Tuesday, May 31, 2011

flash-cooked cold asparagus with middle eastern dip

this is barely a recipe - it's more like a technique plus a notion that come together into a great snack or side dish. the asparagus i used here were tiny thin ones, but you could also use fatter ones - just allow them to cook longer.

basically, bring some salted water to a boil (there is actually a recipe for this - the comments are pretty entertaining). add your asparagus. this is totally not difficult, but you do want to make sure you use a pot big enough for it to all fit in there without breaking, of course.

let it cook until it's as tender as you like. the stalks i used were so tiny that they got bright green almost immediately. i think i left them in for about 45 seconds or so, and they were still pretty al dente, but pleasantly so.

the next part is the important part - using tongs or something, put them immediately into a bowl of cold water with ice. this stops the cooking more quickly and keeps them that nice verdant green. once they are cool, you can store them in the fridge until you are ready for them. i put mine in a tupperware thing on some paper towels to help them dry out more. you could also use a clean kitchen towel, of course, and thus be less wasteful, but i didn't have one.

for the dip, i was feeling like something kind of middle eastern, so i used 2/3 greek yogurt to 1/3 mayonnaise (this is a rough proportion - you can use however much of each you like) and added salt, a couple of tablespoons of crumbled feta cheese, and some middle eastern/north african spices/mixes - za'atar, ras el hanout, and sumac. i used about equal amounts of the za'atar and ras el hanout and perhaps half that of sumac. just play around with it and see how much of each you like - start slow and keep tasting it until is is delicious.

because i bought the za'atar and ras el hanout already mixed, i am not sure exactly what was in these particular ones, but the links go to wikipedia things about them that describe what's going on. the ras el hanout is fairly spicy, which was nice. you should be able to get these at a grocery store with bulk spices (always the way to go, so you don't end up with a giant jar of cardamom that you will never use) or a middle eastern grocery or certainly on the internets. they're worth seeking out, because you can also use them in things like rice, eggs, etc. za'atar is particularly good as a rub for roast chicken.

anyway, it's a good idea to mix this up and let it sit for awhile so the flavors meld. then you can dip away with the asparagus and whatever else you have around. it would also be good as a sandwich spread or whatever else your little heart desires!

perhaps not an ice cream topping, though.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

pink greyhound

when i walk our dogs,* i usually go on a route that encircles a different park at each end. the other day on this route, i saw three greyhounds - one in each park and one right in front of our house when i stepped outside. all were fawn-colored and they all looked exactly alike, except that they were all wearing different raincoats. yes! each dog was wearing a dog raincoat (presh), but they were different colors.

it kind of weirded me out, frankly. it felt a little gaslight-y, in some obscure way. maybe it was an omen of some kind. i don't know.

maybe it was just an omen to make this drink.

sometimes people make greyhound cocktails with vodka, but i think that's bs. vodka has its uses (bloody marys), but for the most part gin is where it's at.

at its most basic level, a greyhound is gin (fine - or vodka, i guess) and grapefruit juice. you can also salt the rim and call it a salty dog, if you'd like.

the pink greyhound is the same, but with pink grapefruit juice, preferably fresh-squeezed from texas ruby reds (which are inarguably the best grapefruits). i also put in a little squeeze of lemon juice and, since i had it in the fridge already (see - totally handy!), some rhubarb syrup. you could also use some club soda to give it a little sparkle.

this is such a sweet li'l pink drink - it looks adorable, but packs some punch. it would be a great addition to your memorial day get-together. just don't tell me if you make it with vodka. *things i almost invariably hear when walking our three dogs at once:
looks like you've got your hands full!
who's walking who?
lookit all those dogs!
you've got all different sizes! (this is true; they are all of different sizes)
are those all yours?
quite a pack you've got there!
what a motley crew! (sometimes said like "muttley" crew - clevs!)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

spicy greexican tzatziki

we are so lucky to have mint thriving in the backyard - it was here when we moved in and i have done nothing to it but pick it sometimes and yet it's thick and fragrant and seemingly neverending. i do a lot of things with it - for the kentucky derby we made juleps and i often smash some leaves and put them in sparking water for a little extra flavor. this is the first time this season that i have made tzatziki with it, though.
usually tzatziki is made with greek yogurt, garlic, cucumber, some olive oil, and sometimes mint and/or lemon. we have a lot of cilantro that i didn't want to waste, though, so i added that and also half of a jalapeño (which is what makes it rather greexican). i also added capers, because they are good and because they add a briny insouciance to everything they touch.

