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Posts from the ‘Main Dishes’ Category

Cabbage and Potato Gratin

I didn’t actually think this dish was going to be that good or even remotely blog-worthy. I didn’t take photos as I was making it (wish I had but I did capture the finished product) but then when I  ate three servings for dinner and enjoyed it just as much the next day and the next, I figured it should be noted publicly. It obviously made a large quantity, seeing that I was still eating it three days later and that that was a good thing. . . .It’s made with the most ordinary of ingredients and could be varied in umpteen ways.

Creamy Cabbage and Potato (and Pasta) Gratin

This dish came about because I had a huge wedge of green cabbage in the fridge that needed using. I had a handful of potatoes and I had some milk. So I cooked the potatoes in a big pot of boiling water. Then I tossed in a handful of little tubetti pasta to make it appealing to my four-year-old who will eat anything that has pasta in it. But the thrust of this dish is purely cabbage and potatoes and unless you have a similarly  habituated child (or adult in your household) I’d skip the pasta. Then, I tried to estimate when I should add the cabbage so that I could drain the whole pot of potatoes, pasta and cabbage at once and all at the appropriate stage of doneness. That was really the only trick of this dish. Some of my potatoes were beginning to fall apart when the cabbage and pasta were tender and when I drained the whole, pale contents of the pot I began to doubt the wisdom of this process.

The humble ingredients of this, now favorite, comfort food.

However, knowing that I was going to mix said contents with a quick Bechamel sauce I figured I still stood a chance. And I was going to add some grated cheese and top it with a few bread crumbs and then get it all bubbly and crisp in the oven. . .

A side-note about bechamel, or simple cream sauce:  It was one of the first things I mastered as a young cook when I was about  8 I think. All you do is melt some butter, whisk in an equal amount of flour and then after a few minutes add hot milk and a few seasonings and simmer that for a few minutes (or much longer if you’re feeling fancy). It seems like a bit of a throwback and I certainly don’t see recipes with it on any food blogs these days but I think it’s a lifesaver sometimes.

So, give it a try and let me know if it was worth it. And I do really hope you  make this whole dish, or some version of it.

Happy Cooking!

P.S. For those of you in the Portland (OR) region and for those of you interested in or already devoted CSA fans, I am working with 47th Ave. Farm on their Winter Share and will be providing comprehensive recipe packets with each share all season. So if you’ve thought about joining a CSA but were afraid you wouldn’t know what do with all the veggies, fear no more.

Creamy Cabbage and Potato Gratin

You could add lots of chopped parsley or oregano or basil or chives to the dish as you’re assembling it, before baking. You could use other vegetables. I imagine diced winter squash instead of the potatoes would be fabulous and very pretty. Sausage, bacon or any kind of leftover meat would be good. You can vary the cheeses, omit entirely, and so on and so forth!

For Bechamel:

4 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons flour

generous 2 cups of whole milk (2% can work in a pinch)

salt

pepper

bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

pinch of ground nutmeg or cloves

fresh minced thyme, parsley, chives, etc. (optional)

Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan over med/low heat. When melted, whisk in flour. Continue cooking the roux for 2 -3 min, whisking frequently. Meanwhile heat milk until it’s scalding. Whisk hot milk into roux and add several pinches of salt, grind in some pepper, add chili flakes (or omit if you’d like), add mustard and a bay leaf and a grating or two of nutmeg. Stir well and cook over med/low heat for about 10 minutes until thickened and bubbling.  Add some grated cheese (sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Emmentaler, etc. ) and fresh, chopped herbs if you’d like at this point.

For the gratin:

3-5 potatoes (depending on size) and cut into thumb-sized chunks

1/2 medium to large green cabbage (or a whole small one), cored and cut into 1-inch pieces

Handful or two of small pasta (optional)

Salt

Bread crumbs (optional)

Grated cheese (sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Emmentaler, . . .)

