Monday, December 10, 2012

Steak, and Replacing Pasta with Vegetables

Last night I HAD to have steak. It just HAD to happen. No purveyors of fine steak were open late on a Sunday, so I made do with a Safeway steak- a nice double-thick rib eye. To further complicate my need for steak, I don't have anything that passes for a grill right now. 

I persevered.

I gently rubbed the 1+ lb, bone-in rib eye cowboy steak with olive oil. I poured Himalayan salt on it with reckless abandon. I sprinkled it generously with pepper. I let it hang out on the counter, looking good. I cooked it on both sides for one minute each in very hot oil. I then put it under the broiler in the oven for 15-ish minutes, then let it rest for another 10 minutes, taking it to medium-rare heaven in the middle, and medium on the edges. All steaks are shaped differently, so if you're not good at judging the cooking times, there's no shame in using a meat thermometer.

Now in the old days (and by that I mean over a year ago) I would serve this with some sort of starchy goodness, like pasta. Instead, I used all of the good things I would put on pasta, and put them on summer squash instead:

4 yellow summer squash
1/2 a sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup white wine (or water or stock)
2 level tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh arugula leaves
1 oz of your favorite cheese, shredded or crumbled (I use feta)

Saute the onions, summer squash and spices in ONE of the tablespoons of olive oil for about 3-4 minutes on high. Then add the tomato paste, garlic, and white wine and lower to medium and cook until wine is gone and tomato paste looks thick again, another 3-4 minutes at least, depending on your stove. 

Lower the heat all the way down to the lowest setting, add the cheese, the other tablespoon of oil and the arugula leaves, stir it all in and let it hang out on the stove 'til your steak is done. Serve with sliced steak...and a nice big glass of Sangiovese.

Like most of my recipes, this meal will serve 2 people, or 1 person twice...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Kale and Red Onion Pie

Two big bunches of Italian (Lacinato) kale, chopped up (yes, you can substitute other greens but this kind of kale is really starchy and good)
8 organic eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (Spanish or Greek would be good here)
4 oz. feta cheese OR shredded Manchego (go with your gut)
1 red onion (if you really hate this much onion, try a thinly sliced fennel bulb instead, but I would add a little chopped onion to the mix if you go that way)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 pinch of mace (if you have it
2 heaping tablespoons of any kind of flour (rice, wheat, coconut, potato- doesn't matter, I think I used brown rice flour because that's what I had)
2 heaping tablespoons pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix  the chopped kale, and everything else, EXCEPT the red onion and one of the tablespoons of oil. 

Meanwhile you can either line a 9X13 inch pan with your favorite pie crust OR just leave it out entirely. 

Pour your kale mixture in the pan. Then thinly slice your red onion and arrange it as nicely and evenly on top as you can, and sort of smoosh the slices down onto your kale mixture a bit. Drizzle the last tablespoon of oil on top of the onion slices and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper. 

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. You want the onions to get crunchy on the edges. In fact, you might want it a bit more brown than it is in my photo, this is after cooking for only 45 minutes. This might be nice for a lunch, you can serve it warm or at room temperature (like pizza really). A little fresh squeezed lemon on top wouldn't be totally out of line, or even a side of marinara or pizza sauce to dip it in.  

Eat your veggies!

Salmon Salad Recipe, Because the Sweet Potato Pancakes Sucked

*Sigh* Here's the deal. If you are giving up grains, don't try to make fake versions of things like pancakes, they're baaaaad. So, so bad. For example, I tried to make these sweet potato pancakes: a cup of mashed sweet potato, four eggs, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of honey, and butter for frying. But seriously, don't make them, because they suck. They taste like a cross between warm pumpkin pie and cinnamon scrambled eggs. Bleh.

Anyway, here's a recipe for salmon instead. 

First of all, get the really good wild salmon fillets, pour enough olive oil in a pan to cover the bottom, and over medium heat, toss in one garlic clove, sliced. Immediately place the salmon portions in the pan, skin side down. Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, thyme, and tarragon. Cover and cook for a few minutes, JUST until the color of the salmon turns light pink instead of dark pink. Squeeze a half of a lemon over the top, and when you serve it, just peel the skin off of the bottom first (I eat it, but you can give it to the dog) and spoon some of the oil and juices from the pan over the top.

