Creamy millet porridge with baked, spiced pears

February 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, B_, Cook's Illustrated, Fall recipes, Grains, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

Derek is not a millet fan. I remember him happily digging into a millet pilaf I made many years ago, and then almost doing a spit-take. “What did you do to the rice?” he asked with a look of intense disgust on his face. “This is the worst rice you’ve ever made!” So as you can imagine, I don’t cook a lot of millet. But Alma likes porridge, and I’m not the biggest oatmeal fan. I wanted to make some alternative-grain porridges, and I came across a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for creamy millet porridge. They say “slightly overcooking millet causes the seeds to burst and release starch, creating a creamy consistency that makes this grain ideal for breakfast porridge.” Sounds good! I think Derek’s main problem with millet is its somewhat dry, gritty texture, so I thought maybe he’d be willing to eat millet in a porridge. And he is! Alma likes it too, and for me it’s a nice change from oatmeal.

When I made this porridge for breakfast today, I served it with my Mom’s Ayurvedic baked, spiced pears. Alma isn’t normally a huge pear fan, but she likes these baked pears, which are seasoned with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. And unlike with baked apples, she doesn’t even complain about the skin. Read the rest of this entry »

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Broccoli and feta frittata

December 10, 2016 at 3:28 pm (breakfast, B_, Cook's Illustrated, Necessarily nonvegan, Uncategorized) ()

9The frittata is called the lazy cook’s omelet. Sounds perfect, no? I like omelets but I’m definitely lazy. I’ve tried various frittata recipes before, but neither Derek nor I ever like them. They’re always a bit too dry and rubbery. Or over-browned. Or just meh. But I’ve always thought that maybe my technique was just wrong. So I decided to give it another go, when Cook’s Illustrated came out with a new frittata series this year. And I thought it came out pretty well! Definitely better than my previous attempts. Read the rest of this entry »

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Modern Succotash with Fennel and Scallions

November 12, 2016 at 8:49 pm (Beans, B_, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Quick weeknight recipe)

So far Alma does not like fennel. I was looking for a recipe for fennel that she might possibly like, and I found this Cook’s Illustrated recipe for a modern succotash with corn, white beans, and (a little) fennel. She loves corn and generally likes white beans, so I figured it was worth a shot.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Sautéed Cabbage with Miso and Scallions

March 7, 2015 at 9:16 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated)

Alma is six weeks old tomorrow, and I’m finally finding a tiny bit of time to do some cooking. Derek brought home a savoy cabbage and a bunch of scallions, and I decided to try this Cook’s Illustrated recipe, even though it calls for green cabbage not savoy cabbage. The recipe recommends soaking the cabbage briefly to reduce bitterness / sulfurous and provide extra moisture to help the cabbage steam. I wasn’t sure if the savoy cabbage needed this step, but I did it anyways. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tangy lentil salad with a sherry, dijon vinaigrette

July 7, 2014 at 8:03 pm (Alma's faves, B plus, Beans, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, French, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads) ()

This recipe is based on one from the Cook’s Illustrated “The Best Light Recipe” cookbook. The original recipe is for a lentil salad with scallions, walnuts, and roasted red peppers.  But when Derek makes this dish he usually just makes the lentils, and doesn’t bother to add the other ingredients.  He’s perfectly happy with just the lentils and the über simple mustard-olive oil-sherry vinegar dressing.   Read the rest of this entry »

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How to cook acorn squash

March 23, 2014 at 8:18 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Fall recipes, unrated, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

When I first moved to Germany I couldn’t find acorn squash, and then last year they suddenly started turning up, but I had forgotten how to cook them. I tried baking them several times but they always ended up with burned skin and dried-up insides. Clearly I am not good at winging it. So this time I followed an actual recipe! Well…, sort of. As much as such a thing is possible. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saag Paneer or Saag Tofu

September 26, 2013 at 11:23 am (Cook's Illustrated, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Indian, Other, unrated, Website / blog)

Derek loves spinach, and he loves Indian food, and he loves rich, decadent food.  Hence, he is always excited about having saag paneer for dinner.  We had a version at a friend’s house last year that used tofu instead of paneer. I asked him for the recipe and he sent me this one from Atul Kochhar’s cookbook “Simple Indian: The Fresh Taste of India’s New Cuisine.”  We’ve made it several times now, sometimes with paneer, sometimes with tofu, and sometimes with a mix. I’ve modified the instructions below based on some of the changes we’ve made. Read the rest of this entry »

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Homemade paneer

December 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Indian, Necessarily nonvegan, unrated)

