Thursday, August 6, 2009

So um...

Who's reading out there? What do you think? What do you want more of (besides posts -- I already know I'm slack)? Drop a line or comment! Thanks.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Beets my heart...

Yes, I ripped that title straight from a side dish at Tupelo Honey.

Anyway, beets! I freaking love them. I think that beets are highly under-appreciated. I guess some of you folks feel like they taste like dirt. Am I right? Maybe it's an acquired taste. I felt the same way when I had my first taste of Scotch. Now, just ask me what I think of a great Scotch.
I grew a whole slew of golden beets this year, and made sure to pull them out of the ground when they were still young and tender. The flavor stays mild that way, the flesh more tender. Yum!
Beets have to be one of my favorite things to grow, next to a wide assortment of crazily-colored tomatoes. There's just something cool about yanking them from the earth -- kind of like buried treasure.
Beets are great roasted, but who wants to roast things in August? Ugh, trust me, I'm still roasting chickens, making stocks and all of those other things that turn my non-air conditioned house into a steam bath. However, if I can cook with as little heat as possible, I'm a happy girl. I already run hot as blazes. Yes, yes -- the fiery sort indeed.
In the summer, I love my beets marinated then enjoyed raw in a salad with fresh mint and some goat cheese. Nothing finer. There's something about crunching into marinated beets that makes me feel like I am consuming something uber-healthy, straight from the earth, packed with energy-giving nutrients. Well, that is pretty much the case.

So, to make a marinated beets salad, you want to ideally start with young, fresh beets. I love golden beets because they don't stain the ever-living bejeesus out of everything.

Here's what you need:
beets, peeled and chopped smallish
green onion
salt and pepper
goat cheese
seasoned rice wine vinegar
high-quality olive oil

Simply add your chopped beets, a small amount of mint, sliced green onion and a healthy dash of rice wine vinegar to a bowl. Drizzle in some oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Sound easy? It is. How much of everything? Oh, who cares. Just toss it in there. Let it marinate for a while.

Then, spoon your salad over some fresh lettuce leaves. Garnish with other raw veggies, like the cucumbers in the picture, fresh from my garden. (please use your own cucumbers -- you may have the ones from my garden only if you ask nicely). Finish with a sprinkle of goat cheese and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Super easy green bean recipe

OK, I'm really not usually a huge fan of store-bought sauces, but I do make a couple of exceptions. Black bean sauce from Kikkoman is one. I could eat it with a spoon. It has everything you want in a good black bean sauce: not too sweet, good and salty with a pungent ferment flavor. I hope I didn't turn you off with that last part.
Green Hill Urban Farm, the local farm that I purchase from, has an abundance of green beans right now. Green beans in black bean sauce are a great alternative to the typical green bean dish.
You need:
about a pound of beans
at least 3 T of black bean sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
one jalapeno, cut into thin strips
dash of rice wine vinegar
vegetable oil
Get a pot of salted water boiling on the stove.
Chop your beans into about 1-inch lengths, then blanch them for approximately 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. Drain them, then shock them in iced water.
Heat your oil in a wok or skillet. Toss in jalapeno and garlic, saute for a second, then add your beans.
Throw in a dash of vinegar, a plop (yes, I said a plop -- look at the picture) of your black bean sauce, a bit of water to thin it all out if necessary and stir.

Cook for maybe two minutes and serve.
What an easy dish, huh?
I served my beans with brown rice and a sesame-glazed chicken leg.

Four words that'll make you go yummmm...

Pimento. Cheese. Mashed. Potatoes.

I know, right?
There's no picture because I ate it all right up. I can't take credit for it, unfortunately. Actually, a man came over and cooked me dinner the other day and he made those for us. I know, good guy to have around, right? Anyway, it's so simple, and comes out this beautiful yellow that looks strikingly pretty next to something green -- like green beans, for example.

So, just boil your potatoes, drain them and let the steam come out for a while, then mash them with some cream, butter, store-bought pimento cheese, white pepper and salt.

Easy but genius.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Shrimp salad tacos

You know what is the very best on a hot summer day (besides the beach)?

Shrimp salad. It's so easy and great served cold any which way you so choose.

I like a good, spicy, Mexican/Spanish-style shrimp salad wrapped in a tortilla with some shredded cabbage. So summery and easy to eat when the heat makes you want to convert to a liquid diet. And! Great with Coronas.
Here's what you need:
1/2 pound shrimp
one avocado
about 1/2 red onion
1 red bell pepper
1 lime
a handful of summer herbs -- I chose cilantro, basil and marjoram from my garden. You want to stick to the sweeter herbs (ie: no sage or rosemary, please!)
ear of corn
sour cream (a dollop)
wedge of red cabbage
tortillas (I prefer flour taco-sized tortillas)
hot sauce -- I am partial to Sriracha

First, start roasting your corn. I like to broil mine, lightly oiled, in the toaster oven. Grilled corn works well, too.

Then, peel and de-vein your shrimp, reserving the shells for later use. Ziplock them and freeze -- it'll make great stock (which I'll be showing you how to make another day)

Get a small pot of salted water boiling, and a small pot of ice water waiting to shock your blanched shrimp. Once the water boils, throw your shrimp in and cook until right when they turn pink -- you want them cooked through, but don't overdo it. Overcooked shrimp are mushy. Yuck. Drain the shrimp then throw into the ice water to cool.

Meanwhile, mince your onion, peppers and herbs. Toss them in a mixing bowl. Chop the shrimp small and toss that in, too.

