Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Holiday Cookiepalooza continues

Mexican Wedding Cakes, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
My Mexican Wedding Cake/Sugar Bombs got a little make-over this year with a little help from smitten kitchen. Butter, sugar, vanilla, flour. All on hand, sitting on my kitchen table, ready to go. As is my usual start of the day off, I'm down at my local java joint, noodling away on the internet when up pops this gorgeous recipe: Cashew Butter Balls. I like to think that great minds think alike...but the reality is, everyone who has ever baked a cookie, makes some version of this because they are easy and delicious...even when they're over baked. The timing on this one was freakin' freaky though, as I was only moments away from churning out my old version (I ended up following Deb's recipe using almonds since I already had so many on hand).
This excited me on two fronts: Cashews (lovelovelove 'em) and an all food processor prep. The recipe I'd been using for years (from a 10 year old Good Housekeeping Holiday edition) was the beat-with-a-wooden-spoon method and oddly enough, instructed to add the vanilla to the dry mixture?!? I never thought to question this before. I wondered what those darkish, little, crunchy clumps were in a recipe sans nuts.
Now I know better.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Crusty Macaroni and Cheese

Crusty Mac 'n Cheese, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I'm always on the look-out for The Best Mac 'n Cheese recipe, even when I'm not. Those two words, macaroni and cheese, seem to be on my radar whether I like it or not. Every trip to a grocery store will generally include one bag of dried pasta. I have a pantry box full of pastas...most of which is elbow macaroni.
A few years ago, it was a very focused search for a mac 'n cheese recipe that sparked my cooking OCD adventure and ultimately birthed this blog .  I discovered  my two greatest sources of little kitchen inspiration: Smitten Kitchen and America's Test Kitchen. Only just now, when I went back to link that Smitten Kitchen mac 'cheese recipe and re-read that post -that- started- it -all, did I notice that smitten was bitten by the same mac 'n cheese bug I just was.
I did not have mac 'n cheese on the agenda when I started my pot of water to boil (I do this frequently) the other night.   Whilst the water was heating, only then did I take notice of  an uncharacteristic accumulation of cheeses in the fridge (cheeses rarely get the chance to accumulate). Suddenly the stars begin to align and I spy CookFight, sitting right there on my kitchen table and waaaaiiit-a-minute...wasn't there a recipe hour later Julia Moskin's Crusty Macaroni and Cheese was all mine. As it turns out, Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Easiest Baked Macaroni and Cheese was all about the companion mac 'n cheese recipe to this verysame Julia Moskin recipe.
The recipe originally appeared in the New York Times in January 2006 with this article and went on to become one of the the NYT most emailed and forwarded articles. It stirred up a Mac 'n Cheese contraversy as one editor called it "Julia Moskin's Discusting Macaroni and Cheese" because of the "obscene"(as if there is such a thing) amount of cheese the recipe requires (24 ounces). The cheese pretty much stands alone here. A mere 2/3 cup of milk is sprinkled over the top before it goes into the oven.
The recipe simply calls for american and cheddar cheese. The dryness of a sharp cheddar needed for flavor is balanced by a softer, moister, gooier, melty cheese. I didn't have any american cheese. I pulled out my kitchen scale and commenced to shredding my refrigerator rescue cheese assortment ( sharp cheddar, mozzarella, gruyere, parmesan and blue cheese) until the scale hit 24.
When all was said and done, the results were amazing and the next time I'll actually plan this with the two simple cheeses.
I love how the universe works.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Cookiepalooza

Christmas Cookiepalooza, originally uploaded by riptideredsf
Two years ago, whilst noodling around in cyberspace, I came across this post over at The Amateur Gourmet that transformed a lifetime of Christmas cookie baking. I, like pretty much everybody who has their go-to Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, figured my recipe (well, Good Housekeeping's actually) was The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I baked that recipe, which included peanut butter, oatmeal and Rice Krispies, every Christmas for 10 years as part of my Menage et Trois. Three go-to recipes that became legendary and much anticipated amongst family, friends and co-workers. I'd spend the week before Christmas up to my ears in baking every night after work so as to deliver the freshest cookie trays and gift bags as close to Christmas as possible. It wore me out.
When I came across Adam's post, a Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from Top Chef Just Desserts contestant Eric Wolitzky, I was intrigued by the same things he was: melted butter and measurement by weight...but the game changer was the note about freezing the cookie dough. How did I not know this!?! Only then did it occur to me that was how my mom was able to produce the insane assortment of cookies we'd bake every year. I'd been torturing myself needlessly.
Form and freeze the unbaked cookies on the baking sheet until solid, then transfer them to a freezer bag. I lay the bag flat on the table to distribute the frozen cookies into an even layer then I suck all the air out of the bag, to make all subsequent bags stackable.
This is the recipe that propelled me into buying a kitchen scale. The ingredients are simple so the dough comes together quickly. I've made a few tweaks to this since last year. I use a combination of chocolate. Bitter and semi-sweet chips as well as a dark chocolate bar that I chop up. I read the tip about using different chocolate from Alton Brown who recommends including milk chocolate as well, but I just don't like milk chocolate. The combination of flavors and textures makes every bite different.
I loved, loved, loved the idea of melting the butter because then I could take it a step further and brown it! I make these cookies all the time now.
The other cookies in this trio are Kim Severson's Bacon Fat Gingersnaps from CookFight and Dorie Greenspan's Beurre & Sel Jammers.
I can't tell you how thrilled and delighted I was when I found Dorie's recipe in this month's Bon Appetit. I started making her recipe for Sables about a year ago when I discovered her recipe for World Peace Cookies (which I currently have in my freezer). She creates Jammers, baked in custom designed cookie rings, for her new cookie store, Beurre & Sel in Manhattan. The uniform shape is recreated in the home kitchen using muffin tins! They're a bit labor intensive, but worth it.
The gingersnaps were the not-all-that bookend,  of an otherwise deliciously prepared meal,  at the book event dinner for CookFight. The cookie I ate that night, though tasty, had been over-baked (like the Gougeres). So, of course, since I vindicated Julia's Gougeres I had to do the same with the Gingersnaps, seeing as I just happened to have a jar of bacon fat just waiting for  my next attempt at skillet cornbread. The bacon fat replaces butter...brilliant! Moisture achieved and Kim's recipe is deemed a keeper!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

white bean soup with chive oil

I can already tell that this is going to be a  favorite and much repeated  recipe in the little kitchen. It's Kim Severson's recipe from CookFight, the Kid's Party Challenge. In spite of some questionably old white beans, the soup would have been remarkable just on it's own with all of it's flavorful components,

but the real souper-star is the brilliant bonus of the Chive Oil. Not only because it turned my bowl of soup into a work of art and tastes wonderful, it's a great refrigerator rescue solution to any herb teetering on the brink of the trash can. I shall never ever ever again throw away dead chives! I can't recall a single time I ever managed to use an entire bunch of chives.
You just blanche a bunch of chives (30 seconds in the boiling water-then plunge into the ice bath), pat dry, throw them in the blender with some olive oil, strain the oil through a mesh strainer, pour into your squeeze bottle and drizzle away!
Here's a great interview that came up the other day on the Amateur Gourmet which might give you an idea of  the experience of being in the presence of these two ladies.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cheddar Gougere Smackdown

