Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bestest, Easiest, Deliciousest Dinnah Evah

Today drained the energy totally out of me. I know what I am doing at work, just that some days I have to do everything all at once, oh and it all should have been done five minutes ago. 

Five on the clock could not come soon enough. I trudged my sorry self home, until the end when I accidentally bashed my foot off the curb and hopped the last few feet, fueled by pain and f-bombs. 

I was just too tired to make dinner and contemplated going right to bed with a cup of tea. Which is a terrible idea in reality, unless you have a sad-faced stomach and then a cup of tea is the best idea. As a compromise I made a dinner that required the same level of effort as making a cup of tea. 

As you can see from the photo above, it was just potatoes and an egg. Big whoop.

A couple of chopped up potatoes, roasted them with a bit of olive oil in a 375 oven until soft on the inside and crispy brown on the out. Then I poached an egg, which is about the easiest way to cook a quick egg. Just bring a small pan of water to a boil and ease the egg in. Cook until the white is set and remove with a slotted spoon.  I like a runny yolk so if you don't you might want to cook the egg until everything is set. I do not recommend this though, as it seems to be a waste of an egg. Sprinkle the whole thing with a little bit of salt if you like, and a few healthy grinds of pepper. 

Truly this was the simplest and most delicious dinner. 

PS: It was done in time for me to eat it AND catch an episode of New Girl which was a pretty awesome end to a kinda grody day

Sunday, March 25, 2012

(Almost) Vegetarian Lasagna

I like to have my family over on Sunday for lunch. It motivates me to clean my house and to cook for pleasure. Like I mentioned before, I usually get home and just want to park myself on the couch to read Scandinavian murder mysteries and eat popcorn seasoned with Old Bay, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. If it's been a particularly tough day, I will treat myself to a Miller High Life in a pony bottle.

Ahhh life....

Anyway, for lunch today I made "lasagna". The reason I put this in quotes is because there is a world of difference between the lasagna that shows up on a plate in Italy and what you will get in America.

According to La Maman all the lasagna here is crap. Sorry, le crap. Noodles, greasy meat, too much cheese, and drowning in tomato sauce - too heavy and fatty for her European sensibilities. And while she and I will just never see eye to eye on the merits of Lucky Charms and of diet sodas, we are in complete agreement here. 

Personally I love the idea of a gooey-saucy pasta melt, but the reality is that after I eat it I feel like sh*t.

My idea of a good lasagna is to have it chock full of vegetables, a few layers of very thin noodles, not too much cheese, and a very light tomato sauce.  

This is what I came up with:

Calamity's Lasagna

Looks like a lot of cheese, huh. 

But it's not ricotta, it's tofu. Which pretty much sounds like lasagna heresy, I agree. And also you probably just threw up a little in your mouth. I know I did when I was looking around on the internet for a recipe that used tofu instead of ricotta and mostly they called for things like nutritional yeast or something that comes in granules, none of which is a staple in my kitchen. 

The other reason I used tofu is because I had some from my Farmer's to You order.  They recently started carrying tofu from Vermont Soy and I figured I would give it a try. 

Plus not only does tofu have fewer calories than ricotta, it has much less sodium which, yes, makes me sound like a neurotic old lady BUT I am watching the calories these days and while I love salt so much I once tasted a salt lick, salt makes my Dad blow up like a balloon and I'd rather not do that to the poor man. 

So instead of a recipe involving yeast and seaweed and assorted hippie sundries, I winged it.

Firstly I boiled up the lasagne*. No-boil lasagne is also available, and feel free to use that instead as it will save you a very big and boring step. 

Once the lasagne was cooked, I plunged them into a basin of cold water. Why? I don't know, it just seemed appropriate.  I left them in the cold water while I made everything else, only because they were out of the way in the basin. 

As for the vegetables, I rummaged around in the fridge and decided to use up some aging mushrooms and on-the-verge spinach.  I sliced the mushrooms and rinsed, stemmed, and tore up the spinach.

Then in a large pan with a bit of olive oil over medium-ish heat, I sauteed a large chopped onion, a chopped up shallot, and a couple of cloves of garlic. When the onions became translucent, I bunged in the mushrooms. Once those were browned a bit, I dumped the cleaned spinach in on top and cooked them just until wilted. 

Remove that from the heat and make some tomato sauce. This is the easiest thing ever. In a heavy pot, heat up some olive oil and then heat up some tomato paste in the oil. This will cook out the tinny flavor that tomato paste can sometimes have. Add some minced garlic if you like, as well as some salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Then empty in a large can of chopped tomatoes and a few cut up basil leaves and cook until heated through, about 7 to 10 minutes - maybe less. 