Put potatoes in a large pot with lots of water and two teaspoons of kosher salt. Bring to a boil. If you are using some kind of pasta you’ll want to add it to the potatoes just a few minutes after the water comes to a boil so the pasta can cook for 8 or so minutes (depending on the type you choose this will vary. The pasta can be quite all dente when you drain everything though since it will keep cooking in the oven.) When the potatoes (and pasta, if using) are almost tender add the cabbage to the pot. Cover and cook for another few minutes until the cabbage is tender. Drain.

Spread the vegetables in a large baking dish. Pour the béchamel over the top and mix in a bit. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and extra cheese (if you’d like) and bake  at 400 until bubbly and crisp on top (I broil it at the end for a few minutes).


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Peanut Noodles (and Kimchi)

This is a quick dish if you have a decently stocked pantry and some fresh veggies on hand. And leftover peanut sauce is always good to have around.

This dish is much more photogenic before you mix in the peanut sauce so I’m sparing you the image of the homely but very tasty results. I have taught this dish (or variations of it) many times and figured it was time to post it after a 7-year-old neighbor/friend requested it for dinner the other night. I love it when children want bold flavors and I happily obliged. I accidentally made it a bit spicier than I intended but said 7-year-old ate a big serving and only at the end, quietly admitted to her mom that it was a bit too spicy!

I like this substantial, room temperature dish especially when it gets cooler out. It’s hearty and warming because of the zippy peanut sauce but it’s also crisp and fresh from the lime juice and the raw veggies. If you have leftover chicken floating around or some shrimp in the freezer it would be even heartier but it’s pretty substantial as is.

My first batch of Kimchi.

There is a thriving “pickle scene” in Portland evidenced by the number of vendors of all things pickled and fermented at our many farmers’ markets, the pickle plates on restaurant menus, and at not-to-be-missed annual Portland Fermentation Festival that alas I have always missed!

Fermented foods were once a more substantial part of many culture’s cuisines and still are in some places, especially in Southeast Asia.  In addition to being a good way to preserve the harvest, add flavor and punch to any meal, they are very good for us. So with all this in mind and some beautiful Napa cabbage in the fridge I jumped into the fermentation fray guided by this witty and experienced fermenter and made Kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) for the first time. It was straightforward and fun and now I have lots of lovely jars of it to enjoy and give away. If you’ve made it before or just love it, I’m eager to hear how you make it and eat it. So far I’ve mostly been eating as a side/garnish with other things but look forward to branching out.

And finally, I have spots available in my Beans and Grains in Hearty Winter Salads class. We’ll be using all kinds of beans, quinoa, and farro and mixing them with arugula, kale, broccoli, beets and winter squash (not all together!) for the most satisfying dishes.

Peanut Noodles

–adapted from Skillet Chronicles

Serves 4 as main or 6-8 as side

Quick, easy (if you have everything on hand), and a crowd pleaser. Feel free to add other veggies like thinly sliced cucumber, steamed broccoli or cauliflower, etc. This is one of the few dishes in which I prefer whole wheat spaghetti. Barilla is my favorite brand for this.

For the sauce:

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon grated ginger

4 garlic cloves, minced to a paste

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 Serrano chile with seeds and membrane, minced or 1 teaspoon chili flakes (or to taste)

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar

2-3 tablespoon hot water

For the salad:

2/3 pound whole wheat or white spaghetti

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 carrots, grated

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

¼ cup mint or basil or cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (or a combination)

Blend all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth and set aside.

Mix grated carrots with 2 tablespoons rice vinegar and let sit while you cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente.  Drain pasta in a colander, reserving half a cup of the cooking liquid, and rinse with cold water until cooled.  Toss with sesame oil and place in a large serving bowl.

Add carrots, pepper, scallion and herbs to the noodles and toss.  Pour about half of the sauce over the noodles and toss with a couple of spoons or a pair of tongs, adding more sauce as needed to coat the noodles.  If the sauce is too thick to blend smoothly with the noodles and vegetables, add a tablespoon or two of the reserved cooking water while tossing. Serve at room temperature.

Winter Veggie Hash, Poached Egg and Salsa Verde

If I were a photographer and a cook then my blog would look like this every week!  I had a photo shoot during a recent cooking class since I’m in the process of redoing my website and blog (and combining the two!). My dear friend and talented photographer Andera Lorimor took the photos. But alas I am not (yet) a photographer so enjoy this rare week of beauty on this site.

