Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bok Choy with Pickled Mushrooms

Bok Choy and Pickled Mushrooms

All right, friends. This is it. The last day of NaBloPoMo. AND I FREAKING DID IT. I admit there were some filler posts (sorry, but my nephew is really cute and so are dolphins) but we learned things this month, didn't we? One: leftover shellfish doesn't always stink. Two: Fermentation is our friend. Three: Texas loves Texas. So what did you think? Do you prefer the recipes-only format or do you like the regular check in, even if there's no recipe?

I do have a recipe for you today, actually. I wanted something (else) green to go next to last night's fish, and I had originally planned to saute some bok choy with fresh shiitake mushrooms. When I got to the grocery store, however, all that was left on the mushroom shelf was a dozen packages of pre-sliced portabellas and one sad little box of oyster mushrooms. Le sigh. But as I pondered on mushrooms I realized I had shiitakes at home in the fridge - pickled!

Bok Choy with Pickled Mushrooms
serves 3-4 as a side dish

Sorry for the recipe-in-a-recipe, but I promise once you make these pickles you'll find all sorts of places to use them. On a cheese plate? Yes. In a salad? Yes. Soup? Yes. Noodles? Yes. With sauteed bok choy? Heck yes. 

1 bunch young bok choy (mine was three heads too big to call "baby" but too small to be fully grown)
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 - 1/2 cup soy-pickled shiitakes

Separate the leaves of bok choy and wash carefully (there's usually a lot of dirt right at the base of the leaf), then dry. Slice the leaves, separating the stemmy pieces from the leafy pieces. Thinly slice (or finely chop, if you'd rather) the garlic.

Heat a large skillet (I used nonstick) over medium heat and add the oil. Add the garlic and bok choy stems to the pan, season with a pinch of salt and toss to coat in oil. Cook over medium heat until the stems are almost tender (3-5 minutes depending on how big you cut them and how mature your bok choy is).

When the stems are not quite done, add the leaves. They will wilt quickly, just keep them moving in the pan. When the leaves are wilted, add the mushrooms, and heat for just a bit longer until the mushrooms are heated through. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Matcha and Pistachio Crusted Fish

Matcha & Pistachio Crusted Cod

I get quite a few food magazines, and even though sometimes it's kind of overwhelming I really do try to cook out of each of them at least once every month. Occasionally Adam will pick up a Fine Cooking or Food & Wine off the coffee table and mention that something looks good, and the man has a good eye. So when he perked up over this recipe in October's Bon Appetit, I put it on the list of "things I want to cook, eventually". I really shouldn't have waited so long. Delicious, easy, fast - what more could you ask for?


Matcha & Pistachio Crusted Fish
serves 4

The recipe calls for halibut, but I used cod, because it looked better than the halibut when i went to buy fish. Any white fish would work, but the portions I ended up with were quite thick, so the cooking time was way more than the recipe said. Whatever fish you end up with, just make sure you cook it until it's just opaque in the center. Oh, and I found matcha pretty easily at my local Japanese market

1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1 1/2 teaspoons matcha (green tea powder)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
4 5-ounce skinless filets of halibut, cod, or other white fish
salt and pepper
lemon wedges for serving (optional)

If you bought pistachios that are already roasted and salted, skip this step. If you bought raw pistachios, heat the oven to 400 and spread the pistachios out on a baking sheet; toast for 3 minutes or until just browned in spots. Let cool. Even if you're not roasting the pistachios, heat the oven to 400.

Combine the pistachios, sugar and matcha in a food processor (a mini chopper thingy or the processor attachment to an immersion blender is perfect for this) and process until the pistachios are roughly chopped. Add the breadcrumbs, butter and lemon zest and process again, but not too long! You don't want it to be too pasty. Taste the topping and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and lemon if necessary (I used roasted, salted pistachios so it was plenty salty and I only needed to add a little pepper).

Line the sheet pan with parchment and butter the parchment. Season both sides of the fish filets with salt and pepper, then top each filet with 1/4 of the pistachio mixture. Bake for 8-10 minutes for thin filets or 16-20 minutes for thicker pieces. No matter the thickness of your fish, bake until opaque and set in the center. Serve with lemon wedges, if you like.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Three Bird Soup

Three Bird Soup

Well here it is, folks. The end of the Thanksgiving leftovers. I know I just told you not to mess with them, but then this idea popped into my head and I just had to use the last bits of turkey to make soup. It's not the standard post-holiday turkey soup, I don't think. First of all, it's more vegetable than turkey: onion, celery, carrot, turnip, and garlic.

