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August 20, 2006

Recent Food Discoveries

Some recent food discoveries:

Posted by spaceling at 04:06 PM | TrackBack

August 19, 2006

Pita Bread Salad with Olivada Dressing

This recipe came about as sort of a collision between two recipes. One was a recipe for a panzanella (an Italian salad involving toasted cubes of bread) with an olivada dressing featured in the weekly newsletter for The Splendid Table (who apparently excerpted it from xcerpted from Tomatoes and Mozzarella: 100 Ways to Enjoy This Tantalizing Twosome All Year Long by Hallie Harron and Shelley Sikora). The other was a recipe for fattoush (a Lebanese salad involving toasted pita bread) from Jack Bishop's A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. I took some of the ingredients from the panzanella, some from the fattoush, added a few things of my own, and, hey, salad!

I suppose since I used pita bread, this is a fattoush, and not a panzanella. Maybe it's a fattounella. Or a panzoush. (The two greatest things about fattoush and panzanella, are 1) they're a great way to use up slightly stale bread, and 2) they're fun to say.)


For the salad: For the dressing:
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. olive tapenade (I used storebought tapenade)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper
  • Steps

    1. Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
    2. Place the pita rounds on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes total, turning once, until crispy. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool slightly.
    3. Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
    4. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over the salad to taste (the recipe makes more dressing than you'll need for a salad for 2 people), toss, and season the salad with salt and pepper to taste.
    5. Break the pita rounds into bite-sized pieces. Put some salad in a bowl, garnish with pita, and serve.

    Makes enough to serve 2 hungry people as a main course, or more people as a side dish.

    Posted by spaceling at 03:39 PM | TrackBack

    August 13, 2006

    Sexy Fig Salad

    I made a variation of Jamie Oliver's "The Easiest, Sexiest Salad in the World" a few nights ago as a starter for dinner. It's pretty easy, and I don't know if it's precisely sexy, but Mr. Spaceling is still talking about it days later.

    Here's my version, which makes enough for 2. It can easily be scaled up.


    For the dressing: For the salad:

    The Steps

    1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, and set aside.
    2. Cut the stem off of each fig, and then cut the fig crosswise as if you were going to quarter it, but don't cut all the way down to the base. Open out the fig into a sort of flower shape, and place one fig in the center of each of two salad plates.
    3. Arrange a slice of prosciutto around each fig.
    4. Cut the mozzarella into tiny dice, and scatter them around the figs.
    5. With a spoon, drizzle the dressing over the fig, prosciutto, and mozzarella, being sure to get some in the center of each fig.
    6. Scatter the chiffonaded basil over everything. Add a bit of freshly ground black pepper.

    Using a really good fresh mozzarella pays off in this recipe. Quite by accident, I picked up one that was quite a bit better than some that I've had recently. It comes packed in water in a little tub. I can't find any brand name on it, except Mollie Stone's, the name of the grocery store I bought it from. Is it possible for a grocery store to have a house brand of fresh mozzarella? Weird.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:35 AM | TrackBack

    August 10, 2006

    Bulgur Tomato Salad

    I made this Easy Bulgur Salad with Summer Tomatoes as part of dinner last night. It is indeed easy, and very tasty. It also seems like a very versatile recipe - you could add other herbs besides the mint, or additional raw or blanched veggies (next time I think I'll add some roasted red pepper), or some feta cheese, or even some cooked chicken or tofu if you wanted extra protein.

    I omitted the pine nuts because I didn't feel like fiddling with toasting them.

    I used the bulgur from the Mollie Stone's bulk bins, which was not labelled as to whether it was coarse, medium, or fine. I think that it's probably the type usually sold for making tabbouleh, which probably means it was a fine grind, but it worked in this recipe. (My local Indian grocery store sells bulgur in 4 different grinds, but most American supermarkets seem to carry just one.)

    This was the first time in ages that I've cooked bulgur. (I recall making tabbouleh at least once with my mother when I was a teenager, but this is probably the first time I've prepared bulgur in my own kitchen.) I think I'll be cooking it again - with a ~10 minute preparation time, it joins quinoa on the short list of "Good Whole Grains for the Last-Minute Cook".

    Posted by spaceling at 10:02 AM

    August 06, 2006

    Summer Chili

    This chili sort of came about serendipitously. On Friday, I was in the grocery store, and came across some habanero and green chile chicken and turkey sausages. I thought, "Hey, I bet this would be good in a chili," and bought them.

    Yesterday, I was at the Willow Glen Farmers' market, and bought some ears of white corn. And I thought, "Hey, corn is good in chili."

    Today, I decided it was finally time to make that chili. It came out really good. Spicy enough to clear your sinuses, but not overwhelmingly spicy, and tasting very summery with the corn and tomatoes and peppers. Quoth Mr. Spaceling, "It's good to be Mr. Spaceling."

