kitchen scribble

October 1, 2013

furlough ramen

Filed under: quick eats, weeknight cooking — kat @ 9:51 pm

Have you heard of canned Vienna sausages? They’re tiny little cylinders made of a smooth meat paste, so processed that it’s all a uniform color and texture. They’re soft, salty, and squishy on the tongue. My parents always had a few cans around while I was growing up; I was always fascinated by how the seven cylinders fit neatly into a can, and when I was a kid, I enjoyed trying to remove one without damaging the others. The first one was always the hardest.

Vienna sausages

They’re dirt cheap and last forever on the shelf; they don’t even need heating (though heating does help). If I were stocking up food for the apocalypse, I would make sure I had a shelf full of these. But I only had one can at home, bought as a joke a year or two ago.

Last night, as the government shutdown loomed, I decided to embrace frugality and finally use up those Vienna sausages on some ramen (another classic budget food). I also added kale and a poached egg.

furlough ramen

It was surprisingly good. I started by dumping some stock cubes from our freezer into water: mushroom stock, chicken stock, and a smidge of duck stock. Then, when the liquid was at a rolling boil, I dropped in torn kale and cooked it until it was soft but still bright green. Out with the kale and in with the ramen; when the ramen was cooked, it came out as well, and in went eggs and Vienna sausages. The sausages heated in the time it took the eggs to poach.

Okay, it’s not dollar ramen; the noodles were actually thin egg noodles with shrimp eggs. They’re my favorite dried noodle from Lotte. Also, dropping the Vienna sausages in the broth was only meant to warm them, but it actually helped the flavor by washing off the salty brine. And, gourmet ramen and all, I think I fed the family for under five dollars.

April 30, 2013

fish tacos!

Filed under: quick eats, weeknight cooking — kat @ 11:34 am

Whenever I think of fish tacos, I remember eating them in San Diego, when we met a friend for dinner by the pier. The place was so crowded and noisy that we were almost certain we wouldn’t get a table, but we squeezed between the patrons and managed to find a place to sit. Salty air blew through the windows from the ocean, and the light changed gradually as the sun set outside. I had a great time. It was the perfect place to eat a fish taco.

So it’s a pity that the tacos themselves were pretty forgettable. Fried and battered fish fillets, probably with lots of shredded cabbage, tomato, and sour cream. Nothing special.

But these fish tacos, homemade in Maryland? They’re so much better. They’re everything the San Diego tacos should have been. And when I eat them, they taste like summer and sunshine.

summery fish tacos

These fish pieces are baked, not fried; however, because they’re individually dredged in flour, they still have a nice dry outer shell. (That was K’s idea; I was just going to broil fish and slice it after. This took a little extra time, but it works so much better.) We didn’t have cabbage and tomatoes aren’t in season, but we used pickled vegetables for crunch (another of K’s brilliant brainwaves) and red bell pepper for color. The result is colorful, delicious, and perfect for summer.

You’ll need:
3 tilapia fillets
flour
cornstarch
oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges (a lime would also work)
1 red bell pepper, sliced small (we would have used tomatoes, but they’re not in season yet)
small corn tortillas
sour cream
pickled carrot and daikon radish
cilantro, washed and roughly torn

Prepare a shallow bowl of equal parts flour and cornstarch. If you want, season this with a little cayenne pepper. In the oven, position a rack about 12″ underneath the broiler element, and set the broiler to HI.

Cover a cookie sheet with tinfoil and oil it lightly.

Cut each tilapia fillet in half lengthwise, then slice it into strips, working against the grain where possible. Dredge these strips in the flour mixture, then lay them on the prepared baking sheet.

Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the strips, and drizzle with lemon juice. Stick the pan underneath the broiler until the fish are done. I just break one apart to see if it’s cooked inside. The outsides will be crispy, and the insides will be white and firm. It won’t take long.

On another pan, stick some tortillas inside the oven to toast. Don’t let them overcook; you want them to be warm and just starting to crisp, but still flexible enough to bend. If you forget they’re in there, you’ll have tortilla chips in no time. (In which case, I suggest making some guacamole.)