Vegetables! for soup

I didn't put any rice or noodles in, though I could have, I suppose. Here's the thing that I chuckled at. I used three different birds! I cooked the vegetables in duck fat, then added chicken stock, then at the end I added the chopped, cooked turkey. Duck, chicken, turkey. OMG, I think I made turducken soup.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cranberry Bread with Cream Cheese

Cranberry Bread + Cream Cheese

An underutilized and underappreciated combination, if you ask me.

PS, Mom, can you send me your cranberry bread recipe?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Adam's Breakfast Potatoes

Browned and crispy

I have mentioned before that Adam is in charge of weekend breakfasts at our house (but in case you didn't catch it before: pancakes! Adam's have no sugar, so they don't fight with the maple syrup. Yum).

Potatoes, Chillin'.

When we have eggs (most of the time I want eggs. For some reason I do not like to diverge from routine at breakfast), he often makes home fries. He's been working on this method/recipe pretty much since we started dating, and friends, I think he's got it down.

Pick some thyme

It's a short list of ingredients: potatoes, onions, herbs, butter. We use thyme a lot, and sometimes tarragon in the summer, it really depends what we have around. Rosemary is always nice with potatoes, too. The secret is in the butter (isn't it always?), so don't be shy about it. If you don't use enough, even in a well seasoned cast iron skillet the potatoes will stick. And make sure you give yourself enough time- the potatoes take at least 30 minutes (closer to 40, usually) but much of that time is down time, so pour another cup of coffee and enjoy your morning, my friends.

Butter Bath

Adam's Breakfast Potatoes
serves 3-4 as a breakfast side dish

6-8 medium yukon gold potatoes (a little less than 2 pounds)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, more as needed
1/2 a medium onion, sliced or diced, your preference
1 teaspoon or so of chopped fresh herbs - tarragon, thyme, or marjoram. If you use sage or rosemary, use a little less.
salt and pepper

Scrub potatoes, but don't peel them; dice into rough 1/2 inch pieces. Heat a 10-12 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the potatoes, toss to coat in butter and season with a big pinch of salt, and cover the pan - we use one of those universal lids, it doesn't have to be a tight fit, just enough so that the potatoes can steam a bit. Stir it once or twice, but keep the lid on it for ten minutes. After ten minutes, uncover it, add the herbs and begin the stir-and-wait process.

Stir the potatoes every few minutes, but make sure you let them sit still enough so they begin to brown. If at any point the potatoes begin to stick to the pan, add more butter. Adam says "I know, it seems like a lot. Just add more butter." When you begin to ask yourself if the potatoes are almost done, that's when you add the onion. Adam says "when most of the sides of the potatoes are brown that's when I add the onions". I say, when the potatoes are about 80% as brown as you want them to be, add the onions. You might have to add a little nub of butter here. When the onions are soft and the potatoes are brown, yay! they're done. The whole process usually takes 30-40 minutes for us. Enjoy next to your eggs with or without ketchup and hot sauce.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Two fun things from Thanksgiving


Fun thing #1: look at this cute cat hiding in the pillows! Hello, Spike. Spike isn't allowed in the house during dinner because he will climb up on the counter and nom on the turkey carcass. Sorry, Spike.

Thanksgiving Cheeses

Fun thing #2: cheese plate! I swear it was prettier before we attacked it. From top left: Sage Farm Sterling, unidentified manchego, Bayley Hazen, and Moses Sleeper. I had a whole Vermont cheese thing going on and then my sister grabbed the manchego out of the fridge. Ah well, it was still delicious.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Hi, friends! We're heading up to Maine in about five minutes to spend the holiday with my parents, but I wanted to check in and say Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, whether you celebrate with a Turkey, a Tofurkey, or anything in between. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pressing Tofu

Pressing Tofu

I know Thanksgiving is in two days* but I don't feel like talking about stuffing or sweet potatoes; I've been doing plenty of that at work. So instead... Do you know about pressing tofu? It's an awesome trick, and I think it improves the texture some, plus it definitely makes it more flavorful... or easier to make flavorful. Think of it as a sponge (but tofu isn't inherently spongey, ok? it's actually really delicious). If you want it to absorb flavorful liquids (soy sauce, sesame oil), you have to squeeze out the flavorless liquid that's already in there.