so you can do this any number of ways, but i started with about 3/4 cup of greek yogurt. i grated one medium garlic clove into it, using this kind of cheesy small-holed grater from ikea. honestly, it is kind of a poor quality grater, and i should have used the microplane for the garlic, but my laziness and disinterest in washing dishes won out.

i used the same grater to grate the cucumber (this was like 1/3 of one of those english/hothouse ones and i didn't peel it) and half of the jalapeño. you could definitely use more if you like - i was going for a not-crazy level of spiciness.

then i used the ol' kitchen scissors to cut the cilantro and mint into the rest of the stuff, added a little salt and pepper, and stirred it up.

that is it! so easy! all i had to wash were the scissors and the grater! i win.

it is good to make this ahead of time so that the flavors have a chance to get acquainted and meld together a bit. nothing too crazy - just an hour or so if possible. but it is good right away, too.
we are going to eat this on chicken sausages and garlicky mustard and turnip greens wrapped in pitas. there may be some feta involved, too. however, it would also be good on tacos or as a dip for crackers or vegetables, or on gyros, etc., if that is something you enjoy.


3/4 cup greek yogurt

1/3 of an english cucumber

1 small handful of cilantro

6 or 7 (or more) mint leaves

1 medium clove of garlic

1/2 of a jalapeño

up to 1 tablespoon capers (depending on your love of them)

salt and pepper to taste

Friday, May 27, 2011

japanese turnip, radish, and sausage sauté

above is the green garlic i got at the farmers' market. it was all gone by the time i made the sorrel eggs, but that was because i used the last of it in this surprisingly tasty dish, so it was worth it. i was surprised by how great the turnips and radishes were in this - i don't think i've had japanse turnips before and i am pretty sure i've never had cooked radishes, so it was an enlightening experience all around.

these are my japanse turnips. they are so pretty, with their creamy whiteness and their nice green leaves. you could use the leaves in this dish, but i didn't - i am going to saute them up tonight with baby mustard greens and some garlic. you could also use the radish greens, but i already put those in some pasta the other night, so no greens here. it was still good, don't worry.

i washed the radishes (a small bunch - probably like 8 or 9 of them. these were regular old radishes from safeway, but you could use any kind), the turnips, a few stalks of asparagus (i cut the bottom off and then peel 1/2 - 2/3 of it so it's more tender), the garlic (i used about 3 stems of garlic, but you could also use a couple of cloves of regular garlic and mince it), and some snap peas. it was getting dark, so this picture is not the best. imagine some peas in there too.

i sliced the radishes and turnips thinly - you can make them however thick you want, but the thinner they are, the faster they cook. again, you can use a mandoline for this, but i am still a little gunshy, so i used a knife. if you want more stability when cutting, you can cut them in half from stem to root, so that you have a flat surface to set it on. but i thought they were prettier in rounds and i am pretty confident in my cutting abilities (mandoline problem notwithstanding).

slice up the garlics and asparagus (the garlic i cut very thin, the asparagus in ~ 1 inch chunks). you can either leave the peas whole or slice them in half. i like them whole, myself.

put maybe a tablespoon of butter in a largeish saute pan over medium heat. i let the butter brown a little before adding the garlic, because brown butter is the best thing in the world. it will foam up and then the solids will sink and start getting toasty. it is ready for garlic when it starts smelling like pancakes from heaven.

let the garlic cook a little, maybe for 30 seconds or so. then add the turnips and radishes and let it all cook for a few minutes, til they start getting softened. this will depend on how thickly they are sliced - mine were thin and took about 3 minutes. then add some cut-up sausage of your choice - i used free-range chicken sausage that was hot and italian-flavored. it was great. i also put some red pepper flakes and salt in at this point. i would have put some freshly-ground black pepper in too, but we are out. lame.

a couple minutes later, add some chicken stock or a little water - i should do a separate thing about chicken stock sometime, but basically whenever i roast a chicken i make stock and freeze it in a muffin tin, then take the stock-muffins out and keep them in the freezer - it is handy, tasty, and economical!

then you can add the asparagus and peas and maybe cover it and let it all cook together for a couple of minutes. it really doesn't take long, though, especially since peas and asparagus are so tender right now. if the sausage you used wasn't already cooked (ours was), make sure that it is cooked through so you don't die or whatever. i also added a slip of cream, since we had it around from the sorrel eggs. it made it pretty over the top, but in a good way. but it would be perfectly delicious without it.

i added some cooked rice to this because we already had it, but it would also be good over pasta or like quinoa or with toast. it was very springy and fresh, but also rich-tasting and satisfying. perfect for dinner!

you could also easily make it vegan by using olive oil instead of butter and either not using sausage or using some other substitute (or something like chickpeas would be good for a little extra heft and protein). you could also have it be vegetarian and use the butter, lose the sausage, and put a fried or poached egg on top.


