Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brunch for Dinner

Tonights meal used up some odds and ends I had in the fridge and in the pantry.

I made a frittata, but with pasta, which I've never done before. The pasta made it more filling, and I'm going to remember this recipe when I have random leftover veggies or pasta lying around, because it was super easy.

To go with the frittata and going along with what turned out to be a brunch theme, I made a quick Waldorf Salad using Mark Bittman's recipe.

The dessert came about unexpectedly. Since the frittata was a Cooking Light recipe, it called for 3 eggs and 4 egg whites, but in my constant challenge to not waste anything, I was determined to find a use for those four egg yolks! So I made creme brulee. I realize this might cancel out the whole point of making a light frittata, but Joe and I split one, so I don't feel like I did too badly in the end.

I didn't get a picture of the finished product, we ate it too fast!

Frittata with Mushrooms, Linguine, and Basil
adapted from Cooking Light
serves 4

Cooking Spray
3 cups sliced cremini or button mushrooms
1 1/4 cups thinly sliced leek (I used a leek and some green onions, because that's what I had)
1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk (I had non-fat, so I added a splash of half and half)
2 teaspoons butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large egg whites
3 large eggs
2 cups hot cooked linguine (about 4 ounces uncooked pasta). Or use whatever long strand pasta you have, I used angel hair
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450 (I forgot to do this, so I had to let my mixture sit while the oven heated up!)

Heat a large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Coat with cooking spray, and add the mushrooms and leeks. Cook for about 6 minutes, until the leeks are tender. Stir frequently and take in the earthy smell of the mushrooms.

Whisk together the milk, butter, salt, pepper, and all the eggs. Add leek mixture, cooked pasta, and basil. Mix together. I needed to break up my pasta a little, so I decided to mix with my hands and it was fun :-)

Using the same pan, heat over medium-low heat. Add more cooking spray, and add the egg mixture. Cook about 4 minutes, letting the edges start to set. Gently lift the edges with a spatula and tilt the pan to let some of the uncooked eggs flow to the bottom of the pan. Cook about 5 minutes more, or until set. Sprinkle your cheese over the top, and put the whole pan into the oven. Bake for 7-12 minutes, until the top turns golden brown. Cut into 8 wedges and serve.

Waldorf Salad
adapted by Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 4

3 large or 4 medium Granny Smith or other tart apples ( I used Liberty apples)
3 celery stalks
1/4 to 1/2 cup Mayonnaise (I used half mayo, half plain nonfat yogurt, which adds tartness)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped (optional)
1/3 to 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

Bittman says to peel the apples, but since I was using a thinner skinned apple, I didn't bother with that. But if you are using Granny Smiths, the skin might be too thick, so you might be better off peeling them. Regardless, dice them into 1/2 inch pieces. He also suggests you string the celery, but I was trying to be quick so again, I didn't bother, and I didn't think it needed it.

Toss the apples and celery together and add just enough mayo (and yogurt, if using) to make the mixture slightly creamy.

Add salt, lots of pepper, walnuts, and raisins, if using. Mix together. Add some lemon juice. Taste, and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice, as needed. I had to add a little salt and pepper a few times before it tasted right to me.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pea and Mint Soup

Last night, I was reading through one of my new cookbooks, Jamie's Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver, and thought his recipe for Pea and Mint Soup sounded really good. The deciding factor that convinced me to make it tonight was that the mint in our Aerogarden was getting big, and that's one herb I never seem to use unless I plan for it, besides floating a few leaves in my tea every once in awhile. Not that I need much convincing to make pea soup, but I always like to choose recipes that use up things I already have around the kitchen. I already had the mint, carrots, onions, and some homemade vegetable stock, so my shopping list was pretty much just frozen peas and ham.

I also made some garlic croutons to go with it. The whole meal came together in a little under an hour and it was delicious! Lots of soup for lunches this week too.

Pea and Mint Soup
adapted from Jamie Oliver's "Jamie's Food Revolution" cookbook
Serves 6-8

2 carrots, peeled and roughly sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 3/4 quarts chicken or vegetable broth, preferably organic
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 1/2 cups frozen peas
Small bunch of fresh mint leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: 3/4 pound cooked ham, preferably free-range or organic

Pour the broth in a saucepan and heat until it boils. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the chopped carrots, celery, onions, and garlic. Cover the pan partially with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the carrots are soft but still holding their shape and the onion starts to turn golden brown.

Add the boiling broth to the vegetables, then add the peas and bring the soup to a boil. Once it's boiling, let it simmer for about 10 minutes.

