Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Something a little different, a little like everything else

It's rare for us to go out to eat Italian food. We did the other day when were randomly in Capitol Hill with J's dad. We stopped by one of his old haunts in his old hood, Palermo, which i have just discovered is in Ballard as well (cool!). Palermo serves pretty basic but reliable Italian fare and has better than average pizza. They also serve vegetarian dish that seems to make J happy. He ordered it the other day and it occurred to me that not only could I easily make it, I wouldn't mind eating it. I took my best guess at the recipe and this is what I came up with. Not exactly what you get there, but J seemed to like it just fine.

Vegetable Parmesan

3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp basil
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp marjoram
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 cups lowfat ricotta cheese
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
4-6 slices fresh mozzarella
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium eggplant, sliced
1 large or 2 small zucchini, sliced
1 red bell pepper

Slice eggplant and spread out on a plate. Sprinkle with salt and let sit 10 minutes or more. This will drawn out some of the moisture as well as get rid of some of the eggplant's bitterness.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, saute onions and garlic in olive oil till just soft. Add spices and cook for 2 minutes to release flavor. Add tomatoes and vinegar, cover and let simmer over medium low heat for 10-15 minutes.

In a bowl combine Ricotta cheese, spices and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a 8"x 8" baking dish spoon enough sauce to cover the bottom of the pan about 1/2" deep.

Using your broiler, roast the zucchini and the bell pepper by spreading them out on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper and place under a broiler for 5 -10 minutes. Allow them to brown but do not cook thoroughly (they will cook more in the casserole). Rinse the eggplant. Heat a nonstick skillet over high heat and brown eggplant on each side. Lay pan fried eggplant out in the dish. Spread ricotta cheese over the eggplant. Layer zucchini and red pepper over the cheese. Cover with marinara sauce and top with mozzarella slices. Cook at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until heated through.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Salmon Goodness

So I made this meal a few weekends ago and it turned out really well. It took some time and planning but it was certainly worth it in the end. Each piece is easy to assemble and most can be made ahead of time if desired. Its a wonderful use of medium grade salmon (such as the Alaskan sockeye available frozen at Trader Joe's). Enjoy for a special, but laid back, occasion.

Asian Style Salmon burgers with Wasabi Mayonnaise, Pickled Cucumbers and Sesame Soy Dressing
Pickled Cucumbers
1 large cucumber
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt to taste
Slice cucumber into very thin slices. In a bowl toss cucumber with vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, and salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Wasabi Ginger Mayonnaise
1/4 cup light canola mayonnaise
2 tsp wasabi (to taste)
2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
In a small bowl whisk together. Cover and refrigerate.
Sesame Soy Dressing
1/2 small red pepper, sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup sesame oil
1 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, finely minced
In a bowl whisk together soy sauce, oil, garlic and ginger. Place red pepper slices in sauce and let marinate for 1-2 hours.
Salmon Burgers
1 pound salmon fillet, skin discarded and fish cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup panko style bread crumbs
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 scallions, minced
1/2 small red pepper, minced
4 Ciabatta Rolls
In a bowl mash the salmon cubes with a fork into a paste. Add egg, soy sauce, and garlic until combined well. Add bread crumbs, scallions and red pepper. Stir mixture to combine and if too wet add additional bread crumbs. Form into four 3/4-inch-thick patties.
In a large non-stick skillet cook patties until golden, about 2 minutes on each side. Cover and cook over moderate heat until just cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Assemble each burger with a healthy dose of Wasabi Ginger Mayonnaise, a few Pickled Cucumbers, and a few slices of the marinated red peppers. Serve with salad greens drizzled with Seasame Soy dressing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


A friend of my requested this recipe from me a few weeks ago to prepare for a dinner party at her apartment. It reminded me how much I love the meal so I made it again last night for my hungry boyfriend and his father, tired after a day of building a tool and garden shed in our backyard. I originally started making this recipe years ago when I was an undergrad living in Foley House - a cooking cooperative at Dartmouth College. There, I lived in a house of 10 people who took turns cooking nightly meals. I learned two things living and cooking at foley: how to cook for a large group (I still have difficulty cooking for two), and how to cook for vegetarians. It was really this experience that has forever influenced my almost vegetarianism (and having a non meat eating partner). Foley House also introduced me to the Moosewood Cookbook series by Mollie Katzen. This is a wonderful and so far unmatched resource for vegetarian recipes named for a restaurant to which I have never been in upstate New York. This recipe is in her Enchanted Broccoli Forest Cookbook , and I have modified it slightly. You can serve this at any party without anyone complaining about the lack of meat. There are a few variations I have employed, such adding Soyrizo or some other meat substitute, adding black beans, or cooking as a casserole instead of actually rolling them. I alternate between using traditional corn tortillas or flour, which seem to be a crowd-pleaser. There has been great debate regarding the flour/corn dilemma; I will throw my hat in with corn, and let you, the chef, decide what you prefer.