1 tablespoon butter

garlic - either a couple of cloves or 3 or so stalks of green garlic

1 bunch radishes

1 bunch japanese turnips (4-5)

5-6 stalks of asparagus

1 cup (or so) sugar snap peas

2 small sausages (can be omitted)

1/3 - 1/2 cup stock or water

1 little glug of cream if you have it (or greek yogurt would probably be good too)

rice/pasta/grain/toast, for serving

shaved asparagus, garlic, & truffle cheese pizza

wow, this pizza was pretty great. it was a perfect way to use up some of the piles of asparagus that i got at the farmers' market on saturday and the truffle cheese i used (from trader joe's) plus garlic really put it over the top. i got the idea for asparagus pizza from deb at smittenkitchen.com (another great food blog) and made it several times last year. one time we grilled it as small individual pizzas, which is a fantastic choice if you are not into turning on the oven or if you're already grilling something.

this is the asparagus i got at the market. i bought the last five bunches the stand had (i gave one to jen) and it was nice that some were big fat juicy ones and some were the thin little tiny ones, because the different textures really worked well on the pizza. but you can definitely just use the larger ones. i suppose you could just use small ones as well, but the larger ones get shaved up with a vegetable peeler and i think the textural benefits of this are important.

for the dough i just used one of the pre-made pizza doughs that trader joe's has, because they are pretty good and cheap and also because i thought of this for dinner in the afternoon, so there wasn't time to make a good dough myself. but homemade dough would be great here, or whatever kind of dough you fancy. i let it sit out for half an hour or so before forming it into a thin round by hand, but you can also use a rolling pin or a wine bottle or something to roll it out. i put it on a cookie sheet on which i had sprinkled a tablespoon or so of coarse cornmeal.

pre-heat the oven to 450. you want it nice and hot. i also put a rack on the lowest level and one on the highest level.
wash the asparagus and trim like an inch or a little less off the tip. then peel the bottom half or so, so you don't end up eating any tough stemmy parts. i used one of those y-shaped peelers and i think it was easier than if i had used one of the other kind, but you could probably use either. a y-shaped peeler is good to have, though.

so once all the yuck part is off, you just want to shave the asparagus into ribbons. i held the top of the stalk and slid the peeler down maybe 4-5 times on one side, then turned it over and did the same on the other side - basically you want to get it all into ribbons, but if at the end the middle part is a little thicker, that's totally fine because it adds texture. do the same with the rest of your asparagus - i used one normal-sized bunch. this takes a minute to get the hang of, but it goes pretty quickly after that - the whole bunch took maybe 5 minutes.

also you should grate the cheese. i used one called "italian truffle cheese" from trader joe's, but i have seen truffle cheese elsewhere, so you should be able to find it. if it is prohibitively expensive, you can use some other kind of cheese, even good old mozzarella, but i really suggest trying to find the truffle cheese because it is really awfully good with the asparagus. i used maybe 1/4 of a pound or a little less. i also used about the same volume of parmesan - just grate some up until you have about the same amount. divide the parmesan in half and mix half with the truffle cheese and leave half to put on top of the pizza.

then grate or mince two or three garlic cloves.

you are ready to assemble!

so the dough is on a sheet with the cornmeal under it. spread it with a tablespoon or so of nice olive oil. then sprinkle the garlic evenly over it. a little sprinkle of salt and pepper would not be out of place here. then put the truffle cheese/parmesan mixture evenly over that, then fling the asparagus ribbons over the whole thing with abandon. if you are using tiny thin asparagi/uses, you can arrange them prettily or haphazardly over the ribbons. then top with the rest of the parmesan and maybe a little more salt and pepper.

stick it in the bottom of the oven for like 8 or 10 minutes. basically leave it alone for a solid 6-7 minutes, then check the bottom to see how done it looks. timing will pretty much depend on your oven, but you want it nice and brown. once it is practically done, move it up to the top rack and turn the broiler on. this gets the asparagus crispy and brown in spots, but you have to really stand there and watch it - it probably will only need a minute or so.

