Category Archives: Veggies

It Was Time for Lunch.

I came home this afternoon from having spent most of the morning at banks, so I was already cranky and kind of depressed, on top of being ravenously hungry. It was time for lunch. It was time for comfort lunch. So I started prepping my favorite comfort ingredients – pasta, garlic, cheese, and pancetta. And then I looked in the fridge and found another zucchini and some more green beans, leftover from the CSA haul this week.

Liiiiight bulllllb.
(from “Despicable Me?” Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?)

Before I knew it, I not only felt a thousand times better about my day, but I also had a delicious, kinda-healthy lunch. I guess you could make it without the pancetta, but I don’t want to think about it. 😉

 

It was just perfect with the Italian lemonade, too. Magnifico!

I also just posted the recipe on the Recipes page. Enjoy these last few weeks of summer with some good food!

Advertisements

Dinner & A Movie

Of course I eat my green veggies …

photo 1 (12)…just cooked in pork fat …

photo 2 (14)…covered in cream sauce…

photo 3 (9)…and served over pasta.

(give me just a little credit … the reason it looks kinda thin is because I used skim milk. But then there was alllllll that cheese I dumped in there …)

 

Since it is finally streaming on Netflix now, I figured I’d take advantage of a night with no plans and cook a lovely pasta dish and watch my favorite Italian movie (and definitely one of my all-time favorites):

image

The pasta was really good, all joking aside. I started with a base (other than the pasta) that is one of my mother’s Thanksgiving go-to’s: green beans and onions sauteed in bacon. Only for mine, I used pancetta, green beans, and asparagus, then skipped the onions and went for loads of garlic instead. She also tosses hers in balsamic vinegar – I tossed mine in “light” cream sauce.

In the spirit of my most recent culinary adventure in homebrewing (we’re currently brewing our first batch – an IPA), I had a glass of Sam Adams Latitude 48 IPA with this little creamy pasta concoction. It cuts through the cream and cheese and pasta heaviness beautifully.

My main preoccupation lately has been getting ready to start the first batch of homebrewed beer with my friend Lisa, so that’s where most of the latest updates are. If any of you readers out there have any experience in homebrewing, I’d so appreciate your feedback! And for those of you who have no idea about homebrewing, you can read it and laugh at our mistakes while learning some new vocabulary. Fun for everyone!


Booze + Fried Things = Good Times

I went to my first wine festival this weekend. I had a great time, tried some great wines (and some not-so-great), and brought several of them home with me. But I think I’m just not a big enough fan of wine to think of it as super-exciting. This particular festival is great if you like to experiment though – lots of fruit, lots of varieties of sweet wines, which are just not my thing. Where’s a decent pinot grigio or cabernet when you need one? But most importantly, I had a great time on a gorgeous day with two fabulous friends (including the one and only Healthy Mika)!

DSCF0002DSCF0007DSCF0011DSCF0019

_____________________________________________________

I’m a good Southern girl, and that means I like vegetables fried (I also like my pulled pork with a tomato-based sauce, but that’s a whole other post). I took it one step further last night at our most recent cookout by frying up some asparagus and eggplant “fries” with seasoned flour and yellow-grits breading. They were both a success but the eggplant was my particular favorite. I also made this Old Bay aioli as a dipping sauce for them, and it was delicious. My friends and I agreed, though, that for some reason it tasted like solid butter. Delicious, but incredibly rich. Worked great with the crunchy texture of the grits-coated veggies.

Asparagus in the egg whites

Seasoned Breading with Yellow Corn Grits

Eggplant "Fries"

Fried Asparagus and Old Bay Aioli

Fried Asparagus with Grits

Eggplant "Fries" with Grits


Velocium quam asparagi coquantur

(or, a very nerdy post about asparagus)

 

Those great foodies, the ancient Romans, used this Latin expression to describe doing something quickly – meaning, “in the time it takes to cook asparagus.” And, like most good things in ancient Roman culture, asparagus was stolen from the Greeks. In the centuries since, asparagus has become an important vegetable to most European and several American cuisines, and in my tiny kitchen, it’s a staple.

You have to plan ahead with asparagus, especially during its very short season. Basically, if you’re able to buy absolutely fresh asparagus (grown no more than an hour or two away from where you plan to cook it), first of all, you should; and second, you should cook it as soon as possible. Of course this is true of pretty much all veggies but asparagus is particularly particular. Most folks recommend storing asparagus upright in a bowl or glass with a little water in the bottom. Turns out, not only should they be stored like flowers, they more or less are flowers, as part of the extended lily family. And, like flowers, you shouldn’t eat the dried-out or slimy ones. Er … hang on …

Of course, for most of us, decently good imported asparagus is almost always available. And – let’s be honest – most of us wouldn’t know the difference. Asparagus can grow pretty much anywhere there’s good, sandy soil, but it’s actually a perennial plant and has to occupy its space on the farm plot permanently, meaning it’s costing the farmer the space to grow it all the time and not just during its short season, on top of the price increase from having it shipped to your local supermarket. Most people who are determined enough to eat that many veggies in their diets are going to pay the out-of-season prices of asparagus to get it year-round – and why shouldn’t they?

