Sunday, July 31, 2011

cooling salad with vegetables/tofu/rice

i went to a county fair on saturday! it was exactly what i expected and hoped for from a county fair - lots of adorable animals, fried foods, demonstrations of old-timey things, and various random 4-H projects like this:

the terrifying fellow above with his horrifying onion legs/pincers was part of a "best-dressed vegetables" competition, which sounds fake but is apparently a real thing. what's odd is that this hideous frankenstein's monster of pre-compost is not wearing any clothes. i assume that is why his creator only got a participation ribbon. next time follow the rules, poindexter!

on the opposite end of the cuteness spectrum is this darling. i immediately named her elmira velvet and she made it pretty clear that she wanted to come home with me. sadly, cooler heads prevailed and we left cowless.

(don't you just love her eyes?! and her softy soft coat? and her cunning little drool trails?!)

sadly what we did leave with were sunburns and mild heatstroke. well, i am not sure about the heatstroke. it wasn't that hot, but i was really out of it and tired when we got home. but i don't do outside things much, so perhaps i was just being a delicate flower.

regardless, the only thing that sounded good after the heat and dust and onion rings was this nice cold salad loaded with raw vegetables and herbs and tofu and slicked with a simple piquant dressing. it was heaven.

don't you feel 100 degrees cooler just looking at those vegetables? you can use whatever you have around - i used a red bell pepper, mint, half-ish of a jalapeño, jarred hearts of palm, some lemon balm that i fortuitously found growing in our backyard, a cucumber, some scallions, and some sugar snap peas (i also later put in some frozen peas and they thawed in the salad). i think blanched broccoli, tomatoes, little green beans, some basil and/or cilantro, etc, would all be good as well.

just slice the vegetables however you like - i made the scallions, hearts of palm, and jalapeño into kind of coin shapes (i took the seeds and most of the ribs out of the jalapeño and cut it in very thin rounds), the bell pepper into thick matchsticks, the herbs into julienne, and the peas i cut in half.

you could do the cucumber in rounds as well, but sometimes people get heartburn from the seeds, apparently, so i like to cut them in half and use a spoon to scoop the seeds out. you can then eat them, if you are not heartburn-prone, or you could use them to flavor ice water, etc - let them soak in it for awhile and then strain them out again. delicious! refreshing! or you can throw them away, i suppose.

then just slice the two halves into crescents.

it is probably not a bad idea to mix the dressing up in a big bowl and then dump the vegetables in. for a very large salad, i used like 1/4 - 1/3 cup rice vinegar, the juice of a whole lime, a tablespoon or so of demerara sugar (obvs you could use whatever kind), perhaps a tablespoon or so of soy sauce, and some sesame oil. basically it's a good idea to start slow and just add and mix until it tastes delicious. you want to be careful of the soy sauce, because it can be sort of overpowering. you could also just use some salt instead, if you don't want it soy-y. i mixed all of these up and then added the cut up vegetables.

then i added some leftover cooked white rice. i think it was about a cup and a half or two cups. but again, this was a monster salad. as you can see in the pictures, this is mainly a vegetable and tofu salad with rice in it, rather than a rice salad with other stuff in it. hopefully that makes sense. although clearly you can put a larger proportion of rice in. i am not going to come to your house and yell at you or anything.

i cut the tofu into ~ 1 inch cubes and let it sit in a strainer for a little while to get some of the moisture out. it was still pretty wet and pretty bland, however. i happen to like it that way, so i left it, but you could also put some paper towels around it and stack some plates or something on it to get it a little drier. you could also mix up the dressing and let the tofu sit in it for a little bit so it absorbs some. or you could use baked tofu. or like rotisserie chicken or something. basically the point is to avoid having to turn on the stove for any part of this.

this is very refreshing and is perfect for a simple lunch or dinner when it's too hot to think about stoves. it's got a good amount of protein, so it's filling. the crispness of the vegetables and the sourness of the lime and the herbiness of the herbs all go together well. it's also nice if you have some toasted salted nuts for on top - we used cashews, but peanuts would also be good. you want to put them on each serving individually, though, so they don't get soft.

this is for a really large salad, so you can use less if you don't want to be eating it forever. it would also be a good potluck thing - it feeds a crowd and is both vegan and gluten-free, although check on the soy sauce - sometimes it can have gluten. the salad keeps well for a few days, although it was best soon after it was made.

