaurant. I expect we will go back to eve, if only to see if our experience was a post-Thanksgiving whiff, but I can't say I'm especially excited.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Homemade peppery pecans
Cream of parsnip soup with flash fried onions and sage leaves
Gravy (Trader Joe's)
Baked sweet potatoes
Slow-cooked Mediterranean green beans
Autumn harvest salad
Cranberry sauce (Trader Joe's)
Decaf hazelnut coffee and hot tea
We really scaled back our Thanksgiving this year to give us more time to hang out with our family and friends and also to have more ability to focus on T during Thanksgiving day. We made the pumpkin pie (I do crust, M does filling) the weekend before and froze it unbaked, baking it early Thanksgiving morning. Regular readers know we froze the soup last week, leaving only the flash frying (all M) for the day of. I made the pecans (crazily easy!) while T napped on Tuesday. This was the first year we haven't homemade gravy (good reviews on the TJs stuff). We eliminated more complex appetizers, mashed potatoes, a second vegetable dish, and the apple pie. While I have some sadness about losing all of these items, the prep and the products were both wonderful. All in all, I think it was one of my happiest Thanksgivings ever.
Difficulty: The easiest Thanksgiving yet
J: "Let's do it again next year!"
M: "Unexpectedly good."
Note: Since I usually only post main dish recipes, I haven't posted a recipe for today. If you want a specific recipe for one of the side dishes, post a comment and I'll respond.
Baba ghanooj (Trader Joe's with extra lemon)
Sesame maple roasted tofu (recipe in the comments)
Dark chocolate dipped shortbread, Cocoa almonds, Kit Kats
Our vegetarian friend (S) arrived, so now we're cooking for quite the crowd. This is one of those recipes that M and I think sounds unappetizing- tahini and maple syrup??? Because of our perpetual quest for good tofu dishes and our trust in Eating Well, we tried it and were very pleasantly surprised! First of all, roasting is an EXCELLENT and easy preparation for tofu, allowing you to make the tofu and many vegetables at once. Second, the sauce is a wonderful and unique blend of flavors (and doesn't taste maple-y at all!). Like the chicken with cherry marsala sauce, this is an excellent meal for company. It's colorful and tempting!
Chopping: Tofu cubes, sliced onions, cucumbers
Time: 35 minutes, much of it inactive
Make ahead: You can prep all the ingredients and make the sauce ahead.
J: "A taste sensation!"
M: "Unexpectedly good."
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Tonight we were back at Terry B's in Dexter, MI to celebrate my parents' 27th wedding anniversary. This dining experience was almost as fantastic as our first visit. The only part of the evening that did not measure up was that our server was not nearly as proficient as the one we had on our first encounter. Tonight's server was perfectly fine, courteous, and friendly, but she did not exude the professionalism and attention to detail of our first. That said, I was still VERY impressed with this place and feel certain that it will be Michael's and my "go to" celebration venue while we live in Ann Arbor.
While I have little new to add to my first impression, I will say that I was very pleased with how they handled the celebration aspect of the meal. I had told the person who took our reservation that it was my parents' anniversary. At the beginning of our meal, the waitress announced that the chef was preparing us a complimentary appetizer platter to celebrate and both my parents' dessert plates had "Happy Anniversary" written on them in chocolate. Both of these were lovely touches (especially as the appetizer was one my father and M planned to share anyway!) and would have been plenty of acknowledgment of the event on their own. Together they made the evening feel incredibly special. That sort of policy sets a great restaurant apart from a good one.
J: "This is a dining experience."
M: "1) Free food is good. 2) Cinnamon gelato is better."
Monday, November 19, 2007
However you like (or don't like) your bacon, the discussion of bacon makes me think that in our rush to be healthy, we're eating too many Snackwells and not enough food. B.L.T. anyone?
Chicken in cherry marsala sauce (recipe in the comments)
Whole wheat cous cous
Dark chocolate dipped shortbread
Michigan is rightfully known for its cherries. We get better cherries here than I have ever eaten. This is especially notable in dried cherries - a product I was unaware had varying quality. Michigan dried cherries are plump and unusually juicy. They are wonderful by the handful and a dream to cook with. They make this recipe transcendent. That said, I think this is such a good recipe that it would do well with any dried cherry. It is a great meal to impress company - note my parents, B (Dad) and Te (Stepmom) arrived today :) The only drawback is that you have to prep it pretty much last minute or the chicken dries out.
