Archive for February, 2011


My apologies for the lack of postings lately.  It’s just that I haven’t cooked anything terribly inspired of late!  The main culprit for this is the lasagna I made several days (a week?) ago.  It was small, as lasagnas go–only 8×8.  But I’m just one person.  It takes a long time to eat an entire 8×8 lasagna.  And while I had good intentions of freezing half of it, I realized that I had no good containers to freeze it in, and then I got busy and lazy, and pretty much just lived off of the lasagna til it was gone.

Why didn’t I write a post about how to make this lasagna?  Because everything you need to know is on the back of the Barilla lasagna noodle box.  I told you!  I got lazy!  (And plus it was a good way to use up the pre-cooked ground beef that was left over in my freezer from a particularly unfortunate cooking debacle a while back).

Anyways, I now have a fresh batch of groceries and grand intentions of cooking new and creative dishes, so be on the lookout for new posts coming soon!

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The Year of the Vegetable!

Check out this article on Salon about how cooking vegetables is the hot new trend of 2011. Which sounds kinda dumb, except look around–vegetables so rarely feature as the main part of a dish in a restaurant! And it’s so hard to find good vegetarian meals. (I’m not even vegetarian, not that you’d know it by my cooking) It’s always about the meat. But it doesn’t have to be!

There comes a point, about a week and a half after grocery shopping, when you realize oh no!  You bought way too much produce and it’s starting to go bad!  No?  Maybe it’s only me…

When I find myself in such a situation, I have two go-to options: veggie omelette* or stir fry. But since I didn’t have any eggs, stir fry it was!

A random assortmentI had a random assortment of veggies on hand–half a red pepper, half an onion, a beet (the last of the beets!), and some broccoli. This to me says Thai food. (Well, except the beet. But I needed to use it up.) But, of course, this being clean out the fridge day, I didn’t have all the ingredients to make any sort of authentic Thai food. So I decided to just go with whatever seemed like it would taste good–veggies, spices, and long noodles.

When I’m making up a stir fry with a lot of spices, I always like to get them out ahead of time so that I don’t forget any potentially good ones. I pulled out ground ginger, garlic powder, chili powder, salt, black pepper, paprika, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and olive oil, figuring that I’d decide as I went along which ones I would actually use.  I ended up not bothering with the paprika or garlic powder, or the vinegar (but more on that later.

Now most people use some sort of large frying pan or wok for making stir fry.  This has some definite advantages, particularly the fact that it would be infinitely easier to clean something that you can actually put in the sink.  But I haven’t gotten around to buying one and I’m still cooking with my post-college collection of random cookware.  Thus my stir fry was made in this:

It's electric!

My trusty electric griddle!

The biggest advantage of cooking in this is that it heats up instantaneously.  Makes for speedier cooking!

Veggies!Once I had everything out and chopped, and water boiling on the stove for noodles, I put a couple glugs of olive oil in the griddle, turned it on, and let it heat up for a few seconds before tossing in the pepper, onion, and broccoli.  After stirring things around a bit and getting a nice sizzle going it was time to start adding spices.  I started off with the ginger, because I knew I was aiming for a gingery taste in the end.  I had to put in a lot.  If you’re making this at home, do it with fresh ginger if you can–the flavor will be much stronger!  Then I added a little bit of salt (though not much because I was planning on adding fish sauce later and fish sauce is salty!), some black pepper, and some chili powder, mixed everything around a bit more and tasted it.  More chili powder and ginger!  I really wanted this to have a kick to it.  Once the broccoli was bright green and the peppers and onions were softening, I turned the heat almost all the way down just to keep it warm.  You don’t want to overcook the vegetables!

Once the pasta was done, I drained it, and dumped it in with the vegetables.  The pasta I used came from Trader Joe’s and was a spinach and chive linguine.  But really you could use whatever you want.  I do like linguine for this type of stir fry though.  I turned up the heat a bit, and after giving everything a good stir, I decided it was time to add some sauce.

Now, I had no real plan for making this sauce.   I vaguely intended to do something with fish sauce and vinegar.  But I didn’t want to ruin the veggies.  So I put a forkful into another bowl, dripped some fish sauce on it and tasted it.  Wow is fish sauce ever fishy when there’s not a lot of other flavors mixed with it!  (Yes, I know, this should have been obvious.)  A little grossed out, I decided to add the vinegar to see what that would do to the flavor.  So I added a few drops of vinegar to what was left in the bowl.  Bad idea.  Terrible idea, in fact.  The vinegar idea was thus quickly vetoed.   I decided, however, that a few drops of fish sauce in the entire stir fry wouldn’t be too overpowering, so I put some in.  You could easily substitute soy sauce instead to make this vegetarian.  And honestly?  After the fishy smell/taste overload of the test bite…I might do that next time too.

