Thursday, October 30, 2008


Food Network Review:

That new Chef Jeff show is so absolutely ridiculous. And offensive. Holy cow. But you should watch it and share my outrage. THEY ARE INJECTING STRAWBERRIES WITH STRAWBERRY FLAVOR. THE HEAD CHEF CUT HIS FINGER REALLY BADLY. LEARN SOME KNIFE SKILLS! COME ON!

I feel like a crazed sports fan, but the team I support is "hating food network TV personalities with no credentials." I'm looking at you, too, semi-homemade with Sandra Lee.

fire hazard pizza

Well, this was a Moosewood pizza, which means that it is ugly as sin and kind of not as tasty as you would want it to be. But it did give me the opportunity to roast some peppers, which was good fun. So here we go:

If you have a gas stove, a grill, a campfire, or a pile of burning trash in your "rapidly gentrifying" neighborhood, gerry-rig some skewers or stick a big fork in a red (yellow, orange) pepper. Plunge it into the flames! My kind of recipe. Char, baby, char. Rotate it so that even the nooks and crannies get blackened and the whole thing gets shriveled and pathetic.

Plop it into a bowl and cover with saran wrap OR put it in a paper bag and roll it shut.

When you're done and all the peppers are just a crusty, steamed, withered shade of their former selves, take all the peppers out and rub the skins off, rinse 'em quickly and chop them into strips, throwing away stems and seeds.

Use them asap as a salad, sandwich, pasta, pizza topping OR put them in a jar covered with olive oil and chopped garlic; they can live in the fridge for a few weeks.

if you want to make pizza:

one big onion or two small onions or a few leeks (we used leeks, but you couldn't really taste them and leeks are such a superstar that they really deserve to be the star)
two shallots
a handful of fresh basil
two roasted red peppers
feta cheese... or mozzarella or both

Obviously pizza recipes are pretty foolproof. The Moosewood version had tomatoes: our pizza was super soggy, so I would leave them out.

Chop and fry the onion and shallots, then carmelize. If they get a little burnt that's just part of the charm.

Now add the basil and let it wilt.

Spread your dough (from the pizza place, grocery store, your freezer because one time you went on a bender and made your own) and put it on the back of a cookie sheet.

Top the pizza with the carmelized onions and basil and pepper strips and feta cheese. Yum.

20 minutes &

Monday, October 27, 2008

"why the hell did i make this galette?" galette

I got too inspired by smittenkitchen from my cooking blogroll at work-- she posted a cabbage and mushroom galette, and we just happened to have a lot of cabbage and mushrooms kicking it in the fridge needing to be eaten before I can cook some EXCITING, NEW PRODUCE. Yeah, I live in the suburbs, new produce in the fridge is exciting, what about it?

Anyway, it's been a long day, I'm listening to Johnny Cash, started cooking after work, then went to spinning class and a family friend who is sitting shiva and ate a buttload of delicious noodle kugel and tried to pretend like I am a respectable adult. So we come back and I am full and tired and finishing this thing is a serious slog. But it was so delicious at midnight and the ingredients are cheap and the end result is actually kind of healthy, believe it or not. Kind of a psycho weekday project, but I bet this free-form tart would be simply the most impressive thing at your vegetarian thanksgiving potluck.

Not really a great weeknight meal mushroom and cabbage galette

from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone via SmittenKitchen.

Yeah, here's another thing-- we had this cookbook in our apartment for three years and the only thing I ever cooked out of it was kale with red pepper flakes. And then I got home and realized that the reason the recipe seemed kind of intuitive and easy was that it is exactly the same way my mom cooks greens. Basically, that cookbook is mad fussy and needlessly pretentious for lazy (normal?) homecooks, and so is this savory tart. But its not actually so hard, especially if it is for a dinner party.

First you gotta make some savory dough. The dough I made kind of sucked, but I guess it was my fault for adding the recommended 1/4 cup of water when the dough was already downright gooshy. And it redeemed itself in the end, mostly.

Try this one:

Or buy a pie crust from the store, I won't judge you.

Ok, so the filling is actually freakin delicious.

An onion
A box of mushrooms (the cheap kind)
A handful of dried fancy pants mushrooms (which I havent used since that time Shira bought a massive bagful from the Asian convenience store and they looked nasty and awful... but having them on hand is actually awesome and I would recommend it)(or, if you listen to Veg Cooking for Everyone, buy a whole mess of fancy fresh mushrooms for like a million dollars.)
A head of cabbage
Thyme, tarragon, and dill
A hard-boiled egg (or not)
1/4 cup sour cream

Oven to 400 degrees

Chop and cook up the onion and mushrooms until they are getting all carmelized and happy. And save the dried mushroom water, if you aren't in the habit.

Throw in the cabbage (finely chopped) and a hearty pinch of salt and a shake of each of the herbs (or the chopped fresh herbs, if you are
really trying to impress some hot vegetarian at the vegetarian potluck and it's worth the trip to the grocery store for ya).

Add like half a cup of the mushroom water. Oh yeah, that's good stuff.