1 bell pepper (preferably not green, because they are gross)
1 cucumber
1/2 jalapeño
1 bunch scallions
2+ big handfuls fresh herbs
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 cup frozen petite peas
3 or 4 hearts of palm

1 package extra-firm tofu
1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked rice

1 lime (or more, to taste)
1/4 - 1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
soy sauce, to taste
sesame oil, to taste

Friday, July 29, 2011

berry exciting

a little over a month ago, our backyard blackberry bushes were covered with delicate pinky white flowers. they were very pretty, but you couldn't really eat them. well, i suppose you could, but i doubt they'd taste like much.

then these little guys did their important work and lo and behold, we have blackberries:

i just found them today! i haven't even made anything with them yet, because they are incredibly good just eaten on their own.

i have time, though - many more blackberries are coming. they seem to be trying to make things easier for me by not all ripening at once.

i don't have a clue how many berries there are out there - thousands upon thousands, for sure. the bushes cover our back fence and then some and are making inroads along the side fence as well. one vine was tap-tap-tapping on the window earlier, wanting me to let it in. i declined. those things are pointy.

after we harvest the berries, i will have to cut the vines back, lest we wake up and find ourselves locked away like sleeping beauty in a forest of briars and brambles. if i cut them now, though, how we will enjoy all of the cobblers, pies, crumbles, crisps, buckles, slumps, jams, etc., that i have planned for these darlings? now to convince someone with a ladder to come and help harvest them...

no one minds being paid in berries, right?

so yeah, no recipe today, but here are some links to other people who have made good use of blackberries:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

pickled okra pimento cheese

do you know about pimento cheese? it's popular throughout the southern states and is perhaps making inroads across the mason-dixon line. in texas you can get it in big tubs at any grocery store. people usually eat it on white bread in sandwich form, though sometimes it's used as a dip for vegetables or crackers.

the thing about tub cheese is that it is tub cheese. thus, it is not all that good. i mean, it's good in the sense that anything composed of cheese and mayonnaise is going to be kind of good, but it isn't really good. also, pimento cheese is ridiculously easy to make and if you make it yourself you can avoid the preservatives and weird gums that fill many commercially-prepared versions.

seriously, have you ever looked at those? i just looked up the ingredients in one brand and it had guar, xanthan, and locust bean gums, along with preservatives and artificial coloring. i am not overly concerned about that kind of stuff (i eat gummy bears, after all), but it's just never going to taste as good as homemade.

the bare bones pimento cheese recipe consists of grated sharp cheddar, chopped pimentos, and mayonnaise. however, homemade is even better when you give pickled okra a leading role. when one is discussing pickled okra, talk o' texas is really the way to go. i don't know how widely distributed it is, but i bought mine here in oregon, so it's around. and you can order it online. as the website claims, it is crisp, delicious, and crisp. on a side note, my friend once dated the scion of the talk o' texas empire and i was excited about the prospect of increased pickled okra access, but alas, it was not to be. i still have to buy it like any old sucker.

anyway, other people's dating histories aside, okra is a nice addition to pimento cheese. in fact, i have been using it instead of the pimentos, because the day has yet to come when i go into the store and think of buying a whole thing of pimentos. pimentos just never seem to enter my consciousness while i am grocery shopping (and yet there's always pickled okra in the fridge). but i got a mad craving for pimento cheese the other day and found that pickled okra is a more than acceptable substitute.

