Monday, May 23, 2011

Fun with radishes

Here are my radishes - the first veggies I ever grew from seeds!

I was pretty anxious to use them once they were out of the ground and washed, because I've noticed in the past that radishes can dry out after just a few days in the fridge.  So, I replayed the radish sambhar recipe here but left out the bell pepper (didn't have any), used more radish than the recipe called for (all the ones pictured above) and used extra yellow split peas in place of the toor dal that I was fresh out of.  I also had a bunch of cilantro that all went in at the end.  Word to the wise: when making any recipe using yellow split peas plus veggies, start cooking the yellow split peas about 15 minutes before the rest since they take a while to soften completely (about 45 minutes).  Here's how it turned out, served over brown rice:

I also figured I'd be cheating myself if I didn't come up with a use for the greens as well.  I have a recipe on file for a pureed radish green and potato soup, but another use came to mind that also allowed me to dispense of half a block of tofu, a package of mushrooms, a zucchini and about four carrots that I had no other plans for: the hot pots that I first made back in January for Steve's birthday.  The broth was pretty much the same as before.  The rest included sliced mushrooms, zucchini and carrots cut into matchsticks, cubed tofu, the last of my rice stick noodles and radish greens sliced into ribbons.  I sauteed the carrots to soften them up a little before assembling the dish. 

Yummy as always, with or without sriracha!

This week's looking like it will be too hot for soup, so be on the lookout for some sort of salad recipe that will use at least one ingredient from the garden.  Stay cool everybody!

Friday, May 13, 2011

My very first homemade pizza!

Yep, I’m 35 and never made a pizza before Wednesday night.  While I’ve eaten plenty of it in my day (I did go to college, after all), I’ve never considered myself a good enough baker to get the dough right.  Luckily, I recently came across the Brokeass Gourmet’s pizza dough recipe, which really is as easy to make as she says (I used a mixing bowl and wooden spoon, nothing high-tech), and decided it was once again worth trying to achieve success with flour and active dry yeast. 

It was also time to take a bunch of big basil leaves off my plant before they all started turning brown and sloughing off to make room for the ones growing in behind them, so I can say that the sauce on my very first pizza was pesto rather than a regular red sauce.  A quick Google search turned up this traditional pesto recipe, which I followed to the letter except that I doubled the garlic to four cloves; two just didn’t seem like enough for the amount of basil I harvested.

With these two things made, it was just a question of rolling out a little less than half the pizza dough onto a 12-inch pizza pan (which Steve, dear that he is, went out and bought since we didn’t have one), slathering on about half of the pesto (about half a cup), covering it over with thinly sliced mozzarella and the toppings we had.  I didn't have any other ideas for the mushrooms we had in the fridge, so that’s what you see here.  Into the 400 degree oven it went for 20 minutes, and voilĂ ! 


I'm not sure if it's because of the pizza pan being non-stick or not, but the bottom part of the crust actually started to brown after about 15 minutes; it was another five minutes before the top edges were brown enough to call the pizza done.  In any case, having a non-stick pan was very handy, since we also don't have a pizza cutter.  With the non-stick pan, it was easy just to slide the pizza off the pan and onto a cutting board for slicing with a regular serrated knife.

Since I ran 9 miles Wednesday morning, I still had a few calories to replace and helped myself to three slices; Steve had two.  The leftovers were just as good for lunch on Thursday after about 40 seconds in the microwave per slice.

So, tonight I made a spinach and feta pizza - just like the one at the Hunter-Gatherer in Columbia - that turned out just as well!  This time I did whip together a quick tomato sauce: eight-ounce can of tomato sauce, half a tablespoon of dried Italian herbs, two cloves of garlic and one pinch each of salt and pepper.  I eyeballed the chopped spinach and crumbled feta, but I pretty much covered the mozzarella before putting it in the oven.  Same as Wednesday: 400 degrees, 20 minutes.

It went in the oven around 7:00, and all of it was eaten before Jeopardy was over.

Pizza, Marian style – homemade sauce and dough.  Who knows?  Maybe when some of the veggies in the backyard have ripened, they’ll also make an appearance atop one of my pizzas!  Tomato slices, mmmm….

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pasta, pasta and more pasta

I didn't realize until I scrolled through my recent food photos that I forgot to blog this pasta dish from a few weeks back - vegan Italian sausage marinara. 

I was inspired by the occasional offering of real Italian sausages in marinara sauce in the hospital cafeteria where I work as well as the fact that we had some Morningstar fake Italian sausages in the fridge from a recent camping trip.  (They're supposed to be kept frozen, so it seemed like a good idea to hurry up and use them.)  So, I cut the fake sausage into big chunks, browned them, set them aside and then made the marinara and the pasta.  I made what seemed like a mistake when I added the fake sausage to the sauce before it was all the way done, because the fake sausage started breaking down in all the hot liquid.  It still turned out well, though, because the parts that broke down ended up giving it a meat sauce-like texture that I hadn't enjoyed in a long time.  Suffice it to say that the leftovers weren't around for long.

