Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Say Yes to Pesto

So, I had a difficult time with making pesto. The only blender I have is the Magic Bullet, pictured above. It is a great blender for small meals, great for smoothies/mixed drinks, and pretty easy to use and clean, plus small (good for a small apartment). But sometimes it does not work like a normal blender and there need to be special recipes for it.

I tried out one recipe for pesto and it turned out pretty bad; it was almost liquefied and not too tasty. I tried a little on a small bowl of bow-tie pasta (my fav) and it was edible, but not good. In fact, it was bad. Very bad.

I decided to try again, this time with a recipe I found online specifically for the Magic Bullet blender. It looks a little different, as it includes vegetarian Parmesan cheese (I used normal Parmesan, don't know if that matters) and salt [?]. Waaaaaaaaaayyy too much salt. Plus it needs to be microwaved, which meant I had to go to Eirik's to make it because I don't have a microwave. It was better than my first attempt, but I would definitely not add salt (or add a lot less) and it took a lot longer than the recipe said.

I guess we all had misadventures in pesto this cooking time around. I'll post the pictures and recipe for the Tortilla soup soon so that we can see how that goes for the Speers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pesto Monsters

So we forgot to take photos of the actual pesto from two weeks ago. And because of our triple-party planning & school and work, we're a bit behind on the Sundays (sorry, Tortilla Soup).

BUT, we did make pesto. Look! A pesto monster!

And another one!

I had thought pesto-roasted potatoes would be delicious. Not like this, they're not. Still a work in progress.

This weekend is looking like an unlikely time to get back on track with the dinners, and we'll see you here the following week, and you'll be on a plane Sunday night eating airline food while we'll be sleeping like a couple of hibernating bears and eating reception leftovers.

Another Delicious Breakfast Sidenote

Whenever I can, I like to make a sort of brunch on the weekends, and have a hot breakfast that's more than toast & fruit at least one of the two days. Among my favorite things to have is tofu scramble, specifically with a toasted sprouted-wheat English muffin, homemade salsa and sunflower sprouts like this:

Here's how to scramble your tofu:

1/4 block of tofu
[put the rest of the tofu in a tupperware in water & change the water every now and then, like every day or so, or use it up soon, or invite people over for breakfast]
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 heaping Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
a pinch of salt
a dash of pepper
chile powder, according to how hot you like it
a splash of tamari (optional)
[spice measurements are extremely rough estimates--adjust yours to taste & experiment freely!]
2 Tbsp. olive oil for the frying pan

Put tofu & spices in a bowl.
Use a fork to smash the tofu and coat it in the spices.
Heat the oil over medium heat in the skillet that is already turmeric-stained. Not the other one.
Throw the tofu in there and scramble it up til it's done!

While you're doing that, toast your English muffin or toast.

The salsa is easy:
roughly dice one small/medium tomato
add some chopped green chile (canned is fine, I guess)
stir it up.
You can add other stuff if you really want to, but I like the rough simplicity of just chile & tomatoes, personally, especially with this breakfast.
But, if you really wanted to, you could add:
cayenne (extra bite!)
garlic (fresh or powdered)

I like having all of this over a bed of fresh, crispy sunflower sprouts. I got the ones in the picture from the Farmer's Market, and watched the guy actually cut the sprouts from the container they were growing in. I am a sucker for these sprouts anyway, but they're especially welcome in the mornings.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sidenote: Leftovers Friday

So I was getting ready to make that vegetable stew for dinner again on Friday night when I realized that the baby bellas I'd bought earlier had gone south, along with a whole bunch of other stuff. I'm too ashamed to post a picture of all the food we had to get rid of, but I realized that:
a) I was going to have to clean out the fridge right that moment, and,
b) I was going to have to improvise on the stew, since I was now out a few of the ingredients.
And that's when I decided it: Friday nights, we're going to have to make something delicious from whatever we've got left in the fridge that's about to go bad, or that's been in the fridge for just a bit too long. That way we don't waste that food, and the fridge is cleared out for my Saturday morning grocery trips.

So I pulled out most of the good stuff that was left in the fridge, along with a few staples, and decided that we'd have an old fashioned "whatever's left" stew.

Aside from the staples, like olive oil and lentils, we had most of a tomato (I had to cut the gross-ish part off), a slightly withered orange pepper, some carrots, a lemon from when I had my cold earlier in the week, an onion, two potatoes, and from my trip to the greenmarket last Saturday, a bunch of nearly wilty kale (Note: kale often revives nicely if you dunk it in some cold water and swish it around after chopping it.), half a loaf of bread, and a honeycrisp apple for dessert. I chopped my ingredients up and threw them in my stockpot and cooked them roughly according to the vegetable stew recipe.

In hindsight, because of the lentils I added, I should have held off a little longer before adding the kale, but it turned out okay anyway. It looks disgusting, but I promise you it tasted delicious.

I burnt the heck out of the bread when I tried toasting it to have on the side, but I'm saving it for breadcrumbs. Ben and I split the apple, dipping it into sunflower seed butter and a really delicious flavored sugar Pete's mom got me for Christmas last year. It was like vegan caramel apples! So delicious, and so unfortunately not pictured.

