June 30, 2010

It Can't Always Work Out

I love pickles.  I really love kosher dill pickles.  I thought I'd be adventurous and attempt to make them; the kind you ferment in canning jars or crocks in a salt water brine, tucked away in a dark corner of the kitchen.   When they're on the table at a Jewish deli, I can easily make a meal out of them.  The dill, the garlic bite, the snap of skin as you bite into it, mmmmm.  And then there was all this internet chatter and "ooh-ing" and "aww-ing" over this recipe that it transitioned to a no fail idea in my head and I was off to buy the cucumbers.  Nevermind the tiny voice in the back of my head reminding me of the time my Mom tried to make the same kind of pickles, only it must have been too warm out because they started to grow fuzzy and had to be tossed.  No, this wouldn't happen to me.

And in a sense, it didn't happen to me.  My pickles didn't grow fuzzy, though I wish they would have, so I wouldn't have had to chew a bite and experience first-hand all the ways these pickles went wrong.

It could have been the Morton's Kosher salt.  Now that it's after the fact, I keep reading that it has this acrid aftertaste and that teaspoon for teaspoon it's nearly twice as salty and dense as Diamond brand kosher salt or pickling salt.  These pickles were definitely too salty and that acrid aftertaste slapped me in the mouth instantly.  It could have been the pickling spice mixture.  I really wasn't into the ginger and cloves in there, though that's more a personal preference, there was just too much going on.  It could have been the sneaky cucumber spears, always trying to rise up and out of the brine, exposing themselves to whatever microbes that are dancing in the air.  There was certainly something funky going on in there, that tinge of cloying sweetness that food only gets when it's going rancid.  Maybe I didn't wash the cucumbers well enough, maybe I didn't properly sterilize the jar. The list goes on.

So for now, I think I'll stick with vinegar-based pickling, get back on more stable ground, gain some more confidence.  Man, I hate getting so bummed out when things don't work.

But I am thankful that I only made a half of a batch!

June 29, 2010


The other day this idea popped into my head: I have yet to share with you a full meal picture.  I post pictures of individual dishes and talk about them, or maybe even what I served with them, but not once have I documented the whole shebang.  Never the plate of food that actually gets consumed.  So here you go.  It's not exactly my dinner plate, but this sums up a lot of dinners around here.

I find that salads are a good way to get the boy eat more veggies.  It's not that D doesn't care for them, but given the choice, it's not the first thing he'll put on his plate and usually not at the top of his list of things to eat either.  So I make a salad and throw veggies from the crisper on top.  Okay, I kind of pile them on, but that's how we do around here.  Also, since salads are mostly composed of staple items there is always guaranteed to be some veggies to go along with a meal.  Even when I'm too lazy or forgetful to plan something.  Oh!  Behold those rich red beauties!  Once again, these are from D's Mom's garden (Hi! Want to be an official blog sponsor?), finally tomatoes that taste like tomatoes and not some watery mealy lump.  They were too good to throw into the salad, best enjoyed on their own, also my brother was around and he has some weird physical aversion to tomatoes.  They may not be a year-round fixture but hell if I'm not going to eat them every opportunity I get this summer.

As for the roast chicken, it's probably the most frequent meat-based dish I make.  Actually, it's one of only a handful of recipes that I RE-make.  Most of the time, I make something, decide whether or not I like it and then move on.  Not because it didn't warrant not making again, but more because there is this whole world of the internet and cookbooks and blogs out there with delicious looking food that I get distracted.  That's where D comes in, he's the one who, when asked for dinner ideas, is always suggesting food I've already made.  It's a nice balance.  The success of this roast chicken is due to three factors.  One) When there's only two people around to eat, and you roast a whole bird, it's nice that it's so adaptable for leftovers.  Sandwiches, quesadillas, salads, cold and sprinkled lightly with salt, you don't have to eat the same leftover meal over and over.  Two) I like the white meat, D likes the dark meat.  Three)  I get to make stock with the leftover carcass.  And even if I don't feel like making it right away, I can always freeze the carcass and make the stock later.  Voila!  No more buying that sodium laden stuff from the store.  It's a no fail recipe.  The skin always gets nice and golden and crispy, the meat stays moist and the aromatics from the herbs and lemon and garlic will make you anxiously dance around your oven, waiting to eat.

