A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Very Funny Raspberry Vinaigrette (and Sausage Pasta)

I've made this salad dressing a few times--it makes me laugh. I've had raspberry vinaigrette in restaurants, and I've bought pricey bottled versions. But now since we always have raspberry syrup on hand from Christmas gifts, I mix a couple of tablespoons of it with any vinegar-and-oil dressing, and voila! I cut it with a little wine vinegar if it's too cloying, and add some olive oil if it's too sharp. It's good. Last night's salad was red lettuce, oranges, walnuts, green onions, feta cheese, and the above raspberry vinaigrette.

I also made a pasta sauce with spicy Italian chicken sausage, bell peppers, garlic, and tomato--fresh herbs--and served it over brown rice linguine.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Easy Pasta with Canned Clams, Tomatoes, and Caramelized Peppers

Just yesterday we found fresh clams from the South Carolina coast; the guy who sells local shrimp at the all-local farmers’ market had brought up clams and softshell crabs, but he was out of the crabs by the time we got to him. The clams were lovely -– I made a pasta sauce of local chard, bacon, and clams that was okay-tasting but so, so beautiful to look at.

Anywhere, here’s what you do when you don’t have fresh local clams. I made this up recently and will make it again.

Cook slowly in 1 T olive oil over medium-low heat:
- 1 or 2 yellow, orange, or red peppers, sliced
- Several cloves garlic, sliced

When sweet and browned, add:
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, some halved, or other tomatoes
- 5 saffron threads
- 1 bay leaf

Cook down slightly. Add and simmer, tasting for proper salting:
- ½ cup dry white wine
- Juice from two cans of clams (tuna can-sized)
- Red pepper flakes
- Pepper and salt to taste

Stir in clams from the cans at the end. Add parsley if you have it. Serve over pasta.

We also had artichokes. In the past I’ve served them the way you did when I was a kid, stem down. But the ones I bought had several inches of beautiful stem, and I read that in Europe they’re sometimes served the other way, stem up. So I did that. They were tasty.

Salsa, Hiking, and Lentil Soup

We hiked on the Arizona Trail with friends yesterday and saw many wildflowers, including this, which I think is called a Mariposa Lily. We started from Kentucky Camp, an old mining camp in the Coronado Forest--it is within a few miles of the place where we scattered Grandpa's ashes.

Then we went to Patagonia for lunch and Santos Cafe is gone! In its place is Mercedes Restaurant, which served Mexican seafood and other things. It was pretty good, but not AS good. At least they didn't fancy the place up at all.

That evening I made lentil soup, cornbread, and a sliced tomato and herb salad. The real reason for this post, though, is to communicate my tomatillo salsa recipe to Sam. We got to talking about salsa while hiking.

Jack Bishop's Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

1 dried red chile (about 4 inches long)
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 pound tomatillos, husked
1 tablespoon minced cilantro

Preheat broiler. Broil red chile for a couple of minutes to toast. Remove.

Place garlic and tomatillos on a broiler pan and broil, turning occasionally, until they start to blacken, 8 minutes or so.

Seed the chile and cut in pieces. Place chile, garlic, and tomatillos in food processor and puree. Add cilantro and salt to taste.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

More on Dog Food

I've been making food for Patty more often lately. It's a good way to use leftover meat, and it's a good excuse for spontaneous experiments...spontaneous experiments that Lawson and I don't have to live with.

For example, recently I browned a pound of ground turkey, then added a handful of frozen raspberries and a dusting of steel cut oats to absorb the juices. I covered it. After it cooked and absorbed for 10 minutes, I turned off the heat and stirred in two eggs. Patty loved it. Eggy Raspberry Meatloaf...mmmm. It fed her for several days.

Today I diced some potatoes, microwaved them for four minutes with a little chicken broth, and then stirred in some canned salmon. I usually stay away from the microwave with her meals, though: I think even dogs appreciate the browning of meat. The only food she has ever refused was microwaved chicken livers. She ate some the next day after I sauteed them in olive oil.

