July 12, 2009

Spicy Carrot Sald

This recipe comes from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World. Slicing or julienning the carrots takes a bit of time (I used a mandoline and julienned the carrots, but it still took some time), but once that's done, the recipe takes hardly any effort at all. The caraway seeds give this a very distinctive flavor.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Put the carrots, garlic, sugar, caraway, cumin, paprika, and oil into a wide skillet or saucepan.
  2. Add enough water to cover, bring to a boil, turn the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until the carrots are slightly soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. (Bittman says to cook until the water is mostly evaporated. I never got that much evaporation, so I just scooped the carrots and spices out into a bowl with a slotted spoon.) Drain and remove to a bowl.
  3. Remove and mince the garlic cloves. Add them back to the carrots. Add the harissa, olives (if using), and feta (if using) and toss to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Serve at room temperature.

Posted by spaceling at 04:59 PM

June 20, 2009

Sausage and Veggie Kebabs

Broiled sausage and veggies wrapped in warm pita and drenched in spicy yogurt sauce. What could be better?

The Ingredients

For the kebabs: For the yogurt sauce:

The Steps

  1. Toss the vegetables in a bowl with the smoked paprika, olive oil, and thyme to taste.
  2. Preheat a broiler pan about 4 inches from a broiler on high.
  3. Cut each sausage into 4 chunks. Thread the sausage chunks and vegetables onto the skewers.
  4. Broil for 6 minutes.
  5. While the kebabs are broiling, stir together the ingredients for the yogurt sauce.
  6. Slide the sausage and vegetables off the skewers, wrap in pita, and drizzle with yogurt sauce

Makes 4 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 09:25 PM

June 19, 2009

Quick Turkey Curry

I adapted this recipe from the July 2009 issue of Prevention magazine. Their version called for ground lamb, which the grocery store I stopped in on the way home doesn't carry. Ground turkey worked wonderfully. I added a bit of ginger and hot pepper sauce for extra spice.

Very tasty and only takes about 15 minutes to put together.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. In a large skillet or saute pan, heat a tiny bit of oil and saute the ginger for about 30 seconds to a minute.
  2. Add the turkey, curry powder, and hot pepper sauce. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the turkey is cooked through.
  3. Add the water, marinara sauce, and spinach. Stir the spinach carefully into the mixture until it starts to wilt down.
  4. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with rice or naan or whole wheat pita.

Makes 4 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 07:56 PM

May 25, 2009

Bulgur with chicken, edamame, and cashews

This recipe evolved out of two recipes in a recent issues of Cooking Light, one of which involved bulgur and edamame, and the other of which involved chicken and apricots. The result doesn't bear much resemblance to either progenitor recipe, but it makes a tasty and healthy one-dish meal that's not quite like any of my usual dinner staples.

This recipe needs a little time in advance to soak the bulgur, but otherwise comes together very quickly.

This recipe could very easily be made vegetarian by either omitting the chicken or substituting some cooked cubed tofu.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Put the bulgur in a large bowl. Cover with 1 cup of boiling water, and let sit until the water is absorbed. (About 25 minutes to an hour, depending on how coarse your bulgur is.) I went ahead and soaked the dried cranberries at this point as well, but I'm not convinced that it's particularly necessary.
  2. When the bulgur is just about ready, put a little olive oil in a skillet big enough to hold the chicken in a single layer, and heat it over medium-high heat. Let it get nice and hot.
  3. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and cook them in the skillet, about 10 minutes or so to a side, until done.
  4. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with dried thyme, and cut them into bite-sized chunks.
  5. Add the chicken, cashews, cranberries, onion, edamame, and lemon juice to the bulgur in the bowl and toss everything to combine. Drizzle in a bit of olive oil. Taste, and add more salt, pepper, oil, or lemon juice as necessary.

Makes 5-6 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 08:58 PM

March 16, 2009

Roasted Eggplant Dip

I was planning to make some baba ganoush, but the nearest supermarket was out of tahini. I made this instead, based on Mark Bittman's recipe for eggplant caviar. It's lighter than baba ganoush, and very lemony.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
  2. Prick the eggplant with a knife and brush lightly with olive oil. Put on a baking sheet and roast, turning occasionally, until the eggplant gets soft and starts to collapse. (15-30 minutes).
  3. Remove the eggplant from the oven and let it cool. When it is cool, scoop out the flesh and put in a food processor.
  4. Add the other ingredients and pulse until the eggplant is chopped, but is not quite a perfectly smooth puree. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Posted by spaceling at 10:03 PM

March 11, 2009

Braised Carrots and Chickpeas

This makes a nice herby but sweet side dish, or could be a complete vegetarian meal with a bit of bread, rice, or couscous to mop up the broth. (Actually, bread, rice, or couscous to mop up the broth would be nice in any case - I didn't think of it when preparing last night's dinner, though.)

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan until hot. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or so, until the onion starts to soften.
  2. Add the carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes or so. (I just let the carrots cook while I prepped the sage, parsley, lemon, and the ingredients for the rest of dinner.)
  3. Add the chickpeas, sage, lemon zest, and enough broth to not quite cover the mixture in the pan. Stir it all up and bring it to a simmer.
  4. Cover and cook until the carrots are tender, but not mushy. Probably about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on how thick the carrots were cut.
  5. When the carrots are done, stir in the parsley, the lemon juice, and the butter, if using.

Posted by spaceling at 07:24 AM

February 03, 2009

Cauliflower "Tortilla"

When I was a teenager, my mother used to often make tortilla for weekend brunch - the thick Spanish potato omelette, not the thing you wrap tacos in. We'd eat it inauthentically, but deliciously, smothered in fresh tomato salsa.

These days, with my trying to eat a low glycemic index diet, potatoes don't feature all that much in my cooking. So tonight, when I was thinking about an omelette for dinner, I thought, "Why not try to do a tortilla with that old stand-by of low carb potato substitutes: cauliflower?"

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put a bit of olive oil in a deep 10 inch skillet or saute pan with an ovenproof handle. Heat it over medium high heat.
  3. Add the onion and cauliflower and saute, stirring.
  4. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika to taste.
  5. When the onions are browned and the cauliflower is cooked through and browned a bit, add the eggs. As the egg begins to set around the edges, lift up the edge with a spatula and tilt the pan to let the uncooked egg run underneath.
  6. When the egg is mostly set except on top, pop the pan into the oven and let the egg finish cooking. This took about 5 or 6 minutes for me.
  7. Cut into wedges and serve. Smother inauthentically with salsa if you like.

Serves 2 if it's pretty much all you're eating. Could easily serve 4 if you served it with a nice salad and maybe a bit of good bread.

Posted by spaceling at 09:09 PM

February 01, 2009

Pork and Tomatillo Chili

I'm on a quest to use up a collection of stray bottles of leftover beer that have accumulated from various parties we've thrown. As a first experiment, this turned out really well.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Season the pork with salt and pepper and brown it in a dutch oven or large ovenproof pot, working in batches if necessary. Remove from the pot and set aside. Pour off any excess fat.
  3. Add the onions, garlic, chilies, and tomatillos, and cook over medium-high heat until the onions start to get soft.
  4. Add the pork, the beans, and the beer and bring to a simmer.
  5. Cover the pot and stick it in the oven for about 3 hours.

When it's done, the beer will have cooked down to a thick, delicious broth, and the pork will be tender enough to eat with a spoon. Mmmm. Oddly, though, I think the tastiest part of this recipe might have been the beans - I think I'm going to try just cooking a big pot of pinto beans with chilies and beer.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 08:23 PM

January 26, 2009

Curry Yogurt Chicken

This recipe was inspired by a chicken wrap I had at a local restaurant. I didn't really manage to duplicate the restaurant dish, but the results were quite good. Quantities for this dish are even more approximate than usual, because all my measuring utensils are still packed in a box somewhere.

Grilling or broiling the chicken would probably work, too - I might try that next time.

The Ingredients

For the marinade:

For the yogurt sauce:

To serve with the chicken:

The Steps

  1. Stir together all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. When ready to cook, heat a bit of olive oil in a large saute pan, and saute the chicken over medium-high heat until cooked through. (About 10-15 minutes, depending on how big you cut the chicken pieces.)
  3. While the chicken is cooking, make the yogurt sauce by whisking together those ingredients. (It now occurs to me that you might as well make the yogurt sauce at the same time you make the marinade, and let the flavors blend in the fridge overnight. But that wasn't the way I did it this time.)
  4. Serve pieces of chicken wrapped in warm pita with lettuce, onion, carrot, tomato, yogurt sauce. Add hot sauce to taste.

Serves 3-4.

Posted by spaceling at 09:11 PM

September 03, 2008

Bison Burgers

I picked up some ground bison at Mollie Stone's last night. I've cooked bison a couple of times before in chilli, and mostly thought it was indistinguishable from ground beef. These burgers had a distinctive flavor, although I'm not sure if it was really the bison or the seasonings.

The recipe is very simple: take 1 lb. ground bison and put it in a bowl. Slosh a good amount of Worcestershire sauce over it, and add a few dollops of harissa*. Mix it all up with your hands until everything is combined. Shape into thick patties, and sear on a hot cast iron skillet, about 3-4 minutes per side, until the outside is crusty and browned but the inside is still rare.

Serve with pita bread, some Greek yogurt stirred up with shredded cucumber, garlic, and mint, and a salad. Mmmm.

*If you don't have harissa, a sprinkling of cumin and a few dollops of tabasco or sriracha hot sauce would probably work well.

Posted by spaceling at 10:57 AM

April 27, 2008

Bean and Herb Soup

This recipe derived from having a bunch of stuff I needed to use up: some shallots, some bottled garlic pesto, chicken stock, carrots, celery, and fresh dill. I improvised the following soup, which manages to be hearty and (nearly) vegetarian at the same time. (You could easily make it vegetarian by using vegetable stock.)

This soup would have been extra fabulous with a bit of grated pecorino romano or parmegiano reggiano on top, but we didn't have any.

Since this was an improvised dish, measurements are highly approximate.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Saute the shallots, celery, and carrot in olive oil for a few minutes, until they start to soften.
  2. Add the vermouth, bay leaves, sage, herbes de Provence, and fennel. Cook, stirring, until most of the vermouth evaporates.
  3. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the beans and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the dill and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  6. Stir in the pesto. Taste, and add salt, pepper, pesto, or herbs as needed.

Serves about 4.

Posted by spaceling at 08:27 PM

Avgolemono Soup

Mr. Spaceling and I have been feeling under the weather. When you're under the weather, it's hard to beat chicken soup. Avgolemono soup is the queen of chicken soups. I used the recipe from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World, with a couple of tweaks. To make the soup slightly more substantial, I poached some chicken thighs in the soup, and shredded the meat to put into the soup. I also used bulgur wheat instead of rice or orzo, because it was what I had on hand. It was nice, although I think bulgur doesn't expand as much during cooking as rice or orzo, so I think next time, I would add more.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Heat the broth to a gentle simmer in a pot. Add carrot, celery, rice/orzo/bulgur, and chicken thighs. Cook everything gently for about 20 minutes, or until the rice and chicken are cooked.
  2. Turn the heat under the pot to low. Remove the chicken thighs to a plate. Let them cool a bit, and take the meat off the bones and shred it. Stir the meat back into the soup.
  3. Whisk the eggs in a bowl with the zest and lemon juice. Still whisking, slowly add about half a cup of the broth to the eggs. Add about another cup of broth, and keep whisking.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the soup, and stir well. You can very gently reheat the soup a bit, but don't let it boil, or you'll get bits of cooked egg floating in your soup instead of the smooth egg emulsion.
  5. Taste, and add salt, pepper, or more lemon juice as needed. Serve with a bit of chopped dill on top.

Serves 4 to 6.

Posted by spaceling at 08:21 AM

April 04, 2008

Soy-Broiled Black Cod (a.k.a Sablefish)

I made this very easy and tasty recipe last night. Note to self: cook black cod more often.

This recipe involves marinating the fish briefly, then broiling.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Season the fish with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Combine the soy sauce, lime juice, dry sherry, sesame oil, and garlic. Pour over the fish, and marinate for 15 minutes.
  3. Broil 6 inches from the heat without turning for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through.

Serves about 4.

Posted by spaceling at 10:35 PM

March 16, 2008

Easy Polenta

Conventional wisdom says that making polenta requires tons and tons of stirring. Because of this, I've tended to resort to the "instant" stuff that cooks in 5 minutes, or the stuff you buy in tubes at the grocery store to slice up and saute.

So, I was intrigued to come across the claim by Jack Bishop, in his A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen that you can cook polenta with little stirring if you cook it covered, over low heat. I tried it, and it works. And produces a noticeably nicer polenta than the instant or precooked stuff.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. In a largish saucepan, bring the water to a nice, rolling boil. Turn the heat to low and add the salt.
  2. Pour in the cornmeal slowly, whisking constantly. (I actually just stirred rapidly with a wooden spoon. This part is important for not getting lumps. It takes about a minute to get all the cornmeal whisked in.
  3. Cover the saucepan. Cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and the cornmeal doesn't taste raw or gritty.
  4. Stir in the butter, and season to taste with additional salt.

Serves 4-6 people, depending on how much they like polenta.

Posted by spaceling at 08:03 PM

March 02, 2008

Eggplant with Peppers and Yogurt

I may be getting ready to declare victory in my ongoing quest to learn how to cook eggplant properly. I'm not sure that I've figured out what the secret is, though plenty of olive oil does seem to help.

This recipe comes from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World. It comes fairly close to duplicating an eggplant dish that I used to get at a short-lived Afghan restaurant in Berkeley. Served with a cucumber salad and some pita bread, it makes a quite satisfying meal.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Put 1/3 cup olive oil and all but 1/2 tsp. of the garlic in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. (I do mean large - I used the 14 inch monster that we usually refer to as "the shield of Achilles" around here. The eggplant reduces in volume quite a bit as it cooks and loses water, but getting it all in the skillet initially is a tight squeeze.)
  2. After about 2 minutes, add the peppers and the eggplant. Cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is tender. (About 25 to 30 minutes.) Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Beat the yogurt until it is smooth, then stir in 1/2 tsp. garlic, 1 tbsp. olive oil, and some salt and pepper.
  4. Remove the eggplant and peppers from the pan, pour the sauce over them, and serve hot.

Serves 4.

Posted by spaceling at 08:31 PM

January 12, 2008

Sauteed Mushrooms

I made these mushrooms to serve alongside broiled steak. They were really tasty. I need to figure out how to make more without overcrowding the pan and ruining the recipe. (Maybe do the initial cooking of the mushrooms in batches?)

A really nice thing about this recipe is that if you have all your ingredients prepped, and start heating the skillet at about the same time you start preheating the broiler, it takes almost exactly the same amount of time as it takes to broil steaks to medium-rare and rest them. You can also throw together a very simple green salad at the same time, and you've got a complete dinner in under 30 minutes.

The use of sherry was inspired by my having bought a bottle to make Spanish Daube last weekend, and wondering how sherry would complement other foods. I might do an experiment with different kinds of booze (sherry, brandy, wine, vermouth, etc.) to see how each complements the mushrooms. Mr. Spaceling has valiantly volunteered to taste test.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Heat a bit of butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. (Ideally, use a skillet large enough so that you can cook the mushrooms in a single layer.)
  2. Add the thyme and garlic, and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring.
  3. Add the mushrooms. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked through and tender and have rendered out some of their liquid, about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add a good splash of Worcestershire sauce and the sherry. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost boiled away.
  5. Taste and season with salt and pepper. For an extra bit of decadence, toss in some extra butter and stir until it melts. Serve as soon as possible.