We cooked up a storm in class including one of my all-time favorites: Veggie Hash with Poached Egg and Salsa Verde. Sounds fancy but is simple and delicious and uses pretty common pantry items. You can use almost any vegetable in the hash and this time of year my favorites include celery root, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and various winter squashes. So adapt to your taste and the season. And you can simplify the salsa verde by skipping the capers and egg. The bright, lemony salsa verde does balance out the sweetness of the vegetables really well.

Quick Veggie Hash with Salsa Verde and Poached Egg

This is a quick way to use a variety of vegetables such as zucchini, potatoes, parsnips, all of which you can grate. You can also use veggies you can’t grate but cut into small dice like peppers, broccoli, etc. It’s a great brunch or dinner dish. It can be adapted in many ways. You can add any leftover meat or add bacon or sausage. It’s fabulous with the salsa verde but if you don’t have time or interest in that, toss in the herbs noted below.

Serves 4

3 medium carrots, scrubbed trimmed and grated on the large holes of box grater (or w/ food processor)

1 small delicata squash, cut in half, seeds and strings removed and grated

½ onion, diced or several scallions sliced into thin rounds

olive oil

salt and pepper

handful of basil or parsley, chopped, or 2 tablespoons chopped chives (optional—see note above)

4 eggs, poached (see below)

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add the onions and veggies all at once. Add a couple of pinches of salt and stir well. Cook on high heat for several minutes and then turn down to medium-high as the veggies start to brown. Cook for about 7-10 minutes until veggies are tender and a bit browned. Just before the veggies are done add the chopped herbs, if using. Adjust for salt and add freshly ground pepper.

Poaching Eggs

Bring plenty of water to boil in a wide pot. Add about 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar to the water. The vinegar is the trick to pretty poached eggs so don’t skimp on it. One at a time crack an egg into a small bowl and slide it gently into the boiling water. Continue until all eggs are in the water. Cook for about 4-5 minutes to get firm whites and runny yolks. Lift out of the water with a slotted spoon. You can trim the edges if they are really ratty.

Serve the hash topped with a poached egg and a tablespoon or so of Salsa Verde, see recipe below.

Salsa Verde

This is a versatile, zippy sauce. I often just make it with parsley garlic, lemon juice, oil and salt but the addition of capers, onions and egg make it even better.

You can use a food processor for this since (except the egg white which you add at the very end, chopped by hand) but you can also just chop everything by hand. It’s not intended to have a smooth, uniform texture so don’t overprocess if you go that route.

1 1/2 cups finely chopped parsley (about one medium bunch)

grated zest of 1-2 lemons

1 shallot or chunk of onion, finely diced (optional)

2-3 tablespoons capers, rinsed (optional)

1-2 small garlic cloves, minced

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or white or red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 hard-boiled egg (optional)

Combine all the ingredients except the egg, salt, and pepper. Mash the egg yolk until smooth, adding a little of the sauce to thin it. Finely chop the white. Stir the yolk and the white back into the sauce, season with salt and pepper and adjust lemon/vinegar as needed.


Simple Italian Lentil and Rice Stew

Arborio rice and small French green lentils (or if you can find them you can use small brown Italian lentils from Umbria)

Rice and lentils are a classic combination. All over the Middle East you find versions of Mujaddara, a dish of rice and lentils garnished with caramelized onions often flavored with cumin. Sometimes there’s a little tomato sauce in the mix or a spicy harissa. There are Indian versions as well.

This simple Italian combination of arborio rice and small either French green or Italian brown lentils is the perfect lunch or dinner with a salad on the side. You cook the lentils and rice in the same pot with just some garlic, parsley and a little tomato and some good broth of your choosing or veggie bouillon.  Dress it up with some more parsley, some parmesan and a drizzle of good olive oil and dig in.

Rice and lentil stew with parmesan and parsley.

