Thursday, July 30, 2009

I made Fancy Lunch for Frances!

Today I had Frances over for lunch. I decided to make something really beautiful and refreshing and summery and that we would eat it in the new alternate dining area in our apartment, since our new layout has doubled our common space. Frances was the first guest to eat at this table.

I found two recipes I liked: Chilled Mango and Cucumber Soup, from Gourmet Magazine (by way of Epicurious) and Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad from

Here they are, annotated of course:

Chilled Mango and Cucumber Soup:


2 mangoes, peeled and pitted (2 pounds total)
2 seedless cucumbers (usually plastic-wrapped; 1 1/2 pounds total)
3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Finely chop 1 mango and 1 cucumber and set aside. Coarsely chop remaining mango and cucumber and purée with 1/4 cup water (I used No-Chicken Broth instead) in a blender until almost smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in finely chopped mango and cucumber, onion, lime juice, and 2 cups cold water (again, broth). Place bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir until cool.

Just before serving, stir in cilantro and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt.

Soup can also be chilled in the refrigerator until cold, but it will take about 2 hours.

I garnished the soup with sliced avocado, a dollop of Greek yogurt, and a few thinly sliced scallions. AND, just to be crazy, instead of just throwing on some fresh cilantro, I made a little cilantro oil by putting it in the blender with olive oil. It was very pretty. Just look:

And now for the salad:

Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 can garbanzo beans, or dried equivalent
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped

Tahini Dressing:
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
1/4 cup tahini
Zest of one lemon
scant 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons hot water
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Rinse the quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer. In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa and water until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 15 minutes. Quinoa is done when you can see the curlique in each grain, and it is tender with a bit of pop to each bite. Drain any extra water and set aside.

While the quinoa is cooking make the dressing. Whisk together the garlic, tahini, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil. Add the hot water to thin a bit and then the salt.

Toss the cooked quinoa, beans, cilantro, red onion, and half of the dressing. Add more dressing if you like and season with more salt to taste. Serve garnished with a bit of cilantro.

Serves 4.

I changed a couple of things here. Cooked the quinoa in No-Chicken Broth instead of water and added maybe 1/2 tsp turmeric. Pan fried the chickpeas a little bit with one clove of garlic. Added some Bragg's to the dressing to give it a little more flavor. Also threw some scallions and pine nuts on top.

It was a nice hearty compliment to the fruity soup.

This is what it looked like all laid out on the table:

These are two very simple but delicious dishes that would be easy to take to a picnic or barbeque.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I made pickles!

Last week at the Carroll Street Farmers Market I saw some really cute Kirby cucumbers (a.k.a. pickle cucumbers) and I decided to embrace my inner "Little House on the Prairie" and give pickling a shot. It took a trip to the Food Coop to get all the needed spices for the pickling mix, but it was surprisingly easy. Preserving foods sometimes makes me worry a bit that I'll give myself botulism/something equally bad, but as long as you follow the recipe, you should be fine! If you're really worried, get yourself a courageous friend to taste them first.

This recipe is from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I don't really have any notes since pickling novices such as myself should not futz with recipes.

Three-Day Pickles

Mark says you can also use carrots, radishes, celery, fennel, pearl onions, cauliflower, peppers, turnips, summer squash, eggplant, peaches, or beets.

2 pounds Kirby cucumbers
6 TBS salt
2 cups white or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Pickling spice (see below)

1. Wash the cucumbers well, scrub them if they're spiny, and cut lengthwise into halves or quarters or slice. Put the cucumbers in a colander and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the salt; toss well.
2. Let sit in the sink or a bowl for about 2 hours. Rinse the cukes and pat dry with paper towels; put in a nonmetal bowl.
3. Put the remaining 1/4 cup salt, the vinegar, sugar, and pickling spice, along with 2 cups water, in a pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then let cool for about 5 minutes. Pour the mix over thecukes and let cool to room temperature. (Add more vinegar or water if the cucumbers are not covered.)
4. Transfer the cucumbers and pickling liquid to airtight jars or containers; store in the fridge for at least 3 days or longer for stronger pickles. They will keep in their pickling liquid for up to 3 weeks.