Above you can see my tofu pressing set up: cutting board propped up on a lid so the tofu can drain into the sink, something heavy on top. If you don't have a cast iron pot, use a regular pot and fill it up with cans of heavy things. I find it easier to balance one heavy item than a bunch of middle weight items on top of each other, but maybe you like a challenge!

Once you've pressed your tofu, splash on a little soy sauce and sesame oil, turning the tofu so it's all coated and absorbing evenly, then broil it for 4-6 minutes until the top is browned. Serve with rice noodles and stir-fried kimchi, if you like.

Broiled Tofu, Noodles, Kimchi

*In fact, I have specifically been avoiding Thanksgiving-y foods for the last week or two. I don't want to be over it before the big day, you know? So we've been eating tofu and grilled cheese and burritos instead of mashed potatoes and cranberry jelly.

Monday, November 21, 2011


You guys, NaBloPoMo is finally getting to me. I'm afraid I don't have anything exciting to say tonight.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mushroom Pâté

Mushroom Pate

As you might be aware, Thanksgiving is in about four days. Four days! Some of you already have your menus all planned, and some of you have probably already gone shopping, but for those of you wondering what to put out for noshing while everybody waits for the turkey, I'd like to add this pâté to the list of possibilities.

Technically this isn't a pâté, since it isn't a forcemeat. Actually it's not meat at all! What's that? Yes! It's vegetarian. But what with all the eggs and cream and porcini, it certainly doesn't lack for richness, and it's perfectly at home on your cheese plate or just by itself next to a pile of crackers. Don't skip the topping, the pâté is all smooth, creamy, and cool, so the bite of the scallions and crunch of the pecans is a perfect counterpoint.

mushroom pate

Mushroom Pâté
Makes 2 mini loaf pans of pâté
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

If you don't want to spring for porcini, any mix of dried wild mushrooms will work just fine, porcini just adds a bit more depth of flavor. Don't be intimidated by the long instructions, this isn't a super quick and easy! type recipe, but it's worth the effort, and you can make it four or five days ahead to no ill effect. Make it today, serve it Thursday. What more can you ask?

1/2 ounce dried porcini   
1 medium leek, sliced  
10 ounces cremini or white button mushrooms, sliced  
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced  
4 tablespoons (1/2 a stick) butter  
2 cloves garlic  
3/4 cup pecans  
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped 
2 eggs  
1/2 cup cream  
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs (fresh or panko)
1 tablespoon lemon juice  
5-6 scallions, chopped 
1/2 cup parsley, chopped

Soak the porcini in 2 cups warm water for 30 minutes. Once they're soft, remove the porcini, finely chop, and then pour the liquid into a small sauce pan (leaving any dirt behind in the bottom of the bowl) and reduce the soaking liquid over medium heat to 2 tablespoons.     

Meanwhile, prepare the pans: butter two mini loaf pans, then line them with parchment and butter the parchment. I know it seems crazy but you do want to be able to get this out of the pan, right?

Preheat the oven to 325.

Heat a tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat, then add the leek and garlic and half a cup of pecans. Cook until the leek is soft, 8-10 minutes depending on your pan and how much you stir (enough so the garlic doesn't burn, ok?) Remove to a large bowl, but don't clean the pan. Melt another tablespoon of butter and cook 3/4 of the cremini mushrooms until tender. Add them to the bowl with the leeks, and season the mixture with salt and pepper. Taste it now, because you'll be adding raw eggs to it shortly. Cook the rest of the cremini, the shiitake and porcini mushrooms in one more tablespoon of butter until soft, then set aside in a separate bowl.

Make sure the leek mixture isn't too hot (just stick your finger in it), then add the eggs and cream and puree them (in a blender or using an immersion blender). Gently fold in the reserved mushrooms, the breadcrumbs and lemon juice.

