Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Alternative Spaghetti and Meatballs

I knew I was saving a post from Maria for a good occasion. To be dramatic, my life is in total upheaval. To be realistic, I'm busy packing up for a move this weekend. Meg and my apartment was broken into a couple weeks ago, and for the moment, we are in diaspora. I'm at my parents' in the burbs, she's with Eric (and his two roommates). We travel back and forth spending a couple hours here and there sifting through piles of belongings and packing things in boxes. I've cooked maybe twice in the past two-and-a-half weeks, I even took photos, but I can't find the right cords or the memory card, I run out of underwear every other day it seems, and I've been wearing the same pair of jeans and five T-shirts for 20 days. But here is one thing that keeps me sane: food. I'm plotting out jamming some strawberries and making shepherd's pie and boeuf bourguignon and biscotti and and and. Sigh. This weekend. Meanwhile, enjoy this health-minded meal straight from Maria over in Indiana.

This is another recipe from the awesome Kroger coupon and recipe book. I'd never had spaghetti squash but remembered reading about it here on Food Eaten. I decided to give it a try. Kroger, sadly, only had one squash left. It had a few blemishes on the outside but it turned out to be perfect on the inside. I was a little nervous about the directions. I remembered Lainey saying she'd cooked hers in water, but this called for baking. I called my mom for advice, but she'd never used spaghetti squash. It ended up working well. But once again, I had to the use cardboard mozzarella cheese. This recipe originally called for meatless meatballs, but I love my turkey meatballs.

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatball Marinara 1 large spaghetti squash Turkey meatballs 1 jar marinara sauce Optional assorted vegetables (I was too hungry by the time I was doneto make extra veggies) Grated Parmesan cheese Mozzarella cheese to taste Preheat over to 350 degrees. Slice spaghetti squash in half. (I wish I had a video of this, it's not as easy as it sounds. Thoses uckers are tough!!!) Use a spoon to scrape out seeds and pulp, discard. Place squash halves face down on a foil covered pan and bakef or 1 hour. While squash is cooking, prepare turkey meatballs (see early blog post). When squash is done cooking, gently scrape the meat out of the squash with a fork and place in a baking dish. It really is magic, as Lainey pointed out. Top with marinara sauce, meatballs, mozzarella cheese and optional sauteed vegetables. Return to over just until warmed through and cheese is melted (unless you have fat free which will never melt). Top with Parm and enjoy!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Farmer's Market Madness

In a spirit of getting back to normal, I am making a point of going to the Old Market Farmer's Market this Saturday, even though I won't be able to buy anything. Toyota is sponsoring an event this weekend that will join 12 local chefs with 12 local growers to provide free samples to visitors. Their PR person told me there will be prizes, and anyone who test drives the new Prius gets a free cutting board! I have a feeling it's going to be nuts down there. So actually, if you're reading this, don't go. More for me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Spicy Tomato Pasta

Don't you just want to scarf down this bowl of all things delicious in the world (i.e. tomatoes and garlic)?! My mom and I look forward to the couple months out of the year during which tomatoes are not only edible but completely glorious. I know some people abhor tomatoes (ahem, dad, Zach), but I am convinced it's because they've only ever eaten bad tomatoes. Same goes for fish, mushrooms, and everything else except prime rib. Who has ever heard of a good prime rib?

Back in Atlanta, Craig and I were brainstorming about how we could impress his friends with a stunning meal. Had to be summery. Had to be awesome. And this was no time to bust out an improvised dinner of scorched squid salad with wheatberries for the first time on unsuspecting neighbors--though, come to think of it, that would have been fun.

My mom discovered this recipe in Martha Stewart Living several years ago (while I was living in Kirksville) and called me directly to share it. Mom made it every day for a week straight. And I followed suit. All elements in this meal bring out the flavor of the tomato: the chili-infused oil and the garlic add spiciness, the basil and oregano give it whatever herbs give so I'll use a generic term like "aroma," and the parmesan adds salt and creaminess and the overall awesomeness that is parmesan cheese.

We also made the watermelon-tomato-bacon salad--I've made it three times in less than a month and my mom is still convinced it's weird (my plan is to convert her with a surprise attack on Labor Day).
To amp up the meat we had the bacon for the salad and salami with baguettes and soft goat cheese. We made the Winning Hearts and Minds Cake for dessert and Biz and Boone brought homemade peanut butter ice cream (woah!). We spent the remainder of the night playing Apples to Apples until I was practically falling asleep on the floor and until Craig won.
Pasta with Tomato Sauce: from Marth Stewart Living 1 cup olive oil 2 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes 6 medium tomatoes, diced 4 garlic cloves, chopped 1 tablespoon dried oregano 1 tablespoon dried basil or 1 cup fresh basil kosher salt pepper 1 pound spaghetti or fusilli pasta parmesan cheese for serving At least two hours before serving, make pepper-infused oil. In a small bowl or glass, combine red pepper flakes and 1/2 cup olive oil and let stand at room temperature for at least two hours and up to two days.
In a large bowl, combine diced tomatoes, garlic, oregano, basil, salt, pepper and plain olive oil. Toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 1 to 8 hours.
Fifteen minutes before serving, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and toss with tomato sauce. Serve with parmesan cheese and drizzle with chili-infused oil.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Craig and Fajitas

