Sunday, June 13, 2010

Quick meals for hot days

It's been warm and muggy in Brooklyn again. And Blokey and I have been working on projects, which means sometimes we snack all day and never eat a proper meal together. (Finn Crisp Rye crackers, what would my life be without you?) But over the weekend, I did get my act together to make a couple meals (Blokey's big mess o' rice and beans from Friday was also very popular).

Everything in the fridge Asian Noodles
We had some disparate ingredients, some udon noodles, and I was starving after a short jog, but we had to go grocery shopping for eggs and apples and stuff. So I threw together lots of stuff and it made me less likely to buy the whole store.

6 oz of Udon noodles, dry
leftover bagged spinach, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
3 green onions, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 Tbs of butter
salad leftovers
1 Tbs soy sauce (more to taste)
1 Tbs of sesame oil
2 Tbs of tahini
2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs of water
2 teaspoons of honey
3 small radishes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 eggs, beaten
sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
Sriracha sauce (optional)

This was the stuff I took out to make into a meal.
Cook the noodles according to the directions.
Make a thin omlette with the two eggs in a wide frying pan (with butter, of course). Slice into quarters, and then thinly slice into matchstick sized pieces (maybe a bit wider than a matchstick).
In the same frying panm or medium sauce pan, saute green onions in butter over medium heat, under softened. Adjust to low heat. Add the tahini, water, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, and sesame oil. Stir until it becomes a sauce like consistency (you may have to add some more water).
Toss in cooked noodles and vegetables. Serve.

Big Salad
Remember how on Seinfeld, Elaine would get the big salad? I love a big entree salad. We got tree kinds of lettuce from our CSA, so I did something like a modified Salad Nicoise.
For 2

A blend of lettuce (we used romane, boston, and green leaf). about 6 cups worth
Cooked or canned chickpeas: 1 1/2 c.
2 tomatoes, cut into quarters and sliced in 1/2
1/3 c. of thinly sliced black olives
2 hard boiled eggs, halved
1/2 avocado, chopped
Optional: 1/2 can of tuna (canned in olive oil) or 3 anchovy filets, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

Directions: Either toss all the ingredients together with dressing and serve (uglier, but well incorporated) or arrange all pretty like (aesthetically pleasing, but more of a challenge to distribute the dressing). I went with plan B. (Mine is the one on the right, with the wee bit of anchovy on top).

We don't buy bottled salad dressing, because they are usually full of sugar and corn syrup and taste funky. This is our standard salad dressing recipe

2 Tbs of olive oil
1 1/2 Tbs of sour (this usually lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or balsamic. I did a combination of both)
1 garlic clove, chopped (did not use, because Blokey calls me Garlic Monkey. He has no idea how garlicky I am)
1 Tbs of fancy dijon, whole grain mustard (even better if there is some kind of German last name on the bottle)
salt, pepper, and oregano/Italian seasoning mix to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a used jam jar and shake (with the lid on). Pour immediately over salad.*

*I have tried 3 times to make mayonnaise. Oil and egg yolk emulsions are not my friend, as they require patience).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

First CSA meal of the summer

Summer doesn't just mean guilt* about work, hot depressed cats, allergies, and sweaty subway stations. It also means delicious, seasonal, local, organic Community Supported Agriculture vegetables! (And a pint of local raspberries, too!)

Our CSA farm is owned by an Asian-American couple, and they plant a lot interesting greens. They especially love the bok choy. So in honor of Sang Lee Farms, and my old roommate Kris, who ruled the tofu world, I made (or tried to make) Ginger Baked Tofu and Bok Choy Stir Fry

Serves two hungry kitty-sitters**

1 box of firm tofu, frozen and thawed
1 Tbs honey
2 inch of ginger root, grated (less if you're not a ginger freak)
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 Tbs of lite soy sauce (and some more to taste)
1/2 Tbs of toasted sesame oil (and some more to taste)
1 Tbs of a neutral oil
sesame seeds for garnish
pepper to taste
2 baby bok choys, well rinsed with stalks removed from leafy parts
3-4 small carrots, chopped into thin slices
handful of sugar snap peas, cleaned and chopped
1 c. of jasmine rice (white or brown)

The middle carrot has to go to the bathroom real bad

To prepare the tofu (takes some planning)
Ahead of time, you can freeze the tofu and thaw it. This takes at least a day. This is not necessary, but frozen and thawed tofu absorbs marinate better. If you're not crazy, you can just wrap the tofu (uncut) in 2-3 paper towels, and stick a cutting board and a book on top, and this will draw out most of the moisture (for at least 30 minutes).
Slice the tofu in 1/2 length wise, and then cut those pieces into quarters. If you can, cut these into quarter height wise (so you're slicing them thinner, not smaller).

