Friday, October 28, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan Pizza

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA


Typically on weeknights, I will either see Sous Chef Brian for a moment between work and his class, or speak to him on the phone for a minute.   I've said before, I'd almost rather not have that moment, because there's a whole lot of, "I paid that bill," "Did you call the vet," "Don't forget it's trash night," "Have you seen my good pants?" being fired off in both directions, and there just isn't enough time.  So, to add stress to that conversation, I'll often ask him what he wants for dinner.

Worse than that, I'll ask him if he's "had a chance to think about dinner," and the answer is always, "no."  Of course not. Who would?  He's looking for his good pants, and I'm digging my heels in and making it clear that class or not, trash night is his problem.  So I asked the other day and he said, "Is lasagna out of the question?"



How dare he?  I mean, really?  It's a weeknight.


I don't know why lasagna has such a bad rap.  Really, if you already have sauce made, and like me, you don't boil your noodles, lasagna takes 15 minutes to prepare your veg, 5 minutes to layer, and then it's all oven time.  Lasagna is not such a time suck.  But it has that feel to it.  "I made a lasagna," is often received with oohs and aahs.  Really folks, it's pasta with veg, but you made it in the oven.  


Anyhow.  He actually said, "Is lasagna out of the question, and do we have eggplant?"  These aren't words that are commonly linked in our home.  I've never made or eaten lasagna with eggplant.  But OMG did eggplant lasagna sound good.  And I have a freezer full of diced eggplant.  This was going to be spectacular.  On a weeknight, no less.


I got my eggplant defrosting, realized I had no sauce so started making my quick-ish winter sauce, and turned on some music from my youth.  It was on.  On a weeknight. 


Then I opened the cabinet and saw that I had four (4) lasagna noodles.  It was pretty obvious, I keep them in a big glass jar.  Lasagna was out of the question.*


The pizza place by my office puts anything on pizza.  It's amazing to me that I can point at a slice and say, "What's that?" and they'll say, "Ranch" all matter-of-fact and slightly irked that I can't recognize the white sauce, and I'll be like, "Ranch and what?" And they'll just say, "Fried chicken."  Oh yeah, that goes on pizza.  Sorry I didn't recognize that traditional classic.  These are the same folks that make cheeseburger pizza, taco pizza, and french fry pizza.  One thing I've seen, but not had, is eggplant parmesan pizza.  I had a pizza dough in the freezer.  Luckily, it was Sous Chef Brian's late class, and I had defrost time.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

CSA 2011 - The Goods - Week 21

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA

It's week 21, the first week of farmer's choice.  Meaning I'm not racing to select veg before all the good stuff is gone.  I like that.  I really thought I'd prefer selecting my own this year, but the mad dash for the good stuff during the work day, and I guess the lack of a challenge (what is that/can I eat it) made me miss good old fashioned mystery boxes of veg.  So this week I got that.   

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Soft Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA


There are four types of chocolate chip cookies:  Flat n' chewy, hard, soft, and icky.  Everyone has their cookie camp.  I make mine soft.  If you want to make them chewy, use the Tollhouse recipe.  Everyone else does.  It's a good cookie.  I'm all for it.  Also, other people like them hard.  I don't know what's wrong with those people.  And then some cookies are icky.  Like the hard "chocolate chip" cookies made of chalk dust that people get at Italian bakeries.  Ugh.


I was a Soft Batch kid, not a Chips Ahoy kid.  But I had some Soft Batch cookies a couple years back and there is some sort of acidic sweet chemical flavor that is no longer working for me. And they're dusty too.  I don't know what happened.


Either way, I've been working on a whole wheat recipe for a while.  I think whole wheat will only work with the thicker, softer cookies, because they're cakier to start with, and if you think too hard about it, muffin-ier.  So whole wheat works here.


Anyhow, I made you some cookies. 