Cheddar Gougere Smackdown, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
The next big thing to happen to the little kitchen recently was a lovely surprise from my fellow foodie, friend and neighbor Sheena.
The Thursday after Thanksgiving, she picked me up after work to take me to a surprise event she'd been cooking up for several weeks. All I knew was that we were headed across the Golden Gate Bridge to a pre-paid, non-refundable event that started at 6:30 and that it involved food.
As we approached the private dining room at the Left Bank Brasserie in Larkspur that dark and stormy night, and I realized what was in store for us, I was blown away by crazy coincidence. Let me back track a moment.
A few years ago I came across two books that would unexpectedly, collide with a third on this evening, propelling my little kitchen OCD to a whole new level.
It started with Dorie Greenspan's gorgeous book Around my French Table. The most repeated recipe is her Cheddar Gougeres- light, airy, cheesy puff pastries that are super simple to make and pair perfectly with soup or just a  glass of wine.
The other book, The Best Food Writing of 2009 was picked up at Community Thrift around the same time, perfect for bedtime and bus reading. The most re-read story has been Kitchen Smackdown, an entertaining and engaging trio of articles by Kim Severson, Julia Moskin and Frank Bruni, New York Times food writers, friends and co-workers. The articles recount the challenge Mr. Bruni set upon the two friends and collegues to prepare a dinner for six for $50.  He would attend both dinners and judge a winner. 
I hadn't picked up the book in ages, but an impromptu bus ride had me scrambling for some reading as I rushed out the door on Wednesday morning.  Kim and Julia's story was re-visited.
Thursday evening, I was dining with Kim Severson and Julia Moskin.
I didn't know this as we were led through the restaurant, back toward a private dining room. There were about 5 people sitting at a large, lovely table set for 14. A woman standing at a small round table at the entrance checked Sheena and Guest off her list and  handed us each a book, informing us that the authors hadn't yet arrived due to the dark & stormy. I peruse the cover:
CookFight!  I was utterly gobsmacked. I've been OCD/ADD-ing in other places, completely unaware of this books existence (much less this event), the culmination of 11 subsequent kitchen smackdowns between Kim and Julia since that first (and the only one on my radar) in 2009. What a weird, wild and amazing coincidence. Sheena and I had never discussed their names and she had no idea what to expect herself when she set forth planning this.
What an amazing surprise!
I mentioned this to the authors as we had our books signed. Kim wrote:
"To Michele, I love how the universe works!" I'm still floored by it.
The menu that evening consisted of recipes from the book, prepared by the Left Bank chef. It was a series of courses, each consisting of two dishes from the book, from each of the authors.
There were some interesting stand-outs, but maybe not for the reasons one might expect.
Julia's Cheddar Gougeres was one of the starters. I was intrigued because I love Dorie Greenspan's gougeres so much. The ones that I ate that night? not so impressed. They were dry, pale and barely hinted of cheese. How could this be? Was it the recipe or the cook?
There was actually an interesting discussion at one point during the evening when the bookseller commented on chef/authors who insisted on bringing in their own team to cook the event meal. I guess this was case in point. The meal was bookended with a similar kitchen faux-pas in the dessert course,  over-baked Bacon Fat Gingersnaps. Everything else was wonderful. Baking must not be a strong suit at Left Bank.
I couldn't get  those gougeres out of my head. Julia had even commented on their dryness.
Thusly, the little kitchen created The Gougere Smackdown the very next morning. Dorie's recipe came first and resulted in their usual, lightly puffed, cheezy, can't -stop- shoving -these- in- my -mouth, delicateness.
 In the afternoon, I made Julia's, which turned out nothing like the dry biscuits we had the night before. The two variations I'd just prepared  were identical in appearance and consistency and the recipes were slightly different. An additional egg and milk in Dorie's recipe had me thinking they would be the moistest of the two, where Julia's had the additional zing of mustard powder and cayenne. I was using inexpensive, supermarket, extra sharp block cheddar as opposed to some kind of fancy white cheddar that was most likely behind the version I had a the restaurant.
I took them both to Sheena's and had her choose the favorite:
Julia's Gougeres are vindicated and triumph!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cheddar Swirl Breakfast Buns

Cheddar Swirl Breakfast Buns, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
There's been a whirlwind of kitchen activity since about a week before Thanksgiving and, if all goes according to plan, shall continue through Christmas. Here's what's been going on:
Thanksgiving was all about The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
These Cheddar Swirl Buns never made it to Thanksgiving brunch. I auditioned them the week before and they were declared a winner by my friend and neighbor, Sheena and her family...then I went totally ADD as Tday approached.
The family went non-traditional this year. Instead of heading out of town to the little sister kitchen, which moved even further out of town than last year, we convened locally and dined at the Tonga Room, a historic Polynesian restaurant and famed tiki bar. Not a turkey or cranberry in sight.
Dinner reservations weren't until 8:45 so I hosted a very casual lunch for 4 that became 3, featuring a cluster of Smitten Kitchen salads I'd bookmarked but couldn't decide on, so I made them all. I also made what's become pretty standard fare around the little kitchen, smitten's Shaved Asparagus Pizza, which I've prepared and written about on numerous occasions and a pizza of my own convoluted brain, the Chicken Fajita Pizza, inspired by Jamie Oliver's recipe for Chicken Fajitas.
The three Smitten Kitchen salads were all wonderful. things were so fast and furious that morning that I never had a chance to take a pic. First up:
Vinegar Slaw- a no brainer because all I needed was a standard head of cabbage and an english cucumber. Super simple and a great reminder of what I love about slaws. They're even better the next day.
Next up was what turned out to be my favorite for a couple of reasons:
the Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Miso Dressing intrigued me from the gorgeous picture and then, it's list of unfamiliar ingredients, starting with the miso. I was so intrigued that I didn't let the fact that I couldn't find sugar snap peas and napa cabbage at my local produce market at 7pm on Tday Eve stop me. I substituted french cut green beans and used the green cabbage I already had for the Vinegar Slaw. The salad was a hit and the left-overs ended up in my egg salad toasts every morning for a week.
Finally, there was the Zucchini Ribbon and Almond Pesto Salad-a dish so simple and special it got me thinking I needed to add yet another vegetable peeler to whats become the vegetable peeler drawer, a Y-model a tad wider and a little more upscale than the one I purchased months ago from the Dollar Store. There's got to be something out there that doesn't leave you with a final fat length of vegetable because the blade is set too far down the Y. My solution to this is to turn my wooden cutting board on it's edge and lay asparagus, for example, along it and shave it down to nothing, I just have to pick out the wood slivers.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Big Breakfast Latkes

