Wow. It is definitely weird how much having a new full-time job affects your life. There’s a whole new schedule to figure out, there are weeks of intense training, there’s tests, new policies and procedures, new people, new office. . . well, you get the point. So my mind has been preoccupied lately, which explains the dearth of postings lately. Sometimes you just have to make a paid gig a priority! But I am sad that I’m probably gonna have to close up the bakery at this point. Just a sign o’ the times! Maybe I’ll just go super-super small-scale, although there is a limit to the amount of downsizing that you can do, especially if your workforce consists of one.
So this is my attempt at achieving some sense of normalcy — a return to blogging, a return to working out, a return to volleyball (that is, if my injuries would stop lingering). I would like to stress the word “attempt”. It may take me some time to really figure out how to balance everything. What makes it more challenging is that my work schedule isn’t exactly always set in stone. Eh, it’s a work in progress, much like everything else in life.
Anyhoo. . . on to the recipe! Now mussels are one of my most favorite things to eat. Just throw them into a pan with some white wine and dinner is ready in like 5 minutes! Really. It’s not the most user-friendly, mainly because you have a whole bunch of shells to deal with when your done. Which is why I try to schedule meals like this the day before trash day. I don’t need bits of shellfish lingering in the trash for several days.
Now that I’ve gotten that lovely image out of the way we can get back to the recipe. It’s relatively simple and it’s easily changed to fit whatever ingredients you have around. This time around I had some onions, garlic, celery, Roma tomatoes, and some basil. Throw in the little bit of Andouille that I had bought specifically for this and you get one of my most favoritest dishes. Here’s what you need:
- 1 1/2 lbs mussels, cleaned and beards removed
- 1/4 lb. andouille sausage
- 1 rib of celery, 1/4 in. diagonal slice
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
- 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 c. basil, chopped
- 1-2 c. white wine
- salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a large pan, sauté the Andouille for about 3 minutes. Add the celery and onion and sauté for about 2 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and half of the basil. Cook for another 2 minutes.
3. Throw in the mussels and white wine and cover. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Then remove the cover, stir the mussels, and return the lid. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
4. Top with remaining basil. Serve over pasta, or rice, or with crackers, or with a straw (or just slurp it out of the bowl).
Beets. Now who doesn’t like beets? Actually, I didn’t for the longest time (skip this if you already know this story 🙂 ). The taste was odd to me — kinda like an earthier carrot. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it just seemed weird. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t exposed to them as a child. Actually I don’t think Brooklyn had any beets at the time. Sure, that’s probably not accurate and my memory is somewhat foggy. After all, I was only like five years old at the time and that was like 100 years ago.
But I digress… This I served as a side, but it is easy to turn this into a full vegetarian course. And again, this is hard for me to quantify because I grilled some beets and served it with a handful of greens and topped it with some feta so ingredients are just a guestimation. This is easy-peasy lemon-squeezy; here’s kinda what you need:
- 1 beet, sliced about 1/4″ thick
- vegetable oil, for brushing the beets
- 1 c. micro greens or baby greens (I used daikon and chard)
- 1/4 c. feta, crumbled
- salt and pepper, to taste
- salad dressing, to taste
1. Prepare your grill, as needed (again, I use hardwood charcoal). Brush the beets with the vegetable oil on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Grill the beets until tender over direct heat, about 2-3 minutes a side. Remove from the heat to cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, lightly dress the greens
3. Arrange the beets on the plate. Top with the dressed greens. Sprinkle with the feta crumbles. Add salt and pepper if you like.
Notes — for the dressing, I just drizzled some olive oil and lemon juice on top of the greens to dress them
Corn, a grill, and compound butter. How can that combination be wrong? I love grilling corn and I’m on the side of the spectrum that grills the corn without the husks on. In my opinion, if you grill with the husks on you’re really not grilling the corn but steaming it. I, for one, like a nice, smoky char. And I like nice, simple, summer recipes. You can’t get much simpler than this — corn, butter, radishes. That’s essentially all you need. I just add some herbs for some additional flavor (just some basil and parsley, but use whatever you want).
I would serve this as a side, but it is easy to get full from this because you can get carried away. Here’s what you need:
- 1 stick of butter, softened
- 1 -2 radishes, chopped
- chopped herbs, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 – 8 ears of corn, husks removed
- vegetable oil
1. Prepare your grill (I use charcoal). Meanwhile, combine the butter, radishes, herbs, salt, & pepper in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Brush the corn with the oil and place on the grill over direct heat. Grill until nicely browned, about 8 – 10 minutes. Turn the ears as needed to cook evenly. Transfer to a serving plate.
