Monday, May 17, 2010

Meatless Mondays: Thing One & Thing Two

After a weekend
of meatish indulgence,
veggies were called for
in overabundance.

She chopped up some leaves
and defrosted some beans
and whipped up a dressing
quite worthy of queens.

"Tis a shock to my system"
her boyfriend exclaimed,
yet not one lettuce leaf
on his plate went unclaimed.

Despite her public distaste
for salads in general,
she realized she needed
some vitamins, minerals!

"Cilantro," she said,
"will just do the trick."
And indeed it transformed
the salad - and quick!

She boiled wheatberries
till soft to the tooth.
It took over an hour -
and that's the sad truth.

Every once in a while
you need a good cleanse
so you and your figure
can remain best of friends.

Enjoy these two salads
without any guilt.
For optimum health
they were specially built.


1 cup wheatberries
olive oil
1 bunch thin asparagus, ends trimmed
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks green garlic, halved and thinly sliced
fresh thyme
fresh oregano
fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
~1/3 c. white wine
1/3 block of extra-firm tofu


a few handfuls mixed baby lettuces
1 T. sesame oil
2 finger peppers, thinly sliced, with all seeds
1 bunch broccolini, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 medium shallot, chopped
~1 cup frozen shelled edamame
salt and pepper
~1/2 c. roasted cashews
2 smallish carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds


1/2 medium shallot, chopped
a few big dashes rice wine vinegar
juice of 1 lime
dollop creme fraiche (or sour cream, or yogurt)
1 bunch cilantro, ends trimmed
big squeeze honey
1/3 block tofu, crumbled
~1/3 c. water
salt and pepper

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Spring Feast!

This Saturday, I made my first trip of the outdoor-market season to Green City Market. And aaaahhh, what a glorious trip it was!

I've literally been waiting months for this! And I couldn't be happier to get reacquainted with my most favorite Saturday activity. It was a fantastic weekend morning all around: an early bird market visit (8 AM) followed by Starbucks, a rhubarb muffin (from a local vendor), and the New York Times on a patio. A nice walk home finished the morning off perfectly.

And what's a girl with a bag full of produce to do with the rest of her day? Why, invite friends over for dinner - the perfect excuse to start cooking at 3 PM!

I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to make until crunch time. I picked up some nice lean lamb at Whole Foods, and, inspired by my Green City haul, I pretty much just winged the rest of it. There were a few recipes I'd been stashing away that made planning pretty much a no-brainer considering I'd picked up Spring's main stars: asparagus, green garlic, strawberries, and rhubarb.

A couple of bottles of red wine and some great company made Saturday night just as good as Saturday day. We really rung in Spring deliciously. Thanks to guests Taylor and Sarah (Fearless Cook loyalists)!


about 2 lbs. lean lamb roast (mine was in 2 pieces)
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
fresh chopped rosemary, oregano, and thyme
~1 cup rich red wine, such as Malbec
fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Radish Relish
Check out this recipe: Radish Relish.

Asparagus & Potato Gratin

4 medium Russet potatoes, boiled whole until about 3/4 of the way cooked, unpeeled
1 bunch thin fresh asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias
3 T. butter
2 stalks green garlic, halved and thinly sliced, white part only (or substitute 2 cloves garlic or 1 small leek)
2-3 T. flour
~1.5 c. milk
~1/2 c. white wine
salt and pepper
~1/2 lb. sharp white cheddar (leave a little for topping the gratin)
fresh chopped parsley for garnish


Check out Alton Brown's no-fail biscuit recipe here: You'll thank me later.

Rhubarb Compote

I got this recipe from Ridiculously easy.

Full dessert recipe ingredient list:

one batch Alton's biscuits, fresh from the oven
one recipe rhubarb compote, preferably warm (but mine was at room temp - the world continued to turn)
sliced fresh strawberries (don't skimp - get organic. Strawberries are one of the most pesticide-heavy fruits out there.)
a few dollops store-bought creme fraiche (or just substitute unsweetened whipped cream - you could also be extra-sinful and top them with vanilla ice cream)


Make the radish relish, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Make biscuit dough, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake. (NOTE: I didn't have buttermilk, so I just used regular milk (1%) and it was fine. I also added about 1 and a 1/2 tablespoons sugar to the recipe since I was making them for dessert.)


