Archive for August, 2009

30
Aug
09

bruschetta and bok choy.

So many exciting things are happening, like, right this minute. First off, manchego cheese is going for $4/lb at the cheese shop, which is so dirt cheap that it’s basically insulting. Luckily, it takes a lot to offend me. Second, it’s been extra overcast outside, so I was able to run two miles straight around my track at 2 p.m. today. Also, I just found out that Nightman is becoming a legit musical! How much do I want to see Denis pay the troll toll so he can get in the boy’s hole? SO much.

I’m two weeks strong with the post-work gymming, and this is a total estimation but I’m guessing I’ve burned 500 extra calories each day since. In the interest of jump starting the results, I had bruschetta and salad for dinner most nights this week. I bought heirloom tomatoes at TJ’s because I’m trendy and used this delicious rye bread that was basically the only non-babka item at the Russian store across the street. My roommate bought a basil plant, so I used a few leaves and chopped it up with the tomatoes. I added olive oil, salt and pepper, mixed it together, and served it atop the toasted rye. I served it alongside a spinach salad with nectarines and shaved manchego. I dressed it with olive oil and lemon juice. It was amaaazing and much too easy to prepare:

spinach, nectarine and manchego salad, heirloom tomato bruschetta

spinach, nectarine and manchego salad, heirloom tomato bruschetta

I wanted to make something new for dinner tonight, so I bought me some bok choy. I’ve never cooked with it before, but I sure do love to stare at it every time I’m in the grocery. This time I decided to stop playing games and took it home with me. Life is much too short to wonder what could have been.

I also bought some tofu and this spicy peanut vinaigrette that TJ’s designed with me in mind. I came home and made my own recipe for the first time in a long time. I chopped a clove of garlic and some fresh ginger, and sauteed them in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. I cubed half a package of extra firm tofu and tossed it into the oil mix. While that browned up all nicely, I added about 1/4 cup of honey. I chopped the bok choy on the side, minus the bottom third,¬† and tossed it in with the tofu. A few minutes on the stove top, and my bok choy wilted into submission:

virginal bok choy

virginal bok choy

Meanwhile, I re-heated some of the basmati rice I’d originally prepared for my okra. I poured a generous amount of spicy peanut vinaigrette on the whole mix, and salted and peppered it up. I served the tofu and bok choy stir fry atop the rice, and it was really tasty. It’s possible I was too liberal with the ginger, because it kind of burned the nostrils and there’s no way my peanut vinaigrette would do that to me. It was the best way I’ve ever prepared the tofu, though, and I credit my last minute choice to involve honey in making it all crunchy and delicious. It was a great original Asian/Indian fusion recipe. See below:

tofu and bok choy atop basmati rice with spicy peanut vinaigrette

tofu and bok choy atop basmati rice with spicy peanut vinaigrette

25
Aug
09

curried okra.

I apologize if my writing is a little off today, but my muscles are being SO needy. They think that, since I subjected them to a weekend of outdoor running, they’re allotted a period of self pity and mouring. And that’s really not the way things go around here. I may have run two miles on both Saturday and Sunday, (which is the equivalent of 8 treadmill miles for those who don’t know the conversion rates), but they were still expected to perform during my after-work gymming. This is not to say they fell short of expectations, but I could do without the constant threat of strain.

Since I pushed myself on the sweaty side, I had no choice but to make something amazing last night so as not to be neglectful to the spicy side. I’ve been wanting to try something new, but inspiration hasn’t really struck lately. Luckily, one of my roommates just threw a bunch of okra in my lap. Well, not literally..that would be weird…but she went out of town leaving me with strict instructions to make use of her okra before it went bad. I’m no fan of rotten okra, so I took her suggestion to make the curried okra recipe off epicurious and RAN with it.

I’ve never made okra before, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t given it much of a chance since I had some fried at Picadilly in the second grade. Seventeen years is a substantial waiting period, so I decided to go for it last night:

okra

okra

The recipe started with some chopped onion, garlic, chopped fresh ginger, vegetable oil and curry powder. I sauteed that all in a big skillet, and then added some drained and rinsed chickpeas and a can of whole peeled tomatoes.

Weirdly enough, the recipe called for whole okra and instructed me to just “trim” them. I would assume they wanted me to take the stems off, but the recipe asked for them to remain in place. I left them intact like a good little sheep, but I trimmed the bottoms off. I have no clue if that was the right thing to do.

Once the tomato chickpea mixture simmered for a few minutes, I threw the okra on top and covered the skillet. They looked like this:

the curried okras are cooking

the curried okras are cooking

When all was said and done, the okras took about 10 minutes to get soft but not totally limp. I served the whole mix atop some Basmati rice, and it was pretty great. My second acquaintance with okra was a pleasant one. Who knew?

My dad warned me that okra get slimy once you cook them, and it weirds most out. Hence the frying, a la Picadilly. Apparently I’m not most people, because I kind of loved it and hardly noticed the slime. It’s possible I’m talking out of my ass, but I’m thinking the acid from the tomatoes counteracted the okra slime? That’s my ass’s guess, for whatever it’s worth.

