Tag Archive: inspiration


Egg Kulambu

Looking for something to do with those leftover hardboiled eggs you have laying around after Easter?  Try this awesome South Indian recipe I stumbled across–it only requires an onion, a tomato, a can of tomato sauce, some garlic, and a variety of pretty standard Indian spices.  It’s called Egg Kulambu, and it filled my kitchen with the most delightful smells as it simmered away on the stove.  I used roughly twice as much tomato sauce as the recipe called for (and reduced the amount of water accordingly) because I didn’t want half a can of tomato sauce sitting around.  I actually like the way it made the sauce a bit thicker.  This dish would be excellent served over rice or with some naan, although I actually ended up eating it like soup with some toast on the side.

Be forewarned – this dish does pack a powerful punch, so if you’re sensitive to spicy foods, you may want to cut back on the cayenne a bit. But if you, like me, have been searching for a South Indian recipe that doesn’t hold back on the spices, go for it!

But you may want to have a glass of milk handy, just in case.

That's cilantro on top.  Fresh would be better if you have it...

Egg Kulambu by Alamelu Vairavan

P.S. A note about hard boiling eggs: I usually use this method from Simply Recipes, and I’ve never overcooked my eggs with it.  But I still spend the whole time standing over the pot, worrying if they’re going to come out right.  If anyone has any foolproof tips, leave them in the comments!

Soup!

A new soup recipe to start your February off right!  It’s a good day for soup today–as I write this it is a whopping -5 degrees outside with a windchill of -24 F.  Yeah, that’s right: -24.  But this hearty and spicy soup will warm you right up, and as an added bonus, it’s healthy too!

I actually didn’t originally intend for this soup to be a blog recipe–I came across Smitten Kitchen’s soup with lentils, sausage, chard and garlic while making my grocery list for the week, and had every intention of making it exactly according to the recipe.  Since our household’s resident vegetarian was going to be out for the night, I was excited at the prospect of trying my hand at a recipe using meat.  I figured I’d just make two pots, one with Italian sausage and one without so that my husband could share in the leftovers.

When I got to the grocery store, I discovered that sweet potatoes were on sale.  I like sweet potatoes, and I figured they’d go well with the Italian sausage, so I picked some up.  Then I went looking for the sausage itself.  The recipe called for sweet Italian sausage, which I found, but in my opinion Italian sausage should always be spicy.  Alas, spicy Italian sausage was nowhere to be seen.  Of course, I could just add my own spices after the fact, but I decided that if I was going to spice it myself anyways, I should buy something healthier.  That was when I saw the package of ground chuck.  It was three quarters of a pound–just the right amount given that I’d be the only one eating it.  Perfect.

At this point I was still intending to follow the recipe (just with the meat substitution and the addition of sweet potatoes), but I kept thinking about how big of a nuisance it would be to make two separate pots of soup (and how I didn’t really have two appropriately sized/shaped pots to do this), when finally the idea of doing meatballs popped into my brain.  I could make spicy meatballs to put in the bottom of my bowl with the soup, leaving the leftover soup untainted by meat so that my husband could share in it later!

So then I had to figure out how to make meatballs.  Because I’d never done it before.  (Yeah, yeah, I know–I write a cooking blog and I’ve never even made meatballs.  I’ve never made a steak either.)  But how hard could it be?  I figured I needed meat, breadcrumbs, and egg plus some spices, but I decided to consult Google just to be sure I wasn’t missing anything.

As it turns out, most meatball recipes call for fresh breadcrumbs.  From white bread.  With the crusts cut off.  Well, I didn’t actually have any white bread, crusts or no.  I had a jar of panko breadcrumbs.  And since it was freezing cold out, my car was covered in snow, and its door likely frozen shut, I decided to just go with it.

Panko!

In the end, panko worked just fine and the meatballs turned out to be juicy and flavorful.