Big Breakfast Latkes, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Within two hours of my finally getting my mitts on the smitten kitchen cookbook, exactly one week ago, I had bookmarked well over half of if its recipes. We've been attached at the hip since. Literally. It's always in my bag. I show it off to my co-workers. I read it on the bus. It sits atop my table at my local cafe provoking comments from hovering patrons whilst standing in line. I take it to bed with a cup of tea, flipping it open to a random page to read or re-read the recipe introductions, re-arranging the color coded neon post-its in an attempt to figure out what to make next. 
I can't believe it's taken me a week to make something from it, but I've finally gotten around to picking number one. This jumped the line-up for several reasons:
~I love potatoes!
~All of the ingredients were on hand.
~I'm always on the lookout for time efficient meal ideas (I can get my butt out of bed a lot quicker for this than for toast-'cuz, you know, I love potatoes) 
~The do ahead note promises the cooked latkes keep well in the fridge and freezer, so the other night I made a double batch 'cuz I knew they'd be gobbled up just as easily for breakfast and dinner.
~I had made my first  Rosti (from Jamie Oliver) a few weeks ago, so Smitten pushed my OCD button and got me thinking about all of the differences and possibilities amongst rosti's, latke's, potato cakes and hash browns.
I've christened my new gem with it's first stain...bacon fat!
Hmnnn...can this still be called a latke if I cooked it in bacon fat? Have I just created a culinary faux-pas?

Big Breakfast Latkes
from the smitten kitchen cookbook

1 large baking potato (1 pound or 455 grams) peeled
1 small onion (1/4 pound or 115 grams) peeled
1/4 cup (30 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable or olive oil, for frying (I used bacon fat-Is that bad?)
fried or poached eggs, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, and keep it in the oven until needed.
In a food processor or on a large box grater, coarsely grate the potato and onion. Line a colander with a lint free towel, dump the shredded mixture into the towel-lined colander, gather the ends and wring out as much water as possible. Let it stand for 2 minutes, then squeeze it out again.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt, pepper, and egg together. Stir in the potato-onion mixture until all the pieces are evenly coated.
In a small, heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmery or melt some bacon grease.  Divide the mixture into 4 portions and spoon the first one into the skillet and flatten with a spatula into a 5-inch round. Cook the latke over moderate heat until the edges are golden, about 4 to 5 minutes; flip, and cook until golden on the bottom, about 3 to 4 minutes more.
Transfer the latke either to a warmed baking sheet in the oven, or onto a sheet to cool if your planning to keep them around. Repeat process with remaining latke batter in three batches, creating a total of four large latkes
You can either serve the latke whole with a fried egg on top or cut it into 4 wedges, stacked  with a poached egg on top, taking a moment to delight in the yolk running down the slices.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Potato Fennel Gratin

Potato Fennel Gratin, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
This dish of dreamy, creamy, cheese slathered potatoes is as off-the-hook good as this picture is bad. This is the fate of night-time cookery in the little kitchen. The first bite is taken, then another and before I know it, the chances of anything sticking around until the next morning for the optimal photo-op is veryveryvery slim. I've found this to be a very good thing.
The Barefoot Contessa gets the credit for this little kitchen keeper.
<insert rant> I don't have much to do with her because more often than not, I'm put off by some elusive ingredient. She makes my pantry seem inadequate. She's a big tease, luring me in with a Simple Tomato Soup  only to be turned away by my lack of saffron threads. Don't get me started on that truffle butter. I love/hate The Barefoot Contessa. A while back I went all ADD in the cookbook aisle at the library and came home with a big stack including Back to Basics. I flipped through the book and found myself, as expected, going all bi-polar, engaged then enraged (too strong of a word but it sounds good).  That ginormous showcase barn kitchen? Jeez...I shudder to think of the damage I could do to that, unless I had a team of assistants cleaning up after me. Shoot, I don't even have a Kitchen Aid, much less a dishwasher. There's that gorgeous patio where she (some hidden catering staff) serves her fabulous friends at a table that's bigger than my kitchen?  There she is trotting around those charming little shops in East Hampton arms loaded with tulips, vanilla beans and truffle oil...yes I'm green with envy<end rant>
But every now and again I stumble across one of her recipes that gets me all churned me up and I can think of doing nothing else.
This wasn't one of those times.
I found myself with a couple of sprouting potatoes and a sadly drying fennel bulb, crying out to become something wonderful STAT! I plugged "fennel" into my Google search and ultimately landed on this: Potato Fennel Gratin. It's from my other guilty pleasure, The Food Network.
But back to Back to Basics: It inspires. I easily and immediately bookmarked more than 10 recipes (that's my cookbook quota) that might actually have a place in my un-Hampton-y, tulip-less world. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

sweet and sour pork

sweet and sour pork, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Yesterday was a great day in the little kitchen. It started with the revelation that sweet and sour pork can be really good, thanks to Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. I've had this recipe bookmarked for months now, when a certain test kitchen dummy casually asked if I had a good recipe for sweet and sour pork. No, because I don't particulary like it. Hmmnnn all the more reason to give it a go. 24 hours, a Google-thon and a trip to the library later...I found the recipe. forward to yesterday. I now have my very own copy of Food Revolution and I finally made the sweet and sour pork. It was super good and ridiculously easy. I have only ever eaten take-out sweet and sour pork. It has to be practically force fed to me when whoever I'm with insists on sharing.  I don't hate it. I just don't like it enough to order it myself. I've always found it way too sweet for my liking. So, I wasn't all that inspired to attempt it until I came across Jamie's version, which is not overwhelmed by syrupy sweetness.  The chinese five-spice blend is a new and much welcomed addition to the little kitchen pantry. The discovery of  keeper recipes always makes me happy so the day had already felt complete, purposeful and productive.
I had no sooner snapped the picture above when I got a phone call from my friend and neighbor Sheena, informing me that our Smitten Kitchen Cookbooks had arrived and she was coming right over with it. Wheeee!!!