There’s nothing fancy about this and that’s why it’s such a winner for when all you have is your pantry–which hopefully always contain rice and lentils. Either short or long-grain brown rice would work too though you would increase the cooking time for the rice a bit. Parsley grows almost year-round here in Western Oregon so this is truly a pantry meal in our household. You could probably substitute dried oregano and/or thyme and add a bay leaf to the broth when you’re cooking it if there’s no parsley on hand. And come to think of it, a dollop of harissa would probably be delicious with this.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Italian Lentil and Rice Stew

1/2 cup of small French green lentils or Italian brown lentils

1 cup Arborio rice

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons (more or less), Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1-2 medium tomatoes, diced (I used 4 halves of roasted tomatoes that I roast and freeze for just such things) or 2 canned tomatoes, without their juice, diced

4 cups stock, broth, veggie bouillon broth, etc.

parmesan

good olive oil for drizzling

a bit more parsley for garnish

Saute the parsley and garlic for just about a minute in a saucepan in a little olive oil. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the lentils and the broth (if the broth is not salty add 1 teaspoon of salt at this point) and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the rice (if using brown rice you want to add the rice at the same time as the lentils) and cook for another 15 minutes or so until both lentils and rice are tender but not mushy. There will still be a little liquid in the pan which is how it should be. Adjust seasoning.

Sever with parmesan, parsley and a drizzle of good oil

Hanging on to Summer Veggies

The farmers markets here in the Portland area are probably at their most abundant right now. Tomatoes, peppers, corn, and eggplants are still bountiful and colorful. But trying to crowd them out are the piles of winter squash, apples, pears, brussels sprouts and the rest of the fall contingent. The weather is leaning towards fall but I’m a die-hard summer veggie eater as long as I possibly can be. I know those hefty squash that have absorbed a season’s worth of warmth and turned it into an edible hunk of sunshine will be there for me in a few weeks and will stick around until early spring, not much worse for wear.

Eggplants and a sweet, red pepper needed for the Hot, Sweet, Sour Eggplant dish below.

But the summer veggies are more fleeting so I’m cooking with eggplant and peppers almost every day and madly preserving tomatoes along the way.  I tend to make Italian dishes with these but lately I’ve been having fun with a Chinese-inspired dish–Sweet, Hot, Sour Eggplant–named so by me and undoubtedly inauthentic. It’s quick, full flavored and richer tasting than it is. The Thai basil that’s still thriving in a pot in my backyard makes it extra good but more common Genovese basil, cilantro or even parsley would all be good.

I neglected to take a picture on the evening I made this so this photo is of the leftovers I heated up together with the rice for lunch the next day.

Sweet, Sour and Hot Eggplant

My favorite way to serve this quick Chinese-inspired dish is over short grain brown rice but any rice is excellent. It’s a rich-tasting dish though actually fairly light in preparation.

2 medium eggplant (or several smaller ones—any kind of eggplant will work in this dish—the long slender Japanese ones, more common Italian, globe ones, . . .), skin on, cubed

1 medium onion, diced

1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or fresh, minced Serrano, jalapeno or other hot pepper

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoons salt (or to taste)

2-3 tablespoons olive or sunflower or other oil

3-4 tablespoons Thai basil, basil, cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped

Stir together soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowel.

In a large skillet or wok heat the oil and sauté onions and pepper (if using) over medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes until they soften. Add red pepper flakes (or minced hot pepper) and eggplant and cook until it softens and browns a bit, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. A few minutes before the eggplant is done add the minced garlic and stir well. Then add the sauce and stir well to mix and coat veggies. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until sauce thickens and veggies are tender. Stir in the herbs, saving out a few for garnish if you’d like. Serve hot over rice with reserved herbs.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Tomato Post # Three

Tomato Paella--a quick, inexpensive, vegetarian version of the classic rice and seafood dish.

I’ve written a lot about tomatoes recently and this will likely be the last post for this year’s crop. Having fresh tomatoes on the counter is a marker of late summer. And there’s nothing like a few tomatoes to inspire a quick meal. They’ve been doing it over and over and I still haven’t gotten through all my favorite tomato recipes. Last night we had BLTs for dinner. The night before we had the above Paella. And tonight we’ll have panzanella or my favorite raw (blended) tomato sauce with lots of basil and olive oil served with pasta (at room temperature) with big chunks of fresh mozzarella. And then maybe I’ll be done. . . . or not quite.