Pickling spice

2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
10 bay leaves
2 small hot dried red chiles or 1 TBS hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 cup mustard seeds
2 TBS allspice berries
2 Tsp whole cloves
2 TBS black peppercorns
2 TBS coriander seeds
2 Tsp cardamom seeds
2 TBS dill seeds

1. Break the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and chiles into pieces.
2. Roughly chop (or crush with a heavy skillet) all the other ingredients, leaving most of the seeds whole.
3. Stir to combine the spices and store in a tightly sealed container for several months.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Last night I had Martha and KC over for dinner and I made ceviche, rice and beans, and a tomato and basil salad. I bought a pound and a half of fresh, headless shrimp and one big slab of Chilean Sea Bass. It took about 2 hours to clean and prep the shrimp and fish. Then about another 30 minutes or so to squeeze 6 lemons, 6 oranges, and about 8 limes. It takes a lot of time but it's definitely worth it. After I cleaned and cut the shrimp and fish I threw them in a bowl with all of the citrus juice. While these were soaking I cut up 1 red bell pepper, 1 orange pepper, 2 jalapenos and half a red onion. I add all of this to the bowl with the seafood, covered it with saran wrap, and put it in the fridge and marinated it for 3 hours. No cooking required - the citrus juice "cooks" the seafood. The beans and rice were the typical kind but I added salt and chili powder and the salad came from my back yard! Fresh basil and 3 kinds of tomatoes that I picked 3 hours before dinner, plus I added small cubes of mozzarella. All that plus some avocado for a garnish, great white wine that KC brought, lots of Corona with lime, and plum tart with vanilla ice cream from Martha, made a great dinner.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Recently, on a drive through the country with my mom, I picked up a whole bunch of zucchini at a roadside farm stand. They were all just so enormous and fresh and impressive looking, I couldn't resist buying way too many. And then I had to figure out what to do with all that zucchini. Fortunately, this was not a bad problem to have, because zucchinis are very versatile vegetables. I made Buttermilk Summer Squash Soup, Zucchini Pasta, AND Zucchini Muffins.

I'll start with the soup. I found this recipe on, which I have been using a lot lately. It was pretty simple, and the result was quite delicious. Here it is copied and pasted, with minimal commentary--I actually stuck to the recipe for once. You might think it strange to use buttermilk in soup, but this is actually something I learned from my mother, who makes a similar zucchini soup on Christmas, except hers is seasoned with curry.

Buttermilk Summer Squash Soup

a generous splash of olive oil or (3T.) knob of butter
3 large shallots, chopped (I used more--I always go crazy with shallots.)
a couple pinches of fine-grain sea salt
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
3-inch sprig of rosemary
1 1/2 pounds yellow or green summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices/chunks (used both)
3/4 pound potatoes, un-peeled, cut into 1/4-inch thick pieces
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups lightly flavored vegetable stock or water (used No-Chicken broth here)
2/3 cup buttermilk

garnish with: fresh herbs, toasted almonds, a generous drizzle of olive oil/ melted butter, and/or some crumbled feta

Heat olive oil/butter in large thick-bottomed pan over medium heat. Stir in the shallots, salt, red pepper flakes, and rosemary. Saute until shallots are tender - a couple minutes. Stir in the squash and potatoes, and cook until the squash starts to get a bit tender - a few minutes. Stir in the garlic, remove the sprig of rosemary, and then add the stock (or water) to the pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. (Pay attention to this last detail. I think I blended my veggies before the potatoes were soft enough... Didn't end up being a big deal, just made for a more textured soup.)

Puree with a hand blender. If you like a silkier soup feel free to pour the soup through a strainer. Slowly whisk in the buttermilk, taste, and adjust the seasoning - adding more salt if needed. I like this soup topped with a bit of crumbled feta, some toasted almonds, a drizzle of olive oil, and a small pinch of red pepper - but it's perfectly good straight with no fuss on top. (I garnished with feta and scallions! YUM.)

Serves 6 - 8.