This has not left my hands since Sheena handed if off to me. I carried it to the library where I finally paid off my record high overdue fines, relieved and free to check out dvds again.  Nothing left to do but spend  the remainder of the day, and well into this morning, pouring over my much anticipated new kitchen companion from cover to cover, bookmarking away and planning shopping lists that will keep me occupied through the new year. Jamie who?

Friday, November 9, 2012

apple mosaic tart and one sunny afternoon in the city..

apple mosaic tart, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
The morning I woke up to this on my Smitten Kitchen news feed, I knew this was the next thing the little kitchen would attempt to re-produce. I finally got around to this last week and it was perfectly lovely in spite of my gross mismanagement of the puff pastry. Normally, I don't have much to do with puff pastry as I've always related it to precious hors d'oeuvres or elegant desserts, neither of which have much of a place in my life. But when a certain test kitchen dummy blindsided me with a lobster pot pie challenge, somehow it seemed that pedaling up to the market for puff pastry was on the top of my to-do list. The produce market was ripe with apples and I was ripe to make this pretty tart. I got de-railed by something or other and had to re-freeze the puff pastry. Well, the pastry was in and out of the freezer 3 times before it made it's way into the tart.
Once baked though it was nice and puffy on the sides, the bottom was a little flimsy but brilliant, fresh from the oven. It was also great the next day for breakfast and then crumbled up with ice-cream and chocolate sauce for dessert the next two nights. I managed to consume it all by myself.
That was not the plan.
I was going to share it with my co-workers the next day...but somehow it never made it to the office. I had another idea. I'd bring it with me to the Smitten Kitchen book signing at Omnivore to share it with my friend while waiting in line. I wanted to tell Deb, whilst she was signing my cookbook, all about it. None of those things happened.
A little over a week ago The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook came out and last Sunday, Smitten Kitchen came to town. I'd been anticipating this event since I first read that Omnivore Books was an early stop on the book tour. I even refrained from pre-purchasing the book from Amazon, happy to pay full retail (something I NEVER do) in support of my local independent bookseller and of Deb Perelman, cookbook author and the genius behind Smitten Kitchen. I wanted an autographed copy.
So did everyone else, as it turns out.
On a gorgeously sunny Sunday afternoon in San Francisco, my friend and neighbor Sheena and I showed up around 1:30 for the 2:00 event and the line was already around the block. No surprise. I knew this was gonna be huge. Sheena dropped me off so she could park the car and by the time she met me in line, the line had grown another 1/2 block.
A few minutes later, a gobsmacked bookseller came out to inform the huge line that the 150 copies had already sold out. I had to chuckle, 150 books? There were at least 300 people there and probably even more who showed up and were deterred by the overwhelming crowd. A few minutes later Deb Perelman, with her equally gobsmacked husband Alex, came out to greet the crowd and say hello. She was so sweet and  so humbly overwhelmed at the turnout.
No one seemed deterred by the shortage of books. I saw no exasperation or impatience. I seemed that people were just happy to hang out with others of their ilk.
We were welcome to wait in line to purchase a book that would be mailed to us later. And guess what? we gladly did!

Friday, November 2, 2012

back to some basics

Jamie Oliver...How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

I love this book-I really want to make everything!
you are super cute
love the crazy-hair
love the British accent and the lisp
love the ninja-like kitchen lingo: bash, whiz, whack & bosh
love "Oliver's Twist"-my favorite episode is cooking for Elvis
love the simplicity and un-preciousness of the recipes
love the pretty pictures
love the philanthopy
love the passion
love the energy

Just when I thought I couldn't obsess over this guy more, I found this:

Yes, it's just rice. But finally I found the best way to cook it.
It started a few weeks back when I read this post from Smitten Kitchen. I first realized that I didn't really know how to cook rice properly. I felt oddly comforted that I was not alone in that rice was mostly a crap shoot for me. I was making due with sub-standard rice, following package directions that mostly produced under-cooked or over-cooked  gummy, rice. I don't own a rice cooker because I can't justify the counter space to uni-purpose appliance. I first went back to my Big Book of Cooks Illustrated and that attempt left me with way undercooked rice. WTH?!?

Then I saw this...waaaay outside the box approach to simple white rice. Thanks Jamie!

Get a large pot of salted water boiling.
Add 1 1/2 cups of well-rinsed rice (in a mesh strainer-run it under cold water for about a minute-until the water runs clear)_
when the rice starts dancing around, boil for 5 minutes from that point on.
Strain the rice in a colander and cover with aluminun foil, pressing it down onto the surface of the rice. Add an inch of water back into your original pot and bring that back to a boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and place your colander of foil-covered rice back into the pot and place the pot cover back on as well.
Let it simmer and steam for 10 minutes.
Fluff with a fork and you've got perfectly cooked rice! Yay!

Lobster Pot Pie and Lessons Learned

Last week my friend, aka the test kitchen dummy, presented me with the task of making lobster pot pie. There were problems. So many problems I don't even know where to begin.
Seafood is the one chapter of cookery (and eatery) that challenges me the most. I've never liked fish. I'm slowly dipping my toe into these somewhat uncharted waters.  I figured if I could make gumbo and devein and prepare 2 pounds of shrimp, I felt up to the task of lobster. The strategy was that after googling lobster preparation and recipes, it seemed prudent to find a source for frozen lobster meat as I was not up to the task and timing of using fresh/live lobster, especially if it was to end up in a pot pie.
Lessons learned:

1) Fish makes shitty leftovers.
2) Only agree to make tkd requests when Safeway ingredients will suffice
3) Know when to channel my inner Iron Chef from the get-go and prepare to make do with what I get or be super* explicit when issuing a shopping list. 
4) Always go to trusted sources** when attempting a new recipe
5) Be thankful for foodie neighbors***

 *1 lb of frozen lobster meat ("don't get whole lobster!") apparently was translated as one 2 pound frozen whole lobster

"This was all they had, I figured you'd figure something out" ...after scraping about 3 ounces of meat out of that lobster...
***Sheena saves the day with a can of frozen lobster meat imported from her last trip to New Brunswick

A funky recipe (given to him by the co-worker who inspired the request) elicited my next problem : **I was left standing with a cup of cream (no mention anywhere as to when to add it) over a pot that was already a watery mess... no way I could add another cup of liquid. I put the cream back into the carton and made a roux. The filling was really tasty and that canned lobster meat was brilliant, but
by the time, sometime that evening, I got the pies baked up with puff pastry, I was pretty much over the whole thing.
One of the three  pies came our really puffy and pretty, the other two, the pastry had sunk in the corner and was not so pretty. It was too dark, I was too tired and too frustrated to even attempt a picture at that point.
My apartment smelled fishy for days and I was not happy about that. I sent the pies off the next day with tkd and have yet to hear how he liked them. I can't imagine him, evenwith his cast iron stomach and indiscriminate taste, thinking this was a remarkable effort in any way.
But you can't win 'em all.

