Last Week I Cooked…

20160824_082727Toast with mayo, sliced tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and deviled eggs. A delayed arrival home after a weekend away (caused by a distracting book store stop…) made me rethink my more lengthy dinner plans. Tomatoes from the garden made toast awesome, and deviled eggs are always welcome.

Zucchini feta pancakes and tomato salad. These were served at my friend’s awesome New Year’s brunch and it seemed like the perfect time to make them myself. Whipping the egg whites does make for a bit more work than your usual fritters, but it also makes these wonderfully light. I intended for these to be a light summer dinner, and it said they served 4-6…but that was definitely meant as a side. This served 3 for dinner and I would certainly make them again, just double for leftovers.

Beer bean stuffed poblanos with green rice. The stuffed poblano recipe came from The Sprouted Kitchen. I love chile rellenos, but this riff makes for a much more wholesome and easier meal. The one thing I would change is omitting the cinnamon added to the beans which I found overwhelming. For the rice I made 2 cups of brown rice and roasted 3 ears of corn. I removed the kernels from the cooked corn and added them to the rice, along with a mixture of chopped cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

20160824_190405Baked orzo with eggplant and mozzarella (pictured before the pasta cooks). While this does require turning on the oven, and a few cooking steps, it’s about as summery as you can get with a baked pasta dish. Eggplant, tomatoes, and mozzarella are virtually impossible to turn down together (at least for me), and I appreciate that you don’t have to cook the pasta beforehand.

Breakfasts this week included yogurt with fresh picked raspberries, nectarines, and granola (pictured at top), plus burritos with beans (I cooked extra when I made the poblanos) with sauteed collards and scrambled eggs.

Everyday Peanut Sauce

DSC01879Why aren’t we all making peanut sauce? Every day? To put on everything? These are big and important questions. Many a meal can be made from peanut sauce. It takes any combination of rice or noodles with vegetables and unites them into dinner. Or in this instance, takes a collection of vegetables and herbs from the garden/crisper, rolled up in rice paper skins, from a dry, protein lacking appetizer to a legitimate, hot weather dinner option (at least in these parts). This sauce is vegan, comes together quickly, freezes well, and can be easily adapted. It is mildly spicy on purpose, and I usually serve hot sauce alongside so people can increase heat at will. It is worth making a double or triple batch to stash in the freezer for dinner emergencies during heat waves.

Everyday Peanut Sauce

Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen. This makes enough for 2 meals to each feed 4. I usually freeze half because frozen peanut sauce at the ready is money in the bank.

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or peanut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 15.5 oz can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup smooth natural peanut butter (though I have used chunky in a pinch and blended it at the end)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha or other Asian hot sauce (omit if spice adverse)
  • juice of one lime

Heat the oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute a minute or two, until they are just fragrant. Add the other ingredients except the lime juice and whisk to combine (it may take a couple minutes for the peanut butter to loosed up and integrate). Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from the heat. Add the lime juice and whisk to combine. If you like a really smooth sauce, put it in a blender or food processor for a minute.

Last Week I Cooked….

This was our third week of farm camp, which is a wonderful but exhausting experience. I left most of the meals this week unplanned, and just allowed the wealth of produce guide them. Not planning led to much simpler endeavors, and just about every dinner this week was made in under an hour (who am I?!?!). It was great to let the veg do most of the work, and spend the rest of my evenings recuperating and preparing for another day of excited campers.

Roasted corn, zucchini, and black bean enchiladas. It was in the 90s when I turned on the oven to make these. During the cooking process I questioned my sanity multiple times. But once they were on the table, all the sweaty cooking was forgotten. Still one of my favorite zucchini dishes.

20160815_193045Pesto pasta with green beans and tomato salad. I followed the pesto recipe from The Art of Simple Food, threw on some pasta, and in the last minute of cooking added in a pound of halved green beans. The tomato salad was a simple affair of basil, olive oil, mozzarella, salt, and pepper. This whole meal felt like summer done right.

20160816_183244Frittata with sauteed collards, roasted cherry tomatoes, and feta with buttermilk biscuits. This was a develop “dinner idea that requires no shopping on the 3-minute drive home and execute in an hour” situation. I halved the cherry tomatoes and roasted them at 400F for about 30 minutes (basically as long as it took me to pull the biscuits together and harvest, wash, and chop the collards). The collards went into the bottom of a cast iron pan, were covered, and sauteed for about 5 minutes until wilted. Then I scattered the tomatoes on top, covered that with 1/2 cup crumbled feta, and then poured 6 eggs that had been beaten with a dash of milk, salt, and pepper over everything. That went into the oven (still at 400F) for 10 minutes.

20160818_183010Tacos with black beans, corn, zucchini and feta. This was yet another dinner made without shopping. I simmered a large can of black beans with onion and garlic which the corn broiled. Then I used this taco seasoning to coat the corn once I cut it off the cob. Inspired by this other corn taco recipe I made a quick slaw with zucchini and lime, then topped the whole bit with feta and hot sauce.

