Monday, November 29, 2010

Collard chips

From this week: collard greens

Staples: olive oil, salt

My cat likes collard greens.

He jumped up on the counter when I turned my back last night and started chewing on the leaves. Fine disciplinarian that I am, I shooed him off. But I was intrigued, so I threw him a tiny bit. And he gobbled it up. Just to be sure, I threw him another piece. And he gobbled THAT up. (There's something here about positive reinforcement and keeping cats off kitchen counters, but I'm ignoring it). Crazy kitty.

Unfortunately, I don't like collards quite as much as William does. I thought the stuff was kale when I bought it. Dumb, because I know what kale looks like, and as far as leafy greens go, it's not at all like collards.

In theory, it didn't really matter. I ended up doing the same thing I would've done with the kale; I made chips in the oven. And they came out good. And I'm sure I'll eat them all (not a great endorsement. My standards aren't super high). But I can't shake that bitter collard-y taste, even after dousing them with so much salt that I woke up this morning thinking I'd sleep-drank a bottle of tequila.

Perhaps I should reduce the salt next time. But really, I'm not sure there'll be a next time for these chips, at least not with collard greens.

It's sad when your cat's a better eater than you are.

Collard Chips
5 collard leaves (or the equivalent in other greens), cut into 1.5 inch pieces, divided
1 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tsp kosher salt, divided

Preheat oven to 300. Toss collard pieces with olive oil and salt on two cookie sheets. Arrange in a single layer. Bake for 30 minutes or until crispy. Cool on paper towels. Store in ziploc bags.

Bulgur and black beans

From this week: green bell pepper

From weeks past: bulgur, black beans, pickled jalapeno

Staples: onions, garlic, vegetable oil, spices

I know a girl named Becky. She's a serious lady. She runs a gun range.

And she loves burritos. In fact, she's Superintendent of THE burrito lunch club.

But Becky is a sensible lady. She tries to watch her figure, and cheese, sour cream, and flour tortillas are tough on the ole waistline. So she makes this:

SURPRISE! I'm Becky, and although I'm not a very serious lady and I don't really run a gun range and I'm not great at watching my figure, I make this! All. The. Time.

I swear, it tastes like the inside of a burrito. And it's super easy. I never remember exactly what the water/bulgur ratio is and I'm sure I've done it 5 or 6 or 10 different ways, but it comes out great every time.

Technically, I don't think the bulgur is cooked properly; it's wet and kind of dense, not fluffy like tabbouleh. But I think that's what makes it so awesome. It has the rich gooeyness that cheese adds to a burrito, but no cheese.

It's great in a bowl, by itself or topped with a tiny bit of sour cream.

I've even been known to put it in a tortilla with extra veggies and salsa. And cheese.


Bulgur and black beans
Serves 3-4

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 large green bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pickled (or fresh) jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1/2 cup bulgur (you can get in bulk at Whole Foods)
3/4 cup water
1 can black beans, drained
1 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tbsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Heat oil over medium heat in a medium pot. Add onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno and sautee until soft and onion is translucent. Add garlic and sautee until just lightly browned. Add remaining ingredients. Stir, raise heat and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until water is gone. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

This week (11/29)

- almonds
- 2 lemons
- 2 green bell peppers
- collard greens (which I thought were kale when I bought them... dumb)
- bag of ruby red grapefruits
- cremini mushrooms
- a dozen eggs
- butter
- pepper jack cheese
- ricotta cheese
- asiago cheese

Edited to add (12/1):
- sour cream
- apples
- Hershey's kisses
- prosecco

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crostini with tuna tapenade

From this week: whole wheat bread (ugh)

From weeks past: feta cheese, kalamata olives, tuna, capers, anchovy paste

Staples: olive oil, salt, white wine vinegar

Look at this brick:

I had my suspicions when the active dry yeast didn't foam or bubble or really do anything when I put it in the warm water. But I've made whole wheat bread a bunch of times. And the yeast doesn't always react like it probably should. And I still have never met a loaf I didn't like. Really, I'm not a good bread baker. I've never made a batch even close to perfection, but I happily ate every loaf. In fact, despite the general mystique surrounding bread baking (under which I operated up until recently), more than once I've said that it's impossible to foul up bread to the point that I won't eat it.

