Monday, December 23, 2013

Frittata for One: Two-Egg Vegetable Frittata

I love frittatas, and make them somewhat regularly, but my regular 8-egg recipe is often more than I want for the time it would take me to eat all of it.  I am lucky enough to love leftovers so that is not usually an issue for me; however, when I want some frittata for Sunday breakfast, I don't always want it to carry over into the work week.

The solution is certainly one of those "duh" moments.  There is no reason that the recipe cannot be broken down into individual, two-egg servings.  And that is what I did here.

I am also still trying to incorporate more vegetables into my diet, and as a means of accomplishing that I have taken to having some pre-blanched vegetables on hand at all times to add to dishes, or to simply eat out of hand so I have healthier snack options.  So far that is working out pretty well, and it was especially helpful over the weekend when I had the thought of making a quick frittata and realized I had broccoli and zucchini already prepped in the refrigerator.  From there, it was an incredibly simple process to pare down my regular frittata recipe to a single serving.

It could be doubled for two, or if you wanted to be a little bit fancy, you could simply make two of them for a cozy breakfast for two.  You could also prep a lot of different vegetable options and have yourself a frittata party. It's all good.
Makes 1 serving

2 eggs
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped blanched zucchini
1/2 cup chopped broccoli stems or florets
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and add the thyme, salt and pepper and whisk together.  Add the zucchini and broccoli and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small skillet.  When it is foamy and sizzling, pour in the egg mixture, making sure to distribute the vegetables evenly.  Let sit for 30 seconds, then lower the heat and cook until the eggs have set on the bottom, about 15 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the heat and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.  Place the skillet under the broiler (wrap the handle in aluminum foil if it is plastic) until the cheese has melted and is golden, about 2 minutes.

Can be served immediately, or at room temperature.


Exported from Home Cookin v.8.54 (

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chicken Pizza

Every once in a while we order pizza for our end-of-month lunch at work, and it is a challenge to find the right mix of toppings for a group that contains vegetarians and various allergies. I usually ask around to get a general idea of what will fly before I place the order.  The last time, when I asked one of my more challenged co-workers what pizza she could eat, she said "chicken." When I asked what she liked with it, she said "Just chicken. Nothing else."

I didn't think that would work well for everyone, so I just ordered chicken on half of a pizza. To my surprise, it was the first to go and folks were commenting on how good it was. So I think I will order a whole one next time.

And it got me thinking about my tendency to overdo in the kitchen. Whenever I start to think of a new combination of flavors, I start with two things that will go well together but before I know it, I keep adding items until I have created a virtual monster. And I will often end up with a mish-mash of flavors that add up to much less than the sum of their parts.

So I decided to make a chicken pizza. A just-chicken pizza. And it was fantastic. The sauce and cheese created the perfect backdrop to let the chicken shine. Sometimes less truly is more.
Makes 2 pizzas

1 batch pizza dough (recipe below or click here to see how to do it)
3/4 lb cooked chicken, cubed
1 cup marinara sauce
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Make pizza dough.  Move a rack to the bottom slot of the oven and preheat it to 550 deg. F. Shape the dough to the desired size. Top with the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Add the mozzarella cheese and the chicken, then spread the Parmesan cheese over everything. (If you are making two pizzas, use half of the ingredients for each pizza.) Bake the pizza for 18 to 20 minutes, until it is browned and bubbling.

Serve hot.

Makes 2 small pizzas

1-1/4 cup warm water (105 - 115 deg. F.)
1 Tbsp active dry yeast (or two 1/4-oz. packets)
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white bread flour, plus more for kneading
1/2 cup semolina flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
cornmeal, for dusting the baking sheet

Combine the flours, salt and sugar in a small bowl and whisk together to mix well. Place warm water in a large bowl and add the yeast, whisking it together. Add the oil, and then the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.

Turn the mixture onto a floured surface and set the bowl aside. Bring the dough together into a ball and knead, sprinkling more flour over the dough if necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic and is just at the point where it is not sticking to your hands. Try not to add too much flour. Cut in half and make two balls. Dust with flour and put each ball into a plastic bag (leaving room for it to rise) and put the balls in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the pizza. If you are making the pizzas right away, then just put the dough in an oiled bowl, turning it to make sure it is covered with the oil, and let it rise until doubled, about one-and-a-half hours.

You can also freeze the dough at this point. Just give it time to defrost before you get to work.

Follow the directions for the pizza you are making.

adapted from the recipe on the package of Bob's Red Mill Unbleached White Flour.