Herein lies the rub: I enjoy the solitary confines of my little kitchen and the freedom of creating what I want, when I want but I need a more present and audible audience...a greater purpose, I guess. I need somebody to cook a fresh-from-the-oven meal for, but whose flexible enough to be amenable to my moodiness.
What's the equivelent of the kitchen booty-call?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

breakfast tacos

breakfast tacos, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
This is crazy simple and soooo favorite breakfast inspired by this recipe from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks.
Of course, hers is much healthier than this particular concoction of leftover burrito filling and processed american cheese.
The filling can be almost anything with a little bit of cheese to bind it all together. I start by heating up about a tablespoon of olive oil and a small pat of butter in a small non-stick pan, not much bigger than the tortilla. Beat a couple of eggs, then pour about one third of the eggs into the hot pan, moving the egg mixture around the pan to contain it to roughly the same size as your tortilla.
Let it set for a minute and add a couple of grinds of pepper and pinch of salt.

Drop the tortilla on top of the egg and cook for another minute giving the egg a chance to adhere to the tortilla, then flip the whole thing over,

 add your cheese and give it a minute to warm up and melt a bit, then add your final filler.

If I use leftovers that I've pulled from the fridge, I'll heat it up in the microwave first.

My healthier version is to use one whole egg and one egg white, goat cheese and fresh herbs.

Friday, October 12, 2012

evolution carrot salad

evolution carrot salad, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
This came about during a late afternoon attack on my "Recipes to Make" binder. I've had this one buried for a while, photo-copied a year or so ago, from a library lend of "Jamie's Food Revolution".
This was another recipe thatcamethisclose to being tossed. I like carrots okay...usually as more of a supporting role in a dish...and as I perused the character-less black and white, low-quality copy, I was just not seeing it's appeal, until I realized: wasn't there an almost full bag of carrots sprouting in the bottom of the vegetable bin last time I looked? as well as a half-empty bag of clearance cabbage, and I seem to recall buying mint and cilantro for something I didn't make. So that's how this evolved.
Jamie Oliver calls it an Evolution Salad because it's fine in a very simple state but evolves by the addition of say...nuts, cheese or fruit.
Can I just say how much I adore Jamie Oliver?
My access to food television is pretty much non-existent so my familiarity with Jamie Oliver was " that the Naked Chef guy?", until last year when I picked up "Oliver's Twist" from the library. I was an instant fan. Could he be any cuter? Of course I totally dig the British accent and goofy lingo not to mention his excitement and passion. He tears through a recipe like he's just run off the soccer field, dashed by his apartment for a quick knosh and he's back out the door to meet up with his mates at the pub. Quick and casual. Simple and affordable. Engaging and charming. He's got it all. Goofy footballer and marketing genius-gazillionare.
So, this carrot salad was amazingly tasty and came together in minutes.
Evolution Carrot Salad
slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver

5 medium carrots peeled and shredded
8 oz. shredded red cabbage
chopped mint
chopped cilantro

6 T. olive oil
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. dijon mustard
1 t. balsamic vinegar
2 t. agave nectar
crumbled blue cheese

Combine all of the vegetables and herbs in a bowl. In jar with a tight fitting lid (I save jam jars for this), combine all of the dressing ingredients and shake it like crazy until everything is emulsified (smooth & creamy). Pour it over the carrot mix and toss.
It wasn't until after I made this that I realized why I had copied the recipe to begin with. It's really pretty in color. I'm inspired again to revisit Jamie's Food Revolution because I do love pretty pictures, simple, amusing instructions and really really good food.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Yellow Split Pea Soup

Split Pea Soup, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Every now and again I have a little kitchen epiphany, those moments when I surprise and delight myself by veering out of my comfort zone, fueled by curiosity, imagination, instinct and persistence, landing somewhere strange, wonderful and unexpected. 
This was not one of those moments.
Sometimes it's just dumb luck, boredom or desperation.
It started here:

Sometime last year. Somewhere over at Rainbow, my local natural foods co-op and my happy place for bulk shopping, I found myself particularly mezmerized by legumes.
Let me back up a bit though. The first time I ever walked in there I was transformed. For this, I have to thank Heidi at 101 Cookbooks, another inspiration to the little kitchen. The intro to her cookbook, Super Natural Cooking Everyday, described this Oz-like food shopping experience.   
I feel all fuzzy, warm and virtuous whenever I shop there, always curious & inspired by the amazing towers of beans, lentils, grains, nuts and bins of obscure flours. It excites me more and scares me less now, but at first I was truly overwhelmed by it's strangeness,
I bought bags and bags of colorful split peas, lentils and beans imagining exploration out of my black/refried bean comfort zone, but mostly, I envisioned them pretty-ing up the pantry shelves in my new Ikea glass jars.
One year later:
The impetus to finally open the jars and consult numerous cookery books and blogs, was more out of neccessity than anything else.

The sporadic employment of a free-lance artist creates adapting to feast or famine. I've been doing this all my working life. The upside to the downside is the creative juices surge in the lean times.
Last week I found myself in the pantry, looking for a project that would keep me busy and out of the store. Is it just me? I can't leave the house, even for a walk around the corner to the library without returning $20 poorer.
Anyhoo...this is what I made. Yellow split peas making their little kitchen debut in this brilliant soup. This was my epiphany: Split Peas?!? Why did I not know about this?!?
Thanks again to Heidi at 101 Cookbooks for this gorgeous recipe. My only deviation was to puree the entire batch. I started, as instructed, with an emersion blender, leaving some texture in there, but some of the peas seemed undercooked to me. I wasn't sure if this is just a characteristic of split peas in general or the fact that my peas were so old...I had also mixed two diffferent batches of dried peas...but once I tossed it into the blender this really came together perfectly. Sweet and creamy and the dollop of cucumber riata  finished off the soup beautifully.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

pizza love

pizza love, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
In "Breaking News" I've found myself with a new job in a neighborhood brew pub/pizzeria/sports bar. It was all very sudden. One day, I'm making my own pizza and perusing craigslist, then, two days later, I'm behind the bar making Screaming Orgasm's. 
It really couldn't be a more perfect fit and it can only inspire my love of pizza...I hope. What's not to love about a pizza called the Kinky Cow or the Swingers Shrimp. What kind of place is this? you might ask. Pizza Orgasmica & Brewing Company.
The best part is: it's only a 10 minute bike ride from the little kitchen!
This pizza is one of my favorites to make at home. I've become a big fan of this No Knead pizza dough. I topped this one with Parmesan, Mozzarella, tomato, red onions, basil and goat cheese. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Tomato & Corn Pie