I’ve tried making paneer before using lemon juice as the curdling agent, and both times my cheese turned out rather crumbly and a bit gritty.  (But maybe I just didn’t drain it under a weight long enough.)  An Indian friend said I should try making it with buttermilk instead.  Then in September Cook’s Illustrated published a paneer recipe that calls for buttermilk, and I finally got around to trying it over the break. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ciambotta, Italian Ratatouille

July 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Summer recipes, unrated, Vegetable dishes)

My main failing as a vegetarian is that I’ve never been able to abide eggplant.  But recently I’ve eaten it a few times without minding it so much.  I ate a very tasty tiny roasted eggplant in Tokyo, and when Derek and I went to Copenhagen recently a friend of his invited us for dinner and served not one but two dishes with eggplant in them.  I ate both and didn’t even really mind the eggplant!  So I decided to be brave recently and added a small eggplant to a lasagne I was making.  I used Cook’s Illustrated suggested cooking method of dicing it, sprinkling it with salt, placing it on a plate with coffee filters (except I didn’t have any so used a paper towel) and microwaving it until it’s slightly shriveled and dried out.  I didn’t even notice it in the lasagne, so I decided to push the limits a bit more and try this Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Ciambotta, which they say is an Italian ratatouille-like stew.  Read the rest of this entry »

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American pancake recipe

July 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm (101 cookbooks, breakfast, Cook's Illustrated, Necessarily nonvegan, Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches, unrated)

On a hike recently I met someone here in Germany who was reminiscing about American-style pancakes, and I suggested that she come over sometime for a pancake brunch.  I haven’t made pancakes in a few years, but back in Pittsburgh Derek and I used to make oatmeal walnut pancakes pretty often.  But for this brunch I wanted to make something more like what you’d get in an American diner.  I asked Derek to pick two recipes and he picked an Alton Brown recipe and one from 101cookbooks.

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Vegan banana bread with peanut butter frosting

November 21, 2011 at 2:02 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Dessert, Fall recipes, Mom’s recipes, Muffins and quick breads, My brain, unrated, Winter recipes)

I used to make banana bread all the time in Pittsburgh, but for some reason I stopped making it once I moved to Germany.  But yesterday I had five over-ripe bananas gracing my windowsill, and so I decided to resurrect my old recipe.  We were having guests for dinner, however, and Derek thought that plain banana bread was a little homely to serve for dessert, so he decided to dress the bread up a little with a peanut butter icing.  Banana and peanut butter is a ubiquitous combination, but somehow I’ve never had banana bread with a peanut butter icing.  But a quick internet search reveals quite a few recipes for banana cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, so clearly others have trod this path before us.  I even found one recipe for banana bread that calls for mini Reese’s peanut butter cups in the batter.  Wow.  Our banana bread wasn’t quite that decadent, but the peanut butter / banana bread combination was definitely a winner.

My recipe makes a basic banana bread with deep banana flavor, a moist, crumbly interior, and a golden, crisp top. Use older, more darkly speckled bananas because they are sweeter, more moist, and give more banana flavor than less ripe bananas.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Spring vegetable pasta

May 22, 2011 at 7:50 pm (B_minus, Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Pasta, Spring recipes, Starches)

It’s unusual to find a light, vegetable-inspired recipe on the Cook’s Illustrated website, so I was intrigued when I saw their recent recipe for a spring pasta dish with leeks, asparagus, peas, mint, chive, and lemon.  The ingredient list sounded delicious, and the technique was interesting as well.  They toast the pasta in the oil and then cook it in a small amount of liquid, like risotto.  The sauce is made from just vegetable broth, a moderate amount of olive oil, and white wine, and they claim it is “light but lustrous and creamy”.  Supposedly the starch from the pasta helps it thicken up. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dark, spicy gingerbread

December 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm (A minus, Cake, Cook's Illustrated, Dessert, Fall recipes, Winter recipes)

I’ve been making this gingerbread recipe for years, but somehow I never got around to blogging about it.  But I made it last night to take to a holiday party, and someone explicitly asked me for the recipe.  It seemed a good time to finally add it to the blog.  I haven’t tried many different gingerbread recipes, so I can’t argue that this one is best.  But it makes a dark, moist, deeply flavored, very gingery cake. The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated, but note that it’s no longer on their website.  They just published a new gingerbread recipe, which is totally different than this one.  It calls for stout, oil instead of butter, and omits the crystallized ginger, the buttermilk, and most of the spices.  The new recipe doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of the old one, and  the old one no longer seems to be available on their website. Read the rest of this entry »

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Light cranberry orange muffins

December 26, 2010 at 2:19 pm (breakfast, B_minus, Cook's Illustrated, Dessert, Muffins and quick breads, Necessarily nonvegan)

