This was not a food week

August 25, 2007 at 4:45 pm (Uncategorized)

When I was 18 my mother, my five-year-old sister, and I flew to the pacific northwest for a vacation. We landed in Seattle, went to Pike’s market, did some sightseeing, drove up to Vancouver which we explored for a day or two, took the ferry to Victoria Island, visited the beautiful and vast Bouchard gardens, did a day trip on the San Juan islands, tried to spy orca whales, hiked to the top of Hurricane Ridge (where we did spy a bear, and my sister had her first ever chance to touch snow), and had a guided and amazingly fascinating tour of Olympic National Park, one of the few temperate rain foresst in the world. It was a great trip.

Oh, and I had just had jaw surgery and couldn’t eat anything remotely solid. I lived off Ensure, ice cream, and dehydrated soups, strained of the chunky bits. My mom felt bad going out to eat when I couldn’t partake, so for the most part she and my sister ate very simply, and mostly out of grocery stores. I joked that our biggest purchase was a gallon of spring water to take with us to the park. It was certainly our heaviest purchase! By the end of the week we had spent $100 on food for three. That’s about $1.50 per meal per person. Back home, looking over the budget, my mom commented, laconically, “This was not a food trip.” I laughed.

Many years later, when my mom took me on her much yearned for trip to China, we discovered that, due to our dearth of Chinese language skills, our lack of guidance in the restaurant department, the general injunction not to eat any fruit or vegetable that hadn’t been cooked or peeled, and the Chinese’s total unfamiliarity with the notion of vegetarianism (veganism in my mom’s case), our three week trip to China was also designated “not a food trip.”  (Wow, that was one long sentence.)
In honor of those two trips, I dub this week “not a food week.” It’s been hot, I’ve been super busy, and most importantly I never made it to the store after returning from New Hampshire. I’ve been living off the generous produce gifts from my friend Katrina’s mom’s garden. Katrina and Dani sent me home with a suitcase packed to the gills, with the zucchinis and cucumbers and herbs from Dani’s garden, baby jars of currant jam that Katrina and I made from Dani’s two currant bushes, the New Hampshire organic peanut butter and sun butter Katrina gifted me with, goodies from the King Arthur baker’s store, and my pile of purchases from the Hanover co-op (including lara bars, frontera salsa, black mission figs, and georgia peaches, all things I’ve yet to find in Montreal).

So this week I’ve not cooked much but I’ve enjoyed countless peaches and cucumbers eaten out of hand. I’ve been exploring strange sun butter combinations, on toasted tortillas with cucumber slices or sliced nectarines. I’ve been expanding on my set list of zucchini recipes. Breakfast today was sauteed zucchini tossed with penne pasta and pesto. For dinner, desperate for more protein, I sauteed up some zucchini and onion, then added 1/2 cup of canned roman beans, a handful of chopped parsley (also from the garden), and a few spoons of Frontera Grill green salsa. I was worried the combination was going to be odd and unappetizing, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t the most exciting dinner in the world, but fresh parsley is always tasty, and it was good to have beans again.

Tomorrow I plan to go shopping, which is good since I’ve finished off the last of the fruit and cucumbers. Still, I’m impressed at how long the parsley and basil have lasted in the fridge, completely unblemished, and the zucchini and cucumbers I just left on the kitchen table, following Dani’s lead. Fresh picked produce is world’s apart from the week (or more) old produce shipped from California that you find at the grocery store.  I’m going to check out the new organic farmer’s market in Outrement tomorrow, but still, I’m sad that Dani’s vegetables are all gone. If any gardeners in Montreal are reading this blog, and have more zucchini or tomatoes or cuks than you know what to do with, just give me a holler and I’ll come relieve you of your burden!

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My Menus

August 14, 2007 at 8:19 am (Menus)

We had company last week and Derek loved the dinner so much he asked me to document the menu, so we don’t forget it. So I started this thread to record menus that work well. I’m going to keep them seasonal/local, or at the very least write comments about what isn’t seasonal/local.