Asparagus is good just about any old way – my personal favorite is to roast it, especially in a little olive oil and some bread crumbs (feeling indulgent? Throw some mozzarella on there, too). It’s also amazingly tender and perfectly salty when wrapped in prosciutto and gently roasted or grilled. This weekend I’m hoping to serve some just barely warmed, with some Old Bay aioli – ready and delicious, in the time it takes to cook the asparagus.

(photos by kpeeples/MPC 2011)

Sources
Asparagus. Retrieved 27 May, 2011 from http://cooksinfo.com/asparagus.

Asparagus. Retrieved 27 May, 2011 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/asparagus.

Herbst, S. & Herbst, R (2007). The New Food Lover’s Companion.


Good Food Trumps Healthy Food

I am a total sap for anything involving maple syrup.

I’ll give you a minute to stop giggling at my very clever pun.

Seriously. I love the stuff. Medium amber is my drug of choice. But only recently have I started experimenting with it and learning how to incorporate it into my cooking. Recently, I used it to make a sugary glaze for gingerbread cookies.

Gingerbread Cookies with Maple Icing

Tonight, I used it in a recipe for a mashed sweet potato dish. Simple as could be – I roasted the sweet potatoes, mashed ’em with butter, baked it, and then poured the maple syrup over them and put it under the (low) broiler for about 8 minutes. Easy peasy.

I also made oven-fried chicken, from that wonderful How To Cook Everything iPhone app by Mark Bittman. NOT a success. Yes, the chicken was cooked through, and yes, I followed all of the directions (this time). But it was terribly bland, and although crunchy, didn’t seem like the “right” crunch, since it was panko. I never did like panko very much, and I definitely don’t like it much after tonight, although my dog didn’t seem to mind it on that chicken.

I might attempt the recipe again but would probably have to include a lot less-healthy components. Like oil. Lots and lots of oil.

Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes (yes!) and Oven-Fried Chicken (meh)

Don’t get me wrong. I think there’s a lot to be said for de-fatting and healthy-fying (yep, those are my words and I’m stickin’ to it) traditional comfort foods – like fried chicken – so that you can enjoy them more often. I have had excellent oven-fried chicken before. And I’ll admit that this was my first attempt at it. But I have to imagine there’s a better, more flavorful way that tastes less like dry breakfast cereal.

And now, I’ll finish watching the Golden Globes and top off a healthy dinner with some Ben & Jerry’s.


I Want My Food TV

I am a bit of a food-show junkie. I can’t help it. I wish I could stop. I’ll happily tell you how much I can’t stand most of the “personalities” on most cooking shows, but while I do, I’m probably cooking you something I saw them make. Sick, I know, but for the past two straight days, I’ve been able to sleep in, thanks to school being closed for snow. By the time I get up the only things on TV that either don’t involve either Kathie Lee Gifford or sports I don’t care about are the cooking shows.

This morning in particular, I was watching one hosted by a chef I particularly don’t like (he reminds me of some of the preppy jock assholes I went to high school with), but whose recipes I am notorious for cooking anyway. And of course, it’s a “holiday special,” and I’m hooked.

A few hours later, I left the supermarket with: fingerling potatoes, carrots, cippolini onions, portobello and cremini mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, some pancetta, and a hankering for some good ol’ fashioned roasted veg – much like the ones I’d seen on the cooking show this morning.

I only cooked a handful of the veggies, since the roasting technique I copied was new to me. But it worked beautifully: crank the oven to 500, with a baking dish or roasting pan in, then pour veggies (coated in olive oil and with a sprig or two of rosemary) onto hot pan. Reduce heat to 425 and roast for about 20 minutes, shaking/stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, I fried up some polenta and started on a Dortmunder Gold from Great Lakes Brewery (Cleveland Rocks!).

The rest of the veggies will be finding their way to the roasting pan sometime this weekend. I’m keeping a simple menu this week, as I’m going to be quite busy baking holiday cookies and things – can’t wait to make (and eat) my annual Christmas gingerbread!

*          *          *          *          *

As a wannabe food writer, I find myself immersed in “real” food writing much of the time (see previous post about reading Elizabeth David), most of it offline. I must’ve looked like a crazy person in Barnes & Noble today, strolling up and down the cookbook aisle. I picked out a Christmas gift there for a dear friend, and also got myself a gift – Food Matters, by Mark Bittman. I’ve been a fan of “The Minimalist” forever, and I couldn’t do much of the cooking I do without Bittman’s cookbooks. In fact, I got the inspiration for the title of my blog from a Bittman article from a couple of years ago. So, not wanting to waste a perfect opportunity to start reading, I took the book with me into the gym on my way home and started reading it on the stationary bike. Twenty-five minutes later I realized I should stop and go use a different machine, but found myself supremely disappointed that it would be impossible to read and use the strength training machines simultaneously. All of which amounts, in a far too roundabout way, to my very strong recommendation for the book. If you care at all about what you, your family, or your friends eat, buy yourself a copy (and one for them as well).


A Brief Intermission

Wow. I really need to get some balance back into my life! I’ve been managing to juggle everything really well (and still cook dinner most nights, of course), but for the sake of my health and sanity I’ve been trying to get more sleep by going to bed earlier, which usually means no blogging after dinner. 🙂

I’ve made a lot of dinners since I last posted, plus yesterday was my birthday (lots of food-related fun), and of course there’s Thanksgiving coming up. I’ve got plenty to post about all of it, but for right now, here’s a look at what I’ve been up to in mon petite cuisine lately.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.