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Monday, December 09, 2013

Curried Lentils with Sweet Potato and Spinach

This dish was inspired by a recipe I got years ago from my sister and filed away for future reference.  I finally decided to give it a try this year, and it was quite delicious.

When I took a closer look at the recipe, I saw that the only spice it used was curry powder.  These days I have so many Indian spices in my pantry that I decided to make my own blend.  It was easy to do and they  blended the earthiness of the spinach and lentils with the sweetness of the potatoes to a perfect pitch.

The way the recipe was originally written, you saute the onion, garlic and ginger, then add the liquid, and then add the spices and tomato paste.  One of the main things I have learned about Indian cooking is that you cook the spices in the oil before you add the liquid so the spices can bloom.  The same applies to the tomato paste.  It was about that time I decided to create my own dish instead of making it as written.

The result was quite lovely.  The sweet potato adds an extra depth of texture and flavor that makes this a memorable dish.  It is warm and hearty and full of flavor.  You can't ask for more than that.

If you prefer, you can use curry powder instead of the nigella, cumin and mustard seeds and other spices; add it where the recipes tells you to add the rest of the spices.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 4 main or 6 side servings

3 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1/2 tsp nigella seeds (optional)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ginger, chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
cayenne pepper to taste
salt to taste
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup lentils, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1-1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 lb chopped spinach

Combine nigella seeds and oil in large saucepan and place over medium-high heat. When the seeds are sizzling add the cumin and mustard seeds and cook for about 30 seconds, followed immediately by the onion. Saute, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and starting to brown. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the rest of the spices and cook for 2 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Add the tomato paste and cook for another few minutes. Add the lentils and the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook, covered, until the lentils are just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add more water if needed.

Add the sweet potato and tomatoes and cover the pot again. Cook until the sweet potatoes are tender, then add the spinach and stir well. Cook for another 5, until the spinach has wilted. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately over dill rice.


Exported from Home Cookin 7.50 (

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pickled Beet and Fennel Salad with Shallots and Walnuts

Happy Thanksgiving from the sunny strip in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Family has converged here from various parts of the country.  As a first-time visitor I am trying to absorb the overwhelming . . . overwhelmingness . . . of it all.  I fully expected to hate it, and while I am impervious to most of the attractions I can't say that I am hating it.  The mountains that surround the city are breathtakingly beautiful, as is the weather.  Anthropoligically, there is something to be said for the sheer magnititude of neon (although I guess it isn't neon anymore; at least not the neon I am used to associating with Las Vegas).  The water display at Bellagio was an amazing sight.  The sheer commercialism and excessive consumerism are not as vulgar as I expected both to be, but are impossible to avoid.  I am still trying to process it all as I have only been here one day, but it is an impressive place; whether the impression is positive or negative I leave to the individual.  I have not done any gambling, nor do I plan to.  But that's more because it just isn't my kind of thing and I'd rather spend my money on something that I enjoy.  So far we have not eaten at any noteworthy restaurants, nor do we plan to as far as I know, but the food has been fresh and good where we have eaten.  Today we will explore the bounty of the Flamingo Paradise Garden Buffet Thanksgiving spread that overlooks a 15-acre habitat that includes live pink flamingos and the biggest koi I believe I have ever seen.  I expect it will be quite tasty (the buffet, not the koi).  I hope your Thanksgiving spread is equally good.

I jumped on the pickling bandwagon a couple of years ago.  I am especially proud of my dill pickles.  I've done some experimenting with vegetables and I love what the combination of sugar and vinegar does for all kinds of vegetables.  I have not taken the plunge into canning yet, but that is not far off the horizon.  Maybe next year.

One of the things I do not like about pickled vegetables, however, is the amount of sugar involved.  Granted, most of it stays in the jar with the pickling liquid and I think sugar is fine in moderation, but I try to eat as little added sugar to my diet as possible.  And what sugar I do allow myself to have I would much rather get from the cookies, cakes, and pies I love to bake.  So I do not pickle as often as I would like to.

But I do love me some pickled beets.  And Leaning Shed had the most beautiful big golden beets that I had to bring some home with me.  I wanted to pickle them so I decided to do a quick online search to see if I could find a method that did not use such a high ratio of sugar to sour.  As luck would have it, I found this recipe on Elise Bauer's Simply Recipes that calls for just a tablespoon each of sugar and apple cider vinegar.  A tablespoon of olive oil balances the two to truly highlight the natural sweetness of the beets.