This picture was meant to show the texture of thawed, once frozen tofu. The freezing process expands the water pockets, helping it "soak" up marinades

Make a marinade with 2 Tbs of soy sauce, 1 Tbs of honey, 3 cloves of chopped garlic, half of the ginger, some salt, and 1/2 Tbs of sesame oil. Stick it in a Tupperware and let it in marinade in the fridge. Go file your nails or something. Or chop up the vegetables.

After 1-2 hours of marinading, preheat the oven to 350. Place the tofu in a single layer on a pan, and bake for 25 minutes, taking out to flip the pieces half way through. They should be firmer and take on a nice golden glow.
While the tofu bakes, cook the rice according to the directions.
For the stir fry, warm up the oil in a wide pan, over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, stirring. Separate the leafy part of the bok choy from the firmer stalks.

When the garlic/ginger has cooked a few minutes, increase the heat to medium-high add the stems of the bok choy. Stir. After a few minutes, add the carrots. Cook 2 more minutes. Add the chopped sugar snap peas and then the leafy part of the boy choy. Cook until wilted. Remove from heat. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seed to taste. Add the finished tofu and serve over rice.

Vegan dinner is served

*Mostly joking. I do love summer, but I love fall more. I think summer, as a season, is a bit overrated. I hate dem pesky mosquitoes, and all of NYC goes nuts during that time.

**Blokey and I have a new kitten in our lives. Aw...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Smoothie Queen

It's been HOT in NY. Too hot to cook, and too hot to want to eat anything warm. On Thursday evening, we were hungry but still on a wonky schedule, so I made this for dinner. It was better than just eating Popsicles.

Dinner fruit smoothie
2 c. of plain yogurt
1 bag of frozen strawberries
2 overripe bananas
2 Tbs of ground flax seeds

I have a super blender, the BlendTec. It's the same one I used when I worked over the summer at the coffee shop in a Barnes and Noble (we used it to make frappaccinos. I still don't get the appeal. Why not just eat coffee ice cream and call it a day?) If you don't have a super strong blender, let the strawberries thaw a little and chop them up a bit. Not too much though.
Throw all the ingredients except the honey into the blender. Blend on the highest level for about 10-15 seconds, and then finish at a medium level until smooth. Serve in a whatever cups you like, and stir in less than a teaspoon of honey into each cup. Makes about 3-4 servings.

Since Blokey and I make our own yogurt (another generous and awesome wedding gift), I think we can consider this a quite homemaid dinner.

The smoothie texture quickly melted into liquid, as it was so hot out, but it was still pretty good.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sleepy snack

Blokey and I got on a really weird schedule and tried to fix this. We were on Australia time, falling asleep well into the A.M., and waking up all late and guilty. So we stuck it out on Tuesday, not sleeping all morning/afternoon, and watching bad internet TV/video games (I did more of the former. Playing word games while sleep deprived was not successful). We fell asleep last night at 7PM, and woke up at 4AM. Now we are on Berlin time.
Yesterday, I found that sitting made my tireness worse, so I got up from my desk chair around 4 PM and made this snack.

Fancy cheese crackers and simple lentil pate

Crackers (adapted from Heavenly Homemakers. While my homemaking isn't heavenly, I do appreciate and admire their efforts)
1 c. of King Arthur's white whole wheat flour (Trader Joe's makes some too, but they're not commies)
2/3 c. of finely shredded hard cheese (I used parmesan and some stinky hard sheep cheese I picked up at the Italian market in Philly)
¼ teaspoon. baking powder
1-4 Tbsp of cold water
2 Tbs of butter
a sprinkle of your favorite dried herbs (I used oregano)

Preheat the oven to 350.