Roast Chicken

This is how I make my roast chicken.  Everytime.  I took elements from several recipes (Zuni Cafe, Thomas Keller, Jamie Oliver) and pieced together the parts that worked best for me.  I like my chicken simple, and the skin crispy.  The salting in the morning helps keep the meat moist throughout the roasting, it's like a dry brine.  The herbs under the skin lightly flavor the meat without overwhelming, as do the lemon and garlic stuffed in the cavity.  Actually, the lemon and garlic serve double duty.  After the chicken is roasted you can squeeze some of the lemon and smash the garlic into the pan juices to make an excellent sauce to either spoon over the chicken or swipe chunks of bread through.  And for the ultimate icing on the frugal cake, I save the carcass after the skin and most meat has been pulled off and make stock.

4-6 servings

4-1/2 pound whole chicken
kosher salt
several sprigs of thyme (or rosemary or sage)
1 lemon, quartered
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed

In the morning, rinse and dry the chicken, discard all the bits inside (unless you have a better use, I don't).  Be sure to dry it well, paper towels do this nicely.  Salt the chicken generously inside and out and put back on a plate in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

Just before baking, preheat the oven to 375F.  Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, rinse again, pat dry.  Using your fingers separate the skin from the meat around the breasts and thighs and insert a few sprigs on thyme.  In the cavity stuff another few sprigs of thyme, the quartered lemon and the garlic cloves.  Again, salt the outside of the bird.  Sometimes I lightly grind some fresh pepper over the top, sometimes I don't, do as you feel, it's good either way.  Place breast side down in a Dutch oven or cast iron skillet, do not cover.  Roast for an hour and a half.  At this point, the skin should be a nice medium deep color and crispy, remove from oven and let rest in pan for 10 minutes.

Carve, cut, pull apart the chicken as you like

June 25, 2010

No Vampires Here

Let's do a little wrap up of what happened to all that delicious greenery I posted almost two weeks ago.

  • The big bag of dinosaur kale (not all pictured in the photo) was enough to make two recipes.  The first recipe I did was a batch of kale chips with olive oil, cider vinegar, salt and sesame seeds.  That lasted approximately 15 minutes out of the oven.  They were crispy, flaky, dissolve-in-your-mouth delicious with just the right amount of healthy vegetable taste to them (even if I did over salt them just a bit).  I sauteed the rest with a bit of garlic and red pepper flakes to go alongside some leftover chicken mole enchiladas.  Kale can do no wrong in my book.
  • The basil was put into sandwiches and chopped into salads.  Sweet, delicate basil.
  • I steamed the green beans and we ate them alongside the tuna sandwiches.  I know, not very exciting, but when they were picked just hours before, anything more would just be distracting.
  • Dill ended up being quite the workhorse of the bunch going into three recipes.  You already saw the tuna nicoise sandwiches where I swapped the basil for the dill (excellent substitution).  Next it went into this ridiculously good radish cream cheese dip with along with some garlic and lemon - there will be a future post on this, it's too perfect for summer BBQs and snacking.  And lastly, the majority of the bunch is going into my first DILL PICKLE ADVENTURE!  I'm a little nervous about fermenting the pickles in a dark corner of the kitchen, covered only with cheesecloth and unrefrigerated for days, but for now I'll just have my fingers crossed and take solace in other people's success with the recipe.
  • Last, but certainly not least, the garlic scapes.  How cool looking are these things?  Curly little shoots of would-be garlic flowers.  I had never tried them before, and knowing they're only available for a short time each year, I grabbed a handful at the Farmer's Market.  The guy at the stall mentioned that making a pesto was a common preparation, but that he liked his best sauteed in a bit of olive oil.  I went for the pesto idea, so I could appreciate their raw flavor.  A search around the internet turns up numerous options for the pesto ingredients, but I chose one from The Washington Post's now defunct blog, "A Mighty Appetite" because it used walnuts in place of pine nuts - a substitution I enjoy with the more traditional basil pesto - ensuring that I already had all the ingredients on hand.  It was quick to whip up, tossing all but the cheese into the food processor (or in my case, a little mini-chop), and the kitchen was soon filled with a soft, almost floral garlic scent.  I actually thought the garlic factor was more toned down than in a regular pesto, and the overall flavor surprisingly delicate.  Sure, it gives you garlic breath, but not terribly so, and if you're a garlic lover like me, you won't mind so much.  If your market still has garlic scapes, go grab a handful and make some pesto for yourself, your mouth will thank you! 