I probably shouldn't speak in such absolutes... The thing probably weighed 34 pounds.

Fortunately, toasting cures all ills. I sawed that thing into slices, tossed the stoney pieces in olive oil, and baked 'em up good. Keeping with my week's plan, I made a little tuna salad to top my crostini. I've been wanting to make a Mediterranean-inspired tuna salad since I discovered tuna packed in olive oil this summer (and ate it straight from the can). And I finished up a bottle of kalamata olives I bought a few weeks ago - important, because that means I can buy a new bottle when I finally let myself grocery shop next week! Eeeeee!

I think I have a spending addiction.

1 loaf of bread (a baguette is preferable, but anything will work), sliced into 3/4 in. slices
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt

Toss slices in olive oil and salt on a cookie sheet. Lay flat in one layer and bake at 350 until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.

Tuna tapenade
1 can light tuna packed in olive oil
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
2 tsp capers
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar (lemon juice would be better but I didn't have any)

Chop olives in food processor. Add capers, cheese, anchovy paste, olive oil, and vinegar and process until finely chopped (but not quite a paste). Mix into tuna by hand. Serve on crostini.

Monday, November 22, 2010

French onion soup

From this week: whole wheat bread made last night (I'll spare you the recipe; it was unsuccessful to say the least)

From weeks past: thyme, parrano cheese

Staples: vegetable broth, butter, olive oil, garlic, onions, spices

I'm on a strict soup diet until Thanksgiving... except today I had a salad... and a pear... and 7 hershey kisses, a mini twix, and two airheads.

Very strict diet. For example, this french onion soup starts like this:

Okay, for serious, I am going to be eating a lot of soup this week, but it's not really for the sake of my health (although I suppose soup is a good way to prep for binge-eating). Really, I'm limiting myself to soup because once again I'm resisting the urge to grocery shop, since it's a short week. I still have chicken and rice soup left from last week's Potomac haul, and I planned to live off of that and tuna and pb&js made with the poorly-executed bread I baked last night.

Well, that's what I planned, but it's near impossible for me to get home from work and not cook, even when the only fresh foods I have are onions and near-moldy thyme. Onions --> onion soup --> Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. When I saw that the recipe called for fresh thyme (bonus points for near-moldy), I knew it was my destiny to make vegetarian onion soup tonight.

Even with all the butter, it's a bit lighter than traditional beef broth-based onion soup, but I think this is as close as a vegetarian recipe could get to the rich, beefy classic. A bay leaf, worcestershire sauce, and lightly charred onions sauteed (in butter) until golden brown are the keys to success.

That, and serving it up in this cuteness:

French Onion Soup
Adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian Charred Onion Soup

4 large or 6 small onions, peeled and halved through the root
2 tbsps olive oil
4 tbsps butter
1 small head garlic, halved through the equator, plus 1 clove
1 bay leaf
leaves of 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
4 slices crusty bread
1/2 cup cheese (gruyere or other melty cheese), shredded

Preheat broiler. Pour olive oil onto cookie sheet, then rub cut sides of onions in the oil. Arrange onion halves cut-side up on the cookie sheet. Broil onions until lightly charred and slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Remove onions and cool them until they can be handled. Thinly slice. Pour excess olive oil into deep soup pot and add butter. Melt over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until melty and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaf, thyme leaves, broth, and salt and pepper. Raise heat, bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Turn heat down to low, add worcestershire sauce, and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, rub bread with garlic, and toast. When soup is ready, ladle it into oven-proof bowls. Top with toast and cheese, then broil until cheese is golden and bubbly.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

From this week: whole wheat flour

From weeks past: jonagold apples, almond milk (thank god I finished that horrendous stuff!)

Staples: whole wheat flour (it's a staple that I replenished this week), sugars, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, butter, egg

I had fish sticks for dinner last night. Yes, fish sticks. Dipped in Heinz chili sauce.