take it out and let it sit for a couple of minutes, add some chili flakes if you like that sort of thing, then dig in and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

it also makes a delicious cold pizza breakfast the next morning. yesssssss.


pizza dough

1/4 pound or so truffle (or other) cheese

~ 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 bunch big ol' asparagus (+ 5-10 small stalks, if using)

2-3 cloves garlic
salt, pepper, chili flakes

Thursday, May 26, 2011

everyday artichoke (and spanish-y smoked paprika dip!)

apparently people are sometimes apprehensive about artichokes. they seem like a hassle, or maybe too fancy, or you don't know how to eat them or whatever.

they are actually totally easy and really great to eat as a casual (dig the tupperware serving dishes) but fun and sort of unusual appetizer with friends or your sweetums. sometimes they can be expensive, but trader joe's has them for a mere 99 cents right now, so no more excuses!

this is just a steamed artichoke, but you can also par steam them and then grill them, which i did a couple of weeks ago. that was seriously delicious and i plan to do it again, but just steaming them is also good and really simple.

cut the stem off. you can also steam this, and i did, but it was sort of bitter and i didn't care for it. next time i will probably just throw it away. oh well.

sometimes people trim each leaf thing and cut off the tip of it, but as always, i am lazy and didn't do that. somehow it still managed to taste good.

set it on one of those steamer basket thingies in a pot big enough so that you can fit it in there and cover it. put about an inch or so of water in the bottom and turn the heat on high. let it steam for about half an hour to 45 minutes, checking every now and then to make sure there is still water in the pan (and replenishing if there isn't).

the artichoke is done when you can wiggle one of the bottom leaves (yes, i know they aren't really leaves, but whatever) pretty easily. you can also check by picking it up with tongs and sticking a knife tip in the stem - if it is pretty tender, that puppy is done!

even if you overcook it a little, it's not that big a deal because you will be dipping it in delicious sauce that makes everything yumsville - it's a bit like an aioli, but also includes smoked paprika, which is a miracle ingredient and will make your life better in countless ways.

for one artichoke, i used 1/3 cup of mayonnaise, 1/4 cup of greek yogurt, one large clove of garlic (minced, or you can do what i do and grate it on a microplane - watch your fingers, though!), a teaspoon-ish of sherry vinegar (or lemon juice and a little zest would be great - we just didn't have any lemons), like a teaspoon of smoked paprika (i think this is in most supermarkets now - ours even has it in the bulk spices section, so you can get however much you want at a time), a smaller amount (maybe 1/2 that) of cumin, a pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper.

i am trying to write the measurements so you have an idea of proportions, but seriously, it isn't like i sat there with a measuring cup and spoons - really i just kind of dollop things in, taste it, and adjust.

then once the artichoke is cooled (you can eat it lukewarm or cold or however you want), eat up!

work from the outside in, picking off the leaves, dipping, and using your teeth to scrap off the soft meaty part at the base of the leaves. i am sure there are youtube videos on this for those who are confused.

once you get to the center prickly part (choke), scoop that sucker out with a sharp spoon or a knife. then you are left with the heart, which you can cut into wedges and continue dipping.

then if you didn't get all the dip, but are out of artichoke, you can use bread or your fingers to make sure you don't waste any.

the dip would also be really good with other steamed or roasted vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, or asparagus.



aioli-type dip:

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup plain greek yogurt

1 large clove of garlic

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon of sherry vinegar or lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

garlicky sorrel'n'cream eggs

so this is sorrel (aka wood sorrel). it kind of looks like clover, but it is very bright and lemony-green-tasting. it's wonderfully sour when you nibble it raw, but when you cook it, it just melts into an army green puddle of yum. it is not necessarily the prettiest, but it is really good.

i bought a big bag of this at the farmers' market because i remembered picking and eating it while on walks as a kid. this particular sorrel was wild, but sometimes people grow it as well. i got it at a great stand that had all kinds of wild things, like different fancy mushrooms, nettles, and sea beans (surprisingly tasty - usually i don't really care for sea vegetables/seaweed, etc).

this dish was inspired by orangette (one of my favorites), who was inspired by a recipe in the new york times. that recipe calls for scallions, which i didn't have, and has you de-stem the sorrel, which, being naturally lazy, i didn't do. i also added pink peppercorns, which are beautiful and delicious.