Difficulty: Moderate (there's a lot to do last minute)
Chopping: Shallot, stripping thyme off stems
Time: 40 minutes
Make ahead: Pretty much a last minute deal.
J: "Autumnal sophistication."
M: "Bored by chicken? Add booze!"
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Nigel's pasta (recipe in the comments)
This is one of the original dinners M and I made together, back when we first began cooking together. The inspiration comes from a cookbook I bought for M to help us with speedy dinner ideas, Nigel Slater's "The 30 Minute Cook". While we have some gems from this book (most notably this recipe), Nigel turned out to be a bit heavy for us. However, he marks a transition to better ingredients and an early interest in speedy, good food. The original recipe calls for anchovies, which we had never used until tonight (one extra thing to buy, maybe gross, etc). What an addition! I definitely recommend it, especially as anchovy paste is cheap, stores forever, and is a low impact food. If you're vegetarian, simply omit it - we loved it without for YEARS!
Note: Garlic bread is an unusual addition for us, but we are "carbing up" (and "fatting up"???) since two of my parents, who are on The Zone Diet, arrive tomorrow ;)
Chopping: Roasted peppers
Time: 30 minutes
Make ahead: Ok made ahead (or for lunch), but best fresh.
J: "Brings back memories!"
M: "Brilliant, Nigel!"
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Salmon stuffed baked potatoes (recipe in the comments)
Broccoli with lemon butter
This is one of those amazing comfort recipes that is amazingly good for you. Not only do these potatoes have a low calorie and fat profile, but they contain salmon and all of the resultant omega-3s. If you buy wild caught canned salmon, you even lower your mercury exposure risks! It's a wonder food. Did I mention cheap? AND who doesn't love twice baked potatoes? These save especially well, and M and I love them as a picnic food. You can eat them cold or at room temperature, holding a potato half the same way you would a crispy taco. Yum Yum. When we do these on a weeknight, I preheat the oven and bake the potatoes as soon as we get home. Then they're cooked and ready to go when we're ready to cook.
Difficulty: Moderate (easy technique, but a bit long to prepare due to potato baking)
Time: 1 hour to bake potatoes + 30 minutes
Make ahead: Absolutely
J: "If I'm eating these can it really be camping?"
M: "The apotheosis of fish and chips."
Friday, November 16, 2007
Zucchini curry (recipe in the comments)
Cherry Garcia ice cream
M and I love curry. It's a rare week when we don't make something that could be considered (at least vaguely) a curry. This week zucchini was up. I think it's our only curry that we make regularly that has coconut milk, lending a creamy, richness that most of our curries lack. Especially with the final sprinkling of cashew pieces, this is a dreamy concoction. It's very easy to make (especially if you have a mini chop or food processor), but cooks for a while. There are several slow phases during cooking though when you can finish prep or start cleaning.
Chopping: Garlic, ginger, onion, zucchini, cilantro
Time: 40 minutes
Make ahead: Saves and even freezes well.
J: "Easy, flavorful, and very filling."
M: "This curry is GOOD."
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Cream of parsnip soup (recipe in the comments)
Grilled gruyere and tomato sandwiches on pumpernickel
This soup is a new recipe we decided to do as a vegetarian entree for Thanksgiving. We have decided to scale back a bit on prep the day of Thanksgiving and wanted to make something ahead that we could defrost on the day. Well, I dare say, we have knocked it out of the park. This soup is AMAZING. It has a perfect earthy, fall-y taste. It's very filling and the flecks of green parsley give it just the right visual appeal. I have to admit that I had never used parsnips before (criminal for a foodie, and a veggie oriented foodie, I know), but our first experience was wholly successful and we will be dipping into the parsnip well again!
Chopping: Celery, onion, sage, parsnips, tomatoes
Time: 1 hour
Make ahead: We hope the soup will be great made ahead as we froze half of it! The grilled cheese is best made last minute.
J: "I've realized I'm a parsnip fanatic."
M: " 'Grilled cheese is for the kids menu'? Oh no, I don't think so."