i've made this a couple of times in the last fortnight or so, and each time it was a little different. so don't take this as a hard and fast rule-based recipe, but more like a template for whatever you have around. here are the things i used last time i made it:

in clockwise order, from the top left, we have mayonnaise, jarred roasted peppers, greek yogurt, pickled okra, scallions, and sharp cheddar. the greek yogurt is total heresy, but people do sometimes put sour cream in their pimento cheese, and i think it tastes similar and i can't bear to use only mayonnaise. but feel free to do the sour cream or all-mayo thing if you like. i used about 1/2 a cup of mayonnaise and 1/3 of a cup of yogurt for this batch, i think. but i never measure it - just use a large spoon to glop it in there, stir, taste, and adjust as needed. it's supposed to be pretty creamy, but you want to be able to really taste the cheese as well, obviously. lots of freshly ground black pepper is also a good idea, but i felt like it didn't need any extra salt.

i only had a couple of the roasted peppers - i think using twice the amount seen in the picture above would be even better. i also ended up adding another 2 or 3 okra pods after i mixed the cheese up and tasted it. see? it's kind of a guessing game. the scallions were delicious sliced into it, but you could also use shallots or a little sweet onion. or you could leave those out. i used about 6 ounces of grated sharp cheddar, but the other time i made this i used part sharp cheddar and part pepper jack, so that's pretty flexible as well. sometimes i grate it on the fine setting, sometimes on the larger holes. i think i prefer the larger, because the texture is a little more pleasing and you taste the cheese more. it's up to you, though.

as with so many things, this benefits from some time in the refrigerator before you eat it - try to give it at least an hour or so. it will last several days and maybe more. we always eat it before getting to test that, however. it's good on all kinds of bread (the top picture is with whole wheat bread and, incidentally, another sandwich featuring some truly amazing smoked salmon from the farmers market. the picture below this is with some cardamom toasts from ikea.), crackers, etc. you can also dip celery sticks in it and pretend it is super healthy.

or, as always, you can eat it straight from the bowl.

6 ounces cheese, grated (either sharp cheddar or a mix)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup greek yogurt or sour cream (or more mayonnaise to taste)
6+ chopped pickled okra pods
4+ sliced scallions (or substitute shallots, sweet onion, etc)
1/4 cup + jarred (or homemade!) roasted red/yellow bell peppers
black pepper

just mix it together!

also, sorry for the rather poor quality of these pictures - my camera doesn't like to photograph pimento cheese, apparently.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

mike's famous pecan/chocolate/bourbon pie

this pie recipe is courtesy of michael schaub - bon vivant, book critic extraordinaire, and the primary eater of my cooking (also household bug eliminator and pug entertainer). sometimes he turns the tables on me, though, and makes things like migas and pie. and it is awesome.

sadly, he was working when this pie needed to be made, so i took it upon myself to make it to his specifications. naturally, i couldn't leave well enough alone and added a couple of things. he didn't mind, though. he's pretty easygoing.

first, the crust. you can definitely use a storebought crust and often that's what happens (the ones from trader joe's are pretty good). i had time to make one, though, and decided to just go for it. i used a recipe from serious eats's food lab column, which is always great (particularly if you are the nerdy type who wants to know the science of things). i made it just like the recipe says, so i don't feel like i really need to go into it here. i did have to use a stand mixer instead of the food processor, though. i think the food processor would be better, if you have one. it's faster and better able to smash things together.

i was a little nervous, because as the picture above this one indicates, the dough seemed really dry and crumbly when i first mixed it up. after a couple of hours in the fridge, though, it ended up being pretty easy to roll out. it still seemed drier than i had imagined it would be, but maybe that was due to my flour? i don't know - i did weigh everything, so it wasn't that. but it rolled out just fine. i rolled it on some plastic wrap, so that i could use less flour and still get it into the pan - i just tipped it carefully over the pan and slowly pulled the plastic wrap off the dough. pretty easy. then you just pat the dough gently to fit the contours of the pan and use a sharp knife to cut off any extra.