I liked it so much I decided to take it that one step further and add my favorite companions to the beets and came up with this pickled beet and fennel salad with shallots and walnuts.  I used red wine vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar, and soaked the shallots in it while I prepared the rest of the ingredients to mellow their bite and give them extra tang.  The end result was the perfect balance of sweet, sour, tart and tangy.  A sprinkling of fresh thyme gave it the perfect fresh finishing touch.

It might be too late to add this to your Thanksgiving table, but it would make a nice addition to that other holiday meal that is coming up . . . Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes
Makes 4 to 6 servings

3 medium-large beets
1 large or 2 small shallots, trimmed and halved
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
1 large fennel bulb quartered and cored
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

To toast the walnuts:  Lay the walnut pieces out in a single layer on a baking sheet and place on a center rack in a pre-heated 350 deg. F. oven.  Cook until the nuts are just starting to turn brown and you can just start to smell them, about 10 minutes.  (Check after 7 minutes.)  Remove from the oven and place in a bowl to cool, then coarsely chop them.

Leave an inch of the stems and the roots on the beets and wash under cold water, making sure to scrub off all of the dirt.  Place the beets in a 3-quart saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook, covered, until tender, between 30 and 40 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool. 

While the beets are cooling, prep the rest of the vegetables. Thinly slice the shallots and put them in a small bowl with the red wine vinegar.  Set aside.  Slice the fennel as thin as possible and place in a large bowl. Trim the ends of the cooked beets and peel them.  Cut them into quarters and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Add to the fennel.

Remove the shallots from the vinegar (keep the vinegar) and add them to the fennel and beets.  Add the olive oil, mustard, and sugar to the vinegar and whisk briskly until an emulsion has formed.  Season to taste with the salt and pepper.  Pour over the salad and combine well.  Add the thyme, reserving some for garnish if you're using fresh.  Toss to combine.  Let sit at least half an hour before serving immediately, or refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  Top with a tablespoon of the toasted chopped walnuts and a few leaves of the fresh thyme.

inspired by recipe found at Elise Bauer's Simply Recipes:

Exported from Home Cookin 7.53 (

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Turning Footballs into Sweet Potatoes

Ugh - I'm not posting nearly as much as I would like to these days, but here's something quick.

A small college in Texas, of all places, cut their football program and turned the field into an organic farm.  It turned out to be one of the best decisions the school's President made.

You can find the rest of the story here.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Stir-Fried Yellow String Beans

I'm not even going to talk about how long it has been since my last post.  These things happen.

I was gifted with a lovely batch of yellow string beans earlier this month from a friend's garden.  I did not know such a thing existed so I was excited to try them.

I wanted to be careful not to overpower their flavor, especially since I did not know how strong it would be.  I had a few green onions left over from a batch of salsa I had made earlier in the week, and I thought a simple stir fry using just those two ingredients might be just the thing.

I have a tendency to go overboard on stir fries, but I wanted to keep this one simple.  In just a few minutes I had a delicious side dish.  The beans were tender, but satisfyingly crisp.  This is a dish that would go well with any entree.  In fact, it paired quite nicely with broiled tilapia.  And the recipe would work beautifully with regular green beans if you can't find the yellow ones.
Serves 2

1 Tbsp peanut oil
1/2 lb yellow (or green) string beans, washed, trimmed and broken in half (or thirds of large)
1 tsp garlic/ginger paste (or 1/2 tsp fresh of each, minced)
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 green onions, separated, whites cut into 1/4-inch pieces and greens cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Heat wok until it starts to smoke.  Add the peanut oil, swirl it around, then add the beans.  Cook for about 3 minutes, until they just start to soften.  Add the garlic/ginger paste and cook for another minute, then add the white parts of the green onion and cook until they just start to become transparent.  Add the green parts and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add the soy sauce and cook until it has reduced to the consistency of a glaze.

Remove from the heat and add the sesame oil.  Serve garnished with the sesame seeds.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Green Bean and Baby Corn Stir Fry

I have been shopping at the Green City Market for so long now that it has become something of a challenge to find ingredients that are new to me. As I have mentioned before, I always try to find at least one new item to bring home every season so that I can expand my repertoire. That is how I discovered kohlrabi, crosnes and jerusalem artichokes, and suiho,

I was heading out of the market last week towards the bus stop to catch the #22 bus to work when my eye was caught at the Three Sisters Garden stall by a basket of the smallest ears of corn I had ever seen.
I was well past them before it registered what they were. Outside of a can, I've never seen baby corn and these were the cutest little baby ears I'd ever seen. I wasn't sure what I could possibly do with them but I knew I had to have them. So home they came with me.