I have a recipe for pumpkin cranberry bread that I just adore.  I wanted to try making it into muffins, but I couldn’t find any more fresh cranberries.  So instead I found this recipe in Cook’s Illustrated’s The Best Light Recipe.  The basic recipe is for blueberry muffins, and then they offer variations for bran muffins, corn muffins, raspberry almond muffins, and cranberry orange muffins (which call for dried not fresh cranberries).  Alex and I made the cranberry orange muffins for breakfast last Sunday, along with these two ginger muffins. Read the rest of this entry »

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Homemade vegetable broth, from scraps

October 3, 2010 at 12:46 am (Cook's Illustrated, Georgeanne Brennan, Uncategorized)

I was looking for my notes on vegetable broth and was surprised to discover that I’ve never written about it on my blog.  There are a million blog posts about making vegetable broth, and I’m by no means an expert, but I decided to make a post to keep track of all the broth-related info that I find online. Read the rest of this entry »

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Roasted carrot soup

September 7, 2010 at 10:10 am (B plus, Cook's Illustrated, Root vegetables, soup, Vegetable dishes)

I bought a bunch of carrots to make carrot halvah, but then Derek never got around to making it, so I decided to make carrot soup.  I found this recipe for roasted carrot soup in Cook’s Illustrated “Best Light Recipe”.  It calls for half chicken broth but I used all veg. broth. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pasta Estate

September 7, 2010 at 9:41 am (B_, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Pasta, Starches, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes)

Yeah, I know.  Pasta Estate (pronounced eh-STAH-tay) doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like Pasta Primavera.  But it’s Summer, not Spring.  What can I do?

My memories of  pasta primavera are extremely positive.  I don’t actually have any specific memories of  eating pasta primavera in my youth, but nonetheless I associate it with culinary perfection.  My memories (despite being hazy) tell me that pasta primavera is rich and delicious and satisfying, and a real treat.  Every couple years I try making it, and it never lives up to my memories, but I keep trying.  This weekend I had some leftover cream, and in trying to figure out what to do with it I thought of pasta primavera.  But it’s summer not spring, so I decided to make Pasta Estate instead.  I found two primavera recipes on the Cook’s Illustrated website.  Both recipes called for the same vegetables:  asparagus, frozen peas, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, and basil.  All of those vegetables are common in late summer except for asparagus.  I thought about using frozen asparagus but decided to sub in broccoli instead.  I bet cauliflower would also be nice.  I also added in two grated carrots, for color, and because my memories of pasta primavera always include grated carrots. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is low calorie granola possible?

July 31, 2010 at 9:57 pm (breakfast, Cook's Illustrated, unrated, Website / blog)

I really like granola, but I usually don’t eat it because it’s very high calorie and doesn’t fill me up at all.  I could easily down 800 calories of the stuff for breakfast.  So I stopped  buying “Knüspriges Muesli” (crunchy muesli, which is what they call Granola here in Germany).  But then when I went to visit my friend Sarah in Israel last month I enjoyed eating her homemade granola for breakfast every morning.  It’s calorie dense but very filling. She gave me the recipe but I’ve since misplaced it.  So I made up my own recipe based on a number of  random granola recipes I’ve come across this month.  Bittman posted a no-oil recipe at the New York Times,  I came across a pretty basic recipe at Chow.com, Martha Rose Shulman posted her own healthy granola recipe, and I came across a granola recipe on the blog Smitten Kitchen.  I didn’t follow any one of the recipes, but used them collectively for inspiration.  Here’s a table comparing the ingredients and cooking times/temperatures.  All the recipes are normalized for 3 cups rolled oats: Read the rest of this entry »

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Artisanal balsamic vinegar… not

July 24, 2010 at 7:29 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Dessert, Ice cream & toppings, Italian, Sauce/dressing, Summer recipes, unrated)

We had friends over for dinner the other night, and Derek wanted to make a summery dessert.  He decided on panna cotta. He considered making green tea or earl grey panna cotta, but in the end he decided that he shouldn’t mess around on his first attempt, and made plain vanilla panna cotta.  He thought it sounded a bit boring though, and so he decided to top the panna cotta with fresh strawberries and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  I only had cheap supermarket balsamic vinegar though, and so we decided to reduce it to make it sweeter, less harsh, and more syrupy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Decadent brownies

June 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm (A minus, Alice Medrich, Brownies and bars, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Dessert, Necessarily nonvegan)

This recipe happens to come from Alice Medrich’s low fat cookbook (Chocolate and the Art of Lowfat Desserts).  But to my taste it makes the perfect brownie: intense chocolate flavor and a little gooey in the middle but with a perfectly textured brownie top. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cook’s Illustrated Veggie Burgers