mmmm, this is the main point of the pie - the filling. basically you use the recipe from the back of the karo syrup, with a few modifications. pecan pie is awesome in general because you don't have to use any fancy mixing things or whatnot - just dump everything in a bowl, stir it up, and splosh it into the pan. first you want to preheat the oven to 350. ugh, i know. the last thing you want to think about is the oven. but imagine how happy you'll be tomorrow morning when you are eating boozy chocolate-y pecan-y pie for breakfast! it will all seem worth it!

so. you need 1 cup of karo syrup. mike uses the dark syrup, rather than the light. i think it has a more caramel-y flavor or something. or maybe it is because it is the one with the recipe on the back. other things you need include 1 cup of sugar, 3 eggs, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, a teaspoon of vanilla, a teaspoon of salt, a couple of teaspoons - 1 tablespoon molasses, 1/4 cup of bourbon, 1/4 - 1/3 cup chocolate chips, and 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups pecans. you can use either chopped pecans or pecan halves, says mike, but i think halves look prettier. the salt, molasses, bourbon, and chocolate are where Mike's Famous differs from your garden variety pecan pie. actually, the molasses was my addition. it is a family effort.

just mix these lovelies together. you should probably not succumb to the natural temptation to add more chocolate chips (i know! chocolate!) because they might overwhelm the delicious rest of the filling. they should be an accent, not the whole point. save that for a chocolate pie.

pour it all into your pan. i kept the crust in the freezer while i was mixing up the filling ingredients, so that the butter wouldn't get warmed up. i think this was a good idea. do it. also make those little pie edges by pressing gently around the rim with a fork. pie edges are cute and traditional.

also you should probably put your pie pan on a larger pan (like a cookie sheet/jelly roll pan) that has sides. the recipe is for a deep dish pie pan, and i didn't have that, so i was worried that the filling would overflow. i think i would be worried that the filling would overflow even if i had a deep dish pan, though, and hell if i am going to spend all afternoon cleaning burnt sugar stuff out of my oven. you are welcome to not use a pan underneath if cleaning burnt sugar stuff is your jam, however.

bake it for a solid hour or so (but start checking it after 50 minutes-ish - i used a metal pan and glass pans are different from metal with regard to cooking times, so you may have to adjust). sometimes i find other things to bake at 350 because you might as well get double the return for having the oven on. that's your business though. if the crust starts browning too much before the pie is done, you can tear some strips of aluminum foil to put over it. mine seemed fine without foil.

it is done when you kind of tap the middle and it is a little giving and movable still, but not jiggly. it will set up more once it cools, but you don't want to take it out too early. i think you will be able to tell once you're in the moment.

you should eat this pie with ice cream. vanilla is traditional, but coconut is quite good as well. and a little piece of breakfast pie never hurt anyone.

1 pie crust, either homemade or purchased
1 cup karo syrup
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons of melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons - 1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup of bourbon
1/4 - 1/3 cup chocolate chips
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups pecans


are you on twitter? yeah, me too. i am going to try to remember to add links to new posts on there and also links to other food- and drink-related things i read. i do read a lot about food and drink these days.

so you can follow me at!/tweetawesomely, if you like. i know, it's kind of lame. but it's also kind of not. i wanted to make my thing livingawesomely, obviously, but some guy is already doing that. so don't follow him. or do. just be aware that he is not me. nor am i him.

i actually originally got on twitter like 3 years ago but soon stopped messing with it because it was not, as i had hoped, a listing of things friends are eating. maybe it is now? or could be? either way, here we are in the 21st century. if you have a twitter thing i will follow you, too! we will be twitter-buddies! so fun!