Enchiladas de Foley

1 - 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 large red bell pepper
2 tsp salt
8 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp cumin
2 tbsp chili powder (if desired)

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Let cool and run through a food processor or a blender to make smooth.


2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium red, yellow or orange bell peppers, diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp basil
2 tsp oregano
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
1-1/2 cups grated pepper jack cheese + 1/2 cup for top

16 corn tortillas (10-12 flour if you prefer)

Heat oil in a deep skillet. cook onions and garlic over medium high heat 8 minutes, or until soft. Add bell pepper, zucchini and spices and cook another 8-10 minutes until zucchini is just soft. Remove from heat and stir in 1 1-2 cup cheese. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.


If using corn tortillas you will need to soften them. There are many ways to soften (frying, soaking, etc) but I prefer to simply steam them. Wrap them in a towel and use a steamer tray (or the like) and set in boiling water for 2-5 minutes. They can continue to steam as you work. If using flour tortillas, not need for a steam...

Pour half the sauce in a 9"x13" baking dish. Roll the enchiladas (spoonful of filling, roll) and lay out tightly in the tray. After the tray is full pour the remaining sauce over and sprinkle cheese. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake in a 325 degree oven for 30 minutes. I like to remove the foil and throw under the broiler for the last few minutes to give the cheese some crispness.

Enjoy with something light, like a green salad sprinkled with pepitas.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lord, we eat a lot of soup!

I am realizing we eat a lot of soup these days. I guess its hardly surprising as it is an easy meal to cook and provides at least 2-3 meals worth of food, which comes in handy in households short on time. Yesterday after a long day of work in the backyard (and lunch of fish and chips and beer - backyard work food) I was hankering for something on the lighter side and warm. I had three heads of broccoli in the crisper that desperately needed using and figured the best use for them would be cream of broccoli soup. I don't buy cream and prefer not to cook with it, so in assembling this recipe I made it my goal to create a lowfat "cream" of broccoli soup. Potatoes add to the creamy texture when blended and a touch of lowfat milk gives it the proper color and sweetness. I like my cream of broccoli soup very peppery so I add quite a bit of pepper at the end and serve with hearty multi-grain bread:

"Cream" of Broccoli Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
2-3 medium celery stalks, diced
2 medium red potatoes, diced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1-1 1/2 lb broccoli, chopped
9 cups veggie broth
2 tbsp good quality Dijon mustard
2 bay leaves
1 cup lowfat milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil and butter in a large soup pot. Cook onion, carrots, celery and potatoes over medium high heat 5 minutes till lightly cooked. Add 2/3 of the broccoli and all of the garlic and cook until broccoli is bright and green. Add broth, bay leaves and mustard and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the vegetable are cooked and soft (about 20-30 minutes). Using a blender (or immersion blender if you have one!) blend until smooth and return to pot. Add milk and cheese and heat thoroughly. In the meantime steam remaining broccoli until soft. Add to soup and salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wine and Caramel Corn

So yes, we are in a Recession - big "R". It is a "difficult economy" as some say, and it is seriously starting to wear on me. My day job is in architecture, a field especially affected by the ebbs and flows of the national tide. Today my friendly neighbor to the east, a Canadian source of all thing eccentric, was laid off. I fear I am not far to follow. Things are changing in the place I work, and I am feeling very much left behind. Times like these call for comfort food, and what's more comfortable than a little red wine and caramel corn? After a dose of this miraculous duo, I am thinking that maybe I should just sell some AVON, pop out a kid, and be happy as as the ladies on the television. Well, maybe not. In the meantime I will just eat some more Caramel Corn and have another glass of wine...

Caramel Corn (straight out of Epicurious)

2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Heat Oil in a heavy saucepan, covered, over modern heat. remove lid and quickly add remaining kernels, then cook, covered, shaking pan frequently, until kernels stop pooping, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and uncover. (or you could just pop some microwave popcorn).

Melt butter in a heavy pot over moderate heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring, then boil without stirring, until syrup reached 300 degrees (around 8-10 minutes). Using a wooden spoon stir salt and baking soda into syrup, then quickly stir in popcorn to coat. Spread out over parchment paper to cool. Break up into bite sized pieces.

Enjoy and, for a moment, stop thinking about the Economy...

Monday, March 23, 2009


I am not an expert at preparing lentils, but I have recently been trying to find ways to work them into my cooking regimen. Lentils are high in protein and dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B1 and one of the best non-flesh sources of iron. As almost vegetarians and almost anemics lentils are especially good for us. Most lentil soups seem to rely on ham for their main flavor which is unacceptable for obvious reasons (though I do love ham). I found a recipe on Epicurious for a Curried Lentil Soup that I adapted a bit and made tonight. Perfect for a rainy Seattle spring day (that feels like winter) the soup is spicy and dense and very filling. Enjoy on your next rainy day.