Tomato & Corn Pie, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
This is the Pie That Started It All. In honor of Smitten Kitchen's 6th birthday here is  the first recipe I ever made.
The day I stumbled upon Smitten, I was looking for a Mac & Cheese recipe. From the moment I opened up that page and read that post I was hooked . She had posted her adaption of a Martha Stewart recipe, one that I had actually made back when I didn't know any better.  I had cursed it for its excessiveness. It was enormous and cost a small fortune. It was so Martha.
It was delicious of course.
The best thing about Smittens post that day was her link to her previous attempt at Mac & Cheese, a simpler, back to basics macaroni and cheese.
I didn't make that.
Instead, I surfed...and surfed, which, come to think of it, may have been the moment my kitchen ocd/add became apparent...ogleing all the pretty pictures, reading her charming and laugh out loud prose, tap tap tapping at the "Surprise Me" feature...until I hit upon Tomato and Corn Pie. I was essentially instructed to stop what I was doing and go to the store immediately to purchase whatever ingredients the little kitchen was missing and get to making this. Now.
I did that.
It sounded a little crazy at the time, not as crazy as Cauliflower Cake...which turned out to be crazy good by the way, but I'd not yet been introduced to savory tarts (save for the occasional quiche or frittata), galettes and pies.
Now that I have a marble table top of my very own...pie dough?!? Bring it On!
This pie is crazygood too.

Friday, September 14, 2012

pesto potato salad or little kitchen 911

Pesto potato salad, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
HOW do you screw up potato salad for cryin' out loud? This had such high hopes and aspirations when it started the day as a newly printed Smitten Kitchen recipe, all snug in its shiny new sheet protector, but at the end of the day, even though I dressed it up all nice and pretty, you can see it looks nothing like its inspiration.
It was refrigerator rescue time, starting with the last of a ginormous plastic jar of Costco pesto (this was my first mistake as SK strongly advises to make the fresh pesto or "you'll really be missing out"...), too many potatoes, the addition of greek yogurt (thought it needed a little creaminess) and ending with my accidental dump of waaaay too much white wine vinegar (I forgot that I'd just  taken off the little plastic sprinkle top). I'm hoping that my uncharacteristic purchase awhile back, of an $8.00 bottle of artisanal Napa Valley Organic White Wine Vinegar, saved it from what could have been a total loss. I paid more for that vinegar than I do for a bottle of wine. <insert sniffle > In a moment of panic and denial I'm at a loss to remember exactly what I did to try to save it. A little more salt? a drizzle of agave nectar? I even cooked up the last of my bacon to feed to this monster. Avocado? Why not?
It didn't suck. It wasn't a brilliant blunder by any means, but made it's way into my lunch box 3 days in a row.
The reason why I even bring this up at all is this: I attempted to save it. That's monumental. If I'd done something this misguided and clumsy even a year ago (or during that brief time I'd run out all-natural mood enhancers), it would have ended with me curled up on  the floor in a weeping puddle...only after I'd heaved the whole rotten mess into the trash can. I would have marched it, bowl and all, down the rickety back stairwell disposing all evidence and then a thorough clean-up the crime scene. Potato Salad ? I don't know anything about it.
End of story.

Monday, September 10, 2012

avocado bacon & tomato tartine

The little kitchen was a hotbed of activity this weekend. There's nothing like a tidy kitchen to make me want to mess it up all over again. A clean kitchen is my blank canvas. I perused the possibilities.
I started out by reining in the wildly out of control stacks of photo-copied & printed recipes...things I've yanked out of magazines and the Chronicle Food & Wine section, recipes I've copied from stacks and stacks of cookbooks I've lugged back and forth from the library, those freebie recipe cards from the grocery store and the farmers market info table. I flipped through each and every one, evaluating the who's, what's, where's, why's, and when's.
As much as it pained me I did toss away a good third of the mass accumulation. Some were easy, like the quarter pound beet burger. The photo was gorgeous and all the ingredients seemed managable and it would have fullfilled my adventurous quest at meeting new vegetables but in the end it had to go, so many recipes so little time.
I can not believe how close I came to tossing this one: Dieters Tartine. The title of the recipe turned me off. I hate anything that labels anything as "Diet" food. It immediately sounds restrictive, even if it did come from my guru, Dorie Greenspan's gorgeous "Around My French Table", a gorgeously written and beautifully photographic inspiration of French cookery. I've marched this book back and forth from the library probably 6 or 7 times in the last year.
The ingredient list was small and I had every thing on hand, including a half of a large cucumber that was teetering on the edge of the trash can, two plum tomatoes and about a third of an Italian loaf that was definitely ready for toast.
I chopped up the tomato, cucumber and basil and tossed it with a little salt and pepper. The recipe called for some kind of fancy spreadable french cheese I'd never heard of, but what I did have was a big log of goat cheese that I ended up mixing in with a little greek yogurt to make it spreadable.
The slices of french bread are toasted in the broiler on one side only. My tweak was to rub some garlic on the hot toasted side.
I then spread the cheese and yogurt mix all over the toast, spooned the diced vegetables on top and finishing with a touch of white pepper, sea salt and a few strips of basil.
Super simple, waaay de-lish and kinda elegant.
I tweaked it the next day, adding avocado and bacon crumbles to my leftover vegetable mix from the day before. A Dieters Tartine? not so much.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lasagne Bolognese