This served three people quite amply, although I think we'd happily have polished off a second batch of the mushrooms if I'd made one.

Posted by spaceling at 09:56 AM

January 06, 2008

Spanish Daube

This is another recipe from the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of Cooking Light. They call it "daube", I might call it pot roast - but what an elegant pot roast it is! The combination of sherry, smoked paprika, and saffron makes for a particularly delicious broth.

The recipe calls for braising the meat for 2 hours. I found that the beef was not quite perfectly tender in the center, so I think I'd go for slightly longer braising, or cut the roast into smaller chunks to help it braise through more.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Coat a large Dutch oven or other pot with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add beef to pan, and cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef and set aside.
  2. Add the onions to the pot and saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  3. Add the salt, thyme, paprika, fennel seeds, pepper, and saffron. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in the sherry and the hot pepper sauce, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot to get up all the browned bits. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about half (~4 minutes).
  5. Add the beef and broth to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours or until beef is tender. (As I noted above, 2 hours wasn't quite enough to get the beef perfectly tender all the way through.)
  6. Remove the beef from the pot and slice into thin slices across the grain.
  7. Add peas, parsley, and sherry vinegar to the pot and cook 5 minutes.
  8. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Add to the broth and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute.
  9. Add the sliced beef back to the pot. Cook for 1 minute or until beef is heated through.
Makes 8 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 08:48 PM

Lentil and Farro Stew

This stew was a perfect for an evening of keeping cosy warm indoors while the rain poured down outside. Of course, since I hadn't been out to the grocery store in a few days, it was also a bit of a "let's scrounge through the fridge and the pantry and see what we can throw together" kind of recipe. (For example, I don't think it's really necessary to use two kinds of lentils, or both chicken and beef broth, but I was using up odds and ends that were on hand.)

The Ingredients

The steps

  1. In a large soup pot, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Pour off any excess fat.
  2. Add the onion, peppers, and carrots, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables start to get soft. (About 5 to 7 minutes.)
  3. Add the farro, and cook, stirring, for a minute or two.
  4. Add the lentils, white wine, and herbs and spices. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up any browned bits.
  5. Add the tomatoes, broth or water, and the bay leaf. Stir. Bring to a simmer, and simmer until the lentils and farro are tender. (About 25 to 30 minutes.) Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve.
Makes...a lot. Maybe 6 to 8 servings?

Posted by spaceling at 10:09 AM

December 30, 2007

Ropa Vieja

I made this recipe, which comes from the January/February issue of Cooking Light for dinner tonight. It fulfilled a culinary ambition of mine, which is to become more familiar with braising. As a braised dish, it takes a couple of hours to prepare, but almost all of that time can be spent lounging around with a book, enjoying how good the house smells.

Braising really ought to be done in a proper dutch oven. I only have a biggish soup pot, which is a bit too tall. I improvised by putting a layer of aluminum foil just over the surface of the stew, and then putting the lid on the top of the pot. It seemed to work fine. I certainly had no complaints about how the dish came out.

We folded the beef and peppers into warm tortillas, and then ate the broth with a spoon.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the flank steak for about 2 and a half minutes on each side. Set aside on a plate.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, peppers, and garlic to the pot, and cook, stirring, until tender (about 7 minutes).
  3. Stir in the olives and the spices and cook for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the vinegar and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to dissolve any browned bits. Cook for 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates.
  5. Stir in broth, tomato paste, and bay leaves. Add the steaks and bring to a simmer.
  6. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1.5 hours or until steaks are tender.
  7. Remove the steaks from the pan and shred with two forks. Stir the shredded beef and cilantro into the pot. Serve in shallow bowls with warm tortillas on the side.
Serves 6-8

Posted by spaceling at 08:21 PM

December 27, 2007

Vaguely Asian Chicken Soup

I'm not dead! And to prove it, I made chicken soup. It was tasty, although I think the next time I make it, I may increase the amount of 5 spice powder ever so slightly.


The Steps

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot, and saute the vegetables and aromatics until the onion starts to get soft and everything smells good. (Maybe 5 minutes or so.)
  2. Add the five spice powder, the bay leaf, and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken thighs and poach them at a simmer until they are cooked through, perhaps 15 minutes or so.
  4. Remove the chicken from the pot and shred it. Put it back in the pot, taste, and add soy sauce and adjust the seasoning to taste.
  5. Finish off each serving with a squeeze of lime juice.

Posted by spaceling at 09:57 PM

October 09, 2007

Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini

Hi! I'm not dead, nor have I stopped cooking, but I've been very busy and have been falling back on a lot of old standby recipes. I did try something new tonight that worked out really well - I think I've mentioned before that when I cook eggplant, it often comes out okay, but not great - in particular, the texture is often a bit spongy and not as silky as I'd like. Well, tonight I made some eggplant that was perfect. I don't know if the credit goes to the eggplant (a cute local variety with purple and white stripes) or the technique. Further experimentation is warranted.



  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Cut the zucchini into half-inch thick rounds. (I used small, relatively thin zucchini - if you're using big ones, you might want to cut the rounds into half moons.)
  3. Cut the eggplant into pieces roughly the same size as the zucchini rounds.
  4. Put the eggplant and zucchini pieces into a roasting pan or baking dish. Sprinkle fairly liberally with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Dust with coriander, cumin, and paprika, tossing to coat.
  5. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until the vegetables are tender and just a little bit browned on the edges.
  6. Put the vegetables into a bowl, toss with lemon juice and additional olive oil to taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Serves 2. (Next time I'm making a bigger batch.) I served with pita bread, tzatziki sauce, and a gigandes bean salad.

Posted by spaceling at 10:03 PM

August 30, 2007

Roasted Cauliflower with Spanish Smoked Paprika and Cumin

Mr. Spaceling and I were at a family gathering recently, and Mr. Spaceling remarked to a cousin of mine (who knows a thing or two about cooking herself) that although I've gotten him to eat any number of vegetables that he'd never previously have looked twice at, broccoli and cauliflower remain the final frontier.

My cousin very sensibly suggested that I try roasting the stuff.

I decided to stack the deck even further by adding some Spanish smoked paprika. The result? Cauliflower cheerfully consumed by Mr. Spaceling. (I decided to try cauliflower first because it is not green and therefore is less scary.)

I didn't measure anything in this recipe, so take the quantities given as highly approximate.



  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Toss the cauliflower in a bowl with enough olive oil to lightly coat. Add the spices and salt and pepper to taste, and toss to coat.
  3. Roast in a baking pan in the oven until tender and lightly browned, stirring every 10 minutes or so. (My cauliflower took about 25 to 30 minutes).

Posted by spaceling at 11:01 AM

Lamb Burgers

A few weeks back, I was listening to cookbook author Claudia Roden talk about kibbeh on one of the food podcasts I listen to. (I think it was The Splendid Table, but it may have been another one.) Kibbeh is a dish that is prepared all over the Middle East in an infinite number of regional variations. It's one constant ingredient is ground or minced lamb. Sometimes the lamb is mixed with bulgur and eaten raw, sometimes it is made into meatballs and cooked, and sometimes it is made into patties and grilled.

Roden described one of her favorite recipes for kibbeh, in which ground lamb is mixed with grated onion and grilled. I thought the grated onion sounded like a great touch for adding flavor and moistness. I tried out the idea in some lamb burgers I made last night, and they were great. (I'm also going to try this the next time I make turkey burgers, which are very difficult to keep moist.)

Recipe for lamb burgers follows:


  1. Gently mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until combined.
  2. Shape into patties (I made 3 fairly thick patties), and cook in a skillet on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes on the first side and 3 minutes on the second side, or to desired doneness.

I served these with roasted cauliflower (recipe to follow), homemade tzatziki, and store-bought baba ganoush.

Posted by spaceling at 10:47 AM

July 21, 2007

Mushroom, White Bean, and Summer Squash Ragout

This recipe is a riff on the Mushroom and White Bean Ragout with Truffle Oil that I blogged a few months ago. It was inspired by my coming across some itty-bitty bite-sized baby pattypan squash at Whole Foods, and by having ~3/4 lb. of shiitake mushrooms in the fridge that really needed to be used up.

It was very tasty, and this time Mr. Spaceling ate all his mushrooms instead of picking them out. (Perhaps Mr. Spaceling like shiitake mushrooms better than crimini mushrooms? Maybe it's the magic of parmeggiano reggiano cheese? I dunno. Further experimentation warranted.)


The Steps

  1. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat, and add the leeks. Saute for a few minutes until they start to get soft.
  2. Add the garlic, sage, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are just starting to look cooked through, 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the water or broth, and then arrange the squash in an even layer on top of the mushroom/leek mixture. Cover the skillet and let the squash steam until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cannelini beans, stir everything together, and cook for just a couple of minutes to heat through and blend the flavors.
  5. Ladle the mixture into bowls. Drizzle each serving with a bit (~1/2 tsp. or to taste) of white truffle oil, and top with a sprinkling of grated cheese.

Makes about 4 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 05:26 PM

June 25, 2007

Salmon and White Bean Salad

This is barely a recipe, more something I threw together when it was dinner time and I hadn't been to the grocery store and didn't feel like eating out. But since everyone needs more recipes for those haven't-shopped/don't-feel-like-cooking moments in life, I decided to post this. I've even created a category for these not-quite recipes ("Real Fast Food" after Nigel Slater's excellent book of the same title. Which is full of great recipes for those haven't-shopped/don't-feel-like-cooking moments.)

Take the following:

Stir everything together in a bowl until combined, taste, and add salt, pepper, mustard, lemon juice, whatever. Some red or green onion would probably be great in this. It would have been most delicious served with some dark rye bread and/or some nice crunchy romaine or iceberg lettuce leaves, but we didn't have any.

Posted by spaceling at 03:49 PM

June 24, 2007

Chickpea Curry With Dill

I recently picked up a nifty little cookbook called 5 Spices, 50 Dishes. This features 50 relatively simple Indian recipes, centered around the five spices of coriander, cumin, mustard seed, cayenne pepper, and turmeric. Not every recipe in the book uses all of these spices, and many recipes use additional spices, but they are the flavor backbone of the recipes.

The first recipe I made from this book was a black-eyed pea salad with cayenne pepper, cumin, cilantro, chilies, and mustard seed. It was pretty tasty, but I had to substitute ingredients liberally because I hadn't checked the recipe before grocery shopping, so I think it didn't quite taste the way it was supposed to. The second recipe was this chick pea curry. It caught my eye because, as the author notes, it uses dill as more of a vegetable than an herb. It uses a lot of dill. If you are not a dill fan, skip this recipe.



  1. Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan or a deep skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion until it has softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the cayenne, coriander, garlic, ginger, and turmeric and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the dill, chick peas, water, and salt. Cook, stirring, for 5-8 minutes or until the dill is tender.

I served this with a simple raita made by stirring together strained yogurt, diced cucumber, diced red bell pepper, finely chopped garlic, and a bit of ground coriander, salt, and pepper.

Serves about 4.

Posted by spaceling at 08:44 PM

June 10, 2007

Garlicky White Beans and Kale over Teff Polenta Wedges

When I was in Florence back in April, one of the most amazing dishes I had was "fettunta": slices of bread brushed with olive oil and grilled, and topped with a mixture of sauteed cavolo nero (Tuscan kale) and white beans.

Since then, I've been itching to recreate that dish. I've also been wanting to have another try at teff prepared-polenta style. When I came across some nice Tuscan kale at the farmers' market yesterday, it occurred to me that the kale and white bean preparation would make a great topping for polenta.

The recipe turned out great. It would be equally good served over corn polenta. But if you want to recreate what I did, start by making your teff ahead of time, because it needs time to chill.

This recipe uses quite a lot of olive oil, because such amounts were called for in all the cookbook recipes for fettunta that I consulted for inspiration. ("Fettunta" apparently means "oily slice".) You could probably cut down some on the oil, although the oil and the starch from the beans emulsify into something that gives the dish a nice creamy texture. Mr. Spaceling described it as being like creamed spinach, only good. (Mr. Spaceling does not like creamed spinach. I fall more in the camp of thinking that anything that combines spinach and fat cannot be bad.)

Teff Polenta



  1. Bring the water to a boil. Add teff and salt.
  2. Turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the teff reaches the consistency of a thick spreadable porridge.
  3. Stir in the cheese. (To avoid getting clumps of melted cheese, add it bit by bit and stir thoroughly.)
  4. Line a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Spread the teff out in the pan and let it cool a bit. Cover with more foil or plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  5. Cut the polenta into wedges or squares. (I got 8 wedges out of a 9 x 9 pan.)

White Beans and Kale



  1. Wash the kale. Remove the leaves from the stems, and cut the leaves into bite-sized ribbons. Discard the stems.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the kale for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water. (Plunging the kale into a bowl of ice water would probably be the approved method for shocking your greens. Rinsing with cold water worked fine.) Press out the excess water.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medim heat. Add the garlic, and saute for 30 seconds or so. Then add the greens and the beans. Simmer everything gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. In another skillet, heat a thin film of olive oil over medium high heat. Cook the polenta wedges, in batches, until browned and slightly crispy on each side. Keep the cooked wedges on a plate covered with foil to keep warm.
  5. Serve a wedge or two of polenta in a shallow bowl, with the bean and kale mixture piled on top.

Serves 4 or so.

Posted by spaceling at 08:38 PM

May 20, 2007

Sweet and Sour Chickpeas and Sausage

Mr. Spaceling and I went out to Half Moon Bay today - had a great time walking on the beach and drinking coffee in a local cafe. When we arrived back home it was after 8:00pm, and I hadn't been grocery shopping all weekend. I threw this recipe together from some stuff I had in the fridge and the pantry. It was good enough to be worth repeating.

The recipe uses tomatoes and sherry vinegar to give a kind of sweet and sour effect. (It's not super sweet.) It also uses lots of Spanish smoked paprika, which continues to be one of my favorite ingredients for giving a simple dish an extra flavor boost.

The Ingredients

The steps

  1. Cook the sausage in a deep skillet until lightly browned.
  2. Add the vermouth, and let it cook down for a few minutes.
  3. Add the chick peas, the tomatoes, the paprika, and the Tabasco sauce (if using).
  4. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down to a slightly saucy consistency.
  5. Stir in the vinegar, taste, and adjust the seasoning.

Serves 2.

Posted by spaceling at 09:42 PM

May 12, 2007

Black Bean, Fresh Corn, and Mango Salad

You can tell that spring is here, because suddenly all I want to eat is salad. And fruit. (But oddly enough, rarely fruit salad. I'm not a fruit salad kind of girl.)

I was in the supermarket this afternoon, and came across some fresh corn and a lovely looking mango. And the idea for this salad was born. It's a bit sweet, a bit spicy (or a lot spicy if you want), and loaded with more anti-oxidants than you can shake a stick at. And it takes almost no time at all to make.

I like the combination of Tabasco and Sriracha hot sauces in this recipe. I find that Tabasco gives a nice vinegary bite, but doesn't taste rounded enough on its own. Sriracha adds a nice depth of flavor without being overpowering on the heat. It might be interesting to experiment with different hot sauces.

