Thursday, June 9, 2011

Green Tomato Salsa

Jesse and I discovered the magic of green tomatoes last spring. I know, we're late to the game, but in our defense, we live in New England - up here, people just kind of wait for them to ripen. Blame it on Yankee stubbornness, I guess. Regardless, we were desperate for tomatoes last spring and when Beth's set out a pile of green ones, we decided that unripe tomatoes were better than no tomatoes, and resolved to figure something out. A few hours, some Googling and a pot of hot oil later, we entered "The Summer of the Fried Green Tomato," and never looked back.

Green tomatoes showed up at Beth's again last week, and after making the requisite batch of fried green babies (recipe forthcoming), we decided to try something new. It was fish taco night - oh, I live for fish taco night - and running out to the store for salsa would break our "no store between grocery trips" rule. So, we got creative with the leftover green tomato, and an almost-ripe hydroponic* one we had languishing on the sill. Some homemade tortillas, pan-fried haddock and a dollop of sour cream, and we were happy campers!

 Green Tomato Salsa
This is, of course, a very adaptable recipe. Add a chopped chili for some spice, toss in cumin or fresh corn, sub vinegar for the lemon juice - salsa loves to be fiddled with.

1 large green tomato
1 small ripe tomato (or ripe-ish)
1/2 red onion, diced
Small bunch cilantro, chopped - we used some we had frozen from last summer
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of one lemon
Sea salt to taste

If you can, let the salsa sit a few minutes before serving.


*Is it just me, or are hydroponic tomatoes a terrible idea? To me, tomatoes taste like the soil - they're warm and flavorful and rich. Hydroponic ones, for some reason, always seem to be lacking that. They look like tomatoes, but that seems to be where the similarities end. There's a local tomato operation that grows hydroponically year-round and we break down occasionally and buy one because, gosh, it's such a LONG stretch between tomato seasons! But we always regret it because, sigh, it's just not the same. End ramble.  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Spring Egg Salad

There is absolutely nothing fancy about egg salad. I don't care how you dress it up, whether you smoosh caviar or sriracha or gold leaf into it, or serve it on baguettes or those fancy crackers with the seeds - it's still egg, smashed with something creamy. It is peasant food. And I love it.

Egg salad is one of those things that people have a very immediate reaction to - you either fancy it, or think it's totally disgusting. No one likes to have people wrinkle their nose at your lunch - it's just not nice, and kind of ruins the experience. As such, I spent years avoiding my true love for it, refusing to pack it in my school lunch or order it at the deli.

But you know what? I don't care anymore! I am emerging from the egg salad closet, head held high, proclaiming for all the world to hear - "yum."

One thing I like about egg salad is how flexible it is - you can use mayo or yogurt, mix in mustard or chives or walnuts, smear it on bread or crackers or dip into it with pretzels. It's very fickle-person friendly. Also, it's filling, and when chasing a school full of teenagers, and a house full of toddler, it's easy to forget to eat, so your meals should be as filling as possible.

I find myself making egg salad weekly these days. We go through a lot of eggs in our house - almost two dozen a week, often more. When picky toddler syndrome strikes, Miles can always be counted on to devour an omelet, and Jesse likes to take boiled eggs to work as a snack - or maybe to ward off sensitive-nosed students when he wants a little peace and quiet. Since it stores well in the fridge, I make a batch with a half dozen eggs all at once, and then it's there, waiting for me, lovingly.

My last egg salad was especially pleasant - I tossed in some diced onion, some fresh chives from the garden, and pulled up our first couple radishes and tossed those in, too. They gave it a bright little crunch, and also looked mighty pretty. Which is important.

A couple notes on egg salad:
1. Older eggs peel more easily. I don't know why, it's probably scientific, but they do.
2. Peeling eggs when they're hot is a lot easier than after they're cool. Also for some sciency reason I don't know.
3. Don't smash the eggs up too small. We don't want egg puree (blech).
4. Start with a tiny bit of binder (mayo, yogurt, etc) and then add on. Soupy = gross.

Spring Egg Salad
Fills 3-4 sandwiches
6 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
3ish Tbs mayo
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 shallots (or 3 Tbs onions) minced
6 or so small radishes, chopped
small handful fresh chives, minced

Smash everything together in a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread on toast and top with some arugula or sliced tomato for extra deliciousness.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Quinoa Patties

When Jesse found this recipe in my newest cookbook, I was not overly optimistic about these little guys, I have to admit. Sure, I love quinoa, and anything in patty form is inherently adorable. But the idea of simple grain patties just seemed kind of dry and flavorless - like one of those veggie burgers from a box. Not bad tasting, but not really good, either.

