easy

Garlic Scape Pesto

Posted on May 31, 2012. Filed under: easy, garden, healthy, recipe, Uncategorized, vegetable | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Garlic scape pesto with garden-fresh snow peas.

One of my favorite things about my gardening hobby is that it has offered me a world of new challenges (and I love a good challenge). It’s not always a joyous introduction, as was the case of my hostile introduction to the spinach leaf miner. They are, ironically, eating my beet greens while the spinach sits, undisturbed, only three feet away. Happily, most of the learning opportunities are positive. Recent example: answering the question, “What Does One Do With Garlic Scapes?”

Last year, I grew garlic for the first time. It was a modestly successful attempt, certainly encouraging enough to try again this year. I planted the bulbs from the largest head last autumn, and (not so) patiently watched as the plants grew up this spring. I’d learned last year that you need to cut off the scape (the immature flower) when it begins to curl, so that the garlic plant could put all its energy into bulb development. I also learned that the scape was edible–it has a mild, chive-garlic flavor. What I didn’t learn last year was what to do with the edible scapes, so I just chopped them and added to whatever I was cooking. They certainly enhanced the flavor of a dish, but I wasn’t highlighting the flavor.

Last week, my friend, writer Sherrie Flick, suggested making a pesto. I’d already made ramp pesto (miss you, dear ramps) this season, and that was a success. So, why not try scape pesto?

Blend:
5 Garlic Scapes
Slightly less than 1/4 Cup Roasted Almonds
(Soak almonds in water for 10 minutes before blending, add 2 Tsp of the water)
1/8 Cup Grapeseed Oil
1/8 Cup Parmesan cheese
Pinch of salt

The pesto is terrifically versatile. I used some on grilled chicken. But the real highlight was tossing the pesto with some garden-picked snow peas and a teaspoon of bacon fat. The dish tasted like springtime bathed in rich butter; yet it was fairly low in calories and cost less than a dollar to make. Win!

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Spring Garden: Spinach, Snow Pea, and Scape Stir Fry

Posted on May 26, 2012. Filed under: easy, garden, healthy, recipe, Uncategorized, vegetable, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I feel like for the last few months I’ve been beginning nearly every post with an apology for not writing very often: “So busy with school,” “other writing projects,” “traveling,” etc. I probably need to reorganize this space in a better way, too. Point is, so sorry for not writing here for over a month, I’ve been very busy finishing school (I’m a master of studying food now), with writing projects (stories on food & the environment for The Allegheny Front, a weekly column in Pittsburgh City Paper), and traveling (mostly around Pittsburgh; it’s been beautiful here). I’ve also been spending a lot of time in my garden, and now I have some delicious treats to eat.

Ramps might be the first edible sign of spring, but spinach is one of the first garden crops to really pop from the ground. I’ve been eating from my spinach patch for three weeks now, and that’s forced me to be awfully creative; one can only eat so many spinach salads or lightly wilted spinach. Luckily for me, my garlic started to scape (see my post on harvesting garlic for more information on garlic scapes), and the snow pea plants are producing (a bucket-load) of pods. That sounded like a promising start to a new recipe, so I rode my bike down to a wonderful little market called the Lotus Food Company; they sell house-made tofu, and it’s ridiculously inexpensive. I also purchased a bottle of black vinegar enhanced with “fruit and vegetable juice.” That’s about all that was written in English on the label! It’s a wonderfully complex vinegar with apricot and spice flavors. All in all, I had the makings of a terrific stir-fry.

Add 1 Tsp. Vegetable Oil to a medium-hot pan.
Pan fry Half-Pound of Firm Tofu, cut into 2-inch squares until brown.
Set aside.

While the tofu is cooking, mix:
1/4 Cup Chicken or Veggie Stock
1 Chopped Garlic Scape
2 Tsp. Soy Sauce
2 Tsp. Mirin
2 Tsp. Black Vinegar
1 Tsp. Minced Ginger
1 Tsp. Corn Starch
1/2 Tsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
Set aside.