Balls

Simmering meatballs

Since I decided to make meatballs, the soup was no longer going to have any contact with the meat, and thus was not going to get any of the flavors of it.  So I needed to up the spice content.  I decided to use the same spices I used in the meatballs (fennel seeds, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, salt, and pepper) along with a star anise.  I also put this same combination of spices into the sauce for the meatballs.

cooking the veg

In the end, this turned out to be a ridiculous amount of soup.  Unless I freeze some, I’m not going to have to grocery shop or cook for a week.  Which may be a good thing as I look at the weather forecast…

Sweet Potato Lentil Soup (with meatballs)
(serves 6)

Soup:

  • 3 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tbsp fennel seed
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 ribs of celery, sliced or diced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced or diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 medium or 3 small sweet potatoes, chopped into 3/4″ cubes
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • scant 1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • a few grinds of pepper
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 cup dry black lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 1 can (14oz) crushed tomatoes (fire roasted if you can find them)
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 1 large bunch of kale, roughly chopped

Meatballs:

  • 1lb ground chuck (I used a bit less, but I thought the meatballs could have been a bit meatier)
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • a small pinch of salt
  • grapeseed oil for frying

Sauce:

  • 1 can (14oz) crushed tomatoes (again, fire roasted if possible)
  • a small pinch of salt
  • a small pinch of smoked paprika
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • a small pinch of red pepper flakes
  • a small pinch of garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 whole star anise
  • a splash of water–just enough to thin it out

Heat the 3 tbsp of grapeseed oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the fennel seeds and star anise for the soup, and stir them around for a minute or two until they start to get fragrant.  Add the celery, onion, carrots, sweet potato, and all of the spices except for the bay leaf.  Cook the vegetables for a few minutes until the onions start to get translucent.  Then add the water, tomatoes, lentils, and bay leaf.  Stir, and then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes have passed, check on your soup, give it a stir, and then cover it and set a timer for another 20 minutes.  Combine the sauce ingredients in a pyrex measuring cup or other dish that pours easily.  Set aside.  Meanwhile in a large metal bowl, mix together your breadcrumbs, spices, and the Parmesan cheese for the meatballs.  Then add the ground chuck and beaten egg, and mix it with your hands until it’s just uniformly combined.  Yes, you should really use your hands, and be careful not to overmix (you don’t want the meatballs to be tough!)  Form the mixture into balls, about an inch and a quarter in diameter.  I ended up with 18 of them.

Add just enough grapeseed oil to just coat the bottom of a saute pan over medium high heat.  When the pan is hot (you can test this by gently setting one of your meatballs in it–if it sizzles, it’s hot enough), add all of your meatballs in a single layer, and use a pair of tongs to turn them occasionally until they’re browned on all sides.  How do you know when it’s time to turn them?  When they stop sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Seriously, don’t worry if they stick at first–they’ll come unstuck.  Once they’re browned on all sides, you can take the pan off the heat and skim out a bit of the excess oil if it seems like there’s a lot (do this quickly–you don’t want the pan to cool!), and then deglaze the pan with your tomato sauce mixture.  Be careful–it splashes.  Reduce the heat to low, and cover the pan.  Simmer for 10 minutes to cook the meatballs through.

Meanwhile, your soup timer has probably gone off.  Give the soup a taste, and check if the lentils are done.  If they’re not, keep the soup simmering.  Adjust seasonings as necessary, and then when the lentils are done, turn the soup down to low to keep it warm until the meatballs are ready.

Check the internal temperature of the meatballs–you want to see at least 165 degrees.  Make sure you check meatballs both in the middle of the pan and on the edges–mine cooked much faster on the edges of the pan than in the middle, so I ended up moving them around partway through.

Once the meatballs are done, put three of them in the bottom of a bowl, cover it with soup, and enjoy!

Hi, everyone!  I am FINALLY back on my blog after several months of radio silence.  I’ve been away on campus teaching for the semester, and while I had originally intended to continue posting, there’s not much to say when your primary instrument of cooking is a microwave.  (If you were wondering, it is possible to successfully make pasta, beets, potatoes, and a variety of other things in the microwave.  But after a while you get lazy and just buy a lot of boxes of soup.)  I am super excited to get back to blogging, and I have some awesome recipes coming up including a butternut squash dish, a cake, a salad, at least one type of cookie, and, the subject of today’s post: mushroom barley soup!

I’m a big fan of barley.  It is both absurdly healthy and absurdly versatile–you can make it into a breakfast cereal, put it in soups, make it into a risotto, use it as the base of a dish like you would rice or couscous…

Except.