May 30, 2010 at 5:03 pm (Beans, B_, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Grains, Spring recipes, Vegetable dishes, Winter recipes)

Cook’s Illustrated’s veggie burger recipe is (as always) fastidious to a fault, and as a result quite labor intensive.  It’s also a bit light on vegetables.  But the burger tastes good and holds together well, even on the grill.  It’s definitely a good place to start when learning the art of creating veggie burgers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Guacamole

March 14, 2010 at 9:51 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Mexican & S. American, unrated)

I made a huge bowl of guacamole today. Below is the recipe I used. It’s based on a Cook’s Illustrated recipe but I increased most of the seasonings.  It was delicious.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Broccoli, carrot, tofu stir-fry in ginger sauce

February 8, 2010 at 1:09 am (B_minus, Chinese, Cook's Illustrated, Cruciferous rich, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)

I cannot make Chinese food to save my life. My special talent is ruining stir-fries.  Yet I keep trying.  Today I started with a recipe for stir-fried tofu and bok choy in ginger sauce from Cooks Illustrated’s The Best Light Recipe and modified it to fit what was in the fridge.  I ended up with a tofu, broccoli, carrot, scallion, ginger, garlic stir-fry. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cacio e Pepe

February 5, 2010 at 8:12 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Italian, Necessarily nonvegan, Pasta, Spring recipes, Starches, unrated, Winter recipes)

Derek had had a really excellent version of cacio e pepe in one of Mario Batali’s restaurants, and was very excited about trying it.  Mario Batali’s version has quite a bit of olive oil and some butter, but the Cook’s Illustrated recipe looked unusually light for a cream pasta.  They cook the pasta in very little water so that the water ends up very starchy, and can be used to help make the sauce more cohesive.  We decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saffron Risotto

January 1, 2010 at 9:21 pm (Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Grains, Italian, Jack Bishop, Necessarily nonvegan, Spring recipes, unrated, Winter recipes)

My friend Alex and I took a walk along the river Saar this evening.  Despite the cold, the damp, the dark, and the mist, I had a lovely walk.  In the course of our conversation, we started talking about saffron, and I realized I’d never posted one of our favorite risotto’s to my blog:   saffron risotto.  This dish is plain, but very satisfying. The daisy-yellow color and creamy consistency make me feel like I’m eating macaroni and cheese. There’s just something about saffron that tastes like comfort food to me, even though I never had it growing up.  I can’t actually remember the first time I ever ate saffron, but it very well might have been the first time we made this saffron risotto!

The recipe we typically use is based on a recipe from Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. The saffron flavor is maximized by dissolving it in a little hot stock then adding it to the rice toward the end of the cooking time.  Bishop’s recipe is good, but quite rich.  We usually cut down on the butter quite a bit.

Below I’ve compared Jack Bishop’s recipe to the saffron risotto recipe in Cook’s Illustrated’s The Best Light Recipe.   I believe Jack Bishop works for Cook’s Illustrated, so it’s a bit odd that the recipe aren’t more similar. Read the rest of this entry »

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Whole wheat linguine with chard, tomatoes, and chickpeas

November 1, 2009 at 11:53 pm (Beans, Beans and greens, Cook's Illustrated, Dark leafy greens, Italian, My brain, Pasta, Starches, unrated)

This recipe is based on the cook’s illustrated beans and greens recipe.  I used to make it with collards or kale, but since I can’t get those greens here I made it with swiss chard and added tomatoes, which blend nicely with the acidity of the chard.  Normally I add kalamata olives but I didn’t have any so I added a few spoonsfuls of capers instead.  I didn’t have any white beans so subbed in chickpeas.

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves garlic, 5 cloves sliced thin lengthwise, 3 cloves minced (1 Tbs.)
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 medium red onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
1/2-2/3 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
20 ounces chard, stems halved lengthwise and sliced thinly and leaves sliced into ribbons
3/4 cups vegetable broth
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with juice
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped (or 3 Tbs. capers)
10-12 ounces whole wheat spaghetti or linguine
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oil and sliced garlic in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring and turning frequently, until light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic to plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  2. Add onion and chard stems to pan; cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add half of chard to pan; using tongs, toss occasionally, until starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add remaining chard, broth, tomatoes, and salt; cover (pan will be very full); increase heat to high and bring to strong simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, tossing once, until chard is completely wilted. Stir in beans and olives or capers.
  4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in dutch oven or 5-6 quart pan over high heat. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is just shy of al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add the greens mixture to pasta, set over medium-high heat, and toss to combine. Cook until pasta absorbs most of liquid, about 2 minutes. Season with black pepper to taste.  Serve immediately, passing garlic chips and parmesan separately.