The Ingredients

I learned a neat trick recently for removing kernels from a corn cob: start by cutting the cob in half across the middle. This gives you two short pieces of cob, each with a flat end, and you can just stand them on your cutting board and slice the kernels off with a knife. Amazing. For the first time ever, I've cut kernels off an ear of corn without getting corn all over the kitchen.

The Steps

  1. Combine the corn kernels, black beans, tomatoes, avocado, mango, scallions, and cilantro in a large bowl.
  2. Squeeze over the lime juice, and drizzle on some olive oil. Add a bit of the Tabasco and Sriracha sauces, and toss everything together well.
  3. Taste, and add more lime juice, hot sauce, oil, salt, or pepper to taste.

I served this over some baby spinach for a bit of extra greenery. It worked pretty well.

Serves about 4.

Posted by spaceling at 07:32 PM

May 07, 2007

Lentil Salad with Whole-Grain Mustard Dressing

I whipped this up tonight because I felt like lentils for dinner, but due to the hot weather I didn't want anything too heavy. Mr. Spaceling requested that I blog this so I can be sure of making it again.

The secret ingredient in this is a whole-grain mustard. It helps add a nice sharpness to counterbalance to earthiness of the lentils. I used a British whole-grain mustard that's pretty mild - you'll probably need to taste frequently as you put the salad together to figure out how much mustard you need.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Put the lentils in a pot with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and cook, about 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender, but still relatively firm.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, cut up your vegetables, cheese, and salami, and put all the ingredients except the lemon juice, mustard, and oil into a large bowl.
  3. Whisk the lemon juice, mustard, and olive oil together in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper, taste the mixture, and add more mustard or lemon juice if necessary.
  4. When the lentils are cooked, drain them, and toss them while they are still warm into the large bowl. Add the dressing, and toss everything.
  5. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (You might find that you need to add more mustard.)

Posted by spaceling at 09:34 PM

April 22, 2007

Mushroom and White Bean Ragout with Truffle Oil

I adapted this recipe from the April 2007 issue of Vegetarian Times. It makes a nice quick vegetarian supper that's especially great for mushroom lovers. (Mr. Spaceling, who is not a mushroom lover, picked out most of the mushrooms from his serving, but still enjoyed the dish. I'm trying to think of a variation that would allow for substituting the mushrooms with something else. Butternut squash would probably be very tasty, but Mr. Spaceling is not all that fond of that either. Hmm...)

The original recipe called for topping the ragout with toated whole wheat breadcrumbs, which probably would have been tasty, but the recipe is quicker and dirties fewer pans without it.

This recipe uses white truffle oil. As I understand it, white truffle oil is basically an artificial flavoring with no real relationship to actual white truffles. Many chefs disdain it for that reason. I think it works in this dish, though the dish would also be tasty without it.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet and saute the mushrooms and leek until soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add beans, broth, garlic, and thyme. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and stir in about half the parsley.
  4. Ladle the ragout into bowls, and drizzle each serving with about 1/2 tsp. of white truffle oil.

Serves 4.

Posted by spaceling at 07:00 PM | TrackBack

March 23, 2007

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

I've been making this tasty and versatile salad quite frequently of late. It's quick. You can serve it as a main course, or a side dish. You can add whatever vegetables you have on hand. It would probably also be good with diced cooked chicken or tofu if you wanted to really boost the protein content.

I thought I'd blogged about quinoa before, but a quick search didn't turn up anything. Quinoa is a Peruvian grain that is one of my favorites, because it is a whole grain that cooks in less than 15 minutes. You can use it in much the same way that you would use bulgur or couscous. Tonight, I used the "Inca Red" variety, which is an heirloom variety that's a very striking dark brown red color. Ordinary quinoa is kind of a pale yellow-beige.

Since this is such a versatile recipe, I'll give the basic proportions, and then describe some ways in which I've embellished them.

Basic Quinoa Salad Recipe

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Put the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it well. (Quinoa seeds have a bitter saponin coating that keeps the seeds from being eaten by birds. Many commercial varieties have been either pre-rinsed or bred for lower saponin content, but I always rinse, just to be safe.)
  2. Put the quinoa into a sauce pan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the water is absorbed. (About 12-15 minutes.) Quinoa seeds have this funny little opaque band around the outside of the seed - the quinoa is cooked when this band has partially or fully separated from most of the seeds.
  3. Let the quinoa cool a bit, then toss with the chick peas, olives, feta, and other embellishments. Season with salt and pepper, and dress with olive oil and vinegar/lemon juice to taste.

Quinoa Salad Embellishments

A selection of the following additional items can be added to the salad as appropriate:

There are probably lots of other things you could add. Tonight's variation used tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and roasted asparagus and was dressed with sherry vinegar and olive oil. (Good sherry vinegar, if I haven't mentioned this before, is a revelation. The stuff I get at the local grocery store is just meh, but the stuff I got at Whole Foods is amazing.)

Posted by spaceling at 08:50 PM

January 28, 2007

Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart

This is another one from Nigel Slater's Appetite. This was the first time I had worked with store-bought puff pastry (or any kind of puff pastry for that matter). It's a great way to make something elegant with relatively little effort.

Though the technique is easy, this particular recipe is not quick, because you need to caramelize the onions. I think it took at least an hour, possibly longer - I didn't really keep track, because I was puttering around the kitchen with a friend, making other stuff, and just giving the onions the odd stir now and then. If you were pressed for time, I think the tart would be equally delicious with sauteed mushrooms, or cooked spinach, or thinly sliced artichoke hearts, or perhaps some sauteed eggplant and tomato, or...the possibilities are endless. Expect to see other tarts appear in this blog. (Though probably not right away - with the richness of the puff pastry and the cheese, this is definitely a "sometimes food".)

I served this cut up into itty bitty squares as a party snack, but it would work as a main dish paired with a nice green salad.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. In your largest skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Pile in the onions, and cook, stirring now and then, until the onions are deep golden-brown and caramelized, at least 45 minutes, possibly longer.

    If you're like me, you're probably going to spend the first twenty minutes of this process looking at the onions and thinking, "Uh oh, they're not getting brown. It's not going to work." Patience. It will work.

  2. Thaw the puff pastry according to package directions. Lightly flour a baking sheet and unroll the puff pastry onto it.
  3. Score the pastry lightly with a knife to create a 1/2 inch border around the edges. Prick the area inside the border all over with a fork.
  4. Cut the cheese into small slices or break it up into small chunks.
  5. Spread the caramelized onions over the puff pastry inside the scored border. Tuck bits of cheese into the onion mixture.
  6. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden and the cheese is melted.
  7. Cut into squares and serve.

Posted by spaceling at 09:50 AM | TrackBack

January 16, 2007

Chorizo and Bean Soup with Smoked Paprika and Sherry Vinegar

This soup was inspired by my coming across some apparently Spanish-style chorizo while shopping at Mollie Stone's. I'm not sure what made me decide to throw in rutabaga, because as far as I've been able to tell, it doesn't feature at all in Iberian cuisine. However, the Portuguese do make a stew that includes kale and potato, so perhaps the rutabaga is subbing for the potato. In any case, it tastes quite good.

This soup is very quick for something that tastes as rich as it does. I'll definitely be making it again.

I added the vinegar at the end of cooking because the soup tasted like it needed just a little something to pick up the flavors. It worked wonderfully. Something I need to keep in mind the next time a stew tastes a little blah - add some acid.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Brown the chorizo in a soup pot. If a lot of fat has rendered out, you might want to tip some off before proceeding.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so, stirring, until it gets fragrant.
  3. Add the rutabaga, kale, beans, chick peas, broth, paprika, and saffron. Simmer until the rutabaga is tender, about 20 minutes or so.
  4. Just before serving, stir in the sherry vinegar. Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve.
  5. Posted by spaceling at 09:48 PM

    December 22, 2006

    Chicken with Garlic, Herbs, and Fennel

    I adapted this recipe from Nigel Slater's Appetite. Slater is an extremely well-known food writer in Britain. He's become more well-known in the U.S. since the publication of his memoir, Toast. It was through listening to the audiobook of Toast that I first encountered Slater. It's an odd book, one that manages to be alternately heart-warming and horrifying, in both a culinary and emotional sense. It will charm you with fond childhood memories and make you nostalgic for exotic British candies that you've never even eaten. It will also make you profoundly grateful that you had sane and loving parents, and that you never had to eat British school tapioca pudding, or dine at hotel restaurants in the Midlands during the 1970s.

    If you did dine at British hotel restaurants during the 1970s, then cooking from one of Nigel Slater's cookbooks might be an effective form of therapy. I've been turning frequently to his cookbooks for inspiration in the past couple of weeks. His recipes have a very relaxed and improvisational quality, which makes them perfect for puttering around in the kitchen on a cold rainy night when you don't want to go out.

    This recipe made some of the best-tasting chicken I've ever produced in my own kitchen. And it makes the house smell fabulous. (Provided that you think the scent of garlicky chicken is fabulous.)

    The Ingredients

    • 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
    • olive oil
    • butter
    • 6 nice big fat cloves of garlic, unpeeled, lightly crushed.
    • About a cup sliced baby fennel. (Or, you know, you could use adult fennel.)
    • A couple of good handfuls of chopped parsley
    • A handful of chopped fresh tarragon
    • About 2/3 cup dry white vermouth. (Or you could use white wine. I got the vermouth because, as I understand it, it actually keeps for a while in the fridge after you open it. And it's not very expensive. And I find it hilarious that it's made by Noilly Prat, because I'm silly that way. It produced such a good result that I'm going to give it a try in other recipes where I might use white wine.)
    • A squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice.

    The Steps

    1. Heat a bit of olive oil and butter in a pan with a lid that's big enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. When the butter foams, plunk the chicken thighs in skin side down, and let them sit there until they are light gold in color.
    2. Toss in the garlic cloves. Turn the heat down so that the chicken is lightly sizzling, and cover it. Cook for about 40 minutes, turning halfway through so that the chicken cooks on the other side.
    3. About 10 minutes before the chicken is done, add the fennel.
    4. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm. Fish out the garlic cloves, which should be very soft. If you like, slip the skins off and serve the garlic with the chicken.
    5. If you have a lot of fat in the pan, spoon or pour some of it off. Add the herbs and vermouth to the pan, and bring to a boil. Boil for a couple of minutes, until it reduces a bit and the strong alcoholic flavor of the vermouth has mellowed. Taste, and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper as needed.
    6. Serve chicken with the sauce spooned generously over it.

    Serves 3-6, depending on whether you are big eaters of chicken, and what else you are serving.

    Posted by spaceling at 10:02 PM | TrackBack

    Roasted Carrots

    This is a great simple side-dish. Roasting carrots makes them tender and brings out their natural sweetness. (If you wanted to take that one step further, you could probably drizzle with honey before or after roasting.)

    I used baby carrots. You could probably use bigger ones - I'd cut them into thick-ish carrot sticks first, and possibly peel them.

    Anyway, here's what I did:

    1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

    2. Scrub your carrots. Dry them well. Cut off the tops and any straggly hairy bit of root at the ends.

    3. Put the carrots in a roasting pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle them with olive oil, and then shake the pan so that they are evenly coated.

    4. Put the pan in the oven, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, shaking the pan a couple of times to make sure the carrots brown evenly.

    I took the carrots out when they were just lightly golden brown. I had intended to sprinkle them with chopped parsley, but since the rest of dinner was ready, I forgot and just popped them straight onto our plates. We scarfed them. There was just enough for two servings, plus a smidgen extra. I let Mr. Spaceling have the extra, because having Mr. Spaceling ask for seconds on a cooked vegetable is exceedingly rare and a thing to be encouraged. But I was very tempted not to.

    Next time, I'll roast 2 bunches of baby carrots.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:49 PM | TrackBack

    December 16, 2006

    Roasted Vegetable Salad

    I'm catching up a bit on things that I made while my computer was being wonky. I made this for dinner one night last weekend. It was loosely inspired by a recipe in Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries, and by the fact that I'd picked up a pound of baby eggplant without any real notion of what to do with them.

    The Ingredients

    • 1 lb. baby eggplant (or substitute an 1 lb. regular eggplant)
    • 1 pint grape tomatoes (I've actually read somewhere that grape tomatoes are not good for roasting, as they are too juicy. I used them because they were what I had on hand, and they worked fine, but if I were shopping just for this recipe, I might use cherry tomatoes instead.
    • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
    • 3 bottled roasted red peppers, chopped (You could, of course, roast your own peppers for this, and it would probably be even better.)
    • 8-10 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
    • a couple of ounces of halloumi cheese, diced (Or substitute crumbled feta. Feta might even be better. I used halloumi because I had it on hand.)
    • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
    • 6 mint leaves, thinly sliced
    • ground cumin to taste
    • juice of 1 lemon
    • 1 heaping teaspoon of harissa*
    • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

    *Harissa is a Tunisian spice paste, composed primarily of red chilies, cumin, and coriander. It's hot, but not tongue-searing. I bought mine from Kalustyan's, though I'm not sure I picked a particularly good one. It seems a bit tame. I'll probably try making my own soon, since I have about half a dozen recipes for it in various books.

    The Steps

    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
    2. Put the tomatoes in a baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. (I used a 9 x 9 inch square pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Shake the pan until the tomatoes are coated with olive oil.
    3. Quarter the baby eggplants. (Or cut large eggplant into 1 x 1 x 2 inch chunks.) Put them in a baking dish large enough to hold in a single layer. (I used a 9 x 13 inch pan.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil, and stir/shake to coat. (I also meant to add about a teaspoon of whole cumin seed at this point, but I forgot. I will try it next time, though.)
    4. Roast the tomatoes and eggplant for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring or tossing every 15 minutes or so, until they are browned and soft. (I went about 55 minutes, which I think was slightly too long for the eggplant - it was a bit dry when it came out of the oven, though it recovered nicely as it soaked up the dressing.)
    5. Let the roasted vegetables cool slightly while you prepare the other items.
    6. Combine the chickpeas, peppers, halloumi, and olives in a large bowl.
    7. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, harissa, cumin, and lemon juice to make a dressing.
    8. Stir the roasted vegetables and their juice into the chickpea mixture. Then stir the dressing and the cilantro into the salad.
    9. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve garnished with mint leaves and with warm pita bread on the side.

    I think this would be equally good with a different mixture of roasted vegetables. Some roasted onions might be very nice, or chunks of zucchini. Perhaps even some root vegetables. I'll experiment when I next make it.

    Posted by spaceling at 03:56 PM | TrackBack

    December 02, 2006

    Most Decadent Sandwich Ever

    1. Take a round of whole wheat pita bread or other flatbread.
    2. Spread half of it with St. Andre triple creme cheese, or Brie, or other soft aged cheese. Not too much. You're going for decadent here, not heart-attack-on-a-plate.
    3. Microwave for 10-15 seconds, just enough to make the bread warm and the cheese just a bit melty.
    4. Top the cheese with a handful of fresh, crisp mixed salad greens. Fold the bread over to enclose the filling.

    Enjoy on a cool, clear December morning.