This tomato paella would be the perfect dish for this coming Saturday’s Day of Action–Slow Food USA’s campaign to reclaim the “Value Meal”. Read more about it here with some tips on inexpensive, delicious cooking from yours truly.

Mark Bittman published this recipe in the New York Times five years ago and I’ve been making it ever since, with a few variations. It’s best with really flavorful, ripe tomatoes–and not sauce tomatoes like Romas or San Marzanos but heirloom, slicing tomatoes. Unlike Bittman I cook the whole thing on the stove top instead of finishing it in the oven but with either method it’s a quick one-dish meal with a simple green salad on the side.

The flavorful base of onion, garlic, saffron and pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) is the foundation of this dish.

You arrange the tomato wedges on the rice once you've added the stock. Once the stock is absorbed you can see the pin wheel of tomatoes on top of the rice.

Tomato Paella

–Adapted from Mark Bittman

This is a delicious, quick, and inexpensive (and vegetarian) twist on a classic paella. It’s perfect this time of year with beautiful, juicy tomatoes. It’s very important to season the ingredients properly as you go. It’s really a shame to under salt this dish. Taste your stock or bouillon to make sure it’s well seasoned.

3 1/2 cups stock, water or veggie bouillon (made with 4 1/2 teaspoons bouillon paste and 3 1/2 cups water)

1 1/2 pounds ripe, slicer/heirloom tomatoes (not sauce tomatoes), cored and cut into thick wedges (about 4 medium to large tomatoes)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, minced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Large pinch saffron threads

2 teaspoons Spanish pimentón (smoked paprika), or other paprika

2 cups Spanish or Arborio or other short-grain rice (I use Arborio)

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt (if the stock isn’t very salty or you’re using water)

Warm stock or water in a saucepan. If using water, add a teaspoon of salt to the water. Put tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to coat. Put remaining oil in a 10- or 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in saffron if you are using it and pimentón and cook for a minute more. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another two to three minutes. Add hot stock or water and stir until just combined.

Put tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle with juices that accumulated in bottom of bowl. Cook over medium heat undisturbed, for 15 -20 minutes. Check to see if rice is dry and just tender. If not, keep cooking for another 5 minutes. If rice looks too dry but still is not quite done, add a small amount of stock or water (or wine). When rice is ready, turn off oven and let pan sit for 5 to 15 minutes. If you like, put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving. If you have time you should definitely do this last part. The crust is fabulous.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Tomatoes

Even with our cool, wet spring and cool, wet early summer my tomatoes are coming on full steam. I pick some everyday now and somehow having fresh tomatoes on the counter makes dinner easy. They are so long-awaited, so sweet and beautiful and liven up practically any ingredient or comfortably take the main stage. And speaking of the tomato bounty and the pepper, eggplant, and corn bounty that’s upon us, I have two classes scheduled in late September that will take full advantage of these fleeting pleasures.

The first Black Krim, some Early Girls, Stupice, and Sungolds--this morning's harvest.

But back to today’s tomatoes . . . for lunch they make their way into sandwiches with a fried egg or just basil and sharp cheddar or a BLT if I really have it together. For dinner they get diced and tossed with feta and basil and maybe cucumber and lots of basil.

And there’s nothing better than that first fresh tomato sauce. In a large skillet, even the juiciest slicing tomatoes cook into a luscious sauce over high heat in just 10 minutes or so. Start with some diced onion, add the tomatoes (I never bother to peel or seed them, just dice and toss them in) and a bit of minced garlic if you like and finish with a bit of fresh basil or dried or fresh oregano. Toss with pasta or top a pizza with it. Or poach some eggs in it and eat with some good, crusty bread

This is a standard Italian dish. If you have pre-made tomato sauce it takes mere minutes and if you have fresh tomatoes it doesn't take much longer to put together a quick sauce. Top the eggs with some grated parmesan towards the end for a fancier dish and be sure to have some good bread on hand to serve with this.

