Archive for the 'Recipes' Category

Farewell to Sher

I would really rather not be writing this post.

I would really rather not have eaten this particular meal at this particular time.

I would prefer to have stumbled across it, like so many other recipes posted by food bloggers I know and enjoy, and would prefer to have just made it whenever, unnoticed. I would prefer not to have been thinking about what I was going to way when I wrote it up.

Most of us in the food blogging community know this already: last Sunday morning, very suddenly, Sher of What Did You Eat? died of a heart attack.

Sher’s one of the bloggers I had not met. But I’d been reading her for awhile now, connected to her via Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, and because I have a friend who lives in Davis, I always felt like I could visualize where she lived as I read about her life.

And now she’s gone, and that’s left me with a lot to think about. She’s the first blogger in my regular reading to fall away, not because she abandoned her blog, but because life abandoned her. It breaks my heart, and I find myself thinking about the other food bloggers I know, the other people in this community of technologically-minded women and men who enrich my life so very much, and how they are not just glimmers on the screen to me. They are my peers, my friends, my compatriots. Any one of them gone leaves a hole.

Sher's stuffed mushrooms

Sher's stuffed mushrooms

My mother called while I was cooking up Sher’s Poblano and Cheddar-Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms last night. As I talked, I dried the spinach, and my salad spinner is a noisy thing. “What are you doing?” she asked.

I explained. “She was only 60,” I said. “I’m not very joyful about preparing this meal.”

The event: Remember Sher through her recipes. Kalyn suspended Weekend Herb Blogging in Sher’s honor, and asked those of us who take part in an event to take part in this one, organized by Mary, the breadchick, instead.

I spent some time browsing Sher’s archives, looking for something that spoke to me. This recipe did, partially because I love stuffed mushrooms, partially because it featured cilantro, an herb that, I’ll admit, I tolerate, but that I know Kalyn loves. And Kalyn and Sher were such good friends that it seemed appropriate.

I can tell you this: the “green taste” that Sher describes? It really shines in this dish. There’s no other real way to write about it, so I’m going to leave it in Sher’s hands. And the recipe is amazing. I do wish I had made more of it. I will make it again, to be sure. I’ll even keep the cilantro in there—I really enjoyed the recipe as Sher posted it.

But I hope to never make it again with as heavy a heart. To Sher’s family, I wish you consolation in your grief. To Kalyn, I wish you consolation as well, but I thank you for organizing this.

And to Sher, thank you. Thank you for this recipe, thank you for the other recipes that folks will have chosen and prepared in your honor this weekend, and thank you for your joyful writing. Know that we miss you.

Nuoc cham-caramelized leeks with shrimp

Leeks and shrimp, cookingEver since I arrived in California, I’ve been over-buying produce. That’s not to say that I’m wasting it—it’s quite possible that I’m eating a closer-to-vegetarian diet than I have ever eaten in my life—but it is requiring me to come up with interesting ways to use what I’ve got in fairly short order so I don’t end up with a full refrigerator of wilted, over-ripe, slightly moldy vegetables and fruits.

I also have a 15-minute commute to and from work. On foot. (I know, I know. Do you know how many people I know want to kick me in the knee just so I can feel the pain they feel when they hear this? Don’t think I don’t know how lucky I am…) That means that when I leave work in the evening, assuming I’m not on my way out to meet friends for dinner, I have the perfect window of time to evaluate what’s in the fridge and how I can combine it in the most tasty manner.

Earlier in the week, I’d mixed up a batch of nuoc cham, that godsend of a condiment served in all Vietnamese restaurants. Lydia of A Perfect Pantry inspired me to make it—I’ve been eating it for years and thinking it couldn’t be that hard to recreate at home, but it took me an awfully long time to actually try to do it. Now that I’ve done it once, I may never be able to go without having some in my refrigerator again. It’s that addictive. And that dead-easy to make.

I am also a huge fan of leeks, particularly when they’re roasted alongside a chicken, or caramelized, slowly, until they’re soft and sweet. Leek and potato soup is one of my favorites, and I adore braising them. I picked up some beautiful leeks at Friday’s Old Oakland Farmer’s Market, and decided, during my walk home, that tonight was the night they would give it up for the cause.