My head says ick, but my mouth says yum.

I wanted to cook, but when I got home from running errands (which included a 15-minute-turned-hour-long drive to the mall) and saw my Mad Men season 3 disk 2 Netflix package in my mailbox, I knew that I could not let my stomach interfere with my enjoyment of Don Draper's pretty face and Peggy's upward mobility. When I'd had my fill of the ad boys (and girl), I decided to make muffins.

Faced with some sad and mealy macintosh apples a few weeks back, I made these. They turned out awesome. Experimenting, I put some away in the freezer, and they became a great mid-morning work snack. I'd take one out and put it in my purse in the morning, and by 9:00 or so, it'd be perfectly thawed. I even found I liked the cold and moist interiors better than their room temp counterparts.

Well, apparently I'm doomed to forever purchase mealy apples. Maybe it's that Virginia apples aren't good. Whole Foods usually has big bags of local apples, and they get me every time. Or maybe, if I want to buy local, I should shop at the farmers' market instead of heaven - er, Whole Foods. Regardless, the last three batches of apples I've bought have been beautiful on the outside, soft and gritty on the inside. Yuck.

So I made the apple muffins and several batches of applesauce with nothing but a touch of lemon zest and cinnamon. It might've been the six frozen wands of fish mush and red spiced corn syrup I'd just consumed, or maybe it was that I've been eating at least one of the frozen muffins daily for the past 3 weeks, but something motivated me to make the recipe a little healthier. I'm not usually one to health up baked goods with weird substitutions, but since I had the applesauce, and since it was homemade, and since I was making apple muffins anyway, I decided to sub applesauce for half of the butter. Then, because the applesauce was delightfully (and naturally) sweet and the recipe already called for a crunchy brown sugar top, I cut out some of the white sugar.

They came out slightly (and I mean SLIGHTLY) less moist than the original buttery recipe, but they're pretty damn good. And, after a muffin or two (or 5, if you count batter), I felt I had sufficiently out-healthed the fish sticks settling in my stomach. That means, if I'm going to have a muffin snack, I can have sour patch kids for breakfast, right?

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk or yogurt (or make your own buttermilk with 1 tbsp vinegar added to regular/soy/almond milk)
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 425. Mix together the flours, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon. Cream butter, granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup of brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg and applesauce. Slowly add milk/buttermilk/yogurt. Mix in dry ingredients. Fold in apples. Fill muffin cups almost full (they don't rise much). Sprinkle the tops with the reserved brown sugar. Bake until brown, about 13-17 minutes. Makes about 12 muffins (or 14, if you're dumb like me and decide to save a tiny bit of batter for a second batch).

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sweet potato lentil dal

From this week: nothing! (EEEK)

From weeks past: lentils, sweet potatoes, mushroom stock, ginger, pickled jalapenos

Staples: onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, spices

660 curries. I've made 0. I love Indian food and would really like to learn to make authentic Indian dishes at home (hence the book), but the ingredients are so damn hard to find! Okay, yeah, I'm sure I could go to an Asian market and find a whole bunch of the stuff that this Indian food genius recommends for his recipes, but that would require actually getting out of my apartment and exploring Richmond and maybe even talking to some people, and I really don't like talking to people . For serious, some day I'll do it; but obviously, I really like usin' what I got, and I don't got the spices I would need to make even one of Raghavan Iyer's delicious-looking curries.

Fortunately, my undiagnosed social anxiety doesn't keep me from using the book altogether. So far, I've used it as a sort of encyclopedia. I look up recipes starring the ingredients I want to use, read Iyer's descriptions, peruse the recipes, and use them as a jumping off point. Upon the advice of a friend, I made a sweet potato lentil dal last year, and it was delicious. I couldn't find that recipe online, plus I like to feel like I made things up myself, so I tackled it anew. I liked Iyer's use of chiles, ginger, and bay leaves in a lot of his lentil recipes. I usually think of bay as a very European ingredient, good for hearty beef stews and soups and the like, but it worked so well in this (and apparently is a pretty typical Indian ingredient)! It and the mushroom stock gave the dal a really deep, earthy, meaty flavor that I loved.