Divide the batter (actually technically it’s a custard) evenly between the two prepared pans. Cover them with foil. Lay a clean kitchen towel in the bottom of a roasting pan or other baking dish with fairly high sides. Put the loaf pans on the towel, and fill the pan around them with very hot water (if your tap runs very hot, great, otherwise, set a few quarts on to boil when you start cooking. Look! You’re baking in a hot water bath! Bake for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, or until the center of the “loaf” is just barely set. Remove the whole contraption from the oven and let the loaf pans hang out in the hot water for an hour or so (they’ll finish cooking here and the center will set up firmly). Let cool to room temperature, then wrap in plastic and chill thoroughly, at least four hours or overnight.

Bring to room temperature before serving; give it about an hour on the counter (out of the pan). Slice the scallions and cook briefly in another tablespoon of butter, along with 1/2 cup chopped parsley and remaining 1/4 cup pecans. Top pâté with scallion mixture before serving with crackers or bread. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Moxie Mule

The Moxie Mule

Tonight after my almost-12-hour day at work we ended up at Christopher's in Porter Square. The burgers were solid, but what really stood out to me was this totally weird and delicious cocktail I ordered. The Moxie Mule is made of ginger liqueur, fernet branca, lemon juice, and Moxie. I don't know if you've had Moxie - I know it's from Maine 
(like me!), and I think it might be pretty regionally specific to New England - but it tastes like cola with cough syrup, black jellybeans and Necco Wafers. I find it totally awesome. Imagine that, plus Fernet. And they bring you the rest of the can of Moxie! Woo!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Practice Pie

Practice Pie

Most of the time, I don't care about the old rule of never cooking something new for guests (errors are usually salvageable and we can always order pizza, right?), but when I was tasked with my dad's birthday pie I wanted to give it a practice run. I overbaked the crust, too, so it's a good thing I did! Last year's cheesecake was such a huge hit, let's hope this chocolate pudding pie is, too.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dolphins! Toddlers!

Mid Air

The second Adam walked through the door tonight, I said: "I changed my mind. I'm not making dinner." Which of course, means that Adam made dinner. And it was really good! Kimchi quesadillas and beans and rice. Delicious. Except that I only took one picture it and it did NOT come out well. At all. So instead, please enjoy these photos of dolphins (and my super cute nephew Eliot from the Texas State Aquarium. Thank you, good night.

Underwater Viewing

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Actual Use for Leftover Shellfish

Spaghetti with Mussels

I know, it sounds preposterous. But hang with me for a second! Don't throw away that last dozen mussels nobody could eat (and remember for next time that two people, especially if they are called Adrienne and Adam, really only need two pounds of mussels, not two and a half, because frankly, those two people will just fill up on bread sogged in delicious mussel broth and then use too many commas explaining it). You can stretch it into another meal, I promise.

So here is what you do: before you stash the leftovers in the fridge, take the remaining mussels out of their shells and plop them back in the broth. Discard the shells. If you served the mussels in a pot, leave the whole mess in the pot, as it will be easier to heat up later and save you 45 seconds of dishwashing time. Pop it in the fridge.

The next day, put the mussels and broth over low heat and warm them up slowly. Slowly! This way you can gently bring the mussels back up to edible temperature without rubberizing them. Meanwhile, cook half a pound of spaghetti. When the spaghetti is almost done, turn the heat on the mussels up to medium so it's just barely simmering. Drain the spaghetti just before it's done and finish cooking it in the mussel broth, this way it will absorb the deliciousness. Sprinkle with a bit of fresh parsley if you plan to take a picture for your blog, otherwise, just eat it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Smoky Spicy Mussels

Spicy Smoky Mussels

Do you guys keep animal fat in your fridge? I have three kinds. Chicken fat leftover from roasting, duck fat leftover from my CSCA final and bacon fat. We only have bacon in this house once or twice a year, but I always save the fat in a jar for later use (few things improve the humble potato like smoky, salty pork fat).

Secret Weapon

So when I realized we were half way through November (the THIRD month-with-an-R!) and I hadn't made mussels yet, I turned immediately to bacon fat. And to bump the smokiness and add some heat, also hot smoked paprika. If I were to make this again, I'd probably add a little more heat, maybe with a pinch of red pepper flakes, but the slight kick was still pretty delicious.

La Chinata

Smoky Spicy Mussels
serves 2-3

Don't forget the rule about mussels: throw them away if they're cracked or don't close when you tap them. Once they're cooked, throw them away if they DON'T open. 

