Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stewed Vegetables

You could call this vegetable stew if you wanted, too. It's burning my mouth, but it's so good I'm eating it anyway. Hopefully this will help my fever break. This should be served with saltine crackers. They are really yummy with it, and I am not generally a crackers-with-soup kind of girl. For dessert, I recommend two mint-chocolate chip cookies.

This is made similarly to ratatouille, but it is not, by any means, the same thing. It is, however, a good way to get rid of a lot of veggies all at once. It could be good with rice, too. I'll make some tomorrow and find out.

1 medium red potato (last potato!), cut into cubes
1 red onion, cut into chunks
3 carrots, cut into chunks (I didn't peel them)
1 zucchini, cut into thick slices
1 large handful of green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half
1 green bell pepper, cut into chunks
3 celery stalks, w/ leaves, cut into chunks
1 can of stewed tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon: french tarragon, margoram, spanish thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed lavender

Combine all into a saucepan. Cook over low heat for at least 3 hours (I think mine went 5, since I forgot about it for a bit), stirring periodically to move less-cooked veggies into the liquid. Serves 2.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Fenugreek Potato Salad

I am doing the potato thing again. Because I had many, and now I only have one. So we're almost through this. Plus, I'm still sick and this requires next to no prep work. I'm trying to avoid the kitchen as much as possible for hot foods, since I'm still running a fever. My inclination is to not eat at all, in honesty. But I know I'll stay sick a lot longer that way.

1 pounds red potatoes
2 chopped hard boiled eggs
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 cup diced cucumber
1 sliced scallion
1/4 cup dill pickle relish (or, if you like sweet, use that)
1 teaspoon: American mustard, stone ground mustard, powdered mustard
1 tablespoon: mayonnaise, powdered fenugreek, paprika
2 teaspoons: sesoned salt, lemon pepper
large pinch of salt
water

Put the potatoes in water to cover with the large pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, or until fork tender, then drain. Chop them up and let them cool. Mix the potatoes with everything else. Chill. Eat. Serves 2.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sick Potato

Well, it turns out I've got a fever. My lymph nodes are swollen, and I'm a little nauseated, dizzy and headachy (though the headache is likely due to lack of caffeine). I know I need to eat, but the idea of standing in the kitchen for more than 5 minutes is pretty much out. Yeah... because I'd mainly rather not eat than actually actively cook today. Roasted vegetables, to the rescue. Nutritive, filling, and no work.

1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 medium-sized red potato, cut into 9 slices
salt and pepper to taste
omani (crushed lemon - you can use lemon pepper instead, which is not the same but which does taste good) to taste
1 stalk celery, cut in half lengthwise, then into 1.5" strips
1 small (tiny!) onion, sliced into rings
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (optional)
1 teaspoon citrus vinegar of your choice (or just use balsamic, which is also nice)
1-2 tablespoons evoo

Put the sesame oil in a small casserole dish and swish it to coat the bottom. Add a layer of potato, then top w/ salt, pepper and omani. Then top with half the celery and onion. Repeat. Drizzle with orange water, vinegar and oil. Normally I'd bake this at 400F for about 20 minutes, but today I needed to sleep more so I cooked it at 350F for 70 minutes. Serves 1.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Story Time

Strangely, I have very little to say about food today. I consider that odd, given the only two things that don't involve the people in my life that I think about are food and math. But, I've thought a lot about math lately - probably on account of my insane decision to take 12 hours this summer!

Last night, my brother texted to let me know he was in town, and did I want to get together. We had some lovely, fragrant Pho. I got lost on the way to his hotel. Apparently, despite my half-hearted attempts to acclimate, I only know how to get to the grocery store, the post office, school, couple restaurants and the laundromat.

I think I forgot to eat today. I remember eating some fruit salad (watermelon, pear, strawberries and lemon juice) for breakfast. When I remember to buy fruit for it, I make a big bowl and eat it every morning for breakfast. I remember having coffee. That's all I remember. I'm sure I must've eaten something. But if I did, I have no idea what it was. Tomorrow, I think I'm going to ditch work and have dinner again with my brother and one of his friends who is also in town. I haven't met this person, so it'll be neat to get to meet another of his friends.