Lastly make the tofu filling. Ok so it is a good idea to drain the tofu in advance. Also you will need to use firm tofu for this. Silken tofu would probably ooze out and look grody. 

Drain the tofu very well and crumble it into a bowl. Add in ground black pepper, finely chopped basil, about a quarter cup of pecorino romano and mix it all together. Use your hands for this. Very satisfying. Oh, but don't mush it together, gently mix and crumble it together okay. 

Now for the fun part - layering everything together and hoping you don't muck up the proportions.  I put a very thin layer of tomato sauce at the bottom for luck. Then a layer of lasagne, a layer of tofu, a layer of the cooked veg, and a layer of tomato sauce, and repeat once. 

So now for the top, it should just be a layer of lasagne with a thin layer of tomato sauce over the top. Then sprinkle about half a cup (or so, depends on the size of the pan) of shredded mozzarella evenly across the top. 

Bake it for about an hour in a 350 oven. I use a glass dish with a lid which I remove about 15 minutes before the end to brown the top. If your pan hasn't got a lid, just fashion one from tinfoil. 

Lasagna is one of those dishes that is relatively un-f*ck-up-able. I swear, however I do realize that these instructions are pretty vague. But the key to cooking is practice and figuring out things when they go wrong. Believe me, I have eaten (or at least attempted to eat) my share of kitchen disasters and they do get fewer and farther apart. 

Just remember, build any lasagna you like as follows:
Dollop of sauce
Lasagne (noodle)
Filling (tofu or ricotta)
Vegetable (cooked)
Covering of sauce
Lasagne (noodle)
Filling (tofu or ricotta)
Vegetable (cooked)
Covering of sauce
Sprinkle of shredded cheese 
Also, you can make it the day before you need it, just refrigerate it. Take it out of the fridge about half an hour or so before putting it in in the oven.

*Apparently lasagna is the dish, and lasagne are the noodles. Yer welcome!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Carrot Salad

The recent spell of gorgeous summery weather has put me in the mood for salad. Not leafy salad because I cannot make a leafy salad to save my life, but more along the lines of a shredded root veg tossed with a vinaigrette kind of thing.

A simple vinaigrette dressing is perfect for shredded fresh carrots and dried cranberries.

I make mine with a finely minced clove of garlic which I mix with a spoonful of grain mustard, a large pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and some white wine vinegar. Then I whisk in some olive oil until it looks like, well, vinaigrette. I have no clue about the proportions because I grew up watching my Maman make this and I am just copying her. I will say that you want to put in more oil than vinegar and you can leave out the garlic if your guests have tender digestions. Or add in more garlic if it's just you.

This dressing works well with chopped roasted beets, and with leafy salads (if you know how to make them).

Made with carrots from Farmers to You.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Buttermilk for one

I use the Farmers To You service. It's a first world luxury that I am lucky to be able to afford.

The reason I use this service is because I can pick and choose what I want to get rather than getting a box of pre-selected items. I went that route before and ended up with more salad greens than a normal person can eat in a week.

But every now and then I get a little ambitious and order ingredients for fabulous recipes that I am going to simply whip up during the week. Bah hahahahah! Never make plans for the week on the weekend. When I get home on a weeknight chances are high that I just want something RIGHT NOW. Already cooked.

Which is why I should never order buttermilk. I am not going to make buttermilk pancakes or blueberry buttermilk bundt cake during the week. I am going to eat popcorn or pasta while I pin sh*t to Pinterest just like every other normal person.

However I do order it and then can never use it up in time. Until I remembered that you can freeze buttermilk and it freezes beautifully.

One tablespoon cubes! Perfect buttermilk portions for one!

More to "love" about the local Kam Man

The old Super 88 at South Bay has been replaced by Kam Man. Which basically means I still have somewhere to go and giggle like a school girl over things like this:

These are the two least raunchy "supplements" available.
Please note that the first ingredient in Stud Sex Power is "strong back".
Which is the first thing I'd look for quite frankly.

If none of those work, maybe try this tea. 
It's a bietary fupplement*.
*Probably not FDA approved though. 

Meme's Cake

I was the most awful kind of American child. My mother is from the South of France so growing up she was all about olive oil, garlic, and eating natural foods instead of processed foods.

This was the direct opposite of how I wanted to eat. I wanted Oreos in my lunch, not an apple; I wanted American cheese and baloney sandwiches on soft white bread; I wanted snack sized packs of Doritos and Fritos; in short, I wanted to be just like everyone else in the lunch room at a time when conformity was key to acceptance.

