Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Supper

I've found myself drifting back to the basics lately, which brings me to Joy of Cooking, probably the first cookbook I ever read--and I do mean read--as in, cover to cover.  I have the 1997 edition, which still manages to maintain that quaint, coversational tone despite modern inclusions like Tomato Jalepeno Chilaquiles and Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup.  I bookmarked Sunday Supper Fishcakes because they sounded so delightfully old-fashioned, and because cod is cheaper than crab, and because--hey--it's Sunday, and I wanted something tasty for supper. 

All began well.  The fish mixture came together in a snap.  The accompanying horseradish sauce was cool and creamy, yet bracing.   Then it came time to "shape into 8 cakes, pressing the ingredients firmly together."  Well, I pressed and pressed and all I got was a pile of ingredients.  So I cursed Joy, and I cursed myself for ignoring the headnote recommending I use "some of a more oily fish,' and I cursed the fishcakes for good measure--and all this before church!  Then I turned two slices of white bread to crumbs in the food processor, added them to the mix, and taking a cue from the Bible, allowed the fishcakes to rest for ten minutes.

That did the trick!

Served with the sauce, they made a perfectly respectable Sunday supper.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rainbows and Peace Signs

It's Regents week, which means regular classes are cancelled, and no high school students are on the premises.  As teachers, our only job other than the odd proctoring assignment is to make ourselves scarce in our rooms.  There was a two hour stretch today where I did not speak. To anyone.  It was bliss. It was peace.  It was zen.  To honor the experience, I made my version of Nina Simonds' Rainbow Peanut Noodles from her excellent book, Asian Noodles, for dinner.

Here is the Chinese Peanut Dressing.  Doesn't it look serene? 

Here is the salad, made with soba noodles instead of the linguine Simonds suggests.  Did you know soba noodles are a whole grain?  They are made from buckwheat and are highly nutritious, full of fiber, protein, magnesium and many other nutrients.  And they don't have the taste and texture of cardboard!  They just taste sort of nutty.

Rainbow Peanut Noodles

1/2 lb. soba noodles, cooked until tender (four and a half minutes), rinsed in cold water and drained
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 persian cucumber, thinly sliced
1 small red pepper, julienned
1 handful of snowpeas, de-stringed and cut in thirds lengthwise
3 scallions, thinly sliced into rings

Chinese Peanut Dressing

1 1/4 inch thick slice of fresh ginger, peeled and cut in half
2 small cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tsp chile garlic paste
1/4 c. smooth peanut butter
handful of peanuts, if you happen to have them around
1/8 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 T sugar
1 1/2 T Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 T toasted sesame oil

For Dressing:

Finely chop ginger and garlic in a food processor.  Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.  Add water to thin, if necessary.

For Salad:

Toss everything together with dressing.  Or make it pretty, like a rainbow, then toss it together with the dressing. 
Serves 3

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Desperation Dinner

A freezer ready meal is a working mom's best friend.  However, ever since I read Michael Pollan's book--you know which one--and subsequently ditched the Lean Cuisines (I still jump when I see the sign in the supermarket: 4 for $12!), my freezer is full of Belle and Evans chicken parts, grass fed meat, whole wheat flour and not much else.  Not exactly the makings of a desperation dinner.

Then I had a brainstorm.  What about a frozen burrito, like the kind they have at Trader Joe's?  So I whipped up a batch for dinner, deliberately making extra for the freezer. 

Don't you just love tomato paste in the tube?  Forget Kindle, here is real progress.  I flavored two cans of pinto beans with two tablespoons of paste, onions, garlic, chili powder and cumin. 

Then I toasted some flour tortillas over my stove's open flame.

I piled each tortilla with a generous spoonful of beans, some leftover rice from the fridge, and some grated cheddar cheese.  The picture does not do it justice.  It was really good, especially with sour cream and salsa.  The only thing missing is cilantro.  Next time.
And here they are...freezer ready.  Like money in the bank!

Vegetarian Bean Burritos

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium japeno, chopped
2 T olive oil
1 tsp. cumin, more to taste
1 tsp. chili powder, more to taste
1 1/2 T. tomato paste
2 cans of pinto beans (15 oz.), drained and rinsed
a handful of chpped cilantro
1 c. cooked rice (could be brown rice, I guess)
6 oz. shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese
6 burrito sized flour tortillas
salsa and sour cream for serving

1.  Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Saute onions, garlic, jalepeno, chile powder, cumin and a good pinch of salt until golden, about 10 minutes.  Add tomato paste and cook a minute or so more. 
2.  Add beans and 1 c. of water, bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in cilantro.
3.  If you have a gas stove, toast tortillas. 
4.  Fill with bean mixture, rice, and cheese.  Fold and serve. 

To Freeze:  Wrap in plastic wrap, then aluminium foil.  To reheat: Nuke for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes straight from freezer, then bake in 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.  I think you can just microwave them, too--perfect for a work lunch!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Weird Craving

While the rest of the modern world is busy getting their post New Year's diet on, I find myself craving...a chimichanga.  Which is weird because I can't remember when or where I might have had one before.  But there is definitely a chimichanga lodged in my memory bank.  It is crispy and corny and wickedly greasy and good.  But how to make one?  An Internet search turned up plenty of recipes--but these were corpulent specimens, more like fried burritos than the crunchy little cigars I remember from somewhere.  Typing in "skinny chimichangas" was no help either--you wouldn't believe how many "diet" versions of chimis there are out there! Who in their right mind wants to eat a Weight Watchers chimichanga?

So, I invented my own.  The filling was easy enough--sauteed tomatoes, onions, garlic, yellow peppers, and chopped roasted chicken seasoned with cumin, chili powder and oregano, with a healthy amount of cilantro stirred in at the end.  Filling the tortillas was more of a challenge--they kept cracking, even after I took Emeril's suggestion and nuked them for a few seconds under a damp paper towel.  Eventually, I ended up twice frying them--first dipping them in hot oil for a few seconds per side until pliable, then filling and rolling them, then frying them a second time until golden brown. 

Okay, so maybe they are a little plumper than they should be...but so am I.  Happy New Year!