P asked for a care package. I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me to send him one sooner! He wanted many, many bars of assorted, non-American chocolate to give as a gift to his host family, he wanted mint chocolate chip cookies (homemade, of course. I don't know if P remembers what processed cookies even taste like), and cough drops. Evidently, what is cheap, over the counter medication here in the States is extraordinarily expensive stuff over there. He said he spent about fifty US dollars buying some sort of cough drops and a bottle of vitamin c pills. Those must be some cough drops! Anyway, I put together the care package and included a can of dolma to go with the chocolate for his host family. I'll mail it tomorrow.

Also, I made some cheese breads. I didn't cook them; just made the dough, shaped and froze them. P and I have an online date tomorrow to eat cheese breads. His will be fresh from the merchant, mine fresh from the oven. I'm anxious for him to be home. I know this because I've found myself feeling quite sappy recently, which is somewhat abnormal for me (those of you who know me IRL know how much of an understatement that is).

Today, I had what was simultaneously the most bizarre, surreal experience at school and quite possibly the greatest compliment I've ever received. Normally I leave history a few minutes early, because my other class is at a different campus. Today, my professor (who really is one of my favourites - he's very entertaining and goofy) asked me to not leave, because he needed to talk to me after the class was gone. I was curious, because normally you only hear that sort of thing when you've done something wrong. While I've been uncharacteristically quiet in his class this time around (5 week semester, people! I'm tired!), I didn't think I'd done anything wrong. Normally I know when I do since I do it on purpose. So I said okay, and tried to figure out what I'd done. Then it occurred to me he might want to talk about his memory flashdrive stick thing. I put all my study sheets on them for him, and at the close of this semester he'll have both semester's worth saved up for whatever it is he wants them for. He dismissed class early (thanks!) and I got out the memory stick while I waited for the other students to leave.

He did not, in fact, want to talk about the memory stick. Instead, he handed me a copy of the test we're taking on Monday (with answers), that had been scribbled all over in red ink. Apparently, there were some mistakes in the tests, plus he wanted to take questions out of the test because we hadn't gone over them in class. He wanted to know if I'd take the test, fix/revise it and retype it, then print it out and give it to him. I said sure. I thought it was weird, but I didn't really see any harm in it.

So I did fix the test. And I will tell you, it took more willpower than I've ever needed before not to copy down the answers, so I could memorise them. I mean... I was looking at something I shouldn't even be seeing, that I could totally memorise in just a few minutes and keep in my head until Monday. But integrity is really important to me. So I just transcribed it, and corrected the spelling errors. And I didn't copy the answer key. But I wanted to. I really, really wanted to.

Anyway, I realised after I got the new test back to him that him asking me was a tremendous compliment, because it implied that he knew I wouldn't copy the answers or sell it or whatever. And that, I believe, is as big of a compliment as I think anyone can ever receive. I feel very proud.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dinner Salad

I've got all these breaded chicken breasts in the freezer, and frankly, I'm tired of chicken parmesan now. My appetite has been depressed, so I've been trying to pack as many calories as possible into each meal. I've been getting a ton of exercise lately by "spring cleaning" my house, so I wanted to make sure it was a protein dense meal. But today I really just wanted a salad, and oddly, with iceberg. So I decided to combine them.

8 ounces chicken breast (I used breaded, you use what you want)
2 new potatoes, cut into sixths
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cups torn iceberg lettuce
1/2 roma tomato, cut into six lengthwise wedges
1 hardboiled egg, quartered
1 carrot, cut on a bias
2 ounces crumbled feta

Heat oven to 375F. Toss potato wedges in oil and paprika, then put on a baking sheet. Add chicken and cook 22 minutes, turning once. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Put all but feta on the plate. When potatoes are cool enough, add them, then slice the chicken. Top with chicken and feta, then add dressing. Serves 1.

Dressing:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1.5 tablespoons lemon juice
dash oregano
dash sumac
1 teaspoon crumbled feta

Shake well.

I forgot to take a picture, sorry.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Wraps

Sometimes, I live on wraps. Lately, I've been having my 4am snack wrap (which is not really a snack). I like wraps because they're easier to hold than sandwiches, when you have a lot of stuff in them. One of my favourite places for wraps is Banana Crepe in San Jose, CA. They make their wraps with crepes, which are simply divine.