Wash and pat dry:
4 Cups Spinach
(Spinach should be loosely packed. Also, I didn’t measure this precisely.)

Wash, and halve:
Two Cups Snow Peas

Chop:
Two Garlic Scapes

Saute the spinach, snow peas, and scapes for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat.
Return tofu to pan.
Add sauce mixture.
Cook for 1.5 minutes, remove from heat, and allow dish to rest for 1 minute before serving.
Top with Toasted Sesame Seeds

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Beets and Their Greens

Posted on January 17, 2012. Filed under: beet, easy, vegetable, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , |

I love beets because they taste of Earth and sugar. They are also ridiculously good for you; beets are loaded with antioxidants, they’re anti-inflammatory, they’re high in fiber, and full of minerals.

Beets are easy to prepare: the roots can be roasted, boiled, or steamed. I’ve been working on a steaming/roasting method that produces a tender beet with a concentrated flavor–this is my favorite way to cook a beet. I sometimes serve them with the attached greens, but you can also use the greens separately (roots keep for a few weeks in the fridge, the greens just a few days). You were going to throw the greens away? No no no. Beet greens are versatile, and, just like the beet root, very nutritious.

So look for beets with the greens attached, because you’re getting extra food for (often) the same price per pound. If you have to buy them from a bulk bin, make sure the beet feels firm and doesn’t have any deep blemishes (they don’t have to be beautiful, but if you’re going to store them, you don’t want them to deteriorate).

For the Beets:
Remove greens from the beets. Set aside for later use.
Rinse and peel beets.*
Cut beets into 2-inch chunks (no need for perfectly sized chunks).
Place chunks on foil (helpful to have foil supported by a baking sheet), and add one tablespoon water.
Crinkle foil over beets, and place in a 400F oven.
Check beets after 15-20 minutes. Add another teaspoon or two of water if necessary.
Beets should be done in about 30 minutes.
Add a pinch of salt before serving.
For the Greens
Wash beet greens thoroughly, dry them, and separate greens from stem.
Chop stem into 1/2 inch pieces, and tear greens into 2 inch pieces (again, no need for perfection).
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a pan over medium heat.
Add 2 cloves garlic, minced.
Cook 30 seconds, then chopped stems.
Cook 2 minutes, then add the greens.
Cook 1 minute.
Add 2 teaspoons water, cover pan, and let cook for 2 more minutes.
Finish with a pinch of salt and sugar*, a drizzle of olive oil, and the juice of one lemon.
Toss with beet roots.

* Beets are usually peeled after cooking, but with this method it’s easier to do so before. Unless you like your hands stained with beet juice you should wear latex gloves. Also don’t wear any fancy clothes while preparing beets.
* If you can find Meyer lemons, skip the extra sugar and celebrate. They are most wonderful, and I’m jealous my parents have a tree that’s full of them in their back yard. Lucky parents!
*Don’t fear the beeturia: you might experience a…colorful…urination after eating beets. It’s not uncommon. And it’s not blood. Don’t call your doctor friend in the middle of the night and try to figure out what just happened–trust me.

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Substitution: Walnut Pesto

Posted on May 26, 2011. Filed under: chicken, easy, pasta, recipe | Tags: , , , , , , , |

 I don’t have a “signature” dish, per se. I like to play, I like to make new discoveries. But I do have a few standby dishes that I know and love. Penne pesto with chicken breast is one of them. Trouble in River City: I wanted to make the dish, but someone I was cooking for has a pine nut allergy. Pine nuts are an integral component of my pesto. Oh boy. It was time to experiment.

Sometimes you have to change a dish a little bit. Perhaps someone you’re cooking for is a bit finicky, or, as in this case, they have a food allergy. This can freak out people with limited experience in the kitchen. People with a lot of experience might scoff at the idea of messing with what they know is the “right” way. This is stupid. A good cook shouldn’t be snotty about his or her recipes. Look at it as a chance to experiment. Change the flavor profile a little bit. That’s why I did with this. Goodbye pine nuts, hello walnuts.