Note: By draining the pasta before its al dente, and finishing cooking in the brothy sauce, the pasta absorbs the flavors of the sauce and release its residual starch, which helps to thicken the sauce slightly.

Derek really loved this dish, even without the olives.  I thought it was reasonably flavorful, but I’m never as excited about beans and greens as he is.

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Skillet green beans with garlic and lemon

September 20, 2009 at 2:28 pm (B_minus, Cook's Illustrated, Vegetable dishes)

I wanted a quick, flavorful green bean dish for dinner last night, and I decided to try this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated “Best Light Recipe” cookbook.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 1 Tbs.)
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth (C.I. calls for chicken broth)
  • 1.5 pounds green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbs. water
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. grated Parmesan

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oil, garlic, thyme, and cayenne in a 12-inch skillet, until fragrant.  Then add the broth and green beans.  Turn the heat to medium-high, cover, and cook until the green beans are not quite tender, 6 to 9 minutes.
  2. Mix the cornstarch with the water to make a slurry.  Push the green beans to the side of the pan, and add the slurry to the empty side.  Cook until the slurry starts to simmer, then mix it with the green beans.  Cook until the green beans are tender and the sauce has thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat, and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the parmesan before serving.

Comments:

I only had about 1 1/3 pounds green beans, but I used the full amount of ingredients.  Despite skimping on the beans, the sauce wasn’t too strong. I used arrowroot instead of cornstarch, but otherwise followed the recipe.  The green beans tasted fine, but the sauce was very mellow.  With all that garlic, I was expecting something with a little more bite (like the lemon/mustard green beans in Modern Vegetarian Kitchen).  Derek said that part of the problem was that I overcooked the beans.  Although I would have preferred them a bit more crisp, I didn’t think they were very overcooked.  They were just very mild tasting.  The parmesan and cornstarch really mellow out the bite from the garlic, and the lack of much oil made the whole thing taste just a little wan.   Also, I’m not sure why the salt is added at the end instead of with the vegetable broth.  The thyme was fine, but not quite the right seasoning for green beans I think.  I don’t think I’d make this recipe as is again.  At the very least I’d save some raw garlic and throw it in at the very end.  Also, I would serve it with rice or another grain to soak up some of the sauce.  However, if you like more mellow flavors, and are looking for an easy, very low calorie vegetable side dish, then give this a try.

Rating: B-

Derek: B-

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Pasta and Summer Squash with Tomatoes, Basil, and Pine Nuts

July 20, 2009 at 12:33 pm (B plus, Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Pasta, Starches, Summer recipes)

I made this recipe tonight and liked it so much I decided to repost it.  It was originally posted on August 17, 2006.

I’ve often tried to make this sort of light/summery pasta dish without a lot of success. Unless I use a large amount of olive oil or parmesan in the past the dish has always seemed rather bland. But this recipe is light and delicious! This is based on a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, but I cut down on oil and pasta, and increased the amounts of squash and seasonings. I give options for a number of ingredients depending on how rich, spicy, starchy etc. you want your dinner to be. Read the rest of this entry »

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Roasted tomato pasta sauce

June 6, 2009 at 7:55 am (B_, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Italian, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches, Summer recipes)

Sitting on my counter yesterday were a number of cherry tomatoes that had started to go a bit soft.  They were still good, but not fresh enough to eat out of hand.  I thought I would turn them into a nice (and fast) pasta sauce, by roasting them in the oven on a cookie sheet.  I roughly followed the instructions in a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, but I halved the recipe and made a few changes.

  • 1 shallot, sliced thin [try 3]
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil [try 3 Tbs.]
  • 2 pounds cherry tomatoes (about 3 pints), each tomato halved pole to pole [try 2.5 pounds]
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt + 1 Tbs. salt for pasta water
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes [try heaping 1/2 tsp.]
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1.5 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin [try 6]
  • 1 pound whole wheat rigatoni [try 10 oz]
  • 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
  • parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice the shallots thinly.
  3. In a large bowl, gently toss the tomatoes with the olive oil (except for 1 tsp., which you should set aside), salt, pepper flakes, black pepper, sugar, vinegar, and garlic. Spread in even layer on rimmed baking sheet (about 17 by 12 inches).  In the same bowl, toss shallots with the remaining teaspoon oil; scatter shallots over tomatoes.
  4. Roast until edges of shallots begin to brown and tomato skins are slightly shriveled (tomatoes should retain their shape), 35 to 40 minutes. (Do not stir tomatoes during roasting.) Remove tomatoes from oven and cool 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. While tomatoes cook, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large stockpot. Just before removing tomatoes from oven, stir 1 Tbs. salt and pasta into boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain pasta and add to the large bowl you used for the tomatoes. Using a metal spatula, scrape the tomato mixture into the bowl on top of the pasta. Add the basil and toss to combine. Serve immediately, sprinkling cheese over individual bowls.

