Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pasta with Goat Cheese, Asparagus and Sugar Snap Peas

This pasta is a tribute to a crostini appetizer I learned to make when I was in Avignon. I stumbled upon a cooking demonstration at the Les Halles Indoor Market there during my visit to France in 2007. Ever since then, any party requiring appetizers will be debuting this crostini. I still have the recipe printout from the chef, neatly stored behind plastic. The other recipe he gave was a creme de petit pois, a cold thin pea puree with mint and creme fraiche--also delightful, but that's another post.

After making the crostini a week ago for a party, I was left with all the makings for the crostini, except the baguette. And thus the baguette toastee pasta au chevre frai et legumes croquants was born.

Something about fresh basil and goat cheese is magical. Dare I say moreso than basil and fresh mozzarella? I threw in a few yellow pear tomatoes from my garden since the plant is ripening tomatoes at lightning speed with the sun we've been having. 

Pasta with Goat Cheese, Asparagus and Sugar Snap Peas
3-4 servings
1/2 pound pasta 
1 big bunch of asparagus, sliced thin at an angle
1-2 big handful of sugar snap peas, sliced thin
1 handful of fresh basil, chopped
1-2 big spoonfuls of tomato paste or 1/3 to 1/2 cup of a good tomato sauce
About 1/3 cup Goat cheese
1 sprig of fresh thyme, chopped (optional)
A few radishes, thinly sliced (optional)
Halved cherry or pear tomatoes (optional)
Olive oil
Salt, to taste

Boil the pasta according to the direction. In the last minute of boiling, toss in the asparagus and snap peas. Drain the pasta when the minute is up. Whilst hot, stir in the basil, tomato paste or sauce. You may need to thin the paste a bit to get it to stir in nicely. Add the thyme if you are using it, crumble in the goat cheese and stir so that is can dissolve a bit in the hot pasta. Stir in the radishes and tomatoes, if  you are using them, and a tiny drizzle of olive oil. 

For Crostini
Toast slices of baguette until crisp. When cooled a bit, spread with goat cheese. In a bowl, toss together the sliced radish (definitely not optional here-it's too delicious to skip), sliced asparagus, sliced snap peas, tomato paste or sauce, chopped basil and thyme, a little salt and olive oil. Arrange a little bit of the vegetable mixture over each crostini.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Anie's Salmon


While spending a much needed weekend away, I procured this amazing salmon marinade recipe from an old high school friend. Anie was, and still is, a meticulous person, whose food choices reflect careful consideration to health and solitude. Even in high school, Anie would tell me about her brown rice and kimchi breakfasts, the time she spent meditating before school, and the special teas her mother would give her when she was sick.

I have since, somewhat caught up to her, as far as taking my health more seriously, this coming from a girl who skipped breakfast and lunch throughout all four years of high school, and ate candy bars before running cross country (What was I thinking?). However, Anie has moved on to much more exciting and complex activities, such as driving Navy ships about the Pacific, and maneuvering the coastal highways of San Diego.

Here is her simple, simple recipe for broiled salmon with a marinade. Be sure to try to find Wild Alaskan Salmon, not farm raised. Your brain and heart will thank you.

Anie's Salmon

Salmon fillets
Soy sauce
Garlic cloves, several, crushed or chopped
Brown sugar, a few spoons
Lemon juice, from one lemon

(No measurements! You won't mess it up, I promise.) Place all the ingredients in a ziplock bag with enough soy sauce for the salmon to sit in it, but not so much that it's swimming. (Tee hee hee-swimming.)
Place the salmon in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours.

Place the salmon, skin side down, on a baking sheet, and preheat the broiler. Broil the salmon, depending on the thickness, for 7 to 10 minutes. (Don't burn stuff under the broiler, like me. Put a timer on!) Check to be sure the fish is done in the middle, is opaque and flakes easily. 

If you like you can flip them and crisp up the skin. I eat the skin (don't say ew!) because, first of all, it's tasty, and second, there is a lot of good-for-you omega-3 fat in there. But I only eat the skin from the wild Alaskan Salmon, because of the chemical pollutant possibility from other types.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pot Roast with Gravy

Among my favorite anti-vegetable sentiments/excuses: "I am a meat and potatoes person."

There is nothing wrong with meat and potatoes. Meat and potatoes are perfectly reasonable sources of nutrients. But, that's only 1/2 your plate. A quarter meat, and a quarter potatoes. And what else is there? I guess since you thrive only on meat and potatoes, you wouldn't like a nice serving of green beans, or how about some Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, or some steamed broccoli, or maybe a few carrots, or what about come collards or cauliflower. I can go all day here, people.