Saturday night, while we (or at least Steve) spent two and a half hours watching the live coverage of Derby hats and Jimmy Fallon rapping in his jockey getup, I whipped together what was essentially a replay of the green olive pesto with chardonnary mushrooms recipe from a few months ago, only this time I used the walnut parsley pesto from the other day and used sauvignon blanc (the usual white wine on hand) for the sliced baby bellas. 

Just as delicious as before, and I thoroughly enjoyed the leftovers at work the next day!

Boo to the fact that said next day at work was Sunday, but such is life when you work in a hospital.  Oh, well - it was still nice to see visitors bringing flowers to the patients whose special day it was.  Anyway, when I got home yesterday, it turned out that Steve had cooked in my absence and that I had a yummy dinner to look forward to! 

We also had some asparagus that wasn't going to last much longer, so he saved me having to figure out what to do with it.

Steve's Macaroni and Asparagus Bake:
10 oz. elbow macaroni
3 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup flour
1 cup water (reserved from macaroni cooking water)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup white wine (he used sauvignon blanc)
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound asparagus cut in 1 inch pieces, tips cut off and reserved
1 pound shredded medium cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the elbow macaroni according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt Earth Balance and olive oil over medium-low heat and stir in flour.  Stir until blended and then slowly stir in water.  When mixture begins to bubble, add all the asparagus except the tips.  Stir in the milk and continue to simmer.  Once the milk has heated through, add the wine.  Gently cook the white sauce with asparagus, stirring often so that it doesn't burn on the bottom, until it reduces down to a thick sauce (up to 30 minutes).

Grease a 9 X 13 inch baking dish.  Add one-fourth of the macaroni.  Cover the macaroni with one-third of the white sauce and asparagus followed by enough cheddar cheese to cover (about one-third).  Repeat the layers two more times, including the aspargus tips in the top layer of the white sauce, followed by the remaining cheddar cheese.

Bake until heated through and bubbly, about 30-40 minutes.  Raise the temperature to 400 degrees and set the pan on the top rack for about 5 minutes, until a crust begins to form on top.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving. 

In our case it was more like a couple of hours before we sat down to eat, so the pan spent some time in the fridge and we reheated portions in the microwave for about a minute.  Yum!

And without having had any of the leftovers for lunch, I can say for sure that it's just as good the next day! See, after my brisk 7-miler with the Ninjas this morning, I needed more sustenance than a bowl of yogurt and some ground flaxseed could provide.  When I opened up the refrigerator door to grab the orange juice and saw the leftover macaroni and asparagus staring me in the face, I couldn't help cutting out another slab and heating that up for breakfast!  Just what the doctor ordered.

In the very near future - fun with radishes!  I started growing them from seeds last month, and they'll be ready to harvest any day now.  I'm also trying to figure out what do do with all the lemon balm growing beside the basil.  Tea?  Stuffed shells?  Perhaps another pesto?

Stay tuned...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

All of the above ingredients went into the dinner I made last night after a very rough day at work.  Cooking was the furthest thing from my mind when I got home; all I could think about was propping up the achy foot I walked around on all day (boo, plantar fasciitis).  I'm glad I did because I was getting sick of settling for a frozen Amy's Kitchen entree (even though they're good), chips and salsa, chips and hummus or a salad consisting of the salad greens and dressing (nothing to chop). 

Until yesterday, I also had a ridiculously overgrown parsley plant in the backyard with stalks - actual stalks, like five or six of them - that were making it hard for the newer leaves to grow in.  So, inspired by necessity, I chopped off all the stalks, snipped all the parsley with normal-looking stems off them and then used all four cups worth to make a parsley and walnut pesto, about half of which went into the risotto (same recipe as here but with ground sage sauteed in Earth Balance with the rice; the pesto instead of spinach; and no nutmeg).  The lentils were cooked in salt, rosemary and a few sprigs of fresh thyme.  Steve found the lentils a nice complement to the brightness of the pesto risotto, and the leftovers hit the spot after my 10-mile run this morning!  I also look forward to using the leftover pesto in a quick and easy pasta dish in the next day or two.

Tonight I made a recipe from this month's Food and Wine magazine that came together really fast by substituting canned chickpeas for dried.  I also left out the caraway and cilantro because I didn't have any and because the recipe seemed to have enough flavor without them. 

I was right!  I also substituted about six big, finely chopped spearmint leaves (one tablespoon?) for the teaspoon of dried mint because I have tons of mint in the veggie/herb garden right now and because the dried mint that I have on hand right now is the cheap stuff from the Mexican aisle that's chock full of stems.  (Double boo.  I should collect some from the backyard and start preserving it myself.)  With canned chickpeas, it only took a little over a half-hour to make, and the combination of wilted Swiss chard and a cool yogurt topping was a lot like something by a Turkish chef they profiled several years back.  Try it out sometime when you don't have a lot of time or energy to cook!  The recipe doesn't mention a starch, but a bed of couscous seemed like the obvious choice.

Hope everyone's enjoying this nice weather - I know I've been enjoying the rain in intervals that keep me from having to water the veggies I'll be cooking with this summer!