That's a quarter down below the bowl so you have some idea of the actual size of these babies. They were truly tiny.

I decided to give them a quick stir-fry with some green beans from The Leaning Shed, along with some toasted almonds for a little crunch.

I prepared the corn the same way I prepare regular corn on the cob; I trimmed the ends, rinsed them in cold water, and microwaved them still in their husks. I only cooked them for 2 minutes, and that was almost too long. They actually didn't need to be cooked at all before the stir fry. I was concerned that the cobs might be too tough but I did not need to be. They were tender and sweet.

For the stir-fry itself I kept it as simple as possible. I washed and trimmed the green beans and broke them into bite-size pieces. I toasted the almonds for about 10-15 minutes in a 350-deg. F. oven while I prepped the corn and beans. Total cooking time was no more than 5 minutes.

I am so thrilled to have discovered these. They had more this weekend. Needless to say I brought some home with me.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

2 Tbsp peanut oil, divided
1 pint (app 3/4 lb) green beans, rinsed, trimmed, and broken into bite-size pieces
6 ears of baby corn, shucked and cut into 1-1/2-inch size pieces
1 Tbsp garlic/ginger paste
1/4 cup toasted blanched almonds
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped cilantro for garnish

Heat wok until it is smoking. Add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the wok. Add the green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Add the baby corn and cook for another minute.

Push the corn and beans to the sides of the wok and add the second tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic/ginger paste and let it sit for a few seconds before stirring it around. Incorporate the beans and corn into the mixture, then add the almonds and cook just long enough to distribute them evenly throughout the dish.

Add the oyster sauce and soy sauce and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and serve immediately garnished with cilantro.

Exported from Home Cookin 7.50 (

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sugar Snap Peas and Rice

Here's something you can throw together in a jiffy if you have a little leftover rice and don't know what to do with it. If you have sugar snap peas it is a major plus, as they are delicious and only in season for a short time, but the good news is that you can make this with any vegetables you have around - peas, zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms - the possibilities are endless.  And if you had nothing but onions lying around, why then that would work just as well.

This fits quite well into my "What's in Your Pantry?" project.  I needed something fast and I had very little in the house so I had to go with what was available.  The only thing I used that I don't usually have on hand were the peas and the leftover rice.  And when I started thinking about what I could do with them, this came to my mind.  I had about a cup of leftover rice, so it made for two generous side servings.

Here's how I did it:
Heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium size skillet.  Add 1/4 of a medium onion, sliced, and season with the salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are just translucent but still firm.  Add the sugar snap peas (or other vegetables) and cook for another two minutes, just long enough for them to soften the tiniest bit.  Add about1/4 cup of white wine (or broth, or water) and cook for another two minutes, stirring often.  Add the leftover cooked rice and cook for another three to five minutes, until the rice is heated through.  Remove from the heat and serve immediately.

This came together so quickly and was so delicious that between it and vegetable fried rice I do believe I will have to start keeping some cooked rice on hand just for these two purposes alone.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Whole Wheat Orzo with Beet Greens

Here is what I did with the greens from the beets I got at the Green City Market last week. One of the things I love most about getting fresh produce at the market is that everything comes with the greens still attached and I have come to appreciate the subtle differences between them. Swiss chard, kale, and mustard greens are all lovely in their own right, but there is something so satisfying about bringing home a bunch of radishes, beets or turnips and knowing that they will yield me two delicious meals. And they each have their own, specific taste.

I used to mainly put them into frittatas or throw them into soup, but lately I have been looking for ways to let them shine a little more than that. So the other night when I needed a quick supper I decided to add to them to pasta.

It was a great decision. The earthiness of the greens was a lovely counterpoint to the whole wheat pasta, and the onion, while cooked to sweetness, was still substantial enough to add a satisfying crispness to the dish. The cheese brought everything together. And it was just as delicious at room temperature the next day for a work lunch.  And it didn't take much longer to make than it took to cook the orzo.

You can use any greens to make this, or any short pasta for that matter although I think the orzo is the perfect size and shape.  What I love about using beet greens is that that beautiful deep red color bleeds over into the other ingredients and gives everything a beautiful pink tone.  Since much of what I am making these days seems to end up white and boring, having a natural source of food coloring certainly helps.  You would get the same effect using red Swiss chard if you can't find a bunch of beets with the fresh greens attached.