I caramelized them up in some local olive oil, then tossed in some of the leftover nuoc cham, which braised them just a bit before cooking down to a lovely sauce. Toward the end of the process, I tossed in some shrimp for protein’s sake, let them turn pink and opaque, and served it all up together. It was a simple, delicious combination that I plan to return to—a little bit sweet, and just barely savory from the chili-garlic sauce in the nuoc cham. If I make it again, the only thing I might try next time around is tossing in a little chili oil just to bump up the spicy side of the flavor combination. Otherwise, it’s all good.

Nuoc cham-caramelized leeks with shrimpNuoc cham-caramelized leeks with shrimp
(Serves four)

2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 leeks, trimmed (remove the ends and the tops) and sliced thinly
1/3 c. nuoc cham (See Lydia for the ideal recipe)
2 dozen uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined (Leave the tails on, if you’d like)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan.
  2. Add the sliced leeks and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook the leeks, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and caramelized, approximately 40 minutes. At the 30-minute mark, add salt and pepper and taste. Adjust seasonings if need be.
  3. Once the leeks are caramelized, add the nuoc cham. Continue cooking until the sauce is reduced by at least half and is fully coating the leeks.
  4. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook, stirring every minute or so, for approximately five minutes or until the shrimp are opaque and pink. Be careful not to overcook.
  5. Serve immediately. For a prettier presentation, serve the shrimp on top of a bed of the leeks.

This is my contribution for this week’s version of Weekend Herb Blogging, which is hosted this week by Astrid of Paulchen’s FoodBlog. Please stop by later in the weekend to read the full round-up!

Sautéed Swiss Chard and Spinach

Mixing in the greensNot long ago, Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen posted a fabulous-looking recipe for chard stems. It had never occurred to me to cook chard stems separately from the rest of the chard—while I realize they’re tougher than the leaves and require a slightly longer cooking time, I’ve always circumvented that issue by just cooking them first, then adding the leaves later.

I’ll admit a little laziness is at play, too. I’m not one to spend the time actually slicing the leaves from the chard stems. I tend, instead, to take my bunch of chard and chop it up almost like I’m chiffonading basil—I roll it into a monster log of leaves, then slice narrow ribbons by cutting perpendicular to the log. It’s effective, albeit unorthodox.

When I have worked my way through the leaves, I just chop up the part of the stems that stick out at the bottom, and keep those in a separate pile. I usually trim the bottom Stems and garlicquarter-inch or so of the stems, just to keep the raggedy pieces out of whatever I’m cooking.

When I actually get to the cooking part, I usually toss in the stems and garlic (in the case of the garlic photographed to the left, it’s garlic I actually grew in my very own garden, and therefore I swear it’s that much more delicious…) at the same time—that seems to create just the right balance of cooking time. In this case, I mix spinach and the chard leaves, and put them in later, and generally cook them just long enough to wilt them down. The result? Perfectly cooked stems, perfectly cooked leaves, and a delicious side dish that I could eat just about every day.

Sauteed chard and spinachSautéed Swiss Chard and Spinach
(Serves 4 as a side dish)

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 10 oz. bag baby spinach leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Wash and dry the chard, then remove the stems from the leaves in any method you deem appropriate (To do this IG-style, chop the stems off at the base of the leaves, and be sure to trim the very bottom parts). Chop the stems into 1/2-inch lengths and set them aside.
  2. Roll the leaves together into a big log, as if you were making a chiffonade of basil, and slice thin strips by cutting perpendicular to the log.
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan, and when it is hot, add the garlic and the chard stems. Sauté, stirring often, until the garlic just starts to brown and the stems are softening up.
  4. Add the sliced chard leaves and the spinach a few handfuls at a time, stirring the mixture until what you’ve put in is cooked down enough to make room for the next handfuls. Once all the chard and spinach is in the pan, put a lid on it and wait for about a minute or two.
  5. Remove the lid, stir, add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

This is my post for Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted this week by Ramona from the Houndstooth Gourmet. Stop by Ramona’s place on Monday to see the full round-up!

Just-about-spoonbread quick corn muffins

No matter where I live, no matter where I go, I will always hold the standard high for Iowa sweet corn. It’s hands-down fabulous, whether in a dish or on its own, and I plan to eat at least a few corn-only meals this summer, just in honor of its sheer amazingness. I don’t know if it’s what’s in the soil, or the water, or just that there’s so much of it the farmers have to get it right, but whatever it is, it’s working for this state.

