Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Taters, Spike, & Baby Garlic Breath

I don't eat meat, so the standard meat & potatoes dinner isn't something I've ever gotten used to. When I was a kid, I remember having baked potatoes as our main course occasionally. As vegetarians we learned how to make a meal out of a single vegetable. We would slather them with butter, cottage cheese, and ridiculous amounts of brewers yeast. Actually, its brewers yeast that I credit for my low sodium intake. We would use Spike & brewers yeast to season just about everything, so it never really occurred to me to depend on salt for flavoring. In recent years I have learned how to use sea salt and kosher salt in order to extract more flavor from less sodium. When The Carnivore and I sit down to dinner, we almost always bring the pepper grinder to the table, but never the salt shaker (come to think of it, I'm not even sure we have one).

The past few days have been lousy for my culinary creativity. I've been reading my June issue of Cooking Light cover to cover, and Mom found another 10 or so new cookbooks for me at yard sales this past weekend. So while I have ample choices, I've been too busy to make a special trip to the grocery store and, alas, we are stuck with what is left from my Friday shopping trip, which was more or less overtaken by the appetizers I was planning to make on Saturday.

For Tuesday's dinner, I thawed out a broccoli & cauliflower casserole that I had baked & frozen about a month ago. I was planning on making some great dish to go with, but I ran out of time and ended up throwing together some pesto pasta made with whole-wheat fettucine, a jar of Bertolli pesto (which is quite good for something bought off the shelf), and grated parmesan.

Tonight we still had leftover casserole and I didn't plan ahead early enough to make a marinated bean salad (which is what I was craving), so I threw together a big pan of Garlic Roasted Potatoes. I'm not sure where I got the original recipe, but I've been making it for years now and its one of The Carnivore's favorite side dishes.

Garlic Roasted Potatoes
  • 4 red potatoes (about 2.5 pounds)
  • 12 cloves of garlic (cut in half)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • whole lot of freshly ground black pepper (grind should be as coarse as possible)
  • 3 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp sage
  • dash of white wine
  1. Throw everything into a roasting pan & cook, uncovered, at 425 degrees for 30-45 minutes.
  2. Stir once or twice while roasting

Fat Baby got the grabbies while I was cutting up the garlic, so I held out a piece for him to take a bite. He chomped down on a big mouthful and then kept coming back for more (I shouldn't have been surprised - he ate a handful of cilantro this weekend, and recently sucked all the juice & most of the pulp from half of a lime).

Monday, June 27, 2005

Poot Sauce & Mexican Parsley

When I'm clipping recipes, I always get excited over appetizers and dips and such. I'll lovingly cut out the recipe and put it in my folder of Things I Can't Wait To Make. Inevitably though, these recipes get pushed to the side in the rush to make nutritious dinners or to make sinful desserts. This weekend though, was my chance. We had a Family Thing that was a mid-afternoon potluck, so I picked out three recipes. One was a Cilantro Bread Dipping Sauce that I had made once before and that I knew would be easy enough. The others were for Hummus, which I have always wanted to try my hand at, and a Black Bean Dip that just plain sounded yummy.

I planned ahead, as I am known to do (obsessive-compulsiveness is a virtue in a foodie). A week ahead of time I announced my recipes. On Thursday I made my grocery list. On Friday morning, I woke Fat Baby up early so I could make sure that if my usual grocery store didn't have all the necessary ingredients, that I would have time to beat the streets and hit some of the specialty stores. I found everything except the sesame tahini, so I made plans to hit a more upscale grocery store after Fat Baby's nap. Thats when the plan started to unravel.

Big Momma said she was going to the fancy grocery store early Friday evening, so I delegated the sesame tahini to her. After countless cell phone calls it was determined that there was no sesame tahini to be had. The Carnivore promised he would get up early Saturday morning and go to another grocery store, one with a large health food section, which was SURE to have it.