Funny, the NY Times published this today. I'm not going to lie; I definitely used it as an additional reference. But I promise I was planning to make this dish before I saw the recipe. Honest! You saw last week's grocery list! Harumph. That NY Times, always one-upping me.

Sweet potato lentil dal
1 cup green or brown dried lentils, rinsed
1/2 lb (about 1 large) sweet potato, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1.5 inch piece ginger, peeled and grated or finely minced
1 jalapeno (I used freshly - and lightly -pickled jalapenos from my mom's garden and they were SUPER spicy), finely chopped
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 bay leaf
4 cups mushroom stock
salt to taste

Heat oil over medium heat. Sautee onions until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and jalapeno, and cook until soft, about 1 minute (longer if you're using a fresh jalapeno). Add garam masala and coriander and toast lightly, stirring, for 1 minute. Add mushroom stock, lentils, bay leaf, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add sweet potato and simmer covered for about 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes and lentils are soft. If there's more liquid than you'd like, uncover, turn heat up to medium, and let bubble for about 5 more minutes, or until thickened slightly. Remove bay leaf. Serve with naan or any other flat bread.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This week (11/15)

I'd like to tell you about two money-saving strategies I've employed in the last week: 1) eating out and getting others to pay for you; and 2) going home and raiding your parents' kitchen

Just kidding... sort of. I ate out 4/5 dinners last week, and between a generous friend and a dutiful boyfriend, I didn't pay for any of them. This weekend, I went home, and between a generous mom and a greedy me (and a lot of food left over from last week), I won't be needing to do any grocery shopping this week.

This week
- frozen strawberries
- frozen bananas
- chicken broth
- chicken and rice soup
- whole wheat flour
- everything bagels
- apple cider

This week's resolution: to be less of a mooch and actually feed myself.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Orange-marinated tofu

From this week: extra firm tofu, navel oranges, broccoli

From weeks past: ginger, orange pepper

Staples: brown basmati rice, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, vegetable oil, hot sauce

I'm a complicated gal. So when I order a grilled vegetable sandwich at a burger joint and people ask me if I'm a vegetarian, they get a complicated answer (it doesn't help that I'm a notorious over-sharer). The truth is, I'm not a vegetarian. In law school, I went vegetarian for a little while, but it didn't really stick; nothing about my politics or feelings changed, but my willpower waned. So now I just try to limit my meat intake. I don't buy meat at the grocery store or cook meat at home, and if there's anything not meaty and not dominated by tomatoes on a menu, I order it. That being said, it's hard for me to resist bacon, and if I'm ever confronted with free meat (parties, family dinners, conferences, work lunches, on the street), I take it. See? Complicated.

The biggest effect of my meat reduction (besides world-saving, of course. I'm such a good person), was the exponential expansion of my diet. I mean variety-wise, but it's probably just as accurately applied to quantity. Anyway, I now like and continuously try different veggies, legumes, grains, lentils, and, of course, tofu. Bacon aside, what I really like about meat are its accompaniments. I like the breading and honey mustard part of my chicken fingers, the spicy/sweet/sticky sauce on my kung pao chicken, and the potato strings and creamed spinach that come with my steak. Tofu is the perfect meat-free palette for sauces and spices and other meat-related goodness. Prepared improperly, it's tasteless mush. But prepared properly, it's toothy, meaty, saucy deliciousness.

Like the great Rachael Ray (I kid) once said, this is all about the method. It will work with any sauce/veggie/carb combo. The key is to get as much water out of the tofu as you can. There are several different ways to do this, some of which include cooking (baking, deep frying) before you marinate and re-cook. For some reason, that seems excessive to me. I prefer freezing or squeezing. When you freeze and then thaw tofu, a lot of the water leeks out and you're left with a holey flavor-sponge. But for those, like me, who don't often plan meals ahead, squeezing makes more sense. Rather than lazing in the freezer overnight, the tofu sits under a weight between layers of paper towel and oozes lots of its liquid in 30 minutes. Even 5 or 10 minutes works wonders. This is after an hour; see how much more holey?