I only had a small batch of greens, so I only used a half a cup of pasta, which made 2 servings. It would be a simple matter to double everything up to serve 4.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Serves 2

1/2 cup whole wheat orzo
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 batch of beet or other greens, leaves and stems separated and
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus some for garnish
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put a medium-size pot full of water over high heat for the orzo.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the fennel seeds and let them cook for a few seconds, until they start to release their oils. Add the onion, the garlic and the stems from the greens. Season to taste with the salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are just tender.

Add the leafy greens and cook for about 2 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add the white wine and stir to deglaze the pan. Turn the heat as low as it will go while the pasta water comes to a boil, if it hasn't already.

Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions and reserve a cup of the pasta water. Drain and add it to the onions and greens. If it is too dry add pasta water as needed. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes to finish off the pasta.

Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. Serve immediately, garnished with more of the cheese.


Exported from Home Cookin 7.50 (

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Green City Market

I can't believe how long it has been since I posted anything.  I've been busier than usual these past few months and days will pass before I even think about it.

But as I have mentioned in recent posts, I am still active in the kitchen and when things settle down again I have quite a few dishes collected that I would love to share.

In the meantime, the Green City Market is in full swing, as you can see by my recent haul above.  The lettuce, radishes and tomato were bought for salads.  I cooked the beets and added to salads as well; I sauteed the beet greens with onions and garlic and combined them with orzo and parmesan cheese for a truly delicious quick supper (one of the things I plan to post about when I have some time).  I added some of the cherries to yogurt for breakfast and then ate the rest out of hand - yum.  That's a beautiful cabbage hiding behind the beets and potatoes, part of which I used for my first attempt at stuffed cabbage rolls and will definitely repeat.  The rest of the cabbage and the potatoes went together for another skillet cabbage and potato saute for my weekend breakfast (sans sausage, but only because I did not have any on hand).

I have been working hard to not bring home more than I can handle, although it is difficult.  The lettuce, radishes, and tomatoes were planned.  The potatoes and cherries were on the maybe list.  The beets and cabbage were not on the radar at all, but were so beautiful I had to bring them home with me.  That's how I roll these days.

I am eager to see what goodies I will find this weekend!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mannok Kadon Pika (Spicy Chicken Stew)

Here's one of the things I love about my job.  My co-worker was going to Guam on business, and a short while before he was scheduled to leave he was in my office.  We started talking about his upcoming trip, and I mentioned that I didn't really know anything about the cuisine of Guam.

"I've been looking it up," he said.  "It's called Chamorro and I'm really excited to try it."

And thus was born my interest in Chamorro cuisine.  I started looking around online and found a few cool sites.  And some interesting recipes, like this Mannok Kadon Pika.  It looked fairly easy and straightforward and I already had most of the ingredients on hand.  What I especially like about it, though, is that there are so relatively few ingredients involved.  And you just put everything in a pot, let it cook, thicken the sauce, add the coconut milk and you are good to go. 

The original recipe calls for the donne sali pepper, which is indigenous to the area.  I found very little information on that, but judging by information I found on my searches it is similar to the Thai bird chili.  At least that is what I am telling myself, as those are all I have been able to find here in Chicago.

Some recipes I found have you thicken the sauce with a cornstarch slurry; others don't.  The first time I made it I did not thicken the sauce, and it was a little thin.  The next time I did thicken it, and I found that it worked better for me.

And it really rocked over vegetable fried (brown) rice.

Home Cookin Chapter:  Poultry

Makes 4 servings

8 chicken thighs
1/4 cup soy sauce
2/ Tbsp vinegar
1/4 cup onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
2 Thai chili peppers (optional)
1 Tbsp corn starch mixed with 1 Tbsp water (optional)
1 cup coconut milk
green onion, sliced, for garnish

Put the chicken in a large plastic bag and add the soy sauce, vinegar, onion, garlic and black pepper.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes.  Place the chicken and the marinade into a large saucepan, add the chili peppers, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until the chicken is just done, about 40 - 50 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and let it cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the chicken from the liquid, discard as much of the fat as you can, and cook the sauce for another 10 to 20 minutes, until it has reduced and thickened.  Serve over hot rice garnished with sliced green onions.

adapted from this recipe found on

Exported from Home Cookin 7.50 (

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lemon Apricots (aka Golden Velvet Apricots?)

Happy first day of summer!  I'm not really that big a fan of the heat and the humidity, but I love all of the fresh fruits and vegetables the season brings.  And I'm always on the lookout for something new.