If you have a little more time, I urge you to make this wonderful tart with tomatoes and goat cheese I started making last year after seeing it on David Lebovitz’s blog. It’s actually quite simple even though it does involve a crust.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

And finally, if you need a picnic dish (though the tart is great for that too) and have some garbanzo beans (or white beans would probably be good too) on hand, toss them with diced tomatoes, some cucumber, maybe some arugula and/or basil and some sweet onions. Crumble some feta and dress with a vinegary dressing and you’ve got a wonderful refreshing and hearty salad.

Quick Garbanzo Bean and Tomato Salad.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Green Curry Summer Squash Soup

A lovely summery soup of squash, new potatoes, coconut milk and basil over rice.

I’ve had a good summer squash recipe repertoire for quite a while. But this year I’m expanding it even more. This season I am  creating customized recipe packets for a local CSA farm here in the Portland area every week. The farmer tells me what will be in the share on Saturday and by Sunday night I submit a comprehensive packet of recipes and tips for that week’s produce. Zucchini and all manner of summer squash are a mainstay in the share this time of year and I’ve enjoyed trying some new recipes for these tender, sweet, prolific veggies.

New potatoes and summer squash.

This dish was inspired by the ever clever and creative Heidi Swanson from her new book Super Natural Every Day. I’ve changed a bunch of things: I omitted the tofu croutons since I rarely have tofu on  hand. I served it on rice to give it heft and make it a one-dish meal. I used green instead of red curry paste, onions instead of shallots and added lots of basil.

This recipe uses a good number of summer squash so it’s a great way to work through the stash many of us find ourselves with right now. It’s great warmed up the next day for lunch either eaten as soup or over rice. I can imagine this being delicious with other veggies as well as the season changes so experiment as you see fit. It would also be delicious with some chicken or prawns if you want to dress it up a bit and make it heartier.

And please let me know if you have any favorite summer squash/zucchini recipes. I know they’re going to keep showing up for a few more weeks and I always need more ideas.

Summer squash, potatoes, onions and garlic sweating in green curry paste and some coconut milk.

Green Curry Summer Squash Soup

–adapted from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson

4-5 medium zucchini or other summer squash like yellow crookneck or patty pan, sliced into 1/2 inch slices

1/2 a medium onions (sweet or regular yellow onion), thinly sliced

4-5 small potatoes (new potatoes if possible), scrubbed and cut into small dice

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 – 2 heaping teaspoons green curry paste (I use the Mae Ploy brand)

1 can full fat coconut milk

2 cups veggie bouillon broth (or other veggie or chicken stock)

1/4 cup Thai basil or regular basil leaves, packed and roughly chopped (saving a bit for garnish)

salt

squeeze of lime juice to taste (optional)

Cooked white or brown, long grain rice

Put a large soup pot on medium high heat. Add about 3-4 tablespoons of the solid part of the coconut milk that makes up about the top fourth of the can, to the hot pan. Add the 1-2 teaspoons (depending on how much heat you want) of green curry paste and mash it up with the back of a spoon and blend it into the coconut milk. Fry this mixture for a couple of minutes until it becomes fragrant.

Add the sliced onion and fry for a few minutes until it softens. Add the squash and potatoes, several generous pinches of salt and cook, stirring often for 3-4 minutes. Then add the garlic, the remainder of the coconut milk and the broth. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add most of the basil (reserving some for a garnish) and cook for another minute or two. Adjust seasoning and add a squeeze of lime juice, if using.

Serve hot over rice and garnished with more basil.

P.S. Check out my guest post on Culinate.com about Slow Food’s $5 Challenge and join in the fun and conversation and cooking.

Mid-Summer Pizza

Thinly sliced zucchini rounds cook really quickly on a pizza and make for a surprisingly delicious topping.