Cook until mushy-- like 15 or twenty minutes? If it's sloppy, drain some of those yummy drippings and throw a quarter cup of sour cream in there. And the chopped hardboiled egg, if you actually took the time to do that step.

Pam the hell out of a cookie sheet and spread/roll out the pie crust. Artistically heap the filling in the middle and fold up the edges around the filling.

Bake at 400 for around 40 minutes.

Impress your friends and loved ones.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

cheese crackers

Nothing makes you feel like a do-gooder hippie like making your own snack foods. I guess this is all rooted in the make your own granola phase, except that making crackers really is, actually, pretty damn easy and you don't have to wash honey out of your hair or hum the Grateful Dead as you toast the oats or whatever. Crackers are the answer. Cheese crackers are only slightly more involved, because you have to use or food processor or get your hands in there to integrate the butter. But, as they say,

Jenna: Dennis is like those off-brand Mexican Cheetos.
Liz: My Sabor de Soledad? I only have Spanish delis in my neighborhood.
Jenna: You know those are bad for you. But you keep stuffing them in your mouth. Because you know it’s easier than eating well.

Make your own snack food, feel in charge of your life.

Cheese Crackers

1 cup flour
4 tbs butter (half a stick)
2 cups or so shredded cheese (from a bag or grate your own) (half a pound)
pinch salt
pinch mustard (or cayenne pepper)

--Preheat yer oven to 450 degrees
--Grate the cheese, if you are using a big block of Costco cheddar or whatever.
--Mix the flour and butter using a food processor (fah!) or your fingers
--Add the cheese, make a dough
--It will be pretty crumby, but if its seriously too dry to clump into a unified ball, you can add a spoonful of water.
--Press it down in a thin layer on a baking sheet, cut into snack sized straws. Throw some coarse salt on there.
--6 minutes and you're done.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Back from the dead! Kind of. I made a really delicious and impressive looking tarte tatin, but the "fancier" "in focus" photos got lost in the ether, so you kind of have to trust me.

There was a request from the peanut gallery up in Newton for scientific cookie analysis. I do you one better! Shortbread recipes always make a reasonable amount of cookies and the ingredients are mad convenient, if you are "into having a couple pounds of butter around." Also shortbread are very sophisticated cookies and will make you feel inspired to say everything with a British accent. Mostly just lines from the Harry Potter movies. Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts!

Shortbread Cookies

(ala Mark Bittman)

1/2 lb butter, softened
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch (leftover from those home science experiments)
3/4 cup sugar
an egg yolk (I bet the whole egg would fly if you cook them longer)
a little salt
EXTRAS: Add chopped crystallized ginger and a serious pinch of ginger. Or chocolate cookies. Or rosemary, if you are feeling herbal. Better yet, add each of these to chunks of the dough as you press them into the pan, like a variety pack.

--Preheat the oven to 300
--Leave the butter on the counter, go watch Dancing with the Stars

--Oh right, I said I would make cookies
--Softened? Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg.
--Add the flour and cornstarch and a pinch of salt. Blend.
--Is that all? Yes. Except that you can add some stuff now, if you are making a variety pack.
--Press the mixture(S) into a greased cake pan of some kind. Here's the beauty-- no matter what, you'll end up with pretty much only cookies & a cookie snack for your crew, not enough cookies for IRRESPONSIBLE COOKIE SNACKING. Good heavens. 8x8 is right on; a loaf pan will make less cookies, but they will be kind of hefty.
--Check up after half an hour, but it might take 40 minutes or so.
--Snack attack!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

zucchini bread

I KNOW. Enough already. But zucchini bread is just so delicious, and the only zucchini at stop & shop was sold in sets of two in styrofoam. and it was organic. sweet, sweet irony.

Anyways, it also gives me an excuse to crack open my new copy of beard on bread. Everything I've baked from that book is awesome. If you don't have two loaf pans (and I don't blame you) you can pour the other half of the batter into muffin cups and make little individual tea cakes for your next tea party. Or snacking. Or when you are too lazy to find a knife to slice your zucchini bread.

zucchini tea bread

adapted from beard on bread

3 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini (about a zucchini and a half's worth. two zucchinis would be delicious. I used some summer squash too, no sweat)
3 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. cinnamon (or some nutmeg, allspice...)
some nuts, I guess, if you aren't me

Preheat the oven to 350.

This is really easy in a standing mixer, but I guess that's just the upshot of living in yer mamma's basement.

Grate the zucchini. Don't bother peeling it, those green flecks in the bread make you feel so healthy!

Beat the eggs until frothy. Add sugar, oil, zucchini, and vanilla. Mix it up.

Now add the dry stuff, trying not to end up with nasty baking powder clumps or anything like that.

Grease your pan(s). If you have ONE loaf pan and NO muffin tin and you forgot to halve the recipe or you really want to have mini zucchini tea cakes, you can get these metal cupcake wrappers that stand up on their own on a cookie sheet-- crisis averted.

Pour the batter into the greased pans and bake for an hour. The little muffin guys will be done after like half an hour or so. Just stick a fork in, you know the drill. Better yet, put them in the oven, remember that you have to pick your boyfriend up two towns over, make his parents drop him off, give them the wrong exit, end up driving around in circles for twenty minutes, make it home AS THE TIMER RINGS.