Well, I was very, very pleasantly surprised. So much so that I sighed audibly with the first bite, and even our highly carnivorous toddler devoured a whole patty without hesitation. These are delicious - they're moist and flavorful and equally good warm or cold. Heidi suggests serving them with a smear of avocado or a tahini dipping sauce. We decided on a simple yogurt sauce, with cream cheese, fresh chives, garlic and lemon juice. It was a good decision.

Quinoa Patties
Adapted from Super Natural Everyday, by Heidi Swanson
Makes about a dozen

 3 cups cooked quinoa
4 large beaten eggs
pinch sea salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
1 onion, minced (make sure to mince it finely)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (fresh grated is key here)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup breadcrumbs, unseasoned
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix everything together except the olive oil (using your hands works well here).
Let them sit a little while so the breadcrumbs can absorb the moisture - they should not be crumbly. If they are, mix in a little water.

Form into 12 balls, and flatten. 
Cook in olive oil until browned, then flip and repeat.


Monday, May 2, 2011


I'd been meaning to try this cake for a while, ever since Molly first posted it on Orangette. Somehow, though, it has always managed to be overlooked. It didn't seem fancy enough for a birthday cake, or big enough to bring to a potluck, and it was just way, way too rich to justify making for a weeknight dinner (hey, I have some standards). But I meant to, I really did - 7 oz of dark chocolate, just a tablespoon of flour? It sounded like my kind of cake. And the fact that the whole thing is made in one bowl, stirred up and in the oven within five minutes - that's certainly my kind of cake.

When I received Molly's beautiful book as a birthday present, I was reminded of the cake again, and decided I'd waited long enough. So for Lydia's birthday this year, I finally tried it out. And immediately fell into a deep depression about the lost years between finding this recipe and making it - how did I even live? It's moist, rich and flavorful, but somehow not dense. A tiny sliver is enough, but eating a little more won't make you feel like death, either. It's not a pretty cake, it's true - flat, brown and a little wrinkly, it doesn't scream, "celebration!" But take one bite, and you will.

When teacher appreciation week rolled around, I decided that I would feel highly appreciated receiving this cake. So I whipped one up for Miles' teachers, but baked it into mini cupcakes instead, dipping the tops in melted chocolate to increase the incredibleness even more. And then, I froze them over night, because I've learned that the secret to perfect brownies is a night in the freezer, and since this recipe is eerily similar to my favorite brownies, I had a hunch that it would work for these guys, too. And gosh, was I right.

Winning Hearts and Minds Cupcakes

7 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
7 ounces butter, cut into cubes
1 1/3 cup white sugar
5 eggs (duck eggs are perfect here, but large chicken eggs are good, too)
1 Tbs all-purpose flour

4 oz semisweet or dark chocolate
2 Tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 375 and butter a mini cupcake tin (or an 8" round cake pan)

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler (or the microwave) until smooth
Add sugar, eggs (one at a time) and then the flour and beat until smooth. 
Pour into the prepared tin and bake 13-15 minutes, until just set
Cool for 5 minutes, and then tip cupcakes out and cool completely on a rack. They'll deflate a little and get kind of wrinkly as they cool. That's ok, looks aren't everything. 

Melt the chocolate and butter and carefully dip the top of each cupcake into it, twisting and scooping a little as you lift it so the top doesn't fall off. 
Set cupcakes back onto the rack to cool, and then, if you have time, freeze them overnight (or up to a month). 

Holy heck. Seriously.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A banana bread for breakfast

Is it just me, or is banana bread not really a breakfast food?
Maybe it's just me.
I dunno.
It's just, banana bread has always seems more of a cake to me. I mean sure, it's bread-shaped and yes, it has "bread" in the name. But it's got so much sugar and oil and, I don't know, fluffy cakeness.

Hold it, hold it. This is not me saying that I don't LOVE banana "bread." To the contrary, I have dreams about the stuff. But the dreams are more of the "slathered in chocolate sauce and whipped cream" variety than the "healthy breakfast" variety.

So yesterday, sick of jostling around the pile of brown bananas in the freezer, I decided to attempt a breakfast-worthy banana bread. And yes, I know I frequently say that pie is a perfectly acceptable breakfast food. But with this I guess I was going for something, I don't know, actually healthy?

