Monday, January 31, 2005

Asparagus and Rice Soup; Sage-Grilled Cheese

I love cheese. I mean REAL cheese. The stuff that smells vaguely (or extremely, depending on the variety) funky and doesn't come in 8 oz. bricks, but in irregular hacked-up chunks. MMmmm. I'd never had fontina cheese before this weekend. I got the "Zuni Cafe Cookbook" from the library and it practically brought tears to my eyes, looking at all the decadent pictures and reading about how they add fresh figs to nearly EVERY course. I've got to move to California.

Anyhow, I got this recipe for grilled fontina cheese sandwiches with sage oil. The cheese was lovely! The sandwiches, pretty good - not enough sage flavor for me, as I like sage. Next time I'll fry the leaves and put them inside the sandwiches.

Sage/Fontina Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
1. heat 2-3 T. olive oil on med-low.
2. fry 20-30 fresh sage leaves (plus some black pepper) in the olive oil; 10 min. or so.
3. heat a skillet.
4. make grilled chese sandwiches (I would use good bread): brush the bread with the infused olive oil, then grill the sandwiches.

Zuni's version is more elegant, but also more "fiddly"; this is easier and acheives much the same delicious result.

The soup was pretty good too. Not AMAZING, but tasty and comforting. I might make a version, but next time I'll use bacon instead of pancetta. Pancetta was OK, but I wanted more flavor. Also will cut the asparagus into bigger pieces because...just because. Not bothering to post the recipe, it wasn't THAT great a soup.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Sauteed Catfish Recipe (and thoughts on greens)

This was a tasty recipe. However, I realized after I was halfway through it, that the recipe called for FOUR tablespoons of butter and another tablespoon of oil. Granted, the result was a lemon-butter sauce, but I felt it was a bit "OVERKILL". Too much fat for not enough result, and besides, there was way too much sauce. I'll try cutting down on the fat next time.

Also, I forgot the capers; I'll try them next time. I need to see what the prices on catfish are like at Wild Oats; hopefully more affordable than wild salmon. The King Soopers fish counter is pretty scary (although the wild salmon in their case looked ok, not as expensive as WO).

Sauteed Fish Fillets (serves 2)

1/2-3/4 lb. fish fillets, 1/4 inch thick
4 T. butter
2 T. lemon juice
flour for dredging
salt and pepper

Salt and pepper the fillets. Heat a skillet over med-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Put in 2 T. of butter and wait until it stops foaming. Dredge the fillets in flour; add the oil to the pan, then put in the fillets. Cook until golden on both sides, about 2.5-3 minutes a side. Pull the fillets out of the pan, turn off the heat, melt the extra butter then add the lemon juice (scrape the tasty brown bits off the bottom of the skillet). Wait 15 sec. then pour sauce over the fillets. EAT.


I served the fillet on a bed of mixed greens. I will be using that trick quite a bit if I start making fish more often, especially with an accompanying sauce. The sauce provides light salad dressing, the greens provide crunch and well...vitamins. Plus it looks really pretty! I took pictures. I'm halfway through the disposable camera, so another few weeks of cooking and you should be able to see it...if I can figure out how to use Picasa and Hello.

The roasted cauliflower turned out just OK - I think the heat needs to be higher to get some real carmelization going. I think it has potential though, and cauliflower's pretty cheap compared to asparagus, etc. ...I'll be working to perfect the cauliflower recipe, and I'll let you know what I discover.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Sauteed catfish w/ capers; roasted cauliflower

I'll be trying two new recipes tonight. The catfish is a Bittman recipe (HTCE) that seemed appealing. Plus it only makes 2 servings! My new kitchen resolution is to only make 2 servings worth of a recipe unless I've already made it and like it A LOT.

The cauliflower is a recipe that's been raved about on eGullet for a whole ten pages of topic. I figure it must be worth trying. I don't mind cauliflower, but I don't LOVE it. It's usually fairly cheap, I need more tasty vegetable recipes, etc. The recipe couldn't be easier (cut up, EVOO, s+p, ROAST), and people keep talking about how good it is. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Preview: more 'bean burgers'; cabbage & noodles; lentils & rice

This week's meals will be simple, as I've got other important stuff to do for the next two weeks. I'm especially looking forward to our slightly "Russian" meal tomorrow. This will consist of a braised cabbage with noodles dish, served with applesauce, rye bread, and more beets. The same bean burgers as last week, 'cause I've got some bread crumbs and parsley to use up. And lentils and rice because...well, because.