You can't neglect these vegetables. Not only do I know you like at least a few of them , they complete your meat and potatoes feast. Just look at my colourful example above. I am not saying that meat and potatoes, day after day is a great idea. After all, getting a variety of foods will give a variety of benefits. But, no one says you have to eat salad and forgo your staple dinner fixings.

According to this article, getting a variety of different coloured vegetables will actually give a lovely skin colour. And after all, if health isn't about beauty, then few people would be on board.

So without further ado, I present pot roast. I used to ask for roast beef and mashed potatoes every birthday, and thought it was only something my mom could achieve perfectly, so I never bothered. As it turns out, it couldn't be easier. Just be sure to give yourself an hour ahead of time for each pound of meat you have.

Pot Roast with Gravy

Whole Pork shoulder or Beef chuck
Salt and Pepper

Heat a large pot on medium high. Add a tablespoon of oil. When hot, add your meat and brown on all sides, this should just take a few minutes. Now turn down to low. Add water, anywhere from 1 cup to a little more for bigger roasts, so that it makes it at least an inch or so up the side of the pot. Cover with a lid.

For every pound of meat, you need to give the meat 45 minutes to an hour. Actually a very flat 1.5 pounder for just the two of us took an hour, so the shape matters, too. Replenish the water as needed. Don't be shy with the water, we are making gravy with it.

When done, remove from pot, place on a plate and cover with foil. Let let a few minutes.

Meanwhile, mix up a tablespoon or two of cornstarch with water. Be sure to dissolve all the cornstarch. Bring the remaining meaty water in the pot to a boil, add the cornstarch mixture, and a little water or broth if you are lacking in volume and need lots of gravy, like me. Boil until the gravy becomes thick. Add a little salt to taste.

Mashed potatoes with Celery Root and Buttermilk

1 Celery root, washed and cut into large cubes
6-8 Red skinned potatoes, washed and cut into quarters
1 cup buttermilk or milk, warmed slightly
A few knobs of butter
Salt and pepper

Boil the celery root and potatoes until tender. Mash, and about halfway through start adding the buttermilk until it becomes a consistency of your liking. Add the butter, salt and pepper.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Figgy Necklace

This is exactly what it looks like. A necklace made out of figs.

Sean and I were in the backyard this morning looking at my brand new mini raised bed full of herbs. Some of the leftover figs from the summer caught my eye on our bare fig tree. The tree has already begun to show buds. But for some reason, some of the little dried up, hard-as-a-rock figs were still clinging to the branches. I don't know why I automatically though of a necklace. Maybe because they were so hard and obviously dried out. Maybe because they were all the size of a marble. To my delight, however, this craft actually turned out pretty well.

In order to get a hole in the fig, I had to break through the outside layer with a sturdy needle. I pressed through the bottom of the fig with the needle and pressed the needle against a table protected with a thick cloth, while holding the fig. Then I strung them together putting a few gold beans between each one. Each fig looks a little different. One is cream coloured, one has a bluish cheek to it. Some are golden. If you have a fig tree, here is one idea of how to use up all those darn figs!

Or if you need other weird necklace ideas: Rose Petal Beads.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Tale of Two "Carbonaras"

Looks like I got you in the door with "Carbonara." But the deception will have to end here. Pasta Carbonara refers to the bacon in the the pasta, somewhat resembling carbon. I plan on stealing the term, instead, to refer to how pasta carbonara is made, by adding the egg to hot noodles, so that it clings with creamy wonderful richness.

The first dish was one I made up while in the presence of several tens of Meyer lemons from my neighbor's tree, and plotting my strike against them. Meyer lemons are a thin skinned variety that are one of  the few citrus trees that grow well here in Las Vegas. They have an almost orange rind, and a faintly orange flavor. But you can use other lemons, too.

In my refrigerator, two egg yolks were patiently waiting for me, after I whipped their counterparts into a peanut butter atrocity of a dessert, that I do not wish to repeat. So I had lemons, egg yolks, and just needed a starchy base. And since I had just bought a bag of brown jasmine rice, Meyer Lemon Risotto was born, which brings me to the "carbonara" part. Risotto is often made with several pats of butter and a ton of Parmesan cheese. Instead, if you stir in a few eggs or egg yolks, you can still achieve a nice sticky creamy rice dish, and although it is not going to be exactly like a risotto, I think it makes a dandy substitute, and saves you quite a bit of fat by excluding the butter.