2 1/2 lbs mussels
2-3 tablespoons bacon fat
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, sliced
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup cream
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Scrub the mussels well and remove any beards that might be hanging out of the shells. Set aside (in an uncovered bowl in the fridge, if you've still got prep to do).

Heat a pot with a tight fitting lid, large enough to hold all the mussels, over medium heat. Melt the bacon fat and add the onion, then cook until the onion is translucent, 5-10 minutes depending on how high the heat is. It's ok if it browns a little bit. Add the garlic, season with a hearty pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper, and cook until it smells really good, probably not more than a minute or two.

Add the hot smoked paprika and stir for about 30 seconds, then add the wine. Bring to a high simmer, then add the mussels and put on the lid. After 2-3 minutes, shake the pot, or remove the lid and stir the mussels once, then put the lid back on. It should take about 5 minutes (or maybe a little more) for all the mussels to open up. Once they're all open, remove the mussels to a serving bowl and add the cream and parsley to the broth in the pot. Bring to a simmer, taste for seasoning (mine needed more salt) then pour over the mussels. You can also add the mussels back in and serve from the pot. Either way, make sure you have some bread on hand for soaking up all the delicious broth.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Restaurant Marliave

The Marliave

My mom and dad are in town for a pharmacy conference today and tomorrow (my dad is speaking at his alma mater, which is pretty cool) so Adam and my sister and I went out to dinner with my mom. We ate at Restaurant Marliave, which I always want to call either Café Marliave or just The Marliave. It's one of Boston's oldest restaurants, and it's got special significance in my family; my mom's parents used to go on dates there. Adam and I went out for reuben sandwiches there right after we got engaged. If you haven't eaten enormous sandwiches while keeping your brand new engagement secret from your waiter, I highly recommend it.

Tonight I did something I never do anywhere: I ordered the chicken. Julia actually said "woah, you never order the chicken." But guys, the chicken? It was so freaking good. Crispy and salty, with mushroom risotto and big cloves of delicious roasty garlic. So good. The reubens, obviously, are wonderful, the cocktails are excellent and the cheese selections are spot on. I don't generally talk about restaurants in this space (I don't feel like restaurant reviews on blogs are fair if you've only eaten in a place once), but Restaurant Marliave is a reliable winner.

Restaurant Marliave
10 Bosworth Street
Boston, MA 02108

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wedding Details

Mobile above the altar

Hi friends! We're finally back home in Boston after quite a crazy week. I haven't cooked much  in the last few days but I thought you all might enjoy a few wedding detail shots. I haven't got any from the actual ceremony because, ahem, I was a bridesmaid, but I got these during the downtime between the awesome rock star style wedding party photos and the ceremony itself, which was completely lovely.

Who needs a flower girl?

When the bride is an artist, you know the details of her wedding are going to be just lovely. Christy made these paper flowers that were strewn about the aisle. She also made the gorgeous mobile above the altar. The space in which they got married (The Foundry at Puritan Mill) is an old soap factory that's been converted into a huge open space, and it was truly gorgeous.

Such a beautiful space

I also got to be involved in some of the decorations, since I got to hot glue the  pearls onto the "something blue" cast.

Blinged out cast

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Oh hey, it's wedding day!

I won't have time for a real post today (in fact we've already begun primping, hee hee) but I thought you guys might get a kick out of the fact that her something blue is a plaster cast. We'll be gluing on some pearls and things later to bling it up. Wish us luck!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Free Stuff for the Bride

Free ice cream

One of my best friends from college is getting married tomorrow. She also, ahem, broke her leg playing soccer on Sunday. So she's in a cast. And a wheelchair. Don't worry, we're figuring out how to festoon the chair, and she'll be on a crutch for the 10 minute ceremony, but it's sure been an interesting few days! We've been milking the story for free things, such as this free frozen yogurt at Chick-Fil-A at lunch yesterday. Wish us luck tomorrow, ok?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Big Red

Big Red

One of the reasons I like grocery store tourism so much is that there are so many foods that are region-specific. For example, Big Red Soda. While we walked around looking for Texas-shaped foods in the beverage aisle (unsuccessfully, though we did find "Texas-style Unsweet Tea"), we came across the various Big sodas (Pineapple, Red, Blue, etc).

I had never tasted Big Red before, but I wanted the full Texas experience so we grabbed one on the way out. When I took a sip of it at the checkout and started describing the flavors the cashier looked at me like I was crazy and I had to explain that I was from the Northeast and had never had Big Red before. I'm pretty sure she still thought I was crazy.