I buy good chocolate chips, because I'm a spoiled girl.  I don't know, a couple years ago I had a [candy] bar and it was like wax and I asked myself what I was doing eating chocolate.  Sous Chef Brian had never been a chocolate fan, and I started buying "good" chocolate and all of a sudden he was all nomming on my secret stash, so I'm a convert, and I eat a lot less chocolate because I can afford a lot less chocolate.   So start with something you really like.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes with Kale and Sundried Tomatoes

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA


I've had less time to spend in my kitchen lately, and it shows.  My fridge is still hooked up by extension cord, the eggs are still in the mini-fridge, and the dishes have lingered.  Not in the creepy, crusted-on food kind of way, it's more like there's an accumulation of plastic baggies to be washed out, and jars that need their labels removed for storage, and lunch bags that have really reached the end of their useful life without a good cleaning.  Just neglected kitchen and food related maintenance.  In the next two weeks I'll have even less time to do that, so I'll cook when I can, and show it to you when I can, and we'll be back on schedule soon enough, but I don't think I'm going to the grocery store before November. 


But we still eat.  I mentioned in my CSA post the other day that I had hasselback or accordion potatoes on my mind.   I guess it was just thin slices I was excited about, because a few nights ago I made scalloped potatoes.  Scalloped potatoes aren't something I make a lot of, but neither are potatoes in general.  I think I wrote about my unsubstantiated fear of them a few months back.  They just seemed so unnecessary, like that side of starch that was mandatory on our plates growing up.   


Several months ago, my friend Kristina shared a picture of her family's au gratin potatoes, and I was like "Whoa, must make," and she was all, "You sure? It's a pound of cheese," (Ok, I'm paraphrasing) and I was like, "Hell yes."  And I've been staring at that recipe since May and yeah, I'm never going to make it. 


But I don't know, something about potatoes that have been sliced super thin is appealing to me this week. So scalloped potatoes with sundried tomatoes and kale happened.   Why sundried tomatoes and kale?  Potatoes don't have a world of flavor on their own, so sundried tomatoes are my easy answer to a lot of flavor without adding anything terrible for us.  Kale, because I still had last week's farmshare kale on hand and it was withering and starting to scare the other produce. 


The first thing I did was steam up that kale.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

CSA 2011 - The Goods - Week 20

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA
 


When I started posting my CSA shares this year, it was because last year my CSA haul was overwhelming.  Not only in quantity but in variety.  I thought I'd need your suggestions for how to use celeriac and salad turnips and unfamiliar squashes and purslane.  


That's happened a few times, but mostly, I get greens, onions and potatoes.  See above.  No onions this week, but you get the picture. 


The ordering window opens at noon, midweek, and without fail I'm in a meeting or on a call or something when the alert on my phone goes off.  By mid-afternoon when I select my produce, I get to see what I missed out on.   I think this one is set up for people without much going in during the day. 


So I continue posting up pictures of my fairly standard veg, because that's what I said I'd do, and I'd still love your suggestions - just less because I don't know how to use something or which parts are edible, and more because I need fresh ideas for the same old. 


Collards.  I make collards one way.  What else should I do with them?



Dill.  I never buy dill.  Some of it will probably make its way into a salad dressing, but other ideas are welcome. 


Cilantro.  Typically, cilantro says "Mexican" to me, but I'm ill equipped to make tacos or nachos or whatever this week.  I didn't go grocery shopping over the weekend and it's too late now, so we're eating what's on hand.  What else do I do with cilantro?



Apples and pears.  These are just going to go into my face.  Straight up. 



Kale.  All I do with kale is salad or chips.   Sauteed kale sounds boring, and it also sounds like a side dish, which means I'm stuck making a main dish too.  Other thoughts on kale?



Salad.  This will also go into my face, like the apples and pears.  And the good news is that last week's salad is still crisp, so I'm all stocked up.   Perfect for a week without grocery shopping. 



