Saturday, November 23, 2013

Garlicky Mexican Salad with Fresh Tomato Dressing

It’s probably too chilly to be thinking about cold salads, but this one is worth making no matter what the weather. Right now, for example, the white stuff is gently falling from the grey sky right outside my window and I am drinking hot coffee, but I still love to think about getting cold, crunchy, light salads into my weekly menu. The way I look at it – you can always throw in a grilled quesadilla or some toasty garlic bread to balance out the flavors and temperatures. Plus, don’t some of you live in warmer climes? Lucky.
This is a riff on Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Big Fat Taco Salad. I added roasted potatoes and fresh avocado. Sometimes I add a little Ranch Dressing (or try Isa’s Sanctuary Dressing, which is a riff on traditional Ranch….)and it’s delish!

Here’s what you need:
Iceberg lettuce – cold and crispy
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Fresh avocado
Roasted potatoes – Yukon
1 pound fresh tomatoes – maybe 3 average size tomatoes
¼ C fresh cilantro
A clove garlic, grated
1 T red wine vinegar
2 t cayenne hot sauce
Black pepper and salt to taste

Here’s what you do:
Cut the potatoes in quarters and drizzle them with olive oil. Roast them in a 400 degree oven until crispy – about 30 minutes. I like to turn my over so they toast evenly on all sides.
Meanwhile, chop lettuce and get beans and avocados ready.

To make the dressing, chop the tomatoes very small and try to keep all the juices. Add the cilantro, garlic, vinegar and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well and allow to sit for a while to blend the flavors. The original recipe says to mush it with your hands, but I just leave it chunky.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Potato and Leek Soup

“I just like eggheads, damnit!”  Julia Child (My Life in France, pg 197)

Potage Parmentier adapted from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child

Here’s what you need:
2 T neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
5 medium russet potatoes
3 leeks
4 C vegetable stock
2 C water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T sour cream

Here’s what you do:
Cut the leeks in half and discard the dark green half. Slice the white/light green part in half lengthwise and then thinly slice them, creating little half-moons. The leeks need to be washed and rinsed in clean water until they are very clean.

Peel and chop the potatoes in 1 inch cubes.

Saute the leeks in a bit of light oil until they are tender but not brown. Add the potatoes and continue to cook until the potatoes are beginning to soften, but not brown. Add the stock and water and cook for about 30 minutes. One of my favorite secrets to making excellent soup is to let it rest for a while before rushing to the finish – so I advise to let the soup sit, heat off, for another 30 minutes.

Use an immersion blender or a regular blender and process until very smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the sour cream and re-heat gently. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ranting (part 2) and a Burger

The students at my school are presenting their annual play tonight called Doc….Doc, Goose. It depicts what happens when Mother Goose goes to medical school and then returns to Nurseryland to diagnose and treat all the fairyland folks – chiropractic advice for the crooked man, dietary advice for Mr. and Mrs. Spratt, and so on.

Our daily trivia questions during morning announcements this past week featured the origins of various nursery rhymes; did you know, for example, that Humpty Dumpty was written about King Richard III?

Yesterday’s question featured that old woman who lived in a shoe with all those kids. My students thought that this woman ‘had a bunch of kids, KISSED them all GLADLY and sent them off to bed.’ They were horrified and shocked to hear the original nursery (NURSERY rhyme: for CHILDREN!) which says that this creepy woman ‘WHIPPED them all SOUNDLY and sent them to bed without any bread.’ Will my ranting ever end?! (click HERE if you want the full force of ranting.) 

Anyway, on to more pleasant thoughts: Bean and Mushroom Burgers

Here’s what you need:
2 t olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
1 C fresh mushrooms, diced
½ t cumin
1 15 ounce can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 t fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

Here’s what you do:
Sautee the onions and green onions for a few minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic and cumin and cook until the mushrooms are very soft and tender. Set this mixture aside.

Mash the beans with a fork until they are all broken, but don’t mash them to a puree. You do want some lumps of beans left. I used a shallow plastic Tupperware-type bowl and a fork for great results.