It takes forever to cook.

Oh, the pearled kind cooks up in a perfectly reasonable amount of time, it’s true.  But pearled barley doesn’t have nearly the nutritional punch that hulled has, plus it doesn’t have quite the same pleasing, chewy texture.

Solution:  slow cooker. With a minimal amount of planning ahead, I pre-cooked the barley overnight in the slow cooker, so that when it came time to make the soup, all I had to do was throw it in.  And it’s so easy to make barley in the slow cooker, you can do it while you’re sleeping.  Literally.  If you cook it on low, it’s ready in 6-8 hours max, which means that this is also an excellent way to replace your breakfast oatmeal with breakfast barley.  And in fact, I ended up with more cooked barley than I needed for the soup, so I had ready-made breakfast for the rest of the week!

The soup itself was something I came up with while falling asleep one night–it just popped into my head like a dream and practically wrote itself–when I made the soup a few days later, I felt like I was following a recipe, even though I was making it up.  It’s a good soup for a cold winter day–the hearty barley and beans along with the rich mushroom flavor and just a touch of sour cream warms you through without being heavy, and the topping of freshly grated Parmesan adds the perfect amount of umami.  (It would be a good thing to enjoy with a nice thick slab of oat soda bread from 101 Cookbooks.)

So here it is, just in time for Christmas:

Mushroom Barley Soup
(Serves 9)

For the barley

  • 1 cup dry hulled barley
  • 4.5 cups water

For the soup

  • 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup hot (not quite boiling) water
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled, smashed, and roughly chopped
  • 3-4 cups sliced raw mushrooms (I used a mixture of crimini and white button)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups mushroom broth
  • 1 can of navy beans, drained
  • half to all of the cooked barley
  • 1 large bunch of kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Parmesan cheese (for topping)

The night before you plan on making the soup, get out your slow cooker and put in one cup of dried, hulled barley and 4.5 cups of water.  Give it a stir (and pick out any bits of chaff that may have been in with your barley), cover it, and set it to low for 8 hours.  In the morning, scoop it out, put it in a container, and pop it in the fridge until you’re ready to make the soup.

When you’re ready to make your soup, take your dried porcini mushrooms, put them in a small bowl, and cover them with hot water.  Let them steep while you get everything else going.  The water should turn a rich shade of reddish-brown, and the mushrooms will re-hydrate.

Meanwhile, in a large stock pot or dutch oven, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.  When the butter is melted and the pan is hot, add in the diced onion and garlic, and saute until the onion starts to get transparent.  Then add the sliced mushrooms, and continue to stir occasionally until the mushrooms start to darken.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and let it simmer until most of the wine has cooked off.

Chop up the re-hydrated porcini mushrooms and add them to the pan, and strain in the liquid they were soaking in.  Add the mushroom broth, beans, and as much of the barley as you would like in your soup (more if you want your soup thicker like a stew, less if you want it more soup-like), and the kale.  Cover, and simmer until the kale has completely wilted.

Stir in the sour cream, and then add salt and pepper to taste.  It will probably take more salt than you think you need; just add it a little at a time.

Ladle it into bowls, top with Parmesan cheese, and enjoy!

Mushroom Barley Soup!

As you may have gathered from the frequency with which they appear in my recipes, I buy a lot of beets.  I’m not really sure why I buy so many beets–as a child I didn’t even like them!  (Though I can’t say that we had them often.  And seriously?  Stay away from the canned ones.  *shudder*)  Maybe I buy a lot of beets because they frequently look good at the grocery store and since they’re root vegetables, they have a longer season of availability.  Maybe I like the bright colors.  Maybe it’s going to Russia that did it.  (I do love a good bowl of borsch, hot or cold!)  Whatever the reason, I buy beets a lot.  And usually I put them with things like dill and goat cheese on the one hand, or citrus fruits on the other (see: Beets Romano or Beet and Kumquat Salad).  But this time, I wanted to do something different.  I wanted to do something creative with the bright red beets I had just acquired.  So I decided on a whim to send a tweet to Justin Warner, the winner of this season’s Food Network Star, curious to see if he’d answer me, and curious to see what rebellious beet ideas he might have.