I went to the new Bay Ridge greenmarket the next morning and re-stocked our fridge with fresh veggies, and next Friday, we'll take whatever we have leftover and improvise something else. Meanwhile, we have plenty of this stew to take to work with us for lunches! As Ben noted, "It's so thrifty!"

Lisle, I'm hoping that my posts about what I do with my odds & ends will help you out in the "what do I do with these ingredients?" department. It's a good opportunity to get creative!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

third Sunday

We made the vegetable stew earlier in the week, and didn't document it, because it was mostly an experiment. It ended up saving my life when I got a cold on Monday. I came home and added some lemon and raw garlic and cayenne and eating it with toast. It was so good and cleared my sinuses for at least an hour. Thank you, hearty vegetable stew!

We made dinner so quick (I was starving!) that we didn't even remember to take photos! Because I'd picked some up at the Union Square greenmarket after stumping for Banned Books Week like a good librarian, we had roasted portabellas (a la V-con) and made the chickpeas dish with tatsoi (a relative of bok choi) instead of spinach, . Here's a photo of tatsoi, since I didn't take one, which is a shame because it was a really lovely specimen:

This is definitely one of my new favorite greens. It had a really good flavor and was kind of crunchy, even after cooking. If I can keep finding it at the greenmarket (and keep finding time to go there during the week), I will be having this again and again, though probably not as often as my true sweetheart, kale.

We cooked the portabellos after the chickpeas (it was a hectic hungry dinner cooking, which usually leads to a disorganized meal), and it was definitely a winner. We'll also be having these whenever I come across fresh portabellos.

Here's a very dim picture of Pete's, from when I suddenly rushed in and saying "We totally forgot to take photos of everything for the blog!!! ARGH!"

Note, if you can, the totally charming TV tray. We finally found a pair!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sunday # 3 - Tumeric Chickpeas and Spinach (+ Irish Soda Bread + Vegetable Stew)

West Coast
This was a landmark dinner for me. Not only did I cook three different dishes, I had someone else there to eat the food with me afterward. It was sort of like a mini dinner party, and a success! The chickpeas were yummy (and pretty), but I didn't get enough spinach, so they turned out to be a little dry. But it helped to have the yummy vegetable stew because we just poured some of the stew onto the chickpeas. I also made couscous to go with the chickpeas and some Irish soda bread as a side for the stew. It was really fun, really delicious, and really awesome. Not to brag, or anything.
The stew was very colorful and easy to cook. The recipe makes tons of soup, so it's good leftovers, and it's chock full of very healthy veggies like kale, bell pepper, and mushrooms. The flavors are awesome and I was very happy that there was so much garlic in this recipe. It was also very pretty with the yellow pepper, orange carrot, red tomato, and bright green kale (unfortunately not pictured).

The Irish Soda Bread was incredibly easy to make. I bought a new baking sheet and it turns out it's too big for my tiny little oven so I improvised. I made them vegan with soymilk instead of buttermilk and they were very tasty and great with the stew.

I managed to make all of the dishes and not ruin everything, so I say SUCCESS! It helped to have an extra set of hands there, but really, I was the chef. I'm sure Matt will agree. See, there he is, agreeing.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

West Coast - Tofu a la Bourguignonne (+ bonus Asparagus Soup)

I absolutely loved the Tofu a la B. (which is what I call it because Bourguignonne is hard to pronounce and spell). It was delicious and made for excellent leftovers. The mixture of flavors was great and for me the tofu soaked up just enough of the sauce to make it a good contrast to the rest of the dish. I had it over some rice, which was very nice. I ended up letting it simmer longer than the recipe suggested as I attempted to "let the sauce thicken", but it was still very tasty.

I also wanted to try out a recipe for Asparagus Soup:
Looks like baby food, pretty much tastes like it, too.

I had a few problems with this, not just the fact that it ended up tasting exactly like pureed asparagus. It took a lot longer than the recipe said (30 minutes), and maybe this was due to my inexperience or lack of a cooking partner or management of two (count 'em, TWO) dishes at once, but it seemed to take for freekin' ever to finish this. Plus, I ran out of room in my pot and ended up having to leave out the yogurt, which was a bummer because I think that may have made it a little nicer and creamier. I just added a lot of salt to the end result and it tasted okay, but I recommend either some serious cooking improv skills for soup with this one or sticking to better veggies.

The Tofu a la B. was great to cook and I haven't cooked tofu before and so was a little wary, but it's now one of my favorite dishes and I look forward to cooking with more tofu. Plus, it's a pretty easy dish and good by itself or as a side. Also, the wine makes for a pretty color as it cooks and is a great addition to the cooking/eating experience. I'm a little ashamed to say that I nearly finished the bottle of wine by myself, but you know, it's important not to waste a $2 bottle of wine.

It was a messy, green and burgundy cooking night. I took a little less photos because I was a little flustered with two dishes (count 'em).