Alas, the tahini was not to be had at this third store. Our last option (and I was completely unwilling at this point to change my plan on which dishes I would be making) was for The Carnivore to go to The Upscale Hippie Store. We generally try to avoid this, because The Upscale Hippie Store plays reggae music, something that curdles The Carnivore's blood. The last time we were there together The Carnivore stood really close behind me while I was picking out pastas. I told him he was invading my personal space and pushed him away just a little. He looked warily around him at People That Looked Like They Might Vote For Democrats and he sidled back up to me. I can only assume he was hoping to use me as a buffer.

Regardless, The Carnivore persevered, proved his love to me, and came home triumphant, bearing the ever-elusive can of sesame tahini. He went outside to painstakingly paint porch spindles, I tried, unsuccessfully for a while, to convince Fat Baby that he should take a nap, even when he knew doggone well that I was running the food processor, which meant Really Good Things Were About To Happen.

Finally, only a few hours before the potluck was to begin, I settled in to work. I decided to make the Black Bean Dip first, and I assembled my ingredients, only to discover that I was one sweet onion short of ready. Called mom, procured a Vidalia onion, and enlisted a runner to bring it to me. This particular recipe, which I pulled from a recent AJC Food Section, was fabulous. It had a very refreshing taste and was best served cold with sturdy tortilla chips (Mission chips held up much better than store brand).

Black Bean Dip
  • 2 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (I'm pretty sure I doubled this and used 6 cloves)
  • 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Put everything, except for the salt and pepper, into a blender or food processor and pulse until beans are coarsely mashed.
  2. Season with salt & pepper.

Next I tackled the hummus, which I wasn't all that pleased with. It was another AJC Food Section recipe, but the sesame tahini seemed too overpowering to me. One of my sisters, the one I consider a fellow foodie, said she likes the hummus recipe from The Grit Cookbook, a local offering from our regionally-known vegetarian restaurant here in Athens. I have that cookbook and I intend to try that recipe next. Interestingly though, I shared some of the hummus for a Sunday afternoon snack with The Carnivore and Fat Baby (it did taste better on the second day) and within a few hours the three of us had some Extremely Potent Poots. With nothing else to blame, I tend to think it was the sesame tahini and I have renamed the stuff Poot Sauce (note to self: buy some for mom).

Last, I reached in the fridge to make the Cilantro Bread Dipping Sauce, a recipe I clipped from a magazine a few months ago. I can't remember which magazine it was, so I have no idea what the original source was, which is a crying shame since its such a crowd-pleaser. I was doubling the recipe and was shocked and dismayed when I dug around in the produce bin and found I had bought eight friggin ounces of parsley (!!) instead of cilantro. Cursing a blue streak, I slunk outside and coerced The Carnivore into putting down his paintbrush and going to the store (5 and counting now) to get cilantro.

What kind of moron grabs two fistfuls of parsely instead of cilantro, especially when I grow parsley out in the front yard? Clearly, we will be eating Italian for the next week. Or so.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Eat Yer Veggies

Thursday was not a good day for leisurely cooking dinner. We still had enough leftover Rustic Spinach Tart from the night before (a fabulous blessing since I only had a few minutes to get dinner together). For our side dish, and because I had fresh green beans on hand, I used/altered a recipe for Italian Dijon Green Beans from the September 2004 issue of Vegetarian Times. I first cooked this dish only a few weeks ago and was distressed when, after steaming the beans, I realized I didn't have any Dijon mustard in the house. All I could find was nasty yellow mustard and an odd jar of Raspberry Wasabi Dipping Mustard. I'm not sure where the dipping mustard came from, and the jar had never been opened, but since The Carnivore and I both love wasabi, I figured it was worth a try (thank God I was right).

Italian Dijon Green Beans
  • 1 lb fresh green beans, washed and ends trimmed
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano or Italian spice blend
  • Salt (I used sea salt) and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbs sesame seeds (black or white, though the black ones add a nice visual touch)
  1. Steam the beans, covered, until bright green but still very crisp, for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the beans until crisp-tender, for about 2 minutes, tossing gently with tongs.
  3. Combine the mustard and oregano in the serving bowl. Add the beans, and toss them in the mixture, stirring until coated.
  4. Add the salt and pepper; sprinkle with sesame seeds.