My changes:

I didn’t have enough tomatoes so I halved the recipe.  Still, I didn’t have enough cherry tomatoes so I also used some small, dark-brown tomatoes I had bought for sandwiches.  I mis-read the shallot instructions, and just mixed the slices in with all the other ingredients, rather than lying them on top of the tomatoes.  The (halved) recipe calls for 1/2 pound of pasta but I thought that seemed like too much for the amount of sauce, so I made 1/3 pound.

My tomatoes cooked significantly faster than they were supposed to.  I think it was due to a combination of factors:  I halved the recipe, so the cookie sheet wasn’t as full;  I left the fan on in my oven; and my cookie sheet is a very dark black.  According to CI, the halved recipe was supposed to serve 2 to 3, but I thought that the amount of sauce was a little skimpy even for two people. For two people I think next time I would use 1.5 pounds tomatoes, and up all the other ingredients by 50%, except the olive oil.

The sauce was quite good–the tomatoes were still quite pulpy and clung to the pasta, but despite not really being saucy they did taste like a sauce.  I was afraid that the tomato skins would be tough or annoying, but I didn’t even notice them.  The sauce had a very roasted flavor, from the browned bits of shallot and tomato skin.  I would make this recipe again, but next time I would serve something else substantial and low-calorie alongside it.  I think I could eat infinite bowls of pasta and this tomato sauce without feeling full.  Maybe a white bean soup or a chickpea salad would be a nice accompaniment, or a big bowl of steamed vegetables tossed with lemon juice and fresh herbs?

Attempt #2:  On a second try I made the full recipe, but it still didn’t really fill my cookie sheet, so next time I’ll try 2.5 pounds of tomatoes.  I didn’t have shallots, so used a small red onion instead, which was also good.  I served the pasta sauce with polenta and a dish of zucchini and eggplant and egg in a little Thai red curry.  It was a nice dinner.

Update Aug 3, 2012:  I used 2.25 pounds of large cherry tomatoes (actually called “pearl” tomatoes), and cut the oil slightly to 3.33 Tbs.  I increased the chili flakes to a slightly heaping 1/2 tsp., and used only 10 oz. of pasta, but otherwise followed the recipe as stated.  It came out well.  The tomatoes clung to the pasta and made a nice (but slightly oily) sauce.  The sugar and vinegar gave the sauce a nice sweet and sour element.  Derek loved it.  He said it tasted like a pasta he’d get for lunch at Apero, the little Italian-run shop near our house.  I thought that there could be slightly more tomatoes for 10 ounces of pasta (probably 2.5 pounds), but Derek thought the ratio was perfect, if anything a tad too saucy.  He said if I increase the tomatoes to 2.5 pounds I should increase the pasta to 12 ounces.  I liked the shallots a lot.  Next time I’ll use three.  And I’ll use only 3 Tbs. of olive oil.    Note to self:  Make sure not to cook the tomatoes too much.  The halves should get slightly shriveled but maintain their rounded shape, not collapse and shrivel up completely.  I think it helped that I used a light grey cookie sheet this time, not my black one.

Cook’s Illustrated has an interesting sounding variant with goat cheese instead of parmesan (4 oz, about 1/2 cup crumbled) and 1 large bunch arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces (about 4 cups loosely packed).  The arugula is tossed with the hot pasta to wilt it, and the cheese is sprinkled over individual bowls.

With 10 pounds of pasta, 2.25 pounds of tomatoes, and 3.33 Tbs. of oil this recipe made four servings of about 425 calories each.  With one ounce of parmeggiano per serving it would total 535 calories (17% protein, 33% fat, and 50% carbs).

Rating: B (very tasty, but a tad ordinary)

Derek: A-

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Hummus, pumpkin hummus, and light hummus

May 31, 2009 at 1:21 am (Beans, Cook's Illustrated, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated, Website / blog)

I’m updating this old post to include a new hummus recipe that I just created.  It’s based on the recipe for Lemon Walnut Hummus in Peter Berley’s cookbook Fresh Food Fast, but I made a few substitutions/alterations, and created pumpkin hummus instead.  Read the rest of this entry »

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French no-mayo potato salad

May 10, 2009 at 6:05 am (Cook's Illustrated, French, Starches, unrated)

Derek picked this recipe out of the Cook’s Illustrated light recipe.  It’s a light potato salad recipe, with a vinaigrette instead of mayo.  Unlike a typical American potato salad, the French version uses sliced potatoes, and is served warmed or at room temperature (never cold).  It’s much more refined and elegant than the typical American mayo-laden, pickle-studded potato salad.