And what do you know, he did answer!  In fact, he answered twice.  His first idea was to make a sparkling watermelon-beet borsch.  I had never thought to combine watermelon and beets, and the flavors melded surprisingly well.  And when you add club soda or sparkling water to the watermelon-beet puree, it fizzes up like a volcano in an elementary school science experiment.  (I’d highly recommend serving it as shooters–more fun that way!)

His second suggestion was to combine beets and white chocolate.  This was an idea I had to sit on for several days–I wasn’t sure what sort of vehicle I could use to bring these two things together.  I didn’t want to go the pure dessert route, but neither could I conceive of using white chocolate in a savory application.  (Maybe I need to watch more Chopped.)  But then it struck me–pancakes!  Chocolate chips go great in pancakes!  Shredded vegetables like carrots or zucchini go great in pancakes!  So why shouldn’t I put white chocolate and beets into a pancake?

Idea firmly in mind, I started searching for pancake recipes to compare and once I had that down, it was time to start cooking!

As it turned out, my shiny red beets were candy cane beets:

All shiny and red!

Look at the stripes!

For this recipe though, I needed to grate the beets rather than cutting them into chunks.  I could have tossed them in the food processor, but instead I decided to grate them by hand to get a finer texture (and a good arm workout!).  Interestingly, when you grate candy cane beets, they start of bright pink but quickly oxidize to a greyish-purple.  My pancakes won’t be winning any beauty contests, but they still taste good (despite my husband’s opinion that they look like old hamburgers!)

After grating the beets, you need to press some of the liquid out of them.  This is a key step.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.  If you do, your pancakes won’t stick together in nice little patty shapes.

The saran wrap is a vain attempt to keep them from oxidizing.

Once I had the beets grated, I mixed up the rest of the ingredients for the batter, folded in the grated beets, and then folded in the white chocolate chunks.

Look at all the chocolate!

I fried them up in a little butter on my electric griddle and they were done!  With the sweetness of the white chocolate, you don’t even need any syrup!

Pancakes!

White Chocolate Beet Pancakes
(serves 4-6)

  • 2c finely grated beets (2-3 large beets)
  • 1c all purpose flour
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 2tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 3tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4c buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4oz white chocolate (chips or chunks)
  • Butter for the griddle

Wash and peel your beets, and then grate them using either a box grater (to get really fine shreds) or a food processor (if you’re in a hurry).  Press out as much liquid as you can so your pancakes aren’t soggy.

Mix all of your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg) together in a bowl.  In a separate, larger bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients except the beets (oil, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla).  Once they’re combined, add in the beets, and stir so that they’re well coated.  Then add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix everything together until it’s just combined.  Finally, fold in the white chocolate chips!

Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to medium heat.  You want the butter to sizzle but not burn when it hits it.  Form palm-sized patties of pancake batter and fry them in the butter for 2-3 minutes on the first side, flip them, and let them go another 30 seconds to a minute until the other side is also golden brown.  You can keep the finished ones on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven to keep them warm until you’re ready to eat!

If you love food, you have to go to Portland. Full stop.

Right by Voodoo Doughnuts!

My husband and I just got back from our 10 day honeymoon to Portland (and Newport), Oregon where we had the most amazing time! We saw waterfalls, wandered around in the huge Japanese garden and the International Rose Test Garden, enjoyed the wonders of Powell’s Books, visited wine country in the Willamette Valley, braved the icy (okay, 58 degree) wind to stroll along the beach in search of tide pools…and had some of the best meals we’ve ever eaten in our lives!!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter already got a preview of some of the great food we had, but it’s definitely going to take me more than one post to tell you all about it!  So stick around–I’ll try to get posts up as quickly as possible but it’ll take a little while to get all the photos edited, etc.