(the picture is of my darling dog darwin, who is inarguably the cutest dog ever. aside from our other two dogs, that is. they are also quite cute)

mango salad/salsa/relish

i was thinking of having all of my posts this week be oriented around a baking theme, since i actually have been baking a lot and it seems like the whole country is kind of baking in this horrible heat wave (over 100 degrees all across the east coast? those are texas-style temperatures!).

but then i came to my senses and decided that that would be kind of mean. not everyone can live in portland, plus i am sure our time will come for unbearable heat. why not make a simple, sweet, spicy mango salad instead?

this is the perfect beat-the-heat dish because it has 6 ingredients, takes 5 minutes to make and doesn't require you to even look at your stove. it has sort of southeast asian flavors, but uses ingredients that are very easy to find practically anywhere.

all you need is a mango, some mint, cilantro, 1/2 a lime, a couple of scallions, and 1/3 or so of a fresh jalapeño. i didn't even use any salt or pepper. cut up the mango like i showed you earlier, put it in a bowl. slice up the scallions and jalapeño. you can certainly use more of anything that you like - i wanted it to be spicy but not too spicy. i cut the jalapeño very thinly so that it wouldn't be too overwhelming in each bite.

chop the herbs - i like to pile the mint leaves on top of each other and then roll them into a kind of tube with the stem part in the middle and then slice it - this helps you have a nice ribbony shape and makes it easier to slice. the cilantro i just kind of ball up and cut. basil would also be good in here, cut the same way as the mint. but i don't have any basil. i also think a little fish sauce would not be out of place, if you have any. but again, i do not. i am so unprepared. how embarrassing.

then squeeze 1/2 a lime over the whole thing and stir. that's it! you should taste it now. you might want to add a little pinch of sugar. lime juice is sour, yo! don't overdo it though. this is supposed to be sweet and savory. this is best eaten right away, although it is still pretty tasty after an evening in the fridge.

i can imagine this being a good accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken or tofu. if you want to use it as a salsa, you should probably cut the mango into smaller bits. you could also add a little tofu or cooked rice to make it more substantial. or maybe have it with other asian-y salads, like a salad smorgasbord! or you could stand in front of the open fridge and scoop it out of the bowl with your fingers. i won't judge you. we all go a little crazy when it's hot out.

Friday, July 22, 2011

quick fruit galette

today was one of those summer days during which you try to slow every minute down and really appreciate it, because you know how perfect it is even as it's happening. i got to wake up later than usual, laze around reading and enjoying the wonder that is spotify, and eat some asian scrambled eggs with leftover rice.

i also was excited because i had Big Pie Plans and a southern potluck in my future. i made a pie crust with this recipe, and i will talk about it more later because we are about to have to leave for the aforementioned potluck. suffice it to say that it worked out really well and was super easy. that is my kind of pie crust, for sure.

above is my awesome haul from the produce market just down the street. the vast majority of their produce is local and it is a total steal. all of the stuff above (cherries, apricots, a mango, cucumbers, a plantain, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, a yam, peppers both spicy and bell, garlic, dill, cilantro, shallots, and a bag of organic rye flour) was only $16! what?! and the flour was like $4 of that. they have a whole shelf of bob's red mill products and also have lots of homemade jams and preserves. it is pretty much my favorite.

also, i biked there. i am sooo portland.

anyway, so i was making this other pie for the potluck and had some dough left over. the apricots i'd just bought were still sitting on the counter, so i rolled the extra dough out, cut up an apricot, put it in the middle of the dough, and folded the extra dough up around the fruit so that the juices wouldn't leak out too much. this whole process seriously takes about 2 minutes, tops.

then i sprinkled it with sugar (this was demerara sugar, like sugar in the raw) and put a couple of little pats of butter on top of the fruit. if you are making this as its own thing (i.e., not just trying to use up extra dough), it would not be a bad idea to do a little egg wash over the crust. this isn't necessary, but it makes it brown more attractively. if you want to do that, just beat up an egg with a little water (maybe a teaspoon?) and brush the pastry with it. these can also be bigger - just make a larger circle of dough. i kind of like the idea of individual ones, however.

then just put it on a cookie sheet-type pan and pop it in an oven at 375 until the crust is browned-y and the fruit looks done. i think this took about half an hour or so for mine, but you want to keep an eye on it.