Combine the mushrooms, beans parsley and salt and pepper to taste.  Shape the mixture into 4 small patties. I have found that if you let them sit in the fridge for a few hours before frying, the result is better. When ready, fry them carefully in a bit of oil, turning once. If you use a cast iron pan, you may place them in a hot oven for about 10 minutes after browning them. This help them retain their shape.

I don’t know about you, but I love  to eat my bean burgers with a fork or wrapped in a tortilla. Buns are just too much starch for a bean burger.

Give this one a try! It was really great! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

May I Rant?

I have the two cutest, most adorable nieces on earth and that’s a fact. Well, I actually have a lot of nieces and nephews who are all tops in my book, but when a child is between the ages of 4 and 10 they are just perfect in my eyes! Give me a 1st grader any day.

When I saw my little nieces last summer, I brought along a used book of fairy tales from the free table at our local library, thinking we could while away the hours reading some classics. Oh, how naïve I am.

They were horrible. I mean, horrible. Violent. Racist. Frightening. Children being punished. Children getting  lost in the deep woods. Nightmares. Orphans. Scary wolves and snakes. Drought. Famine. What was I thinking?

I knew it was time to throw the book away, when I struggled to get through “The Story of Ping.”  In case you don’t remember, Ping is a little duck who is late coming home one day. To avoid the punishment of a severe spanking, he swims away, and gets picked up (stolen!) by a little boy. Through a macabre twist of events, the boy’s mother wants to EAT poor little Ping. Somehow he gets away from the boy and returns to his family, late again, but this time willing to take the punishment for being the last one home.  Really?

It was totally coincidental, when about a week after realizing how violent our children’s classics were, I heard a show on the BBC about the horrible Grimm Brothers. They are the guys who wrote Cinderella, Snow White, and Hansel and Gretel.  More weirdness. Did you know that in the original version of Cinderella, the step sisters cut off their toes and heels to force their feet into the glass slippers? Or how about this: the queen in Snow White calls for the liver and lung of Snow White.  Snow White actually dies in the original story – killed by her step mother, who stomps on her while wearing fire-hot iron shoes. Freaky.

Then last week we ‘celebrated’ Halloween, when the ghouls and goblins come out of the woodwork. The cover of our local newspaper featured a toddler dressed up as one of these ‘un-dead’ beings. Bloody and gruesome.  I ask, “What has happened to common sense?”  Life is too precious to mess around with this kind of perversity.

I am so thankful that my little nieces were celebrating Halloween dressed as a bumblebee and a kitten. Hopefully they can be sheltered from the strange side of life for as long as possible – of course I know the weirdness is out there, but there is no need to invite it into our lives. We live once, so we might as well make our time here a force for the good. 

Your thoughts? 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Reflecting back on a menu

Last week I was bragging how great I was simply because I managed to jot down a menu.  I want to brag again a bit today, and mention that I stuck to said menu almost to the letter. You see, for me, menus work! They mean dinner gets done….and I don’t just mean *done* …. I mean *DONE.*  Hot food on the table.

Only problem is if the menu is not of high quality: not enough variety; too many trips to the grocery; recipes that are too involved; too bland; too boring….. you name it.

My problem last week was that two of my main dished were, well….. how to put this….. not very tasty.

I call this the big yellow blob meal. 
The red lentil dahl was very thick and weird somehow. I served it with brown rice, yellow and green beans from my garden (stashed away in the freezer) and roasted onions, which all ended up in a yellowish reddish blobby pile on our plates. Not overly proud of this meal. And a lesson learned, even for a weeknight meal: it is important to have a balance of textures and colors on the plate.

Looks good, I know....but it's NOT.
The broccoli rice casserole was also very strange: too much nutritional yeast in the  ‘no-cheese’ sauce. We  could barely eat it and that’s rare for us. I admit that I threw away all the leftovers the next day. Too stinky. Too strong. Too vegan. Thank goodness for the awesome and most delicious Gardein Chicken Nuggets! (LOVE those things!)  A huge side of sautéed mushrooms is always a good thing as well.

I never got around to making the cauliflower steaks: those have bumped up to this week’s menu. And I highly, highly recommend the LotsaVeg Soup which was the star of last week’s menu.

Another MAJOR distraction for me this past week: I entered the 21st Century.