Part I:

Friday:  We got to Portland around dinner time (or after dinner time if you factor in the time difference!) so we decided to go to Saucebox since it was only a few short blocks from our hotel.  In retrospect, this was probably not the best place to go when you’re starving and tired from having spent the majority of your day on planes and in airports.  The service was extraordinarily slow (seemingly due to disorganized management more than anything else – our server seemed perfectly nice and competent when she was actually at our table) and the food, while good, was not quite able to compensate.  (Though the five spice cauliflower is definitely worth trying, and the jackfruit sorbet was quite tasty, as was the fudgy brownie).  But there is one reason why Saucebox should still definitely be on your list of places to go in Portland: their bartender.  The bartender at Saucebox is an absolute genius and you absolutely have to try their cocktails!  I had the Jade Scorpion which they describe as: “house-infused thai chili vodka, house-infused ginger vodka, muddled with thai basil, grapefruit, lemon-lime, finished with ginger brew”.  Basically it tastes like Thai food in a glass, and is the single best cocktail I have ever had in my life.

Yum!

The best cocktail ever.

Saturday:  The next day we hopped on the MAX train to go to the Portland State University farmer’s market.  Move over, Disney World, because I’m pretty sure that this farmer’s market is the happiest place on earth!  I believe the first words out of my mouth were: “I want to move here!!!!!”

Panorama!

Just one small part of the market.

The market was filled with booth after booth of delicious looking organic produce of every type imaginable–mushrooms, tomatoes, squash, greens, carrots, potatoes, beans, apricots, berries of every type…and CHERRIES!  So very many cherries!  Of course you had your regular Bings and pie cherries and ridiculously cheap Rainier cherries (seriously…we paid about $2.50 for a whole big bag of them!  They cost $8.99/lb at home!) but then there were other kinds which I had never heard of before (I wish I had written them all down!) including these huge cherries that filled your whole mouth with delicious cherry goodness!

My favorite kind of cherry ever!

Cherries!

At first we just wandered around in awe, admiring the great heaps of produce and then, as we hadn’t had breakfast yet, we got down to the business of sampling.  The free samples were abundant, with farmers at every booth encouraging you to try their products without pressuring you to buy anything.  We tried fresh milk from a nearby farm (they had an album with pictures of their cows!), fresh cheese, kimchee (there were four kinds!  I had never had kimchee before, but all were delicious!), blueberries, raspberries, golden raspberries, cherries (of course!), sea beans (salty!), and much more!  But farmers weren’t the only ones with booths there.  Local restaurants and bakeries had booths that were filling the air with delicious aromas!

Frying up fresh chicken to go with their hot biscuits!

The line was a mile long for Pine State Biscuits!

Hungry for something a bit more substantial than the samples we’d been trying, we made our way over to a booth that was selling pies. So many pies.  We hung back for a bit, wondering how we were ever to decide on a flavor and then we noticed the hand pies.  Cute little half-moon shaped pies that were just begging us to buy them.  I went for the Italian one–multiple kinds of salami, some spicy peppers, a bit of cheese…and the most flaky delicious crust you can possibly imagine!  My husband went for the vegetarian option of caramelized onions and bleu cheese–also delicious and coated in the same perfectly flaky crust!  We devoured them so quickly that I didn’t even think to snap a picture!  To go with our pies, we stopped at the next booth which was selling freshly made juices.  After trying some samples, we went with a strawberry hibiscus juice which the guy casually told us he’d made just last night at his place up the road.  So good!

As we sat on a bench listening to the live music (a singer accompanied by a cello…it gave my husband goosebumps!), we noticed another booth where a cooking demo was being set up!  This was not something we could pass up so we claimed a couple of chairs nearby and settled in to learn how to make vegetable spring rolls with hazelnut dipping sauce.  The awesome part was that she told us where we could find each ingredient at the market so had we wanted to go home and make the rolls right then, we totally could have done it!

Action shot!

Stir frying the veggies.

Once the cooking demo was done and we had devoured our bag of cherries and composted the pits (yes, there are bins for trash, each kind of recycling and compost strategically placed throughout the market!), we decided to head back towards downtown to go to the Saturday Market near the river.

The Saturday Market is huge, with booths upon booths of art of every kind imaginable, clothing, jewelry, and (of course) food!  By this point we were in need of lunch, so we set off in search of the Kathmandu Cafe, a well-reviewed booth selling vegetarian and Himalayan food.  The sun was out and the weather was warm, so it seemed like the whole city was out enjoying the market!  We made our way through the crowds, and eventually reached our goal; it was right next to booths selling Nigerian food and kettlecorn.