The Salad Part

I like to keep boiled and salted potatoes ready to go in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, ready to turn into fried breakfast potatoes, or slice into salads like this one.

A small bag of good greens, baby kale, arugula, spring mix...whatever
3 small boiled Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced
1 avocado, sliced or cubed
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes sliced in half
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
1 big pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Juice of one lemon
2 oz. crumbled feta or other good cheese

Toss all of the the ingredients- and for Pete's sake, don't be a baby, use your hands, they work the best. You can always wash them, and both the olive oil and lemon juice are good for your skin anyway. Serve the salmon on top of the salad. It's just delicious. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Roasted Lavender Chicken and Yams

It's cloudy and chilly, and that means only one thing, I need to stuff myself with comfort food. Nothing is more comforting than roast chicken. Okay, maybe a grilled rib eye is...or bread pudding...or macaroni and cheese...never-mind. The POINT is that hot juicy chicken, and sweet melt-in-your-mouth yams are pretty damned comforting.

Le recipee eez as follows <---say that with le faux French accent, because it makes it fancier.

5 organic chicken drumsticks ( I say 5 because that's what comes in a vacuum sealed package from Costco, one or two more or less really doesn't matter)
4 large yams, or 5 medium sized ones (yams are orange inside, sweet potatoes look almost like regular potatoes inside, although they work fine too)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup fruity and/or sweet white wine like a moscato
1 heaping teaspoon dried lavender (I have purchased this at Target, believe it or not, and also Cost Plus)
1 teaspoon dried orange peel, or zest an orange (you can use the juice too, whatever)
1 heaping teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 heaping teaspoon lavender
1 heaping teaspoon marjoram 
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 heaping teaspoon rosemary

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash the yams and cut them in half lengthwise. In a roasting pan (if you don't have one, your big lasagna pan will work fine) arrange your drumsticks and your yams in a single layer, don't stack anything, you want everything snugly laying side by side. You also want the skin side of your yams facing down. Pour the wine over everything, then pour the olive oil over. Next sprinkle all of your seasonings as evenly as possible, concentrating the garlic and rosemary on your chicken. The amounts on the seasonings are just a guideline, feel free to sprinkle on the seasonings right out of the bottle, and just go for it until everything has a nice even dusting! 

Roast in the oven for 45 minutes at the 425 degree temperature, then add a 1/3 cup water and tilt the pan a bit so it runs around, then cook another 10 minutes on 300 degrees. 

During cooking, the sugars from the yams will ooze out and get really dark colored, don't worry about it, it's not hurting anything. (Although you might have to soak the pan a bit before you wash it.)

When you serve your dish, pour a little of the syrupy glaze from the bottom of the pan over the chicken. You might want to serve a glass of that white wine that you used to cook it with, I mean what the hell are you going to do with that bottle of wine? You don't want to be one of those people who keeps open bottles of wine in their refrigerator for a year. That's just embarrassing. And it's insulting to the winemakers of the world.

 P.S. Cost Plus World Market is a good place to get spices at a decent price, as is Trader Joe's and Target (it was weird buying spices at Target, but they have been pretty good so far for the price.)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Peppery Kale and Cheddar Omelette

Cereal, toast, pancakes...all delicious. The problem is, when I eat these carb-a-riffic breakfast foods I feel weak and hungry an hour or two after. So most of the time for breakfast I eat either Greek yogurt with honey, cinnamon and almonds, or eggs cooked in some way with vegetables or herbs. Today's omelette came out extra tasty, so here we go:

2 eggs
2 tablespoons of water or milk
2 teaspoons of olive oil
1 chopped green onion
1 big handful of baby kale (I got a bag of organic at Costco for next to nothing)
black pepper
nutmeg (don't skip this, it's the best part)
1 slice sharp sharp Tillamook cheddar  (or other sharp cheese)
(grape tomatoes on the side for acidity and color)

Easy peasy, start with a teaspoon of the olive oil in a small non-stick pan over medium heat. Toss in the green onion and kale, salt them ever so slightly, and cook just until the kale wilts down. Remove the kale and onion from the pan and put the other teaspoon of olive oil in. While this is heating, in a bowl whip the heck out of your eggs and water (or milk) and add a good pinch of salt and pepper and a WHISPER (a half-dash?) of nutmeg. 