Bacon has flavor. Lots of it. It makes things very tasty, even when you only use a bit. A dressing made with a little bacon grease, red wine vinegar, water (for bulk), and some minor seasonings (salt, pepper, a bit of Dijon) can be transcendent with FAR LESS FAT THAN ONE MADE WITH OLIVE OIL. Here's another idea, a ho hum lima bean soup can become a culinary masterpiece with some crispy bacon crumbled on top (await a future recipe for Leek and Lima Soup!). A pretty standard sweet potato hash becomes transcendent with Canadian bacon (and the grease from cooking it) as your starting ingredient.
You all have probably realized that we don't eat much meat. Frankly, I don't think our society can afford to eat much meat (but that's another post). While there are times when we (M & J) sit down to a meat intensive meal, most of our meat eating comes in the form of "meat as condiment" - a small amount of meat, lending big flavor notes to whatever we're cooking. I think this is one of the most healthful, inexpensive, and sustainable ways to continue to eat meat, not to mention the fact that it can result in some very tasty products. In other words, this is the main way that meat fits into "the 5".
I don't think eating in a way that is healthful to ourselves or the planet should be about penance. I think that the main purpose of food is to taste good and when we forget that we lose something precious. A bit of bacon can really make your dinner - be it one of 10 or 10, 000.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Trollop pasta (recipe in the comments)
Cooked spinach in vinegar
Trollop pasta (our version of pasta putanesca) is one of those recipes that was created on a night when we only had the ingredients for one dinner left (the next day was grocery day) and we just couldn't muster any enthusiasm for whatever it was. Thus, we needed something that could be made out of whatever we had at hand. This was the result, and I can safely say it is our favorite dinner. If we only had ten meals, this might be two of them. We probably eat this three or four times a year.
Chopping: Green olives, parsley
Time: 20 minutes
Make ahead: Make the sauce ahead (even freeze it) and toss it with fresh pasta.
J: "Who knew trollops ate so well?"
M: "So much better than Palio it makes me cry."
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Mixed greens with gorgonzola
Penne arrabbiata (J)
Fettuccine alfredo (M)
This Main Street venue is mediocre, at best. Everything was oversalted and if it was possible to add fat, fat was added (often to bad effect). The bruschetta was really four mini pizzas (mealy tomatoes on toast covered with melted cheese - melted cheese???), the salad was mostly olive oil and gorgonzola, and the arrabbiata was, surprisingly, a tomato cream sauce. M's fettuccine was, amazingly, the lightest (best?) thing we ordered. Needless to say, we didn't have dessert. Perhaps the most disappointing part of our experience is that the food was almost as expensive as a meal at Gratzi (across the street, owned by the same group, and much better). We would have been happier at Macaroni Grill, and that's saying a lot.
To rectify this debacle, we moseyed over to Zingerman's Roadhouse for dessert and coffee. Yes, we've heard all the complaints - overpriced, too touristy, overrated - and we completely disagree. We have eaten all over the world and have yet to find an establishment with comparable ingredients and preparation for less money (maybe this is because almost no one has comparable ingredients). They produce culinary creations nothing short of miraculous at both the deli and the Roadhouse. For my part, our chocolate chess pie with vanilla gelato (shared), serene tea (J), and old fashioned (M) salvaged the dining aspect of our evening.
J: "This could be performance art - 'From Palio to The Roadhouse: A study in contrasts' "
M: "Bruschetta does not involve melted cheese - 'nuff said."
Monday, November 12, 2007
Barbecue-style lentils with eggplant (recipe in the comments)
Mixed greens with fresh garlic dressing
Shortbread dipped in dark chocolate
This is an unusual combination of flavors. We love eggplant, and it's a favorite of Ts, so this ranks highly as a unique way to use it. We often have this without rice, but serving a grain (white or brown rice, pasta of some sort, polenta) stretches the meal a bit further. With rice this serves two with a meal for T and a lunch for one of us adults. You can use canned lentils (which I didn't know were made until I saw this recipe, but it works equally well with 1 cup dry brown lentils cooked in 3 cups of water (add lentils and remaining liquid).
Chopping: Eggplant cubed, onion sliced, tomato cubed, oregano and parsley chopped
Time: 50 minutes
Make ahead: It saves ok, but is best fresh.
J: "I didn't know you could barbecue lentils."