Garlic Scape Pesto
Adapted from The Washington Post

The Washington Post recipe says that 2 tablespoons is enough for 1/2 pound of pasta, but I found that I liked the ratio of 2 tablespoons per 1/4 pound pasta better.  This could be due to me drastically reducing the amount of olive oil in the pesto or because I just liked more of the sauce coating the pasta.  To each his own.  Start out with 2 tablespoons for the half pound of pasta and add more if you feel like that's what you want, I won't judge.  Also, when choosing a pasta, go with a shape that can hold the pesto.  I used orecchiette, but small shells or even farfalle (bow-tie) would work too.

Yields a little over 1/2 cup

1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into ¼-inch slices

1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
6 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup grated parmigiano 

1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add parmigiano; add salt and pepper. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

June 21, 2010

Summer, Sandwiched

I think my first encounter with nicoise salad was when D and I were living in Davis.  There was this cute little new wine shop/restaurant tucked in a corner of downtown, right across from the train tracks, that served bistro-type fare and sold wine at retail.  Inside was small with warm lighting and most of the tables were high and you sat on stools.  In a small town, it felt very international and sophisticated.  Now that I'm trying to recall everything, I realize I don't actually remember much besides my tuna nicoise salad and this really yummy bottle of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir we bought.  You'll have to excuse me, this must have been 5 years ago.

I didn't grow up eating tons of seafood (although I think there's a story floating around about me asking for shrimp on my 4th birthday) or at least that wide of a variety, so I was pretty slow to the whole "fish is delicious" scene.  Couple that with being a vegetarian for my teenage years, and I'd say I was real late.  When I did eat seafood, it was the safe stuff, like fish tacos or tuna - usually from a can and usually in the form of tuna salad - or unadventurous sushi.  I might have had mahi-mahi too.  5 years ago, I was still getting used to the idea of eating meat and kept my fish choices to those previously mentioned.

Back at the restaurant, like I said before, all I can remember of the meal was the nicoise salad and the bottle of pinot noir.  Tuna enrobed in fruity olive oil, roasted fingerling potatoes, just crisp green beans, hard boiled eggs with the center still creamy, salty olives, butter lettuce and a tart shallot vinaigrette.  It was really phenomenal.  I never would have expected to be that impressed with a salad.  It was late summer when we were there, celebrating D's birthday and it's never failed since then that when the weather turns warm I start craving this dish.  This sandwich is an easy-going take on that meal.  I don't know, composed salads can seem so stuffy for the everyday.  Put all the same ingredients into a sandwich and you've got something you can take on a picnic, or to the beach and it won't be out of place.

Tuna Nicoise Sandwich
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Here I substituted dill for basil in the sandwich.  The basil is probably more "authentic", but I really dug the flavor from the dill and will probably make this a permanent change.  I made the sandwiches in the afternoon and they probably sat wrapped in plastic wrap and pressed for 5 hours in the fridge, which was a perfect amount of time for all the flavors to get friendly with each other but not enough for the bread to become soggy (yick! soggy bread).

4 servings

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cans tuna (6 ounces each), drained
1/4 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 square ciabatta rolls, about 5" across, or small ciabatta loaf
3 tablespoons jarred olive tapenade
1 scant cup fresh dill
2 hard-cooked large eggs, sliced

In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, white-wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard; season with coarse salt and ground pepper.  Toss with drained tuna.

Cut ciabatta rolls in half horizontally. Spread 3 tablespoons jarred olive tapenade on bottom half. Top with dill, then tuna mixture and any remaining dressing, the hard-cooked eggs, red onion and finally the cucumber and close sandwich.  Wrap sandwich tightly in plastic and place between two baking sheets. Weight with a heavy skillet. Let stand 1 hour (or refrigerate, up to overnight). To serve, cut into quarters.

June 15, 2010

...Is How You Say Bread Salad

It's Murphy's Law, when I've been eying a recipe for weeks on end, that when I finally work it into the dinner repertoire there must be at least one key ingredient that proves difficult to find.  This time, it was asparagus.  For weeks there has been asparagus everywhere.  It was always on sale, overflowing from it's displays in the market, tricking me into thinking it'd be there for me when I needed it.  So why when I go to answer it's siren's call does it leave me scrambling, woefully unfulfilled?  Last week asparagus was no where to be found, at least not at my usual grocery haunts, and then there was Trader Joes, laughingly selling asparagus in 12 oz. packages when they know I need a full pound.  Murphy's Law, you are so inconvenient!  Sure, I'll julienne a bunch of vegetables by hand and opt to make a lot of food from scratch, I don't mind the extra time there, but I really don't like driving around taking tours of 4 different grocery stores in one day.  However, for dinner's sake, I did, and eventually found the asparagus - at the last stop, for a ridiculous price.  Moving on.