Right by the kettlecorn

We found it!

Momos

Momos – Himalayan dumplings

After wandering the market for a while and finding such treasures as windchimes and jewelry made out of silverware, we headed off in search of Powell’s books–the biggest book store I’ve ever seen!  Of course on our way there we walked past Voodoo Doughnuts which is located in a building covered in glitter paint and which had an epically long line snaking out the door (but that’s another post!).

Then after exploring the bookstore and a quick stop at Morso for gelato (the lemon vanilla custard rocked!) it was back to the hotel to get ready for dinner…

[To Be Continued…]

You guys, I’m so excited!  The husband and I are headed off on our honeymoon tomorrow to Portland, Oregon for 10 days of food nerd awesomeness!  We have both a spreadsheet and a customized google map marking out all the places we want to try–it’s going to be awesome!  (Of course we also have lots of walking and hiking planned…have to do something to burn off all the ridiculous meals we’re going to be eating!  Plus there are awesome waterfalls near Portland!)  I’m planning on tweeting pictures of the food (and anything else cool that we come across!), so if you haven’t followed me on Twitter yet, please do!  Or not if Twitter’s not your thing–don’t worry, I’m planning a round-up blog post about the trip when we get back.

And now on to today’s recipe!  I made this a couple weeks ago but I hadn’t gotten around to actually writing up the post yet.  But this might just be one of my favorite recipes I’ve shared here.  It has just the right balance of flavors…sweet/sour/savory/salty/bitter, with just the right amount of spice.  The key is really the lime juice at the end.  The lime juice takes what would have been a pretty decent dish to a whole other level of flavor.  So don’t leave it out!  Added bonus: this dish is ridiculously healthy, what with the quinoa and the beans and the kale and such.  But it doesn’t *taste* like health food.  It just tastes good.

Colorful, isn't it?

So without further ado:

Quinoa Adzuki Bean Stir Fry

  • 1/2c quinoa (uncooked)
  • 1.25c water
  • 1/2tbsp tamari
  • 2 carrots, sliced into discs
  • 1 daikon, sliced into discs
  • 1 green pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/2 habanero pepper, minced
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1 can adzuki beans, drained (also rinsed if they contain salt)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • splash mirin
  • 1 inch knob ginger, peeled and freshly grated
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 bunch lacinta kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1/2c sugar snap peas
  • freshly ground black pepper

Rinse and pick over the quinoa, then put it, the water, and the tamari into a pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about half an hour until all of the water is absorbed.  Keep an eye on it, both so it doesn’t boil over and so it doesn’t overcook.  If it finishes cooking before you’re done with everything else, take it off the heat, fluff it with a fork so it doesn’t stick and then set it aside.

Meanwhile in your largest skillet, heat the tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  When it’s hot, add the onion, carrot, daikon, ginger, and black pepper.  Stir periodically.  When the onion starts to get transparent, deglaze the pan with the mirin and add the kale and habanero.  When the kale starts to wilt, add the quinoa, green pepper, and adzuki beans.  Mix well.  When everything is heated through, remove it from the heat and add the sugar snap peas and a splash of tamari.  Pour in the lime juice, give everything a good toss to mix it all together and enjoy!

Beets Romano

At long last a new post!  It’s been far too long.  In the beginning I had a good excuse: I was busy getting married!  Then we were eating out a lot and when we weren’t doing that we were eating leftovers (who knew that getting married would leave you with mountains of leftovers in the fridge and freezer…like a giant bag of edamame!)  And then…I couldn’t think of anything to write.  I had a few halfway decent recipe ideas, some of which might turn up in later posts, and a few major recipe fails, but nothing really inspired me until this dish.

I had some beets in the fridge and I really wanted to do something other than making individual lasagnas with them.  Much as I like individual lasagnas, I wanted to branch out a bit.  But what to do?  I remembered that I also had cream cheese in the fridge, and so I grabbed my mom’s old copy of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook to look up the recipe for Noodles Romano–a favorite childhood dish of mine that we simply referred to as “cheesy noodles” (as distinct from macaroni and cheese!).

The resulting dish contains no noodles, and in fact looks nothing like its white-colored inspiration, taking on, instead, a vibrant pink color.  But it sure was tasty!