M: "Yee Haw."
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Pad Thai (recipe in the comments)
Shortbread dipped in dark chocolate
This is a favorite of long standing. That said, we owned the cookbook it's from (Moosewood Cooks At Home - an excellent resource for a vegetarian chef!) for a long time before we tried it. "Why?", you ask. To be honest, because it has catsup in it. That seemed, well, gross. I'm not even sure why we got over it that first time, but we did, and the rest is history. Interestingly, I have since learned that this is not an uncommon shortcut. Regardless, do not be afraid. This is also a recipe that benefits from a bit of help in the kitchen. It's an easy recipe, but you must have everything ready before you start the stir fry. Having one person make the sauce and blanch the shoots and noodles, while the other does the rest of the prep makes it much faster.
Difficulty: Easy with two, moderate with one
Chopping: Peanuts, garlic, carrots
Time: 40 minutes
Make ahead: It saves ok, but is best fresh.
J: "I can eat Pad Thai at home??!??!"
M: "Catsup as you've never had it before."
Saturday, November 10, 2007
New Mexican Hot Chocolate – J (vaguely inspired by Cooking Light)
Makes 2 oversize mugs
¼ cup water
¼ cup honey
2.5 T unsweetened cocoa
heaping ¼ t cinnamon
¼ t nutmeg
⅛ t salt
2 cups skim milk
½ t vanilla
2 T sugar
3 shakes cayenne (or to taste)
Combine water, honey, cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add milk and vanilla, stirring constantly. Heat just until tiny bubbles form on the edge of the cocoa. DO NOT BOIL.
Remove from heat and stir in sugar and cayenne. Stir to integrate sugar. Pour into two mugs and serve hot.
Pasta with broccoli and gorgonzola sauce (recipe in the comments)
Mixed greens with fresh garlic dressing
New Mexican hot chocolate
This is just the sort of recipe that makes me swoon. It's got the comfort inherent to pasta; the creaminess of a rich, cheesy sauce; and lots of vegetables for taste and color. This was inspired by another one of Whole Foods' recipes, but we dramatically lightened it and far more vegetables have come into play. This one will certainly go back into the rotation.
Chopping: Broccoli, grape or cherry tomatoes
Time: 35 minutes
Make ahead: Probably best not.
J: "Oh gorgonzola, I adore you."
M: "Sweet Cheesus."
Friday, November 9, 2007
Corn and hominy chowder (recipe in the comments)
Spicy hot cocoa
Jacques Pepin is one of M's and my favorite cooks and we are especially enamored of his Fast Food My Way cookbook. This was the first entree we ever made from that cookbook and it sold us for good. This is full of wonderful flavors, fast to prepare, cheap, good for you, and doesn't do much terrible to the environment (especially if you recycle the tomato and hominy cans!). In other words, this is an excellent fulfillment of "the 5"! We typically have this with a salad, often using fresh garlic in the dressing for a bit of bite. Sadly, our salad greens didn't make it until tonight and we had to revert to a frozen vegetable. Such are the perils of our life.
* Prepare for a week of easier than usual meals as we have decided that T needs to drop his morning nap (he's cranky with it, but doesn't quite want to drop it on his own) and who knows what that will do to our schedule, much less our mood!
Chopping: garlic, onion, scallions, cilantro
Time: 35 minutes
Make ahead: Yep.
J: "Simple perfection."
M: "Yeah, French-Mex!"
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Indian spiced peas with tofu (recipe in the comments)
Naan (Trader Joe's frozen)
Alright, I have to fess up. M and I used to have trouble with tofu. Yes, we're part of the legions of people who had eaten far too much mushy, slimy, flavorless tofu to feel completely confident about tofu as a food, much less a food we wanted to eat. For years, despite eating a relatively low meat diet, we NEVER ate tofu at home. It was just too scary. The revolution occurred due to two friends (F and S), who both prepared tofu for us in wonderful ways we enjoyed. Thus, a quest began. If tofu could be good, we had to master it. I now look for tofu recipes EVERYWHERE. We have mastered a few techniques (light pan frying and roasting) that lead to fantastic texture without sacrificing the health benefits of this wonderful protein. Even if the recipe at hand has a questionable preparation, but a great sounding sauce, we can usually use one of these methods and get an excellent product. This is a case in point. Score another point each for both our Indian and tofu recipe arsenals.