3. After the corn is removed from the grill, brush with the radish butter. Sprinkle on a little salt & pepper if you like and serve.
Notes — You can bush the radish butter on the corn while it’s on the grill, but I’d wait until the last couple of minutes because the radishes could burn. . . You can keep the husks on. Peel them back and tie them to make a handle. Just keep the husks off the heat — hang them over the edge of the grill. . . Make some extra radish butter — it’s great on a nice toasty baguette!
If you’re looking for something to serve as a side for the upcoming holidays, give this recipe a try. It’s rich and creamy without using any cream at all, so it’s a little bit more waistline friendly. This was taken from the cookbook An American Bounty from The Culinary Institute of America. What’s nice about this cookbook is that it gives you some nutritional information with each recipe. And this recipe is healthier than you think — 180 calories, 4 g protein, 10 g fat, 18 g carbohydrates, 285 mg sodium, and 40 mg cholesterol per 6 oz. serving. It will serve 4 – 6 people.
I did try my best at making some fancy design like those baristas at those fancy coffee houses. It almost worked, but since the densities of the soup and the cream were so different, designs really didn’t want to stay put. I eventually settled on swirling everything together, which I liked. It kinda looks like Jupiter. . . kinda. . . well, not really. But I digress, here’s what you need:
- 1 T. unsalted butter
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, trimmed and diced
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 t. ground ginger
- 3-4 c. chicken broth
- 2 c. butternut squash, cubed
- 1 c. acorn squash, cubed
- 1/2 potato, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 t. salt, or to taste
- 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper, or to taste
- 1 t. julienned orange zest
2. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is tender and translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
3. Add the ginger and sauté for another minute.
4. Add the broth, squashes, and potato. Bring the broth to a full boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the squashes are tender enough to pierce easily with a fork, about 20 minutes.
5. Remove the soup from the heat and allow it to cool briefly. Purée the soup with an immersion blender, food processor, or run it through a food mill.
6. Return the soup to the pot and bring to a simmer. Adjust the consistency, if necessary, by adding additional broth or water. Taste the soup and add salt, pepper, and orange zest.
7. Serve the soup in a heated tureen or individual bowls.
Notes — If you wanted to make this vegan, just substitute the butter with some olive oil and switch the chicken broth with some vegetable broth. . . add a few drops of lemon or lime juice to brighten the flavor. . . you can add a T. of orange juice concentration with the final flavor adjustment. . . if you wanted to make this in advance, complete up to step 5, cool the soup to room temperature, and refrigerate or freeze. Before serving, return the soup to a full boil, and make final adjustments. . . can be served chilled. . . whip a little heavy cream to soft peaks, fold in an equal amount of sour cream, and add freshly grated ginger, to taste. add a dollop to each portion. . .
I do apologize; I don’t have a picture of the final product — everything was eaten so fast! At least I have a couple of pics of some things that took place beforehand. Now there was no real intention to make these; I just saw them at the market and thought to myself, “Waterlily, you could do something nice with these!”
This was part of a welcome meal for my parents and my brother when they drove up to visit over Labor Day. It was just something nice and a little bit special that I could have waiting for them once they got here. It’s not everyday that you can have some fresh squash blossoms. . . well, at least in my house. These can be somewhat tricky to work with, mostly because they can be pretty delicate. But on the other hand, don’t be too afraid to peel back the petals and stuff them with the filling. They can be pretty resilient.
As for the filling, it again shows some of the versatility of the Garlic Confit and the Pesto that I posted a little bit ago. This time I combine the two with just a little bit of some cream cheese. Of course, I did panic and make a double batch of the stuffing. Trust me, a single one is more than enough; the good thing is that it makes a very nice spread on some bread, or a bagel, or maybe a cucumber sandwich or something along those lines. You could probably thin out the stuffing with a little yogurt or sour cream and make a nice vegetable dip. Or how about taking a couple of tablespoons of the filling and adding it to a pasta sauce and making a nice pesto cream sauce. Just take the filling and some pasta water (that’s the water in which you are currently boiling the pasta, in case you didn’t know) and you have an instant sauce! Or using it to fill some crab rangoons (which I have been craving since I’ve been sick and bedridden). See, that’s like 20 ideas right there. Hopefully my rambling will help everybody see how you can take portions from recipes and use them in different applications. Here’s what you need:
- about 12 -15 squash blossoms
- 1 8-oz. package of cream cheese
- 3 -4 cloves from the garlic confit
- 1/2 c. confit pesto
- 1 c. seasoned flour
- 1 egg
- canola oil for frying
1. Carefully wash and dry the squash blossoms. I just had them drip dry in a colander that was lined with a few sheets of paper towel. Set aside.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cream cheese, pesto, and confit. Mix until smooth. Gently open the blossoms without tearing them and fill each one with about one tablespoon (or a little bit more, if you like) of the cream cheese mixture. Carefully twist the blossoms closed.
