Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Still Don't Like Eggs

I don't like eggs, I never have, and I still don't.  Despite my personal, and deeply rooted egg related issues, I liked this frittata.  It's simple and very tasty.    The leeks are mild and sweet and the goat cheese is tangy and salty and the fluffy eggs just bind everything together.  I highly recommend it for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner.  
Leek and Goat Cheese Frittata
Adapted from Rachel Eats

4 Leeks, white parts only, washed thoroughly and cut into thinly sliced half moons
6 Eggs
Splash of Milk (optional)
Olive oil (or butter)
Goat Cheese
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Saute the sliced leeks in a little bit of olive oil with a little bit of salt and pepper until they have cooked down and are tender.  Set aside and let cool.  Crack the eggs into a bowl, whisk them together with a little bit of milk, salt and pepper.  Stir the cooled leeks in with the eggs, and pour into a lightly oiled skillet.  Pre-heat the oven to Broil.  Cook over low heat until the frittata has set around the sides and is just a little bit runny in the middle.  Crumble the goat cheese over the top, and stick it in the oven for a couple of minutes, until it has puffed up and cooked through.  Be careful not to overcook it.

A Slice of Cake (or two)

I have not had too much trouble avoiding cooking with butter for the past couple of weeks, however, I unfortunately invested in some before making that decision.  Actually, probably part of the reason I decided not to cook with the stuff was because I realized how much of it I had bought.  Anyways, the point is that I am now in the process of cooking and eating my way through the contents of my cupboards and refrigerator and that includes using the butter.  Fortunately, I also found some nuts that needed to be used and decided to make a buttery, nutty cake.  I'm very glad I did.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I really needed it.  Like a hug.

I made a tiny change to the original recipe, besides the bigger decision to leave off the jam, and I am happy to say that it turned out very well.  I only had a cup of walnuts, and as fate would have it I had a 1/4 cup of hazelnut stragglers in need of a mission.  Actually, I'm sure that it would be good with a number of different nut variations or swaps.  Almonds might be really good.  But the mixture of walnuts and hazelnuts: fragrant, nutty, and wonderful. 

As soon as I pulsed the sugar and the cooled, toasted nuts, I knew this was going to be great.  What began as an assignment to use up ingredients, became something really delicious, nutty, and even comforting.  

Walnut-Hazelnut Cake
Adapted from Gourmet's Walnut Jam Cake

1 cup walnuts  
1/4 cup hazelnuts*
2/3 cup sugar
1 stick butter, cut into pieces
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

*Or use 1 1/4 cup walnuts

Toast the nuts in the oven at 350 for 10-15 minutes, and let them cool.

Pre-heat the oven, again, to 350.  Butter and flour a 8-inch round cake pan.  

Pulse the cooled nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely chopped.  Add butter and process until combined, then add eggs and vanilla, and process until combined.  Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and pulse to incorporate.  Spread the batter evenly in the cake pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.  Turn out onto a rack and cool completely, or eat it straight out of the oven, as I did.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Scavenging for Snacks at Home

I am trying to avoid butter for a while.  Just to kind of re-calibrate my cooking and eating habits.  I've never really been a butter slatherer, but it has been a necessary (and significant) part of all those cookies and cakes I have been happily cooking (and consuming) lately.  This of course, goes hand in hand with a more general focus on healthy eating.  Over time ingredients and eating habits inch towards the less healthy, and they need to be inched back every once in a while accordingly.  On top of this, I am trying to be very economical.  A big part of that is not going out to eat a lot, and results in my making things from scratch more often than not (which, if I make thoughtful choices results in healthier meals, bringing us full circle).

All of these factors teamed up together to confront me this afternoon.  I was so hungry!  I needed a snack, and I needed to be able to make it out of ingredients that I already had.  Luckily, I remembered a recipe that I had shown to my brother that he had tried and liked: Herbed Polenta Fries.  Easy, tasty, not too healthy or unhealthy.  
Herbed Polenta Fries
Adapted from Gourmet

3 1/4 cup cold water
1 cup polenta
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano
olive oil

Oil an 8-inch square baking dish.
Combine water, polenta, herbs, & 3/4 tsp salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring vigorously.  Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring until polenta becomes very thick and creamy.  Stir in cheese and a splash of olive oil, and transfer to the baking dish, spreading it evenly.  Chill, uncovered, until set, about 45 minutes.  
Pre-heat broiler.  Oil a baking sheet.
Slice the polenta into 16-20 4x1-inch slices.  Brush the slices with a little oil, and place them on the baking sheet.  Broil 4-inches from the heat until golden, 15-20 minutes (I did 15 minutes, then turned them over and cooked them 5 more minutes).