This is such a yummy recipe, and beats the crap out of canned green beans. I like to make sure the beans stay as crisp as possible. Overcooked, limp beans just don't have the same allure. There is something really refreshing about fresh green beans. I haven't ever grown them myself, though I want to try, but I remember pinching the ends off of fresh grean beans on my grandmother's front porch when I was a kid. Every time I hold a handful of fresh green beans now, it throws me back to my childhood and makes me want to go play in the garden.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rustic Spinach Tart

I had fits on Wednesday evening trying to beat a work deadline, bathe Fat Baby and get him to bed, and still cook a good dinner. Luckily, I had everything on hand to make Rustic Spinach Tart, a recipe I cut out of an old issue of Real Simple magazine. This is the kind of thing I almost always keep ingredients on hand for, and it doesn’t take long to put together. I’ve only made this particular recipe two or three times, and its been a few months since we’ve had it for dinner.

Rustic Spinach Tart
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 5)
  • 1 10-oz box frozen chopped spinach – thawed, drained and squeezed of excess moisture
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper (I used freshly ground black pepper and I probably doubled what it asked for)
  • 2 ready-made piecrusts
  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese (the cottage cheese is a little overwhelming in this dish, and The Carnivore hates the stuff – I think next time I will use ricotta instead)
  • 10 to 12 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 12-oz jar roasted red peppers, drained & chopped (I keep forgetting to look for these and so have never used them in this recipe – this time I replaced them with a lot of sliced yellow onion)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  1. Warm the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat (I use a cast iron skillet over low heat on a gas stove).
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant
  3. Add the spinach and saute gently for 2 minutes
  4. Remove from heat and season with salt & pepper
  5. Spoon the spinach mixture evenly over one of the crusts.
  6. Layer the cottage cheese, mushrooms, and peppers (in my case, onions) over the spinach.
  7. Sprinkle with thyme and parmesan.
  8. Brush some of the egg around the border of the crust.
  9. Place the second crust on top (I find the second crust usually falls apart as I do this, so I layer it on top in sections until it looks like a top crust).
  10. Brush the entire top crust with the remaining egg (makes it shiny & crisp when it is done cooking).
  11. Cut slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape.
  12. Bake 35 minutes at 400 degrees, until golden.

Oddly, I have read that frozen spinach has a higher nutrient content than fresh spinach, so I tend to use frozen spinach when making dishes that will be cooked. Obviously, I use fresh spinach when making salads. From what I have read over and over now, in many corroborating articles, frozen vegetables tend to be processed so quickly that they don’t have the time raw vegetables spend in transit in which to lose nutrients. My mother and I both recently read Joan Dye Gussow’s book This Organic Life, which really hammered home the details about where supermarket vegetables come from these days. So many fruits and vegetables are trucked in from so far away (in some cases, from continents away) that it would be understandable how much of the nutritive value can be lost over the amount of time they spend in storage.

Next year, I plan to plant more vegetables (Fat Baby willing and the garden being ready, of course) so that I can ensure they are organic and so that I can eat them at the point of their highest nutritional content. Organic vegetables cost so much more at the supermarket that I often have to compromise my values in order to be able to afford to eat well.

Tangent aside, dinner came out nicely, and I served it with leftover Corn Four Ways from Tuesday night.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Food Which Scares Me

My cooking demons are breads and risotto, two items I just haven't been able to garner up the gumption to try. Any recipe that involves yeast just plain frightens me. Consequently, I have a recipe for whole wheat pizza crust (which would just be the icing on the cake for the pizzas I so enjoy making) that has languished as I warily read it every few weeks and then shudder when I get to the part about active yeast. Maybe someday...