Asparagus debacle aside, this panzanella comes together without a hitch.  Making the croutons is nothing more than tossing cubes of bread with some olive oil and seasonings - I like to mix it up with my hands, for funsies - and crisping them up in the oven.  Open a can of white beans, drain and rinse it.  Chop up half an onion.  Quickly cook some asparagus, cut it up.  Measure a few more ingredients into a bowl for the vinaigrette, then toss everything together - again with your hands if you so desire, but you know, with clean hands, obviously.  No special skills, no special equipment (well...I did use a microplane for the parmesan, though I'd argue this is a kitchen must-have).  After all that hand tossing of ingredients, you might want to serve the panzanella with a spoon; people get a little weirded out if you use your hands at the dinner table.

Spring Panzanella
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I would encourage you to click over and check out Deb's original recipe. The addition of the leeks would be really nice, it's just that I got all flustered at the store when there was no asparagus and forgot to grab the leeks in the process. Or if you're not a fan, it works without too. I also upped the dijon mustard in the vinaigrette by a touch because I'm a big fan the flavor.

4 servings


1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cups day-old bread, cut into 1 inch cubes

6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Half a red onion, finely diced

2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 pound asparagus

1 15-ounce can of white beans, rinsed and drained

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Mix the bread cubes with the garlic, olive oil, parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss to coat well. Transfer bread to a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Mix the red onion with the vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes before whisking in the remaining vinaigrette ingredients: olive oil and dijon. Set aside.

Bring a small pan of salted water to a boil.  Break off tough ends of asparagus and cook it in the boiling water until crisp-tender, no more than three minutes if they’re pencil-thin, more if your asparagus is thicker. Transfer it to a bowl of ice water, drain and pat it dry.

Cut the the asparagus each into one-inch segments.  Place pieces in a large bowl and mix in beans and cooled parmesan croutons. Pour vinaigrette over and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.

June 13, 2010

It's a Green Theme

Dill - Suzie's Farm 
Basil - D's Mom's garden
Dinosaur Kale - D's Mom's garden
Garlic Scapes - Sage Mountain Farm
Green Beans - D's Mom's garden

100% organic, 100% delicious.

June 11, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Okay, can we take a moment here and talk about poached eggs?  Those just set whites and creamy thick and runny yolks?  Oh!  They are my favorite sort of egg preparation.  Over a piece of toast, on a salad, cooked in a spicy tomato sauce.  I suppose if you're a perfectionist and looking for that nicely shaped poached egg with no ragged edges, they can be a bit a tricky, otherwise, there really isn't anything to them.  Bring some water to a gentle simmer, crack an egg into a cup or ramekin and slip it into it's warm warm bath, then after 3-4 minutes remove it with a slotted spoon.  I'm not running a restaurant around here so I'll take the slightly tattered look, it's not as if they taste any different when plopped on top of a dish.

Now the days get longer and warmer and the desire to be in the kitchen wanes; traded for al fresco dining and simple dinners.  And while this recipe requires you to crank up the oven to "broil" and poach an egg or two, the total time spent in the kitchen near the heat is 10 minutes, tops.  This is a use up the odds and ends kind of a dinner.  There was the leftover feta from the gorditas, a few kalamata olives from a barley salad - that was sadly not the prettiest thing to photograph - and a chunk of a baguette that I froze not wanting the whole thing to go stale and hard as a rock.  The eggs and herbs and olive oil are just your average kitchen staples.  Maybe it's the satisfaction that I didn't have to waste any ingredients or because I didn't have the highest expectations already set, but it always surprises me that cobbled together dinners such as this, are usually some of best.  Throw together a quick salad with a lemon-dijon vinaigrette and voila! you have a very satisfying meal in no time.  When the feta is broiled it gets creamy yet crispy on the edges, punctuated by briny olives and earthy sage.  The poached egg on top helps subdue all the salty elements and cover the bowl in silky yolk.  Gah! - I'm hungry all over again!