* We have previously made this with rice instead of naan as our side dish. Rice is better as the peas are quite saucy.
Chopping: Tofu, onion, ginger
Time: 40 minutes
Make ahead: You can make the tofu recipe ahead and reheat, but the okra should be made last minute.
J: "Another tofu success!!!!"
M: "Tofu triumph!"
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
1) Food should be excellent tasting - unsurprising
2) Food should be easy to prepare - we do this six nights a week
3) Food should not break the bank - we're not rolling in cash
4) Food should be good for you - we plan to be cooking decades from now
5) Food should not ruin our environment - we want T to be cooking MANY decades from now
I don't think these are unusual goals for the home cook. I also strongly believe that all five are achievable. I think it's hard.
One is pretty easy to achieve, so we'll set that aside. Food is very easy to prepare (two) if none of the other five matter, but much of the "fast" cuisine out there relies on pre-packaged, processed food. It can be low on taste; high in cost; high in fat, calories, and sodium; and low in sustainability. Inexpensive food (three) is also often low on taste and health (yours and the environment's). Healthy food (four) is often bleak - not enough calories to satisfy a normal person, low on taste, and very expensive. Last, most food today is not sustainably produced (five) due to political, geographical, and historical factors (for some political background see Pollan's latest).
This blog represents my quest as both cook and consumer to maximize "The 5". A major problem with having five criteria for a perfect meal is that it's hard to meet them all. Thus, some meals focus more on one food need than the others, but in general we're trying to balance all five. How are you balancing? Are you also an unfulfilled foodie? What are your "5" (or more? or fewer?)? How do you make it work?
Interestingly, there's a cosmically linked post from last week on another biology Ph.D. foodie's blog (The Accidental Scientist) about the importance of one of "The 5" (health, especially heart health) and balancing that with taste! It even involves a contest for good holiday recipes. Please check it out!
Ali Baba Platter
Yes, tonight was our weekly chance to eat out or take in food cooked by someone else. In this case, yummy food delivered by Ali Baba in Ann Arbor. Ali Baba is excellent for two reasons. 1) The food is excellent and 2) Delivery makes everything better after a long day. This was our first time getting food from Ali Baba ourselves (M has had catering from there at a couple work events) and we ordered WAY too much. That's sitting well with us though because the leftovers will keep us in lunches for a couple days. T is also, unknowingly, preparing for a feast!
I think we can safely say, "Super easy".
J: "This is my kind of take out."
M: "Open sesame."
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Soup beans (recipe in the comments)
Soup beans is a southern recipe that mostly graced the tables of poor folks trying to stretch their food dollars. It's mostly beans with a bit of meat for flavor, but is not really "soup". A long cooking time imparts the flavor of the meat and the other flavorings into the beans. The original recipe was from Eating Well and our changes didn't increase the fat content or calories, so it's even pretty good for you! We think it's an excellent weekend meal because the prep is virtually instantaneous, though the cooking is long. After you're done your whole house smells glorious! We typically boil greens until they're tender and them saute them in flavoring - a bit of bacon grease, salt, and pepper tonight (see a future post on the value of bacon grease and other meat as condiment). Cornbread seems appropriate, don't you think? Jiffy comes to the rescue for a weeknight.
Difficulty: Super easy
Time: 10 minutes to prep, 2 hours to cook
Make ahead: Obviously.
J: "I like it southern-style."
M: "Soul food."
Monday, November 5, 2007
Black bean burrito bake (recipe in the comments)
M & J's orange miraculous salad
Starburst (J, the Halloween candy is almost done)
Black bean burrito bake is one of those incredibly simple recipes that tastes much better than the easy preparation suggests. The sour cream in the filling makes them seem decadent enough that something light and tart is desirable as a side dish. I love baked dishes because they give you time to clean up and make a side dish while the baking occurs, leading to a more leisurely preparation process.
Difficulty: Super easy
Chopping: Chipotle chili, oranges, scallions, and grating cheese
Time: 15 minutes to prep, 20 minutes to bake
Make ahead: It best to make this fresh.
J: "No WAY it's that good!"
M: "It's a casserole, it's burritos, it's casseritos."