Four little potatoes.  I got all excited about making potatoes like this and then saw the size and shape of these.  I don't think that's going to work out.  I know potatoes are supposed to keep, so this shouldn't be urgent, but I don't know if they're uncured, or if it's an issue of them being shipped to me wet (ugh) but they don't last more than a week before they start to sprout, so it's always time to use up the potatoes.  If you look close you can see an eye on the bottom left guy already. 



This was my last week of CSA ordering.  The next two shares are "farmer's choice," so I am somewhat excited about getting a mystery box, and I have my hopes up that there'll be more variety.  We'll see.  Then we venture into the unknown territory of Winter Harvest

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Vegan Shepherd's Pie

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA


A quick Google tells me that vegetarian shepherd's pie is called "shepherdess pie."  That upsets me.  I don't understand the feminization of healthier foods.  Men eat meat, women eat vegetables.   It reminds me of this ad for a masculine version of diet soda.


I started this story last week, here, with my vegan garlic mashed potatoes.  Mashed potatoes without butter and milk are pretty easy; you use stock instead.  This dish has been called "Swanson Mashed Potatoes," so I'm guessing it was Swanson chicken broth's idea.  Or they popularized it.  But you can do it with vegetable stock* too.  I added roasted garlic to make it a bit richer.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Vegan Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA


It's been a rough couple of days at Saturday's Mouse HQ.  So please allow me to complain about the pettiest little thing in the bag-of-ugly-things that the last few days has brought.


Arriving home from work, Sous Chef Brian went to get a beverage from the fridge and discovered the fridge was not working.  And immediately left for class.


I stared at it, willed it to cool, and played with the circuit breakers (I just want to say fuses, but I guess that's not right).  Then I turned on the dorm fridge we keep in the basement.  The dorm fridge is awesome.   

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Braised Collard Greens with Bacon

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA

My history with southern food is very fake and touristy.  When I was little, we lived in The South*, and I like to imagine my earliest meals were all jambalaya and grits, but I'm pretty sure it was more like pbj and fried bologna.  I have no legitimate recollection of southern food.  I try to cook something cajun-ish each Fat Tuesday, but that started in adulthood. 


As an adult, I was introduced to southern food in two great pretend situations.  The first was on a business trip, when I was in my late teens.  This may even have been pre-Sous Chef Brian. certainly 21 years old.  A group of us, 20 or more, went to the fanciest dinner out I'd ever had at the time, at Justin's.  Yes, that's Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs' restaurant.  He was still Puff Daddy at the time.  The drinks were flowing, and I was a grown up, on my first big business trip. I don't recall what I ate, but I remember thinking I was a big fan of soul food.  I probably had the popcorn shrimp.


A few years later, Sous Chef Brian and I went to Las Vegas on our honeymoon.  In a city where everything is fake, in a week of gondola rides and obligatory time-share presentations, we went to the House of Blues for the "gospel brunch" and ate catfish and collards while people sang and clapped and praised.   I loved catfish.   I loved collards. 


When I came home, several people explained to me the role of catfish in the ecosystem.  Feel free to Google that for yourself.  So that's out**.  But collards, collards stay. 


Sous Chef Brian and I "celebrated" our wedding anniversary last week.   "Celebrated" in that we had head colds and ate matzo ball soup.  But a few days later, I was feeling good enough to make collards, very likely right about on the anniversary of the first time I tried them. Unintentionally though, I really don't have that sort of relationship with greens.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

CSA 2011 - The Goods - Week 19

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA

Week 19.  Mid-October already!


Doesn't look that way to me.  No winter squash, no new and exciting greens, no brussels sprouts.  YET.


For now, we have arugula.


Let's keep this one in our thoughts.  I opened the bag and said, "Whoa, that's dirty," (absolutely to be expected) and then gave it a bath and it still looked that way.  But I haven't tasted it yet. 




And of course, my new best friend, Kale.  We met over the summer and have been inseparable since. 



