Last Week I Cooked…

It was Will’s birthday this week! I had trouble settling on a birthday meal, so the whole week became birthday meals. I didn’t tell him any of the meals and each night he would try to guess as I pulled ingredients out and started prepping. Buffalo cauliflower salad was guessed with only the chickpeas on the counter and the answer to “is it spicy?” (yes!). Burgers, fries, and falafel were easy ones, and the zucchini carb took the longest because I hid the cooked bacon under the zucchini. Now I’m jealous I don’t have a summer birthday…

20160725_201729Buffalo cauliflower salad. A perennial favorite. Cauliflower are starting to appear at farms in MA…get on it!

20160726_192038Bacon bleu cheese burgers with fries and salad. This was for Will’s actual birthday. Simple, but it is one of his favorite meals and perhaps the one I make least often at home. I mix some minced bacon into the ground beef with some salt and pepper, then cook in the cast iron since we don’t have a grill. They were topped with bleu cheese and some leftover buffalo sauce from the previous night’s salad. For the fries I followed the recipe in My Paris Kitchen. The salad is a mix of cucumber, beets, carrots, and radishes sliced thin and tossed with mint, basil, vinegar, and olive oil.

20160727_191725Falafel and pita. I was convinced that this would finally be the falafel recipe that I could fry without them disintegrating. Yet, I was wrong. As the first batch started to disappear in the pan I turned on the broiler and fished them out. Broiling wasn’t ideal, but it got them hot quickly.  Dinner was saved, and they were still delicious with the first tomato from our garden (!), lettuce, red onion, dilly beans, feta, and a lemon yogurt sauce.

20160729_193024Zucchini carbonara. Thankfully I didn’t wait until September to make this, as last year I used the last zucchini of the season to fit it in. It remains my favorite carbonara recipe, even if frying the zucchini is time consuming (you could always speed it up with multiple pans).


Last Week I Cooked….

This week I read via Dinner: A Love Story about how Brooks Headley describes the feeling of overwhelming options in the summer as “good anxiety.” Silly as it was, I think last summer it felt more like straight anxiety, because there were so many seasonal things I wanted to enjoy, and never enough time or meals in the day to do so. This year I’m taking it a little easier, and reminding myself as Jenny does: this is a good problem to have.

Sweet potato, chicken, and black bean tacos with radishes and avocado. This was a fast dinner made after returning from a long weekend (and without going grocery shopping). My mom made some extra spicy grilled chicken that I threw in, plus some radishes from the garden dressed in lime juice.

20160718_200642Taco salad. I used a bit more leftover grilled chicken, plus corn, black beans, cucumbers, and this spicy chipotle dressing.  One member of our house doesn’t love spicy or creamy dressings, so I made the dressing with the lime juice, cilantro, etc, and then added some olive oil to thin it out. I removed half, then added the yogurt and chipotle to make an awesome, creamy, and spicy dressing. This is one of my favorite salads, and an excellent option for easy summer dinners.

20160720_200943Toast with farmer’s cheese and zucchini (adapted from Vegetable Literacy) alongside kale, beet, blueberry, feta, and pine nut salad (adapted from The First Mess). This toast is one of those silly things that has been on my “to make” list since I got this cookbook…which was years ago. Sometimes I put off making absurdly simple dishes, because I always think I will have time to fit it in later. While I shouldn’t have waited so long, it was the perfect thing to make on a very hot night when I barely wanted to cook. I started off making the squash as directed (quick sear then steamed in the pan), but  since I was trying to cook more it became apparent that this would take way too long. I flipped on the broiler, tossed the squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and put it under for 5 minutes.

I used the exact salad dressing from The First Mess, plus her blueberry feta combo (though I used regular feta, since I had some on hand), and added in some blanched beets. Next time I would add a little more cider vinegar to the dressing to balance all the sweet things, but it was a delightfully summery salad.

Tofu bowls with shredded carrots and cucumbers, plus sauteed broccoli and collards and tahini dressing over brown rice. The old standby! I used the soy marinated tofu recipe from Thug Kitchenand the rest of the contents came from the farmer’s market and garden (including the broccoli!!).

20160721_200636Chorizo and potato tacos with zucchini from Michoacán (from Mexico the Cookbook). Tacos, again! It’s just too easy to throw some veg and protein on a tortilla and call it dinner. I simplified the taco recipe to just consist of sauteed onion, chorizo, and the potatoes. I mixed the zucchini with summer squash, and sauteed them in batches. Once they were all cooked I put everything back in the pan and added the cilantro, onion, garlic mixture. Then I topped everything with cheese (omiting the sour cream) and let it melt.