Friday, April 9, 2010

Eating the Rainbow

Sometimes I don't know what I'm looking for until I've already found it. I've been trying to cook more healthfully lately, but it can be a little bit of a challenge.
In an effort to find something to cook that would fit into my mom and dad's healthy lifestyle, I found myself in a bit of a pickle. Magazine recipes are so exciting (I want to try them all), but so many of them favor flavors accentuated by delicious-making fats. It seems like every other excitingly vegetable-centric recipe I find calls for 1/2 a stick of butter, which kind of defeats the purpose. Instead of my trusty Gourmet arsenal, I found myself thinking fondly about the flavorful quinoa and kale salads that I had eaten at a macrobiotic restaurant in Los Angeles, M Cafe. Problem solved.
Scarlett quinoa and emerald kale. I remember reading about the importance of using juicy descriptions of healthful foods to make them more exciting to people (not just kids). Apparently it really encourages people to consume food they otherwise steer clear of. These seem like a perfect example: rethinking beets and kale, which have been stuck in a rut of steamed-blahness and making them exotic and exciting and delicious (and all this without any butter). It's not as difficult as it sounds.
The best thing? Both of these dishes are delicious, and they won't make you die. Plus, the dressing for the kale is seriously good. I intend to re-appropriate it as a replacement for all those other ok-but-not-amazing ginger peanut butter dressings out there that I have made do with in the past.

Emerald Kale
Adapted from M Cafe

1-2 bunches of kale (if you want left-over 2)
1/2 cup almond butter (or peanut butter)
1 Tbsp ginger (grated/chopped finely)
1/2 Tbsp garlic (grated/chopped finely)
1 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp soy sauce (I used Bragg's)
3 Tbsp rice vinegar (brown rice vinegar if you have it)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

First make the dressing: mix together the nut butter, ginger, garlic honey, soy sauce vinegar and cayenne (I kept it simple and mixed it by hand, but it would probably be creamier mixed in a blender).

Put a large pot of water on the stove on high. Wash the kale well to get off any bugs and dirt. When the water is boiling, cook the kale in it for about 3 minutes (it should be a deep bright green), and then quickly remove the kale from the hot water and plunge it into some ice-water to shock it. Squeeze the excess water off of the kale, and dress it with the sauce.

Scarlett Quinoa
Recipe from M Cafe

2 tsp umeboshi (plum) vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp dill pickle juice
1 Tbsp olive oil

Whisk together the ingredients and set aside (refrigerate).

1 cup quinoa (I used red quinoa)
1/2 cup finely diced/shredded red beets
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup diced persian cucumber*
2 tsp chopped chives
1 tbsp chopped dill
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
salt to taste

In a medium sized pan mix together the beets, broth/water, olive oil and lemon juice. Cover and bring to a boil. Stir in the quinoa, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 15 minutes, be careful not to overcook it. Remove from heat and drain any excess liquid.
Fluff the quinoa and transfer to a serving bowl and refrigerate until cool. Once it is cool, stir in the cucumbers, chives, dill and lemon zest. Stir in as much dressing as desired, and salt to taste.

*I used a regular cucumber but I peeled and seeded it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hidden Treasures

I have to admit, I have developed an intimate relationship with my grocery store. I think about it all of the time, and I am constantly making excuses to visit it. It makes me greedy, frustrated, overwhelmed, triumphant, sometimes confused, and often inspired. It introduces me to new things. It makes me think.

Today, in an attempt to escape the mental blur of serious-life-decisions, I found myself driving towards my grocery store. A port in the storm. Along with my usual fruits and vegetables, I could not resist bringing home some new friends: fresh fava beans, and fuzzy green almonds. What would I find hidden inside of those green pods? I had to know.
The green almonds are a strange revelation. They can be eaten whole, fuzzy pod and all, and are crisp, bitter, and juicy. I liked peeling the shell, and revealing the luminescent almond within.
Fava beans were equally beautiful. After shucking the beans from their pod-cocoons, they got a quick boil, and then were shocked in some cold water, before undergoing a final skin-shedding, revealing the bright, deep green nuggets within. This process of uncovering and unwrapping was rewarding, building up an appreciation for the finished product, which might have otherwise been overlooked.
Both the green almonds and the fava beans share an indescribable quality, and the act of getting to them is part of their charm. I for one, am glad I took the time to get to know them.