Saturday, March 17, 2012

that's my jam (whiskey/jam/lemon/ginger ale)

well i wouldn't be a very good part-irish person if i didn't have a drink to make for good old saint patrick's day, to be sure. but i'm not super-into green drinks in general so i'm not going to make some kind of unholy wheatgrass-vodka thing or an equally unholy green beer. i guess you could make this green if you use mint jelly, but it would be disgusting so i can't recommend it.

there are a lot of other colors in ireland besides green, anyway. stone, for instance. and sheep-color. but green does predominate.

irregardless, this is a drink that you can probably make from the things you have sitting around already (aka The Best Kind of Drink). all it takes is roughly equal amounts lemon juice and jam or jelly, mixed vigorously with a fork (or, if you fancy, a whisk). i was lucky to have some very tasty blackcurrant jelly that my wonderful coworker made, but you can use whatever you have around. maybe not grape. but maybe! necessity and invention and all that... then add an appropriately irish amount of whiskey (note the "e") and fill 'er up with ginger ale.

goes down a treat! sláinte!

1 tablespoon jelly or jam (your choice - i think marmalade would be great, as would raspberry or strawberry)
1 tablespoon (+ or -) lemon juice
an amount of whiskey
ginger ale

listening to: it probably should be the pogues. let's go with that.
(secretly i was listening to clearlake, who are english, but it made me feel too guilty)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

two quick/easy/healthy lunches

whether you bring your lunch to work or eat lunch at home or school, making it is one of those hassle-y things that you either sigh and do or sigh and don't do and then you end up buying a sub-par sandwich from the little shop on the ground floor of your office building.

wait, i guess that's only related to the bringing-your-lunch-to-work thing. and it's really only related to my work, because probably not everyone is lucky enough to work in office buildings containing shops with mediocre sandwiches on the ground floor.

anyway, i've never been that into making lunches. but i try to do it, because on tuesdays and thursdays i have to be Out and About for like 13 hours so if i don't make one i get into the whole sandwich shop malarkey and am mad at myself later.

two lunches that have been treating me right lately are a beans/kale/tomato melange and a vaguely asian chicken and broccoli thing. both are super quick and quite tasty and they will power you through any number of meetings, memos, or research rabbit-holes you find yourself falling into.

kale is probably my favorite green. it's milder than other greens like mustard or chard and it has more texture and heft than boring old spinach (which also has the non-benefit of making my teeth feel weird - thanks oxalate, you jerk!).

anyway, for this you just need one bunch of kale (washed, stems removed, and chopped into vaguely bite-sized pieces - 1"-2" or so), some garlic and/or shallots or onion, a can of white beans, and a can of diced tomatoes. heat a teaspoon or so of oil in a large pan (medium heat), then add the garlic/shallot/onion. let these cook for a minute or so, then add the kale. stir it around a bit and let it go for another two minutes-ish, then add the tomatoes (with their juice) and the beans (drained and preferably rinsed, because that bean-juice in cans is so nastily viscous). then you are basically done. let it cook, stirring occasionally, for perhaps another 10 - 15 minutes or until the kale becomes texturally pleasing to you. that's it! maybe also add some salt. a little lemon juice or cider or balsamic vinegar is nice, too.

the great thing about this is that it's vegan and it has lots of protein and vitamins. you can also grate a little cheese on it if you're feeling frisky. we had some cotija cheese that went particularly well with it, but asiago or parmesan would also be nice. it's also good warm or at room temperature, so if you can't stand the thought of hanging in the breakroom with your homies, you can hunch over it in your cubicle while reading a magazine. your choice!

here are the ingredients of my lunch today. i roasted a chicken the other day, so we already had some cooked leftovers. if you don't have a roast chicken in your fridge, you could always get one of those rotisserie ones or use tofu or add the extra step of cooking up a chicken breast. but it's definitely quicker if you have chicken that's already cooked. obviously.

other than that you just need a stalk of broccoli, a couple of cloves of garlic, a shallot (or equivalent amount of onion, or just leave it out), and perhaps half a jalapeño or other pepper (this one was mild). you can also add whatever else you have around - scallions and/or cilantro would be nice, as would some peanuts or cashews. but lo! i had none of those.

this is actually kind of similar to the kale thing in that you cook the garlic and whatever (here, shallot and jalapeño) for a hot minute, then add the green stuff (broccoli!) and let it cook for a bit. once i put the broccoli in, i added a tablespoon or so of water and then covered the pan and let it steam-cook for about two or three minutes. basically from here on out it depends on how crunchy you want your broccoli to be. i think mine cooked for a total of 7 or 8 minutes. the timing also depends on how large your broccoli chunks are - the smaller they are, the faster they cook.