    Posted by spaceling at 02:59 PM | TrackBack

    December 01, 2006

    Emergency Backup Cake

    The original name of this recipe as I found it was Amazon Cake. Similar recipes often go by the name "Wacky Cake". Mr. Spaceling thinks it ought to go by the name "Easy, Tasty Cake", but I find that insufficiently evocative. I prefer to think of this as the Emergency Backup Cake. Why? Two reasons:

    • It can be made entirely from ingredients that I usually have on hand in the pantry.

    • It's really quick and easy - there is no need to get out the electric mixer, or melt chocolate in a double boiler, or whip anything to soft peaks. If you've got two bowls, a spoon, and a cake pan, you're in business.

    My sole original contribution to this recipe was to add a bit of cinnamon to the batter, and to top it with a mixture of confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon. Having had this cake both with and without the cinnamon, I actually think the cinnamon makes it taste more chocolatey in a strange way.

    The Ingredients

    For the cake:
    • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's natural cocoa. In theory, the cocoa used in this recipe not be Dutch-processed, so that it will be acidic and react with the baking soda. I notice that Debbie over at Words to Eat By seems to have used a mix of Dutch process and regular cocoa without harm to the recipe. I suspect the vinegar provides all the acid needed.)
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 5 Tbsp. canola oil
    • 1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
    • 1 cup cold water
    For the topping (these amounts are very approximate - basically, you want 1 parts confectioners sugar to 1 part cocoa and 1 part cinnamon):
    • ~1 tsp. confectioners' sugar
    • ~1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
    • ~1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
    Note: After making this cake a second time, and actually measuring the ingredients for the topping, I edited down these quantities a bit. If you think they used to be larger, you're not hallucinating.

    The Steps

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 9 inch cake pan. (I spray mine with Pam.)
    2. In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.
    3. In a larger bowl, stir together the wet ingredients.
    4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until thoroughly combined, and pour into the cake pan.
    5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top springs back when pressed. (The last time I made this cake, I think I took it out a little too soon, and it sank in the middle. The cake tasted fine anyway.)
    6. When the cake is cool, turn it out onto a plate. Stir together the confectioners' sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon for the topping, and use a small sieve to sprinkle it evenly over the top of the cake.

    Posted by spaceling at 08:42 AM | TrackBack

    November 27, 2006

    White Bean Crostini

    I was going to call this post "Beans on Toast", but that really doesn't do this justice.

    This recipe derived from a series of accidents and serendipities. I made the white bean mixture initially as a stuffing for some piquillo peppers. It was okay as a stuffing for piquillo peppers, but I ended up with way more stuffing than I needed for peppers. I also had some nice Italian bread that needed using. My initial idea was to toast a few bread slices under the broiler and top them with some mashed-up white bean mixture.

    I turned on the broiler and a minute later, smoke started wafting out of the oven, and the smoke alarm went off.

    I think that after our most recent baking adventures, the oven is simply in need of a good cleaning. At any rate, I have vowed not to use it again until I've had a chance to give it a good cleaning.

    So, what to do with my slices of bread? I brushed them with a little olive oil, and toasted them in a dry skillet. Then I piled the white bean mixture on top, added a generous grating of fresh pepper, and topped with a few bits of diced fresh tomato.

    It was really good - far better than it had been as a stuffing for peppers. The bread was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside and contrasted wonderfully with the softness of the beans.

    Read on for the recipe...

    The Ingredients

    • 1 15 oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1/2 tsp. Spanish smoked paprika
    • a few sundried tomatoes, chopped fine (these are optional - I don't actually think they added that much to the final product)
    • Approximately 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
    • olive oil to taste and for brushing bread slices
    • 4 medium-sized slices Italian or French bread. (This is almost certainly one of the cases where it pays to get good bread.)
    • 1 medium-sized tomato, chopped
    • freshly-ground black pepper

    The Steps

    1. In a small bowl, combine the white beans, garlic, paprika, sundried tomatoes (if using), sherry vinegar and olive oil. Taste and add more garlic, paprika, vinegar, or oil as needed.
    2. Coarsely mash the bean mixture with a fork.
    3. Heat a skilled over medium-high heat. Brush each slice of bread with olive oil on both sides, and toast in the skillet until it is lightly charred on both sides. (1 minute per side or so.)
    4. Top each slice with some of the bean mixture, some freshly grated pepper, and some chopped tomato. Serve immediately.

    Serves 4 as an appetizer, or two as a main course (accompanied by a green salad).

    Posted by spaceling at 08:57 PM | TrackBack

    November 03, 2006

    Lentils with Red Wine and Sausage

    One of the things I love about food blogs is the way it lets you see variations on an idea or recipe. Bloggers will pick up ideas from each other, or just from the general culinary zeitgeist, and run with them. It's fun to see all the variations.

    The other day, I came across this post from the wonderful food blog I'm Mad and I Eat, describing a delicious-looking lentil and sausage dish inspired by this even more delicious-looking lentil and sausage dish from Becks and Posh.

    So, I made my own version for dinner tonight. I followed Sam's recipe from Becks and Posh relatively closely, except that I couldn't find any Toulouse sausages. I used Whole Foods' lemon, thyme, and herb sausages. These worked fine, but next time I'll go for something with a more smoky/garlicky taste. I also substituted canned diced tomatoes for fresh, because that was what I had on hand, and threw some thyme into the lentils because it was already in the sausages.

    This was really good. (Quoth Mr. Spaceling, "Can we have this again? Please?") The wine, tomatoes, bacon, and chicken stock combine to make a nice smoky rich-tasting sauce for the lentils. It's a perfect fall meal. Read on for the recipe.

    The Ingredients

    • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 3 medium-sized carrots, peeled and diced
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
    • 1 cup French green lentils, picked over
    • 2 bay leaves
    • dried thyme, to taste
    • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juices
    • 2 cups chicken stock
    • 1.5 cups red wine (I used a Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti)
    • 1 lb. pork sausages (I used Whole Foods lemon, thyme, and herb sausages. Toulouse sausages would be faithful to the original recipe.)
    • 4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into small pieces

    The Steps

    1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic and saute until soft.
    2. Add lentils and cook for a minute or two, stirring to coat with the oil.
    3. Add bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes, stock, and wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer covered for about 45 minutes.
    4. A bit before the 45 minutes are up, cook the bacon in a skillet until it is lightly browned. Add the bacon and the fat that has rendered from it to the pot of lentils.
    5. Cook the sausages in the skillet until they are browned. Cut them up into bite-sized pieces and add to the pot.
    6. Simmer everything together for an additional 15 minutes or so.

    Serve with a green salad and the rest of the bottle of red wine. Makes a bunch of servings.

    Posted by spaceling at 10:37 PM | TrackBack

    Homemade Trail Mix

    I think I mentioned in a previous post that I've become very fond of Eden Organic's nuts and seeds, particularly a mixture that they sell combining sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, dried cherries, and raisins. There are only two problems with this stuff. It's relatively expensive, and it requires either ordering online, or making a trip to the natural foods store in Palo Alto with the surly staff.

    The other day, I was looking at the bulk bins at the grocery store, and it occurred to me that I could buy a bunch of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc., and make up my own mix. I came up with the following mix.

    Homemade Trail Mix

    Mix approximately equal parts of the following (I threw everything in a large ziploc bag and shook it all up):
    • roasted unsalted almonds
    • unsalted filberts (not sure if they were roasted or not)
    • tamari cashews
    • sunflower seeds
    • pumpkin seeds
    • dried cranberries
    • semisweet chocolate morsels

    I ran the numbers over at nutritiondata.com, and this has 150 calories per 1 oz. serving, 10 g of carbohydrate, and a little over 2 g of fiber. Plus the usual wonderful amounts of magnesium, vitamin E, and zinc that any concoction of nuts contains.

    Makes a nice mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

    Posted by spaceling at 10:42 AM | TrackBack

    November 02, 2006

    The Great Pumpkin

    When October rolled around, lots of food magazines ran features on cooking pumpkin. Vegetarian Times did one, and Cooking Light did one. So, when I came across a beautiful pile of Cinderella pumpkins at a local market a few weeks ago, I picked one up, figuring I'd cook it.

    Now, the key thing to know about cooking pumpkin is that the big orange pumpkins that you buy for carving into jack-o-lanterns are lousy for cooking (according to all of these articles), though the seeds are very tasty toasted. If you're going to cook and eat the flesh of the pumpkin, you want one of the following varieties: sugar or "pie" pumpkins, cheese pumpkins, or the Cinderella pumpkin, also known as the rouge vif d'etampes.

    The Cinderella pumpkin is so called because it really does look just like the Cinderella's pumpkin carriage in the Disney movie. It's a deep orange, and a lovely shape.

    The Cinderella pumpkin I brought home weighed something like 3.5-4 pounds. This turned out to be a lot of pumpkin. So, I've been cooking a lot of pumpkin. Read on to find out how.

    Pumpkin and Red Lentil Curry

    This recipe came from the October issue of Cooking Light. It was tasty, especially the day after it was made. But it used a bit less than half of my enormous pumpkin.

    I peeled the remaining pumpkin, cut it into largish (1.5 inch) cubes, and stored it in a ziploc bag in my fridge. I also separated the seeds from the pulp, and spread them on a paper towel to dry.

    Roasted Pumpkin

    The next day, I roasted the pumpkin cubes. I tossed them with rosemary salt, pepper, and olive oil and put them in a roasting pan. I roasted at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. The pumpkin cubes got soft and sweet and very tasty, but never browned. Next time, I'll use higher heat.

    Spiced Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

    Proof, if more be needed, that Mark Bittman is a genius. I took his suggestion from How to Cook Everything and tossed a cup of pumpkin seeds with a teaspoon of garam masala, a half teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon of olive oil, and spread them on a baking sheet. I put the baking sheet in a 350 degree oven. Bittman suggests roasting for 30 minutes or so, but after about 15 minutes, pumpkin seeds were exploding from the pressure of hot steam inside the shells and ricocheting all over the oven, so I declared them toasted.

    I plucked a hot pumpkin seed off the baking sheet and juggled it to my mouth. "Wow! These are good!" I shouted. Mr. Spaceling came and tried a seed. And another. And another. They were really magical: crisp and hot and salty and nutty and addictive. After they cooled, I put them in a small tupperware. They are still really good, but not quite as amazing as they were hot out of the oven.

    It was totally worth having to clear out half a dozen burnt exploded seeds from the bottom of the oven.

    Pumpkin Soup

    I used some of the roasted pumpkin to make a pumpkin soup: I pureed roughly three cups cooked cubed pumpkin with 2-3 cups chicken broth. Then I heated the soup over low heat in a saucepan, and added cumin (3/4 tsp.), cinnamon (1/2 tsp.), coriander (1/2 tsp.), and hot paprika (1/2 tsp) to make a spicy soup. When it was hot, I drizzled it with yogurt mixed with premade harissa (Tunisian chili paste). Not bad, though Mr. Spaceling liked the yogurt sauce better than the soup.

    And I still have about 2-3 cups of roasted pumpkin in the fridge! Will I be cooking pumpkin again? Absolutely. But I think I'll start with a smaller one.

    Posted by spaceling at 11:59 AM | TrackBack

    October 29, 2006

    Halloween Sweet Potato Salad

    My department at work is having a Halloween potluck tomorrow. I decided that I wanted to come up with a dish in Halloween colors, so I decided on a sweet potato and black bean salad. (Pumpkin was another possibility, but I've done quite a bit of cooking with pumpkin recently - which I should discuss in another entry - and I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle another one. I've got a callus at the base of my right index finger from all the cleaver-chopping involved in breaking down my first pumpkin.)

    I started with this Epicurious recipe, and tinkered. Some tinkering was by design - I added black beans, and decided to replace the red bell pepper with roasted pasilla peppers. Some was by accident - I came back from the grocery store and discovered that I'd forgotten to buy limes. I had one in the fridge, as well as a couple of small blood oranges - so I made the dressing with half lime juice, and half blood orange juice. This was a serendipitous substitution - the sweetness of the blood orange juice goes wonderfully with the sweet potato. (Regular orange juice would probably work just about as well.)

    I set off the smoke alarm while roasting the pasilla peppers. (I did them straight on the burner. Next time, I'll use the broiler.) I think I need to be very very nice to Mr. Spaceling for the rest of today.

    Read on for the recipe.

    The Ingredients

    • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch. chunks
    • 2 pasilla peppers
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 tbsp. lime juice
    • 2 tbsp. blood orange juice
    • 1 tsp. cumin
    • 2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
    • 2 15 oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained well
    • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
    • 1 large handful cilantro, chopped

    The Steps

    1. Cover the sweet potatoes with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 7 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender but not mushy. (When a fork goes in all the way easily, they're done.) Drain the sweet potatoes.
    2. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, roast the pasilla peppers by placing them under a broiler or over a gas flame and turning until they are charred all over. Put them in a paper bag and and let them steam for 10 minutes.
    3. Prepare the dressing: whisk together olive oil, cumin, chili powder, and lime and orange juices. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    4. When peppers have finished steaming, rub off the charred skins with your fingers. (Pasillas have kind of thin skins. It's kind of tricky to get all of the skin off. I settled for most of it.) Remove the seeds from the peeled peppers, and cut them into short strips.
    5. Combine the sweet potatoes, peppers, black beans, cilantro, scallions, and dressing in a large bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle in a little extra olive oil if necessary.
    Makes a lot of servings.

    The salad has been covered with plastic wrap and is now chilling in the fridge. I'll report on how it goes over tomorrow.

    Posted by spaceling at 11:34 AM | TrackBack

    October 28, 2006

    Meatball and Butter Bean Stew

    Premade sausages or meatballs are a great way to throw together a quickie dinner. Since they're usually highly seasoned, you start with a lot of flavor, and they cook quickly. If you read labels carefully, you can usually get chicken or turkey sausages/meatballs that aren't ridiculously high in fat. (Do read the label, though. Just because it's turkey doesn't mean that it's lean.)

    This was an improvised quick supper that I threw together a couple of weeks ago. Mr. Spaceling liked it enough to request that I make it again sometime. Hence, it goes in the blog for posterity.

    The canned butter beans called for in the recipe are very large white beans that have a nice flavor and a creamy texture, but if you can't find them, I think cannelini beans would work.


    • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
    • 1 package Aidell's sundried tomato meatballs, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 can butter beans (a.k.a Spanish beans), rinsed and drained
    • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
    • 3-4 handfuls fresh spinach leaves (I didn't chop them, but I think next time I would)
    • 8-10 pitted kalamata olives
    • ~1 tsp. oregano
    • A few dashes of thyme

    The Steps

    1. In a deep saute pan or sauce pan, brown the meatballs. Remove to a plate.
    2. Add the onion, and cook, stirring, until translucent.
    3. Add the tomatoes with their juice, butter beans, olives, herbs, and the browned meatballs. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the meatballs are heated through and the tomato juice has reduced a bit.
    4. Stir in the spinach (you may need to do this in batches) and cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted. Serve.

    Posted by spaceling at 12:28 PM | TrackBack

    September 24, 2006

    Arugula and Pear Salad with Roast Chicken

    I threw this salad together as a quickie dinner. I used a store-bought rotisserie chicken to keep it quick and easy, though any type of cooked chicken would be fine as long as the spicing doesn't clash with the salad.


