True colors

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When I saw PURPLE! and GOLD! cauliflower at the Ringwood Farmers’ Market* this weekend, I had a magpie moment. I’m a sucker for any oddball produce on display, especially if it’s a zingy color, so, of course, I picked it up. It helps that football season’s still going strong and LSU continues not to screw things up too badly on the field; making a gratin of my alma mater’s colors isn’t an opportunity afforded me everyday, after all.

What was lovely in its original state could turn messy and ugly in the oven, I knew, but I forged on, armed with a can’t-fail recipe for a traditional gratin from the incomparable Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini. In my typical fashion, I made substitutions, but they were very minor — gruyère for the comté and not even a whisper of nutmeg, a spice I loathe. And you know what? The saturated hues of the cauliflower were a little disconcerting at first, but it was so silky, rich, and delicious we weren’t put off for long. Next time around, I’ll probably make a slightly thinner béchamel and add some roasted garlic to it for flavor. It might not be traditional, but neither is football-inspired cauliflower.

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*Sadly, this was the final market of the season, so I’ll go back to stalking the produce department at Zeytinia until next spring. Turns out Gil went to high school with one of the market’s organizers, so I had him introduce us yesterday. She’s an enthusiastic supporter of our local farmers and promises exciting things for our community in the coming year — can’t wait to see what they have in store for us!

Nifty, thrifty leftovers

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Those of you who are sick to death of bread pudding, feel free to skip this post. Maybe it’s uninspired, but when a dish is this open to interpretation, it’s a slam dunk when I’m not feeling terribly creative. So when my friend NJ showed up at work today with a bag of Zadie’s whole wheat challah rolls for me, I knew at least a couple of them would make an appearance in a bread pudding this very evening. Not that I had any plans at all for dinner, but there were a few things in the fridge in danger of turning soon and, frankly, assembling this is second nature to me at this point.

But this is a savory one, more in line with something you’d eat for dinner instead of brunch. To get things started, I cubed three of the challah rolls and set them aside in a medium bowl. I sliced one clove of garlic and cooked it in a little almond oil over medium heat until it was lightly browned, then added about two cups of thinly sliced kale to the pan. Once the kale started to wilt, I added a little water to the pan and some of the leftover caramelized onions from Sunday’s lunch and let it cook down until the water had evaporated, then tossed it with the bread crumbs.

For the liquid element, I beat three eggs with a splash of lowfat milk, some dry mustard, sweet pimenton, and fresh thyme and sage. I poured that over the bread cubes and kale and mixed it until the bread was fully saturated. At that point, I threw in a little grated gruyere, then filled four small ramekins with the mixture.

They baked at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, at which point I topped them with a little more gruyere and some finely grated romano, then threw them back into the oven for about 10 minutes until the whole mess had browned and cooked through.

Thank you, NJ! It was such a good, simple meal — you should try it next time you go to Zadie’s. Oh, and pick up some of those wonderful sponge cookies for me, willya?

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I can’t be trusted

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“It’ll be a LONG time before I cook pasta again!”

“Yeah, we’ll put a one-month moratorium on pizza, too!”

Sigh, I guess a .500 batting average isn’t too bad, right? I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of Milan’s Osteria del Treno for showing me the possibilities of simple ingredients prepared simply. Though their house-cured meats were a revelation (seriously — goose cracklins? Brilliant! I NEED more fat in my diet!), replicating them is well beyond my skill level. These people are major leaguers while I’m more of a minor leaguer, if not t-ball enthusiast, in the kitchen. But OdT’s eggplant ravioli was just as swoon-worthy in its way, and possibly more impressive because of its simplicity. A meaty-tasting (yet vegetarian) filling in delicate sheets of pasta, topped with nothing more than a light glaze of olive oil and oregano (and possibly some lemon juice) seemed approachable.

And my version was certainly tasty, though nothing like its inspiration. I didn’t quite capture that savory, dense aspect of the filling, but my eggplant was rich and silky and, topped with a balsamic brown butter sauce, good enough to crave again two days later. Thanks to my new weekend strategy of making plenty of one part of a dish to turn into leftovers of a different sort later in the week, we had loads of eggplant filling in the fridge. (Turns out it’s a LOT easier to make ravioli with cold, firm filling, btw.) So we ate exactly the same dish last night. In defense of my lack of ingenuity, all I have to say is, “Brooooown butterrrrrr….”

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recipe after the jump

Continue reading “I can’t be trusted”

Oy, it’s so humid!

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To whom it may concern,

Re: my tomahhhto post of Aug. 1, I do humbly and wholeheartedly apologize for any offensive statement contained therein about the temperature and/or humidity. As so amply demonstrated yesterday (and again this morning), it can always be worse, especially when your office’s air conditioning unit is not functioning.

Sincerely,
Amy (aka Sweating, but Wisely Keeping My Mouth Shut)

* * * * * * *

So yeah, it’s pretty bad here, but on the bright side, our CEO finds conditions as intolerable as the rest of us and has set us free as soon as all scheduled meetings are over. Yesterday, I made it home to the land of air conditioned comfort by 3pm, which left me plenty of time to make dinner. A pasta salad featured in the new issue of Martha Stewart Living sounded great when I read it on the bus, so I hit the grocery for the few things I needed and got to work soon after. Maybe I should’ve made something a little more labor-intensive since I had the time, but after a long day of perspiring glowing, I just couldn’t be bothered.

