Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Excuses, risotto, and a blog recommendation.

Sorry it’s been so long between posts, I went through a bout of stomach problems in February that made the idea of eating abhorrent and had me rushing to the bathroom in between efforts to keep down some kind of liquid – the thought of actually cooking food and documenting the process was out of the question.

In any case, in February me and R. decided to try Foods From Around The World. Whatever theoretical joy I delighted in during the plans of these fourteen meals from around the globe was quickly squelched by a combination of sour stomach and the reality check of fine dining – dishes, prep time, ingredients. We ended up creating mounds and mounds of dirty pots, pans, and skillets, spent $400 dollars on overpriced specialty items like grapeseed oil (which does NOT make the recipe, contrary to popular belief), and slaved for hours over a hot stove only to find our results less than thrilling in comparison to our favorite standbys like black beans and homemade tortillas with avocado and tomato.

Here’s the semi-failed experiment in summary:

Our disasters: Uyghur polo (ugh, whoever decided raisins and cumin together was a good thing? And the crunchy rice!), a sickly-sweet pea soup that looked like something straight out of The Exorcist (did not help that I was already vomiting profusely on Turkish Food night), and a sesame chik’n mock meat recipe that was edible, but nevertheless lacked that essential Chinese restaurant je ne sais quoi.

Our triumphs: Silky eggplant parmesan with roasted red pepper risotto and chevre, a Cuban picadillo that we ate on for three days, and the best lasagna of my life. It is probably no coincidence that R. was responsible for all of these grand slams except the risotto, which was sort of so-so and lukewarm after missing that critical right-off-the-stove period.

(Is it any secret at this point that we favor umami flavors?)

We only made it through 4 of the 14 countries, with major revisions to the menus – Turkey, China, the Caribbean, and Italy. However, I am hoping to get back into some kind of a regular posting schedule, one that does not revolve around so much delivery pizza and so many jalapeno kettle chips.

Coming Recipes:
Eggplant Parmesan
Broccoli Cheese Casserole
Five Treasure Fried Rice
The Best Lasagna of My Life™

But until then, try this Roasted Red Pepper Risotto from The Pioneer Woman Cooks – we’ve made it twice since I found the recipe, which is high praise in this highly experimental household. I’ll make the following recommendations for this recipe, based on my vast (twice) experience:

Suggestion A: Go ahead and spring for the chevre (goat cheese). It seems as expensive as some devious black market item when you first see the sticker, but it’s worth it.

Suggestion B: When Ree says serve this immediately, she ain’t kidding. Let it go room temperature and it turns into a goopy (yet still luxurious-tasting) mess. It’s still highly edible at this point, but does not compare to the melty nirvana that is piping hot risotto straight from the pot.

Prep Time: 10 Minutes Cook Time: 30 Minutes Difficulty: Intermediate Servings: 8

8 cups Chicken Broth, Low-Sodium
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
½ whole Medium Onion, Diced
2 whole Red Bell Peppers, Diced
1-¾ cup Arborio Rice
¾ cups Dry White Wine
Salt To Taste
5 ounces, fluid Goat Cheese
½ cups Grated Parmesan
½ teaspoons Turmeric (optional)

Preparation Instructions

Bring broth to a simmer in a medium pan. In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add diced onions and cook until translucent, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add red peppers and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add uncooked rice and stir for a minute or two, allowing it to be coated with the other ingredients.

Pour in wine and cook for a minute or two.

Now, start adding broth a cup to a cup and a half at a time, stirring gently and allowing each addition to absorb into the rice. Repeat for 25 to 30 minutes, or until rice is al dente. (You might not need to use all the broth.)
At the end, stir in a little more liquid and turn off heat. Stir in turmeric if desired.

Add cheeses and stir. Serve immediately!

Go check out Ree Drummond's cooking blog The Pioneer Woman Cooks immediately as well! Some of the dishes are a little meat and dairy-heavy for me personally (being a vegetarian and trying harder to lean vegan every day) but the recipes I *have* used from Ree I visit again and again. My favorite is definitely her Crash Hot Potatoes - seriously, these might make you cry a little. They're kind of ridiculous.

Original recipe found here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/06/crash-hot-potatoes/


Friday, January 15, 2010

Colcannon that is not colcannon. (Egg Noodles with Yellow Pepper Sauce)

Last night was a joint effort in the kitchen, after much exasperated, "I don't know what I want for supper, what do YOU want for supper?"