Anyways, see below for the final product:

curried okra with chickpeas and tomatoes

curried okra with chickpeas and tomatoes

15
Aug
09

grilled scallops with avocado puree.

Lately I want to, like, spoon with nature. I’ve been planning to give up my morning workouts in favor of some after-work runs, because two days a week is not fulfilling my nature needs. I’m all adjusted and plateaued, anyways, and I’ve just now realized that I never work as hard first thing in the morning. My body is all anti-sleep and variety, it seems, because I’ve had a hard time transitioning. This past week’s humidity and constant tease of rain has been an awesome enabler. I woke up this morning to this good looking sunrise, though:

sunrise

sunrise

I feel like that’s pretty much a sign that the rain and Florida-esque humidity is on its way out, right? In any event, I’m totally converting to a p.m. runner first thing next week. I’m much too excited about this.

In the name of variety, I made my first ever scallops this week. Actually, I’m pretty sure it also marked the first time I ate scallops. I saw a bag at TJ’s and just decided to go for it, all lady balls to the wall.

I prepared them by first defrosting, then coating each in olive oil, salt and pepper. I grilled them on the Panini Press, which took maybe three minutes for each mini batch. I found this adorable Bobby Flay recipe to work with, so I started by making the avocado puree.

I added an avocado, some chopped red onion, jalapenos, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to the food processor:

avocado puree, pre-puree

avocado puree, pre-puree

I pulsed everything together until it pureed up all pretty. It was basically an extra-spicy guacamole when it all came together, but I loves my spicy so I approved. Meanwhile my scallops were cooking off and smelling incredible in the background. I have proof, too. My roomie said so. So there.

I assembled the little scallop boats just like Bobby did, although mine were complete with these Longboard tortilla chips courtesy of TJ’s. I started with a chip, and then topped it with the spicy guacamole, one scallop, and some sliced jalapeno. They ended up looking like little Mexican-flavored kayakers, so they totally spoke to my nature infatuation. See below for the final¬† product:

grilled scallops on tortilla chips w/ avocado puree

grilled scallops on tortilla chips w/ avocado puree

10
Aug
09

gnocchi and roasted tomatoes.

When I was in Austin, I felt motivated to be more outdoorsy. I kept envisioning myself rock climbing and kayaking and all that, which is weird because there are rocks to climb near the city and I’ve never chosen to partake.

Austin kayaker

Austin kayaker

That goes strongly against my nature (ha), for I was once the college senior afraid of camping at the cold springs near campus. I fell victim to peer pressure – twice – and actually found it to be pretty tolerable and almost fun. That could have been the 24 pack of Natty Light talking, though. I can’t be sure.

I’m a firm believer in baby steps, so I’m gradually transitioning to the outdoors via my running. I had a completely gym-less weekend, and I shunned the computer and was outside all day Saturday. Today I went for a jog on the track and did some crunches on the grass. I’m like Lance Armstrong in a sports bra.

As far as my foodstuff goes, I hit up the cheese shop today for more $1.99 gouda slices and mascarpone cheese. I always kind of skim the store for anything I can’t leave without, and this time I grabbed some gnocchi. Today I HAD to have it, whereas I usually stare it down for a few minutes and ultimately leave it be.

I’ve never prepared gnocchi myself, but I had boatloads in Italy and have had it a couple of times in the U.S. The best ever was gnocchi al pesto that my friends and I ordered in Capri. It wasn’t even on the menu, but the chef made it anyways and it was insaaaaane.

Gnocchi, for those who are unaware, is potato dumplings that have a Play-Doh like consistency. They’re so easy to prepare that they make couscous look complex. All you have to do is boil water, drop in gnocchi, and wait 2-3 minutes for it to float to the top. Drain and serve. That is all.

the baby gnocchis are boiling

the baby gnocchis are boiling

I’ ve been dying to use the food processor, so I made a little basil avocado puree for my gnocchi. I started with half an avocado, a handful of fresh basil, the juice of one lemon, salt, pepper, and about 1/4 cup of olive oil. I probably used more lemon that olive oil, but I wanted to keep it light.

On the side, I roasted some roma tomatoes in the oven with a chopped shallot, olive oil, rosemary, thyme and dry basil. I think roasted tomatoes are last meal-worthy these days. They cook up so amazingly. The skin starts to fall off, and they explode in your mouth! I don’t think I could make that sound any less appetizing if I tried, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

I roasted them in the toaster oven for 13-15 minutes at 350, because my oven is teeny and it started toying with the idea of catching fire when I turned up the heat. See below for the final product. I made a small plate for my roomie, and she confirmed that the gnocchi were delicious and had a lot of flavor. Bravissimi!:

potato gnocchi with avocado basil puree, roasted tomatoes with dry herbs and shallots

potato gnocchi with avocado basil puree, roasted tomatoes with dry herbs and shallots

06
Aug
09

Austin eats.

I just took my first big girl vacay, and I think I fell a little bit in love. I visited my lady Lauren in Austin, TX, where she and fiance Dave have lived for the past year. That city is crammed full of Mexican food and fitness lovahs, and I’m a little into both myself. And by “a little into,” I mean that I’d like to die by means of salsa and avocados after a nice outdoor jog. I haven’t worked out the specifics for that amazing/slightly morbid fantasy, but what a way to go.