I started with my favorite unhealthy banana bread recipe, given to me a few years ago by a student's mother. Who I may have harrassed daily until she did. What, that's not an appropriate use of parent contact information? Whatever, you've never tasted her banana bread! It's moist and sweet and fluffy. It's also got a full cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of melted butter in one loaf. But it is GOOD. So I started there, and I tweaked. Then I tweaked some more. And I ended up with something pretty delightful - it's still a bit sweet and it's definitely moist and flavorful, but it has no butter or oil, no refined sugar, a little crunch from the pepitas, and a good amount of whole wheat flour. Any doubts about its breakfast-worthiness were quickly dispelled this morning when the three of us managed to put away all but an inch of it before 8 am.

Jesse says it looks like a dinosaur's back.

Breakfast Banana Bread
Makes one large loaf

1/3 cup honey
1 large egg
3 mashed bananas
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup applesauce
1/2 cup pepitas

Preheat oven to 325 and grease a loaf pan.

In a dry skillet, toast pepitas over medium heat. As soon as they start making popping noises (I didn't even know they did this!) take them off the heat and set aside.

Beat honey, egg, and bananas. Some lumps are ok.
Add in flours, salt and baking soda and mix just until incorporated.
Mix in apple sauce.
Fold in pepitas.
Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for about 55 minutes, until it passes the toothpick test.


honey - Green Hive Honey, Camden Maine
flours - King Arthur flours, Vermont
egg - Bowdoin Family Egg Farm, Warren Maine
appleasauce - our front yard 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rhubarb Frozen Yogurt

It's probably pretty obvious right now that I have a thing for rhubarb. So far in the short life of this oft-abandoned blog I've already shared rhubarb compote, rhubarb-blueberry bars, and jammers with strawberry-rhubarb jam. I can't seem to get enough of this plucky vegetable - it pushes out of the ground right when I am about to burst from a lack of brightness in my diet, like a beacon of deliciousness. It's incredibly versatile - sweet things like rhubarb pie and dumplings (oooh, I'll share those with you soon) are an obvious answer to the welcome problem of "too much" rhubarb, but it also shines in more savory dishes, which is how I'm planning to experiment this spring. 

My plants are showing their cute little noses above ground right now, and in the midst of planning for this new rhubarb season, I came across one last, lonely bag of frozen stalks in our basement freezer. Wanting to use it up before the new batch ripened, I decided to make some frozen yogurt. Using David Lebovitz's basic frozen yogurt recipe from The Perfect Scoop (lovelovelove), I whipped up a rhubarb compote, chilled it, stirred it into the yogurt base and froze it. The end.

Rhubarb Frozen Yogurt
Makes almost 3 quarts

3 cups whole milk yogurt
3/4 cups white sugar
1 tsp vanilla (or lemon) extract
4 cups chopped rhubarb (frozen is fine)
two handfuls (1/3 cup?) white sugar

In a saucepan, add the rhubarb to just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.
Toss in some sugar, bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to medium-low and let it cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and bright pink and thick. Resist the urge to eat it all with a spoon right now. Really, I know it's difficult.
Pour into a bowl and chill completely in the fridge, at least an hour.
You'll notice that this is the process for making Rhubarb Compote)

In a bowl, stir yogurt, sugar and vanilla or lemon. Pop this in the fridge, too.

When everything's fully chilled, stir the yogurt and rhubarb compote together, and freeze half in your ice cream maker. When that half is done, immediately repeat with the other half, before the bowl of your ice cream maker warms up.

We ate this out of mugs sitting on the living room floor, but Jesse suggested crumbling graham crackers over a scoop, or sandwiching some between two ginger cookies, and I think those are both fabulous ideas, too.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tandoori Chicken

You've probably figured out that in many ways, we're not "typical American eaters." Usually our plates are piled with some mixture of vegetables and grains, eggs and cheese, in the form of an omelette or sandwich or stew or casserole. Meat shows up rarely on our menu - once every week or two, and usually more like a "garnish" than as the main part of our meal. We get all of our meat from Curtis', our small-town butcher who sources humanely-raised chicken, locally farmed pork and raises their own cows from start to finish on grass pastures. The meat is fantastic and, because it's not turned out cheaply, factory-style, it's of course more expensive than its oddly-colored, antibiotic-laden grocery store counterpart. Which makes sense - meat should be the most expensive part of a meal, because it "costs" the most, in terms of resources, to produce. As a small farmer, I could grow a little field of grain and feed my family for the winter with my harvest. Or I could grow a small field of grain and feed one cow. Meat is expensive to produce, so it should be expensive to buy. We take this as a hint that maybe we shouldn't be eating so much of it, either.