Last week I was browsing the produce section at Treasure Island and I saw these lovely things nestled in among the plums and nectarines and other stone fruit.  The sign said "Lemon Apricots."  They looked quite fresh and lovely so I bought a couple to see what they were like.

They were golden, velvety and delicious.  They are sweeter than regular apricots, and had more juice than any fresh apricot I have ever had in the past.

They would probably work well in a dessert, but quite frankly I wouldn't want to waste them that way.  These are just too sweet and delicious as they are to .

When I went to find out more about them, I found very little information online.  I also kept running into something called Golden Velvet Apricots that looked a lot like these, but that site also referenced lemon apricots so I'm not sure whether or not there is a connection, or what it is (other than both being apricots, of course). Whatever they are called, they are truly delicious.  If you happen to see them in the produce section of your local grocer, I highly recommend you give them a try.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Braised Chinese Cabbage with Noodles

There's a lot of cooking going on in my kitchen these days, but most of it is still in the development stages so I haven't had much to write about. I am hoping that will change soon and I can get to posting again.

Pasta is one of those things. I have been experimenting with a new recipe that I think I might actually like better than this one that I have been previously using. The main difference is that this new recipe has oil in it, and few people will disagree that a little bit of fat adds a whole bunch of flavor. It also gives the dough an elasticity that I haven't been getting with the original recipe. I've only made it a couple of times, though, so the verdict is still officially out, even though I'm pretty sure this one will win. I'll keep you posted.

There's an unforeseen benefit that comes with making your own pasta, I have discovered, especially when making shaped pastas that require trimming an oval into a square. I got in the habit of slicing any leftover edges into noodle-sized pieces and freezing them for the occasional soup or quick side dish.

That is what I did here. I had a sandwich bag full of frozen scraps and a napa cabbage. I needed a side dish for a Chamorro chicken recipe on which I have also been working. What to do?

 Hmmmm . . .

I have been working on another dish I recently discovered, a Hungarian dish called Haluska, which is a cabbage and noodle dish that is quite tasty and about which I also hope to write soon. I had the cabbage and the noodles; I just needed to give them an Asian twist.

The result was quite delicious, and easy to make. I took the basic recipe, which is simplicity itself, and added ginger/garlic paste, a little white wine and sesame oil, then garnished it with sesame seeds and fresh cilantro (for some much-needed color). It was particularly good with the chicken.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 4 servings

2-3 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 Tbsp garlic/ginger paste, or 1-1/2 tsp each minced fresh garlic
and ginger
1 small to medium size Chinese cabbage, halved, and sliced across
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Sauvignon blanc, or other white wine
1 cup dried or fresh noodles, cooked according to directions
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Heat oil in large skillet over medium. Add onion and cabbage and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, adding more oil as needed.

Stir in the wine. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the cabbage is tender. Add the cooked noodles and stir to combine well. Let cook for another minute or two, then season to taste with the salt and pepper and add the sesame oil.

Stir to combine and serve garnished with the sesame seeds and cilantro.


Exported from Home Cookin 7.50 (

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Sometime back in the late seventies, my sister introduced the family to a new salad dressing she had discovered.  I no longer remember where or how she found it, but at the time it was only available in packet form, and you added the packet ingredients to mayonnaise and buttermilk.  It sounded horrible, but one taste was enough to raise it front and center as the dressing of choice for our family.

And it turned out that we were not alone.  Within a few years Ranch Dressing was ubiquitous, and all of the major brands had their own versions of the stuff.  Of course, the bottled versions tasted nothing like the original, but the convenience of not having to mix it up made it the more frequent choice, and over time I forgot how the original version tasted.

And then I stopped eating processed foods and learned how to make this lovely vinaigrette. Because it is a versatile enough recipe that I can mix it up with different kinds of vinegars, oils, mustards and herbs, I rarely feel the desire to use any other dressing.

What I do feel the desire for, however, is to find more uses for mayonnaise when I make it.  I only make mayonnaise when I have a specific use for it and it does not have a long shelf life so if I do not need it all I have to find ways to use what is left over.

Enter Buttermilk Ranch Dressing.  It had long occurred to me that it should be fairly easy to make, as the packaged mix was added to mayonnaise and buttermilk, so the last time I made mayonnaise and had some left I did a quick search online and found an easy peasy recipe posted by Elise on her wonderful site Simply Recipes.

There are two differences between her recipe and what I made. The first is that I used homemade mayonnaise. The second difference, as you can see immediately if you compare our photos, is that I used more herbs in my version. Hers also looks a bit thicker than mine, but I don't know whether or not that is just the way it looks, or our measures were slightly different, or this batch of my homemade mayonnaise was thinner.