Grilled chorizo verde with grilled zucchini, summer squash, and peppers, and cilantro slaw. The real star of this meal was the sausage (as usual). I made a quick green sauce with chopped cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper to brush over the veg before they went on the grill (and saved more for after too). The slaw was red and green cabbage, sliced tomatoes, a handful of cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper. As was the surprising trend this week, this was all pulled together within an hour (with a little chopping help).

Last Week I Cooked….

20160807_17482320160807_172954Spicy tomato and pepper dip (ezme), yogurt with cucumber, dill, and garlic (cacik), Eastern-style focaccia, and stuffed eggplants with lamb, garlic, and tomatoes (karniyarik). All from Persiana. Each of these items was fairly simple to put together, and collectively made for a lovely summer meal. I love just about any version of a yogurt dip, and this one went nicely with the bread. I forgot I only had wheat flour on hand, which made for a heavier focaccia but it was still warmly spiced and a good vehicle for for salads. I should have left the eggplant in the over for longer, because even with the frying they weren’t fully cooked through. This made for even better leftovers once the eggplant was reheated.

20160808_195005BLTs. With Short Creek 7-spice bacon, Potter Hill tomatoes and lettuce, and my sourdough, this was everything I dreamt of in February. Worth the wait.

20160809_193607Zucchini turkey burgers with nectarine and tomato salad and leftover Eastern-style focaccia. So much summer on a plate!! I roasted the burgers instead of frying and then roasting them. They weren’t nearly as pretty that way, but so much easier. The slightly sour yogurt sauce with these is so good.

20160810_190504Lo mein with roasted tofu, broccoli, cabbage, and carrots. I didn’t have a real dinner plan, then saw this on Instagram and knew I had a way to use up some random veg in the crisper. I loved the easy lo mein from Serious Eats and had all the ingredients, so I went with that plus some roasted tofu.

Green scrambled eggs. Good thing I have a food blog, otherwise I might have forgotten about this delightful summer breakfast.

Nectarine and sour cream pancakes. When I made these, Will said “sometimes I think you spoil me.” Maybe true, but I also get to eat these pancakes…so it’s not selfless. The batter comes together quickly, but they take a little bit to cook. Totally worthwhile.

Eating in August

20160726_174607The best month of the year for eating is finally here. It feels like I’ve waited much more than 10 months for tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers from the garden and nearby farms. Here are a few recipes I hold off on making all year, because they are truly their best right now.

Tomato salad. There are hundreds of ways you can go about this. The classic version my mom always made was just chopped tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Dress and toss the salad a few minutes before eating, so the tomatoes can release some juices and create a dressing with the olive oil. You can of course add cucumbers, red onion, peppers, mozzarella, feta, balsamic….I could eat a version of this salad every day of tomato season.

BLTs. There is a reason people make this sandwich again and again. It is the perfect intersection of salty fat, mild acid, and crispness. And with so few ingredients, freshness and quality are everything. Now is the time!!

Sweet cherry tomato and sausage bake. I’ve raved about this before…and will continue to do so forever more. So simple, SO GOOD.

Eggplant parmesan pizza with crispy capers. While this can’t quite top a traditional eggplant parm, it gets damn close. The crispy capers are a brilliant addition of crunchy saltiness.

Roasted eggplant and za’atar pizza. If eggplant parm isn’t your thing, then give this pizza a shot. The creamy tahini base does wonders for herby eggplant and cheese.

Roasted corn, zucchini, and black bean enchiladas. This dish is a bit more involved, but makes a ton of food that you can easily reheat with a salad, freeze, or share. It is a main and vegetable in one and can easily stand on its own if you are too tired to make other things.

The tomato crostata, tomato jam, and tomato curry from The Yellow House’s most excellent tomato diary (which comes along with some wonderfully provoking thoughts on the local food movement).

If you haven’t eaten pasta with fresh pesto before the end of summer, then I will go so far as to say you haven’t really had a summer. if you have a food processor, then dig it out, otherwise a knife and a little time will do you just fine.

Baked orzo with eggplant and mozzarella. A delightful one dish meal.

Fish fragrant eggplant. After I read Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper last year, I dreamt of this dish for months. It is delightfully spicy and sour, plus makes excellent use of eggplant’s sauce absorbing powers.

Peach and tomato salad. Not the tomato salad I grew up eating, but one I’ve very happily added to the rotation.

It is National Farmer’s Market Week, a time of wonderful abundance, the perfect time to support farmers, and eat the most delectable vegetables.

Last Week I Cooked…

20160802_192344Beer brats with beer mustard (leftover from our Oktoberfest party) and sauteed red cabbage. This dinner felt like a cop out, even though I technically did cook it. Great sausage made things ridiculously easy. I’ve made this cabbage recipe a few times before. If you love the flavor of kraut and pickles, this dish is a delicious shortcut to those flavors.