Now, don't misunderstand me here - I am not suggesting a vegan diet for everyone, or even a vegetarian diet. I love me some meat, and I literally don't think I could live without cottage cheese. But I am suggesting that everyone look at their diet as a hierarchy - fill it up mostly with foods that are resource-cheap like grains and beans and local veggies and fruit, and then add in a little bit of the resource-expensive stuff.

That being said, here's a meal that flies in the face of that philosophy, and follows a very traditional "meat and two sides" formula. Because sometimes it's cool to break the rules.

Tandoori Chicken with kale and couscous
Serves 4
By going heavier on the couscous and kale, using just a little bit of chicken on top, and maybe throwing in some lentils or roasted chickpeas, you could easily make this into a "cheap" meal. 
Make sure to pour any extra sauce from the chicken pan over the couscous. It's amazing. 

1/4 tsp ginger
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp curry powder
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 tsp salt
sprinkle cinnamon
sprinkle cayenne pepper

4-6 bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed

1 bunch kale
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
lemon juice
olive oil

2 cups couscous

Yogurt Sauce
This would be nice with diced cucumber (like a tsatziki) or mint (like a raita). I had neither. Still great. 
1 cup plain yogurt
3 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste

Whisk the sauce ingredients together, and rub them onto the chicken thighs, both sides.
Put the thighs in a baking dish, top with the leftover sauce, and bake at 400 for about 35 minutes, until 170 internally.
Take out and rest, covered with a dishtowel or tin foil.

In the meantime, cook the couscous - boil 3 cups of water, stir in couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let sit 5 minutes.

Saute kale and garlic in a little olive oil until tender, and then squeeze a little lemon juice over it.

Whisk yogurt sauce ingredients together.

Top couscous with chicken and extra pan juice, plop the kale on the side, and drizzle yogurt sauce over all. 

Miles really enjoyed this all mixed together - chopped kale and couscous, pieces of chicken and lots of yogurt sauce all squashed into a delightful little pile of awesome.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Swirly Bread

Sometimes you just need a little comfort, you know? A tough day at work, a mean remark from a stranger, another freaking snowstorm - there are times when we all need a little something to boost us up a bit. As a mother, I find myself on the comforter end of things most of the time; bruised your face trying to climb over the gate? Run to Mama! Raisins spilled everywhere when you tried to throw them at the dog? Mama will fix it! Dad took away your maracas before you could hit him in the face with them? Aw, poor muffin, come see Mama. It's my job to make everything better and, if I'm being totally honest here, it's a job I relish. I'm a pretty typical, makes-feminists-cringe type of woman at heart - give me some boys to bake for and a sniffly toddler to cuddle, and my eyes glaze over in bliss.

But sometimes, even I need a little something to make me feel better, something that is guaranteed to make me happy just by existing. My list is ever-evolving, but always simple: slippers, daffodils, books by Tom Robbins, cheddar cheese, very hot showers, haircuts, broadway musical soundtracks. And this bread. Ah, this bread. I've been hunting for exactly this bread for a long time now - very soft and just sweet enough, dotted with juicy raisins and swirled with a thin line of cinnamon-sugar. It reminds me of the cinnamon-raisin bread my Naner used to buy. I'd spend weekends at her house, eating frozen cheese ravioli and watching old Gidget movies, and we'd start our mornings at her kitchen table, me with my raisin toast and Naner with a cup of coffee and half a grapefruit. This bread tastes just a little too good to feel like a "healthy" breakfast, and that's what I like about it. It's something I can toast and spread with butter and wrap in a napkin and tuck into my purse and then take a bite and feel, suddenly, better.

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread
Makes 3 loaves

This is a huge recipe - it makes 3 full-sized loaves. I baked up two, and put the third in the freezer after shaping the loaf, before the second rise. When I'm ready for it, I'll take it out and let it thaw and rise before baking it up.

1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup warm water
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (or two packets)
3 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup raisins
8 cups unbleached white flour

3 tablespoons milk
3/4 cups white sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon

- Scald the milk, then set aside to cool a bit
-Proof your yeast in the warm water for a few minutes.
-Add eggs, one at a time
-Stir in sugar, salt, milk and butter (it'll be lumpy and hideous - no stress)
-Fold in raisins
-Add flour 2 cups at a time to make a sticky-stiff dough - don't overmix her
-Oil and let rise until doubled, about an hour - hope to heck your bowl is big enough, because this baby can RISE!