And now without further ado:

Beets Romano

  • 4 medium-sized beets, boiled until tender
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • a handful of fresh chives, cut small
  • 1tbsp dried dill 
  • 3/4c  frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/3c buckwheat, cooked til tender
  • 1/4c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 8oz package cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, softened
  • Up to 2/3c boiling water*
  • salt
  • pepper

Once you’ve boiled your beets and they are cool enough to handle, slip the skins off of them, dice them up, and put them in a large bowl.  Add the thawed peas and garlic and set aside.

Meanwhile put the softened butter and softened cream cheese in a metal bowl and mash them together a bit.  Then pour in about half of the water and whisk everything together until the cream cheese and butter have melted and you have an even consistency.  If it seems too thick or lumpy, add more water until you have a consistency you like.  Add the dill and chives, and salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the cheese sauce over the beets and peas and stir until everything is coated in sauce.  Then stir in the buckwheat, add a bit more salt if you like, and enjoy!

*I used 2/3c of water right away and this proved to be too much–the dish ended up with the consistency of soup.  Luckily by the second day the buckwheat soaked up all the excess liquid and it turned out exactly how I wanted it originally!  So don’t worry if you add too much water–it will be better on the second day!

It’s been too long since I last posted.  My time has been consumed with far too many books and not nearly enough cooking.  But at last I have survived my general exams and have time to get back in the kitchen!

I have a couple new recipes to write about, but I decided that this one needed to come first so that I wouldn’t forget what I put in it!  It was very much a make-it-up-as-you-go-along type of dish.  I bought the kale and mushrooms knowing that I wanted to put them with white beans, but aside from that I had no idea where I was going to go with this!

mushrooms, celery and onion

I ended up going in a garlicky, nutmeggy, peppery direction–because there was so much kale, the spices didn’t always get evenly mixed in, leading to bursts of different flavors in different bites.  If you want a more uniform flavor, it would probably be best to add all the spices prior to adding the kale to the skillet.

Speaking of the kale, you could really substitute any leafy green you like in this recipe–swiss chard, beet greens, lacinta kale or red kale would all work well.  Another addition that might be nice is bacon–if you fried the bacon in the same skillet with everything else, you could omit the butter and just use the bacon grease.  Bacon makes everything better, and gets along well with both beans and kale, but alas, it’s obviously not vegetarian-friendly.  If you do make this with bacon, though, let me know how it goes!

the finished dish

Mushroom, Kale and White Bean Skillet
(serves 4)

  • 4 big handfuls dried white beans (or 1 can)
  • 1 large bunch of kale (or other greens), roughly chopped
  • 12-15 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 2tbsp butter
  • splash of white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  •  thyme
  • oregano
  • garlic flakes
  • nutmeg
  • 1-2 pinches salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Soak your beans overnight, or at least for an hour or two prior to cooking.  (If using canned beans, simply rinse them off and skip the next few steps.)  Rinse off your soaked beans in cold water, and then put them in a medium-sized pan with enough cold water to cover them by at least half an inch to an inch.  Bring the beans to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer them until tender.  Keep an eye on them so they don’t boil over!

When your beans are almost done, put your largest skillet on to heat up over medium heat.  Once it’s hot, add a glug or two of olive oil, and then add the onion and celery.  When the onion is transparent, add a good splash of white wine, the bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and garlic flakes.  (This is not an exact science–just put in a good shake of each).  Stir everything around, and let the wine cook off.

While that’s going, slice up your mushrooms, and when the wine is almost gone, add the mushrooms to the skillet.  While those are going, you can wash and chop the kale.  Once the mushrooms have started to brown, drain off any water that was still in with your beans and add them to the skillet.  (Or add your canned and rinsed beans).  Add the nutmeg, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, as well as the butter.  Once the butter is melted, add the kale.  It will seem like a lot of kale, but it will lose a lot of volume as it cooks down.