Meyer Lemon "Risotto"
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water or broth
1/3 cup of white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks or 1 egg
1-3 lemons worth of zest, depending on size (and your taste)
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the rice according to the package. I know this is not very risotto-like, but trust me. Don't let the rice burn to the bottom. You can always boil excess water away with the lid off. The important thing it that the rice is fully cooked.

When the rice is done, leave the heat on and turn it up to medium or medium high. Add the wine and let it bubble away, but don't let the rice get dry. Add the lemon zest. Stir half the cheese into the eggs and whip it up very well. Take the hot rice off the heat. Add the eggs to the rice, stir it up quickly to coat. Then add the rest of the cheese and black pepper to taste. Serve with more cheese at the table. A few asparagus spears or a green salad goes nicely!

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Anchovies and Greens
Adapted from Rachel Ray Magazine

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
6-8 anchovies (adds a salty, not fishy, flavor)
1 fresh chili pepper such as cherry or Fresno
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 big bunch of greens or 2 small, ribbed and chopped (Try collards or Kale)
Few grates of nutmeg
2 large eggs or egg yolks
Grated Parmesan

Boil noodles according to package.

While noodles are boiling, fry up the olive oil and anchovies with a lid to cover over medium heat, a few minutes. Mash up the anchovies into the oil when they are hot. Add garlic and chili pepper, stir 2 minutes. Add greens and nutmeg. Stir, let wilt.

In a bowl, beat the eggs with a 1/4 cup of pasta water, beating quickly while pouring in the hot water.

Toss the drained spaghetti with the kale, add the eggs and with a few handfuls of Parmesan cheese and toss to coat evenly.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bagels with Homemade Cream Cheese and Cranberry Jalapeno Jam

The best kind of presents to give are the kind you can benefit from. For example, when I bought my sister the cookbook Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, I knew that good things were going to come out of it, and they were going to come right to me. Don't feel bad for her, she does it to me, too. Plus, last week, I was over at her house making the "Oreos" recipe out of that book, so I am sure she is not complaining.

A few reasons to get this book if you are into DIY:  there is an abundance of easy recipes to make novel things that are very impressive such as cream cheese, Camembert, ricotta, mozzarella, mascarpone, vermouth, bitters, marshmallows, pancetta, and, of course, oreos, just to name the few I can remember. Since I don't have this book, however, I can't supply the recipe for the fluffy and light, dreamily creamy cream cheese that she made and gave to me. I can tell you, it was easy. The only extra work is in buying the mesophilic culture from an online supplier. 

What I will share is this easy bagel recipe I got from The Good Stuff Cookbook, another wonderful cookbook, full of novel items, like honey jelly, wine jelly, potted cheese, homemade biscotti, pretzels, crumpets, fresh mustards, cranberry ketchup, digestive biscuits and the list goes on and on.

Water Bagels
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
2 cups warm water between 110 and 115 degrees F
3 Tablespoons barley malt powder (I happen to have this thanks to Sean's beer making ventures, but you can use honey or sugar as well)
2 teaspoons salt (originally was 3 but you know how I feel about salt, and mine were perfectly salty enough)
5 - 5 1/2 cups bread flour (I mixed 1 cup of whole grain rye with whole wheat flour and some wheat gluten)

Dissolve your yeast into the water. Let it activate for about 10 minutes. now stir in the sugar or malt, a cup of the flour then the salt. Then work in the rest of your flour. Knead by hand for 10 to 15 minutes. Don't skimp on the kneading. Most home cooks underknead. If you have a standing mixer, knead for about 5-8 minutes. Now let this rise about an hour or until doubled in volume or in the refrigerator overnight.

If you had it in the fridge, take it out for about an hour before shaping the bagels. Divide the dough into 12 lumps. Now you can make a ball, stick your finger through the middle and with it in the middle roll it on all side to make the hole neater looking. The hole should be a bit large since it will become smaller as the bagel puffs up.

Let the bagels rise 10 to 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425.

Bring to a boil 3 quarts water and a 1/4 cup of the barley malt, or some sugar. Boil the bagels 30 seconds on each side.I recommend a baking sheet with parchment or heavily oiled as my bagels stuck quite a bit.  After they are done boiling you can brush them with egg white if you want to, I didn't, and sprinkle them with salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and/or caraway. Bake for 15 minutes until golden.