20160721_082747Breakfasts this week included basic toast with avocado or greens and feta, plus my favorite summer fruit use: Greek yogurt with maple syrup, raspberries, and granola.


Last week I cooked….

Summer! Is! Here! An oh boy, does it make cooking fun. This week included some evening extracurricular activities and a short vacation so I didn’t cook as much, but what I did fully captured the season.

20160711_195236Pizza with sausage, grilled summer squash, peppers, and onions. My mom gave me leftovers from a grilled meal over the weekend of many vegetables on the grill with sausage. I re-purposed then into pizza with a classic tomato sauce and mozzarella, and was mighty pleased with the result.

20160712_193744Pasta and fried zucchini salad. The first time I made this salad was a couple years ago when Will and I had just started dating. I lived in an apartment with a super stuffy, long galley kitchen. He was helping make dinner, and I asked if he had ever fried anything. The answer was no, which did not stop me from handing over a giant bowlful of paper-thin squash to fry (he’s a quick learner). This time I fried the squash myself, and while I don’t mind a time consuming cooking project, I’m not sure it is entirely worthwhile. This dish is great, with a quick basil sauce, zing from the vinegar and capers, and hunks of mozzarella in an extremely summery pasta dish (plus I used fresh peas instead of edamame, because I could!). But next time, I will attempt roasting the squash slices and report back.

20160714_180712Beet, avocado, and pea salad (from Plenty More). The essence of this salad is sweet beets, creamy avocado, and a biting sherry vinegar dressing. From there I adapted it a bit, leaving out the peas, pea shoots, and cilantro, and adding thinly sliced cucumber and a bit of quinoa, and keeping the red onion, mint, and Tabasco. Beets are not my favorite vegetable, but I loved them thinly sliced and paired with some sour and spice.

Crostini with whipped feta and garlic collards

20160709_174408Collards get a bad rep. They are a vegetable that most consider married to one dish, and if that’s not a dish they cook, they don’t eat them. But I happen to know that collards are not married, or in a relationship of any kind. They are single as can be, and very experimental. Willing to partake in any meal of the day, and mix with a variety of ingredients.

This is my first year growing collards, and they’ve sprung up like weeds (even quicker than the kale!). If you want to make collards into a full meal, try them with peanut butter (really, it makes a quick peanut sauce!). Or make them into a salad (or try them in place of kale in any other salad). Or this cobbler I just discovered and will have to try soon. I’ve made this crostini for a couple parties recently, which is easy to transport, quick to assemble, and just another way to eat whipped feta. The leftovers have been enjoyed with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

See – collards are great! And versatile. Grow them, eat them, love them. People eating this appetizer won’t even realize they’re collards with all their predetermined baggage, and will fall in love with them too. Which is okay, because collards play the field.

Crostini with whipped feta and garlic collards

  • 1/2 lb collard greens (or 1 large bunch)
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 baguette or loaf of another crusty bread

Remove the stems from the collards and chop the leaves into bite sized pieces.

Put the feta and cream cheese in a bowl of a food processor. Turn on the blade for a few seconds to combine, then pour in the 1/3 cup of olive oil. Process until smooth and uniformly combined.

In a large saute pan that has a cover, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the whole, peeled garlic clove and allow it to brown slightly in the oil, flipping a few times so it doesn’t burn. When it is golden, remove the garlic clove and add the collards. Cover, and cook for 2 minutes.

Remove the cover, toss the greens, add the red pepper flakes, and continue to cook for a few minutes more uncovered until the extra liquid has evaporated.

When read to serve, slice the bread and toast under a broiler or on a grill. Slather with whipped feta, and top with the greens.

Last Week I Cooked….

20160704_194936Steamed and roasted chicken wings with garden salad. After a weekend of BBQs, we spent the actual 4th entirely at home (and it was glorious). I had contemplated a grocery store trip, but laziness prevailed and instead I made dinner with ingredients found in the freezer and garden (which is what I should be doing now anyways). I started by steaming the chicken wings (a la Alton), and then roasted them in cast iron with rosemary added halfway through (inspired by incredible wood-fired chicken wings I had at Jack’s Abby). They were made into a real meal with a salad of cabbage, collards, and kale with a lemon vinaigrette.

20160705_191249Pizza with garlic scapes, squash blossoms, and basil. I used my usual crust, brushed the base with olive oil, then put the veg (I roasted the chopped scapes for about 5 minutes in the oven to parcook them, and sliced the blossoms). On went shredded mozzarella, then into the oven at 500F for about 10 minutes, and after sprinkled with chopped basil and crushed red pepper flakes.