3. Scramble the egg in a shallow dish. Now dredge the blossoms in the flour, then coat with the egg, and then dredge in the flour again.
4. Fill a frying pan about an inch deep with the canola oil. Over medium or medium-high heat, bring the oil to about 350 degrees F. In small batches, fry the flowers until golden, turning them once.
5. Drain them on a cooling rack lined with some paper towel. Serve while still hot.
Notes — You could secure the blossoms with a toothpick if that is your preference, just remember to remove them before eating!. . . One trick that I learned from Alton Brown is that you can drain these (or anything else that you’re frying) in an unorthodox way. Normally you would drain them on a plate or rack with some paper towel on it. You should turn all that upside down! It should look like this, solid surface (kitchen counter), then your paper towel, and finally an upsidedown cooling rack. The rack acts as a wick which draws out the excess oil, but also acts as a physical barrier that prevents the food item from sitting in a pool of grease. . .
It’s been one of those “what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks do I have in the refrigerator / pantry today” kind of days. But this recipe started out as an inspiration; an “a-ha!” moment, if you will. For whatever reason, I was inspired to try to make gnocchi today (and by “today” I mean the same day that I’m writing this). No idea why. . . I’ve never made gnocchi before. . . I don’t have a wise old Italian grandmother who can teach the wonders of making my own dumplings. But I did have a bunch of leeks and a bushel of basil from the farmer’s (or is it farmers) market. And I had some leftover mashed potatoes from the night before, so it all made sense. I could make a shepherd’s pie, but I have the day off so why not try something new?
Now I know that you’re not supposed to use mashed potatoes when making gnocchi, but how different can it be? There’s just a little extra cream and butter, maybe some garlic. . . and there are probably some recipes out there that would add all that stuff in anyway. The only problem that I had was my lack of a ricer or a food mill, which I totally recommend that you have if you make gnocchi a lot. . . or even a little, because I had to pass all this through a mesh strainer, which was a pain!
Being a novice at this is rather evident — I could not roll it out right, mainly because I was working with a too-big piece of dough (I altered the recipe to accommodate). So that meant that the pieces I cut were huge, which also meant that I could not shape things right. But with all those things incorrect, it still tasted pretty good. Now I have gone to restaurants and had some bad gnocchi — too dense, too doughy, too bland. Much to my surprise, these were pretty light, but probably could have used a little bit more salt — I thought the mashed potatoes were salty enough.
This is another one of those things that doesn’t have as exact measurements as I would like. I kept on adding flour to the dough since it was too wet (I assume from the mashed potatoes). But something like that would probably happen if it’s too humid outside. This is as close as I could get it. Here’s what you need:
- 2 eggs
- 3 c. leftover mashed potatoes
- 1 1/2 c. flour, plus extra for the dough and rolling
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 leeks, thinly sliced
- 2 sprigs of fresh basil
- canola oil
- zest of a lemon
1. Into a large bowl, run the mashed potatoes through a ricer, food mill, or a sieve. Make a well in the middle and add your eggs, salt, & pepper. Mix the eggs with a fork, gradually adding some of the potatoes along the sides of the well.
2. Sprinkle the flour over the top and using the fork mix to combine, being careful not to overmix. The dough should be moist, but not wet or sticky. If it is still wet, sprinkle flour over the top 1/4 c. at a time and work in gently.
3. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll out the dough into a thin log, about an inch wide. Cut the dough into 3/4 in pieces and dust with flour. Roll the pieces over the tines of a fork. Place the rolled pieces onto a sheet pan.
4. Bring some water to a boil in a large stock pot. When it comes to a boil, generously salt the water with about 1 T. salt. Drop the gnocchi into the water and cook for about 5 minutes; when they are done, they will float to the surface. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Prepare the crispy basil.
5. In a small pan, put about an inch of canola oil on medium-high. Pinch off the individual basil leaves. Working in small batches, fry the basil in the oil; it should only take a couple of seconds. Remove the leaves and place on a wire rack lined with paper towel.