Tips from CI:  It’s important to slice the potatoes before boiling them so that the slices don’t break apart.  Plus the potatoes cook more evenly and you don’t have to burn your fingers trying to cut hot potatoes.   To keep the potato slices from getting damaged over overcooked, CI has you lay the potatoes on a baking sheet and pour the vinagrette over them, and let them cool before moving them to a bowl.  To cut back on oil, CI recommends adding some of the potatoe cooking water which is starchy and so acts as a binding element to hold the salad together and keep the potatoes from drying out.  CI says that white wine can also be used.  They also blanch the garlic to tone down the aggressive raw garlic flavor.

  • 2 pounds medium red potatoes (about 6, 2.5 ounces each)
  • 6 cups of water (1/3 reserved for the salad)
  • 2 tablespoons salt (or reduce a bit if you’re salt sensitive)
  • 1 medium garlic clove, peeled
  • 1.5 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustanrd
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 small shallot, minced (about 2 Tbs.)
  • 4 Tablespoons mixed french herbs (CI recommends equal parts chervil, parsley, chives, tarragon)
  1. Bring the potatoes, water, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan, then reduce to a simmer.  Skewer the garlic on a fork tine and lower it into the simmering water for about 45 seconds, then cool it under cold running water.  Simmer the potatoes uncovered until they are tender, about 5 minutes. (A thin bladed paring knife should slip into and out of the potato slice with no resistance.)  Drain the potatoes, reserving 1/3 cup cooking water.  Arrange the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, ideally in a single layer.
  2. Mince the garlic, and combine in small bowl with the oil, reserved cooking water, vinegar, mustard, and pepper.  Drizzle the dressing evening over the warm potato slices.  Let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Chop the shallots and herbs and toss them together in the vinaigrette bowl.  Move the potatoes to a serving bowl, and add the shallot-herb mixture.  Mix carefully.

My notes:  My potatoes were a bit larger than called for and so my potato slices looked a bit large and awkward.  I misread the recipe and accidentally added 1/2 cup of cooking water, so my salad was slightly wet, but still very tasty.  I had white potatoes not red, and as a result the potato salad was not quite as pretty as it should have been. I couldn’t find fresh chervil or tarragon, so I used a little frozen box of minced “French herbs” that I bought in the grocery store.  I added the herbs to the dressing before drizzling it over the potatoes, which seemed to work fine.  I used a white balsamic vinegar, which tasted fine.  Overall I thought the potato salad was very tasty, although perhaps just a tad too salty.  My friend Alex really liked it–she said it was the best potato salad she’d ever had, and kept “encouraging” me to post the recipe.  Derek and my mother were less enthusiastic.  First of all, they argued that the recipe could not be called potato salad, perhaps because the potatoes were sliced instead of cubed.  Also, they just thought the recipe was a bit boring.  I thought it was delicious, however, and I’ll definitely make it again.

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Passover apple rhubarb crisp

April 12, 2009 at 11:07 am (Cook's Illustrated, Crisps and cobblers, Dessert, My brain, Spring recipes, unrated)

This recipe is based on a generic crisp recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. I adapted it to make it kosher for passover, and to use the beautiful spring rhubarb. Read the rest of this entry »

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Oven Fries

February 14, 2009 at 6:32 am (B plus, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Root vegetables, Starches)

Derek has been sick this week, and Katrina suggested I make him “comfort food.”  So for dinner last night I made miso soup and oven fries.  I know the combination is a bit weird, but Derek seemed to enjoy the dinner nonetheless.

This recipe for oven fries is based on a recipe in the Cook’s Illustrated Best Light Recipe cookbook.  It’s actually not particularly light, but it makes very tasty, crispy potato wedges.  For optimal browning CI recommends intense heat and a heavy, dark baking sheet.  To get the insides creamy and smooth they recommend covering the baking sheet with tin foil and steaming them for the first 5 minutes of cooking.  They say that russet potatoes make the best oven fries, but russets don’t seem to exist in Germany.  Instead I used the standard German potato, which isn’t very starchy and has a very yellow flesh–maybe it’s akin to a Yukon Gold?  CI says the russets need to be soaked to remove some of the starch, but I skipped this step since my potatoes didn’t seem very starchy.  I also used olive oil rather than the peanut or vegetable oil they recommend, because that is what I have, and I don’t think it tastes “bitter and out of place”, as CI claims.  I oiled the cookie sheet with only 3 Tbs. oil rather than the 4 Tbs. the recipe called for.