Last week we gave her a raw meaty, marrowy beef bone from the supermarket (in the backyard, of course). She was ecstatic. She spent all Sunday on that thing.

She also eats good quality hard food, but it contains more grains than she needs, so I'm trying to mostly stay away from grains in these supplementary dinners -- just meats and veggies, mostly. No doubt I'll get an email from some raw-feeding evangelist, and I think that stuff is neat, but surely there's a happy medium here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lemon Pudding, and More Salad Musings

I wanted to make a salad to go with tonight's pizza, but my vegetable bin looked very sad.

I did have apples and celery, so I made a Waldorf Salad which contained apples, finely sliced celery, a green onion, chopped pecans, lemon zest and juice, and mayonnaise. It was fresh and good, a sort of anti-lettuce affair.

But, I promised Grandma's Lemon Pudding recipe, and here it is:

1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 egg yoks, well beaten
1 cup milk
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend flour, sugar, salt in mixing bowl. Stir in lemon rind and juice, egg yolks, and milk. Fold in egg whites. Pour into 1-quart baking dish and bake for about 50 minutes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

One Small Chicken, Four Meals

I haven't roasted a chicken for while--previous ones have seemed too fatty and gross. But for Sunday dinner I had a hankering for the traditional roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, so I bought a smallish--three-and-a-half pounds--"natural" bird which turned out to be just fine.

I rubbed it with a paste of salt, paprika, and olive oil, stuffed fresh parsley, rosemary, and thyme in the cavity, and baked it on a rack at 325 degrees for about one hour and forty-five minutes. I made gravy with vermouth. So good! I rounded out the menu with roasted red peppers and cold lima beans dressed with oil and lemon juice. And Grandma made her lemon pudding.

Instead of using the leftovers in a different dish, we had a repeat of the same meal the next day. Then chicken enchiladas, and finally some chicken broth which I'm storing up for a rainy day.

I'll get that Lemon Pudding recipe from Grandma tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dumb Salads

I can't remember the last time I had a good salad in a restaurant. I tried this Tuscan Chopped Salad when my office went out for lunch last week, and it was lame. It tasted of things dumped from cans -- garbanzo beans, artichokes, California black olives -- and bland raw mushrooms. Also there was feta, raw onion, and some diced bland tomatoes and bell peppers. I could have made it at home in three minutes, and the lettuce would have been better.

The restaurant was nice enough that I was expecting better. My shrimp bisque was excellent. Even the bread was nicely done -- usually the first item to show marks of inattention. So why the crummy salad?

I eat lettuce-based salads at home about once a week. More often, though, I just eat other vegetables. I would eat salads more if I wasn't so basically bummed out about them of late. I'm bored with the simple vinaigrettes I make, with the Annie's dressings I buy, with Earthbound Farms.

Maybe the salad arena needs some redefinition. Maybe the definition should be broadened again. "Salad" once could mean something containing gelatin or or crushed pineapple and now means only something with mixed baby greens or iceberg lettuce. Surely there are new salad frontiers to visit -- or old ones to resurrect. I just want something new and delicious.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Good Dinner Party

We had our friends Ken and Melanie and their baby Andrew over for dinner last Sunday (you can see Andrew's foot in the top left of the picture above). We didn't make plans until Sunday morning, and I happened to have bought enough food during my big weekly Saturday grocery run to cover dinner. It was a fun, spontaneous meal, and much more tasty and successful than dinner parties I've spent all week planning.

Here's what we made, clockwise from top left:
  • Salad with fresh orange sections, walnuts, cinnamon, and an orange juice vinaigrette, modeled entirely after your own Moroccan salad. I don't have your recipe, but I guessed, and it turned out very well.
  • Chicken wings marinated by Lawson in a mysterious blend that contained star anise and honey and who knows what else and then grilled slowly over charcoal.
  • Those white beans with rosemary that I continue to be obsessed with.
  • Shrimp, red and yellow peppers, and onions marinated, grilled over high heat, and then tossed with cilantro, more lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
We didn't even miss the starch, because the beans seemed to fill that gap. Even Andrew the Baby tried a bite of beans. He also ate mashed avocado that his parents brought from home.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Gnocchi and Asparagus

We never take food home from a restaurant--but Dad couldn't finish his wonderful gnocchi with tomato cream sauce from his Italian lunch, so we finished it for dinner. Wow.