make sure your sorrel is clean and dry. slice up some garlic - the thinner, the better. for two eggs, i used one small clove, but if i had had any of the green garlic left, you bet i would have used that. but the regular garlic was good, too. cook up the garlic bits over medium heat in however much butter you feel comfortable with. i used a little less than a tablespoon. you want to do this in a smallish pan, but it depends on how many eggs you are using, so use your best judgment. i used my smallest pan, but i was only cooking two eggs.

when the garlic has cooked a bit, but before it browns, add the sorrel. you can cut it up with a knife, but we don't have a dishwasher and i didn't feel like dirtying another cutting board, so i just held it over the pan and used scissors to cut it right into the pan. if you are also not into de-stemming the sorrel, just make sure you get the stems pretty finely cut. the first time i made this, i didn't, and it was still good, but it looked kind of ugly because the leaves really do just melt and then you are left with a pile of stems and it's weird.

once the sorrel cooks down a bit - really, this takes like 15 seconds - add a glug or two of cream. for two eggs, i used less than a quarter of a cup. you could also mix some cream with a little milk or greek yogurt if you don't want to be so unhealthy, but since this is very much an occasional thing, i don't think a little bit of cream will kill you. add salt and pepper to taste - i was out of regular pepper and used some chili flakes.

then make a little hollow for each egg and drop it in. salt and pepper each (pink peppercorn time!) and cover the pan. you might want to turn the heat down slightly - on our stove, which is a stupid electric one, i had it set at 4. this is also the point at which you put your toast in. you will want toast with this, because you need something to sop up the delicious sorrel'n'cream. trust me. you can butter the toast if you want, but after all that butter and cream in the eggs, i refrained. then once the whites of the eggs are set and the yolk is however set you like it (i cooked mine for about 5-6 minutes and the yolks were perfect for my taste - somewhat creamy still, but not too scarily runny), spoon the whole thing over the toast and prepare to be dazzled.

this is quite easy and is really really delicious. the richness of the cream and eggs and the sprightliness of the sorrel play off each other really well and it feels fancy but is totally simple as well. though i really liked the pink peppercorns on it, they are totally not a requirement (and, by the way, are not really peppercorns, but you can delve into that on wikipedia on your own). if you see sorrel at the farmer's market, i think this is a perfect use for it.

*ingredients (for two eggs)*

big handful of sorrel - see top picture
small clove of garlic
a tablespoon-ish of butter
a glug of cream (~1/4 cup)
chili flakes
2 eggs
pink peppercorns, if you've got 'em

i should mention that what i used is wood sorrel, which is similar in taste to other kinds of sorrel (sheep sorrel and cultivated, garden sorrel), but is actually a totally different genus and species. they look nothing alike, which is what was confusing me about this sorrel because i remember picking it wild as a child. that was sheep sorrel. there is a whole thing about them here, if interested.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

rhubarb & pineapple crumble

this crumble was absolutely delicious when we had it warm with vanilla ice cream for dessert last night and it was perhaps even better for breakfast this morning - cold, with plain greek yogurt and rhubarb-vanilla syrup. it is not terribly sweet, and the rhubarb and pineapple play off each other well. the crumble topping is easy and easily customizable based on whatever you have on hand. make it today!

i used about 2/3 of a fresh pineapple (i am on such a pineapple kick these days - weird) and 4 large stalks of rhubarb. basically i was going for relatively equal amounts of each, with perhaps a little bit more rhubarb since it comes first in the name of the dish.

wash the rhubarb and slice into thinnish coins - these were like 1/4 inch, i think.

breaking down a pineapple is sort of like when you cut the skin and pith from an orange or other citrus fruit - remove the top and bottom, then stand it up and take the pointies off in swaths by cutting down around the fruit with a sharp knife. the thinner the swaths, the less you will waste, since you can be more precise. if you end up with good pineapple on the part you cut off, you can consider it a little treat for either you or your dogs - ours love it.

then i cut it from the top down into quarters and cut out the tough center part from each quarter (our dogs like chewing on those, too). then make another cut downward halfwayish between where the tough center was and the outside - that's just to make sure your pieces are similar to the rhubarb bits in size. then put each quarter on its back (like in the above picture) and slice from pole to pole in 1/4 inch pieces, then turn and slice those so that you end up with fairly uniform pieces (as above).

put them in a large bowl together and add brown sugar to taste - for this amount, i used something around 2/3 of a cup (not packed), but the pineapple was pretty sweet and also i don't like things crazy-sweet, so you may want more. let this all stew together for an hour or more so that the pineapple releases some juice and they all get to be good friends.

crumble topping: this is somewhat based on whatever you have on hand.