Summer American/Mexican 1

  • watermelon and watercress salad (when is watercress’s season?)
  • tomatillo hominy soup
  • black bean and zucchini quesadillas
  • lemon bars (lemons imported)

Summer American/Mexican 2

  • cold avocado and corn soup (avacados imported)
  • sweet potato and black bean burritos with chipotle soy mayo and frontera grill salsa (the sweet potatoes were from last fall, so not quite seasonal)
  • Derek’s S.O.B. sundae with beets

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Spanakopita

August 14, 2007 at 8:08 am (Dark leafy greens, F (0 stars, dislike), Isa C. Moskowitz, Tofu, Turkish)

I love spanakopita. I adore spanakopita. If Derek would let me, I’d name our first born spanakopita. I’ve never tried to make them on my own, however; I wasn’t sure I could bear to see how much butter and cheese I was ingesting in my favorite of dishes. When I saw the recipe for vegan spanakopita in Vegan with a Vengeance I was intrigued, to put it mildly. Derek and I had fun putting the layers together (especially without a pastry brush for the oil), and the final dish looked delicious when we pulled it from the oven. The taste, however, was quite disappointing. Can you say bland-sad-mockery-of-my-favorite-dish-ever? We didn’t skimp at all on the fat, so it wasn’t that we tried to make it too low fat. I think maybe spanakopita without feta is just a no-go. I tasted the “feta” made from tofu before it went into the casserole, and I found it quite bland tasting. I should have known at that point the recipe wasn’t going to be any good. Derek actually said he liked it more than me, having two pieces for dinner. However, the rest of the pan stayed in the fridge all week, untouched, so he obviously didn’t like it that much. I’m not going to bother to post the recipe.

I do have to thank Isa for inspiring me however–I’m now determined to try my hand at making the real thing.

Rating:D

Derek: C

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Skinny Omelet

August 14, 2007 at 7:33 am (101 cookbooks, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Dark leafy greens, Necessarily nonvegan, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Summer recipes)

I had some already cracked eggs in the fridge from a recipe that went wrong, and could not figure out what to do with them. I ended up deciding to make an omelet, which in the past has always been a disaster. This “skinny omelet” inspired by the skinny omelet in the 101 cookbooks blog, came out surprisingly well. It’s called a skinny omelet not because it’s so calorie-light but because the omelet itself is quite thin, almost like a crepe. I don’t read many blogs, but the pictures are so beautiful in Heidi’s blog that I find myself checking it out every week. This is the first recipe of hers I’ve actually tried (or modified, in this case).

  • a tsp. of oil to grease the pan
  • 2 large eggs + 1 egg white (preferably organic, free-range), beaten
  • a sprinkle of sliced basil leaves, about 1 Tbs?
  • about 1 ounce feta, crumbled
  • two handfuls of arugula/watercress
  • 6 yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • black pepper, freshly ground

Heidi says to “beat well, until the eggs are mostly uniform in color – they seem to run around the pan more evenly when there aren’t huge patches of yolk vs. whites.”

In as 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat pour the egg mixture and swirl the pan so the eggs cover the entire pan. Sprinkle the eggs with feta and basil and black pepper while they set (about 15 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the heat of your pan). Use a spatula to help slide the omelet onto a plate. Sprinkle with the salad greens and sliced tomatoes, and roll the omelet into a tube-shate. Cut in half on a deep diagonal. Serves 1-2.

My Notes:

The original recipe called for pesto, which I had, but forgot to add. It also called for feta, chives, salt, and salad greens. I used a bit of feta, basil instead of the chives, no salt since the feta was quite salty, and a mix of quite wilted (i.e. left them in the fridge too long) arugula and watercress. I also added a few halved yellow cherry tomatoes. I had 6 eggs and 2 egg whites mix together in a bowl, and I used 3/4 cup, so maybe 3 eggs and 1 egg white? As a result, my omelet was not nearly as skinny as hers, and I had to use a spatula to push the omelet to the center of the pan and let the uncooked parts get cooked. I liked all my additions–I could definitely taste the creamy feta, the greens added a sharp, “green” taste (for lack of a better word), and the tomato and basil were delicious together, the tomatoes contributing a lovely sweetness to the dish. It almost tasted like salad for breakfast, but a bit more substantial.

Derek also enjoyed the omelet, and commented “This is what Enrico’s [a brunch place in Pittsburgh] aspires to.”

I classified this as a nice recipe for Spring because it’s a great way to use some of the very delicate early Spring greens like arugula, spinach, or sorrel, along with a little cheese and any fresh herbs you still have growing on your windowsill. As written, with the tomatoes and basil, it makes a nice summer recipe as well.

Rating: B+

Derek: B+

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Derek’s S.O.B. Sundae

August 12, 2007 at 3:13 pm (Dessert, Ice cream & toppings, My brain, restaurant inspired, unrated)

Derek and I went to Le Divan Orange for dinner last week, and loved their mushroom terrine with Sesame oil, Orange juice, and Beets. The sauce was unusual, and divine. We sopped up every last drop with our bread. It inspired Derek to create this dessert in which we substitute ice cream for the mushroom terrine.