Craig and I go way back to freshman year of college. That's like seven years ago. We've been through thick and thin. We went to Europe together back in '04. I even (mercifully) didn't murder Craig in cold blood on a train to Naples when we went several hours out of our way so Craig could visit Monte frickin' Cassino. Now Craig lives in Atlanta with David, Bump (the chihuahua) and their friend Jenn, and I never ever get to see him. But thanks to a long flight to Africa that bumped me just over the requirement for qualifying for a free flight on United, I was able to go visit Craig in his brand new house. We did all sorts of fun stuff, like swim in the Chattahoochee River, visit a GIANT farmer's market, go to the High Museum and watch the season finale to So You Think You Can Dance. We even managed to cook a few times.
I cook so often by and for myself, I forgot how nice it is to cook with people.
I took care of the chicken: chopping, marinating, making love to, etc. Craig covered the guacamole and salsa, using some of his mom's Tastefully Simple tricks. Craig finished it off by sauteing the chicken and serving it up, while I whined about a cut on my foot to David who was plesantly simpathetic.
Chicken Fajitas: serves 4, from Food and Wine
2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 green bell pepper, also cut into strips
1/2 onion, sliced and separated into similarly sized slices
1 tablespoon cornstarch (we actually used flour)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup water
juice from 1/2 a lime
olive oil
grated cheese, sour cream, salsa and/or guacamole to garnish

In a resealable plastic bag, toss, chicken, vegetables, spices, flour and water. Place in refrigerator for at least 10 minutes to marinate. Remove from fridge and saute on stovetop on medium heat using olive oil. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Cook until chicken is cooked through. Serve with warmed fajitas and cheese, sour cream, salsa and guac to garnish.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Green Beans and Bad Dreams

I had such a nice weekend. Last week I went to Atlanta (using up some frequent flier miles) to visit Craig and David and their lovely friends. Sunday I was home and napping and waiting for Zach to get home by 10:30 a.m. I passed the time by shopping with Meg, getting groceries and baking chocolate chip cookies. I made dinner: One of my favorite pasta dishes and these vinegar-mustard green beans straight out of the latest Gourmet. Zach and Meg and I sat around in our sunroom/dining room until we had to clean up. Then we watched a movie. Eventually Zach went home and we went to bed. Then Megan woke me up at 3:30 in the morning. Or maybe something else woke me up just before. For whatever reason it's more frightening to write about what happened than to tell it. But the cold fact is that someone broke into our apartment. Someone climbed up on our deck, opened our unlocked kitchen window and crawled in. The someone didn't take anything and left when Meg woke up. Here's a link to the story on the news: (keep in mind this station is notorious for dramatizing events).
But green beans and pasta and chocolate chip cookies and cold beer all happened before the night. It had rained all day and the sun was just barely peaking through the clouds. The green beans were all that I love about vegetables, which is to say crisp and vinegar-y. Though they weren't as good as the green beans at Marta's last week or the green beans from Africa. But good enough.
Green Beans: from Gourmet 1 pound haricots verts 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped salt pepper fresh parsely leaves In a medium bowl, mix vinegar, mustard, onions, salt and pepper and marinate in fridge for at least 10 minutes.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil on the stovetop. Boil green beans for 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to stop from cooking. Toss with vinegar dressing. Garnish with parsely.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

A couple weeks ago my mom and little sister Emily went to Philadelphia to visit my Aunt Michelle and four cousins, Lucy, Caleb, Brigham and Charlie. It was their consolation prize for missing out on Africa. They saw the Liberty Bell, went to the Jersey shore, saw Harry Potter and visited "the best farmer's market I've ever seen" (according to my mother). The market is within walking distance of my aunt's house in Wayne, Pa., something which makes my mom incredibly jealous. But what Michelle doesn't know is that my mom's house is within smelling distance of a bread factory--take that! The best buy from their trip to the market was 1 pound of Amish bacon. My mom has been bragging about her stash since she got back. She's been hording it in the freezer until the moment when her tomatoes turn from green to juicy red so she can make big ol' BLTs.
What I take from the photos is that this farmer's market sells the home crafted foods and knick-knacks that touristy stores in towns sell in stores with fake wood floors--except here it's for real and people actually need and use this stuff. Grumpy Greek men don't sell cartons of marinated olives at Cracker Barrel.
Here are the cousins enjoying a not-completely-uneventful day at the beach in Cape May, N.J.