Which I just never was able to achieve, but not because of my lunches. But that is a whole other blog post, or something...

Summer would roll around and my grandparents would come over from France for three months. Three months of everything made from scratch, catered to our desires and preferences, with no trying to conform to anyone else.  My Meme would ask us every morning what we wanted for breakfast - perhaps un coup de fruit ou peut-etre des crepes? Meme loved my sister and myself so much that it hurts my heart a little to think about it today because I know that I didn't tell her enough that I loved her back.

Meme would cook every single thing from scratch. It truly was encroyable. And I have come to this approach sort of later in my life, but better late than never. There are things about cooking that seem to come naturally to me, and I know that is the part of Meme that I will carry with me forever.

For my birthday this year I asked for a Meme cake. A Meme cake is a very plain cake that is kind of an everyday cake, if you will. The point is to have a little sweet something, but not too decadent.

This is probably a genoise, or a Victoria sponge cake to most people, but to me and mine it will always be a Meme's Cake.

Meme's Cake

Meme's Cake - direct from La Maman

3 large eggs, a cup of flour, a cup of sugar.

You separate the eggs, beat the yolk with the sugar until really pale yellow, then
you beat the egg white.  Stir the flour into the egg yolk if it's a little hard put a little
bit of your beaten white eggs, then fold the egg white into the egg yolk.  You can add some
lemon zest, some vanilla. 
I cook everything in a 355 degree oven

Ok, so some notes that might be of use, since sometimes hand-me-down recipes don't translate so well written down: if the yolk, sugar, flour mix is too stiff you can add a tablespoon or so of milk. I use an 8" round pan, that I just butter. As for the baking time, give it about 30 -40 minutes, a knife stuck into the middle should come out clean. 

This particular cake takes me about half an hour to get into the oven and I almost always prefer it split in two with jam spread throughout. 

Tonight I made it with some cherry preserves I'd put up in the summer. So, so SO good. 

With love from Meme, bien sur!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Marmite is alright

Three sizes of Marmite
Little Marmite

Middling Marmite
Freakhog GINORMO Marmite.
I like Marmite on buttered toast with a cup of tea. And Kam Man sells a couple of sizes, in case you need some.

I like cheese.

Working for a cookbook publisher means that every now and then we get mysterious packages of food.

Almost always this is a good thing, especially since we also publish books on birthing babies and so far no one has mailed us a baby.

This is how I discovered delicious cherries from the Northwest (a 10lb bag no less), awesome red velvet cake from Daisy Cakes, stollen from Zingerman's that I could not resist, and most recently Palmetto Cheese.

Sounds gross, right? Well it does if, like me, you think it is some kind of vegan cheese made from a palmetto plant.

But no, this stuff is not that, not at all.

It's a kind of cheese paste that comes in a plastic tub, a kind of melange of shredded cheese, mayo, and spices. The one I nearly ate entirely on my own was the Palmetto Cheese with Bacon. This stuff is the perfect blend of all the sh*t that makes a person fat: it's savory and unctuous, delicious cold or hot and melted over leftover rice....

Turns out that pimento cheese is a "Southern thang", like sweet tea and red velvet cake. All I can say is amen to the internet and its ability to bring me stuff I never knew existed.

Further searching on said internet has turned up many a home recipe. I have to admit that while I am tempted to make it myself, I am a Yankee and I think my version of pimento cheese would lack a certain type of culinary abandon.

Which means that I will be ordering it. Oooh yeah.

In bulk.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Food lately

I am totally bored of writing about food. But I absolutely still love eating it.

Lately I've been pretty good about sticking to eating what I get from the weekly Farmers to You delivery.  Mind you there is not a great deal of variety right now, seeing as how it's technically still winter, but I quite honestly feel a million times better eating the same veg over and over instead of a variety of crap. 

I eat a lot of roasted veg at night. Not only does firing up the stove heat up the house just enough to last the night, but eating plain cooked veg (beets, carrots, onions) makes me feel less blergy. 

(Before you think I am all holier-than-thou on the "eat more veggies" wagon, please note that I do have an inner child that is totally pissed right now since I promised to only eat Lucky Charms and coffee ice cream as an adult... oh well.)

One item that I am now totally addicted to is the Mad River Grain bread from the Red Hen Bakery. When I dream of a chewy, grainy, delicious bread - THIS is the bread I am thinking of.

I have a slice of this bread with some jam, and a hard boiled egg for breakfast and I am set until lunch. 

Who would have thought that eating a little better would also mean eating a little less? Not me!