Anyway, I've been stuck on this one specific wrap the last few days, so I thought I'd share:

1 tortilla (2 if you're really hungry)
3 pieces hard salami (I'm using the oscar meyer brand hard salami for this)
4 pickle slices
1 slice of oil and herb soaked mozzarella, cut into a 1/4" thick round (I buy this mozzarella at Phoenecia, but if you can't find some you can always make up a mix of herbes and oil and marinate your mozzarella in it yourself)
1 teaspoon mustard (sometimes I use whole grain, sometimes American style)

Lay one tortilla down and put a strip of mustard in the middle. Cover mustard with two slices of salami. Top the salami with the cheese, and center it on the salami. Put the last slice of salami on top of the cheese to cover it. Add pickles to all this, then roll it up. If you're really hungry, wrap a second tortilla around it.

This is so dense I feel completely satisfied when I'm done eating it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chicken and Israeli Couscous Soup

It's been soup week here. Much of the impetus for me to eat so much soup is that I have this wide array of frozen vegetables. Honestly? I don't know what to do with most frozen vegetables, because I simply don't like most of them. Sure, frozen corn, broccoli, onions, potatoes and spinach are fine. Sometimes I even don't balk too much about frozen green beans, for casseroles or whatever. But the remainder of the vegetables I can think of just... lose something when they're frozen. Anyway, I have some (the bothersome ones in question are carrots). And I'm trying to use them all up before P gets home, so I can start filling the freezer with things we really do like. Soup is the only thing I can think of to use up these frozen carrots. It's way, way, way too hot for soup, but I'm just using the fan while I eat. This soup, however, made the carrots stop being distasteful to me, and now I see their purpose in the world.

2 cups chicken (mixed colours), cut into chunks
1 small bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
4 whole cloves garlic
1 stalk celery, cut into 1-2" chunks
1 shallot, quartered
2 bouillon cubed
5 cups water

1/3 cup israeli couscous
1 cup frozen carrots
water if needed

Add the first group of ingredients to a saucepan and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the couscous and carrots, then cook an additional 20 minutes. If you need more water, add it and cook a little longer. Serves 2.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tomato-Basil Soup - No Croutons Required

I got this craving for La Madeleine's Tomato-Basil soup yesterday, but I have a hard time rationalising spending 5 bucks on soup when I know I can make the same amount for under a money. Additionally, this month's theme for No Croutons Required is to exemplify an herb in a soup or salad, so I thought this would be a nice fit.

Mine tasted a little different from theirs, but was still quite good. It was easy to make, inexpensive and tasty, so I'll definitely be making it again. Here you go:

2 garlic cloves, minced (I like a lot of garlic, as you may've noticed)
1 small onion, diced (yields 1/2-3/4 cup onion)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup veggie broth
pinch of sugar

1 1/2 cup fresh basil, torn up
1/4 cup milk or cream

In a small saucepan, sweat the onions and garlic in oil, salt and pepper until the onions are transluscent. Add the tomatoes, broth and sugar, and let simmer for 30 minutes. Add in the basil and cook another 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree. Return to saucepan, add cream and cook another 5 minutes. Serves 1.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Potatoes and... the Last of the Andouille

I made it through the last of the andouille. Finally. I actually didn't think I was going to like this at all because, well... I'm kind of tired of andouille. I ate it for so many days, I was happy to see the end of it approaching. This was actually pretty good, though, so by the end I felt glad I'd had that last bit. This is a kind of casserole type thing. Simple to prepare and tasty in a very rustic-feeling way.

2 cups sliced and cleaned leek (remember that giant leek I talked about? I finished it with this meal too)
small handful of dried shitake slices, rehydrated (or 1 whole dried shitake, reconstituted and sliced)
1 medium red potato, sliced into 1/4" rounds
4 ounces andouille, sliced into 1/4" rounds
pinch of salt, sprinkle of white pepper and a shake of paprika
light drizzle of lemon juice, vegetable oil and vegetable broth

Heat oven to 400F. Put the leeks in a small casserole dish. Top with andouille and mushroom slices, then with the potato. Sprinkle on the seasonings and drizzle on the liquids. Cover, then toss it in the oven for 45 minutes. Eat. Serves 1.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Red Rice and Andouille