Risotto is a dish I adore. The best I've tried so far was at a trendy cafe on Washington Avenue in South Beach (the place, not the diet. I've had it at a few other places, and have wanted to try my own hand at it, but I've heard it can be difficult to get the right consistency, and that stirring it can be a serious test of patience. I only recently found out that its made with chicken broth, a distressing revelation for a vegetarian to hear. I know I've had chicken broth countless times without being aware of it, and for that reason I feel strongly that its use as an ingredient should be listed on menus. After all, how is a vegetarian to know? Who would assume that a rice dish is made with invisible meat?

A few weeks ago I came across a recipe for risotto made in a microwave. It should be noted that, though I have had a microwave oven for 13 years (the same one, no less), I only use mine for making popcorn, and for the occasional reheating of leftovers for lunch. I can't come up with any other uses for it. I've heard of people who actually cook with theirs, but that just seems crazy.

I came across this recipe in a recent AJC Food Section for which the cover story was, of all things, Microwave Cooking. The risotto recipe was credited to Microwave Gourmet by Barbara Kafka. After all my fears of making risotto, this little snippet made me think it was worth a try: "Barbara Kafka said this risotto recipe is easier to make in the microwave than on the stovetop because there is much less stirring."

Basic Risotto
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter (I only had salted butter on hand and assumed it would be okay - I was wrong - the dish came out too salty)
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 cup arborio rice (it took me two stores before I found this)
  • 3 cups chicken broth (whatever - I used vegetable broth instead)
  • 2 tsps kosher salt (obviously, when using salted butter, do not also add this salt)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese
  1. Heat butter and oil in an uncovered glass casserole dish in the microwave for 2 minutes.
  2. Add onion; stir to coat. Cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Add rice; stir to coat. Cook another 4 minutes.
  4. Stir in broth. Cook for 9 minutes.
  5. Stir well and cook for 9 minutes more.
  6. Remove from oven. Let stand 5 minutes to let rice absorb remaining liquid, stirring several times.
  7. Stir in salt, pepper and cheese.

I tried this recipe today and loved it. It was too salty when cooked with salted butter, but if I had followed the directions to begin with, I might not have found myself in that predicament. It was wonderful to find out that risotto can be just as flavorful (if not more so) when cooked with vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Even The Carnivore agreed that it turned out great, other than the annoying over-saltiness. I now can't wait to try some more complicated risotto recipes.

I served the risotto with Corn Four Ways, a fun and spicy, if not slightly odd, recipe I pulled out of an old issue of Vegetarian Times.

Corn Four Ways

  • 2 tbs vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
  • 1 lb tube polenta
  • 1 can hominy, drained
  • 1 can corn kernels, drained
  • 1 can whole baby corn (love that stuff), drained
  • 1.5 tbs chili powder
  • 1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • Juice of 1 lime
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet (I prefer cast iron, of course) over medium heat (I have a gas stove and thus use low heat).
  2. Slice polenta into 8 circles, and when oil is hot, pan fry on each side for 3 to 4 minutes, or until browned. Remove from skillet and arrange circles side by side on individual plates.
  3. Add hominy, corn kernels and baby corn to skillet. Sprinkle with chili powder and cheese, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, or until heated through and cheese has melted.
  4. To serve, spoon equal amounts of corn mixture on plates over polenta circles. Sprinkle with lime juice.

The corn dish is pretty spicy, so the uninitiated (read: wimpy) might want to use a little less chili powder. This dish makes a beautiful presentation, mainly due to the chili powder though, so it would be a shame to sacrifice beauty for comfort here.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Father's Day (Recooked)

After all was said and done, I came out on the other side of the giftless Father's Day smelling like a Cream Cheese Brownie-scented rose. Fat Baby and I went out to Jackson County this afternoon and bought a 4-foot long concrete alligator for The Carnivore. He had been wanting one of these for a few years, so what better time than when I'm trying to get back in his good graces for failing to have a gift for him yesterday (on the most sacred of gift-giving days)?