i used about 1/2 cup flour, 2/3 cup rolled oats (not. instant.), 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup roasted cashews (cashews and pineapple are good buddies, but it's really just because that's what we had - you could use other nuts or leave them out altogether), 1-2 tablespoons of finely cut up crystallized ginger (also loves pineapple and rhubarb. the amount really depends on how much you love ginger. also you can leave this out or could use a bit of powdered dry ginger instead), and a couple of tablespoons of cold butter. i cut up the butter and then smooshed into the dry mix until it was relatively uniform and crumbly. this amount of butter made it nice and crumbly and crispy, but it does not stick together like some crumbles do - if you want a thicker, more toothsome texture, you're going to have to use more butter.

when you are ready to bake it, preheat the oven to 350.

add a tablespoon or so of cornstarch or the same of instant tapioca to the rhubarb-pineapple mixture - this helps dry up some of the liquid that is released, but is probably not mandatory. put it in the pan and cover with the crumble topping.

stick it in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour. mine took around an hour.
the pan i used was about 7 x 10 inches and is about 4 inches deep, so if yours differs you may need to adjust the baking time accordingly. it is really not rocket science, though - just check on it every 20 minutes or so and see how brown the top is and maybe poke a piece of the rhubarb to see if it is soft.

once it's done, you probably should let it set up a bit, so leave it alone (difficult, i know!) to think about the massive changes life has thrown at it lately. once it's gotten its head around those (perhaps 15 minutes), you can serve it up with some of that vanilla ice cream with little speckles in it. or i suppose with whatever kind of ice cream you want. coconut or caramel would be good, i think. ANYTHING will be good, let's face it. eat up!



2/3 of a fresh pineapple

4 large stalks fresh rhubarb

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch or instant tapioca

crumble topping:
1/2 cup flour - either all purpose or wheat or whatever kind you fancy

2/3 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped roasted cashews, salted or not

1-2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon dried powdered ginger

Monday, May 23, 2011

rhubarb syrup

my friend jen and i made the arduous journey to portland's famous saturday farmers' market yesterday to partake of spring's bounty. well, it wasn't that arduous a journey, but i did take the bus there, so that's something.

anyway, the market is a huge tourist and family attraction and it was sort of crazy-making for people who just want to buy produce. i liked the variety of things available, but i don't think i will go again soon because there are lots of other markets here that aren't so insanely crowded. but i got a ton of wonderful stuff that will be showing up in things here this week.*

one of the things about which i was most excited is rhubarb. it is at its best right now and i bought over two pounds and already made it into a rhubarb-pineapple crumble, which will be posted soon, and this simple rhubarb-vanilla syrup, which is good on practically everything.

rhubarb syrup is dead easy and requires like 5 minutes of your attention (though it cooks for longer than that, of course).

wash however much rhubarb you want to use - i used four medium stalks and ended up with perhaps a cup and a half of syrup.

cut off the ends (and be sure to get rid of any leaves - they're kind of poisonous!) and slice the stalks crosswise into thin crescent-y coins - perhaps 1/8 - 1/4 inch or so (though it all breaks down anyway, so it really doesn't matter how thin they are, as long as they aren't like 2 inches long or something).

put in a saucepan with (in this case) about 1 1/2 cups water and about 1 cup sugar. this is also kind of to taste, although you want to use enough sugar to make the texture syrupy, so i wouldn't use much less. i happened to have some vanilla sugar already, since after i use vanilla beans i rinse them and put them in a thing of sugar - they add their remaining flavor and perfume as it sits. i also put the vanilla bean in with the rhubarb at this point, but it really isn't a big deal - don't go out and buy a vanilla bean or anything - this was really just because i had it around. if you really want a little vanilla flavor you can also add a splash (maybe a teaspoon) of vanilla extract at the end, before it goes in the fridge.

so - you have your cut-up rhubarb, sugar, water, and perhaps vanilla bean in a saucepan. turn the burner on high and when the mixture boils (as it will, as long as you are not watching it too closely), turn it down to medium-low and let it cook down for about 20 minutes or so, until the rhubarb breaks down - stir occasionally - maybe 3-4 times as it cooks. i usually use the back of a wooden spoon to kind of smoosh the rhubarb against the walls of the pan - it makes it break down faster (or seems to).

once it is all broken down, many people strain it through a sieve or cheesecloth or whatever so you end up with a lovely clear pinky-red syrup. i am lazy and i also don't really see the need for this, so i just let it cool and pour it in old jars to keep in the fridge. it should keep quite a while - at least a week or so. i think if you strain the solids out it would probably keep longer - like several weeks, but i just make smaller batches and don't bother with the straining.