Cranberry Jalapeno Jam
1 cup of frozen cranberries
3 jalapenos, diced
1 clementine, diced
3/4 - 1 cup sugar

Gently boil all ingredients together, stirring now and then until the jam is very thick and most of the cranberries have popped. It will not be spicy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tom Yum

Yum is right. This is what I usually order when I go out for Thai food. So, when my sis gave me a few kaffir Limes, I knew I wanted to try to make my own version. I have made it a few times, and now, a year later, my kaffir limes are dry and hard as little rocks, but I whip out my micro plane and they still give off a very, very powerful flavor, so I use a minuscule amount.  If you have enough of the ingredients that give this soup its unique flavor, then you can definitely give it a go.

You will need:

Kaffir lime, fruit or leaves (or try it out with a regular old lime, but it won't be quite the same. I bet you can find Kaffir vegetation somewhere in Chinatown.)
Fresh Galangal or Ginger root
Coconut milk
Tofu or chicken

I add in red bell pepper, bay leaves, garlic, and cilantro for good measure. As you may have noticed, this recipe is also vegan, and so far, other than a few items left in our fridge, we are eating mostly vegan. Today, however, I was able to fortuitously and finally purchase eggs from our across the street and over a little bit neighbor. Apparently, they have 14 hens and charged me $1.50 for a dozen of these beautiful speckled, green, and brown eggs. I feel good about consuming animal products when I know that I am funding a worthwhile operation. I think that was a part of the reason we decided to stop investing so much money in animal products in the first place, because we can't always afford to buy from trustworthy suppliers. If you are interested, I highly recommend checking out the Monterey Bay Aquarium's list of sustainable (and in most cases, more nutritious) seafood to purchase. Buying wild Alaskan salmon isn't just better for the environment, it actually lives up to the health benefits you are after anyway.

Tom Yum Soup
1 Tablespoon of lemongrass dried
1-2 bricks of firm tofu, cut into cubes (or sub out cooked cubed chicken)
1/2 onion, cut the onion in half, then slice it
1 pkg of mushrooms
Kaffir lime leaves or a tiny amount of the zest of the fruit OR zest a regular lime. Use a small amount and taste!
1/2 red bell pepper, diced (optional)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 Tablespoon fresh ginger root or galangal, minced
2-3 small tomatoes
1/2 can regular coconut milk
1-2 Bay leaves (optional)
Cilantro for garnish (optional)
Salt or soy sauce to taste

Heat up two cups of water in a soup pot. Add the lemon grass either in a tea ball or a tea bag, or resign yourself to having to later strain out the lemongrass and return the liquid to the pot--no big deal. Boil the water and lemongrass for 5-8 minutes, covered. Strain out the lemongrass. Now add all of your other ingredients in and simmer for at least 8-10 minutes to get that nice flavor from the leaves. Covered, uncovered, whatever--you can't mess this up.

I cooked a mixture of brown and wild rice and put this in the bottom of my bowl for some extra rib stickiness.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Three Sisters Stew

Sean and I have stopped buying animal products. Now, if they are offered to us... that's another matter.

The other day, we were sitting in Pura Vida, a wonderful vegan restaurant situated right next to an antique mall and a strip club, and we were reminiscing about  how great we felt when we used to live in California and have beans and vegetables from the local farmers' market. I never bought much meat because it is so much more expensive, and thus we inadvertently became vegans with the occasional egg or yogurt. Of course, with a tiny budget, you have to choose between that scary Tyson chicken from Smart and Final or 6 dollars a pound heirloom beans, and if you know me, you know where my money is going.

So, for the moment, except for the brick of parmesan left in the fridge, and the homemade cream cheese my sis gave me, and the chocolates I can't seem to stop eating at work (Must be Valentines Day) we are eating pretty much an animal free diet.

Here is the recipe for what I made last night. It is called three sisters stew, because it has the three staples in the Mexican diet: corn, squash and beans. Oh, it is so delicious. I adapted the recipe from The Jungle Effect. Here is the original recipe, along with the entire list of recipes from the book, all of which are highly delicious.

Three Sisters Stew
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 dried guajillo chili, boiled in a little water, purreed, and mashed through a strainer, saving the cooking liquid or a few sprinkles of any chili powder, to taste
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 can of tomatoes or 3 fresh tomatoes
5 small tomatillos ( I just used some extra salsa verde I had)
1 cup of broth or water
2 cups Lima beans ( I used frozen)
1-2 cups cooked pinto beans
2 cups hominy
2 cups peeled and sliced delicata squash, or other squash, such as butternut or acorn
1 bunch of cilantro
Queso fresco or parmesan, to garnish.