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
  • 1.5 tsp. sugar
  • 4 medium/small beets, about 1 cup diced
  • 1 pint of ice cream, vanilla or a nutty/caramelly flavor like maple walnut or butter pecan
  • nice coarse salt, fleur de sel or kosher salt
  1. Roast the beets until cooked. Peel and dice finely into about 1/4-inch squares.
  2. Meanwhile, reduce the orange juice in a small pan on low for about 30 minutes, until only 2 Tbs. remain. Remove from heat.
  3. Dissolve the sugar into the still-warm orange juice. Add in the sesame oil and stir vigorously until it forms an emulsion. The result should be a thick, caramelly sauce.
  4. To plate: Scoop 1/2 cup ice cream into a bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of diced beets (preferably still warm) on top. Drizzle with a heaping tablespoon of warm sauce, then dust with coarse salt. Serve immediately.

My Notes:

There wasn’t quite as much beet flavor as we would have liked, but we boiled the beets instead of roasting them. I also used 4 Tbs. orange juice concentrate since I didn’t have fresh juice, but Derek thought not-from-concentrate would have been better.

Update 9/23/2007: I tried making the sauce and drizzling it over baby golden beets which had been roasted. I made the recipe for the sauce as above, with the concentrate again. My first thought after taking a bite was “too too sweet.” The only thing my taste buds detected was sweet. I didn’t get any beet flavor, and very little sesame. I hadn’t added any salt so I tried sprinkling some salt on. It helped a bit but it was still too sweet. I then tasted the sauce alone and it seemed okay–I could definitely taste both the orange and sesame.  The sauce did seem quite thick, almost like caramel, maybe too thick for seasoning beets with?  Maybe I should have thinned it down with a vinegar? Or maybe the golden beets just are too sweet for this sauce, at least with the added sugar? I tasted the beets by themselves and although they did taste “beety”, it was a pretty subtle flavor–none of that intense concentrated flavor I thought roasting was supposed to give them. Did I do something wrong? I just rubbed a little oil over them, wrapped each one in tin foil, and baked at 400 or so until they seemed soft. I let them cool a bit and then peeled them.

So now I’m left with a bunch of beets, which I will probably just add to a salad, and a good 1/4 cup of sesame orange sauce. What am I going to do with that??? I don’t have any ice cream.

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Roasted fresh figs with cinnamon and yogurt

August 5, 2007 at 8:57 am (breakfast, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes, unrated)

I adore dried figs, but I’ve never been a big fan of fresh figs. They were everywhere at the Jean Talon market yesterday, however, and Derek likes them, so I thought I’d give them another shot. I bought a pint of black mission figs and left them on the counter for breakfast this morning. When I went to prepare them however, about half of them were very soft and had small white spots on them–fig pox? mold? I wasn’t sure, but I tossed them to be on the safe side. Are you supposed to refrigerate fresh figs? Or maybe they were already on the way out, and I should have checked the bottom layer more carefully before purchasing them. Perhaps I was duped by the fig merchant, who rubbed his hands gleefully as he pawned his spotted, softening figs off on a poor untutored-in-the-ways-of-figs customer. Or maybe they were just fine, and the white spots were concentrated bits of sugar, and the softness was indicative of perfect ripeness. In any case, here’s what I did with the remaining (firmer, unspotted) figs.

Turn the oven to broil. Stem 8 figs and cut them in half. Place cut side up in a cast iron skillet or pyrex baking pan. Sprinkle with 1 Tbs. sugar. Broil for 5 minutes, or until the sugar is bubbling. Remove from oven. Get out two bowls. Put1/4 cup yogurt in each bowl, and top with 8 fig halves. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy.

The figs weren’t bad–not as good as dried figs but okay tasting. Derek liked them more than me. I didn’t have brown sugar, but next time I’d try brown sugar or honey instead of white sugar. I think I might put the cinnamon on before broiling the figs. When all the figs were gone I dumped the end of the yogurt into the skillet with some extra cinnamon, and mixed it around to scoop up all the extra sugar that had fallen off the figs. It was delicious. The yogurt got a little warm and cinnamony and sweet–reminded me of the baklava at Santorini’s in Chicago. Delicious.

I classified this as a summer recipe, since the most varieties of figs mature in the summer. However, some varieties of figs don’t mature until the late fall, so if you’re lucky you may be able to make this recipe through November or even December.

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