Monday, July 27, 2009

Barbecue in the Woods: Spicy No-Mayo Cole Slaw, Carrot Salad with Cumin

Last weekend, my friend and coworker Melanie invited me and some other friends to her mother Donna's house in New Hampshire for a barbecue and weekend of relaxation.


Obviously I was going to take this chance to work in a real kitchen (I'd refer to my own kitchen as "fun size") for all it was worth, but Donna had things covered with plans for smoked brisket (pictured above), chicken, and fish. So I brought some veggies to grill with the idea of making some Five Minute Drizzle Sauce, and decided I'd put myself on salad duty. It's often hard at a BBQ to get your fill of veggies, but I always want to. You can only pack your body full of so much delicious meat before you want some salad or a nice grilled zucchini. I settled on the Spicy No-Mayo Cole Slaw and Carrot Salad with Cumin, in addition to some really nice summer squash I got at the greenmarket that would act as the vehicle for the Herbed Five-Minute Drizzle Sauce, as suggested in the chart on page 250 ("How to Grill Vegetables").

The kitchen was a dream come true. Check out Donna's easy access spice drawer:


OK, on to the cooking.

The Carrot Salad with Cumin is a real ace in the hole; you're basically just grating a bunch of carrots, then tossing with cumin, lemon juice, orange juice, and olive oil, plus salt and pepper. The result is sweet and tangy and the cumin lends it a nice complexity.


If you have a food processor, it should take all of ten minutes including cleanup. The flavors intensify the longer you let it sit.

The Spicy No Mayo Cole Slaw should definitely be made ahead of time--it tasted way better the next day, even. I like this recipe; it's not the kind of cole slaw I'm used to, swimming in sugary mayonnaise, but resembles something closer to an actual salad. I wouldn't put it on my hot dog, but for a side at a barbecue it's light and fresh and just what I wanted.


The dressing is mustard and sherry vingegar plus garlic, chile, and olive oil. That goes on top of a lot of cabbage, some scallions (I used a leek instead, as there were no scallions at the farm) and bell pepper. Like I said, this was a delicious salad, but it got a lot better in the fridge overnight. Cabbage is so underrated. Just saying.

Finally, the summer squash (and some onions!) and drizzle sauce. Grilling the veggies was just a matter of a quick brush with olive oil and bit of salt and pepper, then throwing them on the grill til they were sufficiently charred (for me, this is bordering on totally black).


The drizzle sauce is just olive oil, heated up, with shallot and lemon juice and herbs mixed in. It takes, as the recipe states, all of five minutes, and is another one of Bittman's endlessly variable recipes (sub peanut oil or sesame oil for the olive oil, ginger or onion or garlic for the onion, soy sauce or vinegar for the lemon, etc.).


All in all, this was one of the most delicious meals, and relaxing weekends, of my life. Donna's smoking technique, which invlolved getting up at 7am to light the coals, and nearly 12 straight hours of sauna time for the meat, is world class, to say nothing of her homemade barbecue sauce. Many thanks to Donna and Mel's Aunt Lynne. We all had a great time eating, relaxing, and enjoying your beautiful home. Hope we can do it again!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Manic Minimalist: 101 Simple Salads


Today's Minimalist column is another one of Bittman's lists of 101 one sentence recipes--this time with the theme of summer salads. They range from the standard to the completely zany (carrots, blueberries and pine nuts, anyone?) across a wide range of categories, including seafood, meat, noodles, grains, vegetarian, and "mostly vegan." There's even some dressing recipes. If you can't find at least a handful of things you want to eat on this list, there's something wrong with you. Go check it out.

Also, if you fancy this kind of super short recipe thing, check out Bittman's latest book, Kitchen Express, a collection of these seasonal recipes from the Times.

101 Simple Salads for the Season [nytimes]
Share Your Salads [bitten]
Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express: 404 inspired seasonal dishes you can make in 20 minutes or less [amazon]

Above picture jacked from the NYTimes.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Greater Than the Sum: Penne with Corn, Zucchini, and Tomatoes

This one is another dish that's only as good as the veggies you can get your hands on; last night it was transcendent but if you made it with crappy vegetables (in the winter, say) it might not be much fun. It's also endlessly adaptable--I'm guessing most vegetables would do pretty well in this, although the combination in the original isn't something I'd necessarily want to mess with.

Basically, take the corn off three or so ears--you want about a cup of kernels--and brown them in some olive oil. Then add the zucchini, let it go a few more minutes, and then add the onions and optional garlic. When the onions are softened, you add some diced tomatoes, turn down the heat a bit, and cook the pasta.


When the pasta's just about done (don't overcook it) throw it in the pan with the veggies, mix, add a bit more olive oil and some of the pasta cooking water if you like, and you're done. Serve with parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Who Brought the Gum: Garlic Scape Pesto

I came across this recipe for garlic scape pesto on Dorie Greenspan's blog, which uses the green shoots that grow off of the top of garlic plants. I'd been seeing them at the market with no idea what to do with them, and this seemed perfect--apparently they are best when raw. Wanting to hit two birds with one stone, I decided to take the inspiration from that recipe and use it with How to Cook Everything's Classic Pesto recipe.