Once your kale is cooked down, make sure everything is mixed thoroughly and taste your dish.  Adjust the seasonings according to taste, take it off the heat, and top it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

Heidi Swanson over at 101 Cookbooks always has great recipes, but her recipe for Feisty Green Beans ranks as one of the best things I have ever tasted.  Period.  Between the crisp freshness of the still-slightly-raw green beans to the pops of sweetness from the raisins to the aromatic mixture of Indian-style spices, everything about this dish works perfectly together.  I’m so happy I have leftovers!  And if there are green beans again at the farmer’s market the next time I go, I’ll definitely be making this again!

I came across this recipe while trying to figure out what to with the pound of beans I had sitting in my fridge.  I wanted to make something more inspired than just beans sauteed with a little butter and basil, which was all that was coming to mind for me.  I also didn’t want to have to go to the grocery store, because I’m trying to stop spending so much on groceries by cooking with things I already have in the pantry.  So I looked around for different recipes and found a few that sounded like they had potential, but nothing that would work as a main course, and nothing that I had all the ingredients for.  Until I found the Feisty Green Beans.

Don’t be intimidated by the long ingredient list–most of the ingredients are spices which you probably have on hand.  (Especially if you ever make Indian food).  I did end up substituting paneer for the tofu because a) I didn’t have any tofu and b) I really don’t like tofu.  The paneer works out really well in this dish though, so I’m really glad I used it.  It adds a bit of a salty flavor which contrasts nicely with the raisins and spices.  You could also probably substitute queso blanco for the tofu if you can’t find paneer, but I personally find that queso blanco doesn’t have quite as nice a texture as paneer.

So the next time you’re at the farmer’s market, get yourself a pound of green beans and make this recipe!  You’ll be sooo happy you did!

My fiance was having a guys’ night out the other night so I was left to fend for myself for dinner.  There was no food in the fridge, so I had to run to the grocery store to find something to make.  I wasn’t really in the mood to flip through cookbooks, so I decided to just let inspiration strike when I got there.  Looking around, the produce looked good, but there wasn’t really anything I wanted to eat until I saw the pea shoots.

I discovered pea shoots earlier this spring.  I was at a dinner at an Italian restaurant and my entree came with pea shoots garnishing it.  It was love at first taste.  They’re delicious!  So when I saw them at the store today, I knew I had to buy them.  From there it was just a matter of figuring out what to put with them.  I grabbed a few crimini mushrooms, a bag of frozen peas, and then I realized that since I was only cooking for myself, I could have meat!  (My fiance is vegetarian, and normally I’m perfectly content to eat vegetarian food, but lately I’ve been wanting to use some meat in my cooking.)  I looked around, and found organic spinach and feta chicken sausage.  It looked delicious and only had 120 calories!  Obviously I bought it.

This dish was really easy to put together.  Since the sausage was pre-cooked, all I had to do was heat it up.  I put the mushrooms and sausage into a dry, non-stick pan on “medium” heat (though who can say what that really means on an electric stove!) and tossed everything around until the sausage was sizzling nicely and the mushrooms were browned.

Meanwhile, I had water boiling on another burner and cooked a serving of brown rice pasta.  I used shells, but you can use whatever you have handy.  When the pasta was almost ready, I tossed in the frozen peas (which had been sitting on the counter and were thus not entirely frozen anymore) and then drained the whole mix.

I put the pasta and peas on a plate, cut the sausage and added it and the mushrooms, added salt, pepper, and a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and then topped it all off with a good handful of the pea shoots.  The flavor of the sausage kept this dish from needing too much other seasoning, but if you’re making a vegetarian version, play around with different spices, and also add a bit more cheese.

Pea Shoot Pasta
(one serving) 

  • 55g pasta of your choice
  • 1 chicken sausage
  • frozen peas
  • 3-4 crimini mushrooms
  • a handful of pea shoots
  • Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions (the brown rice pasta I used takes longer to cook than other varieties).  Put frozen peas in a bowl on the counter to thaw.  Use as many or as few as you like.  Chop up the mushrooms, and then put them and the sausage in a dry non-stick pan on medium heat.  Rotate the sausage periodically to ensure even cooking, and stir the mushrooms frequently to avoid burning.
When the pasta is almost done, dump in the peas.  When the pasta is al dente, drain and put on a plate.  Cut up the sausage, and add it and the mushrooms to the plate.  Add salt and pepper, and toss everything together.  Top with a little grated Parmesan and the pea shoots.  Enjoy!