    For the salad:
    • several handfuls baby arugula
    • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
    • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
    • 1 ripe-but-firm pear, quartered, cored, and cut into thin slices (I used an Asian pear, because I had those on hand. Those add a nice crunch, but a suitable conventional pear would probably be even better)
    • A couple of ounces of good blue cheese, crumbled (I used Blue d'Auvergne. I bet Roquefort would be even better, but any good blue cheese would work.)
    • ~6-8 ounces roasted chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces

    For the dressing:

    • A few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (actually, if you wanted to be really slick, you could replace some or all of the olive oil with walnut oil.)

    • A couple of tablespoons raspberry vinegar (you can use ordinary red wine vinegar)
    • About a tablespoon Dijon mustard

    • A few leaves of fresh tarragon, finely chopped (optional)

    The dressing is not exactly rocket science. (Oh, ha, ha - rocket science!)* You could substitute your favorite vinaigrette recipe or even bottled dressing. Just try to go for something that tastes vaguely French.

    The Steps

    1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the walnuts, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the walnuts start to smell toasty. (About 5 minutes or so. This does make a noticeable difference in the flavor of the walnuts, so it's worth doing.) Let the walnuts cool a bit.
    2. While the walnuts are cooling, make the dressing - whisk the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, and tarragon together in a small bowl until combine.
    3. Toss the arugula, pear slices, walnuts, tomatoes, and blue cheese in a large bowl with a few spoonfuls of the dressing. Taste a leaf, and add salt, pepper, or extra dressing as needed.
    4. Dish out the salad into plates or bowls, and arrange slices of roasted chicken on top.

    I loved the combination of flavors in this salad, and particularly loved the combination of pears and blue cheese. Mr. Spaceling picked out all the pears and walnuts and ate them separately, as a kind of dessert course.

    * In the UK, arugula is commonly referred to as "rocket" (from the French "roquette"). When I was in Scotland, I ate it as often as possible, just for the sheer pleasure of being able to order a "rocket salad". (Well, also because it was good.) "Arugula" derives from the Italian name for the plant.

    Posted by spaceling at 12:22 PM | TrackBack

    September 03, 2006

    Zucchini Ribbon Salad

    The idea for this came from a recipe for a zucchini "carpaccio" I saw once in a food blog. I no longer remember which blog it was, and I don't seem to have bookmarked the recipe, but the basic idea stuck in my mind: slice zucchini very thinly, salt it and drain it a bit, and then toss with herbs and top with fresh cheese. (The original recipe used fresh ricotta; I used goat cheese.) I added some chick peas to make this more of a main dish.


    • 2 small zucchini, sliced in long thin ribbons. (I used a mandoline. A vegetable peeler would probably work, too.
    • salt
    • small handful minced fresh herbs. (I used parsley, because it was what I had on hand, but I bet basil or mint would be even better.)
    • 1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
    • 5 huge green olives, sliced
    • ~2 oz. fresh goat cheese
    • Juice of half a lemon
    • extra virgin olive oil, to taste


    1. Put the zucchini ribbons in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Let them drain for 5-10 minutes.
    2. Rinse the zucchini ribbons and let them drain for another 5 minutes. Spread them out on a paper towel and pat them dry. (They don't need to be bone dry, but they shouldn't be sopping wet.)
    3. Toss the zucchini in a medium bowl with the chickpeas, olives, herbs, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    4. As you serve the salad, dot each portion with bits of goat cheese.

    Makes about 2-3 servings.

    Posted by spaceling at 08:05 PM | TrackBack

    Roasted Cipollini Onions

    Tonight as part of dinner, I roasted the cipollini onions that I got at the farmers' market yesterday. I adapted a recipe from Andrea Chesman's The Roasted Vegetable. Cipollini onions are a small, flat onion that is fairly sweet.


    • About 10 cipollini onions
    • 2-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
    • ~1 tsp. herbes de Provence
    • ~1 tsp fennel seed
    • Balsamic vinegar to taste


    1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
    2. Put the onions in a bowl of warm tap water for a couple of minutes. This makes them easier to peel. Then peel them.
    3. Toss the peeled onions with the olive oil, herbs and fennel seed. Spread them out in a lightly oiled roasting pan in a single layer.
    4. Roast for 15 minutes or so, then turn the onions over and roast for another 15 minutes.
    5. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar to taste, and serve.

    I served these with a yummy zucchini and chick pea salad - recipe to follow.

    Posted by spaceling at 07:52 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:
    • 2 rounds whole wheat pita bread
    • 3-4 handfuls of argula, washed
    • 2 oz. fresh mozarella cheese, diced
    • 1 really enormous tomato, or an equivalent number of smaller tomatoes, diced. (I used a gigantic heirloom thing from the farmers' market - bigger than a softball)
    • 1 red bell pepper, diced
    • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
    • fresh basil leaves, torn
    • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
    For the dressing:
  6. 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  7. 2 tbsp. olive tapenade (I used storebought tapenade)
  8. 1 garlic clove, minced
  9. 1/4 cup olive oil
  10. 1 dash cayenne pepper
  11. 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:
    • ~1.5 tsp lemon juice
    • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
    • a tiny dollop (perhaps a scant 1/4 teaspoon?) honey
    For the salad:
    • 2 fresh medium to large black mission figs
    • 2 slices prosciutto
    • 2 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
    • 6-8 large fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
    • black pepper to taste

    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 package Aidell's Habanero and Green Chile Sausages, diced
    • 1 onion, diced
    • kernels from 3 ears of white corn (I think it amounted to about 2 cups of kernels)
    • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
    • 1 chipotle chili, minced
    • 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
    • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
    • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
    • 1 can black beans
    • 1 can white beans
    • 1 can pinto beans


    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

    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.)


    • 2 whole trout (about 1 lb. each), cleaned and gutted, heads on.
    • 1 tbsp. minced parsley, plus extra for garnish
    • 1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary leaves, plus ~4 small rosemary branches
    • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, plus ~4 sprigs fresh thyme
    • 1 large clove garlic, minced
    • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • lemon wedges


    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

    July 31, 2006

    Portobello Mushroom and Zucchini "Souvlaki"

    This is one of those serendipitously inspired recipes. I was wandering around the supermarket, thinking that something vaguely Greek would be nice for dinner, when I happened upon a pile of portobello mushrooms. The idea for this recipe popped into my head. It's a bit of a stretch to call this souvlaki - I believe the term refers to grilled meat. But it's not entirely unlike those souvlaki sandwiches you sometimes get in Greek restaurants.

    The recipe came out really well. Mr. Spaceling made me promise to blog it so that I would be sure to remember how to make it again.

    The Ingredients

    • 2 portobello mushroom caps, gills scraped off with a spoon, cut into bite sized pieces
    • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and then sliced
    • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
    • olive oil
    • 1 lemon
    • oregano, to taste
    • 2 whole-wheat pitas, warmed
    • baba ganoush, to serve (optional, but good)
    We used Sabra baba ganoush, which is by far our favorite commercial baba ganoush. (Actually, our favorite baba ganoush, period. While I can make a decent hummus, all of my previous attempts to make baba ganoush have been staggeringly unsuccesful.)

    The Steps

    1. Put the mushrooms, zucchini, and garlic into a medium-sized bowl. Add juice of 1/2 a lemon, oregano and pepper to taste, and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat.
    2. Allow vegetables to marinate for 15-20 minutes. (I recommend using this time to put together a simple Greek salad of cucumber, red bell pepper, olives, tomato, and feta.)
    3. In a large skillet (the larger the skillet is, the easier it will be to get your mushrooms and zucchini nice and browned), heat a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms/zucchini mixture, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are cooked through and lightly browned. Season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
    4. Serve the vegetable mixture stuffed into pitas and topped with baba ganoush, if desired, along with the Greek salad.

    Serves about 2.

    Posted by spaceling at 10:14 PM

    July 15, 2006

    Spicy salami and poached egg salad

    This is another recipe adapted from the British food magazine Olive. I adapted quite a bit, though. The original recipe called for chorizo (which in Britain always means Spanish-style chorizo, which is a hard cured sausage, not Mexican-style chorizo, which is a soft fresh sausage), softboiled eggs, and rocket, as well as for croutons made from ciabatta.

    Since it's hard to find Spanish-style chorizo here, I substitued a really nice red pepper fennel salami from the Columbus salami company. It's like one of their regular salamis, only coated on the outside with red pepper and fennel seeds. Yum.

    I also swapped poached eggs for the soft-boiled eggs, added tomatoes, and used a salad mix containing mache in place of the rocket. (I like rocket, a.k.a arugula, but I just felt like mixed greens.)

    The Ingredients

    • 2 large eggs
    • 8 1/8 inch thick slices of salami, preferably Columbus red pepper and fennel salami
    • A bit less than half a container of grape tomatoes, halved
    • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
    • juice from 1/2 a lemon
    • 3 tbsp. olive oil
    • Enough mixed greens for 2 people, washed and dried
    • 1 tsp. cider vinegar or white vinegar

    The Steps

    1. Make the dressing by whisking together the mustard, olive oil, and lemon juice until it's blended.
    2. Put about 1 inch of water in a deep skillet with a lid. Bring to a boil, add the vinegar and some salt, and turn down the heat until the water is just lightly bubbling.
    3. Working one at a time, crack each egg into a shallow bowl and then slide it into the water. Cover the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes. (I like my poached eggs with rather runny yolks, so go about 5 minutes if you want the yolks cooked a bit more.)
    4. While the eggs are cooking, divide your greens and tomatoes between 2 plates. Arrange 4 slices of salami on each plate. Season with a bit of freshly ground pepper.
    5. When the eggs are finished, remove them from the water with a slotted spoon, and place one egg on each salad. Drizzle with the dressing and serve.

    For poaching the eggs, I used the technique from Mark Bittman's trusty How to Cook Everything. They were not the prettiest poached eggs I've ever seen - they spread out a bit and were a bit ragged around the edges. But they were perfectly cooked, and I could probably get them a bit prettier with practice. One thing I learned is that it's important to be very gentle when you're slipping the egg into the water - any momentum you impart to that egg is just going to make it spread out more.

    This recipe makes a great quick summer supper - it's light, it's easy, and it's different enough to be interesting.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:14 AM | TrackBack

    July 11, 2006

    Puy Lentil Salad

    I adapted this recipe from a recipe in the British food magazine Olive, which accounts for some of the measurements being in metric. If I'd been thinking about blogging while I was making the recipe, I'd have stopped to work out what 225 g of lentils is in cups, but I didn't. Maybe about 2 cups? At any rate, I think the proportions in this recipe are pretty flexible - add more of things you like, and less of things you don't, and it'll come out fine.

    This is a handy recipe to help use up some of the basil that one always seems to have too much of at this time of year if one is a gardener or an enthusiastic patron of farmers' markets.

    The Ingredients

    • 225 g Puy lentils (these are the little French green lentils. They are smaller than ordinarily brown lentils, and hold their shape a bit better when cooked. I think you could use brown lentils, just be sure to cook them just until they're tender, and not until they go all mushy.)
    • 150 g roasted red peppers, sliced
    • 6-8 oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained and chopped
    • 2-3 lemons, juiced
    • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced (this made for a very oniony salad, which I liked, but you might want to cut back on the onion a bit)
    • ~8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces. (The original recipe called for "2 balls fresh mozzarella or 2 tubs of bocconini". In the stores around here, the typical size of a ball of fresh mozzarella and a tub of bocconini is 8 oz., and 16 oz. of cheese seemed like a lot for a recipe that was supposed to serve 4. So I hazarded that perhaps the mozzarella balls are smaller in Britain. I also substitued a bit of queso fresco for some of the mozzarella, which worked fine.)
    • About 2 good handfuls of basil leaves. (The recipe called for "1 bunch basil". The recipe also didn't call for the basil leaves to be sliced or torn, so I used them whole. If you wanted a really elegant presentation, you could chiffonade the basil, but the salad tastes great with whole leaves.)
    • olive oil
    • mixed salad greens, for serving (optional)

    The Steps

    1. Pick over and wash the lentils. Put them in a pot, add water to cover by ~2 inches, bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not mushy.
    2. Meanwhile, put the onion slices in a large bowl and toss with the juice of 1 lemon. Let the onions marinate while the lentils cook.
    3. Prep all your other ingredients while the lentils cook
    4. When the lentils are done, drain them if necessary. Add them to the onions. Stir in the peppers, sundried tomatoes, remaining lemon juice, mozzarella, and basil. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.
    5. To serve, put a handful of greens on a plate, and top with the lentil mixture.

    When I was making this, I was a bit worried that it didn't include any instructions for cooling the lentils, and I was worried about serving up piping hot lentils on top of salad greens. Turns out I needn't have worried. By the time you've stirred everything together, and gotten your proportions of olive oil and seasonings right, the lentils are just pleasantly warm.

    This would probably lend itself to some nice variations - for example, with feta in place of the mozzarella, or cilantro in place of the basil.

    Posted by spaceling at 07:17 AM | TrackBack

    June 13, 2006

    Roasted Green Beans

    I tried out a recipe tonight for roasted green beans, from Andrea Chesman's The Roasted Vegetable. I hadn't really thought of green beans as good roasting vegetables, but Chesman's description of this recipe as one that could turn green bean haters into green bean lovers made it too intriguing to pass up.

    The recipe is really simple: Take 2 pounds of green beans, ends trimmed. Spread them out in a single layer on 1 or 2 pans. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil, and pop them in a 500 degree oven for 15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to make sure they brown evenly. (I shook the pan a couple of times, but the beans just slid around rather than turning over, so they browned mostly on one side. Next time, I think I'll stir - or use a deeper pan, so I can shake more vigorously.) When done, put the beans into a bowl, add salt to taste, and serve.

    The beans did not look very pretty when they came out of the oven. They were brown on one side, drab olive green on the other, and somewhat shriveled. However, they tasted wonderfully caramelized and delicious. The recipe lived up to its billing - Mr. Spaceling, who does not like green beans, had two helpings.

    And he asked me to roast some more vegetables soon. I wonder what I should try roasting next?

    Posted by spaceling at 10:27 PM | TrackBack

    June 10, 2006

    Provencal Green Bean and Tomato Salad

    I have no idea if this dish actually resembles anything actually eaten in Provence. But I was going for a sort of Provencal combination of flavors. This makes a really quick and scrumptious side dish. It made me do the happy dance when I tasted it.


    • 3/4 lb. green beans, trimmed into 1 to 1.5 inch lengths.
    • 1 container cherry tomatoes, halved (the tomatoes, not the container)
    • Juice of 1/2 lemon
    • A few sprigs of fresh herbs, minced. (I used fresh chervil. I'd never tasted chervil before. It's a lot like tarragon, with maybe a hint of dill. I like it, but you could use parsley, basil, tarragon, thyme, or probably even mint, and I think the salad would still work.)
    • One decent-sized shallot, minced
    • olive oil

    The Steps

    1. Blanch the green beans in a pot of simmering salted water for about 1 minute. Drain and run under cold water to cool. (Note: this produced green beans that were still very crunchy and raw tasting - it you want them more cooked, increase the time.)
    2. Toss the beans, tomatoes, shallot, herbs, and lemon juice together in a bowl. Drizzle in olive oil to taste. Crumble in the goat cheese, and toss again.

    Posted by spaceling at 07:17 PM | TrackBack

    April 25, 2006

    Leftover Lamb and Chickpea Curry

    A couple of nights ago, Daniel and I had dinner with a friend of ours at Amber, a very good Indian restaurant down at Santana Row. We came home with some leftovers, including some lamb shank that had been braised with ginger and other spices.

