Sunday, May 27, 2012

eat your veggies

creamy cauliflower and pasta

I love cauliflower.  Raw, cooked, in cheese sauce, and especially in this pasta.  Luckily, my husband, who is usually cauliflower-averse, also likes this pasta.  The cauliflower is meant to be creamy and fall-apart tender.  Really it just melts in with the pasta and Parmesan.  I made this once before, but didn't cook the florets long enough--trust me, you don't want the cauliflower tender-crisp in this case.  I also added in a can of diced tomatoes this time, which added to the pizza-type flavor of this dish along with the garlic, oregano, and cheese.  I used the end of a block of Wisconsin Parmesan to top the pasta, but recently I bought a chunk of Parmesan from Hook's cheese out of Mineral Point.  It's by far the best Parmesan I've ever tasted and would have made this meal even better.  Alongside a piece of baguette slathered with roasted garlic, the whole wheat pasta and cauliflower made this a hearty (and fairly healthy) winter meal.

Every time I browse through my favorite cookbook, Simply Organic, I find more to try.  This recipe is located in the "deep winter" section of the book, but I'm looking forward to trying it again when we can get local cauliflower from our CSA or the farmer's market.  And, as a side note, we signed up for the CSA through Amazing Grace once again.  So excited for spring to come!

Creamy Cauliflower and Pasta
from Simply Organic by Jesse Ziff Cool

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 lb whole wheat pasta, such as shells or rotelle
1/3 c olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 c dry white wine
15-oz can diced tomatoes, drained (optional, but recommended)
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 c kalamata olives, pitted and chopped (I omitted these--we're not olive fans.)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
4 sprigs fresh Italian parsley, stemmed and chopped
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.  Add the cauliflower and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a medium bowl, reserving the water.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions in the reserved water.  Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and cauliflower and cook for 5 minutes, stirring and breaking the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces.  Add the wine, oregano, tomatoes and olives (if using), and red-pepper flakes and cook for 3 minutes, or until the cauliflower is very tender.  Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over the pasta and toss to coat well.  Top with the cheese.

Monday, May 21, 2012

simple fall meal

It seems as if I'll only have two posts this month. Both my teaching and my graduate class have kept me extremely busy as of late. There are days when I don't even get my email checked. But I will make an effort to post more often in the coming month.

Goat Cheese Pizzas with Indian-Spiced Tomatoes and Mustard Greens

Anyway, I recently made these pizzas for our dinner. The Indian-style seasonings were quite subdued (explaining why Matt would actually eat something with the descriptor "Indian" proceeding its name). The sauce was flavorful and hearty and the goat cheese the perfect creamy complement. Think of a play on your traditional margherita-style pizza. Most importantly, it was a creative way to use up the mustard greens from our CSA box (only one more week left--sad!).

The one change that I made to this recipe was to use a store-bought pita instead of making my own flatbreads. If you are willing to make take on the task of making flatbread, you have my respect! I recommend brushing the bottom of the pita with a bit of olive oil before topping and baking it. This gives the crust a nice crisp. Enjoy with a salad!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

japanese food: fried food

As we were planning our trip to Japan, I wasn't quite sure what to expect of the food. I mean, I had eaten at the (very American) hibachi place and had tried (with little success) a few sushi rolls. The only Japanese foods I knew for certain that I liked were inari and rice crackers, and I didn't think I could live off of those for 2 weeks. I was a tad bit nervous.

All that changed when we ate our first Japanese lunch and I discovered the wonderful world of fried food in Japan.

tonkatsu, rice, miso, and pickled vegetables

Enter tonkatsu. Matt might deny it, but it seems to me that this could be his favorite Japanese dish. A panko-breaded, fried pork cutlet is dipped in either tonkatsu sauce (a sweet soy sauce) or ponzu. At this particular restaurant we were given a mortar and pestle to grind soy sauce, to which we then added a sauce for dipping.

Very quickly into our trip I knew I loved Japanese fried foods. Towards the end I found something that I think most Midwesterners could enjoy: kushiage. Our friend in Tokyo took us to a great little place in Shinjuku where you could order practically anything breaded and fried. The breading didn't seem to be panko, but it was lighter and crispier than most breading. We carefully dipped each skewer into the communal soy sauce vat (but only once!) and enjoyed the fried goodness.

kushiage (clockwise from top right):
beef, ham, sausages, bacon-wrapped tomato wedge, squid, green onions, garlic cloves, eggplant, lotus root, cheese!

fried banana, ice cream, and apple

Our trip was bookended by tonkatsu lunches (the first one was best though). Our last lunch in Tokyo was in a little mom and pop restaurant between our hotel and the station. We had a huge lunch and more of the sweet Japanese hospitality we enjoyed so much.


fried ebi (shrimp)

Japan even managed to get me--a self-proclaimed seafood-hater--eating and loving shrimp!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

eating in queens

Here comes the next stop on our NYC food tour...only three months after the first installment!  Better late than never?  

Oddly enough--and it seemed to strike New York residents as especially odd--we stayed exclusively in Brooklyn and Queens the first 2/3 of our week-long summer trip.  We didn't even make it across the water to Manhattan until the last two (food-filled) days.  Those photos will be coming along, hopefully soon.  It's not necessarily that we didn't want to go to Manhattan, but there was already so much to see and to eat in Long Island's boroughs.  So, without further ado, Queens!