"In the past that [agrobusiness] alliance could have passed a farm bill like this one without breaking a sweat. But the politics of food have changed, and probably for good. If the eaters and all the other “people on the outside” make themselves heard, we just might end up with something that looks less like a farm bill and more like the food bill a poorly fed America so badly needs."
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Farfalle with sausage and sage (recipe in the comments)
Mixed greens and radicchio with balsamic, lemon, and sage dressing
This is one of the Whole Foods' "Meals for four, under $15" recipes (a series we like a lot). The only thing we changed was to make it with turkey or chicken Italian sausage, rather than pork sausage. It was a wonderful use for some of our herb garden's sage (we took out all the annual herbs and the marigolds this weekend - I guess fall really is here). The pasta is rich and filling, without seeming heavy, and the fresh sage gives it an amazing aroma, scenting the kitchen like you've been cooking all day. The dressing was M's inspiration - starting with some Paul Newman's balsamic dressing, he added fresh lemon and some of the extra sage we had plucked (minced). Yum.
Time: 25 minutes
Make ahead: Make the sauce ahead and toss with freshly cooked pasta.
J: "This is good. Fall-y and GOOD."
M: "Sausage without guilt."
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Spinach kugel (recipe in the comments)
Sauteed beets and garlic
Carmel apple with nuts (Whole Foods brand - yes, you *should* try one)
This recipe was inspired by a spinach kugel recipe in Enchanted Broccoli Forest, the second of Molly Katzen's cookbooks (after the famed Moosewood Cookbook) and M and I have been cooking it together since our junior year in college. Yes, that's when we started cooking together and we've made it a priority to cook as a team six nights a week (on average) ever since (J does a lot of prep now that T is in the picture, but the tradition stands). Kugel is a traditional Jewish casserole and usually involves noodles or potatoes. It's often sweet. The original spinach kugel recipe was more savory than your standard kugel. We've made the recipe zippy-er and a bit less prep intensive than the original. Somehow we always manage to have beets of some sort with this - I think it's the balance of the dark red and dark green.
Time: 20 minutes to prep, 45 minutes to bake
Make ahead: Kugel is good hot, warm, or cold so you can do the whole thing ahead (or mix the ingrediants ahead and bake last minute).
J: "Kugel should never be boring."
M: "Oy, you should have such a good meal!"
Friday, November 2, 2007
Penne alla vodka (recipe in the comments)
Tossed salad with Dijon vinaigrette
Mini M & Ms (J)
We originally got our Penne with vodka cream sauce recipe from a Weight Watchers cookbook we ended up with. It has now been drastically altered, and I'm sure it's less good for you. That said, it's not nearly as bad for you as penne alla vodka you'd get in a restaurant or from a jar. It has the richness of a much more caloric dish. Also, it's very easy (as you can see it's a Friday dinner, the night when we make our grocery list and clean the kitchen before we cook - see comments on October 28 - Chipotle Mac n Cheese). Yum.
Chopping: Shallots, parsley
Time: 25 - 35 minutes
Make ahead: You can make the sauce ahead.
J: "How did we produce such goodness?"
M: "Pasta + Booze, who could complain???"
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Exactly how we came up with our specific tradition has been lost to the mists of time, but along the way M and I acquired a cookie cutter shaped like a tombstone. Each year around Halloween, we make spice cookie tombstones for all of our "beloved dead". After dinner we take each cookie and talk about the person, remembering fun stories and wonderful qualities about them. For many years we had a sort of party for Samhain, decorating the cookies and sharing stories with our friends (who all made their own tombstones). We're too new to Ann Arbor to have critical mass to take this public yet, but I have no doubt that it will continue to be a tradition in our household.
Anyway, this is a long way to introduce the idea of food as a vehicle for spiritual expression, communion with friends, encouraging communication, etc. Traditions surrounding food can be so rich in meaning. And as usual, I think good food makes almost anything better.
Chili Con Carne
Southern-style company corn bread
Carrots and celery
Fun size Twix
Decaf Constant Comment Tea
M's mom went home this afternoon, and M had a dinner with people from work, so it was just J and T at home. Leftovers after T went to bed seemed blissfully easy, and very tasty too.
The microwave can do amazing things with chili ;)
J: "Just as good in replay mode."