Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Summer Salad

It's a little bit sad to have to confess that it's nearly August and this is my first watermelon of the summer. The melons try to woo me at the grocer and the farmer's markets, but they're size makes them so easy to turn down. Yes, yes, I know it's vain to discriminate based on weight, but watermelon simply doesn't fit in my fridge. And if it's just me eating it, that melon will be taking up precious real estate for a long, long time. But with the Aaron and Laura's small group back to its regular schedule, I new I could get rid of at least half the melon in one go.
I made a nice mess of the counter with all the watermelon and tomato juice running together on the cutting board. And I cooked an entire package of bacon while the huskie Megan is watching this week gazed intently--here's hoping that dog can digest bacon (but who's heard of a dog who can't?). I only had one near miss with the bacon when the grease popped and hit my eyelid. Phew.
The salad was a grand success, even if incredibly juicy. Justin descriptively raved about the salad--he even did the shimmy! And his wife, Melissa, asked for the recipe (so here it is). It doesn't seem like you would want to pair watermelon with tomatoes and bacon, but you do you do, you definitely do.
Watermelon-Tomato Salad: by Mark Bittman
(this salad would serve about 10 people, so keep that in mind with portions)
3 cups watermelon, cubed (that was 1/2 of a small melon)
2 medium tomatoes, diced (I used lovely yellow heirlooms)
4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
handful fresh basil, coarsely chopped

For dressing:
1/2 olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or whatever you've got, but probably not balsamic)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine melon, tomatoes, bacon, feta and basil in a large salad bowl and toss to mix. It's going to be super juicy, so you could remove the seeds from the tomatoes to counter that. In a separate, smaller bowl, combine dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour over salad and toss again. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cucumber Salad -- It's Like Pickles!

Megan's boyfriend Eric sent me to the New York Times when he heard I wasn't feeling much like cooking these days. Let me take a moment away from this blog's focus on me to say "thank you" to Eric. The story, by Mark Bittman and called 101 Simple Salads for the Season, is really a list of easy salads that don't involve a lot of standing over the hot stove while it's 100 degrees outside. Bittman reassured me that no one wants to cook soup right now, no one wants a stew, and even though every vegetable and fruit is currently at its peak, all anyone wants is to eat a cold watermelon and spit the seeds as far as they can.
The story is especially good because it gave me a nice list of things to make with the overabundance of cucumbers I currently have growing in my mess of a yard (which thankfully, has been mowed). I was wrong about the cucumbers floundering, it's actually the zucchinis that are struggling along and the cucumbers that are growing a vine up the side of the house. Much to my disappointment. I love zucchini, but the only thing I love about cucumbers are pickles. I cucumbers alright, but we're not in love. But pickles, well, we have quite the romantic history. Fortunately, number 3 on Bittman's list of salads involves cucumbers marinated in vinegar and Dijon mustard, so like pickles without the pain of canning. Cucumber Salad: by Mark Bittman 1 cucumber, thinly sliced 1/4 red onion, julienned (so cut into matchsticks) salt pepper 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard Combine sliced cucumbers and julienned onion with salt and pepper and let sit for 20 to 60 minutes. In a small bowl, combine mustard and vinegar until smooth. Pour over salad and toss to coat.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Roast Chicken

And I've cooked something again. Feels good. Especially when it's something so easy. I came home from work after reading reading reading all day long, and it was nice to do something else. All I did was slather the chicken with butter (and my hands--don't worry, I washed) and then I sat outside on the deck and savored the outdoors. I realize summer is sort of winding down and I need to bask in it. The public pools are closing this weekend and school starts in a couple weeks. But the good thing about summer when you're not in school (and trust me, I need a good thing) is that it lasts as long as you want it to. So my summer goes from May through the end of September.
Roast Chicken: adapted from Amateur Gourmet
3 tablespoons butter, softened and cut into slices
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 stalks of fresh rosemary, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)
1 teaspoon dried sage
salt and pepper
4 chicken legs

Preheat oven to 400. In a small bowl, mash together butter, garlic, rosemary, sage, and salt and pepper. Place chicken legs in a cast iron skillet or roasting pan or whatever you've got. Rub butter all over the chicken, add extra salt and pepper if needed. Bake for 20 minutes in oven. After 20 minutes, turn the heat down to 350 and bake another 25 to 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through, golden brown and crispy on the outside.