For dinner, since we still had plenty of leftovers of Baked Ziti with Peppers, I focused on dessert (always a sure route back into The Carnivore's good side). I had planned to make a Peanut Butter Pie, but didn't realize until too late that The Carnivore had eaten all of the cookies that I needed to make the crust with. Alas. In lieu, though, I pulled out my recipe for Cream Cheese Brownies. I cut this recipe out of a Family Circle magazine a few months ago, though I'm not sure which issue it was. In my family we share magazine subscriptions and I sometimes find myself reading issues that are more than a year old by the time they make it to me and then languish in my reading pile before I get to them.

Interestingly, I had already started the recipe before I noticed I didn't have enough sugar. So I ended up substituting brown sugar for much of the recipe, and it came out terrifically. I would have thought the different consistencies of the sugars would have caused a problem, but it didn't seem to (at least in the cream cheese portion of the recipe, which is when I ran out of white sugar and used brown instead). Next time I plan to use brown sugar for the whole thing to see what happens.

Cream Cheese Brownies
  • 4 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened chocolate
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar (I used 1.75 cups granulated and 0.25 cups brown)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla (LOVE the way that stuff smells)
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar (I used all brown for this part)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs flour
  1. Microware chocolate & butter on high for 2 minutes
  2. Stir in sugar until well combined
  3. Add flour, eggs and vanilla and stir until combined
  4. Spread mixture into buttered 9x13 pan
  5. Using an electric mixer, whip the cream cheese until smooth
  6. Add sugar, egg and flour and mix until smooth
  7. Drop spoonfuls of cream cheese batter on top of chocolate and swirl into chocolate by running a knife back and forth across the pan
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes

YUMMY! These will cure anyone's misguided desire for those vapid brownies made from a box mix.

JOKE OF THE DAY (courtesy of Swapmeet Dave):

A woman explains to the doctor, "When I touch my arm, ouch, it hurts. When I touch my leg, ouch, it hurts. When I touch my head, ouch, it hurts. When I touch my chest, ouch, it hurts."
The doctor just shakes his head and asks, "You're a natural blonde, aren't you?"
The woman smiles and says, "Why, yes I am. How did you know?"
The doctor replies, "Because your finger is broken."

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Fathers Day Dinner

I completely screwed Father's Day up by thinking I could get away with not buying The Carnivore a gift, on the grounds that I was tired of our budget being shot from all these holidays. Apparently, though, I am alone in this thinking (at least in this household). To appease The Carnivore, who was not satisfied with greeting cards alone, I offered to cook him whatever he wanted for dinner and also promised to go get him a Father's Day present tomorrow. For dinner, he chose an easy dish for which we will have leftovers tomorrow, thus freeing up time to go shopping for late Father's Day gifts.

Baked Ziti with Peppers
  • 12 oz cooked ziti pasta
  • 3 cups sliced peppers (I used poblanos and green & red bell peppers)
  • 4 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, basil, and olive oil (pureed in a blender or food processor - this is one of the few recipes that allows me to pull out my handy mini food processor)
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano (liquid drained)
  • 1 tsp salt (I use kosher)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  1. In a 10x12 baking dish, combine the pasta, peppers, cheese, tomatoes, salt & pepper. Gently toss to combine.
  2. Pour in half-and-half or evaporated milk
  3. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes
  4. Uncover and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until crusty & bubbly.

I got this recipe from the AJC Food Section a few months (or so) ago, and altered it slightly to our tastes. I usually serve it with garlic toast and skip any side dishes since there are plenty of vegetables in the casserole already.

Any kind of diced tomatoes would work in this recipe, and I have found countless variations at the supermarket. And it isn't necessary to puree one of the cans of tomatoes unless you are like me and The Carnivore, and feel that the quantity of chunks of tomatoes should be limited. If you decide to use plain diced tomatoes, additional seasoning with herbs (a pre-mixed Italian spice blend would suffice) would be necessary so as to not bore the tastebuds.