Whatever the differences, the end result was complete and utter deliciousness. Now that spring has arrived and I can get greens at the City Market, I have made this three times in the past few weeks. I even made mayonnaise specifically for the purpose.

But you don't have to make your own mayonnaise to enjoy the benefits of making your own ranch dressing. Even if you use prepared mayonnaise it will taste so much better than any prepared version you will find on your grocer's shelf (and have less chemicals in it if you care about that sort of thing). You can find the recipe here.   Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Homemade Bow Tie Pasta with Arugula Pesto and Dandelion Greens

Here is one of the ways that I utilized the arugula pesto I made last week. It is significant in two ways. The first is in the pasta. That bow tie pasta you see up there is homemade. Yep, I made it myself. It was surprisingly easy to do.

I followed my usual recipe for the dough. When it came time to roll it out and cut it, I realized that I wanted something that would match well with the pesto, and in my experience that means a short pasta. I had already experienced some success making noodles, but I wanted something a little more exciting than that. I wondered what would happen if I rolled out small rectangles and pinched the sides together, as I had recently seen someone do on a cooking show; I think Iron Chef America. I rolled out the dough, cut out the rectangles, and squeezed the middle of one of the rectangles together.

And got a bow tie! It was quite simple, and once I got the hang of how to grab it and squeeze for maximum effect it went quickly. I laid them out on a cookie sheet and let them dry out a little while I put the water on to boil and prepared the rest of the dish.

I am inordinately happy with these little beauties, and am eager to see into what other shapes my homemade pasta can be formed. I will keep you posted!

The second significance of this dish is in the rest of the ingredients. Several years ago I started a short-lived project called "What's In Your Pantry?" A friend suggested I write some posts on how to come up with ideas for meals that use what you have on hand but that don't require a specific recipe. I thought it was a great idea, and while the official project did not last long, the concept has stayed with me and has become one of the purposes of this blog. How do you learn how to cook on a daily basis without recipes, using what you have in your pantry? How do you shop to cook that way?

Along with the arugula I purchased for the pesto, I bought a couple of bags of mixed baby greens, french breakfast radishes and red and orange peppers for salad. I went through the greens faster than the vegetables so I had leftovers. I also had a handful of cooked pinto beans left over from another dish I had made earlier in the week, and I had a small bunch of dandelion greens that had been intended for a frittata that never materialized. Why not just throw all of those bits and pieces into the pasta?

It worked beautifully. The bow ties were sturdy and wide enough to carry the pesto, and all of the vegetables added texture and additional bursts of flavor. The beans added a creamy texture and combined with the pasta to make a complete protein. As a throw whatever you have in the refrigerator together for a quick dish, it's a keeper. With a little bit of planning, it is something you could serve to guests with confidence.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes


4 servings

12 oz fresh or dried bow-tie or other short pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 bunch dandelion greens, stems and leaves separated, stems chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 orange bell pepper, cut in half and sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, cut in half and sliced
1/2 bunch of French breakfast radishes, sliced diagonally
1/2 cup cooked cannilini or pinto beans
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup arugula pesto
grated parmesan cheese, for garnish

Put a large pot of water over high heat on the stovetop for the pasta. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and dandelion green stems and saute for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the peppers and the radishes and cook another few minutes until they have just started to soften.

Add the beans and the wine and let simmer until the pasta water is boiling. Lower the heat if necessary to keep the vegetables from overcooking.

Add salt to the pasta water and cook the pasta for 1 or 2 minutes less time than indicated on the package directions. Reserve a cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and add it to the vegetables. Add the pesto and mix everything well, adding pasta water as needed. Cook for another 2 minutes or until the pasta is at the desired consistency.

Remove from the heat and serve immediately, garnished with parmesan cheese.


Exported from Home Cookin 7.50 (

Monday, April 29, 2013

Arugula Pesto

There have been lots of little changes chez moi the past few months.  All good, but blogging has taken a back seat for the duration.  I am still cooking and hope to start showing off the results soon, but posting will be somewhat spotty for the near future.

In the meantime, spring continues to strengthen its presence.  Baby greens are springing up at the Green City Market, and I have been enjoying many a salad.

And this lovely arugula pesto.  I bought a bag of arugula at the market and it was so fresh and beautiful I wanted to do something special with it.  I haven't made pasta in a while so I decided a nice pesto was in order.  I had the rest of the ingredients in the pantry so it came together quickly.