Mostly it's just insanely sweet, but it reminds me of Cream Soda. Also Circus Peanuts and Bubble Gum. So basically, artificial sugary food-like products. To give you a sense of how sweet it is: I ate some Halloween leftovers M&M Peanuts after a sip of Big Red and they just tasted like peanuts, not sweet at all. Those of you who have had Big Red before, what do you think it tastes like? Are there any Big Fans out there?

Soda Model

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grocery Store Tourism

Knowing how much I enjoy grocery shopping, after breakfast today our hosts suggested we check out their local grocery chain. They promised lots of Texas shaped foods, and boy, did HEB deliver.

Say you're having a barbecue and you want people to know you're from Texas. You also want to make stuffed jalapenos but you're not sure how you're going to keep them from falling through the grill rack. I have a solution for you.

Jalapeno Pan

People are probably going to want snacks at your party. Maybe some salsa and chips?

Texas Shaped Tortilla Chips

And you know everyone loves your pasta salad, so now you just have to declare your loyalty.

Go Team

Of course, you could just stay neutral.

Texas Pasta

And you're going to want to put some cheese out for snacking.

Texas Cheese

Ah, but as you cut into that cheese the shape won't be as easy to see. Might as well just go with a party tray.

Texas Tray

And of course, crackers and cheese go together like football and beer, just pick a flavor.

Texas Crackers

Or go with the lighter option...

100 Calories of Texas

Then there's this product, which is amazing on so many levels. TexaFrance pestos. Note the cactus and Eiffel Tower motifs. Note also that pesto is Italian.

TexaFrance Pesto

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad with Shrimp

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad with Shrimp

I brought three different food magazines with me on this vacation; the November issues started arriving at my house a few weeks ago but I saved them for the plane. I also knew I wanted to cook for Amy and Matt while we were here. (Eliot is still a little young for grownup food, but he does do this fantastic joy wiggle when you get a spoon of pureed whatever near him.) I salted a chicken on Monday morning to roast on Wednesday night but we wanted something lighter since we had scarfed some serious pizza the evening we arrived.

This salad from Fine Cooking caught my eye, but I made a few changes. I used green leaf lettuce instead of frisée because seriously, who likes frisée? and I added the suggested shrimp to "make it a meal" because we're on the gulf coast of Texas, shrimp is a thing here. This and a loaf of garlic bread (mix minced garlic with softened butter and some salt, spread on a split loaf of so-called Italian bread, wrap in foil, 20 minutes or less at 350) made a lovely light dinner. Added bonus: squeeze the leftover grapefruit carcasses and drink the juice for breakfast the next day!

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad with Shrimp
serves 4

You could also just skip the shrimp and eat this as a first course, the grapefruit and avocado combo is really nice.

1/2 head green leaf lettuce, cut into salad size bites
2 avocados, pitted, sliced
3 large grapefruits
1 medium shallot, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
1/3 - 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

First, make the salad dressing: combine the shallot, vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a few grinds of pepper and a hearty pinch of salt in a bowl, let stand while you cut the grapefruits.

Use a zester to add about a teaspoon of grapefruit zest to the dressing, then cut the top and bottom off the grapefruits, exposing the flesh. Use your knife to carefully remove all the peel and pith from the fruit. Cut each segment out from the membranes (this is called a citrus suprème) and set the segments aside. If you do this over a bowl you can capture all the juice, then pour it off and drink it. Yum.

Whisk 1/3 cup of olive oil into the dressing, then taste it on a leaf of the lettuce. Adjust the seasoning with more salt or vinegar as necessary, if it's too acidic, add a splash more olive oil.

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, then add a tablespoon of olive oil and the shrimp. Cook in one layer, flipping once, until the shrimp is cooked through and pink. Toss with the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice and season with salt.

Arrange the avocado slices on plates, then toss the lettuce with about half the dressing (or more as necessary) and plate on top of the avocados. Nestle the grapefruit segments in the salad, and top with the shrimp. Drizzle the remaining dressing on the shrimp and serve

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beach Run

Beach run

This morning Adam dropped me and my sneakers off by the beach and I went for a run down on the Ocean Drive walking path. It's easy for me to forget how much fun running can be when faced with cold, dark Somerville winter mornings, but 80 degree, sunny Corpus Christi is very inviting. Added bonus: everyone I passed was so friendly! Every single person smiled, plus I got three "good mornings" and one girl flashed me a peace sign. A peace sign! I didn't even know that was still a thing.