Then, just marinate and pan fry. So yeah, it's a little more involved than cutting up a boneless skinless breast, but it has so much more potential for tastiness. And you know, complication can be a good thing...

Orange Tofu serves 4
1 block extra firm tofu
juice of 2 medium oranges (about 1/2 cup)
1 tbsp orange zest
1 inch piece of ginger, grated or finely minced
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil plus more for cooking
1 tsp hot sauce or chili paste
1 head broccoli
1 orange pepper

Slice tofu into quarter- to half-inch sheets. Place sheets on four layers of paper towels, top with four more layers of paper towels, and top with a flat, heavy object (I like to do a cutting board with a heavy frying pan on top). Let sit for as long as you can, anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or two, changing the paper towels if they get saturated. Cut into the shape of your choice.

In a bowl, mix orange juice, orange zest, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, oils, and hot sauce/chili paste. Put tofu and sauce in a ziploc bag. Marinate for as long as you can, anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours (if it's more than an hour or two, put the bag in the fridge).

When you're about done marinating, stir fry veggies in 1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil. Remove from pan and set aside. Add a few more tablespoons of oil to the pan. Place tofu in a single layer in the pan (do it in more than one batch if you have to), reserving marinade. Brown on one side, about five minutes, then flip and brown on the other side. Add to vegetables. Turn heat down to low, add remaining marinade and cook for a minute or two, until slightly reduced. Pour over tofu and vegetables. Serve over brown basmati rice, cooked according to package instructions.

Monday, November 8, 2010

This week (11/08)

- 4 bananas
- parrano cheese (a nutty, harder gouda)
- whole wheat country baguette
- extra firm tofu
- bag of navel oranges
- head of broccoli
- 4 sweet potatoes
- mushroom broth
- green lentils
- bottle of prosecco
- 6 pack of IPA (I'm really boozin it up this week)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Curry roasted cauliflower soup

From this week: cauliflower, ginger, and cashews (at this point my "this week" list has pretty much gone out the window)

Staples: olive oil, onions, garlic, curry powder, milk, stock, salt, pepper

This is 1/4 of a head of cauliflower. No joke. The thing must have weighed 30 lbs. The first three quarters went into the pasta-who-must-not-be-named. That was my first attempt at cooking cauliflower; this was my second and was much more successful. The cauliflower dish who lived, if you will.

My interest in cauliflower was piqued by a recipe my mom emailed me over a year ago. It was an Indian inspired ginger/cashew thing, and it sounded awesome. Of course, after sitting in my inbox for a year, the recipe was deleted in one of my gmail purges. Woops.

This soup has (what I imagine to be) the same feel. Velvety and rich from the cauliflower and almond milk, sweet and tangy from the ginger, and spicy from the curry powder. I used hot madras curry powder; I couldn't tell you why but it's quite a bit stronger than regular curry powder, and I much prefer it. Inexplicably (because it's not like McCormick is some fancy yankee brand), I can't seem to find the stuff in the great southland.

The soup wasn't quite smooth enough, but I think that's my immersion blender's fault. Regardless, it turned out great. Cauliflower redemption.

Curry roasted cauliflower soup
1 normal head (or 1/4 of a giant head) cauliflower, chopped into small florets
4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated (or finely minced)
2 tbsp curry powder
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup almond milk (regular or soy should work fine too)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped cashews for garnish

Preheat oven to 425. Toss cauliflower florets with 2 tbsp of oil on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes or until browned. Meanwhile, sautee onions in remaining 2 tbsp of oil in a soup pot. When onions are soft, add garlic and ginger and sautee until soft, about 2 minutes. Add curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add stock, milk, and roasted cauliflower. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes. Blend (use an immersion blender or do small batches in a regular blender). Salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with cashews.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The staples

If I'm going to take this seriously, I can't just keep throwing things into my meals and calling them "staples" without some guidelines. A girl's gotta have standards, you know.