this could also be made with store-bought crust and would then be the easiest dessert you can think of. you could also make it with other kinds of fruit - apples, pears, berries, etc. the amount of sugar you use depends on how sweet your fruit is and how sweet you want it (obvs). i probably only used a teaspoon or so, but the apricot was super ripe and didn't need much help along its road toward immortality.

bonus: now i know the crust of the pie i am bringing to the potluck is not too bad and will not make me an embarrassment to my family.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


elderflower! it is the taste of summer, if you are british. or the taste of the countryside. or spring? something like that. i think it tastes like citrus-y apple juice, with (perhaps obviously) kind of a floral thing going on.

i had some time to kill before picking my moms up at the airport the other day, so i went to ikea. the ikea in portland is right by the airport, which is not that close to anything i go to regularly, so i almost never make it to ikea. even when i do go there, i am usually picking up some sklosvangs or glovbrniks for around the house and i never remember to check out the food part of the store.

this is unfortunate, because as i discovered the other day, it is a wonderland of weird foodstuffs. there were like 8 kinds of jarred herring, several varieties of caviar spread in tubes, lots of crisp bread things, and interesting candies and drinks, among other treasures. well, i don't know about the herring. i couldn't bring myself to buy that.

i did get some elderflower syrup concentrate, however, and immediately started making plans.

there is an elderflower liqueur that i've seen around at the kind of bar that also features homemade bitters and bartenders sorry, mixologists in dandy little waistcoats. i have had drinks made with it and it is tasty and all, but i don't necessarily want to spend $40 on flower liqueur to have in my very own house. the syrup was like $4something. at 1/10 the price, it would have to be pretty bad for me to disavow its utility in my drinks cabinet.

so. the cocktail. i had some gin (as always. gin = summer, it is currently summer, so i have gin around. it's an easy equation) and some limes and some sparkling water. and now i have some elderflower syrup. so i mixed them together and discovered an eminently quaffable bevvie (ha!) that would be a hit at any drunken garden party to which you might be invited.

i don't like things too sweet, so if you have a drinks sweet tooth, you may want to change the proportions of this a bit. but really, it's just gin (a drink's worth - follow your heart), lots of fresh lime juice (i am not going to go on another rant about this, but seriously, squeeze your own limes. it is 1000% worth it), a couple of tablespoons of elderflower syrup, and sparkling water (or club soda).

it's so dreamy and is also quite refreshing. aside from garden parties, it would be more than welcome at a late morning brunch (i think? i don't normally drink gin at brunch myself, but it could be good if you like that sort of thing) or a lazy picnic.

or you can do as i do and have it with the weird toffee laces candy that you also bought at ikea and at first didn't care for but are now kind of obsessed with.

elderflower syrup, to taste
juice from 1/2 a lime
sparkle water

Saturday, July 16, 2011

asian scrambled eggs & rice

are you tired of slogging through soggy cereal? do you quail at the thought of another slurpy yogurt and fruit combo?

my point is that these eggs are quick and simple and delicious and a little out of the ordinary. thus they are practically guaranteed to be a welcome respite from the doldrums of typical weekday breakfasts. you can also make them on the weekends - i just did!

this was a great quick breakfast on a rainy saturday morning. it would also be good on a dry tuesday morning. or with a nice salad for a quick lunch. it uses leftover cooked rice, eggs, onion, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper (incidentally, this is just regular black pepper in a lemon pepper container, but lemon pepper would be good, too), and sriracha (or other hot chili sauce).

you can customize these in various ways - if i have cilantro, i will put it in. sometimes i use shallots instead of onion. if there are some scallions skulking around, i will put those in at the very end, or just snip them over the top of the finished eggs (you can also do the same with chives). so consider this just a basic template for whatever genius thing you come up with.

first i let the onion cook up a little. i used 1/4 of a small onion - probably like 1/4 - 1/3 cup once it was chopped. this is totes to taste, though. use however much onion you feel you deserve. i like to cook it in some butter on medium-high heat so that it gets some nice browned areas. brown is where the flavor is! although the flavor is also still in the regular white part. it is just a different flavor.