Really, because I'm trying to remain focused on legumes, grains, and vegetables when planning these meals. First of all, meat is just too damned expensive. Second, I don't like it quite enough to merit spending so much money on it. Third, it's not as good for me. I'm getting myself ready for Lent, I guess - Lent comes early this year. I'm going to give up meat (and probably alcohol) for sure during that time, and spend the last two weeks of it doing a 'cleanse'. Yeah, sounds all crazy and new age-y, I know. This isn't one of those insane 'lemon juice fast - enema' thingys, though; a relatively sane cleanse.

I'm trying really hard to cut back on sugar, too. This is not easy for me. I have been wanting dessert (ice cream, pudding, etc.) every evening for a week. I really do need a treat of some kind once in awhile. My new plan is to use Brown Cow Cream Top yogurt for this purpose. Sure, it's got sugar and saturated fat. But it's as tasty as ice cream! And more beneficial, in my mind.

What would REALLY be good for me is to give up Hellman's mayonaise. I can eat that stuff with a SPOON. Gross, I know. One thing at a time, Nikki.

Now, if I could just get myself to the GYM in the mornings. I still haven't managed that, but I feel guilty about it many times a day now, so it shouldn't be long...

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Simple Bean Croquettes (w/ Yogurt-Tahini Sauce) and Lemony Tofu

These are basically bean burgers. It's another Bittman recipe, and really turned out surprisingly well considering how simple it is.

First, take a 15 oz. can of beans - I used white beans (cannellini) because I like them, but I think you can try any kind of canned bean. Put about 2-3 T. of the bean liquid in your blender. Rinse off the beans and drain them, then put them in the blender as well. Blend until not quite pureed - the idea is to have some chunks left in there. I think you could do this using a potato masher too. I'll try that next time, it's slightly less messy.

Then add:
1/2 c. minced onion
1/4 c. minced parsley leaves
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1 egg
salt and pepper

Mix well. Pat the results into 4 burger-like patties and fry 'em up in about 1/8 inch of oil (I use grapeseed, but peanut oil works well for frying also). Bittman says only 5 min. a side at medium heat. I think the skillet should be hotter (med-hi) and you should cook them longer. Get them good and browned.

These were DELICIOUS. Way better than I expected. Kind of like latkes, but with protein instead of starch (okay, the crumbs are starchy; latkes with SOME protein). I served them with yogurt-tahini sauce from the Moosewood Collective Cookbook.

1 c. plain yogurt
2 T. tahini
2 t. chopped fresh dill
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper

Mix it all together and let it sit at least 15 min.

This was also DELICIOUS and better the next day. I curse my sister (and Kate and Meg? I think they're responsible) for introducing me to Brown Cow Cream Top Yogurt. It really IS cream on top, folks. Now that I know what full-fat yogurt tastes like, I don't think I can ever go back to low-fat pectin-filled glop.

Served this with:
1. some beets roasted in the oven, which would have been fine except I was impatient and they were not cooked as nicely as they could have been. They will be better reheated, I think. Beets are especially good in vinaigrette.

2. this orange-onion-rosemary salad (another Bittman) which I'm really becoming fond of. Thin navel orange slices, about a T. fresh rosemary, and one small red onion, plus olive oil, salt, pepper. Sounds strange, maybe, but it's good. Not quite as good the next day, however.

I will definitely be making bean croquettes again. They work well as burgers, or just eaten alone...good with the sauce, but almost tasty enough to eat plain. Or you could use them as an alternative to hash browns or breakfast sausage. And you can add whatever spices you like to make them Indian, Asian, Mexican, etc, using whatever beans you think are appropriate. With canned beans, this takes about 20 minutes!!!!! The leftovers today were still tasty, though not as crispy.


Tonight's meal (Wed): low key. Main dish will be lemony-rosemary baked tofu which I've made before (I just can't get enough rosemary, which is good because I have two monster plants in which I can barely make a dent). This recipe is from the Moosewood Collective as well. Couldn't be easier:

1/4 c. lemon juice
1 T. minced fresh rosemary
2 T. soy sauce
1-2 T.? olive oil
some pepper
1 lb. firm tofu

Heat oven to 400. Mix all ingredients except the tofu together. Cut the tofu in slices crossways (you'll have 4 thin slices as big across as the top of the tofu cake; I can't think of a better way to describe this). Pour half the marinade in an 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan. This pan should be glass; most other stuff will react with the lemon juice and taste NASTY. Put in the tofu; pour the rest of the marinade over. Bake 1 hour; turn over tofu slices at about 30 min.