Boil the potatoes, then set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the green garlic for about a minute. When the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes while whisking. Pour in the milk a little at time, whisking constantly, until the roux and milk are smooth and incorporated. Turn the heat up. Whisk in the wine. Add salt and pepper and bring the whole thing to a boil and cook for a few minutes to thicken. Add the cheese in two to three batches, whisking until it's melted and the whole thing is a smooth, fragrant, cheesy delight. Taste and adjust seasonings (make sure you don't skimp on salt - this will be the seasoning for the entire dish).


Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375. Slice the potatoes thinly (about 1/8" thick). Put a ladleful of the cheesy bechamel sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish. Place a single layer of potato slices on the bottom, then scatter half the asparagus pieces on top. Top with a couple ladlefuls of the bechamel. Repeat that process again. Place a final layer of potato slices on top, top with a little more bechamel, and sprinkle a light layer of cheese on top. Bake for about 30-45 minutes, until top is browned in places and edges are bubbly. Set aside and cover with a kitchen towel. Reheat in the oven about 10 minutes before serving.


Reduce oven heat to 325. In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Liberally season the lamb with salt and pepper. Brown on both sides. Remove meat from pot and set aside. Turn off stove heat and pour in wine, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the lamb to the pot and add garlic and herbs. Cover and roast for about 45 minutes to an hour, until lamb is medium (I overcooked my lamb, so just remember to check it and take it out of the oven before you think it's done. If it's underdone after resting for about 20 minutes, you can always stick it back in).


When lamb is done, remove from its cooking liquid and slice thinly. Return to cooking liquid and cover until ready to serve. Place on a serving platter, ladle some cooking liquid on top, top with fresh chopped parsley and a few spoonfuls of radish relish. Serve with the hot gratin. Enjoy!


Preheat oven to 350. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it's about 3/4" thick. Using a biscuit or cookie cutter (or glass, which is what I used), cut the dough into rounds and place on a baking sheet lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until biscuits rise and become golden-brown on top. Use a fork to pry them in half and top with a few spoonfuls of rhubarb compote. Top with sliced strawberries and a dollop of creme fraiche. Serve while biscuits are still warm. Enjoy!

Eat well and enjoy life, friends! More soon...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Spicy Shrimp & Peppers and Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

I was worried I would regret buying that potato ricer. It's now safe to say I don't.

Not only has it paved the way to delicious gnocchi, it has expanded its repertoire to mashed potatoes. I don't make mashed potatoes often, only because I have no self-control. Once I finish my very sensible portion size, I take my dish to the sink to rinse it, and before I know it, I'm standing over the pot eating the potatoes with a serving spoon.

And when goat cheese is added to the mix...well, there's basically no hope of keeping my caloric consumption in check. Consider this fair warning. The spicy, acidic shrimp and pepper topping is a pleasantly bold counterpoint to the creamy potatoes. In fact, the combination of flavors is almost good enough to take one's mind off a devastating Stanley Cup playoffs loss [see above photo].

This is one of those dishes that Ross deemed "menu-worthy" (the menu of our fictional island bistro, of course). I love when he says that :-)

If you don't have a potato ricer, you can still make this - you'll just have to mash your potatoes by hand, or you can always just use an immersion blender or hand mixer to get that creamy consistency (although many mashed potato purists advise against this because over-mixing can over-activate the starches, resulting in gluey mashed potatoes). No matter how you make them, I promise you won't have any trouble eating them.


5-6 medium-sized Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 T. butter
1/2 c. milk
~1 c. vegetable or chicken broth
8 oz. goat cheese
salt and pepper

2 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
2 bell peppers (I used red and yellow), sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 pt. grape tomatoes
cayenne pepper
red pepper flakes
juice of one lemon
~1/2 c. white wine
fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper
~12 large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, defrosted if frozen


In a large pot of salted water, boil the potatoes until very tender (some falling apart). Drain. Using a potato ricer, push them through the ricer into the same pot you cooked them in. Add the butter, broth, milk, salt, pepper, and goat cheese and stir over low heat until cheese is melted and mashed potatoes are hot.


Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add peppers and onions and salt, pepper, cayenne, red pepper flakes, and papkrika. When peppers have softened a bit, add tomatoes. Stir till all the peppers/onions are coated in the seasonings.