For the pesto, blend:
1 4oz. package Basil
1/4 Cup Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
1/2 Cup Toasted Walnut Pieces
3 Cloves Garlic
1/8 Cup Olive Oil
1 1/2 Cups Milk
Mix into cooked pasta and Super Simple Chicken.
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Applesauce

Posted on October 26, 2010. Filed under: easy, fruit, recipe, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I went apple picking a few weeks ago, and greatly overestimated how many apples I could actually eat. Beautiful as they were, a glut of apples in the refrigerator becomes annoying after awhile. So I decided to make applesauce.

Applesauce is stupidly easy to make. Cut apples, boil in a little bit of water, mix in sweetness & spice, and then mash. What makes a difference is the apples you use.

Many of the standard grocery store varieties aren’t going to make the cut. They’re either too sweet or too flavorless. Some, such as braeburn and pink lady would make a good addition to the mix, but stay away from the flavorless red delicious and the horibleawefulstickysweet honeycrisp. Most of you will have access to a nice variety of apples at the farmers’ market. The best thing to do is to ask the apple dude which apples work best for saucing. Or just experiment. The important thing is to use several types of apple. I used a combination of McIntosh, JonaGold, and Pippin.

I boiled:
9 Apples, peeled and cored
1.5 Cups Water

1/3 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
Pinch Salt
After boiling for 20 minutes, I ran it through a food mill, but you can totally use a potato masher if you want it a little more chunky.

*Sugar and spice content is going to vary with the apples you use, and how much spice you like. So add a little bit at first, and stir more in after mashing if necessary.

 

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Beet and Quinoa Soup

Posted on October 15, 2010. Filed under: easy, healthy, recipe, soup, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

I was going to defrost lasagna for dinner. And then I realized that I’d eaten a cheeseburger for lunch. When you break it down, there really isn’t much difference between the two. The might taste (deliciously) different, but ground beef, cheese, and white flour are major players in both. Since I’d just returned from nutrition class, I figured it was in my best interest to make something different.

But what to make? There wasn’t a lot in the kitchen. Luckily, I’d just turned in the World’s Most Boring Paper, so I was feeling the urge to be creative. I encourage you to do the same, because it can lead to some wicked good meals. Like this soup:

Add to a pan:
2 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
2 Carrots, cut into 1 inch rounds
1 Beet, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 Onion, cubed
1-2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Pinches Ground Sage
1 Pinch Celery Seed

Bring to just the boiling point, and cook for 15 minutes.
When 15 minutes is up, wander around your kitchen looking for more things to put in.
Add:
1/2 Cup Quinoa (washed)
1/4 Crown Broccoli (broken into florets)
1/4 Cup Tomato Puree
2 Pinches Dried Thyme
Another Pinch Celery Seed
Pinch of Black Pepper
Pinch of Sugar

Let that cook for another 10 minutes.
Add salt if necessary.
Finish with 1/8 Cup Chopped Parsley.
Pat yourself on the back for being creative and making tasty soup.

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So Sweet

Posted on September 29, 2010. Filed under: easy, recipe, vegetable | Tags: , , , , , |

When I go out to eat with friends, a few of them always go gagagagaga over sweet potato fries. I get it. Personally, I’d rather have a really well made steak fry, but I get it. They look pretty. But frying can mask the depth of the sweet potato flavor. Plus, even though I’ve been telling you for ages to get a deep fryer, you don’t seem to be listening to me, so how are you going to make them at home?

Well, there is a way. And the way is easier and much more flavorful than what you’ll get at the local pub.

Peel Two Sweet Potatoes.
Slice them into rounds that are 1.5 inches thick.

Rub the rounds with Olive Oil and then lightly sprinkle with Salt and Pepper.
Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Gently press the tops the sweet potatoes with the back of a fork.
If you’d like (and you’ll like) put a tiny piece of Butter on each slice.
Sprinkle slices with Cinnamon, Garlic Powder, Brown Sugar, and Coriander.
Bake for 5 more minutes.

So good.
Try it with your own spice blends, too. You never know what you’ll come up with.