Asparagus is perfect and cheap right now, so I made it my favorite way.

Cold Asparagus with Curry Mayonnaise

2 pounds asparagus

Break off tough stems. Peel stems below tips if very thick. Cook until barely tender. Drain and chill.

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup yogurt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon curry powder
Salt to taste
Lemon juice and zest to taste

Mix remaining ingredients to make a smooth dressing. Arrange chilled asparagus on serving plate and spoon dressing over.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tuna and Some Simple Sides

I'm going to give up buying fresh tuna for home cooking. Even when it's gorgeous, as this slab was, it's never as fresh tasting or perfectly textured as I hope. So it's not worth the expense, even just twice a year. I'll eat it in restaurants, where it will be better prepared and more carefully sourced.

But aside from the disappointing tuna, this was a delicious meal. I cooked soba noodles and tossed them with a super-quick peanut sauce I invented on the spot. We were going out and I didn't want to breathe garlic or green onions at anyone, so I just mixed a few tablespoons of chunky natural peanut butter with small amounts of soy sauce, sriracha, rice vinegar, and a dash of sugar, then thinned the mixture with some hot water. I tossed that with the cooked and rinsed soba noodles and some cilantro and served it at room temperature.

The green beans I boiled until they were tender, then tossed with lemon zest, dried lavender, tiny snipped pieces of candied ginger, olive oil, salt and pepper. This was an experiment based on an amazing lavender-lemon coffeecake I tried last year at Macrina, a bakery in Seattle. It worked. I will make them again.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shrimp and Avocado Appetizer

This is one of the very nicest things you can do with a beautiful avocado. It's a perfect sit-down first course, and would also make a pretty fancy lunch dish. Here's a picture of a version made with crab instead.

Shrimp-Avocado Salad with Pistachios

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
20 medium shrimp, cooked and peeled
2 medium-size ripe avocados
2 tablespoons salted pistachios, coarsely chopped

Stir together oil, garlic, and vinegar to make dressing.

Reserve 8 whole shrimp for garnish. Chop remaining shrimp coarsely and add to dressing.

Cut avocados in half. Carefully scoop out flesh and dice, reserving shells. Add diced avocado to shrimp mixture and toss gently to coat. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Refrigerate.

At serving time, mound shrimp mixture in avocado shells on individual serving plates. Top each serving with two whole shrimp and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cooking All Day

I feel like I've been cooking all the livelong day (you know that song: I've been working on the railroad, all the livelong day. It was in the Golden Book of Songs we all knew when we were young. I'm pretty sure everyone from the Midwest and North could join in the chorus on that particular song. Is it still in the conciousness of your generation?)

I made a lentil salad and an almond tart for lunch with Grandma and John and Kathy. Then I went home and made an enormous French chocolate tart and a rum cake for my student recital tomorrow.

We were lucky enough to have leftover meatloaf from Grandma's lunch, so we didn't have to cook dinner, except for a big batch of beets from the garden. The variety Dad plants is Red Ace.

Have I ever made this salad for you? Just open up your spice cupboard and put in some of everything.

Curried Lentil Salad

1 lb dried lentils

Cook until barely tender, not mushy! This depends a lot on whether you use green or red lentils. Drain.

½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup wine or balsamic vinegar, or a combination
1 tablespoon sweetener (sugar, honey, etc.)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon mace
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Whisk together the above dressing ingredients. Combine gently with the lentils and marinate all day, or overnight.

1 or 2 hours before serving time, add:

½ cup dried currants
1/3 cup capers
¾ cup finely chopped red onion
Optional: 1 or 2 cups cooked quinoa (this makes the salad milder and lighter, if desired)

Green Chile with Pork

I'd never made green chile in the crockpot before, but it worked really well. I bought assorted pork cuts: some lean boneless loin, which I cut into cubes, and the leanest, meatiest country ribs I could find. Piggly Wiggly always has different cuts of pork on sale, so I might buy something different on another day -- I just made sure I got some bones and some lean stew meat, about three pounds in all.