When over half the tomatoes have burst, stir in the parsley, lemon juice and wine. Add the shrimp and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring, until shrimp are just done. Spoon some potatoes onto the plates. Spoon the shrimp mixture over top. Garnish with extra parsley and serve. Enjoy!

Eat well and enjoy life, friends! More soon...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Karyn's Green Zebra

I don't usually give my dishes creative names, only because I think that when you see my newest post online (or in your Facebook newsfeed), you should instantaneously be able to know if you'd like to make it, based on the ingredients.

This, however, I couldn't resist. This past weekend was nothing but work, work, work for me, but I did have one night of respite - and what respite it was. I had dinner with my friend Colleen at Green Zebra, an amazing upscale restaurant (thank you, Groupon!). Green Zebra also happens to be a vegetarian restaurant. I had heard such amazing things about it - from veggies and non-veggies alike - that I couldn't wait to go.

Green Zebra did not disappoint. In fact, it was one of the best meals I've had in Chicago. From a sublime cauliflower pot de creme to a truly transcendent duck egg on potato puree, it was an incredible meal from the first bite to the last. I can't wait to go back.

I also recently experienced local vegan haunt Karyn's Cooked, which was - much to my surprise - delicious! Not that I can't imagine vegan food being good...I guess I just didn't expect it to be that good. I had brunch with my friend Sarah, and I'd love to go back for lunch or dinner. Hence, I named this dish after my two recent inspiring vegetarian meals. Karyn's Green Zebra (or asparagus and carrots with cilantro chutney and marinated tofu) is easy, healthy, and was completely unplanned. It was borne of pure hunger and a desire to use the last of my fresh veggies before they wilted in the fridge.

If I made this again, I'd roast the veggies a bit longer, as they were a bit crisp, but if you prefer a more raw, salad-like texture, you could cook them as little as you like. The quick-marinating of the tofu really added a nice texture and flavor to it - this is a technique I am definitely going to revisit with varying ingredients in the future.

After a weekend full of work and several late nights, I'm exhausted and going to cut this short, but to my Chicago followers, let me know if you head to Green Zebra or Karyn's. Better yet, take me with you!


1 bunch thin-stemmed asparagus, washed and trimmed or tough ends, and cut in half
1 bunch true baby carrots (the kind with green tops attached), peeled and halved
2 finger peppers, sliced, with all seeds
3 T. olive oil, divided
1/4 block extra-firm tofu, cut into thirds and pressed dry of excess moisture
soy sauce
rice vinegar
1/4 c. roasted salted cashews
2 medium onions, halved and sliced thinly
salt and pepper
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
juice of one lime
juice of one lemon
olive oil
squeeze of honey


Preheat the oven to 400. In a shallow baking dish, toss the carrots, asparagus, and finger pepper slices in about 1 T. olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until desired donesness (I cooked mine for about 20 minutes). You could cook it more, but I wouldn't recommend cooking it less.


Meanwhile, heat another 1 T. olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the tofu in the oil until golden brown on one side. Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side. In a shallow bowl wide enough to hold the three tofu pieces, mix a few dashes soy sauce, a few dashe rice vingegar, and a squeeze of Sriracha. When the tofu is done, take it out of the pan (leave the oil in the pan) and place it in the soy sauce mixture. Let it soak until you're ready to seve the dish, flipping it occasionally. Nestle the cashews alongside the tofu, in the liquid.


Add another T. of olive oil to the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized. Set aside.


Meanwhile, put the rest of the ingredients listed (starting with the cilantro) into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside. Remove the asparagus and carrots from the oven. Pile on a plate, top with some onions, lay the pieces of tofu on top, and top with a little of the tofu marinating liquid and the cilantro sauce. Scatter some cashews around the plate. Serve and enjoy!

Eat well and enjoy life, friends! More soon...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Meatless Monday: Pizza a la Mumbai

This is how I described this meal to Ross [picture the proud, self-indulgent grin of a 4th grader bringing home an A on a math test]: "It's pizza with homemade Indian-spiced marinara, curried spinach and chickpeas, and fresh ricotta!"