JOKE OF THE DAY (courtesy of Basic Jokes):

Sid and Mondo were sitting in a Mexican restaurant. "Sid," asked Mundo, "Are there any Jews in Mexico?"
I don't know," Mondo replied. "Why don't we ask the waiter?"
When the waiter came by, Mondo asked him, "Are there any Mexican Jews?"
"I don't know sir, let me ask," the waiter replied, and he went into the kitchen. He returned in a few minutes and said, "No, sir. No Mexican Jews."
"Are you sure?" Mondo asked.
"I will check again, sir." the waiter replied and went back to the kitchen.
While he was still gone, Sid said, "I cannot believe there are no Jews in Mexico. Our people are scattered everywhere."
When the waiter returned he said, "Sir, no Mexican Jews."
"Are you really sure?" Mondo asked again. "I cannot believe there are no Mexican Jews."
"Sir, I ask everyone," the waiter replied exasperated. "We have orange Jews, prune Jews, tomato Jews, and grape Jews, but no one ever hear of Mexican Jews!"

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Acting Like a Real Chef

One of the reasons I so love the AJC Thursday Food Section is because of my favorite column, "From The Menu Of," in which the newspaper tracks down a restaurant recipe for a reader's favorite dish. I've pulled some of my most-used recipes from this column, including tonight's main dish: Fettucine Alfredo from Capo's in the Virginia-Highlands area of Atlanta. I haven't ever eaten at that restaurant (though I have heard wonderful things about it), but fettucine alfredo is one of my favorite dishes for eating out, mostly because I've always been so intimidated by cooking it.

We used to have a restaurant here in Athens called Provino's and I ate there from time to time as a child. I think that is where I first had fettucine alfredo. The only way I ever had it at home was from either a frozen entree (argh!) or the one time I tried making it out the alfredo sauce you can buy by the jar. 'Twas the nastiest crap I've tasted yet.

The carnivorous husband, back when he still cooked, tried making an alfredo sauce for me a few times, but was never able to get the sauce to stick to the noodles. It inevitably turned out too watery.

Capo's Fettucine Alfredo
  • 12 oz fettucine (I prefer whole-wheat)
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Prepare fettucine noodles to al dente
  2. In a large skillet (I prefer cast-iron; I'm positive non-stick Teflon skillets will give you cancer even though most people would laugh at me for it), melt butter.
  3. On low heat (extremely low!), add one egg, whisking constantly to blend. Add the remaining egg, continuing to whisk constantly.
  4. Gradually, add cream, stirring constantly.
  5. When well-blended and warm, gradually add parmesan.
  6. Turn heat up just a little and stir until well-blended.
  7. Add the fettucine a little at a time and toss until well-coated.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.

This dish doesn't take much time to cook, and it is very easy, as long as the LOWEST possible heat is used when adding the eggs. The first time I tried this, the heat was too high and the minute I put the eggs in, it started to look like egg-drop soup (yummy stuff, but not what I was going for). The dish still tasted great, but it wasn't all that pretty. It will taste fabulous AND look the same when eggs are added at the lowest possible temperature.

Tonight I served the fettucine with steamed broccoli & cauliflower (tossed with butter, parmesan, sea salt, and a lot of freshly ground black pepper ) and garlic toast (made with whole-wheat English muffins).

Above and beyond dinner though, the culinary highlight of today was that my superb mother got THREE cookbooks for me when she was at yard sales this morning: The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine, Italian Kitchen La Pastasciutta Pasta Dishes, and A Flavor of Tuscany. VERY excited to have new sources for recipes.

JOKE OF THE DAY (courtesy of Comedy Central):
Two blondes are on opposite sides of a lake. One blonde yells to the other, "How do you get to the other side?" "You are on the other side," the other blonde yells back.

Who Spiked the Brussels Sprouts?

For the third night in a row last night we had quiche. I will never, ever make two quiches at the same time again. I have said this before, but this time I mean it. To break up the monotony, I made Brussels Sprouts Cockaigne for our side dish. The carnivorous husband LOVES these, and asks for them often.