I browned the meat in olive oil, then removed it to the crockpot, then sauteed two onions in the same fat and spread those on top of the pork. I added:

- one bag roasted green chiles from Food City in Tucson, Arizona, peels and seeds removed. (Mom, how big are those bags? Two pounds?)
- two diced carrots
- two cloves garlic
- two bay leaves
- fresh oregano
- salt
- water not quite to cover

I cooked it in the crockpot for about 15 hours, but less would have been fine -- just long enough so the pork fat renders out and the broth gets good and brown. I removed the rib bones and served it with homemade tortillas.

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Meatloaf Request

Last time I made Grandma's meatloaf, about a year ago, Lawson confessed to me that he did not like meatloaf. I had to eat the whole thing myself over the next week. It was not too much of a burden. But I was surprised: usually Lawson will eat everything, just like me.

Well, the recent family visit to Arizona and the meat-free week must have done it, because last week he said he was ready to try Grandma's meatloaf. So I made some. Here's the recipe.

Here it is pre-oven, with strips of bacon on top.

When Lawson saw it cooling after I took it out of the oven, he said "When do you put the tomato stuff on top?" But this is a tomato-free meatloaf recipe. So he had to douse each piece of meatloaf in ketchup in order to recapture his childhood meatloaf memories. He ate four slices.

I ate more reasonable amounts of meatloaf, with no ketchup (despite having my own ketchup-drenched meatloaf memories from childhood), and with a tomato-arugula salad with mint, lemon, and olive oil.

But now we're going to have to hunt down the best tomato sauce-glazed meatloaf. This fortuitously timed Ask Metafilter thread should help.

Clear Liquids

You think you've got problems--Dad has to consume only clear liquids until tomorrow. This is homemade beef broth (jazzed up with miso and then strained, probably not strictly within the rules), cranberry juice, and coffee.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Between Seasons

I made a disappointing dinner that I should have known would be disappointing. The recipe sounded exciting but not quite right: roasted beets, horseradish, orange juice, and fresh thyme on salmon. The wild salmon was tough and not great, and I should have known better about the topping. Fortunately we had Brussels sprouts with pine nuts to save the meal.

My problem is the season, I think. I’m trying to cook spring dishes with winter ingredients. Beets and sweet potatoes still fill the produce aisles, but I’m ready for lighter food, for freshness and an end to thick hearty stews and root vegetables. It’ll be another month or two before good local things reach the market. So until then I’ve been eating Thai takeout and cooking weirdly hopeful meals that don’t turn out quite right.

We had a blogging slowdown last year around this time, too. It’ll get better soon. My friend Laura and I are splitting a CSA share this year, so around the end of April things will start looking up...if not earlier.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sesame Broccoli

Grandma took us to lunch today at a new place called Bistro Phillippe. We've been to the same spot before, and this is at least the third restaurant inhabiting the space. It has a fairly well-known chef from a nearby resort, doing French regional/country.

There were several lovely salads to order: Grandma had Salade Nicoise and I had Scottish salmon salad, but Dad had Muscovy Duck Confit with a white wine sauce over his pasta (oof--I want to take a cholesterol pill just writing about it.) The salads were served in steep glass bowls, like mixing bowls, layered beautifully. A very good lunch.

Understandably we were less enthusiastic about dinner (me, anyway, especially after teaching afternoon piano lessons). I served a frittata using nearly the last of Dad's garden spinach, gluten-free cornbread, and Sesame Broccoli. This broccoli recipe has served me well over years. Even kids like it.

Sesame Broccoli

1 large bunch broccoli, broken into florets

Cook broccoli until crisp-tender and still bright green. Cool.

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1/4 cup dry vermouth or white wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons honey

Mix remaining ingredients to make dressing. Toss with broccoli just before serving. Best at room temperature, not chilled.