Pan-fried Fingerling Potatoes: handful of fingerling potatoes, sliced thinly
olive oil

In a medium skillet on medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Add sliced potatoes, salt and pepper according to taste. Saute until potatoes are tender and cooked through.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fruit Pizza

I confess I have been so distracted lately. I've been recording my experiments in the kitchen for nearly a year now, and I haven't been this preoccupied with things other than food in a long time. First I've gotten some more responsibilities at work. It's been good to be busy copy editing and proofreading--keeps me busy. (For those of you who may be AAA members in Oklahoma, South Dakota and Minneapolis, please be kind when you receive your next mag.) And then there's this boy ... and that's all I'm going to say about it.
Before all that, Megan and I spent a free Saturday bustling around the kitchen. I made the granola, and she made this great fruit pizza. I'm not sure where her inspiration came in, but everyone doubted her. Her mom said that fruit pizza was very difficult to make. And I don't know what Eric said, but he likes to tease her about her cooking. She had a small, insignificant mishap when the cookie dough melted over the sides of the baking tray and burned onto the bottom of the stove. But, as you can see in the top photo, it turned out beautifully. And it only took us two-and-a-half days to finish eating it.
Megan's Fruit Pizza:
For pizza:
1 can of sugar cookie dough

For icing:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For topping:
handful bluberries
handful sliced strawberries
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 kiwi, peeled and sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out sugar cookie dough on a baking sheet. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until cookie is light, golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla and blend with electric mixer until smooth. Once cookie has cooled spread frosting on the pizza. Decorate with fruit. Voila, pretty easy and irresistable.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rosemary and Pine Nute Shortbread

I made some shortbread. It was better than the last time. It has rosemary and pine nuts in it. The End.
Rosemary and Pine Nut Shortbreak Cookies: from Eat, Make, Read 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground pine nuts (or pulsed in a food processor)
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300. Combine flour, pine nuts, rosemary and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, mix butter, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer until smooth-ish. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and continue mixing until consistency is smooth. Plop dough onto a long piece of Seran wrap and mold dough into a log. Roll Seran wrap around the dough and place in the fridge for a while. You're supposed to be able to cut cute little circles out of the dough to make the cookies. That didn't work for me because my dough was too crumbly. I just rolled it out on a cookie sheet and baked it for 15 minutes at 300.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lasagna Roll-ups

It seems I have been way too busy enjoying summer this week to cook or, you know, sleep. I'm tired but happy and waiting for the tomatoes to rippen. In the meantime, enjoy what looks to be my friend Maria's best effort to date--vegetarian lasagna.
There are so many things I love about Kroger (a grocery store you may or may not have in your town). The one I go to in Bloomington, Ind., was recently upgraded, so to speak. It's amazing. It's huge, they have great deals, it feels really clean and new. Their olive bar is amazing. Love it! Every month they send a coupon bookfull of recipes or household tips. This last one was perfect,"Budget-friendly vegetarian possibilities." One of the subheadings is"pack more protein into meatless meals." Seriously, just what I need. Within a week I made two meals from the book.
Growing up we ate lasagna fairly often at my dad's house. It was either pizza, lasagna, spaghetti, spaghetti pie or chicken friedrice. (Which one doesn't fit with the others?) I've only made lasagna once, despite my mom's insistence that it's a great meal to freeze and eat later. This recipe looked easy and the pictures were"cute." Yep, I pick my food based on a cuteness scale.
Vegetable Lasagna Roll-Ups: 6 whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked al dente and drained 1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese 1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided in half 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese 1 egg white, slightly beaten 1 tsp dried parsley 1/2 tsp dried basil freshly cracked pepper, to taste 1 1/2 tsp olive oil 2 cloves garlic, sliced 1/2 cup red pepper, diced 1/2 cup zucchini, diced 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray glass baking dish with cooking spray and lay the noodles across the bottom so they don't stick (use olive oil or cooking spray if necessary). In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, 1/4 cup mozzarella, parmesan, egg white, parsley, basil, and pepper.
Heat a skillet to medium-high heat. Add oil. Saute garlic for 1 minute. Add vegetables (I didn't have red pepper and I added onion)and saute for 3 minutes. Add spinach and saute just until spinach is wilted. Allow mixture to cool, drain well and combine with cheese mixture.
Spoon ricotta filling onto the noodles, leaving about 3 inches of space on each end of the noodle. Roll up the noodles and arrange in glass baking dish. Pour 1/4 cup tomato sauce over each roll-up. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the cover and top with remaining mozzarella cheese and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
Notes: Do NOT ever, ever, ever buy fat free mozzarella cheese. Definitely an accident I will never repeat. It's disgusting. It doesn't even really melt. I love gooey, melty cheese and this certainly was not. In the before and after baking pictures, notice the cheese isn't melted on the top? Yeah, exactly.