  • 24 ounces of potatoes (1.5 pounds), scrubbed, each potato cut lengthwise and cut into even-sized wedges about 1/2 inch thick
  • 3 to 4 Tablespoons of olive oil + 1 tsp.
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 475 degrees.  Coat a large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet (dark or nonstick is best) with 3 Tbs. of olive oil, then sprinkle evenly with the salt and pepper.
  2. Wash the potatoes and dry them thoroughly.  Cut them into wedges.   Toss the wedges in a bowl with 1 tsp. oil
  3. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and cover the pan tightly with tin foil.  Bake for five minutes, then remove the foil.  Bake for ten minutes, then rotate the pan. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms of the wedges are spotty, golden brown. Scrape the potatoes lose with a spatula, then flip each wedge over, trying to keep the potatoes in a single layer.  Bake until the potatoes are golden and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes, rotating the pan if the wedges are browning unevenly.  If the potatoes seem greasy, drain them briefly on paper towels, blotting away excess oil.

Serves 3 to 5.

Rating: B+
Derek: A- (when they’re right out of the oven)

I’ve made this several times now, and I’m not all that careful about the technique, but the fries always turn out well.  Depending on how fat I slice the potatoes, my largest cookie sheet (a rimmed medium-grey non-stick commercial half-sheet pan) holds about 1.5 – 2 pounds of sliced, small yellow potatoes.  I’ve found that you can really pack the potatoes in, as long as they’re in a single layer there doesn’t need to be much space between the potato slices. Although 2 pounds of potatoes will fit, you have to cut the potatoes a bit too thick, and the wedges don’t crisp up as well, although they do have a nice, creamy interior.   I’ve reduced the oil to a total of 2 Tbs. of olive oil, and although Derek says they’re not quite as good as the original, if the potatoes are cut thin they still crisp up very nicely and taste very good–and they still seem greasy to me.  I think a tsp. of fine sea salt is too much if you’re only using 1.5 pounds of potatoes.  I use about 1 tsp. of coarse salt for 2 pounds of potatoes.  Sometimes I briefly rinse the potatoes and dry them in kitchen towels, other times I’ve skipped this step.  Without a side by side comparison, however, I’m can’t say how much of a difference the rinsing step makes for the German potatoes.

Next time I make these I think I want to add some spices along with the pepper, maybe paprika and cumin?

Derek likes these potatoes as leftovers, heated up in the microwave, but the skins get kind of tough and the insides not as creamy.  I haven’t tried reheating them in the oven, but I imagine that would work much better.

I’ve also tried this recipe with parsnips and they also work well.

Fine cooking recipe:  http://www.taunton.com/finecooking/pages/c00225_rec01.asp

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Thai Lime and Chili Peanut Cookies

June 22, 2008 at 11:56 pm (B plus, Cook's Illustrated, Cookies, Dessert, My brain)

I wanted to use up some of the 10 jars of nut butters languishing in the fridge, so I decided to make peanut butter hazelnut cookies, which would use up the peanut butter, the hazelnut butter, and the peanut hazelnut butter. Heidi Swanson raves about the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for peanut butter cookies, so I used that as my base, subbing out some of the flour for wheat germ, because I wanted to use it up. The recipe calls for roasted, salted peanuts, which I didn’t have. It was either use unroasted, unsalted peanuts, or… the Trader Joe’s Thai Lime and Chili peanuts I’d been happily snacking on since my friend Robbie introduced them to me a few years ago. I decided to give the Thai cookies a chance. I used the peanuts as they were, bits of kaffir lime leaves, red chilies, and all.  If you can’t get Trader Joe’s lime and chili peanuts, then you could try just adding in ground up chili peppers, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hot chocolate: theme and variations

January 13, 2008 at 9:49 pm (Beverage, Cook's Illustrated, Dessert, My brain, Other, Soymilk, unrated)

If you love chocolate, get cold easily, and live in Montreal (in January), then there’s nothing better than a steaming cup of hot chocolate before bed. But a word of warning: don’t buy any prepared hot cocoa mixes. Even the “upscale” sounding ones like Ghiradelli list sugar as the first ingredient.  I understand that sugar is much cheaper than cocoa, but these mixes are just wrong. The “chocolate” tastes more like dirty sugar water than hot cocoa. Make your own mix to keep in the pantry, or just whip together a cup when you happen to get a hankering (or when you’ve just walked home in -10 weather). Hot cocoa seems like such a simple thing to make, and yet there are a surprising number of bad recipes out there.

Read the rest of this entry »

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