PS, I promise a real recipe post tomorrow, as I'm making dinner for everyone tonight.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Travel Food

Breakfast at the airport

Ah, travel food. Why is it so difficult to find good food at airports? Cold, refrigerated pumpkin cake. Shoddily constructed bagel sandwiches. Home fries drowning in paprika and... citric acid? And then the kicker: we stopped at Chili's on the way out of Austin because I was getting hangry. You may wonder how I ended up ordering the Quesadilla Explosion Salad, but I think when faced with silliness in menu options the only way to go is the item with the silliest name.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pre-travel dinner

Terrible photo of a not as bad as it sounds dinner.

Did you ever come home from a trip out of town and realize immediately upon opening the fridge that you REALLY should have eaten that/thrown that out/somehow taken care of that... before you left? Well, we're heading out on vacation tomorrow morning (leaving for the airport at 4:30am, oof) and I'm trying to avoid stinky fridge syndrome when we get back next week. We had half an onion and some radishes kicking around, so we (read: Adam, while I packed) sauteed them together in some olive oil, added pasta, salt, and plenty of pepper and ta-da! Dinner. Sounds kind of weird, sure, but it worked, and now there won't be old onion funk in the fridge when we get home.

Look for posts from sunny Texas this week!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Savoy Cabbage with Potatoes and Brown Butter

Savoy Cabbage and Potatoes

When I shopped for kimchi supplies, I bought two cabbages. The second one I bought, and the one I ended up using was a medium sized grocery store napa cabbage. But first I bought an ENORMOUS (as in 4 pound) savoy cabbage at a farmer's market. And then I had to figure out what to do with it.

As has become my routine when I have excess veg in the house, I turned to Deborah Madison. This Savoy Cabbage with Potatoes and Brown Butter had a note that it was good on its own or with buckwheat noodles, and I had some soba in the cabinet, so while the cabbage steamed, I cooked up the noodles.

Brown butter and sage are a classic flavor pairing, especially with potatoes (or winter squash, mmm), but the cabbage takes it in a different direction that is unexpected and delightfully crisp. If you've got some stage still holding its own in the garden, this is a nice way to use up a bit before the hard frosts take it for good.

Savoy Cabbage with Potatoes, Brown Butter and Buckwheat Noodles
serves 4

Certainly you could boil the potatoes and saute the cabbage if you didn't want to set up a steamer, but it went pretty quickly and then there's one less pan to clean! 

1 1/2 lbs savoy cabbage, core removed, cut into 1/2 inch strips
8 ounces small boiling potatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
3 tablespoons brown butter*
3-4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan or more to taste.
salt and pepper
8 ounces soba or other buckwheat noodle (optional)

Scrub the potatoes and cut them into 1 inch chunks (or smaller if you like). Steam in a steamer basket over boiling water for 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes are tender. Remove them to a bowl and cover the bowl to keep them warm.

If you're using noodles, bring some water to a boil while the potatoes steam and cook according to package directions. Combine the sage and brown butter in a small bowl.

Steam the cabbage, tossing it every once in a while until it's tender, five minutes or more. Add to the bowl with the potatoes, then add the brown butter, sage, cheese, and plenty of salt and pepper. Toss with noodles, if using, then enjoy.

*To make more brown butter than you need, cut a stick or two (might as well make plenty while you're at it) of butter into large chunks and melt over medium-low heat in a saucepan. The butter will foam, and then the foam will subside and the milk solids will sink to the bottom and begin to brown. When the butter smells toasted and nutty, pour it immediately into another container; if you leave it in the sauce pan the residual heat will burn the butter. Stick the leftover butter in the fridge, you'll find a way to use it (like I said, winter squash, yum).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Only thing missing is the horn shaped basket.

So effin' seasonal, yo.

I don't know if you guys have seen this post on decorative gourds at McSweeney's Internet Tendency, but it makes me laugh every year. I'll warn you though: foul language ahead.