Poached Eggs with Baked Feta and Olives
Adapted from Food and Wine, May 2008

Surprisingly I didn't deviate from the original recipe other than the bread (baguette instead of focaccia), and I managed to use up a few leftover ingredients from other recipes in the process.  If you don't have sage around I'm sure you could easily replace it with thyme, rosemary or even basil, but don't leave it out.  The herbs go a long way to deepen the dish and add a nice earthy flavor.  Cooking for more than just two?  This recipe easily lends itself to being doubled or tripled.  In fact, the original recipe makes 6.

2 servings

5 oz of feta cheese, cut into two slabs
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
Aleppo pepper or ancho chile powder for sprinkling
2 large eggs
6 kalamata olives
1 teaspoon chopped sage leaves
4 baguette slices, cut on a deep angle

Preheat the broiler and position a rack 6 inches from the heat. Bring a large deep skillet of water to a simmer. Brush the baguette slices with olive oil and broil until lightly toasted. Put a slab of feta into each of 2 individual gratin dishes. Drizzle each slab with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Sprinkle lightly with Aleppo pepper and broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly browned and sizzling.

Meanwhile, crack the eggs one at a time into a small bowl, then slide them into the simmering water. Poach until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to the gratin dishes.  Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper, the olives and sage. Serve with the bread.

June 9, 2010

Just Your Average Everyday

The first two times I made this cake, I stuck with Gourmet's recommendation of raspberries for the starring role, and it was good.  I saw no reason to mess with a good thing.  But this last time, the intended recipient was a big strawberry fan and an even bigger strawberry shortcake lover, so I thought "Why not?!".  Since my day was shaping up to be a busy one, and shortcakes aren't on the top of the easily transported list, not to mention there were hours in between where refrigeration would be unlikely, I instead adapted the buttermilk cake.  The flavors are similar.  Sort of.  Similar enough - by which I mean there would be strawberries with a cake-like delivery.  So I woke up, had the cake all mixed and ready to bake by 830am and cooling by 9am.  Then just before heading out the door, I transferred it onto a platter and loosely tented it with foil.  And for the next 4 hours it sat quietly in the trunk of my car (oops - did I not mention that before when I served the cake?  Don't worry people, it's a relatively clean trunk.) where I hoped it would stay cool enough so that the crunchy sugary top of the cake wouldn't get soggy from heat/humidity.  I now present you with not only a delicious dessert, but one that transports quite nicely and was no worse for wear.   What's not to love?  The top stayed crunchy, the cake remained cool and before I knew it all the lemony tangy sweet strawberry goodness had been gobbled up.

This cake was all the rage last year.  Published last June in Gourmet magazine (*sigh*, you are missed), this deliciously-easy-throw-some-berries-in-there-everyday-buttermilk-cake spread like a wildfire across the blogasphere.  Happily, I have jumped on the bandwagon.  I've since made it for dinner parties, for birthdays and even just to satisfy a craving.  It's a fantastic recipe to keep around and for all it's homey looks, it sure is a crowd-pleaser.  And right now, I bet most of you have all the ingredients already at home - except maybe the buttermilk.

Strawberry Buttermilk Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, June 2009

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick of butter (2 oz.), softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup chopped strawberries (5 oz.)

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter strawberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

June 4, 2010

Around the 'Hood

There is precious little that could convince me to move out of my current neighborhood.  For a twenty-something (What am I saying twenty-something for?  Am I already ashamed of my age, of feeling old?  I'm 26.  There.  I said it.) this little place I call home has it all, and all within walking/biking distance.  Bars of the beer, wine and serious cocktail variety, a killer pizza shop, a cute neighborhood market, amazing street tacos, more Mexican tienditas than you can shake a stick at, even some specialty shopping and all of it local businesses.  Golden Hill is fantastic.  Except for maybe the planes that fly overhead every few minutes from 6am to midnight, but nothing's ever perfect and I've learned to tune them out anyhow.  It's a neighborhood full of families and young creative types, it was even cited recently in Sunset Magazine as a "town of the future".  I really love this place.  Sure, I may live in an apartment and have to share walls with my neighbors and not have a yard and sometimes have to park 2 blocks away if I come home after 6pm.  But I do have some plants right outside the front door that go a long way to brighten things up and there's big shady magnolia trees planted around the building and really, 2 blocks isn't so far to walk.  At least I know I'll never own a condo, sharing walls with neighbors is for the birds.

I'm not sure what any of that has to do with this recipe or plate of food.  Good neighborhood, good food?  I bought most of the ingredients a mere few blocks away?  It was made in my very own kitchen?  Anyway, it was a good meal for a warm evening; made even better with this sauce drizzled over the top - but that's a post for another time, although I can say we're pretty addicted to the stuff around here.  Simple enough to make with minimal time spent over the stove, and really endless opportunities to customize it to your own tastes.