Curried Lentil Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped peeled carrots
4 large garlic cloves
3 tbsp good quality madras style curry powder
1 tbsp cumin
2 bay leaf
1-3 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)
6 cups veggie broth
4 cups water
2 1/2 cups dried lentils
6-8 ounces lacinato kale (or green of your choice), chopped
2 medium tomatoes, diced
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium high heat. Cook onions, carrots, celery and garlic stirring often for 5-10 minutes until soft. Add curry, cumin, garlic, red pepper and bay leaf and cook a few minutes more to release the flavors of the curry. Add lentils, broth, and water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until lentils are soft. Add kale (or other green) and tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes till kale is soft. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and fresh cilantro.

Friday, March 20, 2009

breakfast for dinner

Who doesn't love breakfast for dinner? As a kid that meant waffles for dinner, obviously something to which to look forward. As an adult my tastes run more savory (even at breakfast for breakfast) and breakfast for dinner usually means eggs. There are a lot of fantastic and easy ways to cook eggs (see the make-ahead post from February) and one of my favorites is a frittata. Last night I decided to experiment a little and try something different, something Debora Madison calls a skillet pie. It's basically an egg and cheese pie cooked in a skillet. I took her recipe and modified it a little - to add some texture - and got a smooth and cheesy dish that was a very satisfying but also very simple.

Skillet Pie with Mushrooms

serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small red onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup ricotta cheese (I used nonfat cottage cheese and it worked just as well)
1/2 cup grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 eggs
1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dill
1 cup shitake or crimini mushrooms
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup cheap red wine
1 tsp marjoram
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium (6-8" diameter) cast iron skillet. Saute onions and garlic over medium heat until brown. While that cooks combine cheese in a bowl. Whisk in eggs until well mixed. Add milk, flour, dill, salt and pepper. Pour into skillet and cook in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

While that cooks, stem the mushrooms and slice into thick slices. In a small skillet melt butter and add mushrooms. Cook until just soft. Add marjoram and wine and simmer until reduced by half. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve skillet pie on a bed of lightly braised greens topped with mushroom wine reduction.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

AIG Chili

According to Wikipedia chili is said to be "the food of forgiveness and reconciliation". Knowing that, I think that one solution to assuage the country's mutual frustration at the leaders of AIG might be that, using those "huge bonuses", they throw one giant chili cook off for the entire country. With the myriad of varietals - Cincinnati, Louisville, and of course the classic, Texas chili - everyone in the country can have their chance at forgiveness and reconciliation. Being almost vegetarians we make a chili con frijoles rather than chili con carne. While I know that to all you purists chili isn't chili without meat, fake meat can only carry a stew so far. J is a master chili man, either a result of Texas upbringing or his constant need for forgiveness and reconciliation, so he is the chili chef in the house. I closely watched the last time he made it so that I could accurately post the recipe here. Its filing and makes a lot so be prepared for some leftovers:

Chili con frijoles

2 tbsp canola oil
1 med yellow onion, diced
2 bell peppers (preferably red and green)
2-3 small carrots, diced (optional)
1 med zucchini (optional)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup good chili powder (the New Mexico chili powder you bought to make red chili sauce works great)
2 tbsp cumin
2-3 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp coriander
2 15 oz. cans black beans
2 15 oz. cans pinto beans
1 large (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1-2 cups beer
1 pkg soyrizo (8 oz) or other meet substitute

Heat oil in a large soup pot. Saute onion, peppers and optional carrots or zucchini on high heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, oregano and coriander and cook until vegetables are just slightly soft. Add beans, tomatoes and beer and lower heat. Heat through and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add soyrizo and salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and shredded cheese.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


So Wednesday nights I take a class at my gym that involes lots of flailing about and by the time I get home I am in no mood to cook a big complicated meal, so I rely on easy fast and filling options like fajitas. I don't go in for those spice packets you buy at the grocery, instead I season my fajita veggies with a red sauce we make from New Mexico Red Chili powder. With that great sauce it's pretty easy to put together a fajita meal. I slice a big onion into wedges, slice a red bell pepper into strips, chop a zucchini and maybe a carrot into thick chunks and then saute them all in a cast iron skillet on high heat. After the veggies have cooked just a little I add a good dose of the Red Chili Sauce (maybe 1/4 cup). I usually serve the veggies with cheese and avocado in soft flour tortillas and side with spicy black beans. These recipes are staples in my kitchen:

Red chile sauce

3 tbsp canola oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tbsp flour
4 tbsp New Mexico red chili powder (available at specialty stores and New Mexico)
2 1/2 c water
salt to taste

Heat oil over low heat in a saucepan. Add garlic and flour, cook until golden brown. Mix in red chili powder. Add water and whisk till lumps dissolve. Simmer 10- 15 minutes over medium heat. Salt to taste. You can store in your refrigerator up to two weeks.

Spicy Black Beans

2 tbsp canola oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 small bell pepper, diced
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp mexican oregano
2 tsp ground coriander
1-3 tsp reed pepper flakes
1 15 oz can black beans, drained
1/4 cup veggie broth or water
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions and garlic over medium high heat in oil till soft. Add cumin, coriander, oregano and red pepper flakes and fry to release the flavors. Add black beans, broth or water and bay leaves. Lower heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.