    Tonight, I concocted a curry using the leftover lamb. It was very loosely based on recipe from Jamie Oliver's Happy Days Live DVD. It came out very tasty, though the lamb ended up being more of a flavor accent than a main ingredient. Unlike most of my previous attempts at curry, it really tasted like a curry, thanks in part, I think to a secret ingredient - a can of light coconut milk. Using good quality curry powder probably helped as well.


    • Leftover cooked lamb, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
    • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
    • 1 onion, sliced
    • ~ 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
    • 2 tsp. curry powder (I used Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder)
    • 1 tsp. garam masala

    The Steps

    1. Cook the onion in a bit of vegetable oil until it is soft and starts to brown.
    2. Toss in the ginger, curry powder, and garam masala, and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring.
    3. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, and coconut milk. Bring it to a simmer, and cook everything, stirring, until the sauce thickens up a little.
    4. Toss in the lamb, and cook until heated through.

    Very tasty. I'll have to try adapting the recipe so that I can make it starting with raw lamb or chicken - I don't usually have leftover lamb shank lying around.

    Posted by spaceling at 10:12 PM

    April 22, 2006

    Anti-Pythagorean Salad

    This makes a nice quick and simple no-cook lunch or light supper. It does take a fair bit of chopping, though. (I find chopping veggies quite relaxing, but the ever-expanding collection of pre-chopped vegetables available in supermarkets strongly suggests to me that not everyone feels the same way.)

    I call it "Anti-Pythagorean" salad because of the fava beans, which Pythagoras counselled his followers to avoid. (This article gives a good summary of the potential reasons one might want to avoid fava beans.) I used canned fava beans, which are kind of odd beasties. For one, I've only ever come across them in one grocery store (Mollie Stone's in Palo Alto), and for another, they're utterly unlike the fresh fava beans that I've had. They have dark purplish-black skins, and none of the "green" taste of fresh favas. If you can't find canned fava beans, or if you're feeling Pythagorean, I'd substitute chick peas or cannelini beans. Or you could probably use fresh favas, but that would give the salad a different taste.

    The Ingredients

    • 1/2 large red onion, diced
    • juice of 2 lemons (actually, next time I make this, I'll probably cut it down to 1 lemon)
    • sumac (optional)
    • dried oregano
    • 2-3 bottled roasted red peppers, diced
    • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
    • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
    • 1 can fava beans, rinsed and drained
    • A couple of ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
    • a handful of kalamata olives, pitted and halved
    • extra virgin olive oil

    The Steps

    1. Dice the onion first, and put it in a small bowl with the sumac (if using) and lemon juice. Stir to coat, and allow the whole thing to marinate while you prepare the other ingredients. (15 to 20 minutes or so.) Marinating raw onions in lemon juice makes them considerably less pungent, and less prone to causing indigestion.
    2. Dice up the other veggies as described, and put them in a large bowl. Add the feta, and dried oregano to taste. Add the onion mixture, and some extra virgin olive oil, and mix everything up. Taste, adjust the seasoning with oil, salt, and pepper.

    Serve stuffed into warm whole-wheat pitas with a dollop of baba ganoush or hummus on top. It gets the Mr. Spaceling "You can make this again!" seal of approval.

    Posted by spaceling at 01:42 PM | TrackBack

    April 09, 2006

    Chicken, Meatball, White Bean, and Fennel Soup

    I was puttering around the house this morning, mentally composing a grocery shopping list, and I decided that I wanted to have chicken soup for dinner. And I remembered that I had a bulb of fennel sitting in the crisper that I needed to use. So, I went to the store and started grabbing things that I thought would go well with fennel and chicken. The resulting soup is kind of a riot of vegetables and chicken and stuff. But it's very tasty.

    The Ingredients

    • 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
    • 1 package Aidells chicken and turkey meatballs with sundried tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 medium bulb of fennel, sliced
    • 2 medium carrots, diced
    • 2 stalks celery, diced
    • 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved, thinly sliced, and well-washed
    • 1 bunch kale, washed, stemmed, and roughly chopped
    • 2 15 oz. cans cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
    • small handful of mixed fresh sage, rosemary, and marjoram, roughly chopped.
    • 5 cloves of garlic, sliced
    • 10 cups chicken broth or water (I used 8 cups broth + 2 cups water)

    The Steps

    1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the fennel, leeks, celery, carrots, garlic, and herbs and cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes, until the vegetables are starting to get translucent and everything smells amazing.
    2. Add broth/water. Bring it to a slow simmer. While the broth is heating up, trim excess fat from the chicken thighs and season them with pepper.
    3. When the broth is simmering, add the chicken thighs. Poach them for 20 minutes, being sure to keep the broth at a simmer and not letting it get to a full rolling boil.
    4. Remove the chicken thighs to a plate. Add the tomatoes, beans, kale, and meatballs, and bring everything back to a simmer.
    5. Shred the chicken. Return it to the pot and continue to simmer until the kale is fully cooked. (Perhaps another 15 minutes.)
    6. Adjust seasoning, and serve

    Makes a whole bunch of servings. It's a good thing I like this soup, because I have enough leftovers to last a while.

    Posted by spaceling at 12:04 AM

    April 02, 2006

    No Sugar Added Coffee-Flavored Yogurt

    I like yogurt, but I don't like most commercially available flavored yogurts. Most are way too sweet, and many are too goopy. I'm particularly irked by "Light" yogurts that are sweetened with palate-searing quantities of Splenda, and often lurk in places like Starbucks coffee shops and airports, where a girl looking for a quick yogurt fix might unsuspectingly grab one. My favorite brand of commercial yogurt is Wallaby. Stonyfield Farms' Chocolate Undergroud is also a thing of beauty.

    However, lately, I've taken to just keeping a plain lowfat yogurt on hand, and doctoring it up with a variety of ingredients. For a while, I was experimenting a lot with savory additions to plain yogurt. Believe it or not, halved grape tomatoes, chopped kalamata olives, and lashings and lashings of freshly ground black pepper make an amazing addition to yogurt. Try it - it's the breakfast of champions.

    This morning I went for something more traditional, and made coffee yogurt as follows: take a half cup of plain lowfat yogurt, and stir in about 1/2 teaspoon of Medaglia d'Oro instant espresso powder (or other good quality instant unsweetened coffee powder). Sprinkle on a touch of Splenda (I used less than half a packet) and stir. Eat.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:07 PM

    March 26, 2006

    Easy Tilapia

    Mr. Spaceling suggested that I blog this recipe as Easy, Sexy Tilapia. I'm not sure how sexy it is, but it's indisputibly easy.


    • Tilapia filets
    • soy sauce
    • butter
    • olive oil

    The Steps

    1. Put a little soy sauce on a plate or in a shallow dish. Put the tilapia filets down on the plate, and sprinkle them with a little more soy sauce. Let them marinate for 15-20 minutes or so, while you prep other ingredients for dinner.
    2. Heat butter and olive oil in a non-stick skillet. Pat the tilapia filets dry with paper towels, and cook them, about 2 minutes a side, until they are cooked through.

    You can keep the filets warm in a 200 F oven while you make a sauce or something to top the filets with. I made a sauce by sauteeing sliced shiitake mushrooms for a couple of minutes, then throwing in a ton of sliced green garlic, followed by 1/2 cup of white wine and 1 cup of chicken broth. I brought everything to a boil and simmered for 10 minutes, and then stirred in a tablespoon of butter. (If you watch cooking shows, you know that this is called "monter au beurre", which makes it sound really sophisticated.) Spoon generously over the fish to serve.

    The green garlic topping was perfectly tasty, but fell short of amazing. (I think the distinctive garlic flavor was overwhelmed by the long cooking - it tasted like leeks cooked with a bit of garlic, which is perfectly fine, but I can get leeks anytime. I still have another bunch of green garlic, though, so I'll give it a go with another preparation and see how it turns out.

    The tilapia was terrific. It was moist, flavorful, and had a nice hint of crispy browness on the outside. Mmmmm. It's nice to have a good way to cook tilapia, since it's cheap (for fish), and nearly always available. I'll definitely be cooking tilapia again, though probably with a different sauce/accompaniment.

    Posted by spaceling at 08:50 PM

    March 20, 2006

    Shrimp, Pancetta, and Spinach Salad

    Here's a catchup entry. I made this salad earlier this past week, using, among other ingredients, the mystery endive.

    This dish was very, very loosely inspired by a shrimp, bacon, and spinach salad that I had at Applebee's, of all places. It was really quite good, except that a) they overdid it a bit on the dressing (which, given the calorie count of most restaurant dressings, probably means they really overdid it on the calories), and b) the dressing had an oddly sweet undertone that I didn't care for. This salad does not sweeten the dressing, and I served the dressing on the side so that each person could decide how much they wanted. However, the dressing includes rendered bacon (well, pancetta) fat, which is probably not going to please health food purists. (I don't think that the amount is excessive, but some people just don't go for pig fat. You can always leave it out.)

    This recipe makes enough to serve 2 people for dinner and have enough left over for one of them to have a side serving of salad for lunch.

    Ingredients: Salad

    • 1/2 bunch baby spinach leaves, washed, stems removed.
    • Several leaves curly endive or frisee or other lettuce, washed, torn into bite-sized pieces (It's nice to have a tiny amount of some other strong tasting leaf to play off against the spinach.)
    • ~1/2 lb. medium-sized frozen uncooked shrimp, thawed, peeled, and tailed. (I don't devein shrimp, since Mark Bittman, who is my personal seafood guru, declares it not worth the effort. Devein if you like.)
    • An ounce or two of pancetta or bacon, cut into small pieces. (I used pancetta because I happened to have some on hand.)
    • 1/2 15 oz. can hearts of palm, cut into bite-sized rounds.
    • 1 container of grape tomatoes. (If the tomatoes are large-ish, halve them.)
    • dried thyme
    • leaves stripped from a few sprigs fresh thyme

    Ingredients: Dressing

    • Fat rendered from bacon or pancetta. (Optional. See steps below.)
    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • Sherry vinegar
    • Fresh or dried thyme
    • Dijon mustard

    The Steps

    1. Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium to medium-low heat until it is crispy and some of the fat has rendered out. Remove the pancetta to a plate. Pour off most of the fat into a small bowl.
    2. Sprinkle the shrimp on both sides with dried thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Saute the shrimp in the pan used to cook the pancetta until opaque and cooked through. (3 to 5 minutes.)
    3. Toss the hot shrimp with the pancetta and all the other salad ingredients in a large salad bowl.
    4. Make a vinaigrette dressing using the pancetta fat, olive oil, sherry vinegar, thyme, and generous dollops of Dijon mustard. (I threw the dressing together pretty much by feel - you want roughly twice as much fat/oil as vinegar. Just whisk everything together vigorously, taste, and adjust accordingly.)
    5. Serve the salad, passing the dressing and a pepper grinder for people to apply to their salad as suits them.

    Posted by spaceling at 10:33 AM | TrackBack

    March 19, 2006

    Okra and Shrimp Stew

    I'm catching up here - I made this dish nearly two weeks ago, when I picked up that okra at 99 Ranch. It was tasty enough to be recorded for future reference, so I scribbled down a few notes, but I didn't get around to putting together this post until today.

    One nice thing about this recipe is that it's really quick. It only takes about 20 minutes to put together.

    I adapted this recipe from a recipe in Barbara Kafka's Vegetable Love. She had a recipe for an okra and red pepper stew. I beefed it up into a main dish by adding shrimp and tomatoes, and spiced it up with a little Cajun seasoning.

    This makes a fairly brothy stew. I just served it up in shallow bowls, but it would be terrific over rice or couscous.


    • 6 oz. medium-sized shrimp

    • ~3/4 lb. okra, cut into 2 inch lengths

    • 1 15 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

    • 3 medium-sized roasted red peppers, cut into strips

    • 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning

    • 1/2 cup of chicken stock

    • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

    The Steps

    1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the okra. Cook, stirring, until bright green, about 4 minutes. (The okra really does turn a nice bright green. Pretty neat.
    2. Add roasted peppers, tomatoes, Cajun seasoning, broth, and shrimp. Stir everything together.
    3. Bring to a boil, and cook until the okra is tender and the shrimp are cooked through. Maybe 4 to 5 minutes.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:13 PM

    March 18, 2006

    Lentil, Mushroom, and Spinach Soup

    I came up with this recipe to use up some stuff that I had in the fridge. I had a half a bunch of spinach left over from making the salad, and I had 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms that I'd intended to put in said salad before the salad took a turn in another direction. I also had some fresh thyme.

    My first taste of this soup made me say, "Wow!" It is amazingly rich and hearty tasting, even more so than most lentil soups I've had. I'm not sure if the key is the red wine, or the mushroom bouillon that I used, or what, but it's good. And completely vegan. (Well, if your wine is vegan. I didn't check mine.)

    The Ingredients

    • ~1 Tbsp. of olive oil
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 1 large carrot, sliced
    • 1 large stalk celery, chopped
    • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I used ordinary white mushrooms, but the soup certainly wouldn't be hurt by anything more exotic)
    • 1/2 bunch baby spinach, washed (Next time I'll probably use a whole bunch. More spinach wouldn't hurt.)
    • 1 cup brown lentils, washed and picked over
    • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
    • ~1 Tbsp dried herbes de Provence
    • 3/4 cup red wine
    • 6 cups vegetable broth (I used reconstituted Harvest brand mushroom-flavored vegetarian bouillon, which is flavored with shiitake mushrooms. Purchased at 99 Ranch.)

    The Steps

      Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion starts to get translucent.
    1. Add the mushrooms, and cook another 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms start to get tender.
    2. Add the red wine, and cook until it's reduced down considerably. (By at least half, I'd say, maybe a bit more.)
    3. Add the broth, lentils, and herbes de Provence. Strip the leaves off the fresh thyme sprigs and drop them into the pot (the leaves, not the stems). (Alternatively, you could just toss in the whole sprigs, and fish them out again before serving, but I like having the thyme leaves in the soup.)
    4. Bring the pot to a slow boil, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes (or longer), depending on how long it takes the lentils to be done.
    5. About 5 minutes before the lentils are done, stir in the spinach.
    6. Just before serving, taste and add freshly ground pepper and/or salt (salt probably not necessary if you used reconstituted bouillon) to taste.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:16 AM | TrackBack

    March 11, 2006

    Braised Broccoli Rabe

    Broccoli rabe. A.k.a broccoli raab. A.k.a broccoli di rabe. A.k.a rapini. A.k.a yummy.

    I know I've eaten broccoli rabe before. But I'd never cooked it before. And I don't remember it ever being this good.

    This very simple recipe is adapted from Barbara Kafka's Vegetable Love.

    The Ingredients

    • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed, trimmed, and cut into 2 inch pieces
    • ~1/2 cup chicken broth
    • red pepper flakes
    • olive oil

    The steps

    1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a saute pan with a lid. Put it the broccoli rabe, and a generous sprinkling of red pepper flakes, and cook, turning with tongs until it is bright green and the leaves wilt.
    2. Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil.
    3. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and cook about 8 minutes.
    4. Uncover, and boil off of the chicken broth a bit. (I was too impatient to let all the broth boil off, and a bit afraid of overcooking the broccoli rabe, so I just lifted the broccoli rabe out of the broth with tongs.