After reading about how nutritous Brussels sprouts are, I picked some up at the grocery store a while back, but then got home and just stared at them. I'd never cooked them before and didn't have a clue what to do with them. As I often do when that is the case, I pulled out my copy of The New Joy of Cooking, a cookbook that I paid only a couple of dollars for from one of my book clubs, years ago. As a matter of fact, that may have been my first cookbook.

In there, I found a couple of tidbits about Brussels Sprouts, and then saw this particular recipe, which included a snippet that said "Ethan Becker was always disappointed by Brussels sprouts - until he tried these." I didn't know who Ethan Becker was, but I tried it and found that he was right. It turns out, this guy is one of the authors, which I might have figured out earlier on if I had bothered to look.


Brussels Sprouts Cockaigne (adapted from The New Joy of Cooking)
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut in half
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, cut in half lengthwise
  • Kosher salt
  1. Warm the butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown.
  3. Remove the garlic from the skillet with a slotted spoon and discard.
  4. Place the sprouts cut side down in the garlic butter.
  5. Cover and cook over low heat until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Arrange on a warm platter and drizzle with any remaining butter.
  7. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
The only thing about this recipe that troubled me was the name. I had no idea how to pronounce the word Cockaigne, and had even less of an idea what it meant. Was it French? If I tried to brag about this recipe, it ended up sounding like "Brussels Sprouts Cocaine." How perfectly distressing. I certainly can't talk about my strung-out brussels sprouts at church, for instance.
I asked mom, but she was no help. So I did the obvious and Googled the word. Apparently, Cockaigne is a place. In the U.S., no less. Who knew? And, according to, it is pronounced 'kah-KAYN,' not 'ko-KAYN.'
What a relief.

Friday, June 17, 2005


I made too much quiche & couscous on Wednesday night (as always), so we had leftovers for dinner Thursday night. On the one hand, it meant I didn't HAVE to scramble to get dinner cooked. On the other hand, it meant I didn't GET to cook.

Thursdays tend to be my favorite day of the week anyhow, because thats the day the AJC Food Section comes out. I usually spend Thursday evenings devouring the section and clipping out recipes to try the following week. This week, though, the Food section was plopped into a stack of reading materials that I haven't gotten to yet (including the Cooking Light issue I was so happy about on Wednesday). So where I should have spent the evening clipping recipes and making the grocery list so that I could get the food shopping done early Friday morning, I instead spent the evening hyperlinking my mom's latest blog entry to within an inch of its life.

Now it is Friday morning, and me without my grocery list.

Since I didn't get to cook dinner last night, and since we ended up eating the same thing we had eaten the night before, the exciting food moment of the day turned out to be lunch. Mom brought me the other half of her deli veggie sub (beggars can't be choosers), and it thrilled me.

Tonight, sadly, we still have an ENTIRE quiche left to eat (I seriously need to think about cutting that recipe in half), so I only need to come up with a side dish to go with it. I'm thinking the side dish will have something to do with either brussels sprouts or green beans, but that all depends on how the day goes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Real Men Don't Eat Quiche

Tonight, I made quiche & couscous. Two of my tried-and-true favorite recipes. I have bastardized the original quiche recipe almost beyond recognition, but credit should still be given where credit is due. The original recipe was called Leek and Tomato Quiche and was taken from The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas. Samantha, a former coworker of mine brought some to work one night and I loved it (despite my usual squirmy distaste for sliced tomatoes). We worked at a copy shop at the time, and I ended up copying the entire cookbook although to this day, the only recipe I have tried from it is the quiche. If I remember correctly, that quiche was the first dinner I ever cooked for the man I was dating at the time. He later became my husband, so maybe that speaks well for the recipe. Over the years, though, I have altered the recipe so many times that it has now become this:

QUICHE (makes two):