6. Put a couple of tablespoons of the basil oil into the drained stock pot (I didn’t want to dirty another pan). Place on medium high and sauté the leeks. Add salt & pepper to taste. When tender, add the gnocchi and heat through. Toss with the lemon zest and serve.
Notes — Alright so here’s a little history for you, for which I know you’ve been chomping at the bit. Gnocchi is probably one of the oldest recipes out there, with some documentation dating back to the 1300s. There is debate on the origin of the word, but most agree that it has its roots in the Middle East. . . Traditionally, this is one of those meals that help extend your budget, since you can make it from simple ingredients. . . You can make these ahead of time and leave them in the refrigerator or maybe freeze them. . .
It’s still summer (although the weather up here the past couple of days would make you think otherwise) and one of the things that I love on a hot summer’s day / night/ or whatever is Ceviche. This is a different take than my usual recipe in that it’s a more on the sweet side of things. I had some nice watermelon in the fridge so I thought it might be nice to incorporate everything together. And I use some orange juice in the marinade in addition to the lime. Plus there’s a new take on a traditional ceviche because I hate cilantro. So I thought that I could maybe get around this by using some whole coriander seed. Two completely different tastes, but at least they come from the same plant (in case you didn’t know that). So I can kinda say that there’s cilantro in it, it just hasn’t grown yet.
You can use other kinds of seafood in this one. Scallops work nice, squid is good too, haven’t used octopus though. Since it is National Catfish Month, you could totally use that! Here’s what you need:
- 1 lb. Ahi Tuna, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
- 1/2 t. whole coriander
- 1/4 t. whole fennel
- 6-8 limes, juiced & zested 4 of them
- 1 1/2 c. orange juice
- 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 roma tomatoes, diced
- 2 avocados, diced
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1 -2 c. diced watermelon
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 T. sambal oelek (chili paste), or add however much you like
- 1 T. toasted coconut
- salt & pepper, to taste
1. In a container, combine the tuna, coriander, fennel, zest, lime juice, orange juice, and pepper. Marinate the mixture for about 2-3 hours, turning every half hour with a wooden spoon.
2. Strain out the fish and transfer to a large serving dish. Add the tomato, avocado, onion, garlic and olive oil. Toss to combine and let sit for another 30 minutes.
3. Spoon out a serving into a dish or martini glass. Sprinkle with some of the toasted coconut and you’re ready to serve!
Notes — I’d probably replace all the tomato with watermelon next time, but I had to use up those romas quick. . . If you wanted to add some finely diced jalapeno instead of the sambal that would be fine. You could just omit it completely. . . One thing to try is maybe toasting the coriander and fennel before adding to the marinade. . . You can chop everything finer if you want to maybe serve this with some tortilla chips. This recipe is more of a salad.
Here’s something that I had tried to put together. Originally I had the idea to make a Caprese Pie (which I still want to make), but alas I was fresh out of Pate Brisee. So instead of trying to reinterpret a Caprese salad, I decided to try to switch it up a little bit. This is a great summertime dish because prep can be so simple. And who wants to be bogged down in a hot kitchen during the summer? Not this guy! The hardest thing you need to do could be just washing the veg! Plus tomatoes are so good right now! And when you can get a bushel of basil from the local farmer’s market for $1, it’s a match made in heaven.
Now after a little bit of research, what everyone knows as a Caprese salad really isn’t the one from Capri. According to Epicurious, the original salad was served with arugula and dried oregano, both of which grew wild on the island. Plus, it is served with olive oil only. The vinegar would be detrimental to the flavor of the dish and overpower some of the more delicate notes. My take does have an herb vinaigrette and the moscatel vinegar that I used can be a little overwhelming, but I make a nice emulsion with some basil and oregano which does help tame it a bit. Here’s what you need:
- 2 fresh tomatoes, cut in half and sliced 1/4 in. thick
- 2 lbs. fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 in. thick half rounds
- 1/4 c. moscatel vinegar
- 3/4 c. olive oil
- 1 c. fresh herbs (I used basil and oregano), coarsely chopped.
- 2 garlic cloves
- salt & pepper, to taste
2. While the dressing marries, arrange the tomatoes and mozzarella on the plate. I made a circular pattern alternating the cheese and tomatoes. In the center I put a chiffonade of some basil.
3. Pour some of the dressing on top and you are ready to serve! Simple!
Notes — If you like you could try using a more neutral vinegar, but I like the tartness of the moscatel. . . I think that you could add a lot of interest to this salad by using some heirloom tomatoes and different kinds of herbs like some purple basil. . . I also did a lazier version where I just coarsely chopped everything and tossed it with the vinaigrette — very rustic!