    This was really delicious. I was bound to think so, since I've never met a leafy green I didn't like. However, Mr. Spaceling, who is somewhat suspicious of leafy greens and deeply suspicous of anything with the word "broccoli" in the name, pronounced this good. (I think part of the trick here is that broccoli rabe actually doesn't taste that much like broccoli. It actually resembles spinach in some ways.)

    I'm definitely going to be cooking more broccoli rabe in the future.

    Posted by spaceling at 07:00 AM | TrackBack

    February 23, 2006

    Curried Tomato Yogurt Soup

    So, I've been busy trying not to come down with a cold for the past couple of days. So far, it's hard to tell whether I'm succeeding - I have a perpetual sore throat, ameliorated only by large quantities of hot beverages, and I'm tired as heck. Under such circumstances, anything I cook has to be simple to prepare, and easy on the throat.

    Oddly enough, this kind of state tends to lead to improvisational cooking. For some reason, when I'm tired, following a recipe seems like too much effort.

    Tonight for dinner, I improvised this soup, which is both of those things.

    The Ingredients

    • 1 onion, diced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • small knob of ginger, minced
    • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
    • 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
    • 3 cups chicken broth
    • 1 tsp. ground cumin
    • 1 tsp. garam masala
    • 2-3 tsp. curry powder (I just kept adding it until it tasted about right)
    • Dash of cayenne pepper
    • 7 oz. 2% milk Greek yogurt
    • chopped cilantro, for garnish

    The Steps

    1. Sautee the onion in a bit of oil until soft.
    2. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices. Sautee for about 1 minute.
    3. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, and broth.
    4. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
    5. Turn off the heat, and stir in most of the yogurt, reserving a little bit to dollop on top of the soup at serving time.
    6. Serve soup garnished with cilantro and reserved yogurt.

    This was pretty darn good. It had enough spice to it to clear your sinuses a bit, but they were balanced out by the creaminess and tang of the yogurt. Next time I make it, I'd like to tinker with the spices a bit - I think the soup would have a little bit of extra zip if I took the time to intelligently blend more individual spices, rather than just dumping in a bunch of curry powder that's probably been sitting in my spice rack for a bit too long, if truth be told. But this was not an "intelligently blend spices" kind of night.

    I served this soup accompanied by cheese toasts, which were absolutely amazing. I think all of that comes down to the quality of the cheese: I took a couple of ounces of grated Dubliner cheese, spread it on top of two slices of whole wheat bread, and toasted it under the broiler until it was bubbly and slightly golden on top. The Dubliner cheese is terrific, and this was the first time I'd ever had it. It's kind of like a cross between a cheddar and a Swiss. A really good cheddar and a really good Swiss. It more than made up for the bread I used being decidedly mediocre. (Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat "Carb Counting" bread. I picked it up because it doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup as its second or third ingredient, as so many whole wheat breads do. Meh. It's not bad, but it's a bit dry. The quest for the perfect 100% whole grain bread continues. So far, the leader of the pack is Alvarado Street Bakery.)

    Posted by spaceling at 09:32 PM | TrackBack

    February 12, 2006

    Meyer Lemon Salsa

    You may all remember that I picked up some Meyer lemons at the farmers' market a couple of weeks ago. I've been using them in various dishes ever since, but I had a feeling that I hadn't really found a way to use the special qualities of the Meyer lemon to their best advantage. The Meyer lemon does make a fantastic vinaigrette dressing, but when I used Meyer lemons in the way I most often use regular lemons - adding a squeeze or two of the juice to various dishes at the end of cooking to perk up flavors - I couldn't help thinking that I'd have been better off with a regular lemon - the Meyer doesn't have the bracing tartness of a regular lemon, and its subtle sweetness tends to get lost in any complex cooked dish.

    It was starting to make me downright grumpy. Here I am with some of the most culinarily-prized citrus fruit available, and I can't think of anything to do with it.

    Fortunately, a food blogger came to my rescue. Amy over at Cooking with Amy has an entire post on what to do with Meyer lemons.

    This morning, I tried out a variation on Amy's suggestion for a Meyer lemon salsa, with a few substitutions. I only had garlic-stuffed green olives, rather than oil-cured, and I had some parsley on hand. So, it's sort of a strange cross between a salsa and a gremolata. But it's tasty.

    The Ingredients

    • 1 Meyer lemon, scrubbed well
    • 1 large handful chopped parsley
    • ~10 large garlic-stuffed green olives
    • olive oil
    • freshly ground black pepper

    The Steps

    1. Cut the lemon into slices, and cut the slices radially into very fine wedges. (Or however you like - basically you're looking for a lot of tiny chunks of lemon with rind attached.)
    2. Put the cut up lemon in a bowl, and tip your cutting board over the bowl to let any lemon juices run into the bowl.
    3. Coarsely chop the green olives and add them to the bowl.
    4. Add the chopped parsley.
    5. Drizzle in a little olive oil and stir everything together. Season to taste with pepper.

    Wow. I have to admit, I was a little dubious about eating the lemon rind, but this stuff is fabulous. It's got a wonderful sunshine-y lemon flavor, without being sour or puckery. I think it probably would be even better with some oil-cured olives - their earthier meatier flavor would round out the flavors nicely. Though I did like the garlic flavor from the garlic-stuffed olives. Perhaps next time I'll use some of each.

    I ate some of this on slices of rye crispbread. I'm sure it would be great, as Amy suggests, with grilled fish, or even with roasted chicken or pork. Or as a topping for a whole wheat pita stuffed with roasted eggplant and zucchini.

    I think I need to get to the farmers market and get some more Meyer lemons.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:16 AM | TrackBack

    February 08, 2006

    Things to Do with Leftover Roast Chicken

    So, having roasted a chicken, I've had lots of lovely leftover roasted chicken to use. Leftovers are always funny things - it seems like I'm eternally coming across recipes that call for cooked chicken, or a bit of stale bread, or coooked rice. Except when I actually happen to have any of those things on hand, and then I can't find anything and am left wondering what I'm going to do with the stuff.

    My first tactic in using up leftover chicken is a rather uncreative one: put some in a whole wheat tortilla, top with Safeway's bottled chipotle salsa, roll up, and eat. Uncreative, because sufficient quantities of chipotle salsa can make anything taste good. Chipotles - Part of This Complete Breakfast!

    The second tactic involved just slightly more culinary cleverness: toss some chopped leftover chicken with thinly sliced red cabbage, sugar snap peas, and Ginger People sesame ginger dressing. This makes a really nice crunchy salad. (I think I'm going to start using more red cabbage in salads. It's tasty and crunchy, and it keeps a bit better than the more delicate lettuces.)

    But I've still got some leftover chicken. At least one, maybe two meal's worth. So I've got to come up with some more ideas. (Not to mention that I have a frozen chicken carcass in the freezer, waiting for me to make stock.)

    Posted by spaceling at 11:12 PM | TrackBack

    Refried Black Beans

    One of my favorite things about cooking is when I get to make a dish that is really simple, and yet really good. I also love it when I cook something that I've only had in restaurants, and the homemade version comes out better. The refried black beans that I made last night were a wonderful instance of both of these.

    I more or less followed the recipe for 'Fried Beans' in Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday. (Bayless quite correctly points out that the Spanish refritos, usually translated as "refried", more properly translates as "thoroughly fried".) I cut down on the quantities, since there were just two of us. We gobbled up every bite, so next time I may just go ahead and make a larger batch. But here's what I used:

    • 1 tbsp. olive oil (for authenticity, one would use lard. While I'm sure it's tasty, I'm not hardcore enough to keep pig fat around for cooking. Shoot, half the time I don't even have butter in the house. This turned out plenty tasty made with olive oil.)

    • 1 clove garlic, minced

    • 1 can black beans, drained, rinsed, and lightly drained. (You want some water still on the beans, as this serves to gelate the starch released when you mash the beans, giving the dish its creamy texture. Using beans cooked from scratch would probably be even tastier, but that removes this dish from the realm of the spur of the moment weeknight side dish. Made with canned beans, you can have this on the table in 15 minutes.)

    Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. (A nonstick skillet makes cleaning up a breeze - I recommend it.) When the oil is hot, toss in the garlic, and cook it for about a minute. Add the beans, and mash them up with the back of a wooden spoon. (Or with a fork, or a potato masher.) I mashed to a fairly coarse consistency, leaving a fair number of whole beans. Keep cooking, mashing, and stirring until the dish has the consistency of mashed potatoes.

    These are so much better than the gluey mess of pinto beans you get at a run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant that it's not even funny. (You could make this recipe with pinto beans instead of black beans, and I expect it would still be yummy. Perhaps I'll try it sometime, though Mr. Spaceling professes a certain antipathy toward pinto beans. I suspect that this has to do with having eaten in too many run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurants.)

    I served these with puerco a la Mexicana, another dish from Bayless's book, which was good enough to deserve an entry of its own. Stay tuned...

    Posted by spaceling at 10:35 PM | TrackBack

    February 05, 2006

    Roasted Chicken

    I achieved a culinary milestone of a sort today: I roasted a chicken for the first time.

    It seems hard to believe that I've been cooking for years and never roasted a chicken. But for a long time, I didn't really cook very much meat. Meat was fiddly, and expensive, and more often than not I'd overcook it and it wouldn't taste good. Better to stick with veggies.

    Also, for the first couple of years I was cooking, I hardly ever used the oven. I did my cooking on the stovetop, where I could see what was going on.

    Slowly, I acquired some skill in cooking meat. It's not too hard, really - it requires 2 things - practice and an instant-read thermometer. But I'd still never roasted a chicken. Today I decided that it was high time to remedy that.

    I used Nigella Lawson's Basic Roast Chicken recipe from How to Eat. It is simple enough to reproduce here:

    My basic roast chicken recipe is the same as my mother's: I stick half a lemon up its bottom, smear some oil or butter on its breast, sprinkle it with a little salt, and put it in a 400 degrees F oven for about 15 minutes per pound plus 10 minutes.

    Which is how I came to be standing in my kitchen at around 7 p.m., doing something faintly indelicate to a chicken with a bit of citrus.

    Actually, I elaborated on Nigella's recipe a bit - I sprinkled the chicken with salt and pepper. I'm a culinary daredevil, I tell you. Then I plunked the chicken down breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan, put a bit of butter on the breast, and popped it in the oven.

    I also ignored Nigella's advice to use an organic, free-range chicken. I'd like to try that sometime, to see how much difference it really does make, but due to one thing and another, I didn't actually go shopping for my chicken until 6 o'clock this evening, which dictated running to the nearest grocery store and grabbing the most convenient chicken to hand: a Foster Farms bird, which at least means that it's locally raised and not pumped full of additives.

    This recipe makes the house smell heavenly. Really. I think I'll be tempted to roast chickens just for the smell.

    It came out rather well. The meat was juicy and tender, and the skin was crispy and tasty. I've frozen the carcass to make stock with, and I'll probably use the leftover meat to make a nice chicken salad later.

    So, I've finally roasted a chicken. Now I'll have to think of some new culinary milestone to shoot for.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:45 PM

    January 27, 2006

    World's Prettiest Salad

    I made a really gorgeous-looking salad tonight to accompany these Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps. It's a very simple salad, with just 4 ingredients: a couple of red bell peppers, half a head of purple cabbage, 4 or 5 scallions, and a bit of Ginger People Ginger Sesame vinaigrette.

    Here's what you do: Chop the scallions (both white and green parts). Thinly slice or shred the cabbage. (I used a mandoline to get really nice thin shreds, but you could use thicker slices.) Slice the bell peppers into julienne strips. (I probably could have done this with the mandoline as well, but I just used a knife.) Put everything in a bowl, splash on some of the Ginger People dressing, and toss well to coat.

    This salad just looks gorgeous in a bowl - the contrasting colors really seem almost jewel-like. It's also quite tasty, and you get a nice big dose of vitamins A, C, and K from it. And though it's not precisely traditional, it would make a great side-dish for a Chinese New Year celebration, with all that nice red.

    Posted by spaceling at 10:58 PM | TrackBack

    Toasted Kabocha Seeds with Garlic and Paprika

    Roasted pumpkin seeds are one of my favorite snacks. They're crunchy, but slightly chewy. They're salty. They're very satisfying. And like all seeds, they give you a nice little dose of minerals like magnesium and zinc, and some heart-healthy fats. What's not to love?

    Well, what's not to love is that commercially available roasted pumpkin seeds are salted to death. Concerns about dietary sodium intake aside, I have to guzzle a ton of water when I eat them, or I'm just thirsty afterwards. It's a bit much. Besides, plain salt gets boring after a while. Why can't we have flavored pumpkin seeds?

    So, the other night when I was hacking up my kabocha squash for roasting, I noticed that the seeds looked an awful lot like pumpkin seeds. And I thought, hey, why don't I try toasting these?

    So here's what you do:

    1. Take your squash seeds and wash them off and get all the pulp off of them. (My seeds generally still had a teeny bit of pulp stuck to the tip - I didn't sweat getting it all off.)

    2. Once they're clean, spread them out in a single layer to dry. (A wire rack would probably be great for this. I spread mine out on a paper towel, which was fine, except the seeds stuck to the paper towel, and then I had to carefully peel them off.)

    3. When the seeds are dry, put them in a bowl. Drizzle in enough olive oil to coat, and then sprinkle on hot paprika and garlic salt to taste. Stir everything up so it gets well coated.

    4. Heat a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Toss in the squash seeds, and cook, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally.

    When the seeds started to pop like popcorn, I figured they were done. I dumped them back in the bowl, tasted one as soon as they were cool enough to taste, added a bit more paprika and garlic salt, and then parcelled them out into snack-sized ziploc baggies. Since I started with a small kabocha, I only got about 2 servings out of it. But, wow, these seeds are good. They have a much toastier flavor than commercial roasted pumpkin seeds, and the hot paprika gives them a nice amount of kick without making them so salty that they're unbearable.

    Mr. Spaceling pronounced them tasty, too.

    I may start roasting squash more often, just to have an excuse to toast the seeds. I wonder which squashes are the seediest?

    Posted by spaceling at 10:21 PM | TrackBack

    January 26, 2006

    Roasted Kabocha Squash

    Kabocha squash is a winter squash that looks kind of like a small pumpkin, only it's green with light green stripes. I like squash quite a bit, but I rarely cook it, for some reason, and when I do, I usually go for the familiar old acorn squash. When I was at the Asian market last weekend, stocking up on instant miso soup, they had a big pile of kabocha, so I bought a couple. (I always go to the Asian supermarkets to buy instant miso soup, and I invariably leave with some item of produce I've never cooked before.)

    I ended up roasting one of them, using a recipe from Sally Schneider's brilliant A New Way to Cook. It's pretty simple - cut the top and bottom off the squash, and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds. (I saved the seeds for toasting - I'll post on that later.) Cut the squash up into 2 inch thick slices.

    Mix up some spices in a bowl: 1 tsp. ground coriander, 1 tsp. sweet paprika, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, a sprinkling of salt and a pinch of cayenne. (Sally's recipe also calls for caraway seeds, which I omitted because I don't have any.) Brush the squash slices with olive oil, and rub them all over with the spice mix. Stick them on a baking sheet, and put them in a 400 degree oven for half an hour.