-Roll your dough out on a floured countertop into a rectangle about 1/2" thick. Sprinkle it with the milk to moisten, and then spread the cinnamon and sugar all over it, reaching to about an inch from the edges.
-Roll it up tightly the long way ("hot dog, not hamburger" they used to say in art class)
-Slice the big log into 3 smaller ones, and tuck in the ends
-Put each log into an oiled bread pan (or freeze now, wrapped in plastic wrap and foil), cover and rise another hour or so
-Brush the top of each loaf with melted butter - I melted mine in the bowl I used for the cinnamon-sugar, and it made the top all pretty
-Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes, until the crust is golden and the loaf sounds hollow when knocked.
-Cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pans to finish cooling on a rack (if you cool it fully in the pan, it'll get tough)

Slice, toast, butter, bite, close eyes in bliss, feel infinitely better about everything.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunny Day Pasta

In March sometimes, you need a little bit of brightness in your life. Often this time of year, we tend to find ourselves recycling the same sturdy cast of late-winter dinners over and over again, a seemingly endless parade of eggs and potatoes, kale soup and pot roasts. Coming home from work in the already near-darkness, dragging a long day behind us by the tail, the idea of facing a dinner as heavy as our eyelids is just not appetizing. Enter: sunny day pasta.

It’s quick – 15 minutes start to finish, including boiling the pasta.
It’s light, the perfect antidote to late-winter-belly.
It’s bright, with tender-crisp green beans and a hearty squeeze of lemon juice.
It’s DELICIOUS, which never hurts.

Basically, you should just make it. Tonight. And then, probably, tomorrow too.

Sunny Day Pasta

1 lb pasta
1 lb fresh or frozen green beans
1/3 cup lemon juice
½ cup freshly grated parmesan
olive oil
salt and pepper

Boil up your pasta
Meanwhile, steam green beans 3-4 minutes (5-7 if frozen) until just tender. Don’t over-do it!
Drain pasta.
Dump green beans on pasta, drizzle with olive oil, top with lemon juice and cheese, and toss. Serve immediately.

Note: if you’re going to save any, hold off on adding the lemon juice until just before serving – it ruins the pretty color of the green beans.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Creamed Spinach, a love story

I do not like the phrase "creamed spinach." It reminds me of the phrase "creamed corn," which for some reason reminds me of my Grammie's kitchen, which was not a pleasant place. Grammie was a good cook, I think. At least, that's how the stories go. I wouldn't know, because I was never allowed to eat anything that came out of her kitchen. Gram was a depression era mother of six with an addiction to coupons, so suffice to say things piled up, and lingered in that kitchen far, far longer than safety probably dictated. Most of my memories surrounding Grammie's fridge involve mold, yogurt cups containing substances that clearly were not yogurt, and a vague sense of impending doom.

So, based on these dubious associations, I managed to go a full twenty five years without once tasting creamed spinach. And now that I've finally tried it - lord, how I mourn all those empty years!

Doom-filled memories aside, it's actually kind of surprising that I'd never tried this stuff before. It has most of my favorite things - spinach! cream! butter! garlic! - all in one decadent, smooth place. The first time Jesse made it, I ate 2/3 of the pan before touching the rest of my meal. The second and third times Jesse made it, he didn't even get any. This was after I drove to the store specifically to buy frozen spinach - which, if you know me at all, you know is in and of itself indicitave of my lust for this stuff. I rarely buy frozen vegetables, and I hate making special trips just for one ingredient. But this week? Twice.

 Creamed Spinach
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
This is also really good cold, preferably eaten standing in front of the fridge, with your fingers.

~ 2 lbs spinach, chopped roughly
~ 1 small onion, finely chopped
~ 1 clove garlic, minced
~ 1 1/2 cup whole milk
~ 3 tablespoons butter
~ 3 tablespoons flour
~ worcestershire sauce
Steam spinach until just wilted, then squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Set aside.
Warm the milk gently in a little saucepan and keep it warm.
In a sauce pan or dutch oven, brown up the onion and garlic in the butter until nice and soft and sweet.
Whisk in the flour to make a roux.
Add warm milk and whisk smooth.
Add a dash of worcestershire, taste, and add more as needed for awesomeness (you want it subtle!)
Cook 3-5 minutes until a bit thicker.
Stir in spinach and salt and pepper to taste.

This is great as a side dish, but also beautiful over orzo or as a bed for a poached egg. Or, as I said, cold, from the fridge, with your fingers.