Well, I've almost made it through the leftovers. Accurately speaking, I've made it through all the cooked leftovers (except a little baked chicken which I froze, since I was really tired of eating it). I remembered there was a little red rice left in the pantry; only enough for one person, really. There was also the last half of the andouille, and the remaining giant leek. So I figured I should get to work on them. It was kind of sad trying to figure out portions for only me, but I managed it. Aleister wanted some, but he was told no. So here it is:

1/3 cup bhutanese red rice
1/2 cup water
pinch of salt

Combine the ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 14 minutes, then let sit, covered, at least 10 minutes. While that's going on, do the following:

1 1/2 cups sliced and cleaned leeks
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
3 tablespoons vegetable broth, divided
salt to taste
4 ounces andouille, sliced

In a small nonstick pan, combine leek, garlic, carrot, lemon juice, orange blossom water, salt and 2 tablespoons of the vegetable broth. Cook over medium-low heat until the liquid is gone and the pan is a little sticky, maybe ten minutes (I was doing homework so I'm not sure, since I measure "time" by the smell of the food). Deglaze with the remaining vegetable broth and scrape all the sticky stuff back onto the food, add the andouille and lower the heat to low. Cook 5 more minutes (I set the timer for that part so I know it's true). Serves 1.

As an aside, P is doing ok in Brazil. There've been some ups and downs, but he's getting through it and trying to enjoy his trip. He gets on IM when he has internet service, so I've gotten to talk to him almost daily. I'm sleeping on the couch now, since it appears I need to acclimate to being on my own again before I can sleep easily in the bed. I guess this is probably how it was for him when I worked out of town 5 days a week and was basically only home a day and a half each week.

My classes are going well, and I feel a lot less bogged down than I did last summer session. My brain is kind of done, so I'm having to review the same material over, and over, and over, and over, but I'm guessing it'll integrate soon enough. I'm at two different campuses this time, so happily my history prof is being cool about me leaving a half hour before the class is over so I can get to the other campus on time.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Spaghetti with Andouille

P is leaving tomorrow, so I wanted to make a nice dinner for him. I'm going to miss cooking for him while he's in Brazil. A lot.

1 large yellow onion, sliced into 1/4" thick rings
6-8 large brussels sprouts, cleaned and quartered
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1" bits
3 celery stalks, cut into 1" slices
12 whole garlic cloves
4 tablespoons oil; half olive, half vegetable
1/4 teaspoon dill
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1 large red bell pepper, cut in half then sliced
8 ounces andouille, sliced on a bias

12 ounces spaghetti
water
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400. Mix the first group of ingredients together and put it in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes or until well caramelized. Boil the water and cook pasta according to package directions. Pour the oil (or maybe just 3/4 of it; up to you) into a large skillet. Heat it up (if it's cooled) on medium to medium-high heat, and add the peppers and sausage. Stir fry it for a minute or two, then put it out in a single layer (or as close to it as possible) and let it sit for three minutes. Turn the sausage and let it go another 3 minutes. Drain the pasta and add it, plus the roasted vegetables, to the sausage and peppers. Pour the lemon juice on and mix well. Allow to cook an additional 5 minutes together, then eat. Serves 4.

No picture today.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tamarind Mushrooms

Tamarind. The first time I was aware of having eaten it was in a now-closed Indonesian restaurant called the Rice Table. It was in San Rafael. I think on B Street. Another of my closest friends; my brother, really (though not biologically speaking) took me there. My favourite dish was the plate of tamarind mushrooms. I was successful in getting the recipe from the proprietor, but only on the condition that I never give it out. A woman of my word, I've made a slightly different version to share with y'all. Here it is.

1 tablespoon tamarind paste
2-3 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Put tamarind in a small bowl and add the warm water. Mash the tamarind in the water with a spoon (I use a grapefruit spoon, but that's just me) to mix it into the water, and also to separate the seeds and the other crunchy bits from the pulp. Heat the pan, then add the oil.

Ok... I'm just going to explain how I do this. You can do it how I do it, or you can do it a way that works better for you and with your kitchen. I get out a little hand-held strainer and I hold it over the pan. Then I pour the tamarind into the strainer and set the bowl aside. Using my spoon, I push the pulp through, then discard the seeds and crunchy bits. I used to strain it with my fingers, but the feel of the tamarind under my nails reminded me of the discomfort I feel when I have fish scales under my nails, though they're obviously very different. Then let the tamarind heat up in the oil, and add the garlic and ginger. As that heats up, toss in the mushrooms and mix them well. Salt and pepper them, then douse them with the lemon juice. Mix, mix, mix so the tamarind and lemon combine and get more liquidy and less paste-y. Oh, I forgot. This is all happening over medium-low heat. Once everything's combined right, let it hang out and cook until the mushrooms are the doneness you like. Stir them periodically. Serves 2.