Well, it turns out while neither of us knew what the hell we wanted for dinner, both of us could definitely get behind a pasta meal, so here was ours - egg noodles with sauteed yellow peppers and onions, mushroom gravy, boiled cabbage with fried onions, steamed snow peas and carrots, and garlic bread with Swiss cheese. It was totally satisfying.

I wanted to do something with the head of cabbage I picked up for 75 cents, because I was under the impression that I hate cabbage by itself and could fix this simple fact with an appropriately elaborate dish. I had aspirations of cabbage rolls, kraut, colcannon, anything but plain old boiled cabbage.

So I found a colcannon recipe that looked good, but I didn't want to make potatoes (since we were already cooking noodles and one starch is plenty). I told R, "I think I'm going to make this colcannon, except that I'm going to leave out the leeks and potatoes and just use the fried onions and butter."

"How do you cook it?" he said.

"You boil it for ten to fifteen minutes, then mix in butter and fried onions and it's done."

"So just like regular boiled cabbage then."

"Right. Not like colcannon at all, really," I replied (a bit sadly).

Colcannon or not, it was hella delicious. Here is how we did it...

Grocery List:
several cups of green cabbage, shredded
one large white or yellow onion, sliced thinly
double handful of snow peas (snap the snow peas in half)
double handful of baby carrots
egg noodles
mushroom gravy (we just used the packet kind 'cause we're lazy)
one large yellow bell pepper (deseeded and sliced)
1-2 cloves garlic, mashed
salt and pepper
butter or margarine
4-6 slices of white bread (or whatever kind of bread floats your boat)
a few handfuls of shredded Swiss cheese
garlic salt

- Saute your yellow pepper, half the onion, and garlic together until tender. While this is cooking, set up a stock pot of water to boil for the egg noodles. Set up a separate pot or Dutch oven with the shredded cabbage, putting about two or three inches of water in the bottom. Bring it to a boil while you saute your pepper mixture.

[Note: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.]

- Boil the cabbage for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Drain (leave a bit of water in the bottom of the pot though) and put in a generous helping of butter - a couple of tablespoons should do it. Salt and pepper that baby and leave it on low to simmer, making sure to stir regularly.

- Put your egg noodles on to boil (they cook fast, so watch them). If your yellow pepper mixture is done, remove it from the pan and start cooking the other half of the onion (this will go in the cabbage).

- While the egg noodles cook, set up a small saucepan and prepare your mushroom gravy according to the directions on the package. Also, set up a pot with a very small amount of water in the bottom and get it to boiling. Once this water is boiling, toss in your carrots and snow peas and cover, then reduce the heat and cook about ten minutes.

- While everything is wrapping up, butter your bread, dash a little garlic salt on it, then sprinkle each slice liberally with the Swiss cheese. Pop it in the oven and it should be out around the same time everything else finishes up.

- When the pasta is finished, drain it and toss in the pepper mixture and mushroom gravy, stirring thoroughly. Mix your fried onions in with the cabbage and stir THAT. Then serve the noodles with steamed vegetables, boiled cabbage, and cheesy bread on the side.

Verdict: Awesome supper. It made a lot of dishes (all those pots!!!) but it was totally worth it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On simplicity (Bean Soft Tacos with Tomato and Avocado Salsa)

I will admit the sordid truth: Hello, my name is Kellye, and I am an over-spicer.

I believe this is a response to my father's training in the kitchen when I was younger; while making spaghetti, he would throw in wine, spices, and all manner of other things into the pot with enthusiasm. My mom, who has simpler tastes and likes her food more bland, was less than enthusiastic.

But I don't like my food bland. I put in every seasoning I can find that will concievably marry well into my dish. My roommate, R., takes an entirely different approach to seasoning.

He's the one who cooked dinner last night, giving me a much-appreciated break. Using his mad quasi-Hispanic skills, he whipped up fresh homemade tortillas (recipe NOT to follow, since he doesn't use one) with mashed kidney beans, quesadilla cheese, Spanish rice, tomato and avocado salsa, and Tofutti's Better Than Sour Cream.

These were seriously the most delicious(and most simple) tacos of my life. When I asked him, "By the good of all that's holy, Batman, what did you put in the tomatoes and avocado?" his response boggled me.

Salt and pepper. That was it. To a kitchen sink vegetarian, this borders on blasphemy.

It was a revelation.

Grocery List:
flour tortillas
a can or two of pinto beans or black beans
2 avocados
white or yellow onion
white rice
vegetable oil
Taco toppings: lettuce, salsa, taco sauce, tomatoes, quesadilla cheese, mock sour cream
a lime or two
salt and pepper
Optional: cumin, taco seasoning, extra chili powder, Coronas (sling 'em if you got 'em)

Simple Soft Tacos:

- Flour tortillas. You can make your own if you have a recipe handy, or you can just pick up a package of them at the store; either way, these will be delicious.