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Frozen Food Test: Tandoor Chef Chicken Tikka Masala

Posted on August 19, 2010. Filed under: easy, frozen, review |

Trip to Pittsburgh was a success, except I’m living like a transient till the moving van arrives on Tuesday. So while I dream of spending quality time in my shiny new kitchen, I awake to the reality of a microwave, a barley humming electric stove, and the cheap tin pans of the Residence Inn. Fully jet lagged and with such limited resources, it seemed like the right time for a frozen foods test. Friends, meet Tandoor Chef Chicken Tikka Massala.

Tandor Chef is a subset of Deep Foods Inc, which as been family owned and operated since 1977. The company’s website relates the story of how Mrs. Bhagwati Amin’s passion for food from her homeland steadily developed into a business into a larger family affair. Son Deepak graduated Cornell with a degree in food science, and went on to create the product line Tandoor Chef, which is home to our Chicken Tikka Masala.

Deep Food’s small beginnings have grown to a company with 1,800 employees in 7 locations. In the spirit of generosity, Mr. and Mrs. Amin have founded a charity in India that helps children have greater access to education. While the website is rather tough to get through, the mission is clear. Kids need brains. And not just so the zombies can eat them.

Speaking of eating! Let’s talk about the chicken tikka massala. It’s one of my favorite dishes. Would it be enough to brighten my belly after a long day of travel:

PROS:

  • Family business model. Way too much jibber-jabber today about how America is built on SMALL FAMILY BUSINESSES. In reality, it’s most built of massive corporations who occasionally buy a small(family) business. Mrs. Amin has done something worth praising. She is what the politicians should really be talking about- someone who takes a passion for the cuisine of her home, and figures out a way to make $$$ for a number of people, while sharing that passion with many new customers. (And then convincing them to try more products…)
  • The sauce is excellent. Perfectly balanced with enough heat to pack a punch. Nice blend of ingredients. Better than some masala sauces I’ve had at restaurants.
  • Rice is tasty. Buttery flavor, good texture.
  • Price is right at $4.49
  • Only 400 calories.

CONS:

  • Just four tiny pieces of processed chicken. Four! Man. This was more a snack than a meal.
  • Fairly high in saturated fat. I suppose the delicious buttery flavor has to come from somewhere…
  • 710 mg sodium. Oh boy. That’s a lot of sodium. Too much.

OVERALL:

The sauce and the rice were very good. But the chicken, which should be the main focus of the dish, was pretty mediocre. Not that it really mattered, because there was hardly any of it.

Would I get it again? Probably not. I might try another option from Deep Foods, perhaps something vegetarian.

Time to buy some fancy pans for my new fancy-pants kitchen.

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Watch: This Man’s Kitchen Baked Ziti

Posted on July 13, 2010. Filed under: easy, favorite, pasta, recipe, Uncategorized, video | Tags: , , , , , |

Hey hey, it’s an all new episode of This Man’s Kitchen. You too can make baked ziti- it’s super tasty!

For more This Man’s Kitchen videos, check out the collection on Vimeo.

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Yogurt Grilled Chicken

Posted on June 10, 2010. Filed under: chicken, easy, grill, poultry, recipe | Tags: , , , , , |

A simple yogurt slather will do wonders for your grilled chicken. Yogurt’s combination of mild acidity and calcium work to tenderize the meat. You’ll be able to mix a lot of flavor in, too. Serve the chicken as is, or add it to a salad or flavorful curry.

The mix below is what I used. It was lovely. But feel free to choose your own adventure. Let me know what you come up with!

Mix:
1/3 Cup Plain Yogurt
1.5 Tablespoons Honey
2 Teaspoons Curry Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Coriander
1/4 Teaspoon Powdered Ginger
1/4 Teaspoon Chili Powder
Pinch of Cumin

Rub mix on to:
Two Chicken Breasts

Let the chicken sit at room temperature 1-2 hours, or refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

Remove most, but not all, of the marinade.
Grill 6 minutes per side, over high heat.

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