20160706_195228Big salads with radishes, cucumbers, quinoa, beans, and lemon tahini dressing. On an incredibly hot summer day head to your local farmer’s market. Grab some lettuce, and a selection of whatever else looks good (radishes are still great, cukes are starting to come in). Once at home, read in the shade for a while because it is still too hot to do anything. Then when you can muster it, throw half a cup of some kind of grain on the stove, prep your veg, add some legumes if you have any, and make a dressing with the dregs in the tahini jar. Summer dinner: done.

20160707_194815Cold noodles with miso, lime, and ginger. This is an ideal hot weather dinner. I didn’t like the miso dressing as much as the peanut sauce I used on cold noodles a few weeks ago, but it was certainly quick. I used radishes, cucumbers, a handful of snap peas and some small turnips.

20160709_102904Shakshuka. I followed a tip from Ottolenghi this time around and started by dry toasting some cumin seeds in the pan before adding oil, sauteing onions, etc. It made for pervasive, toasty cumin flavor (which I’m a big fan of).

Coconut lime popsicles. These are life changing. Before this week, I hadn’t hit on an everyday popsicle recipe. I mean, I’ve made some really good ones, but they were too indulgent for regular cooling. But these. Oh man. Three (3!!!) ingredients, about that many minutes to pull together, great texture once frozen, delightful flavor. Easy enough to pull together before dinner when you know scorchers are in the forecast.

Summer berry crisp. Sometimes I think about making pies…and then I think, why would I do that when I can make a crisp? Much better fruit to grain ratio, and so much faster. I loved the addition of port, which made for a dark and jammy fruit layer. I used blueberries, black raspberries, and red raspberries.

Last Week I Cooked x 52

I’ve tried various iterations of a food journal over the years. The first was a physical journal, where I tried to keep track of everything that I ate for each meal and where it came from. It was nice when I kept up with it, but often I would ignore it for a couple weeks then try to write everything down all at once. I would inevitably forget things and then lament that my memory was too weak to remember what I had for lunch two weeks prior. It was also a bit repetitive, and I think it would have been more effective to just write “Coffee, every morning, forever” at the beginning instead of mentioning the beverage with every breakfast.

That continued on and off for a couple years, and then I attempted keeping a journal via Google Docs for easier accessibility, but with similar results. Success finally struck when I moved again to write here. On a deadline (which I ignored this week…America!!), with plenty of room to expand on the new things I tried, ideas for improvement, and linking to the many food blogs these recipes come from. A year later: we’re still here! Some of the details are lost, but the main bits are all here (and infinitely more easily searched). If you are really curious about what falls through the cracks: breakfast is coffee, eggs, and hot sauce, and lunch is almost always dinner leftovers.

Vegetable dumplings. I should never me allowed to grocery shop hungry. I went after work without a real dinner plan in place (we had just gotten back from Philly) and I had a dumpling craving. I contemplated buying frozen dumplings, then convinced myself that they weren’t that hard to make. And it’s true, they’re not……but that also take a long time!! I finished enough to eat by around 8, took a break, and had finished the rest by 10. Let this dinner journal be a reminder…dumplings are very time consuming!! And I didn’t even make the wrappers. (But they were really delicious, especially with chili oil, soy sauce, and vinegar.)

20160628_19205715-minute Chinese hot oil noodles. These noodles were a much more appropriate after-work cooking project. I used bok choy and they came together wonderfully fast.

20160629_191557Big salads with lemon vinaigrette and hummus. Last Wednesday was our town’s first farmer’s market of the year, and this meal was a celebration of ALL the produce: lettuce, radishes, snap peas, roasted garlic scapes, and a quick lemon vinaigrette with a dollop of hummus on the side (pita optional).

Sugar snap salad with miso dressing. I doubled this salad to bring to a 4th BBQ where it was a welcome counterpoint to all the burgers and dogs. We had it for dinner first though, along with some leftover dumplings.

20160701_184236Picnic! Cheese, crackers, dilly beans, bean salad with tahini dressing (red beans instead of white), and kale salad (sans goat cheese, subbed almonds and dried cranberries). I wasn’t sure what kind of greenery to bring, and I had left the Smitten Kitchen cookbook open on the stand after making the snap pea salad. It just so happened the kale salad was on the adjacent page: decision made.

20160629_083600Savory oatmeal. I finally gave this trend a go…and this is basically faster cooking polenta. I stirred in a bunch of scallions and then topped with an egg. Not my favorite egg vehicle, but a solid breakfast option when there is no bread or leftover polenta.