Lauren let me tag along while she did her grocery shopping at the organic red light district-esque Central Market. You know, if the red light district offered free samples and was about food, rather than prostitution. Just look at the fish counter:

fishes.

fishes.

How sexy is THAT? She didn’t come outright and say that she was challenging my loyalty to Trader Joe’s, but I could see it in her eyes.

One of the things I love most about TJ’s is the customer service, but the employees at Central Market are above and beyond. They pretty much stop just short of going home with you and preparing the food while you watch Days. Maybe if coaxed? I think they could be talked into it.

Lauren and I were all, “Hmm maybe we’ll make crab cakes. How does one prepare those?” And the employee was like, “Hold please, I’ll go print a recipe for you.” And then he DID. And it was an Ellie Krieger recipe! It’s like he sensed we’re Food Network addicts, and we both totally took care to cover our track marks.

We were in Central Market to buy breakfast burritos ingredients, which is one of Lauren’s specialties. We went back and she prepared, while I sat stove-side and observed. She started with a couple of russet potatoes and one yellow onion, which she chopped and threw in a pan with a little canola oil. She added about a clove of chopped garlic, some cumin, paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Those sauteed for about 10-15 minutes, and she covered the pan for most of the time to expedite the softening:

breakfast burrito master

breakfast burrito master

She then scrambled about five eggs in a separate skillet, which she prepares by heating the skillet on high and adding the eggs immediately. She scrambles for about a minute, and then turns off the burner to let it cook a minute or so more. Although Sunny says cook eggs low and slow, I totally approve of this method. Who doesn’t love fast and easy? No one. No one doesn’t love it.

Lauren heated the tortillas in yet another skillet, which is kind of great because it snubs the microwave. I get such a thrill out of that. When everything cooked up all delicious-like, she threw them all in the warmed tortillas and dressed with salsa verde and hot sauce.

They were so spicy and flavorful, and I’m taking her recipe without shame. Meanwhile, see below for the final product:

Lauren's breakfast tacos.

Lauren's breakfast tacos.

I spent four days with Austin, and by the end of my trip we realized we forgot to make the crab cakes that the fish counter man was so committed to!

We were too busy having the most amazing Indian food in life, excellent mushroom pizza at The Alamo, and great $10 brunch that kept me full for like 12 hours. Oh yeah, and cinnamon and nutella crunch gelato. I had that also.

Come Tuesday, I tried to leave Austin, but the city like wouldn’t have it. My flight was supposed to leave at 1 p.m., but it delayed, delayed, delayed and was eventually canceled by 6 p.m. Not one airline wanted to fly anywhere near NY at that point, so I called Lauren and filled her in on the situation. The quickest flight out was this morning, so I crashed for one more night with my favorite Texans.

We made our collaborative crab cake dinner, meaning Lauren made the cakes (the important part) and I cut sweet potatoes into fry-like shapes. She made the cakes by mixing lump crab, a diced red pepper, and chives with some worchester sauce, hot sauce and dijon mustard. She then mixed in one egg, rolled them in bread crumbs, and pan seared them in a little oil for about five minutes. I cut the sweet potatoes, brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper and baked them at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

I’m an unapologetic grill fiend, so I was all ready to grill the corn on Lauren’s indoor grill. Rather, she wet the corn still wrapped in its husks, and microwaved it for about 8 minutes. They steam when nuked that way, and they came out perfectly done. Also, the husks just shed right off that way, which is pretty convenient for the husk-challenged.

The meal was delicious and totally reaffirmed Jetblue’s decision to ground me for one more night. See below:

clockwise from right: sweet potato fries, crab cake, corn on the cob and green onion garnish.

clockwise from right: sweet potato fries, crab cake, corn on the cob and green onion garnish.

01
Aug
09

smoked salmon salad.

Leave it to me to get near dependent on outdoor running during the rainiest July known to man. Every day, the weather has hovered somewhere between steady drizzle and hardcore downpour. It’s really putting a damper, if you will, on my al fresco workouts. I’m no fan of being pummeled during track time, so I’ve re-instituted gymming in my life.

On the spicy side, last week I introduced the dinner salad into my life.

crack

crack

I’m generally a midday salad-er, but the combo of less intense indoor workouts and all around Nutella abusing persuaded me to lighten up my third meal. Is it necessary that I am on a 1-2 teaspoon daily regimen of the chocolatey spread? Probably not, but I can’t imagine a pre-nutella life and I’m wary of a future without it.

Onto my salad…

It started with arugula, and then I added some chopped jicama, mangoes, and smoked salmon I got for $2.99 at TJ’s. How sick is THAT? I then added delicious pomegranate seeds, pepper, and dressed it with olive oil and lime juice. I added a slice of ciabatta with butter, and devoured it hard. SO good. See below:

arugula salad with salmon, jicama, mango and pomegranate seeds

arugula salad with salmon, jicama, mango and pomegranate seeds




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