Have a cup of tea and watch the leaves turn. Ahhhh.

Friday, October 3, 2008

polenta pie

Otherwise known as: how I learned to stop worrying and eat tomato sauce. I'm not really one for tomato sauce... something about the fact that it always goes moldy if it comes from a jar and is always too sloshy if its made from tomatoes.

Also, this dish gives me an excuse to push polenta, the heartiest, easiest grainy-side dish ever... even (especially?) the non-instant kind.

First, let's make some TOMATO SAUCE. Maybe you already know how to do this because your loving grandmother in Umbria showed you how... I had to look it up in How to Cook Everything, so sue me. But the gist is pretty easy, probably all those grandmas add is love.

1. Chop & fry an onion (in olive oil, duh. Some garlic, too.

2. Plop in some tomatoes. If they are from a big ole can, none of that extra liquid business! If they are from a vine, feel impressed with yourself. Then realize that you will need kind of a LOT of tomatoes, like 6, and squeeze out some of the liquid before you throw them in.

3. Wait until it turns into tomato sauce, squishing the tomatoes with your spoon. Add oregano, basil, salt, pepper.

Donesies. Not a pasta fan? Me either.

Let's make POLENTA.

4 cups stock or salty water or a combo
1 cup polenta

HERE'S THE THING. Apparently it takes your Umbrian grandma like an hour to cook real, creamy polenta. My polenta isn't buttery soft but it only takes me like 15 minutes to make. Time is money, if I really wanted buttery soft polenta I would just go to Arte Cafe or the late L'Impero or somewhere else I only go to during restaurant week or when its my birthday. If you use the instant kind of polenta, it's actually done the second you pour the corn into the liquid, but it is kind of bland and costs more. If you keep stirring over medium heat, it only takes cornmeal (like Goya style, should set you back 2 bucks or less) a few minutes to cook anyway.

Boil the stock. Lower the temperature.
Slowly slowly pour in the polenta (isn't this called a slurry?) and stir until it gets thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Take it off the heat sooner than you think you need to-- it'll firm up a bit on its own. Parmesan cheese and mushrooms are polenta's best friends.


If you are using the polenta to make pie or pizza or something, spread it at the bottom of an oven-proof dish or pan. Layer on lots of pasta sauce, leftover cooked veggies, whatever you your heart desires. But its delicious with just the sauce. Then cheese (mozzarella, but again, this recipe is awesome and open ended). 15 minutes at 400 should do it. If today isn't casserole day or you have the energy to actually prepare a main course, scoop the polenta under some delicious sauteed vegetables/delicious Italian sausage as a side grain. I have had polenta with sausage and broccoli rabe at a couple of restaurants and it is eminently do-at-home-able. Onward and upward!


A special request!

Roasted vegetables that you can eat with couscous and bring to work the next day. Sounds like ratatouille... which for whatever reason I have never eaten. What? Didn't I even get a little hungry for it after watching the adorable movie? Don't I eat more zucchini than anyone else I know? Can't everyone cook?

Yeah, but it always seemed like kind of a hassle.

Well, here's the scoop. Ratatouille is a hassle. Start cooking this bastard yesterday. Ratatouille is not a 30 minute meal, or even a 1 hour meal. BUT if you've got time on your hands or want to practice your knife skills (???) or you just got the movie again on netflix and it made you feel culinary or want to feed yourself for like a week on a few dollars worth of veggies, hell yeah.I should note that this is a fake-o version, which my mother says in no way resembles Julia Child's ratatouille. But it is delicious and does look like the one in the movie. Disney knows what's up.


1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 eggplant
1 red pepper, if you're not red pepper averse like me
4 tomatoes (canned or not, whatever, even tomato sauce will work)
a head of garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
herbes de provence (what? you don't know what herbes de provence are, you philistine? ok. rosemary, fennel, savory, thyme, basil, tarragon, dill weed, oregano, lavender, chervil and marjoram. or a mix from the grocery store, obviously.)

Preheat the oven to 400

Get married and put a classy Williams Sonoma mandoline on your registry. Or chop the eggplant into "paper-thin" slices. If you hate eggplant like me, you should salt it: rub the slices with lots of salt and let it hang out in a colander until you need them. They will release a lot of water and taste less nasty.

Now chop the squashes. Paper-thin, right? Hahahaha.

If you are using whole tomatoes, cut them into slices. Otherwise, put a sturdy layer of tomato at the bottom of an oven-proof dish. Scatter the garlic cloves in there. Throw in some olive oil and herbes de provence.

Then wash the salt off the eggplant and wring out (hands-on!) and make a nice arrangement of all your rondeles. Pour a serious glug of olive oil on top and sprinkle some more herbes de provence.

Pop that baby in the oven and set a timer for ONE FULL HOUR.

Microwave yourself some fake chicken patties to tide yourself over. Quorn! Soy-free!

Serve with some kind of grain/ cheese. Polenta + mozzarella = not French, but delicious. Recipe for polenta to follow!

Over at the real cooking blog smittenkitchen, Deb has some good ideas for what to do with the leftovers (uh, besides eating them).