This is my favorite way to make tofu, though I haven't tried many other ways, I guess. It's easy to throw together, and is good cold in sandwiches. I like it so much that I rarely get around the the sandwiches, and prefer to eat is straight out of the fridge. Accompanying this will be leftover beets, leftover orange salad, sauteed zucchini, and maybe the asparagus left over from making Campbell rolls on Sunday. Man, what a healthful meal! I am not usually this good.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Sushi Success!! and rethinking the reason for this blog.

After talking about this blog with Mom and Dad and re-reading some of it, I got pretty embarrassed about how pissy most of it sounded. Not that I don't ever get pissy, but I'm not a teenager anymore, and I feel like it's no longer couth of me to share all of my angst with the whole world. 1. that's what my journal is for 2. it's not really nice or productive of me to put all of my bitchy little thoughts out there for the whole world to see. Sure, it's a little embarrassing, but mostly I'd feel bad if someone read it and felt bad. I don't want to hurt anybody, and I don't think everybody on earth needs to read all about my boring personal feelings. Like I said, I already write those down in my journal for my own review - nobody else needs to see THAT.

So anyway, here's the new sanitized version of my blog. Less gratuitous swearing and complaining, more food!

Sushi rolls on Friday were a success, and very exciting. Laura and I were practically jumping up and down about how easy it was and how enjoyable. It's like a meal and a craft project rolled into one! We then made some Campbell rolls (smoked salmon, cream cheese, and asparagus) on Sunday night. They were pretty dang good, but I think we're sushi-ed out for awhile. Until next month, anyhow; we'd like to make it a regular thing.

The baked oatmeal got thrown out. I was using thick-rolled oats (which is all I had in the house) and the whole top inch didn't get cooked very well - basically tasted like raw oats w/ cinnamon. The recipe seemed ok though, not too sweet. Maybe I'll try it again this weekend.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Blurry yet cheery. Posted by Hello

Week's Meals: Black Beans and Rice; Linguini "Prima-nara"; Sushi


Exciting, no? Still, the beans turned out quite comforting, even though I made a dumb mistake with them. I used the "basic skillet bean" recipe in the Moosewood Collective Cookbook. I used orange juice as the liquid, so far so good. But this didn't have enough flavor for me, so I opened up a jar of Pace picante sauce and... SHOOK it over the pan.

The result was 3/4 of the jar in the beans; I dug out as much as I could, but the beans were beyond soupy. Ended up pouring out quite a bit of the liquid. However, the beans are more flavorful than they were with just OJ. Next time I try this, I'll do half salsa/half OJ. Beans and rice can be pretty boring, but I find them tasty, especially with a little dollop of sour cream or a sprinkling of cheese. And they're relatively healthful, if I can be judicious with the dairy toppings and the tortilla chips.

Also, please note: fiber is very important, since colon cancer is such a nasty way to go. This dish gives you plenty.



Wednesday: LEFTOVERS

Black beans. A lot of tortilla chips. Mission Tortilla Strips are GREAT.



I made linguini "carbonara" with zucchini and an onion instead of bacon (plus some mint). This is a Bittman recipe that I'll definitely come back to. I'd like to call it "prima-nara"; that is, you get the spring-y taste of veggies with the zucchini and mint, but it's still creamy and cheesy (which is comforting on a frickin' cold winter's night). Oh, and a spinach salad with feta, red pepper, and olives.




I've got all the stuff for California rolls already (I think; it might require yet another run to King Soopers for sesame seeds, extra wasabi, more soy sauce, etc). Tonight's plan is to get some beer, eat a light dinner, then make some sushi rice and have a beer-and-sushi-rolling party. I'll take some pictures and maybe even post them someday! I hope it goes well. I loooooove sushi and can even get the ingredients (sushi-grad tuna, flying fish roe, etc.) to make it at home. The question is, can I roll with the big boys? We shall see...

I wish we had more counterspace...I'll just let Ben and Laura work on their sushi rolls together.

This weekend, I'll also try out a recipe for Baked Oatmeal that I got from RecipeSource. Baked oatmeal was the highlight of my church camp experience - almost coffee cake-like, but not too sweet and very delicious. This recipe claims to be from an old Mennonite cookbook, so I'm probably on the right track. If I don't care for it, I'm going to try tweaking it to get it right. I need more breakfast options. I've been having two eggs over-easy, toast, and grapefruit for awhile now and it's time for more ideas. Cold cereal just does not cut it when it's 2 degrees outside.