20160801_191231Saag paneer with sauteed beets (from Vegetarian India) and brown rice. This was not technically saag paneer, because instead of spinach I used a mix of collards, beet greens, and tatsoi. I’ve made this recipe many times with all different varieties of greens, and it is always delicious. The beets had chili powder and tomatoes. I didn’t get quite enough beets from the garden to make a full recipe, but it was the perfect amount to be a little side dish. Next time I would use a little more chili to cut the sweetness of the beets, but I would still make it again.

Summer squash pizza and kale salad with feta and dried cranberries (adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook) This didn’t feel like pizza. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, and used parmesan instead of the gruyere and no bread crumbs. It was pretty good, and certainly an efficient way to use a lot of summer squash at once. But if I was going to make another summer squash pizza soon, I would go for this goat cheese version instead.

Hash browns with collards and an egg. Yet another iteration of my breakfast favorite.

20160807_102845Potato and bacon fritatta (from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook). There were a few steps involved, so I would reserve this for dinner or weekends, but it was a delicious all-breakfast-items-together dish. Along with a salad it would make for a perfect fancy brunch.

How to Throw an English Picnic Camping Party!

20160730_164413Wait, what kind of party theme is that?! A great one, actually. Most often I start with a food or drink and build my party theme up from there. This one started with Scotch eggs, which are one of Will’s favorite foods, but not something we come across often. For those unfamiliar with this delightful food, it is a hard boiled egg, completely encased in sausage, coated in bread crumbs, and deep fried. So not something to be consumed often, but that is nearly impossible in these parts anyways. In the last couple years we’ve only been able to find them from Myers of Keswick in NYC, and when we were in Ireland.

Scotch egg’s unfortunate rarity and Will’s love for them made for a perfect birthday centerpiece. I was already coordinating some of his friends to meet us for a camping trip, so a picnic theme was perfect for a party without a kitchen. Plus it was wildly different than the Mexican meal we had 2 years ago, and last year’s Southern rib party (it is way too soon for repeats). I pulled Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain off the shelf and got to planning.

The Menu

Appetizers

  • Scotch eggs with Coleman’s mustard
  • English cheddar and Stilton
  • Dilly beans (canned last summer…almost time to make more!)

Drinks

  • English beers: I grabbed a growler each of Truell’s Best (an English Bitter) and Novacaine (and DIPA) from Cold Harbor Brewing. (Yes, a double IPA is more American than English…but they did create the style which was adapted and it is a delicious beer.)

Dinner

Dessert

  • Chunky Lola cookies from Flourwhich had oats, chocolate, pecans, and coconut

20160731_190541Notes

I couldn’t find any English style sausage like bangers for the Scotch eggs, so I bought some ground pork and improvised a bit. I referenced this banger recipe, subbing pork meat, leaving out the added fat and beer (because I didn’t have fat and wanted a firm sausage since it wouldn’t be in a casing), and then loosely followed the rest of the recipe based on what spices I had around. Not exactly traditional, but I think I ended up with a better outcome than if I had gone with a readily available but imperfect substitute.

The actual Scotch egg process was surprisingly easy….minus peeling the eggs. I should have listened to Kenji and put the cold eggs into the hot water. Once that frustrating bit was over, I proceeded with my sausage through Jamie’s recipe and coated the eggs with flour, then sausage, then flour again, eggs, and bread crumbs. I heated oil in a smaller Dutch oven so I could use less oil but still have a deep pan, and fried them in batches of 2-3. With the oil at 300F, they took exactly 4 minutes as specified.

With so much effort invested in a single appetizer, the accompaniments had to be easy. Classic cheeses, and pickles to cut the richness from everything else rounded it out.

The sandwiches were all about the brisket cooked low and slow in a Worcestershire broth the night before. It was literally as easy as throwing everything in the same pot and then not forgetting to take it off the stove before bed.  I reheated the brisket in the broth over the fire, then shredded the meat. Then to serve you just throw together a simple cucumber salad with red onion and white wine vinegar, heat the bread, and put out with butter and mustard.

The salad was a perfect showcase for summer vegetables. I prepped everything but the apples (which I subbed for the pears) beforehand, and made the dressing in a jar to go. My one regret was that I made exactly the amount of dressing called for, and thought the salad could have used a little more.

The cookies may not have been English…but I wanted something easy to transport and they were delicious.

Schedule of Events:

This is assuming you have a party on a Saturday night (or have time to prep a day before). It could all be done in the same day if needed. If you’re truly having a picnic, you could put the salads together before leaving, and only assemble the sandwiches on site.

Day before:

  • Cook beef
  • Make cookie dough
  • Hard boil eggs (I didn’t do this the day before, and I regretted it)

Morning of:

  • Bake cookies
  • Prep veg for salad and make dressing
  • Make and fry Scotch eggs

Before dinner:

  • Make cucumber salad and let marinate for 30 minutes
  • Toss salad with dressing
  • Warm beef and bread