Long Island City

We spent one hot day in LIC and managed to swing by M.Well's diner for brunch between "Warm Up" festivities at MoMA PS1 and just before the diner was scheduled to move from its location at that time.  (Not sure what the status is currently.)  M.Wells had just been named in the Bon Appetit list of Best New Restaurants in 2011.  So, it was justifiably very busy, but worth the wait.  All our food was amazing.  Would definitely seek it out again when we return to the city.

adorable diner car interior 

egg-sausage sandwich with cheddar, pickled jalapenos, and tomato

fish & chips 

simple, but rich hamburger 

custardy maple pie 


After seeing Serious Eats writers repeatedly gush about the food courts in Flushing, I knew we had to go.  We took the long train ride out on a miserably rainy day and felt almost like we had left the states completely, the smells and sights were so fully Asian.

Here's a photo of the lovely food court at Flushing's New World Mall.

Here's a small corner of the food court where we actually ate something: Golden Shopping Mall's food court.

At the experts' insistence, we sought out Xi'an Famous Foods' cold skin noodles, a Chinese dish--and a combination of textures--like none I'd ever experienced before.  Hand-cut noodles with plenty of bite, cucumber, onions, and cilantro sit in a tear-jerkingly spicy sauce that's soaked up by spongey cubes of wheat gluten.  I want to go back to try stir-fried skin noodles, plus everything else on the menu.

Later on that evening, in sheer, wet exhaustion, we stumbled into a shabu shabu place called La Mei.  The kind couple sitting near us recommended the all-you-can-eat-in-two-hours option.  Even though we weren't all that hungry, we couldn't pass up the chance to dip a ton of different things in scalding pots of broth.  Seasoned buffet-goer Matt broke down during the last leg of our eating marathon, but I got a second wind when the fresh udon noodles showed up.  Oh man, I want some right now.

just some of the many things we tasted: fish balls, beef, napa cabbage, corn on the cob, pork blood rice cake, lamb, whitefish, cuttlefish, shrimp, spinach 

tasty little straw mushrooms

Check back for food tours of the Lower East Side and midtown Manhattan!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

spring greens

With all the restaurant posts I've made lately, one might think we eat out all the time. Here's a recipe to prove that we do still eat at home sometimes (or about 6 nights a week!). As things are starting to sprout again, I'm enjoying using fresh local veggies in my cooking. The asparagus and spinach are from the season's first farmer's market here in town. The eggs come from my school custodian's chickens, and the chives are from the art teacher's garden. I love spring!

Oh, and there are shots of a favorite "new" vintage dress.

vintage dress and shoes, Good Style Shop
tights, Target
teardrop necklace, thrifted

Green Goddess Frittata
from Anne Louise Gittleman

I halved this from the original recipe, which made two frittatas. It would be easy enough to double up again if you were cooking for company.

6 eggs, beaten
1/2 c cottage cheese
1 1/2 c chopped fresh spinach or asparagus
2 scallions, minced
2 tsp chopped garlic
handful chopped chives (optional--I just had them on hand)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix eggs, cheese, veggies, and seasonings in a large bowl. Melt butter in an oven-safe skillet on the stove. Add egg mixture and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat. Place skillet in oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until eggs are just set.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

1 chicken 3 ways: part 1

It can be difficult to juggle local, sustainable, healthy, and affordable eating, so I like to set small, attainable goals for myself every few months. In the summer I began making preserves and freezing excess CSA vegetables.

My recent goal involves putting a face on my food by using locally-sourced meat. I have been using convenient boneless, skinless chicken breasts for too long. I have been wanting to use whole chickens, but was nervous about cooking whole chickens. I think it's time that I jump in with both feet and learn by trial and error.

Matt and I have been buying a small fresh chicken from our local butcher every other week or so. Then I cook the meat in some fashion and make broth from the bones. The chickens are much cheaper than boneless chicken breasts and the homemade broth also saves us a great deal of money.

This week we had the chicken parted into white and dark meat that I can make into two separate meals. Here's the first recipe that we made, using the thighs and legs. We've made this several times and it's always very tasty and the broccoli that I made for a side was hands down one of my favorite broccoli dishes ever.

Chevre-Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Roasted Broccoli
from Simply Organic by Jesse Ziff Cool

4 oz soft goat cheese, such as chevre
1/4 c currants or raisins (I always leave this out!)
2 tbsp dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives or 1 tsp dried
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp mixed dried Italian herbs
1/2 tsp salt
8 chicken thighs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the cheese, currants or raisins (if using), bread crumbs, chives, oregano, and pepper. In another bowl, combine the oil, Italian herbs, and salt.

Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan (we had good luck with a broiler pan). Lift the skin of each thigh and place one-eighth of the cheese mixture under the skin. Brush the skin with oil mixture.

Roast for 30 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 170 degrees and the juices run clear.

Note: I only used the two thighs and two legs from the chicken, which was perfect for two of us. I halved the cheese mixture, but used the entire oil mixture.