Ok now on to the pasta. I kind of made this up. Not even really a recipe. Just julienned a bunch of zucchini, sauteed them in some olive oil with garlic, tossed them with some pasta and some homemade sauce--Mama Vallese's recipe of course. Didn't take any pics. But try it! A fun way to dress up your pasta. Bet it would be good with pesto too.

And now, last but not least: the muffins.

I am not much of a baker. But these were so easy! The recipe is from Literally the first thing that came up when I googled "zucchini muffins" but it was perfect--they came out moist, perfectly risen, not too sweet.

Zucchini Muffins

  • 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

You don't need a mixer for this recipe.

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter. Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add these dry ingredients to the zucchini mixture. Fold in the walnuts and dried raisins or cranberries if using.

2 Coat each muffin cup in your muffin pan with a little butter or vegetable oil spray. Use a spoon to distribute the muffin dough equally among the cups, filling the cups up completely. Bake on the middle rack until muffins are golden brown, and the top of the muffins bounce back when you press on them, about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a long toothpick or a thin bamboo skewer to make sure the center of the muffins are done. Set on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the tin let cool another 20 minutes.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I made Lemony Chickpea Stirfry!

Lately I just want to drench everything in lemon juice. It just makes everything taste better, right? Maybe it's because it's summer and I crave things that taste citrusy and fresh. Regardless, I was in a lemony mood the other day, and I found this recipe on This was delicious and very easy to make. Don't be dissuaded by my lengthy tofu tangeant.

Ok here it is, with copious comments:

Lemony Chickpea Stirfry

2 tablespoon ghee or extra-virgin olive oil (I used the latter.)
fine grain sea salt (I used a couple Tbs of Bragg's instead.)
1 small onion or a couple shallots, sliced
1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned is fine, if you don't want to cook up a pot of dried chickpeas)
8 ounces extra-firm tofu
1 cup of chopped kale
2 small zucchini, chopped
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
I added: garlic, soy sauce

Heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee/olive oil In a large skillet over medium-high heat and stir in a big pinch of salt, the onion, and chickpeas. Saute until the chickpeas are deeply golden and crusty. Stir in the tofu and cook just until the tofu is heated through, just a minute or so.

Ok extended interruption: I cooked the tofu separately to get it golden brown and crispy. I'll share my method with you because--don't want to brag but can't lie--I've been really good at cooking perfect tofu lately.

The first thing is to get as much water out of that tofu. I used a method mentioned in the blog before: wrapping the tofu in a paper towel and piling a few heavy books on time. Sounds crazy, but it works. Leave it like that for a little while, maybe 20 min. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in the pan. Add a couple minced cloves of garlic. The heat should be high. Then unwrap the tofu, pat it dry, and cut into small cubes. Throw them in the pan, making sure each piece has its own surface area. Splash on some soy sauce. Sprinkling on a little nutritional yeast also helps it get crispy, but it will come out fine without it. Let a sizzle a little, then check a couple pieces. When they're brown on the bottom, stir it up so another side cooks. Don't drive yourself crazy flipping every little piece. Just keep stirring them around--every side doesn't have to be exactly the same. Keep sizzling and stirring until it looks golden brown and perfect. DONE. Set aside in a bowl. Now back to the rest of the recipe...

Stir in the kale and cook for one minute more. Remove everything from the skillet onto a large plate and set aside. In the same skillet heat the remaining tablespoon of ghee/olive oil, add the zucchini and saute until it starts to take on a bit of color, two or three minutes. Add the chickpea mixture back to the skillet, and remove from heat. (Now add the tofu.)Stir in the lemon juice and zest, taste, and season with a bit more salt if needed. Turn out onto a platter and serve family style.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I made a strawberry custard tart

Hi, I'm new to the blog - Martha invited me. Today I made a strawberry custard tart. I used the recipe from this website:

I didn't make quite enough graham cracker crust, my custard comes up above the crust by about a half an inch. I also didn't make the glaze the way they suggest: instead I pureed some strawberries in my food processor and added about a tablespoon of sugar and orange juice. It's cooling in the fridge at the moment so I can't comment on how it tastes yet. But I tried the custard mixture before it went in the fridge and it was pretty good. It may look nothing like the photo from the website but I think it will still taste great.