PS, yes, these are on my dining room table. A carnival squash (edible!) and two (non-edible) decorative gourds. Welcome to autumn!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kimchi Fried Rice

Kimchi Fried Rice

After making kimchi on Friday night, I started to think about ways to use it. I know I like it on hotdogs, and I've used it in tacos, but I had never made kimchi fried rice before. I googled around on it a bit and found an approachable recipe over on Rasa Malaysia (which has officially become my go-to site for easy Asian recipes). I changed it up a bit based on what I had around, but I did cook the rice in the morning before work so it could dry out in the fridge during the day. Freshly cooked rice doesn't behave in a frying pan, it's too wet so it gets mushy and soft.

Kimchi Fried Rice
serve 2

Variations on this dish abound on the internet, but most of them are topped with a sunny side up egg. Since I would eat a bowl of packing peanuts if you put a runny-yolk egg on top, I opted in. Oh, and by the way this takes all of 20 minutes to pull together, so consider it for a busy weeknight! Just make sure you have a cold beer on hand, kimchi is spicy. You can use less than the cup I used if you can't take the heat. 

3-4 cups day-old cooked white rice
1 cup kimchi, chopped, plus a splash of the juice
half an onion, chopped
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs, fried sunny side up (optional, but excellent)

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. If you're going to use the eggs, fry them now (cover the pan so the top steams and they'll cook more quickly). Slide the eggs out onto a plate or board, and cover them with a bowl to keep warm.

Add the onion to the oil remaining in the pan (add a touch more if you need it) and cook, stirring regularly, until soft, 3-5 minutes. Add the chopped kimchi and cook, stirring, for several minutes, until the kimchi is starting to brown.

Add the rice. Stir it a couple of times so everything is well distributed in the pan, then pat it into an even layer and don't touch it! for a couple of minutes. Stir, redistribute everything, then pat it into an even layer and leave it alone again for a couple of minutes. I think the key to good fried rice is actually letting the rice brown, and the only way you can do that is by not messing with it too much. Repeat the patting and leaving-alone until the rice is cooked to your liking. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, kimchi juice and sesame seeds, then stir and taste it. Adjust seasoning with more soy sauce or sesame seeds as necessary. Divide the rice between two bowls and top each with an egg.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Making Kimchi


I was talking to my friend Sunny at school a few weeks ago (I graduated back in June but I'm a TA on Mondays) and I mentioned that I wanted to try making kimchi. Sunny is from Korea, and she offered to help me, and THEN she started to ask if I had the right ingredients.

Salting Cabbage for Kimchi

She wanted to make sure I had the right brands of fish sauce (yep, two different kinds) and where I bought my red pepper powder and if I knew which radish to buy (I still managed to buy the wrong one) and by the end of the conversation she had written down the names of the sauces I was supposed to get and we made a date to make kimchi.

Salted cabbage, draining

I salted the cabbage when i got home from work, but it turns out I should have done it the night before as it hadn't wilted much. I also used a very large grain gray sea salt; you can see it in the photo above. When Sunny got to my house she decided we should brine the cabbage while we put everything else together to try and wilt it further, so we mixed a cup of salt and five cups of water and soaked the cabbage while we chopped the rest of the ingredients.

Sunny is speedy

Sunny would not stand still for a picture, but this is her julienning a few daikon radishes on a box grater (a julienne slicer would have been better, but I don't have one).

Chopping scallions

We chopped some scallions, ginger, garlic, and some tiny salted shrimp that Sunny brought. We also made a broth with kombu and water and a slurry with some sweet rice flour that we boiled with water until it was thick.

Shrimpy shrimps

We mixed a paste with red pepper (I bought some at the Korean market in my neighborhood but Sunny brought some that her mom had sent her from Korea and we mixed the two), some of the slurry, a few tablespoons of broth, garlic, ginger, two fish sauces (one made with anchovies and one made with a fish called a sand lance)

Making kimchi

We smeared the paste on every leaf of the cabbage quarters, then wrapped them into little bundles and stuck them in a jar. I left it out overnight to start fermenting, and the next evening I pushed the cabbage down into the brine and popped it in the fridge. Isn't it pretty?

Kimchi in a jar

I'm not going to post the recipe because it's more of a process that we eyeballed and I'm not entirely confident of it myself. Next time I make it I'll try to get it streamlined and share it with you, and tomorrow I'll share the kimchi fried rice I made with it. Have you ever made kimchi? What's your favorite way to eat it?