I love pizza. I teach pizza classes, I go out for pizza but I actually don’t make pizza often enough at home. I make a good pizza dough (Jim Lahey’s recipe from My Bread, my slightly adapted version included below) and sometimes I’m even organized enough to make several batches and freeze the dough so it’s available when I have little time to cook. . . .but not very often.  So when I heard that the local Grand Central Bakery pizza dough was reportedly better than anything I might make myself, I had to give it a try. I bought both the whole wheat and white versions and have yet to try to the white one but the whole wheat lived up to the hype. For the many of you who do not live close to a Grand Central Bakery outpost, the below recipe is really very good and you might check your local bakeries for pre-made doughs. (I have no vested interest in Grand Central but worked there 14 years ago as my first job out of college and have a great fondness for them and their products.)

And if you have good pizza dough, the topping is practically an afterthought. Almost anything tastes good on a yeasted dough that’s baked on a stone in a hot, hot oven. I set my very basic, non-commercial gas oven to 500 (as high as it goes) and preheat it with the pizza stone in it for 30 minutes or so and then slide the dough with whatever topping I’ve thrown together onto the stone. 15- 20 minutes later dinner is done.

Last night  I found a few zucchini in the fridge, half a Walla Walla Sweet, and a bit of bacon. I thinly sliced the squash and sprinkled salt on them and let them sit on a dish towel for 10 minutes to soften up while I prepped the rest of the ingredients.

Sliced sweet onions, diced bacon and zucchini coins

Since my husband is not fond of raw onions and I wasn’t sure just how soft the onions would get in the 15 minutes in the oven I decided to saute half the onions and bacon for just a few minutes to take the edge off.

Pizza about to go in the oven; half with raw onions and bacon and half with briefly sauteed onions and bacon.

I squeezed some liquid out of the zucchini slices and then brushed the dough (that was incredibly easy to stretch and shape) with olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and then scattered on the squash, onions, bacon and just a little grated parmesan. I had generously floured the pizza peel (don’t forget this step) and slid the whole thing with a quick jerk of the wrist onto the hot stone.

Done!

I loved both sides of the pizza as did my husband and son (though he insisted on scraping the topping off and eating it separately). The sauteed side was a bit sweeter but the Walla Walla’s are so tender and mild and kept their shape a bit better lending more texture to that side. So, a toss up, really!

Chances are whatever you have in your garden or from the market will make a good pizza topping. And if you don’t want to use meat here I would add a generous sprinkling of fresh basil and/or oregano and a bit more cheese (maybe feta too).  Generally my pizza advice is go light on the topping (with or without sauce), be generous with herbs and spices and most importantly, make pizza often this summer.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

P.S. New summer and fall Cook-with-what-I-have Improv Classes posted.

Basic Pizza Dough

–adapted from Jim Lahey

Pizza dough freezes beautifully. So if you’re only going to use half of it or want to make a double batch and save some for future use, just lightly oil a 1 qt freezer bag and put ½ a recipe worth of pizza dough in. Thaw it thoroughly and bring it to room temperature before using. Then handle exactly the same as fresh dough.

In Jim Lahey’s original recipe he has you bake the pizzas on a sheet pan. I do that sometimes, especially for his potato pizza because there’s so much topping, but usually I bake them right on a pizza stone which makes them wonderfully crisp. If you’re using a pizza stone you don’t need any oil and just place the stretched out piece of dough onto a well-floured pizza peel (or the back of a cookie sheet if you don’t have a peel) and after you’ve added the toppings you slide it right onto the hot stone.

I have tried this recipe with half whole wheat flour and half white. It turns out fine but is a bit of a different animal—not as crisp a bit nuttier and chewier—as you might expect.

500 grams bread flour (3 3/4 cups)

2 1/2 teaspoons instant or active dry yeast (10 grams)

3/4 teaspoons table salt (5 grams)

3/4 teaspoon sugar, plus a pinch (about 3 grams)

1 1/3 – 1 1/2 cups room temperature water

extra-virgin olive oil for pans

In a medium bowl, stir together the bread flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until blended, at least 30 seconds. The dough should be able to contain all of the flour, if it seems dry or if there is excess flour at the bottom of the bowl, add water a tablespoon at a time.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let sit at room temperature until the dough has doubled in volume, about 2-3 hours.