When the peas have softened, take the soup off the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the mint leaves. Using an immersion blender, pulse the soup until smooth (or transfer the soup to a regular blender or food processor and blend that way).

If using the ham, chop into small pieces and stir it into the soup. Heat the soup on the stove for a few minutes before serving if it cooled during the blending process.

Garnish with the croutons and a couple of mint leaves, if you're feeling fancy.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Spicy Braised Greens with Raisins and Pine Nuts

We haven't been eating a lot of meat lately.

I'm currently reading the Omnivore's Dilemma and I fear I will never again be able to buy regular (feedlot) meat with a clear conscience. I won't get into the specifics here, but if you're interested, I suggest you read the book.

However, it's Friday and we felt like a treat, so tonight we bought a couple of steaks from the
Co-Op (so the meat is local, free range, grass fed, without antibiotics or hormones) to celebrate the start of the weekend.

To go with the steak, we made garlic bread from Joe's awesome whole wheat sourdough that he made yesterday (side note: before baking the bread, he sprinkled the top with ground flax seed because he knew it would make me happy. We have a lot of flaxseed from our CSA and I'm always looking for ways to use it).

We got kale in the CSA this week, so we made Spicy Braised Greens, from
Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. It's a vegan cookbook, and I've made a couple of really good recipes out of it, this being one of them. In their recipe, they recommend serving the greens over a pile of spaghetti squash, which we've done in the past and it makes a really hearty winter meal.

I'm already really happy that I'm doing this blog, because EVERY SINGLE TIME we make this (including tonight), I ALWAYS FORGET that it's too spicy for me. I should add just half a chipotle instead of a whole one. Hopefully I'll remember now that I've documented it here. Even though it was too spicy it was still really delicious, but I needed to have a glass of milk handy. Joe thought it was fine though, so if you like spicy food, go ahead and add one whole chipotle (or two, if you dare!).

Spicy Braised Greens with Raisins and Pine Nuts
adapted from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch
Serves 4

2 tablespoons refined coconut oil (olive oil would work fine as well)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 2 canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
1 1/2 bunches (about 12 ounces) kale, chard, mustard greens, collard greens, or a combination, cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 to 1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock (or chicken stock, if you don't need it to be vegetarian)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (or whatever salt you have)
1/3 cup raisins (we've also used dried cranberries)
1/4 cup pine nuts

Put the coconut oil in a large, deep pot and turn the heat to medium. When the oil is heated, add the garlic and chipotle and cook for one minute. It will smell awesome. Add the greens, a handful at a time, stirring to coat with the oil. When all the greens are in the pot, add one cup of the stock, the salt, and the raisins. Turn the heat up and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes, until the greens are tender (if using collard greens, expect them to take about 5-10 minutes longer). Check the pot periodically and add more stock if it dries out. Stir in the pine nuts, and serve.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In the Beginning, there were beets...

I'm pretty sure it all started with a beet salad. A new camera and a few new inspiring cookbooks for Christmas helped too. Also, my growing obsession with planning and cooking dinner on a daily basis was all consuming and I had no where to funnel that creative outlet other than my gut (which, thanks to a stint at Weight Watchers last year, is finally under control).

For some reason that raw beet salad from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" was so beautiful I decided to take a picture of it. From there I decided to start a photo album on Picasa and take pictures of dinner every night, adding a short caption about the meal. After about 30 of those, I decided I was having such a good time with it that I wanted to make it a little more elaborate and post them to a blog, where I could write a few more comments and post the entire recipe.

So here we are.

My main goal for this little project is still the same: I get a lot of enjoyment out of cooking, so I just want to be able to remember the things we make and hopefully become a better cook along the way. So this blog is mostly for me. But of course it would be more fun if other people read it and posted comments, so we can all be motivated to cook and get ideas from each other.

I'll start off with the recipe that started this whole project:

Raw Beet Salad
adapted from Mark Bittman's "
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian"
4 Servings

1 to 1 1/2 pounds beets, preferably small
2 large shallots
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry or other good strong vinegar
1 sprig fresh tarragon, minced, if available (in my case, it was not, because I didn't want to go to the store, but I do love tarragon)
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves

1. Peel the beets, and either manually grate them by hand or use a food processor (we used our food processor fitted with the shredding disc and it made it super quick). Peel and mince the shallots. Alternatively, you can shred them in the food processor with the beets, but I thought mincing them would mellow the onion flavor a bit more (I'm not sure if it did or not, since I didn't try them shredded first, but it was good anyway!).

2. In a medium bowl, combine the beets, shallots, salt, pepper, mustard, oil, and vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Sprinkle the parsley over the top and serve.
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