In addition to serving it with pasta, I used it as a base for a salad dressing and as a topping for focaccia, all delicious.  It would also nicely top roasted vegetables or potatoes.

The recipe I used was slightly adapted from Elise Bauer's recipe on her site Simply Recipes.  By slightly, I mean that I used a fourth of a cup of olive oil rather than the half cup called for in her recipe.  Other than that, I followed it as it is written here.

You should follow it, too.  It's a quick, easy and delicious meal that can be prepared in the amount of time it takes to get the pasta water boiling.  
This weekend the market moves to its outdoor summer location on the south end of Lincoln Park. Color me excited!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring Cleaning

Now that spring is in the air, and while I was on my little blogging hiatus that lasted longer than I anticipated, I made a few trips to the store for some items I had postponed buying long enough that they became necessary.  (That's how much I love to shop, by the way.)  While I was there I detoured through the kitchen section to see what new things I could add to my "want that" list.

What I found were some nice glass storage jars at a reasonable price so I grabbed some.  And immediately put the fantastically fresh dried beans I have been buying from the Three Sisters Garden at the Green Market this winter into them (there they are in the left-side case, on the right side of the third shelf from the top).

They looked so pretty I decided to go back for more jars.  They were out of that size but I got the next size larger for my raisins, and then I saw a beautiful stainless steel canister set that looked like it would be perfect for the many nuts, seeds and grains I always have on hand.  I bought two sets of those, which you can see on the top shelf of the left side and the second shelf from the top on the right side.

What started as a simple switch-out of a few containers culminated in a full-on purging of old items, wiping down of shelves, rearranging for maximum effect (and efficiency), and the beautiful array you see spread before you on my pantry shelves.  The impulse even spread beyond the pantry and into the kitchen itself and the closet where I store my pots and pans.  The end result was a leaner, cleaner cooking area that once again tempts me into the kitchen so I can play with all of these delicious toys.

So if you need to do a major overhaul of your cooking space but just can't get yourself motivated, allow me to suggest that you obtain some pretty new kitchen items to provide that little boost you need to get started.  Once you start you will be amazed at how quickly and easily the task can be accomplished.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Greetings from Austin

I seem to have taken an unplanned vacation from blogging.  Right now I am enjoying this view on a sunny 75-degree morning from outside of my brother's house in Austin.

My plan is to pick up again when I return to Chicago next week.  Until then, sit back with me and enjoy the view.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Baking Class: Irish Soda Bread

I had intended to make soda bread for St. Patrick's Day last year, but time got away from me and I never got around to it.  So I was determined to make it happen this year, and I am so glad that I did!

I was not really familiar with soda bread, so I assumed that it was more like a quick bread which, having no yeast, is a lot softer and more cake-like than yeasted breads.  But I was wrong.  This bread has a dense crumb that is strong without being tough.  It toasts beautifully.  It is not overly sweet.  In a word, it is delicious.
And quite easy to make.  You mix up the dry ingredients, cut in a little bit of butter, stir in the wet, knead it a few times, mold it into shape with your hands, cut a cross into the top (I didn't cut quite deeply enough so you can't see it that well, but that had no affect whatsoever on the texture or taste), and bake it for 40 minutes.  C'est tout.

I also like that there are only two tablespoons of butter in soda bread, compared to the half cup you find in scones and biscuits.  The small amount of sugar, combined with the raisins, gives a sweetness to the dough without being too sweet.

I can make no attestation as to the authenticity of this recipe.  I looked at quite a few recipes before deciding to try this one and the ingredients were comparable in most of them so I decided to go with this one.  It was a wise decision.

Whip up a loaf or two of soda bread for your St. Paddy's day celebration and your guests will be quite happy.  In fact, you should whip up a loaf anyway.  You won't be sorry.
Home Cookin Chapter: Breads and Muffins
Makes 8 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup dried currants

Preheat the oven to 375 deg. F.  Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Cut butter into flour mixture with pastry cutter.  Add buttermilk until dough is soft.  Stir in currants.

Turn dough out only a lightly floured surface.  Knead for 5 minutes or until smooth.  Form dough into a 7-inch round.  Place on a lightly oiled cake pan or cookie sheet.  Score with a cross 1/2-inch deep on the top.  Bake for 40 minutes.

from Larissa's Bread Book:  Baking Bread & Telling Tales with Women of the American South, by Lorraine Johnson-Coleman (Rutledge Hill Press, 2001)

Exported from Home Cookin 7.47 (
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...