But I’ve learned my lesson — I’ll really, really try not to complain about the heat from now on. At least until the AC goes out in my building again and I’m stuck here all day.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Oy, it’s so humid!”

I say tomahhhhto

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It was Satan’s crotch-hot yesterday, wasn’t it? I guess “sultry” sounds better, but I’m in yankee territory now, so let’s be real. It was sticky and stanky, and an all-around Very Bad Idea to be outside longer than the time it takes to walk to the nearest Mister Softee truck.

And since the Mr. (Roth, not Softee) and I both had big lunches yesterday, a full-on dinner just wasn’t happening. So I took the rest of the tomatoes from my friend’s garden, chopped ’em up with some basil from mine, and topped it with good balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of smoked fleur de sel. (Thanks for that idea, Claudia!)

It’s a great time of year to be a lazy cook, isn’t it?

Eat your vegetables!

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When I was young, vegetables never were the focus of the meal. Always relegated to the side, they either were major cholesterol bombs — Cajun-style vegetables tend to be smothered with pork fat and onions, which is delicious, but not exactly heart healthy — or bland and uninspired. My mom never has been fond of spending time in the kitchen and still favors opening a can of petit pois or corn, dumping it into a serving bowl with a big pat of butter, and microwaving until it’s “done.” These dishes were really, truly, nothing more than a side or an afterthought.

But I’ve come a long way, baby — vegetables are more than meat’s wingman! (Look at me. I’m so enlightened!) Once I learned just how good fresh can be, and got a few good cookbooks to guide me, veggies started appearing on my plate in more than a side capacity. In fact, for the past year or so, I’ve been trying to eat vegequarian for most of my meals during the week (though obviously I still love the flesh) just to ensure I’m getting something other than meat and bread in my diet … and I don’t feel deprived at all! It’s hardly news to most of you out there, but it’s a whole new world to me.

With summer’s bounty on display at our farmers’ market this morning, it was nearly impossible to pass up anything at all. And so we came home with gorgeous red and golden beets, a dozen ears of corn, leeks, carrots, zucchini, garlic, onions, and tatsoi, along with a grass-fed porterhouse steak and mini apple pie. I hardly knew where to start for lunch!

We also had fresh vegetarian ravioli on hand from our latest Trader Joe’s run, so I decided to whip up a quick roasted veggie sauce to go with it. The smoky flavors of the roasted red pepper, onions, zucchini, and garlic were smoothed out with a little goat cheese and made for a tasty, light lunch.

Remind me to tell you about my fresh fruit discovery sometime. What a revelation to learn that fruit could be served without a ton of added sugar and in something other than fruit salad form.

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As always, click on the pictures for a link to my flickr food photo set.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Eat your vegetables!”

Well, gal bee!

Clockwise, from left: si gum chi na mul, shredded carrots, ho bak na mul, sook ju na mul, gal bee

There’s no greater treat (or easier meal) than grilled food when company comes calling. Slap some meat over a fire, serve it with a few simple side dishes and copious amounts of alcohol, and you’re guaranteed a good time and satisfaction all around.

But sometimes the burger/hot dog/steak axis wears thin, even early in the grilling season. I’ve had great great burgers/dogs/steaks, but only rarely are they memorable on their own. A kosher dog at Yankee stadium, when Gil and I were dating and he surprised me with a ticket to a Sunday game … totally memorable, but for the company. Steak cooked to perfection by R, my longtime boyfriend in St. Louis … again memorable, but for the secret family marinade I weaseled out of him (and which you won’t get here, dear reader — I made a promise and intend to keep it.).

But I did learn a lot of other things with R during our years together. Apart from the many cautionary lessons (which I choose not to dwell on), he taught me to shoot, something I still love to do whenever I make it out to the sporting clays range. I learned the most basic lessons of fly fishing, but haven’t gone back for years. And I learned a lot about Korean food.

See, R was a Korean cowboy-type from Tulsa, a good ol’ boy and gourmand in equal measure. His family loved entertaining with amazing home-cooked meals, so he learned quite a bit from them. Over the years after we parted ways, I cooked the few dishes I remembered and added my own spin to them, but I wanted more. Sure, I could live the rest of my life without eating the same version of Ja Jang Myun (noodles with soybean paste sauce) ever again, but did I really want to? Nuh-uh.

A few months ago, I finally managed to track down the out-of-print cookbook R had — Korean Cooking for You by Moon Ja Yoon — and have made old favorites many times since. But I can also turn to this cookbook for magnificent grilling recipes and produce something other than the typical cookout fare with minimal effort. So that’s what I did Saturday afternoon.

With the gal bee (short ribs), we had si gum chi na mul (spinach), ho bak na mul (zucchini), sook ju na mul (mung bean sprouts), and some awesomely pungent and fresh kim chi Gil picked up at the market Friday. And to make things super-simple, all of the na muls used the same seasoning ingredients, so it’s easy enough to mix up a big batch and just douse the different dishes at once.

Our weekend guest (Deb, Gil’s ex from college) is a smart girl who knows you can pick up wine anywhere, but a chocolate mousse cake from S&S Cheesecake … I … just … there are no words:

So that was dessert. And yes, we made short work of it:

recipes after the jump

Continue reading “Well, gal bee!”