At this point you might be wondering what happened to the beet.  Or you might have forgotten about it like I did.  Granted I didn’t intend to put it in til the end anyways since all it needed to do was warm up, but I totally forgot about it until I was about to plate my food.  But I tossed it in, turned up the heat again, stirred everything around, and then tasted it.  I added a little more ginger, gave it one last good stir, turned off the heat, and plated up my food!

Done!

On the plate!

On the left: Stir fry. On the right: Mango slaw (minus the cashews and mint) from Smitten Kitchen**

 

*Actually it very rarely turns into an omelette as I don’t have an appropriately sized frying pan.  Usually it’s more like scrambled eggs with vegetables.

**Smitten Kitchen’s mango slaw recipe.

More Beets!

The lasagna from my last post only used one beet, so I had three more to use!  I decided to try something a little different and make a beet curry.  Since I’d never made anything like this before, I started off by googling around for recipes, but came up mostly empty handed.  I did find a few recipes, but they all required a long list of Indian spices which, unfortunately, I don’t have.  But I wasn’t going to let this stop me!  I do have a good curry powder, so that’s what I started with.

I dropped about three tablespoons of unsalted butter into a medium pan, and once it was melted I threw in about a tablespoon of curry powder.  There are a lot of different curry powders out there, and if you’re not making your own, I would recommend the Whole Foods brand (though ironically that’s not what I have–they were sold out so I ended up with Frontier Natural Curry Powder, which is also a pretty good option).

Then I tossed in the diced beets, peas (thawed but not heated), and what turned out to be the key ingredient–golden raisins.  After letting everything simmer for a bit I tasted it and added some salt.  Just at the end I threw in a couple tablespoons of shredded coconut, tasted it again, and added a few more raisins and a bit more salt.  Here’s the result:

mmm...beets!

It turned out better than I was expecting, and tasted even better as leftovers!

The recipe (all quantities are approximate):

Beet Curry

3tbsp unsalted butter
1tbsp curry powder
2 medium beets, cooked, peeled and diced
1/3c frozen peas, thawed
a handful of golden raisins
2-3tbsp shredded coconut
salt to taste

Melt the butter in a medium pan and add the curry powder.  Stir until curry powder is coated.  Add beets, peas, and raisins.  Simmer 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add salt, stir, and add coconut.  Cook for another minute or so and add more salt and/or coconut if necessary.  Enjoy!

Lasagna for One

The final product.I’m pretty sure I’ve never made this dish the same way twice. It changes depending on what vegetables I have handy, what I’m in the mood for, and how much time I have for cooking.  But it does always contain beets, goat cheese, and (obviously, since it’s lasagna!) a lasagna noodle.

The original recipe for this lasagna came from Lauren over at A Delightful Affair.  I really love her blog and am frequently inspired by her cooking!  In her version of this lasagna, she uses asparagus, arugula, and peas in addition to the beets.  I’m with her on the peas, but I’m not such a fan of the asparagus and arugula, so I toss in other things.  Usually I end up with some combination of beets, peas, carrots and broccoli, but this most recent time I ended up using baby spinach which turned out better than I was expecting!

I’m not going to post a step-by-step here, since you can find that over at Lauren’s blog, but I did want to make a few notes about what I do differently in my version:

The Beets
As I have yet to find vacuum-sealed, pre-cooked beets, I bought fresh ones.  I boiled them, but you can also roast them or steam them.  However you do it, they’re done once you can stick a fork into them.  Run cold water over the beets to cool them off enough to touch, and then rub the skins off.  You could have peeled them ahead of time but this way is much easier!

The vegetables!The Dressing
The dressing is a mix of rice vinegar, honey, and olive oil.  I like clover honey for this.  I tried it once with orange blossom honey with the thought of, “hey–beets are good with citrus, orange blossom honey presumably comes from the blossoms of orange trees, ergo it should be good with beets!”  Sadly this logic failed me.  Orange blossom honey was way too sweet for this dish.  And of course its flavor had no relation to citrus whatsoever.  So yes.  Clover honey is the way to go.  I also like to add some dill to the dressing, because to me, beets and dill should almost always be together.

The Reduction (that I don’t make)
Lauren tops her lasagna off with an apricot reduction but when I first started making this recipe, I didn’t have a second pan so I couldn’t make the reduction, and since it still turned out well without it, I’ve just never bothered.  If you want to try making the reduction though, head on over to her blog and she’ll tell you how!