once it's just about done, add some soy sauce (to taste, but maybe 1-2 teaspoons) and a teaspoon or so of sesame oil. then add the chicken (if you're using tofu, you could add it soon after the broccoli or cook it separately so it gets sort of crunchy) just to let it get all melded with the other stuff. also, incidentally, i was eating this at home, so i wanted to get it heated through. yay for home-lunch!

when you're ready to eat, a dollop of chili-garlic sauce is a great addition, as is sriracha, if you haven't already used it all up in some terrible apocalypse drink.

if you're taking it to work, you'll probably want to keep it cold until you're ready to eat it because salmonella.

*ingredients for kale thing*
1-2 cloves garlic
1 shallot or 1/4 of an onion
1 small bunch kale
1 can white beans
1 can diced tomatoes
balsamic or cider vinegar, optional
cheese, optional

*ingredients for chicken-broccoli thing*
2 cloves garlic
1 shallot or 1/4 of an onion
1/2 mild jalapeño or other chili or some red bell pepper
1 largish stalk broccoli
1/3 - 1/2 cup chopped, cooked chicken
soy sauce and sesame oil, to taste
chili-garlic sauce and/or sriracha, to taste
other good additions - sesame seeds, nuts, other vegetables

listening to: the clientele

Friday, March 9, 2012

foldy-eggs/cheese/beans breakfast taco

so yes, we're moving back to austin soon. i graduate in may and we'll be back home before june. it will be hard to leave Beautiful Portland, but i'm extremely excited about being back in austin. it's too bad one can't live in two places at once. on days like today i'm especially in love with portland - it's sunny and flowery and chilly and fresh (the air here is the very freshest ever).

but then i think about friends and family and breakfast tacos and i can't wait to get back to austin. the breakfast taco is probably austin's official dish. if it isn't, it should be. simple, cheap, filling and delicious, it fills the four corners of a square meal perfectly.

i used to make mine with scrambled eggs and refried beans and then put grated cheddar cheese on top. that's cool and all, but now that i have learned the (ridiculously-easy-why-didn't-i-think-of-this) secret to smooth meltylicious cheese inside the eggs, i definitely think it's the way to go.

it isn't really even a secret. it's more like making a little simple omelet and using that instead of regular eggs + the grated cheese that never really melts properly. the original idea is from deb, whose website smitten kitchen is all sorts of inspirational. she makes the eggs into a square, however, so that they are all ready for a tasty breakfast sandwich.

as a good once and future austinite, i of course had to try it with a breakfast taco. this is really more about the mechanics than about a recipe, per se. first, cut some slices of a good cheddar or maybe pepper jack cheese. you don't need very much - maybe two or three thin slices (you could also use grated cheese, but i hate grating cheese). then you want to whisk an egg or two with a little salt and pepper and splosh them in a hot-ish pan (medium heat) with an adequate amount of butter. tilt the pan all over so that the eggs make a nice thin layer. let it cook for a bit until the eggs begin to set up, then put the cheese on top.

then use a spatula (i use a flexible silicon one) to fold the eggs over the cheese and themselves. for a taco, you don't make the square that is shown in the sandwich recipe - just fold the sides in so that it makes a long narrow rectangle-ish thing. i then heat up some (canned. the SHAME.) refried beans in the same pan, although if you're worried about overcooking the eggs you can be heating the beans up separately or put the eggs on your plate while you heat the beans. heat up a nice flour tortilla and you're all set!

spread the beans onto the tortilla, then add the foldy-cheese-eggs and some good salsa and you're good to go for the day.

(incidentally, these days the dogs are all about piling up into a comfort heap and enjoying the sun. i so envy their utter lack of Things to Do)

i have to admit that the picture of the taco above, with its petite line of salsa, does not truly represent my insane salsa predilections. below is a more accurate display of the amount of salsa i actually use. yikes.

2 eggs
salt & pepper
2-3 thin slices cheese
1 flour tortilla
1/4 - 1/3 cup refried beans (i accidentally used too much in this taco, which made it rather difficult to eat. don't be like me!)

listening to: a weirdo medley of cruiserweight and grimes.