    (The fresh tomatoes were an accident, too. I was planning on using canned, and then realized in the middle of the recipe that I didn't have any canned tomatoes. So I grabbed a pint of grape tomatoes that I had been planning on using in salad.)



    1. In a large pot, saute the sausage over medium-high heat until it starts to brown.
    2. Dump in the onion, pepper, tomatoes, garlic, chipotle, and chipotle powder. Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent.
    3. Add the corn and the beans, and about 1 can of water. Bring to a boil.
    4. Turn heat to low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust seasoning, and serve.
    Makes a bunch of servings. (At least 6. Maybe more.)

    For a little extra punch, serve with a bit of shredded habanero jack cheese on top. (I seem to be on a habanero kick lately. I'm still too scared to actually buy and cook with the raw chilies, but if it's habanero flavored, I'll probably buy it.)

    Posted by spaceling at 08:57 PM | TrackBack

    August 05, 2006

    Willow Glen Farmers' Market

    This morning I decided to go down and check out the Willow Glen farmers' market. I know that the folks who sold me some excellent halibut on their last visit to the Japantown farmers' market regularly go there. Of course, having just cooked trout last night, I wasn't really looking for seafood. But I decided to go see what else was there.

    I've occasionally heard Willow Glen described as the La Jolla of San Jose. (This will only make sense to my San Diegan or former San Diegan readers. Who probably make up 75% of my blog audience. All three of of you.) It actually is remarkably like what you would get if you picked up a couple of blocks worth of downtown La Jolla, and plunked them down in the midst of an unprepossessing commercial/light industrial zone. It's kinda weird. In the space of 3 blocks you go from auto parts to Pilates studios.

    The market itself is located in a parking lot behind a movie theater and a Starbucks. (Approximately 1 in 4 shoppers was clutching a cup of coffee.) The market is slightly bigger than the Japantown market. There was a large flower stand, a Happy Boy Farms stand with loads of gorgeous organic greens, a stand with a lovely selection of nuts and dried fruit (I meant to go back and get some after I was done picking out my fresh foods, and I forgot! Something for next time), several fresh fruit stands, a bakery stand, the fish folks, a stand selling prepared Mexican foods, and a stand selling Indian foods. And some kind of craft stand selling glass knick knacks, and a massage therapist. (That last is how you know you're in Willow Glen, I suppose.)

    Here's what I got:

    I spent about $18. And came home and ate a bowl of blueberries, because they were so phenomenally good and sweet. Honestly, the blueberries made the whole trip worth it, even if the rest of the produce turns out to be lousy.

    So, yeah, now I have my choice of two farmers' markets. (At least for now - I'm not sure if the Willow Glen market runs year-round.) I'm not sure which will be my favorite. Japantown is slightly easier to get to, and still has a slight edge for good veggies at low prices. Willow Glen wins for fruit, seafood, and salad greens. I expect I'll divide my farmers' market trips between the two of them fairly evenly for a while.

    Posted by spaceling at 11:21 AM | TrackBack

    Roasted Whole Trout with Herbs

    Last night, when I was getting ready to leave work, I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner. So, I decided to just head for the grocery store, and hope that something would strike me.

    I got to the fish counter, and there was a sign: "Rainbow Trout - $2.99/lb". Now, I'm always a little worried when I see fish on sale (does it mean that it's no good and they're trying to get rid of it?), but it's a lot harder to pass off a skanky whole fish as fresh than a skanky filet. These trout looked nice, so I got 2, loaded up on fresh herbs, and headed home to make dinner.

    Now, I've never cooked whole trout before in my life, but I wasn't worried, because I have Mark Bittman's Fish, which is pretty much guaranteed to have cooking instructions for any type of seafood I might haul home from the market. So, I found a recipe for whole trout with herbs, and tweaked it a little to account for what I actually had on hand. (If I recall correctly, Bittman uses parsley and tarragon. I used parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Next time I'll have to add sage, and call it Scarborough Fair Trout.)



    1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
    2. Mix the parsley, rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil in a small bowl.
    3. Salt and pepper the trout inside and out. Stuff the cavity of each with rosemary branches and thyme sprigs. Smear the outside with the herb/lemon/olive oil mixture and put the trout in a baking dish.
    4. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the flesh flakes off easily with a fork. Serve garnished with extra parsley, and lemon wedges.
    Serves 2 pretty generously. Add a salad on the side, and you've got dinner.

    Trout tastes a lot like a very mild salmon, with a nice buttery texture. I think it would be very easy for it to be bland, but roasting it with the herbs this way really gets the herb flavor into the fish.

    Posted by spaceling at 10:33 AM | TrackBack