Monday, July 13, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow

I don't know why I try to do things like start a garden. There are perfectly good farm stands at which I can buy lovely tomatoes, zucchinis, lettuce, etc. I must love the challenge. And the reward. Though if you can recall last year, the reward for my meager gardening efforts was a single, unripe cherry tomato--harvested just before my tomato plant was stolen. This year, I took a different tactic. I'm obviously not skilled enough to grow something from the seed. So I didn't even try. I planted my seedlings: two tomato plants (one roma, one big boy or whatever they're called), one cucumber plant and one zucchini. This time I planted them in the ground, hopefully not in a part of the yard with toxic remnant traces of lead in the dirt. The govenment came by last year and digged up one half of our yard to remove the lead. Let's just assume that the other half of the yard is lead-free, even if it's far from weed free.

As you can see, this half of the yard is where the snakes hide. It is a vertible forest. If Wayne Szalinski's shrunken kids got lost in this or any part of our dissheveled yard, they'd be goners. There aren't any scorpions, but there are very, very large garter snakes and chiggers and probably an opossum and a couple raccoons. But Lord are there chiggers. For all my life I harbored under the assumption that there are no chiggers in Nebraska. I was wrong wrong wrong. I have to spray myself with deet-laced bug spray before stepping foot in the grass. A week ago, I pulled a few weeds and wope, another infestation ... because I hadn't sprayed my arms.

Needless to say, I haven't been too excited to water the plants lately. Not only has there been almost no produce to speak of, I risk onslaught by vertibrates and invertibrates alike. But I do it, tiptoeing on the retaining wall that separates the part of the yard I weeded two months ago from the rest. Check out the photo below and get a feeling for the diversity of weeds present and flourishing.

Below is the zucchini plant, which is going crazy. I just harvested the first zucchini from the plant last night. There are little flowers all over and not very many gherkin-sized squashes growing in their place. But I have faith that I'll have more zucchinis than I'll know what to do with.

Then there's the cucumber plant, which is an absolute mystery to me. It's huge. It's flowering. There are no cucumbers. For a second I thought I had to find a boyfriend or girlfriend for my plant. Apparently that's not true; the flowers just need to be germinated by some bees. I have no idea, I just want so many cucumbers that I'm forced to make pickles. Tomatoes=summer. The tomatoes are the biggest disappointment thus far, because I know that no matter how many tomatoes my plants produce, I will eat them all, and because my tomato flowers have yet to turn into a fruit ... until last night. It rained over the weekend so I didn't go down to check out the plants. But last night I went down and noticed that, indeed, I had two teeny, tiny green bulbs growing out of my Roma tomato vine. Victory will be mine this summer my friends, victory will be mine.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Maybe I'll write something later. In the meantime, you should make this granola.
Whatever you do, do not forget pistacios.
Granola: from Sprouted Kitchen 2 tablespoons butter 1/4 cup brown sugar 2 tablespoons honey 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce 1 tablespoon vanilla 3 cups oats 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (couldn't find these at the grocer, totally fine without) 3/4 cup pistacios (the best part, don't forget these) 1 cup raw slivered almonds 2 tablespoons cinnamon 1 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 cup raisins Preheat oven to 325. In a skillet, melt the butter, brown sugar, applesauce, honey and vanilla on medium-low heat until it's of a smooth consistency. Turn off heat.
Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl, combine oats, all the nuts, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter mixture to the oat/nut mixture, stirring to coat. Spread the granola out on a baking sheet or pan of just about any size. Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Remove and stir. Place back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Remove and stir again. Bake for a final 15 minutes. Mix raisins in with granola while warm.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More Blueberries