In the cabinets, I always have: extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil, spray oil, kosher salt, table salt, white wine vinegar, red wine, vinegar, rice wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, honey, some kind of pasta, rice, and some assorted baking goods. I don't anticipate baking too much so I'm leaving that out for now. I also have a TON of spices; even though I know what the internets needs is a paragraph-long list of the spices I own, I'll leave those out too and we'll just assume I'm not buying any new spices.

I also always (contrary to the current dearth) have: all-purpose flour, white sugar, whole wheat flour, onions, and garlic.

In the fridge, I usually have: butter, some sort of milk, peanut and/or almond butter, strawberry jelly, parmesan cheese, another kind of cheese, dijon mustard, mayo, hot sauce, soy sauce, eggs, and vegetable stock.

Ain't she a beaut?

In the pantry, I usually have: tomato puree and/or diced tomatoes, some canned beans, canned tuna, rolled oats, nuts, and dried fruit. Oh, and a cat.

Of course, these lists are subject to change. A girl's gotta be flexible, you know.

Bell pepper and chickpea salad

I totally forgot to include in this week's list the two orange bell peppers I bought. This whole blog is still a baby of an idea; in the future, to preempt my unavoidable forgetfulness, I hope to make these lists the same day as the purchases. I just couldn't wait for a Monday grocery trip to start a'blogging!

Having recently consumed a stick of butter, I'm feeling good about adding a vegetable to tonight's meal. I originally thought this salad would have more of a southwestern feel, with black beans and pickled jalapenos and maybe some cumin. Then I realized that I had feta to use up and some oldish pita bread (bonus points for almost-stale or -rotten foods) I could turn into pita chips for dipping. These are the kinds of happy coincidences I live for, so I cracked open a can of chickpeas I'd bought a few weeks ago, planning for a Greek-type salad, humming all the while. Okay, not really, but I was pretty thrilled.

And then, my bubble burst. I realized that I did not, in fact, have feta; I used it all in an attempt to salvage the yuck of a cauliflower-pasta dish I made on Monday (please excuse my bitterness, but I am really dreading trying to force the leftovers down my throat again tomorrow at lunch. I'm trying to come to terms with throwing away, but it's tough). Anyway, I marched on, feeling a little bit better about myself after finding some of the Penzey's Greek seasoning that my mom uses in her delicious salad dressing. I mimicked that dressing, mixing up the spices with olive oil, red wine vinegar, chopped onions, and salt, and poured it over the peppers, chickpeas, and some chopped kalamata olives.

It turned out pretty good, especially with the pita chips (not to mention the last butter-coated piece of galette. I ate it with my hands like a slice of pizza and, after two washes, they still feel pleasantly greasy). I can only imagine how good it would have been with feta...

Pepper and Chickpea Salad
1 large or 2 small bell peppers, diced (red or orange, you want the sweetness)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Greek seasoning (garlic and oregano will work here instead)
1/4 onion, finely diced
salt to taste

Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, seasonings, onion, and salt together. Toss the peppers, chickpeas, and olives together in another bowl. Pour dressing over the veggies. Voila!

Pita Chips
3 pita bread loaves
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Cut pita loaves into eighths (stack them, then cut in half, then quarters, then eighths like pie pieces). Place on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss. Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Potato and Caramelized Onion Galette

This week:
- yukon gold potatoes
- thyme
- hirtenkase cheese (a German hard cheese that tastes like a cross between parmigiano-reggiano and gouda)
- salmon
- mushrooms
- bottle of malbec
- cauliflower
- jonagold apples

- sour cream

Woah. Just woah. I think I just ate the most delicious thing in the world. It contained an entire stick (plus a tbsp) of butter... and I ate a third of it. That means I ate more than a third of a stick of butter, not to mention a load of cheese and a few potato slices. Woah.

I've had my eye on smittenkitchen's galette recipes. She has a ton, and they always look fantastically delicious. Vivian made one of them this summer and showed me a picture, which also looked fantastically delicious. Today, after two less than "eh" meals in a row (first the salmon, mushrooms, malbec, and some of the thyme; then the cauliflower, with pasta, walnuts, and feta), I needed an ego boost, and I figured how could a flaky pastry crust filled with cheese, herbs, and veggies turn out bad?