Cook the onion, garlic, and bell pepper in the oil over medium heat until tender. Add in everything else, except the cilantro and cheese. Put a lid on top and let stew on low for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in chopped cilantro. Top with queso fresco or parmesan, and some sliced radishes if you like.

Makes a lot.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pork Loin with Broccoli and Carrots

My new favorite recipe from guess who... Marcella! Can she do no wrong? You have a little pork loin? You like carrots and broccoli, because who doesn't? You can make this!! Just chop up a few vegetables, then cover the pot and go for a jog for 20 minutes. Voila.

But first, the news.

Salt is an amazing seasoning. It enhances food flavors, and we are born to love it. Which is precisely why food manufacturers put it in EVERYTHING. Do you ever feel like going to the grocery store is a game of who can outwit who? The customer or the food marketers? A good example of marketing influence can be found in this very interesting podcast about lard.

My point is, a lot of salt can lead to high blood pressure. And high blood pressure, WILL lead to heart disease, and kidney failure. Many people whose kidneys no longer function have to sit through dialysis three times a week for three hours at a time while their blood is filtered through a machine. Sound like science fiction? The hardest part is, they have an impossibly restrictive diet, which cuts out practically whole food groups. All because of high blood pressure.

So I implore you, gentle reader, to continue reading. Here are a few Salt tips:
1. Your taste buds can be trained to prefer less salt on your food. Try really taking time to taste your food before you sprinkle.
2. Avoid canned vegetables and canned soups, unless they are low sodium.
3. Try adding salt at the table instead of during cooking.
4. Avoid a lot of processed meats: bacon, ham, salami, sausage, hot dogs.
5. Watch your snacks: get unsalted versions of snacks like nuts, crackers, popcorn, pretzels, cookies.
6. Check every food label!

How to check the label:
The Calories and the Sodium should be the same, or the sodium should be less. So if the Calories are 100, the sodium should be around 100 or less. My favorite example is Cup of Noodles: the calories are 296 and the sodium is 1434. That is a whole day's worth of sodium.

Fun Fact: Did you know that bread has more sodium(salt) than potato chips? Since the salt is on the outside of the chip, whereas it is baked into the bread, you can taste the salt more.

Pork Loin with Carrots and Broccoli
Adapted from Marcella Cucina
1 pound of pork loin, cut into strips similar in length to the vegetables
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup of white flour
3 bunches broccoli, trimmed of any woody skin on the stem, and cut into strips
2-3 large carrots, cut into strips
1/2 cup dry white wine

Toss the pork in the flour.

Heat up the olive oil over medium to high heat in a pot, deep enough to fit all the ingredients. Toss in the garlic and cook for a minute. Add in the pork and brown on both sides. Add in chopped vegetables. (You can add the stem of the broccoli and the bushy tops or just the stem. Both ways are good.) Stir the contents of the pot. Add the white wine, let cook for a few seconds, then cover, turn down to low and set the timer for 20 minutes. 

After 20 minutes, add a few grindings of black pepper. I don't think this needs any salt, but you may want to add a sprinkle at the table. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wake Up Little Bloggy (N'ice Cream)

I don't like giving up much. I am also a terrible procrastinator. Which is why my little bloggy here is still alive. It has just been dormant- much like my fig tree out back. In fact my fig tree looks dead, but I am looking forward to fig jam and fig newtons this summer, and I am looking forward to sharing all my new experiences. Ever since my last post, I have been working in the cardiac unit, and honestly it's hard to hunch over medical charts for 8 hours, then come home and hunch over the computer. But why am I going to go to the effort of baking my own bran flakes, and rolling out my own wonton wrappers if not to record it. It will make it so much easier for that lucky journalist to write up my biography one day.

The recipe I am posting today has a terrible picture. But that is only because I couldn't stop eating it long enough to get a good one. And that is testament enough. Sean actually made this one up, and I am very proud of him. It is a good use for those frozen bananas you keep in the freezer to make banana bread for the church bake sale, and its a whole lot healthier.

N'ice Cream (It's not ice cream--or is it?)

1 frozen banana
1 handful frozen blueberries
Nonfat milk, or any other milk substitute

Get out your stick(immersion) blender and blend away. And if you don't have one(its a good investment) you can use your blender, but it won't be so nice and thick because you will have to add more milk.