Garlic Scapes

Those are the scapes. Funny looking, right? Bittman's pesto is an easy one: into the food processor go 2 cups of garlic scapes (or basil, for the traditional recipe), a handful of pine nuts or walnuts (I didn't toast them, Bittman doesn't say to, but I think I will the next time) and olive oil plus a pinch of salt. Turn on the machine, add a bit more olive oil while it's working, and you're pretty much done. The last step is to add the grated cheese, right before serving.

Garlic Scape Pesto

This stuff is really good: it tastes fresh, spicy, and yeah, incredibly strong in the garlic department. Next time I think I'd combine the scapes and basil, as I think they'd work well together. That is, if the scapes are around for long enough. If not, I'll just have to try the traditional pesto. That's one of those good problems.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

All Too Easy: Olive Oil Salt Bread, Real Croutons

The very first bread in the Bread chapter of How to Cook Everything, Olive Oil Salt Bread can be made in the food processor, takes no time to rise, and doesn't even really need to be kneaded. It has a soft yet dense texture, if that makes any sense at all--it's kind of like a biscuit.

Olive Oil Bread

All-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, water and of course olive oil are combined in the food processor til they form a ball, then popped into an oiled 8-inch skillet or baking pan, covered, and put into the oven at 375 degrees. After 20 minutes, take you off the cover and sprinkle some more salt on the top, and then 25 minutes later you have some really delicious fresh baked bread. You can also do it on a griddle, which I will have to try.


This stuff doesn't last long, only about a day. I had some left over and getting stale quick, so I tried out Bittman's recipe for Real Croutons. I've never been into croutons, really, but this is another area in which Bittman seems to want to change my ways: "The difference between real, homemade croutons and the packaged variety cannot be overstated; the former are delicious, reasonably healthful, and entirely addictive." Basically, oil goes in a skillet, heats up, in goes some cubed day old bread, a little salt and pepper, and let it brown. That's it; he says you can store them for about a day. Bittman's right on this one: they don't resemble the croutons you'd buy in a store at all.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Family Meal: Steamed Clams, Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula, Crisp Cooked Jerusalem Artichokes

I count myself really lucky: I love having dinner with my family. It's not a chore, it's not something I have to be guilted into doing. It's something I know I'm really lucky to be able to do at all, and on top of that, enjoying it is a real added bonus. My brother's hilarious, my dad keeps the wine flowing, and getting down with my mother in the kitchen is always a blast. The dishwasher in their new apartment is yet another added bonus.


So Saturday, my brother Jonathan and his girlfriend Eva and I decided on the spur of the moment to go over for dinner. I went to the Greenmarket to see what looked good, then came home and decided what to make. What I ended up with was littleneck clams, Jerusalem artichokes, mushrooms, spring garlic (like green garlic, but different), strawberries, arugula, and some fresh chevre. Pretty much a list of ingredients that was going to end up delicious no matter what I did to it. So I cracked open How to Cook Everything and decided on the following.


I've been using clams more and more, because I love them, they're not as expensive as I initially thought, and they bring their own sauce to the party, which is always appreciated. So far I've made the linguine with clams twice, actually, but this was the first time I made them all by themselves. For the steamed clams recipe, you sauté some garlic and shallots in olive oil, then add the clams, then pour in some white wine, beer, or even water (I used beer). Cover, cook until they all open up, and you're good to go.


The broth left in the bottom of the pot alone made this one worthwhile, and luckily we had the foresight to acquire a nice crusty baguette for sopping it all up when we were done with the clams.

To take advantage of strawberry season, I decided to make Bittman's Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula salad. This recipe was a favorite of mine in the original HTCE, where it was a desert of just the strawberries, but I was intrigued by the combination of the bitter arugula and the sweet berries. Bittman says you can add some fresh goat cheese as well, so I figured I may as well do that too (in retrospect, though, I'd leave it out next time--I don't think it added much to the salad).


You cut up the strawberries and let them soak in a bit of balsamic vinegar (this is a recipe where its worth it to use really good vinegar) and a tiny bit of pepper, for about ten minutes or so. Then you just toss with the arugula and cheese and some olive oil and it's good to go. The flavor combination is incredible. This one's going into heavy rotation--it's really easy, complex, and it borders on fancy, something I don't always get to pull off. The only catch with this one is that it's only going to taste this good during strawberry season.


Finally, the Jerusalem artichoke dish that I've already made a handful of times. This time I also added the mushrooms I got at the market, which only made the dish earthier and more complex.


I can't believe I didn't know about this funny looking vegetable sooner! The HTCE project keeps on giving.


So that was it: wine, food, family. What else is there?