  • 2 pie crusts
  • 4 cups fresh vegetables (I usually use whatever I have on hand - tonight I used scallions, red onions, green bell peppers, poblanos, and mushrooms)
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 lb swiss cheese
  • 1 oz romano
  • 1 tbs flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 and 3/4 cups half and half
  • hot sauce to taste
  1. Dice & slice the vegetables and saute them with the garlic in the butter & olive oil for a few minutes (vegetables should be just slightly tender, but still crisp). Season with salt & pepper.
  2. Grate the cheeses & toss them with the flour
  3. Beat together the eggs, cream, and a little salt.
  4. Divide the sauteed vegetables between the two crusts and spread along the bottom of the shells.
  5. Divide the cheese amongst the two pies and spread evenly over the vegetables.
  6. Divide the custard between the two pies and pour over the cheeses.
  7. I like to then crack more black pepper on top - because it looks pretty.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Then reduce to 325 degrees, and bake for another 30-45 minutes, until the top is just beginning to brown.

The couscous recipe is one I clipped from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution food section a few months ago. The recipe was attributed to The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer & Jeanette Williams, a cookbook I do not own, but hope to someday. I have altered this recipe to make it vegetarian and to make it a little spicier.


  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 14 oz can vegetable broth
  • 2 oz white wine
  • 1 box whole-wheat couscous
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, seeded & diced
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzos), drained & rinsed
  • 6 tsps hot sauce
  • 3 to 4 oz crumbled feta
  1. Spread almonds on a cookie sheet & toast until golden (takes about 10 min at 325 degrees).
  2. In a saucepan, bring the broth & wine to a boil, pour in the couscous, stir to moisten, turn off heat, and set aside for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Heat 2 tsps of olive oil and saute the pepper & garlic for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add red pepper & garlic, almonds, chickpeas and hot sauce to couscous and toss gently.
  5. Toss with extra virgin olive oil (1/4 cup or more - until the couscous is as moist as you like).
  6. Top with feta cheese.

These are both easy, yet tasty, recipes. I usually make the couscous while the quiches are in the oven. The carnivore husband tolerates the quiche, but loves the spicy couscous. The 16-month old baby devours all of it as if it will be his last meal.

On a final note, my first issue of Cooking Light came in today's mail, and I'm quivering with anticipation. I love reading about food, but this is my first food magazine subscription. All other reading materials are being shoved to the side for now, and I hope to not be interrupted this evening while I delve in for new recipes.

Baby Eggplants

Hmmm. Maybe I should have Googled baby eggplants before making last night's dinner. According to Food Reference :
"Deep purple, round or oval eggplants are often nicknamed Italian or baby eggplants. "

Instead, I used the elongated eggplant, which is, apparently, referred to as the Japanese or Oriental eggplant. I had no idea. More info (that I didn't know) about eggplants here.

The Food Section

Loving this right now: The Food Section. Just found it, so this should keep me busy for a while. I think my favorite part so far is this post: Politics: Is former president Bill Clinton going vegetarian? "The thought of Bill Clinton spurning meat is like the thought of him spurning blow jobs. Simply not possible."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I Need a Wok

Tonight I made Thai Spicy Eggplant for dinner. It was a recipe I had found in the June 2004 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine, adapted from Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Veggie Meals.

The recipe called for 3 baby eggplants, which was a problem. I do the vast majority of my grocery shopping at a discount superstore chain, and I could only find regularly-sized eggplant. Matter of fact, I've never even heard of baby eggplant. So I substituted 1 large eggplant. Moreover, I used fresh basil from my own garden (though I should have rinsed off the dirt first, alas). And since I didn't have any dark brown sugar, I used light brown (worked fine).

The meal came out very well, and even the meat-eating husband approved. The 16-month old baby LOVED it. Very spicy, yet simple. I don't have a wok, although I want one very badly, so I used a cast-iron skillet for the stir-frying. It worked fine, I suppose, but didn't seem quite authentic enough.

I haven't cooked eggplant before, and the texture (rubbery) seemed a bit odd to me, a little like steamed apples. Next time, I will use 1/2 the amount of eggplant, and substitute acorn squash for the other 1/2.