Lasagne Bolognese, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I fully realise that I would be stirring the bolognese pot here by even calling this a "bolognese", but I doubt that my readership (of 2 or is it 3 now?) is gonna call me on any liberties and artistic license I take here in the little kitchen.
In the past, I've  noodled away  many, many hours into the next day, preparing and simmering a bolognese sauce made with chuck, pancetta and pork sausage meats in a wine, milk, broth and tomato paste reduction. I am aware that traditionally, a bolognese or ragu surprizingly does not contain garlic, seasoning (besides salt and pepper) or any herbs (perhaps a bay leaf).
This is not that bolognese. What this is, is another happy refrigerator rescue.
Lately, my weekends tend to start this way: Spend a couple of hours at my favorite coffee house OCD'ing on my favorite blogs and foodie websites to inspire my weekend cooking ventures and shopping list. There's usually a stack of library cookbooks and magazines waiting to be perused and tagged. then head to my the little kitchen and cook or reheat something for lunch before I head to the store with my shopping list.
Last weekend, I tagged along to Costco with my friend and neighbor Sheena. I go to Costco maybe once a year, because in general, it's pretty impractical for me and my little apartment.
I did go with a very small list: bread (I wanted to try freezing it), bacon (you can never have too much bacon), pesto and parmesan cheese (I had big plans for pasta and pesto chicken sandwiches).
I didn't get any of those things.
What I did end up with, amongst new underwear, vitamins, chapstick (most of which I'll manage to lose within 2 months) and a 2 year supply of Cetaphil lotion, was a giant box of baby spinach and a 2 pound container of cremini mushrooms. I had visions of stratas, tarts and quiches dancing in my head, wanting to make something pastry based.
I never did that. 
I made salads and wrap sandwiches every day this past week yet the box of baby spinach appeared untouched and not much of a dent in the mushrooms either.
Lasagne seemed like a fine finish to my Costco bounty. I dug through the pantry to come up with two half empty boxes of no-boil lasagne noodles, one of which was whole wheat.
In addition to my giant box of spinach and 2 pounds of mushrooms, this is what I pulled out of my fridge:
the remains of a 2lb container of ground chuck
3 left-over spinach and feta chicken sausage links
half a pound of bacon
about a cup of caramelized onions
about a 1/2 cup of roasted red peppers
about a cup of sauteed fresh corn with caramelized onions
a half quart of skim ricotta

then thanks god for a fairly well stocked pantry: 
2 cloves of garlic smashed
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of coriander
1 tablespoon each of dried oregano, thyme and tarragon
tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
32 oz can of crushed tomatoes
into the ricotta:
1 egg lightly beaten
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
1 cup grated mozzarella
I started to saute the mushrooms in butter and olive oil and a pinch of sea salt in one pan and in another pan, started cooking the diced bacon just until it started to crisp. This is a personal thing for me. I don't like the texture of chewy bacon (anything less than well done). Then in went the garlic for about 30 seconds. I added the cumin and coriander at this point and stirred it all around until fragrant, about a minute.
I added the beef, sausage (squeezed out of the casing) and dried herbs and while that was all cooking through I tossed around the mushrooms and added about a tablespoon of dried tarragon to them once they'd released their moisture. I love tarragon.
At this point I added all of the rescued pre-cooked condiments to the meat: roasted peppers, caramelized onions and sauteed corn. While that was all heating through I went back to the mushrooms and deglazed with a little sherry. Then I added the spinach and let that all wilt down.
I started the 5 minute tomato sauce: heat up olive oil over medium heat, add garlic, salt and red pepper flakes until it sizzles then add the can of crushed tomatoes. This will take about 3 minutes to heat through. Add about 3/4 to the meat mixture,  leaving enough to coat the bottom of the baking dish the top layer of noodles.
Commence to layering:
spread some sauce over the bottom of the dish, lay down the first layer of noodles, then 1/3 of the meat, 1/3 of the mushrooms, then cheese layer. Repeat until you run out of ingredients. After I layed down the top layer of noodles I spread the last of the sauce over the top then added more shredded parmesan and grated mozzarella on top. I sprayed a sheet of aluminum foil with non-stick spray covered it and refrigerated.
The next day I pre-heated the oven to 450 degrees and baked the covered lasagne for 30 minutes. Decreased the oven temperture to 350 degrees, removed the cover and baked for 30 minutes more.
Make sure there's a baking sheet on the rack below, because this will surely bubble over.
This tasted pretty amazing. The first bites elicited the hint of anise from the tarragon. Loved that...but my favorite thing was the intermittent tiny crunches and heavenly flavor of bacon.
I will happily be eating this for lunch this week.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

little kitchen still life

little kitchen still life, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
A couple of posts ago, I shared my enlightening experience preparing pastry and fresh pasta dough in my friends kitchen atop their marble pastry board.
Last weekend, with those verysame friends, we were headed to the Alemany Flea Market when I mentioned that I was in search of my own slab of marble. Rick says "oh! I know a much better place to find that". Within 5 minutes we'd pulled up to a bay side salvage yard and 5 minutes after that we were loading up my very own, big ol' slab of pink marble here.Yay Building REsources!
I've been waiting all week to make my first pastry on it. I snapped the above picture just before getting my chilled pie dough out for chicken pot pie. The roasted tomatoes would eventually end up in the pot pie.
The great news is that the pastry rolled out beautifully and I shall fear it no more! The bad news is I fear I may have wasted it.
After spending the majority of the day roasting the chicken, making stock and preparing the chicken pot pie filling, I took a Tia Margarita break and a trip to Fresh and Easy. Whilst engaged in a very long, long-distance phone conversation once I got back home, I decided to assemble the chicken pot pie. The bottom pastry had been chilling in the pie plate and the top layer was in the freezer, crimped, cut out and ready for assembly. It wasn't until about an hour later I realized I'd forgotten 2 crucial steps: I didn't prick the bottom crust with a fork and I didn't partially bake it. Waaah!
I still haven't baked it, so I sit here procrastinating. Do I just go ahead and bake it anyway or take it all apart and mix up a batch of herb biscuits?
It IS about the journey after all...sigh...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