Monday, March 5, 2012

split pea soup with smoked turkey (or smoky cauliflower)

first things first - split pea soup is not the belle of the ball. it's homely in both the american and the british sense (more like what we mean when we say "homey" - like the simple comforts of home). until this week, it was also something that i can't remember eating, if i ever have, because it almost invariably has a ham hock or something like that in it.

i was a vegetarian for a number of years, then about 10 years ago i started eating fish occasionally. i guess it was a slippery slope, because a few years after that i moved on to humanely-raised poultry as well. we still don't eat much meat - i probably do once a week or so, on average. i never took up eating beef, pork, etc. (it just was never something we really ate when i was growing up and it doesn't appeal to me) either, so i've missed out on split pea soup for way too long.

however, the store at which i get our poultry (new seasons market - it only carries humanely-raised meats, which i think is important to support) recently started carrying smoked turkey sometimes. when i saw some huge crazy dinosaur-turkey wings and some pretty split peas, it all came together in a perfect storm of delicious. you could, of course, also use a ham hock or whatever if you are of more of a pork-eating persuasion. or make some roasted cauliflower with lots of smoked paprika tossed into it and use that - it won't be the same, but it will be vegan and (i'm pretty sure) equally tasty.

this soup only has 6 ingredients and is incredibly simple to make. as i mentioned previously, i'm super busy these days with working, going to school, job-searching, and preparing to move back to texas (!), so ease and simplicity in food-making is particularly appealing right now.

for a pretty big pot of soup (it only gets better the next day/s) you need about 1 - 1 1/2 pounds of dried split peas (i used yellow and green, but i don't think color matters once it's cooked), a couple of carrots, an onion, garlic (i used 5 large cloves because we are Garlic People, but you can use less if you plan on making out with someone later on), a couple of stems of thyme and some smoked turkey on the bone. dead easy.

first chop up the vegetables. the garlic just needs a largish mince, then do the carrots and onions in a large dice. i used organic carrots, so i didn't even peel them - just cut them into quarters the long way then cut into medium chunks. i leave the thyme as it is and just stick the whole stems and leaves in - the leaves end up falling off as it cooks, so just remember to take the stems out before you chow down. you could also add a bay leaf or two, but i didn't have any and i'm not 100% convinced that they really add anything.

heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot on medium heat. put the onion in and let it cook down a bit - you don't necessarily need it to brown, but just let it get kind of translucent - maybe let it go for 5 minutes or so, stirring relatively frequently. then add the garlic and let that go for another minute-ish before adding the carrot and thyme. after another couple-few minutes (3?), add the peas and whole turkey wings, and cover with water. you want the water to cover everything by a solid 2-3 inches or so.

eek. these are the (slightly scary) smoked turkey wings. i don't know if it's the fresh air or the roaming they do as they grow or if i just don't really know how big turkeys are, but these seemed HUGE. i think one could definitely use 2 instead of 3 in this, but they were really good (and super cheap), so i'm content with having used 3.

turn the burner up to high until the water boils, then turn it down to low-medium and let those puppies cook together until the peas get tender. this will probably take a while, but you don't have to be hovering over the pot the whole time. just go do whatever you need to around the house and check and stir everything every so often (15 minutes? 30? i think either is fine, as long as the heat is pretty low).

once the peas are pretty tender, take the turkey wings out and set them aside in something, leaving the peas to cook more. once the wings cool, you can strip the delicious smoky meat off them and add it back to the soup. it's pretty tough from the smoking, so you want to tear it into pretty small pieces (like bite-sized for a pomeranian? probably not much bigger than your thumbnail). add the meat into the cooking peas and just keep cooking everything until most of the peas disintegrate and the whole thing is soft and thick and comforting, just like a big fat wool sweater of a soup (i think mine ended up cooking for about 3 hours, in total. but don't let it scare you - most of it is unattended and it is so worth it!). if it seems to be too thick at any point, add some more water. it's not a terribly exacting sort of recipe.

once it's done, you may need to add a little salt, pepper, or more thyme. the smoked turkey can be quite salty, though, so definitely wait until the end so you can see if it even needs it.

see? not that pretty. but as jean-ralphio would say (and as i've been repeating in my head for the last 5 days or so), that shiz is straight-up deloicious.

if you want to try the cauliflower thing, i would roast it with a good couple of teaspoons of smoked paprika, then add it towards the end of cooking the peas so it doesn't get too mushy.

1 - 1 1/2 lbs (or so - like 3-4 cups?)
2 carrots
1 onion
3-5 cloves garlic
2-3 thyme stems
2-3 smoked turkey wings (or 1/2 a cauliflower, roasted, or other smoked things)

listening to: grizzly bear (really just all of veckatimest), covers of daydream believer (rip, davy jones)