I froze some of that sweet corn last summer—in fact, if I recall correctly, the corn I froze was purchased on the day the farmers were yelling to customers at the farmer’s market that it was the last day it would be available—and repurposed it to some Sunday afternoon corn muffins that made a regular Sunday afternoon taste much more like a Saturday night.

These muffins start with a basic cornbread and muffin mix (I used a pouch of Betty Crocker’s Cornbread and Muffin Mix as my starter), but I added or changed a few key ingredients to take it from normal to sublime.

Sure, it would probably be amazing if you made the muffin batter from scratch, but I had a lot to do on SCorn muffins pre-bakingunday and wanted muffins in a speedy fashion. I chose the shortcut option, but didn’t suffer for it.

The sweet corn studded the sunny batter and made it look interesting even before it went into the oven. I had made them in brightly colored, rubber-ducky paper muffin cups that were probably more appropriate to a baby shower than a Sunday afternoon brunch, but hey, one does what one can with what one inadvertently bought and abandoned in one’s kitchen closet.

The muffins came out of the oven browned and piping and ready for a pat of butter. A word to the wise: these aren’t nearly as crumbly as standard muffins – the addition of the corn and the cheese contribute to a spoon-bready texture. But let that butter soften or, like Patsy Cline, these muffins will fall to pieces.

Corn muffin post-bakingJust-About-Spoonbread Quick Corn Muffins
(Makes 6 muffins)

1 package cornbread and muffin mix (any commercial kind that requires the addition of butter and that says it makes 6 muffins)
Olive oil
1 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels (I recommend Iowa sweet corn, but that’s a limited-time-option in a very localized area)
1 handful shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat the oven as directed on the package. In my case, it was 400 degrees F.
  2. Prepare the cornbread and muffin mix as directed, with these exceptions: Substitute extra-virgin or virgin olive oil for the butter, and add just less than the amount of milk called for. In my case, the package called for 1/3 c. milk, and I poured about 90 percent of that into the bowl. You can add the eggs exactly as the mix directs.
  3. Fold in the corn and cheese.
  4. Bake as directed, until the muffins are firm and brown on top. Serve immediately with butter.

This is my contribution for Weekend Herb Blogging, which will be hosted this week by Kel from Green Olive Tree. Stop by Kel’s place after the weekend for a full round-up of recipes!

Golden statue bruschetta

I consider the day the Oscars ceremony airs to be something of a national holiday. I love movies, but for years, have harbored a not-so-secret obsession: I must see all the Best Picture nominees before the award show, and I keep a list from the second the nominations press conference ends to track how many nominated films I’ve seen.

It’s also significantly more fun to watch the ceremony with like-minded friends. By that, I mean friends willing to snark all over the place about the dresses, the tuxes, the attitudes, the speeches, the bad jokes, the bad results, and the endless montages.

Last year, I watched the Oscars alone, but this year, gathered with a group of friends to eat, drink and snark until the last little golden man had been handed out. In honor of the occasion, I contributed two different kinds of bruschetta to the festivities: fig and blue cheese, and basil-tomato made with summer produce harvested from the freezer.

The fig and blue cheese combo is, well, scrumptious. But I equally, if not more deeply, enjoyed the bruschetta version made with slow-roasted tomatoes and basil I harvested and chopped from my very own garden. There have been so many times this month when I’ve been thrilled that I thought to freeze the flavors of summer, and there’s no question that all that glittered last night was not Oscar gold.

BruschettaGolden Statue Bruschetta

1 baguette
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil
30 slow-roasted tomato halves
4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
5 oz. blue cheese
5 Tbsp. fig jam

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Slice baguette into 20 rounds. Arrange them on a baking sheet.
  3. Top half the slices with approximately 1 Tbsp. chopped basil and three slow roasted tomato halves.
  4. Sprinkle those slices with the Parmesan cheese.
  5. Top the other half of the slices with 1/2 oz. blue cheese each.
  6. Spread 1/2 Tbsp. fig jam on top of the blue cheese on each slice of bread.
  7. Bake the bruschetta for approximately 10 minutes, or until the bread is starting to crisp up and the cheese is melting.
  8. Serve immediately with a side of snark.

Although it’s a little early in the week to be thinking about the weekend, this is my contribution to this week’s edition of Weekend Herb Blogging, which is hosted this week by Zorra from Kochtopf. When the weekend actually arrives, please stop by to check out the full round-up!

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