then add some cold cooked rice. i was just making this for me, so i used like 1/3 cup of plain white rice that has been hanging out in our fridge for a day or two. or three. i hope rice doesn't go bad. it seemed fine, though. let that cook together with the onions for a little bit. i usually turn the burner down a little at this point - to medium or a little below that.

while the rice and onion are getting better acquainted, mix two eggs with a tablespoon or so of soy sauce. you might want to start with a little less than a tablespoon - maybe two teaspoons or so. i really like salt, apparently. although i didn't feel like this was too salty.

then just add the eggs to the onion and rice mixture and cook until they reach the perfect scrambledy consistency. then once you plate them you can sprinkle on more soy sauce if desired, plus sriracha and a little smidge of sesame oil to taste. sesame oil is pretty strong, so be careful! this is also when i would put some chives or whatnot on there if i had any. a scattering of toasted sesame seeds would not be out of place here, either.

then eat it up and be glad you didn't settle for some plain ol' toast or sad instant oatmeal. this comes together in under ten minutes and is satisfying and delicious and happy-making. you could also try it with other cooked grains or different flavor profiles - quinoa/cumin/chili powder/salsa, brown rice/frozen peas/curry powder, etc.

*ingredients* (for eggs for one - can be doubled, etc)
1/4 - 1/3 cup onion, chopped (sweet onions are particularly good in this, but you can use any kind)
1/3 cup cooked rice
2 eggs
2 teaspoons - 1 tablespoon soy sauce
chili sauce
sesame oil
other toppings - chives, scallions, sesame seeds, etc.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the best kale salad

i thought about just calling this The Best Salad. it is certainly close to the top, and in terms of simplicity and deliciousness it's really quite the little contender.

it contains only 5 ingredients (plus salt and pepper, but those are really just a given. i don't think they count as ingredients. but if you disagree, then this salad has but 7 ingredients. that's still pretty simple.). it is so healthy, you will feel your muscles growing as you eat it, a la popeye. however, it is also super delicious.

this is the kale you need. it is somewhat sly and into subterfuge, so it goes by many names: lacinato kale, tuscan cabbage, tuscan kale, dinosaur kale, black cabbage, cavolo nero... actually, i guess those last two are the same name in different languages. still, depending on the pretentiousness of the store at which you shop, you may see it called any of these. it seems like it's more tender than the curly kale one normally sees, and it may be slightly harder to find, but i've seen it in many different grocery stores, so i think it's not that hard to get hold of. you could maybe make this with regular kale, but i don't know if it would be as good.

once the kale is washed, take the stems out. there is a video for this! it is way easy.

then pile all of the leaves together, holding them in a tight bunch so they're easier to slice. then cut them with a sharp knife so you can get them really thin, the thinner the better. this will ensure that they won't be too tough, since you're not going to be cooking them.

once you've sliced up the kale, you're practically done. this is where the other 4 - 6 ingredients come into play. the one that might cause you the most trouble is the cheese - ricotta salata. it's ricotta that's been dried and salted and pressed and it is really nothing like those tubs of ricotta one uses for lasagna, etc. it's not as hard as parmesan, but you can grate it.

i was going to say that one could perhaps use feta instead, but i really think it's worthwhile to find the real stuff. i haven't had this salad with another cheese and i don't want to. the cheese kind of makes the whole thing. i have seen it here in portland at new seasons, and in austin at central market, and i'm sure places like whole foods would have it. also apparently you can get it online.

the other ingredients are shallot, lemon, and olive oil. you definitely want the juice from the whole lemon. sometimes i grate some of the lemon zest in as well, sometimes not. follow your bliss. if you are using zest, it is roughly a million times easier to zest the lemon before you juice it, fyi.

the amount of shallot you use is somewhat to taste. i usually use about 2 tablespoons or so of finely minced shallot per bunch of kale. the oil's like that too - usually i mix the shallot, lemon juice and kale together, add a tablespoon or three of oil, taste it, and put in more oil if it seems like it needs it. it depends on how big your bunch of kale is, how much juice is in the lemon, and how oily you like things to be.