The original recipe called for more cheese, more butter, and food processing, but I am lazy and afraid of that much fat. I bet some more olive oil in place of some of the butter would work too. The recipe is simple- you mix everything together except the water, then mix in the water slowly by hand. Instead of processing, I finely grated the cheese and used a pastry blender (wedding gift, thanks Broooother) to incorporate the butter and flour, added the other ingredients (except the water) and added 1 Tablespoon (the recipe's amount). While a pile of cheese crumbs stared back at me, I added some more water.
Next, since I am a shortcutter, I rolled the dough out onto the cookie sheet until it was quite thin (Wheat thins/Cheezit thin), used a pizza cutter to cut them into Cheezit sized pieces, and baked for 15-17 minutes. The ends were cripsy first, so I removed them and stuck it back in the oven for another few minutes.

Funner than a blender

Can you tell that I wanted Cheezits?

Italian lentil pate (adapted from this recipe)

1/2 onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups of dried lentils
bay leaf
2 teaspoons of fancy mustard (or unfancy)
handful of fresh parsley, chopped rougly
dried herbs: oregano, basil, marjoram
salt, pepper, paprika
juice of one lemon
Olive oil

1.Cook lentils according to directions, with a bay leaf. Drain when done.
2. In the meantime, carmelize (or your best approximation) the onions in 2 Tbs of olive oil, over medium heat. Add the garlic towards the end and cook until everything smells good (if you like raw garlic, skip this step and just add it to the blender).
3. Using a hand blender/food processor, blend together all the ingreidents except the herbs, spices and lemon juice.
4. Season to taste.

Blokey is an understated man, but he claimed that the lentil pate was "so good." This is a top compliment, so I am pleased.

I fell asleep about an hour after I finished eating.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chicago dogs: vegan and Bed Stuy-style

I love Chicago style hot dogs.
Chicago styles hot dogs are not your average tubular meat sandwich. Rather, it is like a salad on a bun. It is the perfect mix of salty, sweet, savory, sour, and hot, plus great textures, in an convenient, mouth perfect container. Everything, from the poppy seed bun to the sweet relish plays a part in this symphony of street food perfection.
When I was 18 years old, wearing too much black, living at home, watching all movies that I missed out on (strict immigrant upbringing) from the library in my parent's basement, and attending community college (yup, I was a winner), I worked at Portillos in the west suburbs of Chicago. It's like a magical place where suburban folks go to pay for premium Chicago hot dogs, brats, Italian beef, salads for the ladies, and you could (gasp) drink booze and smoke cigarettes (maybe not anymore). The chili, cake, and milkshakes weren't bad either.
There are nine essential ingredients in the archetypal Chicago style hot dog: 100% beef dog (Vienna beef), poppy seed bun, pickle spear, sport peppers, tomato wedges, onions, sweet relish, mustard, and celery salt. This webpage will teach you how to DIY when you've got the right ingredients, but sadly I did not. I had to Brooklyn wing it. Plus, the Blokey doesn't eat meat, so I Smart-Dog-ed it.

Finally, I could not find any hot dog buns in my nabe (granted, I didn't try that hard). This is either because everyone else wanted hotdogs on Memorial Day weekend, or because this city does not take hot dog (of the meat or fake meet variety) seriously enough. (It takes mustard seriously, though). I also cursed in the condiments aisle for the lack of sport peppers. Again, this may be a Bedford village thing. I substituted the shortcomings by slicing up pepperoncini, and baking some buns.

Working with what I got in Bed-Stuy

1/2 whole wheat hot dog buns (adapted from this recipe)

1 cup of 1/2 milk, 1/2 water, warmed on the stove (to 110)
1 Tbs of sugar
1 tbs of butter
2 teaspoons of yeast1 egg
1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup of whole wheat
1 teaspoon of salt.

Mix together the milk/water, sugar, and butter, until the butter melts. Add the yeast, stir, and let sit about 10 minutes until it gets bubbly/frothy
Mix the flours with the salt, add the egg and water/butter/milk/yeast mixture. Stir and then knead by hand about 5 minutes (add more flour if needed). Let rise in a warm place about 1 hour (or until doubled). Punch down and let rise again.
After the second rise, heat oven to 425 degree F. Divide dough into 8 pieces, roll it out, cover and let sit about 15 minutes. Transfer to lightly floured cookie sheet, and bake 8-10 minutes (I went for the 10)
Uh, these look like, um... Twinkies?

They turned out a bit denser than I would have liked, so I split them open and dug out a lot of the bread instead. This ended up creating space to fit all the Chicago dog ingredients.

The verdict: the bun was a bit stiff, and the peppers were not quite right, but everything worked out pretty well. Even home town boy Blokey was pleased. (I give Smart Dogs my quasi-midwestern seal of approval).