I forgot to take a picture, again. I got excited. Last final tomorrow!! Woo!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Chicken Quesadillas

Apparently, I'm channeling the memory of Irma today, in a way I never knew her. As you all know, I made that chicken yesterday, and as you probably expected, there was a lot leftover. I'd originally intended to use this chicken for chicken salad. Part of me doesn't see a good reason for this, though, since P is leaving for Brazil on Saturday (and he won't have eaten it all by then) and I don't particularly like chicken salad (alright... I admit it). While I was taking my calculus test (this will probably explain how many questions I couldn't remember how to do), I started thinking about tortillas. The conversation in my head went something like this (Be forwarned, I like to have conversations with myself in my head as though I were two people, since it makes sorting thoughts simpler):

"I could really go for a tortilla right now. A butter flavoured one."
"You really should go for figuring out this problem. Besides, we have all that chicken to eat."
"Could eat the chicken in a tortilla. Like a wrap or something."
"Would be be better in a quesadilla."
"You don't like chicken quesadillas."
"Maybe I would if they were made right. Like Irma would make them."

and so on...

Irma was the friend of one of my closest friends, Tara, when I was in Utah (a large chunk of where I grew up). Which by extension, made her kind of my friend too, though in reality I viewed her more as this really weird chick I could not understand who was a blast to get in trouble with. Different kind of trouble than what Tara and I got into when we were by ourselves, too. Variety is nice.

Irma's family is Mexican, so the food they ate was completely different than the stuff we ate. Some of the time, anyway. I remember once Tara telling me about how quesadillas were made while she was at Irma's house, and they were really good. I can't recall the details of their flavour; whether they were just cheese or filled with other things. I just remembered how they were cooked, though, because Tara said there'd been discussion about the cooking methods. Mostly the way I imagined they sounded while cooking. I didn't use a comal today, but it just kind of popped in my head. The way Tara described them was a way I wanted to taste them. This was at least fifteen years ago, and I still had never made them. I'd forgotten about them until today.

So I stopped at the store to get a chile pepper, some cheese (I had the wrong kinds) and some ro-tel tomatoes. I figured I'd make Spanish rice, too. P was excited for the quesadillas, and I was excited to make them for the first time. I am so rarely impressed with my cooking, to be honest. I usually like my cooking, but I can usually taste it in my head, so I have already "eaten it," so to speak, before I consume it, that I'm not typically impressed. This time, though... these were so amazing. I am stuffed but I want to eat the last of P's anyway.

So here's how I made 'em:

1 anaheim chile, deseeded and diced
1 shallot, cut in half then sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch salt

6 butter flavoured tortillas
1 1/2 cup chopped up chicken; mostly white meat, divided into 3
2 1/4 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese (use less if you want, or more), divided into 3

In a non-stick pan, dry cook the chile and shallot over medium heat. When it starts to char very, very slightly (you want the good taste of charring, not the burn taste of charring), put the lemon and salt in the pan and turn the heat down slightly. Allow to continue cooking until fairly soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat a medium (tortilla-sized) pan, or heat a comal to medium-low or medium. Put one tortilla in the pan. Sprinkle most of 1 pile of cheese (3/4 cup) over the tortilla, then sprinkle chicken. Add one third of the chile/shallot mixture, then top with the remaining cheese and
another tortilla. Cook 5 minutes, then flip over and cook another 5 minutes. Keep warm while you cook the remaining two quesadillas. Cut into sixths and serve. Serves 1-3.

Spanish Rice (uncoloured)

1 cup rice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, lard or fat of your choice
1 10-ounce can Ro-Tel tomatoes (I got the generic for 50 cents and they're fine), drained with liquid reserved
Chicken broth or water added to tomato liquid to make 1 3/4 cups liquid

Heat a saucepan and add fat and rice. Stir rice until it is browned slightly. Add liquids and bring to a boil. When boiling, cover first with a paper towel, then with the lid. Reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit, covered, at least 15 minutes.