To assemble a fish taco: layer fish strips, bell pepper, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and sour cream into a tortilla in whatever order you like. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Enjoy.

April 1, 2013

spring CSA, week 4

Filed under: CSA, weeknight cooking — kat @ 9:24 am

Week 4 of the spring CSA may as well have been subtitled “eat your vegetables.” My goodness, what a lot of green. We are drowning in Napa cabbage now. I think it was supposed to be kohlrabi, but they said they had so much Napa left over that they just kept providing it. It’s ok, I’m not the world’s biggest kohlrabi fan.

In this week’s pickup: Napa cabbage, 3 parsnips, 3 grapefruit, white potatoes, spinach, mixed greens, Brussels sprouts, more bean sprouts, a head of garlic, and bread (Great Harvest old-fashioned white).

spring CSA, week 4

Usually I have no trouble splitting the CSA share, but getting a situation like the 3 parsnips is kind of tragic. You want to split equally, but it’s silly to cut a parsnip in half, so we just go 2 and 1. But you can’t make a proper parsnip-centered dish with just one parsnip. Oh well, I guess it’ll be an extra ingredient in a stew or something.

I was really happy to see the Brussels sprouts, though. They’re one of my favorite cold-weather vegetable dishes, and they’re super quick to roast up. I rinse them, trim off all the dried stem ends, cut each of them in half, and toss them with olive oil, roughly chopped garlic, and salt and pepper.

ready to go in the oven

Purists would take off the outer leaves, but if they look good, I just leave ‘em.

Then I pop them into the oven (or even the toaster oven, in this case, since I didn’t feel like turning the big oven on) and let them cook at 400 degrees, tossing them occasionally, until the edges are crispy and brown.

ready to eat!

They’re fabulous like this, crispy on the outside and meltingly soft on the inside. I usually give them another sprinkle of salt, just for good measure, before eating. The chunks of roasted garlic aren’t bad either.

August 22, 2012

it was delicious! I made it with fish!

Filed under: quick eats, weeknight cooking — kat @ 11:32 am

A long time ago, while poking around on Allrecipes, I came across one particular review which stuck in my mind. The recipe was for tuna brushed with soy and coated with sesame seeds, lightly seared so that it was cooked on the outside but still raw in the middle; one reviewer gave it five stars and noted: “it was delicious! I made it with chicken tenders!”

Thinking about sesame-coated raw chicken still gives me the shivers.

Anyway, I thought of that review last night when I was making tilapia. I usually make tilapia with lemon and dill, but I had neither. Instead, I had a single tiny lime, and while brainstorming ideas, it occurred to me that Thomas Keller had a truly delectable recipe for creamed corn that involved lime and cayenne pepper. I know, fish and corn are not the same, but it seemed like a decent jumping-off point. Why not try the same flavor combination with fish?

So I did. The fish turned out very good, tangy (lime) and spicy (cayenne) with a lovely creamy background (butter and the tilapia). It’s a very good dish for summer. I gave K a taste when he came home, and he went digging into the leftovers for more. Success!

(As a bonus, this dish is very easy to put together even when a not-so-small infant is rolling around on the kitchen floor, getting underfoot and demanding attention.)

tilapia with lime and cayenne

Tilapia with Lime and Cayenne

Unfortunately I didn’t measure my quantities, so your guess is as good as mine.

Ingredients:
3 tilapia fillets
one small lime, zested and juiced
butter
salt
cayenne pepper

Directions:

Rub three small individual roasting dishes with butter. (Or rub a single big pan with butter.) Sprinkle the fillets lightly with salt on either side, and lay them into the roasting dishes/pan.

Squeeze some lime juice over each fillet and sprinkle with lime zest. I used about half of the juice for three fillets. (I made the rest into limeade.)

Very lightly dust the tops with a little cayenne pepper. Go easy; a little cayenne goes a long way.

Dot the fillets with tiny pats of butter.