Halve your avocado, remove the pit, then slice it right in the shell with a butter knife, first lengthwise then back across your original cuts. Add that as well.

When the corn is done roasting, slice it off the cob, and toss that in your bowl, too.

Put a dollop of sour cream in the bowl and a generous squirt of hot sauce. Squeeze your lime in here as well. Mix gently. Salt and pepper to taste. I like to add about two teaspoons of smoked paprika at this point. As it's kind of hard to find, I didn't include it in the ingredients list.

Serve with tortillas and lime wedges. Garnish with shredded cabbage. Don't forget the beer!

Thursday, July 2, 2009


This week when I went to go pick up my veggies from Green Hill Urban Farm (, I had a special treat waiting for me. I'm sure I squealed like a little girl. What was I so excited about? Freshly-dug potatoes in several different colors (I guess you could say I'm easily amused) sitting like little dirty jewels in a produce box. Pretty.

Young potatoes are one of my favorite sides, especially when they are multi-colored. They don't require much -- a little butter, salt and herbs, or a simple dressing for a potato salad served room temperature or chilled. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you may have gathered that I eat a lot of salads in the summer. The trick is making them hearty enough to garner meal status.
This salad is hearty enough. My friend agreed that it was a "man salad." When asked to expand, he said through a full mouth, "It has meat and potatoes." Indeed.

So, here's what I used:
two scallions, green parts only
two already cooked pieces of bacon (if you are vegetarian, consider using cooked smoky tempeh strips)
handful of parsley
half of an avocado, sliced
garden-fresh assorted lettuces
a couple basil leaves
4 or 5 tiny young potatoes, cut into somewhat equally-sized pieces
Not pictured: 1/2 a lemon juiced, 2 T of apple cider vinegar, a quarter cup of Theros extra virgin olive oil
First, put some salted water on to boil. Once it is rolling, add the potatoes. You will cook them until just tender. The time depends on the size of your cuts. Just keep checking their level of doneness with a fork.
Meanwhile, chop the bacon, scallions and herbs into fairly small pieces.
Place your chopped items in a bowl, then add your vinegar, then your lemon juice and then your oil. Mix it all together.

Drain and cool your potatoes, then add to the oil mix and toss.

Pour the entire mess over your lettuce, then add the avocado. Salt and pepper to taste.
Super easy summertime meal.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Very Scrappy Dinner

So, I thought I would post a picture of what I (and the roommate -- yes I feed her. It helps her tolerate my late nights) had for dinner last night. No recipes, just a picture and a list of ingredients. Why? Because I feel like people overthink food. Dinner doesn't have to be this big "thing." Of course I believe that we should take note of how blessed we are to have the opportunity to eat well every time we sit down to a lovely meal. That's not what I mean.

I think that many of us have this rigid idea of what a meal should entail -- that certain vegetables perform certain tasks, that there should be exactly this much protein to this much starch, that sort of thing. For example, too many people think of vegetables as a side player to a protein, or they think that beans go with rice and tortillas.

The best meals come, at least for me, when I "Iron Chef" it. That's how I refer to the act of cooking with whatever the heck I already have. Since I started getting the CSA boxes from Green Hill Urban Farm (, I've been doing that more often. It's an awful lot of fun to spread a rainbow of seasonal produce across the counter, stare at it for a few minutes, and come up with something fun to make with it.

It doesn't take much to be creative with food, just a fairly well-stocked pantry. A few whole spices and a mortar and pestle, a couple types of oils and vinegars, and a good selection of dried beans and grains should supplement any assortment of veggies to make a fine Iron Chef-style meal. Oh, as always, I highly recommend making and freezing your own chicken stock -- such a great thing to have on hand:

Thinking creatively about food helps to avoid waste, too. Instead of rushing out to buy a bunch of stuff you don't need to make dinner tonight, look in your fridge and see what needs to be cooked. Do you have scraps of 6 different vegetables sitting in your fridge about to turn into compost if you don't do something with them? Well, sounds like soup waiting to happen! Or, perhaps a really eclectic vegetable "ragout" over quinoa, like in that picture up there.

The ragout came about after I surveyed my very modest pea harvest from this spring. Not enough to be a major feature in a dish (man, I've been dreaming about spring pea risotto. Oh well). So, I chopped up some baby chiogga beets, purple broccoli, fennel and chard from Green Hill, some baby golden beets, oregano, snow peas, English peas and pea shoots from mine. I sauteed some red onion and garlic, threw in the veggies, then added chopped tomato, chicken stock, white beans, a touch of rice vinegar and some extra Theros olive oil. Covered it, steamed it all for a bit, then served it over quinoa. Probably would have been pretty awesome with some Moroccan spice added to the mix, but salt and pepper was just fine as well.

So basically, this post is meant to encourage several things:

1. Try not to waste food. Visit this link for some interesting stats on poverty and food waste in America:
an excerpt:
Almost 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in America each year. 700 million
hungry human beings in different parts of the world would have gladly accepted
this food.

2. Be creative! There are no real rules beyond keeping your food safe for people to eat.

3. Consider planting a garden. It's amazing how far you can stretch your food dollar when you can supplement your meals with things growing right in your yard. Saves on fuel if you only have to travel 20 feet, too.

4. Keep your pantry stocked with spices, dried grains and beans, and other non-perishables. They make your life so easy.

5. Consider supporting your local farming community by joining a CSA .