Black Bean Gorditas with Feta and Cabbage Slaw
Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2009

4 servings

The originally published recipe had you make these as 4 corn tortilla tacos, stuffed with the beans and cabbage slaw and feta and then crisped up in a pan.  And while tortillas are by no means hard to come by, I didn't feel like having to use up the remaining few dozen in the package.  So having a 1 kilo bag of maseca in the pantry, I upped the ante and made my own smaller, fatter tortillas (and skipped the step where you would usually fry up the cooked gordita).  I also doubled the cabbage slaw because one) I love cabbage and two) it turned into an all in one meal with the slaw as a big salad piled on top of the gorditas and beans.

1- 15 oz can black beans, drained
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups coleslaw mix
2 green onions, sliced at a deep angle
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 cup maseca (instant masa harina)
2/3 cup warm water
pinch of salt

In a bowl, combine the coleslaw mix with the green onion, cilantro lime juice and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a small sauce pan heat drained black beans, add cumin and mash leaving just a few whole beans.  If you want you can thin the beans out with a little bit of water, broth or salsa.

In another bowl, mix the maseca salt and warm water with a spoon.  Once it starts to come together, knead in your hands for another minute.  The mixture should be easy to handle and not stick.  Flatten the dough on a cutting board and cut into 8 equal portions.  Roll each portion into a ball and flatten into a disc in your hands approximately 4 inches across, set aside.  Repeat with the remaining 7 pieces.  Once you've formed the gorditas, over medium high, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a cast iron skillet and cook the gorditas 4 at a time for 3 minutes on each side, they won't brown much, but they'll be a noticeably darker yellow.  If the oil has been all sucked up, add a little more for the second batch.

Plate each dish with 2 gorditas, topped with 1/4 of the mashed beans and 1/4 of the cabbage slaw and feta.  Serve with your favorite hot sauce.

June 1, 2010

Weekend Recovery

...And we're back!  Whew.  The first (un)official weekend of summer was a busy one.  Birthdays, celebrating new adventures to come, parties, a BBQ followed by a rousing game of trivia late into the night and even a little bit of painting (not of the artistic variety) thrown in.  It was good weekend indeed.  But you know how celebratory weekends go with all the eating and the drinking and more eating and drinking, afterward you just need a break, a redeeming healthy meal.  A big plate of veggies that will somehow negate all the naughty food you previously consumed.  In reality, we all know this doesn't really work, you can't actually cancel out all those burgers and chips and desserts, but eating a healthy meal sure makes us feel better.  Evens the score board.

This pot sticker salad easily fits the bill of a healthy redeeming meal.  It's not that boring kind of healthy either, where you force yourself to choke down your plate of food and don't enjoy even one bite.  There are pot stickers involved and peanuts and a salty vinegary sauce.  Heck, even squeeze some sriracha sauce on there and you have some nice spice.  See?  Not boring and tasteless at all.  As a bonus, look at all those vegetables!  Steamed!  Plus it's a quick meal, all on one plate and dirtying so few dishes in the process.

Pot Sticker Salad 
Adapted from Real Simple Magazine, August 2008

2 servings 

Really the only dramatic change I made to the recipe (aside from preparing only half) was the sauce.  I think soy sauce can a bit overpowering, especially on steamed vegetables, so I swapped out half the soy sauce for rice vinegar, making it more like a dipping sauce.  This way I don't feel the need to drink a gallon of water right after my meal because of all the dehydrating sodium.  And since you use frozen pot stickers, it's easy to adapt to many diets or preferences (chicken, pork, vegetarian).  I like Trader Joe's chicken and vegetable pot stickers.

8 oz. frozen pot stickers (or about 10 pot stickers total)
1 1/2 cups snow peas
1/4 cup shelled edamame
2 small carrots, sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3/4 cup bean sprouts
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts, chopped
1 green onion, thinly sliced

Fill a saucepan with 1 inch of water and fit with a steamer basket.  Bring the water to a boil.  Place the pot stickers in the steamer basket, cover and steam for 3 minutes.

Add the peas and carrots, cover and steam until the veggies are tender/crisp, about 6 minutes.

Meanwhile in a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil.  Divide the bean sprouts among two bowls, top with the pot stickers and vegetables.  Sprinkle with peanuts and green onions.  Serve with the sauce.