Put the roasting pans into the oven, under the broiler. Check occasionally for doneness; when fish is done, it flakes when prodded by a fork. Mine were done with the outer edges were beginning to brown and crisp.

Eat and enjoy! I had my fillet over rice, with buttery drippings poured out of the pan.

August 17, 2012

summer CSA, weeks 10 and 11

Filed under: CSA, weeknight cooking — kat @ 1:45 pm

I need to figure out what to do with all this corn.

Week 10 of the CSA: six ears of corn, cantaloupe, kale, green beans, tomatoes, summer squash, peaches, green peppers, and the usual eggs and bread (Great Harvest sourdough). I was pleased to find a vein of parmesan running through the sourdough when I cut it in half.

summer CSA, week 10

A good summer way to eat green beans: trim them (cut or pinch off the stem end), blanch them (cook them in boiling water and then plunge them into ice water to keep the crunch and the bright green color), and then toss them with sesame oil, ponzu sauce, garlic powder, and fresh ground pepper. If you don’t have ponzu, use soy sauce and a squeeze of citrus. Serve alongside, well, anything. Leftovers are also great straight out of the fridge.

Week 11 of the CSA: double corn! (I traded one eggplant for six ears of corn. I don’t usually avail myself of the trade table, but this seemed like too good a deal to pass up.) So: twelve ears of corn, a giant sangria watermelon, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, white potatoes, and the usual eggs and bread (Great Harvest challah).

summer CSA, week 10

The sangria watermelon is fantastic. Its flesh is dark red, intensely sweet, and incredibly juicy. I cut it up that very night and promptly proceeded to eat so much of it that my stomach felt physically swollen. I also had a grand time spitting seeds into a bowl.

I don’t know why, but a lot of the watermelon in stores these days is seedless, and it makes me sad. I think the best, sweetest bits of the watermelon are nestled softly around the seeds. Besides, one of my favorite memories of summer as a kid was the experience of sitting outside, munching watermelon, and spitting seeds into the grass on a twilight evening. I hope to recreate that experience for my kid one day.

June 14, 2012

summer CSA, week 2

Filed under: CSA, weeknight cooking — kat @ 1:55 pm

Week 2 of the summer CSA and the greens are really starting to roll in. We got kale, chard, green leaf lettuce, zucchini, green beans, English peas, red potatoes, blueberries, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest challah).

summer CSA, week 2

Looks like I’ve got another night of preparing green things in my future. I knocked out most of the veggies from last week in one evening, and stuck them in the fridge in sealed containers. I used to assemble dinner from raw ingredients, but now that we have the kid at home, the weeknights are a lot busier. I find it easier to consume vegetables on busy weeknights if they’re already prepped.

cooked veggies from week 1

If you don’t want to eat spinach raw, it cooks down incredibly easily. Just give the leaves a rough chop, wash them well (CSA spinach is so grimy that it needs about three rinses), and then put them in a pot on medium heat with a little water still clinging to the leaves. Season to taste; I sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir occasionally. The leaves will wilt down to about a quarter of their previous volume. I serve it just like that, as a side, but I’ve also been known to mix it into quiches, omelets, or cheesy bakes.

This time, I prepared pattypan squash by cutting off the stem, chopping the remaining flesh into chunks, and then sauteing them in butter with some salt and pepper, until everything is soft and cooked through. The squash also works well roasted in the oven.

I’m always happy to see beets, because then I get long and luxuriant beet greens. I just cut them up, stems and all. I wash everything in the salad spinner, and then saute the pieces in olive oil with a pat of butter. Season to taste. I prepared the chard in the same way. The chard stems were narrow, so I tossed everything in at once, but if the stems are thicker, I put them in before the leaves so that they get more cooking time.

(I used to wash veggies before I cut them, but then I had wet leaves dripping everywhere. Now I chop before I wash, which is much simpler overall.)

The remaining dish contains radishes and radish greens, braised in butter (see this post for the recipe link). I also made Mom’s cucumber salad with the cucumbers, but it’s not pictured as it was chilling in the fridge at the time.