    Yum. Kabocha has a very creamy, slightly sweet flesh. It's less stringy than some kinds of squashes that I've had. It tastes a lot like sweet potato. In fact, if you blindfolded me and gave me a bite of roasted kabocha, I'm not sure that I'd know that it wasn't sweet potato. Maybe I'll do a side by side test sometime - I could roast kabocha and sweet potato together, and compare the flavors.

    The sweet warm flavors of the kabocha played off really well against the salad I served with it, which was watercress, avocado, and kalamata olives, dressed with a very mustardy Dijon vinaigrette. Mmmm. It's funny - I've been eating watercress from the salad bar of the cafeteria at work, but I didn't realize that it was watercress until I spotted some in the supermarket labelled "watercress". It's funny - I always expected watercress to be seaweedier somehow. Silly, really.

    I think next time I'll try a slightly different spice rub on the squash. I bet it would be brilliant with a touch of chipotle. (Of course, my culinary philosophy is that there is no food in the universe that wouldn't be improved by a touch of chipotle, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a squeeze of lemon, or a splash of soy sauce. Though I don't think there is any food that would benefit from all four at once. First person to send me a viable recipe for a chipotle-soy-lemon-balsamic vinaigrette wins a prize, okay?)

    Tune in next time, when I'll toast some kabocha seeds.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:50 PM | TrackBack

    January 19, 2006

    Tunisian Style Chickpeas and Chard

    Tonight I tried a new recipe that I found online: Paula Wolfert's recipe for Chickpeas and Swiss Chard in the Style Tunisian Sahel. Just to make it really simple and easy, I used canned chickpeas, and substituted vegetable broth for the chickpea cooking liquid.

    The most fun part of this recipe is pounding up the garlic, chile, salt, and coriander in a mortar. I have an inexpensive Japanese-style mortar (called a suribachi). It's more lightweight than other types of mortars I've seen, and it's probably not robust enough for some pounding jobs, but for bashing up a couple of cloves of garlic with some spices, it works just fine. The garlic/chile/coriander paste just smells heavenly. Pounding everything in a mortar that way really amplifies the aromas.

    I served this with pita bread and a salad of sliced tomatoes and olives dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. (I've been getting really good tomatoes at Mollie Stone's in Palo Alto lately. They're not quite equal to a really great summer tomato, but they actually smell and taste like real tomatoes.)

    Posted by spaceling at 09:13 PM

    January 17, 2006

    Halloumi with Chili

    Halloumi is a Greek/Middle Eastern sheep's milk cheese. It's quite salty, somewhat rubbery in texture, and has a disconcerting tendency to squeak against your teeth when you eat it. You might say it has a flavor similar to feta, but a texture similar to mozzarella. It's quite popular in Europe, but not very common in the United States. (I first had it when I was visiting Scotland. It was cut into little cubes and served in a Greek salad, much like you might use feta.)

    Tonight, I tried this recipe for Halloumi with Chili from Nigella Lawson's website. Oh, my. Halloumi is pleasant enough uncooked, but when you throw slices in a pan and cook them until they're browned on both sides, it becomes much tastier. Drizzle with a mixture of minced chilies (I used red jalapenos) and good olive oil, and top with a squeeze of lime, and it becomes magical. Serve it with a nice salad, and it becomes a really impressive quick supper that takes almost no time to make.

    Posted by spaceling at 09:40 PM | TrackBack

    January 14, 2006

    Chicken Cacciatore

    Here's another made up recipe with no particular claims for authenticity. I can make claims for tastiness, though - this was quite good, though I think I'm going to tweak it a bit the next time I make it. I can tell it's going to reheat beautifully - I'm in for a really tasty lunch or two in the near future.

    I also keep spooneristically turning this dish's name into Kitchen Chacciatore. So, here's how I made Kitchen Chacciatore.

    The Ingredients

    • 2 links hot Italian sausage.[1]
    • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into largish pieces.[2]
    • ~1 lb. mixed mushrooms (cremini and oyster).[3]
    • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes in juice plus 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice.
    • Approx. half a dozen smallish onions, peeled and halved.[4]
    • 1 cup vegetable broth.[5]
    • 1/2 cup red wine.
    • 5-6 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled.
    • Balsamic vinegar, to taste.[6]
    • oregano, and herbes de provence, to taste.[7]

    [1] Italian sausage does not appear in most of the chicken cacciatore recipes I've seen, but given that I was using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, I thought it would add a little extra flavor. Mmmm. Good choice.

    [2] Ideally, one would use bone-in, skin on chicken pieces. But I had boneless, skinless breasts sitting in the fridge waiting to be cooked.

    [3] Next time I'd make this, I'd use more mushrooms. I always forget how much volume mushrooms lose when you cook them.

    [4] The onions that I used were labelled "shallot onions", and were rather like shallots on steroids - much bigger than the shallots that I'm used to. I kind of liked the rusticness of big hunks of onion, but I don't think I'd particularly seek out shallot onions again. Probably just use a yellow onion or two and cut it into chunks.

    [5] The cacciatore ended up more liquidy than I think is ideal. So, next time, I'll reduce or eliminate the broth.

    [6] Not the hugely expensive super-aged syrupy stuff. Just a decent quality balsamic vinegar.

    [7] I love herbes de provence, and use them at the slightest provocation. However, I realize that not every American kitchen is automatically stocked with this mixture of oregano, thyme, rosemary, lavender, and fennel. If you don't have herbes de provence, toss in some thyme and any of those other herbs that you have on hand and which happen to sound good to you.

    The Steps

    1. Cut sausage up into bite-sized pieces, and cook them in a soup pot over medium-high heat until some of the sausage fat starts to render out. Add the chicken, and cook until the sausage and the chicken are lightly browned. Remove to a plate.
    2. Add the onions and mushrooms to the pot, and cook until the mushrooms have released most of their liquid and shrunk up.
    3. Add the wine and a couple of good slugs of balsamic vinegar, and cook a couple of minutes more, until the liquid has reduced a bit.
    4. Add broth, tomatoes and their juice (break up the whole tomatoes with your fingers), chicken and sausage, and garlic. Stir everything together, taste, and add oregano and herbes de provence in an amount that seems good to you. Add salt and pepper if you like.
    5. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Serve.

    I served it with some roasted fennel on the side, but what would really make this dish fantastic is some nice crusty bread to mop up the lovely tomatoey herby broth with. (If one reduced the amount of liquid, making the dish less soupy, this would also work great served over pasta, or couscous, or even rice.)

    Posted by spaceling at 08:46 PM | TrackBack

    January 10, 2006

    Lamb Mushroom Burgers

    I picked up some ground lamb yesterday, and came home from work tonight with a mind to cook it for dinner. I was in the mood for something relatively quick and simple, so I ended up adapting a recipe for "Peppery Mushroom Burgers" from the Weight Watcher's Five Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook. Made with ground lamb instead of lean ground beef, these burgers are probably no longer ideal Weight Watcher's fare, but they sure are tasty.


    • 0.8 lb. ground lamb
    • Approximately 8 oz. cremini mushrooms (you could also use white mushrooms, or shiitakes would probably be delicious. Then again, shiitakes are pretty much always delicious.
    • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, plus more to taste
    • 1/4 cup red wine (I used Zinfandel)
    • 1/4 cup water
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • cooking spray

    The Steps

    1. Coarsely chop about 1 cup of the mushrooms. Slice the rest and set aside.
    2. Mix the chopped mushrooms in a bowl with the lamb and 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce. I find the best way to mix the stuff up is with your hands. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    3. Shape the mixture into 3 fairly thick patties. Give the surfaces of the patties a liberal dusting with fresh-ground black pepper.
    4. Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat it over medium high heat. Cook the patties until done (5 minutes per side for medium). Remove to a plate and keep warm.
    5. Add wine, water, and sliced mushrooms to the pan. Stir and cook until the liquid is reduced and the mushrooms are tender. Add salt, pepper, and additional Worcestershire sauce to taste. Serve burgers wtih mushrooms and sauce spooned over them.

    I served these with brown rice (alas, it was Uncle Ben's quick-cooking brown rice, and it might as well have been pellets of wallpaper paste for all the flavor it had; yuck), and a salad of mâche, tomato, olives, red bell pepper, and avocado, dressed with a creme fraiche and shallot dressing (made up for the disappointing brown rice).

    (And yes, I know, the tomatoes are so not seasonal right now. But they looked lovely when I saw them at Mollie Stone's, and when I picked them up and smelled them, they had a beautiful tomato smell, so I bought some. They were tasty - much tastier than your ordinary supermarket tomato. Next time I'm there, I'll have to see if I can figure out where they got them.)

    This was a really nice dish. The burgers got brown and crusty on the outside, but were pink and juicy inside, and the mushrooms cooked in the red wine were succulent. Mmmm.

    It also occurs to me, that with its meat, mushrooms, red wine, and Worcestershire sauce, this recipe could have been inspired by Barbara's recent post on Umami in the West over at Tigers and Strawberries. I didn't consciously have Barbara's post in mind, but her recent posts on the subject have sure got me thinking about ways of using umami to boost flavor in my cooking. Get some glutamate on your plate!

    Posted by spaceling at 09:21 PM | TrackBack

    January 07, 2006

    "Hoppin' John" soup

    I was in the grocery store one night last week, and I spied some bags of fresh black-eyed peas. Black-eyed peas are of course traditional to eat on New Year's day, for good luck, and one very traditional dish to eat them in is Hoppin' John, a mixture of black-eyed peas and rice, usually flavored with salt pork, or smoked ham hock, or something of the kind.

    Even though it was a few days after the start of the new year, I decided that a little belated luck was better than none. I created the following soup, loosely based on the Hoppin' John concept. It turned out really great - it had a nice slightly spicy, smoky flavor and makes a good, hearty one dish meal.


    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 ribs celery, diced
    • 2 medium red bell peppers, diced
    • 1 11 oz. package fresh black eyed peas
    • ~3 cups vegetable broth
    • 2 links Cajun andouille-style sausage, diced
    • 1 14.5 oz. can Muir Glen fire-roasted diced tomatoes
    • 1.5 tsp Cajun seasoning blend
    • Tabasco sauce to taste

    The Steps

    1. In a soup pot, saute the sausage over medium-high heat until it is cooked through and beginning to brown a bit.
    2. Add onion, celery, and peppers. Cook until onion is translucent. (And be sure to lean over the pot and take a good whiff, so you can smell while Cajun cooks call onion, celery, and bell peppers the "holy trinity" of Cajun cooking.
    3. Add tomatoes, broth, black-eyed peas, Cajun seasoning, and Tabasco. (I gave it 3 or 4 good dashes from the bottle, and I thought the soup was pleasantly spicy but not fiery.)
    4. Simmer until the peas are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve.
    Mmmmm. Not just a yummy dish, but a pretty darn easy one, too. Perfect for a weeknight dinner.

    How yummy was it? Mr. Spaceling had some of the leftovers the next day for lunch. Most of you probably can't appreciate the significance of this the way I can. Let's just say that Mr. Spaceling doesn't do leftovers. Except for this soup.

    Some notes on the ingredients: If you can't get fresh black-eyed peas (and I'm not sure if I can get them outside of the New Year's season), then you can probably substitute canned or cook some up from dried beans. If you don't want to use (or can't find) the Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, you can use regular canned tomatoes - I think the fire-roasted ones contribute a nice hint of char and smokiness to the dish, but I don't think it's critical.

    Posted by spaceling at 02:43 PM

    January 03, 2006

    Minestrone Soup

    Minestrone soup is a comfort food for me. A very twenty-first century kind of comfort food, perhaps, because for me the canonical minestrone, the one I have all the fond childhood memories of my mother preparing for me, comes out of a can: Progresso minestrone. (This shouldn't be taken to imply that my mother wasn't one hell of a home cook. She was, and I've got many fond memories of her homemade dishes. But she never, as far as I can recall, made minestrone from scratch.)

    Progresso makes a fine canned soup, as canned soup goes. (I always keep a can of their lentil soup in my pantry for those nights when I'm too brain-dead to cook, too tired eat out, too starving to order in.) But sometimes, one wants something a little bit fresher. So, I started looking around for a minestrone soup recipe. I found quite a few. Some were too gussied up. (I'm sure a minestrone with pesto, or with butternut squash, would be fantastic, and I'll probably try those recipes at some point, but neither fits my canonical conception of minestrone.) Some were too stripped down. (A good minestrone needs to be a riot of beans and vegetables in a bowl. Anything less, and it might be a good vegetable soup, but it's not minestrone.) Many eschewed pasta. (One recipe disdained the use of pasta in minestrone as a poor man's way of stretching the soup. That may be true. Pasta in minestrone may not be authentic. Screw authentic, though - I've just admitted that the minestrone nearest and dearest to my heart is made by Betty Crocker. I say minestrone needs pasta.)

    So, here's what I concocted.


    • 1/4 lb. pancetta, cut into small pieces (or you could use bacon)
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 2 carrots, diced
    • 2 stalks celery, diced
    • 2 yellow summer squashed, halved and then sliced.
    • a good big handful of string beans, trimmed and cut into 1 to 2 inch lengths
    • 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes in tomato juice (do not drain)
    • 1 15 oz. can of chick peas, rinsed and drained
    • 1 15 oz. can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
    • 4 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced (I don't think mushrooms are usually part of minestrone, but I had some leftover from the previous night's dinner, so I used them, and they were good.
    • 4 oz. uncooked whole wheat penne rigate, or other pasta (Ideally, you'd use something a bit smaller than penne rigate, like ditalini, or elbow macaroni, or small shells. I wanted to use whole wheat pasta, and the only two whole wheat varieties I could find on short notice were penne and spaghetti.)
    • 4 cups chicken broth. (Actually, I think this needed a bit more liquid - the leftovers I put away ended up being more of a minestrone stew, without much liquid. Perhaps 6 cups next time. I used Imagine organic chicken broth.)
    • Dried oregano, thyme, and dried pepper flakes to taste.

    The steps:

    1. In the bottom of a stock/soup pot, cook the pancetta over medium-high heat until it is browned and crispy. Remove it with a slotted spoon, and place on paper towels to drain. Try not to eat all of the wonderful, salty, crispy pancetta as you complete the rest of the recipe.

    2. If there is more fat rendered from the pancetta than you need to cook the vegetables in, pour some off. Add the onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms, and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent. Add squash and green beans, and cook for a few minutes more.

    3. Pour the juice from the tomatoes into the pot. Tear the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces with your fingers and throw them into the pot. (Or you can coarsely chop the tomatoes if you prefer. I find it easier to tear them.

    4. Add the broth, chick peas, and cannellini beans, and pancetta. Add a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, and a generous amount of oregano and thyme. Stir well.

    5. Turn the heat down to a simmer, and simmer to let everything blend together, stirring occasionally. I simmered for about 45 minutes. About 15 minutes before simmering is done, add the pasta.

    6. Taste, adjust seasonsings, and serve.

    This is an easy soup, though not necessarily a quick one. (It takes a fair bit of time to chop all those veggies.)

    It turned out well. (Mr. Spaceling ate 4 bowls, always a good sign.) It satisfied my definition of a minestrone. The only major changes I would make for next time would be to add a bit more broth (the final servings of soup were a bit thick), and to add the pancetta back to the soup only at the end, since the long simmering robbed it of its crispiness. And of course, I'll probably tinker with the vegetables a bit: this is a great "let's throw in whatever we've got in the crisper soup". But, on the whole, this hit the spot.

    Posted by spaceling at 04:06 PM