- A can or two of pinto beans or black beans, heated on the stovetop and mashed with a spoon (add spices like cumin or taco seasoning if you want, but I'm pretty sure that R. didn't)

- Avocado and Tomato Salsa: Chopped tomatoes, cubed avocado, and chopped white or yellow onion. Mix it all up good, then add salt and pepper. (THAT'S IT.)

- Any other taco toppings you like: shredded lettuce, sour cream (or mock sour cream), salsa, whichever.

Also integral to this meal is Spanish rice, which is made as so:

- Toast however much white rice you feel like you're going to need, putting a little bit of vegetable oil in the bottom of the pan. Stir the rice in a hot pot (or wok) until the rice begins to brown (but don't let it burn!) When it starts to develop darker brown bits and smells toasty, it's ready.

- Add water (twice as much water as rice), chopped tomato (however much you want in proportion to the rice - we use a few handfuls), chopped white or yellow onion, a dash of chili powder to taste, and a generous squeeze of lime juice. Give this all a good stir and put a lid over it; let it simmer about twenty minutes, or until all the water is thoroughly absorbed. Fluff and masticate!

Assemble however you deem necessary and heartily enjoy. This meal is a Mexican masterpiece!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Product Review: Gourmet Garden Herbs

These things are a little bit pricey, but they're awesomely convenient (no herb chopping! Dump it straight in the pot and/or skillet!) and they last for a long time compared to straight-up fresh herbs.

For future reference, in my recipes whenever I refer to an herb "pureed in a tube" or "chili paste" this is the stuff I'm talking about. We keep Chili, Garlic, Ginger, Italian Herbs, Basil, and Lemongrass on hand, because those are the ones we use most often.

Buy some. Buy them now. :)


Snow Day - Red Pepper and Chile Soup w/ Onion-Mushroom Paninis

Well Saturday it snowed, and the snow stuck for the first time in almost a decade in my part of the world. We sat around all day in our pajamas playing video games and playing with the Two Monks barn cats, which got to come inside for the day to get out of the cold.

To celebrate a lovely lazy snow day (and satisfy our lack of desire to cook anything complicated) we went with soup and sandwiches for dinner. This is a spinoff of "Red Pepper and Chile Soup" from Easy Vegetarian Meals. Of course I totally changed the recipe, 'cause that's the way I roll, yo.

Despite my housemate's belief that I am obsessed with soups, he could not help but gobble this up too. It's that good. Get ready to convert your soup haters. This ain't the Campbell's your momma made ya.

Note: We used a bit too much chili paste in our soup, so it was very hot. Edible, but sweat-breaking-out-on-the-bridge-of-your-nose hot. I reduced the chili paste in this version of the recipe as a result. The addition of the coconut milk (NOT in the original recipe whatsoever) gave the soup a great terra cotta color and cut the chile a bit, but not enough.

Another Note: I think this recipe would be even better if the red bell peppers were roasted first (or if you got roasted red bell peppers from a jar and chucked them in) but we had no jarred bell peppers and we were too hungry/lazy to roast our own. Apologies. Feel free to go the extra mile in my stead - I cook vicariously through you!

Red Pepper and Chile Soup

- 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 red bell pepper (seeded and sliced)
- 2-3 roma tomatoes (sliced)
- 3 cloves of garlic (smashed)
- 1 large white onion
- freshly ground black pepper and salt (to taste)
- 1 tsp. cumin
- dash of dried oregano
- dash of smoked paprika (I'm in love with this stuff)
- 1 1/2 tsp. fresh basil (we used the pureed-in-a-tube kind)
- 1 cup of So Delicious coconut milk
- 1 tsp. chili paste (more or less to taste)
- dash of garlic salt
- dash of white sugar (to balance out the hot/salty flavors)

Onion-Mushroom Paninis
- 8 slices of bread (we used plain old sliced white bread)
- 1 bag of shredded Swiss (or non-dairy equivalent)
- A large handful of button mushrooms (chopped small)
- 1/2 white onion (chopped small)
- glug of olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- enough Earth Balance or other margarine to butter the bread


1. Throw all soup ingredients together in a pot and bring to a boil. Use enough ground black pepper to get a good pretty speckle going on through your soup. Once boiling, reduce heat and add the coconut milk; let this mixture simmer for about 20 minutes.