you could probably freeze it as well - maybe in ice cube trays. that might be nice for keeping it longer, but frankly i just can't be bothered.

there are so many possible uses for this delightful syrup - experiment!

i use it on greek yogurt in the morning, mix it into club soda or sparkling water for rhubarb sodas, have it over pancakes or in cereal, or add it to cocktails for a springtime treat.

you can also eat it out of the jar while looking guiltily around to see if anyone is watching and judging you.

the solids from the rhubarb could also be smeared over toast or an english muffin. possibilities!

this is an easy and delicious way to enjoy spring's finest red stalks.

*ingredients (can be scaled up or down depending on how much syrup you want)*

4 stalks fresh rhubarb

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup sugar

*other wonderful farmers' market stuff: green garlic, 5 large bunches of asparagus (i know - it's a lot. but we love it! and they gave me a deal! i couldn't resist), baby mustard greens, japanese turnips, and a big bag of wild sorrel for which i have big plans that involve eggs and cream - more on that later.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

cold-brewed coffee

cold-brewed coffee is far superior to regular coffee that you put on ice or refrigerate so it gets cold. that is just the truth. it is caramelly and nutty and creamy in a way that hot-brewed coffee made cold will never be. it isn't at all bitter and even people who normally like sugar in their coffee would probably like this just with some milk.

according to wikipedia, cold-brewing results in a less acidic drink, which may account for the extra-tastiness. there are a number of things about cold-brewing online - there are also many gadgets that promise to make it easier.

the thing is, it is ridiculously easy already, so don't buy any dumb gadgets.

all i do is fill old jars about 1/4 of the way with coarsely ground coffee* (you can use espresso or any dark roast you like. or probably whatever - that's just what i like) and fill the rest with cold water. lid it, shake it up, let it sit for overnight on the counter or 24 hours or so in the fridge (although it can sit for much longer than that - i have left it for days in the fridge and it gets stronger, but is still fantastic).

then when it is ready, shake it up again and put it the whole mess in your french press.

you have a french press, right?

if you do, this is super easy - just press it like a normal thing of coffee. then pour and add milk to taste. voila! so delicious and easy.

if you are one of those poor souls without a french press, you can still make this coffee, but it will be a little more of a hassle. you would probably do best making it in a mason jar with one of those lids where you can remove the lid part but still have the screw top part. then put some cheesecloth in several layers over the top, put the screw top part on, and strain it. or you could use a sieve and cheesecloth or a regular coffee filter set over something. but that sounds like kind of a pain, frankly, so while i said you don't need gadgets, i really think a french press is the way to go. but i don't consider that a gadget so much as a household necessity. so.

you can also pour some of the coffee into ice cube trays so that you can have coffee ice cubes so regular ice cubes don't water down your perfect cold-brewed coffee. i am not quite that devoted, though, and since i usually use the longer-time-in-the-fridge method, the coffee and milk are already cold and i don't need ice.**

seriously, this is a wonderful addition to your summer drink rotation and it takes practically no time and is FAR better than just chilling regular coffee. f'reals. i make it every day - just filtering the jars i have in the fridge and then reusing the jars to get more ready for tomorrow. it takes about 5 minutes a day and is 100% worth it.

*this makes it quite strong - you can add less coffee if you like - maybe an inch or inch and a half
**more about options here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

the rapture (!)

soooo, we are all eagerly awaiting the rapture, right?
that special time when ... okay, i looked it up, but i kind of don't understand or want to understand it, so i think it is when the besties are allowed up to heaven and all the other losers are left here to loot and wallow in our own filth.

anywho, i thought i was going to have a thing about cold-brewed coffee, which is delicious regardless of your faith (uh, sorry mormons, but i am 99% sure that it would be good with decaf), but the rapture! has come upon us! like (as i was reading somewhere earlier) new year's eve! you can watch asia celebrate, then europe, then new york, etc., as you await your own party-time.

now that i am in a fairly western time zone (portlandia ftw!) i am looking forward to watching the rapture unfold tomorrow as more easterly nations rise and fall with the coming of ... and here is where i should have read a thing about it and didn't care to...

but! if you are not that concerned, or if you are concerned enough to want a drink in hand while awaiting whatever fate Fate decides to bestow upon us, you could actually do worse than the drink, "the rapture."