Here we go again, more blueberries. You can see the nuances of my obsessiveness even in what I eat. I find something I like and I get as much of it as I possibly can until I'm practically sick of it or it starts to feel trapped--or in the case of food, it goes out of season. I do it when I buy a new album; I do it when I get new clothes; and even in the history of this blog I've obsessed over squash, mushrooms, almonds, cranberries, marsala and now blueberries. These are all moves I will never regret. And this cake just might be the pinnacle of my experimentation in blueberries.
The recipe was featured in Gourmet's July issue, and I sort of just passed over it, until I saw it on the blog Cucina Nicolina. It's funny, for those of you not fully entrenched in the world of the food blog, but I get a lot of inspiration from seeing what other people make on their blogs. I have a number of cookbooks and magazines at home filled with great recipes, but for whatever reason I see these things as if in real time and I think: "Oh yeah, that looks good. I can totally make that." Whereas when Jamie Oliver publishes a new cookbook, I gaze longingly at the pages of beautifully photographed, delicious food with inspirational recipes to go along with and I love it, but I also think "What the hell are courgettes and when am I ever going to eat a lamb shank for dinner?" Not kidding. When I bought the Jamie at Home cookbook, I went through and googled quite a list of ingredients I had never heard of--only to discover courgettes is British for zucchini.
In that vein, this cake requires no less than four mixing bowls. But it's totally doable. And completely delicious. I made it to take to Aaron and Laura's tonight, but I'm pulling this trick where I pre-cut the cake so no one will know that Megan and I already ate a couple pieces. We were in the kitchen last night licking the beaters, spatula and bowl. This cake--moist, sweet and addictive.
Coming up next on Food Eaten I'll finally make granola with the help of Sprouted Kitchen and I'll have a go at these green beans from Food Loves Writing. And later I'll ponder why I never cook with meat.
Blueberry Streusel Cake: adapted from Gourmet
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 stick cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch slices
almonds (just a suggestion)

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt (Gourmet suggests sour cream)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 stick softened butter
1 egg
3 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 350. Gourmet suggests lining a 9x9 pan with aluminum foil, which I did not do but now realize it was to pull the cake cleanly out of the pan without it crumbling.

For streusel topping, combine flour, sugars and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter and blend using a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine yogurt and vanilla. In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter together with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the egg and beat until smooth. Alternately combine flour and yogurt mixtures to the batter beating until smooth each time until completely incorporated. Be sure to taste batter frequently--just to make sure it's OK. Using a spatula, stir blueberries into the batter.

Pour batter into your pan. Gourmet suggests using a 9x9. I used a 9x12-inch pan because I need to feed (potentially) a lot of peope--I'm trying to trick them into thinking they're getting a large piece of dessert. If you use a 9x12-inch pan, you won't need to bake it as long.

Resume pouring batter into pan. Top the batter with 1/2 of the crumbled streusel. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and add the remaining streusel to the cake and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes in a 9x9-inch pan or 15 to 20 minutes in a 9x12-inch pan. Just bake until it's cooked through.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Blueberry Orange Loaf

I could eat berries as if they were candy, staining my fingers red, blue and violet. And lately, I sort of have been. I've been pouring blueberries and strawberries on my Kashi cereal every morning. I've made tarts, gazed longingly at muffins, put them on salads. I have great plans for the blueberries, cherries and strawberries taking up an inordinate amount of space in my fridge and freezer. I'm thinking of crepes, crumbles and granola. And also quick bread, pulled straight out of the oven and eaten with a pad of melted butter on top.
Blueberry Orange Loaf: 2 cups flour 1 cup sugar 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 egg, beaten 3/4 cup milk or half and half 1/4 cup cooking oil 1/4 cup orange juice 1 cup blueberries 3/4 cup chopped and blanched almonds 2 tablespoons orange zest Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, beat together milk, egg, oil and orange juice (in that order so the milk doesn't curdle). Form a well in the dry mixture. Pour wet mixture into dry and combine until barely moistened.
In a small bowl, combine blueberries, almonds and orange zest. Stir together with 1 tablespoon flour. Add to batter and stir until just combined, be careful not to overwork the batter. Pour into greased 8x4 loaf pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes until cooked through.