2. While your soup is coming to a boil, heat up a small skillet and start sauteeing your onions and mushrooms in olive oil for the paninis (med-high heat should be about right). Season well with salt and pepper; you can add other seasonings to them at this point, but we didn't. When all the onions and mushrooms are nice and cooked and caramelized (be sure to give the onions long enough to get transluscent and brown) remove the onions and mushrooms from the skillet and pour any excess olive oil out.

3. Take your soup (which should be ready by now) and let it cool for a few minutes before pouring it into a blender. Pulse until the soup is completely smooth and incorporated. It should be a bright orangey-tan color with flecks of black pepper throughout. Beautiful! Pour the finished soup back in the pot to warm off while you finish making the sandwiches.

4. Assemble the paninis by buttering the bread on the outsides, putting down a layer of cheese, a layer of onion-mushroom mixture, and then another layer of cheese. Start frying these up in your hot oiled skillet, mashing them down a bit with your spatula to get that flatbread look.

5. Once your sandwiches are done, serve it up and eat! Serves two.

We served this meal with Vegan Yum Yum's Chili Almond Asparagus, which is a staple in our household. The link to that recipe is here: http://veganyumyum.com/2009/05/chili-almond-asparagus/

Happy snow day!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Italian Trinity: The Holy Grail of Spaghetti (with Mediterranean Salad and Crunchy Parmesan Garlic Bread)

Spaghetti is one of those recipes which everyone makes a slightly different way. In my house growing up it was the one recipe that was constantly on the receiving end of tweaks and experimentations (alongside beef stroganoff).

This is the Holy Grail of spaghetti. Seriously. It is salty and savory and rich, loaded with artichoke hearts, bell peppers, purple onion. It will make you feel like a member of the mob - you will feel the instant urge to carry a .45 and wear dark trenchcoats. I can just see a pot of it bubbling away on the corner eye of a basement stove in Hell's Kitchen or Little Italy, presiding over a hungry den of scum and villainy.

The recipe was loosely based off of Ree Drummond's Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes. Ree Drummond is The Pioneer Woman, and she is the bomb. Check out her site: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/

I changed this one up a bit though, for several reasons. Pioneer Woman used heavy cream, which I don't EVER have in the house. (Mrs. Drummond would probably think I was nuts.) However, we DID have Tofutti's Better Than Sour Cream, so that's what I used instead. We also added Smart Round vegetarian hamburger because I wanted SPAGHETTI damn it, not some chick artichoke dish. I wanted Marlboro Man spaghetti (except vegetarian - is that an oxymoron?).

And also, just because I can't help myself, I threw in a bazillion new things and changed the cooking methods. Don't be daunted by the sheer number of ingredients - most of them are spices.

PS: This recipe is best served with Crunchy Parmesan Bread and Mediterranean Salad, the recipes for which are both below. Serve the Trinity, it's a rule.

PPS: This spaghetti uses garlic. Tons and tons of garlic. If you are one of those people who thinks garlic is scary, use less I guess. I totally recommend you use the entire batch. Why? It's all roasted, which makes it nutty and mellow and scrumptious. Plus nobody should be afraid of garlic, it's God's gift to the culinary world.

Note: Notice there are no pictures. Pictures are totally what make a food blog, and I realize this because I drool over food blog photos all the time. All that macro yum. But alas, I have no digital camera, and thus you will all have to pull yourselves up by your Depression bootstraps for the time being and use your collective imaginations. Imagine a sauce that Marlon Brando would take intervenously and you sort of have an idea of what we're talking about here.


- 1 purple onion, chopped
- 3-6 cloves garlic, roasted and mashed (depending on how far away you need to stay from vampires)
- 1 roma tomato, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced and diced
- 8 white button mushrooms, sliced (or you could use portobello, I won't judge)
- 1 jar of artichoke hearts, marinated and quartered
- 1 package Smart Round vegetarian burger (or any other meat for you omnivores)
- 1 jar of pasta sauce (I used Prego's Roasted Garlic and Herb)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg (don't be afraid)
- 1 tsp. capers
- 1 large dollop Tofutti's Better Than Sour Cream (or real sour cream)
- 2 spoonfuls of olive bruschetta
- sea salt and pepper
- dash of dried oregano
- dash of smoked paprika
- dash of seasoning salt
- two dashes of garlic salt
- splash of red wine
- 1 1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning (I use the tubed puree)
- 1 1/2 tbsp. basil (I use the tubed puree)

- whichever kind of pasta floats your boat (I used rotini)
- dash of olive oil
- sea salt and ground black pepper