finally, add the grated ricotta salata. i usually grate it on the largest-holed side of the grater, but you could also just cut it into small chunks or even use your hands to break it up over the salad. once you mix it, it will fall apart a little more, too, so it gets all nicely mixed in. then add salt and pepper to taste. ricotta salata is pretty salty itself, so that's why i wait on the salt until after adding the cheese.

as with so many chopped salad-type things, this is best if you make it ahead of time and let it sit for a couple of hours. this allows the flavors to come together more and i think the lemon juice makes the kale tenderize a little. science!

even if you think you don't like kale, you might like this. i keep seeing other things one can make with lacinato (etc) kale, but i never make them because whenever i buy it, all i want to do is eat this salad.

1 bunch lacinato kale
2 tablespoons-ish minced shallot
1 lemon - juiced
1-3+ tablespoons good olive oil
3-4 ounces ricotta salata

Monday, July 11, 2011

garlicky yogurt-marinated chicken kebabs

POW! i made these skewers to bring to a 4th of july grilling potluck. they were great because they are super-portable, you can assemble them ahead of time, and they are made from chicken thighs, so they stay moist even if you are too dazzled by sparklers to properly man the grill.

the day before you want to eat these, you should start marinating them. you can do it a few hours ahead of time, too, but i think it's better to have them soaking overnight, if you can.

the marinade ingredients are above, with the notable exception of the yogurt and the less notable exception of the aging half onion i found in the fridge and put in after taking this picture.

basically it involved lots of garlic, parsley, peppercorns and coriander seeds that i crushed a little, lemon zest (subsequent to this i chopped the lemon into smallish chunks and stuck it in too), and whatever other herbs you have around - i used some fresh thyme and oregano and dried sumac and za'atar and a little cumin. i put these all in a tupperware thing and added about a cup of yogurt (it was for about 1 1/2 pounds of chicken). it doesn't really matter how much you use - you just want to have enough to coat the chicken.

the chicken i used was free-range boneless skinless chicken thighs. as you can see above, i cut them against the grain into basically like three strips from each thigh. you can make the pieces whatever size you want, of course. it'll just affect their cooking time. once they were cut up, i tossed them in the marinade, made sure they were all coated, and left them in the fridge overnight. i stirred them a couple of times while they were marinating, just to make sure everyone got nicely acquainted.

i decided to keep it simple with these, although you could use any number of vegetables. i think things like zucchini or yellow squash would be good, or maybe little parboiled potatoes, or even (ugh) mushrooms, if you like that sort of thing. ooh, or olives! those would be really good. but i ended up just using an onion, some lovely little heirloom cherry tomatoes, and some lemon chunks. the lemon was really good because you could squeeze it over the other stuff after grilling. it's probably a good idea to let the skewers soak in some water for an hour or so before assembling the kebabs so that the wood doesn't catch on fire once they go on the grill.

i sort of threaded the chicken onto the skewers satay-style, to make sure it was not going anywhere. just alternate chicken and whatever else you're using. then grill them! or you could probably put them under the broiler of your oven. or, and this is the best method, get someone else to cook them for you! thanks, clifton!

1 lemon, zested and then cut into 8 or so pieces
4-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
big handful parsley, torn or roughly chopped
1/2 - 1 teaspoon each of peppercorns and coriander seeds, lightly crushed (you can use the bottom of a heavy pan or a mortar and pestle, etc)
1 tablespoon za'atar (or could use dried thyme, too)
2 teaspoons sumac (optional - just if you happen to have it)
1 - 2 teaspoons cumin
fresh herbs if you have on hand - oregano, thyme, mint would all be good

boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 onion or several small onions, cut in ~ 1 inch chunks
1 lemon, cut in ~ 1 inch chunks
cherry or grape tomatoes, squashes, olives, etc - whatever you want to put on there. try to make sure that things are somewhat uniform in size.