seriously, i am as surprised as anyone. this was originally intended to be the sad combination of a joke and an excuse to buy bourbon, but in fact it is really delicious.

here it is (as evidenced in the above picture): bourbon (because kentucky is the home of the creation museum, featuring adam and eve and dinosaurs frolicking, as the new yorker has so astutely mentioned); sriracha (aka rooster sauce) for the hellfires that will perhaps burn the unfaithful; lime, for the sour taste that will be left in the mouths of those who must loot to survive and will never taste heaven's ambrosia; and coke, because it is coke and is all-american and sweet, to boot.

seriously, i never thought this would be good, but in fact it is(-ish).

so, if you want a cocktail to ease the transition to a new world order, you could do worse than the rapture.

take a measure (whatever measure you fancy) of bourbon (early times was on sale! end times!) and add a squirt (not too crazy-big, unless you really like vinegar and hotness) of sriracha and a larger squirt (perhaps even up to a half's-worth) of lime, stir, then fill with good ol' coca cola and some ice.

it totally sounds gross, but it is actually ... pretty good. we were all surprised. maybe this rapture thing won't be so bad.

***just so everyone's on the same page, this was pretty good in the sense that it was not totally nasty. however, in the interest of full disclosure, i only had like 1/2 of one. but it was a drinkable 1/2. i don't think you want to go out and buy all the stuff just to make this, though.

until, apparently, next october! can't wait!


coca cola



Thursday, May 19, 2011

fennel, olive, & blood orange salad

this salad is simple, delicious and beautiful. trifecta! it's also healthy, so ... quadfecta?

thinly sliced fennel forms the base. you can use a mandoline to make sure it's extra thin, but i recently cut myself badly on one of those monsters, so i used a knife for this.

wash the fennel bulb (also called anise) and trim the bottom off. cut in half down the middle of the bulb - they are usually sort of ovoid and often have two stalks coming up from the bulb - you want to cut the short part of the oval - each stalk will be on one half of the cut. take out the triangle center by holding the half upright (so that the bottom of the bulb is on the cutting board) and make a cut down each side of the triangle (hmm, i probably should have taken a picture of this). then lay each half so that the cut middle is on the board and slice thinly - it will leave you with crescent-shaped slices. don't cut up the stalky part - it's tough and weird.

save the nice feathery leaves for garnish - pretty and tasty!

for the orange, cut off the top and bottom and then set it on a cutting board and with a sharp knife, cut the skin and white pith from the flesh in thin strips - basically, you don't want any of the pith still on the flesh, because it is ugly and bitter. it's fine if there is some of the orange on what you cut away, because you can squeeze it over the fennel to add some acid and flavor.

turn the orange on its side and cut thin slices (or thick, i suppose. i prefer thin).

you are almost done!

toss the fennel with the orange juice you can squeeze from the peel and some lemon juice to taste. pile it on a plate. then place the oranges around in a pleasing fashion and drizzle it all with some good olive oil. if you happen to have one of those fancy olive oils with orange flavoring, now is the time to use it. sprinkle with salt - kosher is fine, or something fancy like fleur de sel - and freshly ground black pepper.

top the whole beautiful mess with some oil-cured black olives. they are usually found in the grocery store's olive bar and are somewhat chewy and very rich and delicious.

other possible additions to this salad could be toasted nuts or some goat cheese, but it is very nice and fresh as it is. also, you don't have to use blood oranges, but they sure are pretty.

pineapple-sage gin and tonic

say hello to an easy and delicious way to fancy up a classic g&t!

sage and pineapple go together amazingly well. the effect is a heady mix of tropicalia and some herby bitterness from the sage. with the sweetness and bitterness of tonic and the herbal juniper notes of gin, this is a great go-to for summer tipples on the patio.

in whatever glass you have handy, muddle 3-4 chunks of fresh pineapple with 3-5 fresh sage leaves (depending on how big they are and how much you like sage).

if you have a real muddler, so much the better, but a wooden spoon or its handle also works. just make sure to get them nice and smooshed and the sage bruised up so that its oils get all mixed in with the pineapple.

pour in a healthy glug of gin (a nice clean-tasting gin works best - you don't need anything too fancy or something like hendrick's which, while tasty, is expensive and has flavors of rose and stuff, which is unnecessary here).

add tonic (fancy tonics like Q or fever tree would be great, since they use real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, but something like schweppes is totally fine and is usually what i use, because i am poor).

add ice and perhaps a straw so you don't end up slurping some sage leaves (although personally i don't mind that).

drink up! repeat as needed.