Summer Improv Cooking and Pasta Carbonara with Peas

Dull knives, wobbly pans, no pantry to speak of. . . .none of it mattered at the beach last week where I was for the annual family summer outing. My mother, sisters-in-law and I all brought fruit and produce and we feasted, simply (or not so simply on the night we grilled Alaskan Sockeye salmon) and with relatively little time spent in the kitchen. Being able to cook-with-what-you-have is even more useful when you’re on the road and don’t have all your familiar kitchen items so you can pull together something quickly with hungry, sandy children underfoot with minimal stress. With that I should note that I traveled with a mini pantry which included lots of fresh herbs from my garden, ginger, garlic, good olive oil, lemons, dry chickpeas, pinto beans and some cheese. All of this packs easily into a little bag/cooler and makes life in foreign kitchens much more delicious and fun.

My mother shelling the peas she'd brought from her garden.

One night I made Pasta Carbonara with the above peas. This is an inauthentic addition to the classic Carbonara which just includes eggs, cheese, pancetta (or bacon), lots of black pepper and pasta but it’s a mighty good one (recipe below).

I used some of the last of the season’s sugar snap peas, fava and garbanzo beans to make this impromptu three-bean/pea salad. I employed the fava bean cooking technique I’ve discussed here before and it was a winner. Since the peas were getting a little tough, sautéed them for a few minutes and then tossed them with the other beans, some crumbled feta, basil, lemon juice, s & p, and olive oil.

Fava bean, snap pea and chickpea salad with basil, feta, lemon, garlic and olive oil

My mother has one pie cherry tree and she brought enough cherries for a pie. There was an old copy of the Joy of Cooking at the house but oddly it didn’t have one, what I think of as straightforward pie dough recipe. They were either for flour paste pie dough or pie dough with oil or with baking powder. I know the ratio of my favorite pie dough in my head more or less and since we only had  very spotty internet connection I went with my spotty memory. It basically worked well, though I realized I used an extra 1/2 cup of flour so the dough was a little heavier than usual.

Cherry pie

Now life is settling back into routine at home. I’m weeding the garden, getting ready to teach a cooking class tomorrow, working on the fall schedule of classes (some of it already posted) and which will be complete soon. And I’m raiding my kind neighbors’ gardens too. You’ve heard about the enormous bay tree down the street and it got another good pruning from me this morning. Another neighbor’s summer squash is more prolific than mine so I benefitted there too and I’m always shy in the flower department, so thanks to yet another for these beautiful ones.

Neighborhood treasures

Happy summer and happy cooking!

Pasta Carbonara with Peas

Serves 6 as an entrée.

This is fast dinner to make and a very child-friendly to boot. This is a rich dish and needs nothing but a simple green salad on the side. The peas are an inauthentic addition but a very good one. If you want to make this vegetarian, omit the bacon (or pancetta) and add 4-5 cloves of finely grated or minced garlic to the egg/cheese mixture.

3 egg yolks and 1 egg (or 4 whole eggs but it’s richer with more yolks)

1 cup peas (or 1 pint snow or snap peas, trimmed and each pea cut into thirds)

1/3 – ½ cup grated parmesan (or other hard cheese like Asiago Stella)

3 tablespoons of cream (optional)

2 oz of pancetta or bacon, diced

salt/pepper (lots of pepper!)

1 lb spaghetti (or other shape of pasta)

You can cook the peas one of two ways. You can either toss them in with the bacon as it cooks or you can add them to the cooking pasta about 3 minutes before it’s done. Either way is delicious. Fry the bacon (and peas) in a skillet until the bacon has rendered its fat and the peas are just tender. I keep the bacon fat (makes it extra delicious) but you can pour it off or save it for something else if you’d like.

Beat the egg yolks and eggs in a bowl and add the grated cheese, cream, (if using), salt (remember that both the bacon and cheese are salty), and freshly ground black pepper. Boil pasta in generous amount of salted water. Scoop out and save ½-3/4 cup of cooking water and then drain when pasta is al dente. Return pasta to the pan, add peas and bacon, egg mixture and reserved cooking water and mix well. The heat of the pasta will cook the egg and create a lovely sauce. Serve hot with extra cheese if you’d like.  Carbonara is traditionally very peppery so don’t be shy with the black pepper.