Ross' response [picture a blank stare]: "Were you speaking English just then?" [Me: *shakes head.*]

When he finally took a bite, he exclaimed, "Whoa! This is like...Indian pizza! I get it!" He has seen the light! *ANGELS SINGING ON HIGH* After another bite: "It tastes just like Indian food...only, on a pizza." Wonders never cease. Actually, I was thrilled that he "got" the "concept" behind this Meatless Monday meal. Not that it was on a Moto-esque level or anything. But for someone who doesn't do a lot of fusion food (unlike one of my favorite bloggers), I was sort of proud of myself.

Before I go handing out my very own James Beard award, I should remind us all that anything - anything - tastes good on a pizza. And lest you think it's a completely original idea, let me admit now, publicly, that it was inspired by - of all things - something I saw on a Bobby Flay show, and also by the lone vegetarian dish I had while dining at the porktastic restaurant The Publican.

Anyway, it was good. The flavors in the marinara and the toppings melded beautifully, and the ricotta added a rich counterpoint to the bold flavors. One note: I wouldn't skip the cilantro and peppers on top - their brightness and crunch really lighten up the tastebud flavor assault.


1 fresh ball of pizza dough
cornmeal for dusting
1 batch Indian marinara (recipe follows)
~1.5 cups fresh ricotta cheese
olive or canola oil
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large bag baby spinach leaves, steamed then squeezed dry, roughly chopped
several dashes curry powder
salt and pepper
fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish
1/2 thinly sliced fresh finger pepper (optional), for garnish

1 medium onion, diced
1 finger (or serrano) pepper, sliced, with all seeds
1 large can whole peeled plum tomatoes and all juices
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
handful cilantro, chopped
a few dashes cumin
1 cinnamon stick
a few dashes allspice
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes


Make the marinara: Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Cook the onion and finger pepper until beginning to soften. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Use an immersion blender to make it smooth (you can skip this step and have chunkier sauce). Turn off heat and set aside until ready to use.


In a skillet, heat about 1 T. olive oil. Cook the chickpeas, seasoning with salt, pepper, and curry powder, for a few minutes, until chickpeas are hot and coated evenly with the spices. Remove the chickpeas and set aside. In the same pan (don't bother wiping it out), put a little more oil and the squeezed-dry spinach in the pan, and season with salt, pepper, and curry powder. Cook until hot and spices are evenly distributed.


Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Dust a little flour on your work surface and roll out the dough until desired thinness (I think thinner is better, but that's just me). Spread a little cornmeal over your pizza stone or baking sheet. Place the dough on top. Brush with a little olive oil. Spread the chickpeas and spinach over the dough evenly. Place dollops of fresh ricotta enenly around the dough. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the whole thing. Top it all with dollops of the marinara.


Bake until dough is crisp and bown on the edges and ricotta is beginning to brown in places. Remove from the oven and cut into slices. Top slices with a little fresh cilantro and sliced finger peppers. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Vegan Sweet & Sour...Hot Pot?

You don't have to be able to define something to like it.

And for that reason, this will be a short post, because I don't know what this really is.

There's too much liquid for it to be a stir-fry.

But not so much that it's a soup.

It's an Asian-flavored, animal-product-free, easy, cheap, and delicious dinner.

And that's as close to a definition as I'm going to get. Enjoy, friends.


2 T. sesame oil
1/3 block extra firm tofu, squeezed dry and cut into cubes
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, in chunks
1 serrano pepper, sliced, with all seeds
~1 cup fresh broccoli florets
~1/2 c. frozen shelled edamame
~1/3 c. frozen green peas
2 T. brown sugar
~1/4 cup soy sauce
several vigorous shakes rice wine vinegar
~1 tsp. grated ginger
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
zest and juice of one lime
handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
pinch of salt
black pepper


Heat 1 T. of the oil in a Dutch oven or nonstick pan. Cook the tofu over medium heat, flipping each piece when it's golden brown on one side, until all pieces are golden brown on both sides. Remove from the oil and set aside. Add the rest of the oil to the pan, then add the red bell pepper, onion, and serrano pepper. Cook for about 4-5 minutes.


Add the broccoli, soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, lime zest and juice, salt and pepper, ginger, and garlic. Cook for a few more minutes.


Add the tofu, edamame, peas, and cliantro. Cook for 3-4 more minutes. Serve and enjoy!
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