I hadn't planned to use the potatoes this way. I thought, amongst other things, I'd mash some up with the cauliflower and some cheese. Part of the fun of my "use what you got" game is responding to my self-thrown curveballs. I'm very much a planner, but my favorite way to cook is to buy ingredients planning to use them one way and then, BAM, decide to use them another way. Super spontaneous.

I caramelized the onions according to smitten's butternut squash and carmelized onion galette recipe and mixed it up with the hirtenkase cheese and thyme. I used the same basic recipe for the crust, but I didn't have lemons, so instead I used a little white wine vinegar, and I substituted whole wheat flour for 1/4 cup of the AP flour. To be honest, the only reason I used the whole wheat flour is that the measuring cup in my AP flour canister is 1/3 cup and the measuring cup in my whole wheat flour canister is 1/4 cup. Lazy. I'm not much of a pastry chef and I'm pretty sure my butter pieces were WAY too big, as evidenced by holes in my finished crust and the pools of butter on the baking sheet. All I have to say is, who cares? Make this crust now. Forget the filling. It's delicious. Plus, the the pools of butter left on the pan mean that I ingested less butter during my binge, right?

Yukon golds are pretty soft and delicate, so I didn't cook them at all before I slid them into the crust. I left the skins on, sliced them super thin, and then just layered them on top of the other ingredients in concentric circles ala this smitten galette. I think I could have used more potato, but I was worried they wouldn't cook through. After 35 minutes in the oven, they came out tender but retained their structure, and I thought they were a good contrast to the crispy, buttery crust. These things are supposed to serve 6... try 3.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, cut into very small pieces
1/4 cup sour cream (I used low fat and it still came out great)
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar or lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

Mix the salt and flours together in one bowl. Place butter pieces in another bowl. Freeze both bowls for one hour. Combine the two and using a pastry cutter, fork, knife, food processor or whatever else you can think of, try to make a course meal without melting the better too much (I say try because I failed and it still came out well. Next time I'm trying the food processor method). Whisk together sour cream, acid, and water, then add to the flour-butter mixture. Use your fingers to blend just until you can form a ball, being careful not to overwork the dough. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter
1/2-3/4 lb yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/8-1/4 inch slices (peel on)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
3/4-1 cup cheese, shredded (hirtenkase works well, but so would fontina or even parmigiano)
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
olive oil, for drizzling
1 recipe pastry (above)

Melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onions, salt, and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Cool slightly, then mix with most of the cheese and thyme. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll pastry dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread cheese/onion mixture on the crust, leaving about a 2-inch border. Layer potatoes in concentric circles on top, then drizzle with olive oil and top with remaining cheese. Fold crust border over the edges. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until crust and cheese are golden brown.

The rules

It's amazing what the mind will do when not consumed by TV. Yesterday, I decided to start walking to work, freeing up two thirty minute blocks a day during which I am not either (1) working or (2) watching my shows. With two whole days of experience behind me, I know I made a good decision because, on my way home today, genius struck. I've been struggling to come up with an original idea for a food blog; shockingly enough, kitties and food didn't stick. And today it came to me: a chronicle of my attempt to make a week's worth of meals on the sparse contents of my (awesome) kitchen.

Here's what I'm going to do: at the beginning of every week (individual post? not sure yet), I'll include the week's grocery list, attempting to keep my total under $60. Of course, I'll have some staples that I don't buy every week -- AP flour, sugar, salt, pasta, butter, olive oil, a couple of different vinegars, onions, and garlic (this list is also subject to change). I'll also include a list of the non-staples that I have left over from last week. Then I'll describe my quest to find and adapt a great recipe to suit my ingredients. Pretty clever, huh? (In an effort to keep my spirits high, I did not investigate exactly how clever this idea is; please let me retain my blissful ignorance.)

So, that's it! Here goes nothin...