chicken pot pie: a journey to the ultimate

I'm fairly obsessed with Chicken Pot Pie. I've loved it ever since I was a small child and my mom would heat up a couple of those frozen Swanson's for a Friday night treat for me and my sister. My favorite part was the crust. I would eat that first, cracking off pieces of the crusty edge first, then sliding my fork between the crust and aluminum pie tin to pull out pieces of soggy crust, moving around the filling until every bit of gravy soaked pastry was consumed, then I would gingerly pick around what was going on inside. Only the bits of white meat and peas interested me. I have always been highly suspect of stews and soups shrouding shredded chicken and mysterious bits of dark meat, stringy tendons and cartilege that sometimes managed to sneak their way into my mouth.
Fast forward to the ironic bit: in the last year and a half, I've made about 20 chicken pot pies  using everything but pastry and only using the dark meat (but picked over very meticulously for stringy bits and fatty bits). No two pies ever turn out the same.
My go-to finish is an herb biscuit topping, with polenta and puff pastry on occasion, but I've never made it the old fashioned way because pastry vexes me at every turn. I have yet to process cold butter, ice water and flour/salt/sugar until it resembles peas in 3-5 pulses, then as I manage it into discs there's the anxiety that maybe I didn't add enough water "...until pastry is the desired consistency". Whatever that means. All that butter. Did I pulse too much? Will the pastry be tough?...Sigh...
Then, of course, comes the really vexing part: rolling out the pastry. Flouring, rolling, sticking, to re-chill or not? and yet more sticking and cracking, layers of plastic wrap. Gah! Why bother?
Here's what happened:
I was house sitting a little while back, enjoying the adventure of a new and well-outfitted kitchen. My friends were returning from Paris the following day and I had to work. I wanted to leave them with some good old American comfort food that could be reheated easily.
Whilst perusing some back issues of Cooks Illustrated I came across this pretty pie crust. Then I looked at the big slab  of green marble on the counter and the marble rolling pin and thought: " Why not?"
I had a pound of pre-cooked chicken breast pieces I'd originally purchased for lunch box sandwiches (but went all OCD on the fried rice) that needed to find it's greater purpose. I had potatoes, onions , garlic and white wine on hand as well as some leftover bacon crumbles. I sauteed the vegetables in olive oil and a mixture of spices and dried herbs. Cumin, coriander and cayenne then added dried oregano and tarragon. I bought a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, a box of chicken stock, and a carton of heavy cream and this pie came together (once the pastry was rolled and chilling) in about 30 minutes. The last thing added to the giant pot of stewy-ness (after the butter and flour roux) was several dollops of dijon mustard, tasting after each dollop was stirred in and finding the taste improved after each addition. I think I ended up somewhere around 5 tablespoons.
The key is to roll the top layer of pastry on a piece of parchment then transfer the whole thing onto a baking sheet. Cut out the 4 leaf shapes and crimp the edges (making sure your finished top is the same diameter as your pie dish. Then put it in the freezer while you cook up the pie filling for about 30 minutes. Once the mix is in the baking dish (there was no bottom crust), transfer the solid pie crust to the top of your dish and bake until the crust begins to brown, about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Success without pastry anxiety! Note to self: acquire a marble slab Stat!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

refrigerator rescue~fried rice

fried rice, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
This is the most wonderful way to use up all kinds of vegetables and meats teetering on the edge of the trash can.
I made this when I was house sitting a couple of weeks ago. My friends had left me with two roasted chicken thighs and about 3/4 of a cooked bone-in ham. I can't say that I'm a ham fan...all that fat. While I was pondering what to do with all that meat, I made up a big pot of rice medley to go with all the corn chowder I brought home from work.
The next day I came up with this as I contemplated an enormous skillet and the behemouth firehouse stove. I sauteed up some onions, garlic and celery, then tossed in some left-over, chopped up, green beans.  I tossed in the shredded chicken and diced ham and cooked that until crispy. I added the cooked rice along with some dried herbs: tarragon and oregano, then tossed that around until everything was hot. I made a well in the middle of the pan and mixed in 3 eggs into which I'd stirred in some fresh thyme and ground black pepper. Once the eggs start to set, then I mixed it all into the rice with a good splash of soy sauce. I turned off the heat and added some slivered scallions.
This was lunch and breakfast for the next two days.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pink Lemonade Bars

Pink Lemonade Bars, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
 It's my one and only day off. I've got nothing on my agenda. No To-Do list. Yet, I'm up at the crack of dawn headed down to my neighborhood cafe with my netbook, a stack of newly checked out library cookbooks and back issues of Gourmet and Saveur magazines, armed with a fistful of neon Post-it Notes ready to tag, and a blank page waiting patiently for me to begin my lists: things to bookmark for the future cookery, not-so-distant-future cookery,  immediate future cookery, finally:  "make this today!" Yet it doesn't take long before I get distracted  by some other shiny new cookery inspiration and forget I ever heard of Smitten Kitchens Pink Lemonade Bars...what greeted me this morning on my trusty news feed.
And sure enough... I did that. I forgot. I moved on to corn chowder. Hours later, I'm at my local produce market shopping for the afore mentioned chowder fixins' when I spy...raspberries! on sale!  $1 a basket! Wait! Why do I want raspberries? I know I MUST buy them. But why?
This is why. These are absolutely de-LISH!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Zucchini & Spaghetti Squash Lasagne

This is an off-the-hook cheezy veggie layered bake that began its journey as a mash-up of two recipes that collided in my ADD-led brain as I managed to fritter away the better part of my morning yesterday on Pinterest.
I would have gladly spent all day at it if it meant finding this at the end of it all: Green Lite Bites my new happy place for some awesome vegetarian inspiration where I was then drawn to this. Two recipes. Similar...but different. I love the look of zucchini sliced whisper-thin and was intrigued by the spaghetti squash. Then again there's always something going on in that fridge that needs to find it's greater purpose stat! So this is how this all went down. I slam the computer shut and run to the produce market...because I'm also making a quinoa corn chowder that needs potatoes and I must get all that going in the slow-cooker. Anyhoo...
I started by cutting the spaghetti  squash in half, removing the seeds and then sprinkling the cut side with salt and pepper and a splash of olive oil. I turned the two cut halves down on the flattest plate I had, jabbed the skin a few times with a fork and nuked it for about 12 minutes. You'd almost think I was a pro at this right? This is the first time I've ever prepared or voluntarily eaten a spaghetti squash (I was squashaphobic until about 2 years ago). While the squash was cooking I made
 Five Minute Tomato Sauce (from 101 Cookbooks) :
heat up 2 T. olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add a smashed clove of  garlic, a couple of pinches of kosher salt and about 1/4 t. of red pepper flakes and cook for a couple of minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add a can of crushed tomatoes and cook on medium for about 5 minutes until the sauce is hot. Cover, remove from heat and set aside.
I sliced one large zucchini on a mandoline then tossed it in a bowl with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper and let it sit a bit so it would exude a bit of water. Then I thinly sliced 4 plum tomatoes and tossed them with a splash of olive oil, salt, pepper, dried oregano, dried basil and dried tarragon and let those sit about 15 minutes to release some water. The spaghetti squash had cooked and cooled a little. Then with a fork, start shredding the squash. It looks like fine egg noodles. I was dubious about the texture, thinking it would be mushy. It was not. Even after baking in the lasagne for 30 minutes the squash had some "tooth". They were still a little crunchy.
I had some ricotta cheese that was teetering on the brink of the trash can, parmesan and some bulk white sliced American cheese (courtesy of my Test Kitchen Dummy) that in my world, should have turned on me long ago, yet it looked and smelled just like it did that day so many months ago when it appeared at my front door, and it tasted just fine, I had to resist the urge to shove whole slices into my gob.
I started with sauce on the bottom, then layered zucchini,  squash, tomatoes, a sprinkle of dried herbs, salt and pepper, cheeses and then zucchini, sauce...oh and some roasted peppers, just for the heck of it 'cuz I had them roasting for a different purpose but couldn't help but thrown those all in there. I probably didn't need the tomatoes and the sauce but the whole thing turned out so freakin' good that I don't feel like I'd change a thing.