- 1 loaf of French or Italian bread
- 3 tbsp. Smart Balance (or butter)
- liberal amount of Parmesan cheese, grated
- 6 cloves roasted garlic
- sea salt and ground black pepper

- Romaine lettuce (enough for your crew)
- a generous handful of artichoke hearts (I got a second smaller jar just for this purpose)
- 1/2 purple onion, diced finely
- 2 spoonfuls of olive bruschetta
- 2 roma tomatoes, diced
- grated Parmesan to taste
- ground black pepper


1. First things first, preheat your oven to about 350-400 degrees. Take two or three bulbs of garlic (depending on their size) and slice the ends off with a knife, leaving the interior of the garlic bulbs exposed. Put the bulbs of garlic on a baking sheet with a rim and hit the garlic in a few splashes of olive oil, being sure to wet them down as well as possible (you want to keep the garlic moist while it roasts so it doesn't burn and turn yucky). Once your garlic is effectively doused with oil, shove it in the oven and forget about it for awhile. This is the easy part.

2. While your garlic is roasting, put out an iron skillet and set the head to med-high, pouring a little splash of olive oil here too. Toss in your diced purple onion, your mushrooms, and your green pepper, seasoning liberally with salt and pepper. Add your Italian seasoning, your garlic salt, and then let this mix saute for awhile, being sure to give it a stir every once in awhile to make sure it doesn't burn. You want this to cook down really, really well - all caramelized and delicious. Trust me, don't rush. This is spaghetti, it's not a race.

3. While your garlic is roasting and your onion-mushroom-pepper mixture is sizzling, pour your jar of pasta sauce in a large Dutch oven and add chopped tomato, olive bruschetta, artichoke hearts, sour cream, and red wine. Season with the bay leaves, capers, nutmeg, and smoked paprika. Put this pot on low-med (2-3) for awhile, cover it, and forget about it. Stir occasionally to make sure the bottom sauce doesn't get too hot and stick, but you shouldn't have the heat up that high, just high enough to make it bubble a bit.

4. While your garlic is roasting and your onion-mushroom-pepper mixture is sizzling and your sauce is bubbling, you might want to go ahead and make the salad. Tear some Romaine lettuce into forkable pieces, toss in your olive bruschetta, tomato, raw purple onion and your artichoke hearts (pour a generous glug of the artichoke marinade into the salad greens!). Sprinkle some Parmesan on there like the good fairy. There, it's done. Put it aside to marinate and get delicious.

5. Scrape the finished onion-mushroom-pepper mix into the spaghetti sauce. Use the still-hot iron skillet to begin frying up your ground-whatever. I used Smart Round, you use whatever you want. (But if you use animal products, I recommend you drain off the rendered fat when it's finished frying.) Season the "meat" with salt, pepper, seasoning salt, and basil. Once it's finished, toss that in the pot too and stir rigorously. Then leave it alone.

6. Your garlic might be getting close to roasted at this point. You need to check and see. If the garlic is brown and mushy and smells completely awesome, it's ready. If it's not, shove it back in and wait. Try to be patient. (It's hard with this dish.)

7. When your garlic IS roasted, mash it up with a fork and put some in the spaghetti sauce. Reserve the rest for your bread.

8. Go ahead and put on a pot of boiling water now. Season it with salt, pepper, and olive oil. When it's boiling, throw in your noodles. Fish them out when they're done and let them chill in a colander. Hopefully that'll be right about the time you're letting your Parmesan bread cool.

9. Now that we have roasted garlic, it's time to make the Parmesan bread. Slice up your loaf of French bread to 1 in. pieces and butter them. When they are buttered, spread each with a layer of roasted garlic (I aimed for about one largish clove of garlic each.) Now sprinkle lots of Parmesan cheese on top. Be generous. Then salt and pepper those sweethearts. Shove them back in the still-warm oven on the same pan you used to make the roasted garlic, but try and remove some of the garlic "wrapper" from the pan, otherwise it will char and be a straight mess when you bake the bread. Start the bread off at 300 degrees, then blast right before serving at 450 degrees for maximum crunch.

There you have it. Pasta, bread, and salad. The Italian Trinity. This could theoretically serve 6 people, but I'd sort of limit it to 4 or 5, as the sauce is so good I couldn't help eating it by the spoonful to "taste test it" as it cooked, and you KNOW everybody's going to want seconds.

Meal verdict: 5/5 stars. It was scrape-your-plate-with-a-piece-of-bread-to-catch-the-last-little-dribbles-of-sauce good. Definitely one for the books.