Spicy greens mix. 



Onions. 



Potatoes.  I have plans for these, if they work out.   They arrived damp, which I guess is a shipping hazard, and their skin was starting to peel.  I have them in my tater bin* with a dishtowel to absorb moisture.   



And more radishes.  



I did cook last week, you know.  I'll post a recipe tomorrow, promise.  


*my tater bin is a wooden box, smaller than a shoebox, in a cabinet in my kitchen.  It is very similar to my onion and garlic bin.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Vegetarian Chili

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA
 


It's cool enough now for veggie chili, which is great, because my favorite veggie chili is the one that comes early in chili-season.  When you can still get fresh tomatoes and peppers and zucchini, you can make chili that's fresh and bright even while it's warm and cozy.


I foreshadowed this in my pico de gallo post, but I really don't believe in chili recipes (I barely believe in most recipes).  The heat of your peppers varies.  The actual number of working tomatoes you end up with varies.  Maybe you added more cayenne this time.  So this is about basic ideas, not a recipe.  Maybe this time you add some of this or that and next time you add more, or none.  Whatever, it's chili.  Beans, tomatoes, spices and then it's up to you. 


When I'm making something that's gonna cook for a few hours, I quick-soak my beans.  


This is a cup and a half of kidney beans.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Same Dinner Different Day: Ricotta Quiche Muffins

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA


Ricotta quiche muffins?  Seriously, I had a hard time figuring out a name for this that made even that much sense.  It's muffin shaped, and has a lot of ricotta, and it's sort of the texture of quiche.   You're welcome to call it whatever you want. 


A few days ago I made the eggplant rollatini for an event.  Only I misjudged in the doubling/tripling, and ended up with way more ricotta and swiss chard than I needed.  Nearly two cups more.   It's about a cup of ricotta, a quarter cup of mozzarella, a half cup of swiss chard and a bit of black pepper. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CSA 2011 - The Goods - Week 18

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA
 


Week 18 already!  One month left.  




Broccoli.   It's been a really long time since we've had broccoli.  I'm excited about this and all that it means -- cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc.  I love my summer zucchini and tomatoes, but there's something pretty exciting about fall veg too.




Collards are one of my favorites.  This might mean it's time to bust out the bacon. 




This kale will be salad very soon. 




Pretty radishes!




Onions.  I never have plans for what to do with onions, but I'm always running out.  I don't understand those people who don't eat them.




Salad.  This was called "spicy mix."



Apples.  I've been having a hard time keeping up with the apple bounty.   It's particularly sad because I love apples.  I did sauce once this season, and I'm not a pie person.  Just gotta eat apples. 


Four pears.  I'll get through these.  I love pears on salads and sandwiches, and of course, just as pears. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Light Brioche-style Sandwich Rolls

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA


I'm a sucker for rich breads.  Somehow, croissants, challah and brioche are excluded from my general disdain for pastry and such.  The line has to fall somewhere.  So, I got it in my head that I was going to make brioche.  I had a sandwich in mind.  Brioche is tender and barely sweet, and full of butter, eggs and milk.   So, I got to Googling.


Julia Child's recipe has 12 tablespoons of butter and four eggs...
King Arthur Flour is great for bread recipes.  But wow... ten tablespoons of butter and three eggs... 
Epicurious uses just eight tablespoons of butter...


All of a sudden it was time to re-think.  I'd make something brioche-ish (say that three times fast!).


So I Googled a bit harder.  There was a less-rich recipe that had gotten around a bit.  NYT had published a light brioche sandwich roll.  Smitten Kitchen recreated it.   This was it.  Not only did I have a *much* lighter recipe, but of course it was going to work, because it got passed around and there were pictures.  Any fool (read: me) can post a recipe up on the Internet, but that doesn't mean it's going to work.  I felt good about this one.


So we start like we start, with yeast foaming up.  

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