If the harvest is good, belonging to a CSA means that you’re drowning in a bounty of vegetation. However, if you don’t eat it, it goes to waste. In the past, I’ve pulled wilted brown vegetation out of the produce drawer, and tossed it sadly in the garbage. By doing my prep work early, I hope not to waste a single item. So far, so good!

(Yes, it’s only the second week… but it’s a good beginning.)

August 19, 2011

summer CSA, week 11

Filed under: CSA, weeknight cooking — kat @ 1:24 pm

This week on the CSA: 6 ears corn, 4 kohlrabi, 1 eggplant, four nectarines, five plums, fingerling potatoes, tomatoes, green bell peppers, a head of garlic, eggs, and bread (honey whole wheat). There’s also a bundle of basil and parsley hiding behind the eggplant.

summer CSA, week 11

There were samples of raw kohlrabi at the farm, cut into matchsticks. I tried one. It tasted, well, raw and crunchy. Apparently it makes good slaw. I can see it being pretty tasty with a good dip, like hummus or a creamy dressing.

I’ve also recently rediscovered my love for ripe red tomatoes. This has become my favorite summer dish:

- Toast a slice of parmesan sourdough bread. (Other bread will work too, but parm sourdough is the best.)
- Rub the toasted bread with the cut side of a clove of garlic.
- Spread mayonnaise on the bread. (There was mayo in the first tomato sandwich I ate, and now I’ve imprinted on it.)
- If you’re brave and like the bite of raw garlic, mince up the garlic and sprinkle that on the bread too.
- Cut a ripe red tomato into slices, from pole to pole. Spread the slices on the bread, overlapping if necessary.
- Sprinkle with a chiffonade of basil, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Eat!

tomatoes on toast

August 10, 2011

fruits and vegetables outside the CSA

Filed under: weeknight cooking — kat @ 12:49 pm

Ever found yourself with a crudite platter? You know, the trays with containers of cut vegetables and a little plastic bowl of dip? You might find one when you’re cleaning up after a party, and some well-meaning guest brought a crudite platter which people barely touched. And then there you are with a huge tray of cold, crunchy vegetables. What do you do?

crudite platter

Me, I can only take so much raw veg, so I roast them. Toss the broccoli florets, carrot sticks, and cauliflower with a good drizzle of olive oil and some seasonings; I like salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a little cayenne for kick. Then spread them in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Add the tomatoes after. Tomatoes are fragile and don’t like getting tossed with harder vegetables.

roasted vegetables

Roast at 350F for as long as seems appropriate. K likes cooking the vegetables until they’re just a bit brown on the outside, but still crunchy on the inside; I like roasting them to utter oblivion, until the tips of the florets darken and the carrots are limp and the tomatoes are wrinkled little sacks. It’s your call; just check up on them every now and then to make sure they don’t burn. You can serve them alongside any kind of entree, or just eat them as is, fresh from the oven. Put the leftovers in the fridge; they’ll reheat.

Our house is also currently well supplied with fruit. The CSA peaches were so perfect and juicy that I couldn’t wait an entire week to get more; I headed out to the farmers market on Sunday and bought an $8 basketful. Some were firm and some were so soft and ripe that they just begged to be eaten that very day.

peaches and apples

I also picked up a $3 quart of apples from the same vendor but sadly, those weren’t as good — the flavor was okay, but the texture was very mealy, and I prefer my apples crunchy. Still, they make perfectly decent afternoon snacks.

To round out my non-CSA fruit and veg experience, I’ve been getting a lot of produce from a coworker of mine who has a garden that’s producing overtime. For a while he was picking two cucumbers a day, and lately he’s been inundated with tomatoes. I helped myself to some of his extras: sweet, delicious cherry tomatoes, normal red tomatoes, and little green tomatoes called “green zebra stripe.” They’re all fantastic. We like serving tomato slices alongside fried eggs for breakfast, sprinkled with salt and pepper.

garden tomatoes

Perfect peaches and ripe, juicy tomatoes. I love summer.

July 5, 2011

dinner for four on a CSA pantry

Filed under: recipe review, weeknight cooking — kat @ 10:46 am

I hope everyone had a lovely Independence Day weekend. I only had to cook one meal over the weekend, but it was an adventure.

The problem with splitting a CSA share is that you often end up with an awkward number of vegetables. They give you four beets, but after the split, you keep two. Three kohlrabi and two cucumbers in the share, but you keep only one of each. After a few weeks, the produce drawer is a hodgepodge of mismatched vegetables, none of which really look like they can turn into a side dish of any substance.

On the spur of the moment, we invited some friends over for dinner, and in the fridge I had:
- four tiny beets
- four small pattypan squash
- one solitary kohlrabi
- two cucumbers

Instead of trying to combine the vegetables into one big vegetable side dish, I decided to make up several smaller dishes, served family-style. Cold pickled dishes are welcome in summer; I made Mom’s cucumber salad out of the two cucumbers, and used up the beets in this pickled beet recipe. Another great thing about pickled vegetables: you can make them well ahead of time.

(Quick recipe review: I’ve never had any luck peeling the skins off of beets after they’ve been cooked, so I peeled them raw first, then cubed and steamed them. I executed the rest of the recipe as written and was pretty pleased, but if I try it again I’ll use less mustard and maybe add a bit of powdered ginger instead; the mustard flavor was a bit strong.)

Pattypan squash cooks up more or less like zucchini, and as far as taste and texture goes, kohlrabi is essentially a giant overgrown broccoli stem, so I figured they would both roast up quite nicely. I cut both squash and kohlrabi into about 1-inch chunks and tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of dried oregano. I also added some roughly chopped pieces of garlic for flavor. Then I spread them on a foil-lined pan for roasting. K likes cooking steak on a cast-iron pan according to the Alton Brown method, so we quickly defrosted four smallish steaks. Since the oven was hot anyway, I just tossed the squash and kohlrabi in to roast up as well, and pulled them out when the edges were just starting to brown.

It turned out to be a really good meal. The steak was great, there were no vegetable leftovers, and our guests declared themselves full. Success!

June 24, 2011

summer CSA, week 3

Filed under: CSA, weeknight cooking — kat @ 2:20 pm

Week 3 of the summer CSA: romaine and green leaf lettuces, beets with their greens, cucumber, giant zucchini, mushrooms, cherries, blueberries, and a loaf of plain white bread. There are no eggs, and it’s my fault; I forgot to get the eggs. At the farm, everything is up on a table except the eggs, which are on a pallet on the floor… and I walked right by them. Oh well.

summer CSA week 3

You can see a much prettier picture on Allura’s blog, where she is also tracking her CSA experience.

It was a beautiful day to visit the farm, actually. The littlest members even got to get up close and personal with some of the sheep.

the sheep are happy to get lettuce

Even though I forgot the eggs, I still stood in line to buy some extra pints of blueberries and cherries. The berry season in Maryland is tragically brief and you have to get the good stuff while you can. I picked up blueberries from Giant and Harris Teeter to tide me over between CSA pickups, and they just didn’t compare. I don’t know what goes into these Maryland blueberries, but they’re ten times sweeter and more delicious than anything in the stores. People, get yourselves out to the farmer’s markets and get those blueberries while you can.

We did pretty well eating the food from last week, too. The lettuce and cucumber went into salad, the kale got baked into chips, the yellow squash went on skewers on the grill, the mushrooms and potatoes accompanied K’s fabulous cast-iron steak, and I boiled the eggs for quick afternoon snacks at work. We finally got around to eating the green beans with lunch today.

(Quick green bean treatment: rinse, trim the ends, toss with olive oil and seasonings (I like salt, pepper, garlic powder), put in microwave-safe bowl and microwave two minutes; remove bowl and give the beans a toss. If you think they’re done (that is, if you like your beans crunchy), stop there; if not, microwave one more minute at a time until done, checking as you go. There are other ways to prepare green beans, but this is the quickest I’ve found by far.)

I’ve also been making good use of the toaster oven in this heat. Almost everything does well in the toaster oven.

toaster oven cooking

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