Pour into the pan and cook. I like to gently push the eggs toward the middle of the pan with my spatula and then tilt the pan around in a circular motion, letting the uncooked egg from the top layer of the omelette run to the sides of the pan and cook there. Once you have just a very thin sheen of uncooked egg on that top layer, place your kale, onion, and your slice of cheese on one half, then use your spatula to flip the other half of the circle to cover everything. 

Turn the heat off and let it sit in the pan for a minute until the cheese melts inside, then serve immediately with an extra sprinkle of good black pepper over the top and some tomatoes on the side.

 This actually kept me going until lunch, so it's eggs for the win.  

Friday, November 30, 2012

Costco Angst

Oh Costco. How I love thee and hate thee.

Love. I love the new cookbooks I purchased there, especially Practical Paleo (great book).

I love the prices for organic products, like tomato paste, blueberries, chicken, ground beef, sweet potatoes, carrots, baby kale, celery etc. 

You can get decent pans, knives, small kitchen appliances, and they'll take things back with very little trouble.

Now hate. Maybe hate is strong word, but the latest Costco attitude- I don't like it. Costco employees used to be among the friendliest. Now, I don't know, they always seem slightly irritated, at least they do at the three Costco locations I frequent here in Northern California.

The free samples...both love and hate those. Who doesn't like free food? I DO want to taste the new Greek yogurt. But do I want people crowding the aisles around the sample table like sheep making it impossible for me to effectively navigate when I'm in a hurry? I do not.

And what, may I ask, is going on with the boxes all of the sudden? They used to just box everything for you, and they did it with remarkable speed. Now IF you're lucky they'll ask you if you want a box, and then if you say, "Please box everything, I have to climb stairs with it all," they will box about half it. What is going on? Why are they hoarding boxes? What difference does it make if they go in my recycle bin or theirs? (If anyone actually knows the answer to this I'd like to hear it).

One day my husband asked for boxes and the check-out people actually said (with a straight face and everything), "We're out." 
He eyed them quietly for a moment and then said, "Really?" 
As they stood by, unconcerned, I watched him walk over to the nearest monster sized display of goods (I think it was men's socks and vitamins) and start consolidating items, which enabled him to grab two large empty boxes in about 30 seconds. The employees chatted while they waited for him. I was both vexed and entertained.

Ah, then we wait in the SECOND line, the line to get out of the store, where supposedly the cart gets checked for loss prevention purposes. This line makes me crazy. How do other stores manage to make it without this stupid extra step? Are they all going out of business? I paid for my stuff, just let me go

So having ranted like a looney, I will close with this, I will keep shopping at Costco because I am addicted to cheap organic food and the best price for sparkling water around. But I will grab my own boxes as I shop and as I wait at the door to exit while they look over my receipt, I will say over and over, in a screechy panicked voice, "I didn't steal anything I swear!"

Oh and P.S. to Costco. Eggs are not dairy. Dairy comes from wing-less creatures like cows and sheep. Eggs come from chickens. Chickens do not make milk. When I say "Where are the eggs?" and the Costco employee looks at me like I'm an idiot and says, "In the dairy room of course," well it makes me want to hurl my free sample in his face.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Cooking with's not really an everyday thing. Usually when you think of flowers and cooking, well, you think of them sprinkled over a wedding cake or an over-priced salad. To me squash blossoms really taste more like an herb, or a type of lettuce and they're just the perfect shape for stuffing. If you haven't tried them, give it a shot. Lots of people fry them, or stuff them with cheese, but here's how I like to cook them:


Before Baking



Thank you, farmer's market! I got a bag of squash flowers this past summer for only a few dollars. These beautiful yellow and orange squash blossom babies are good stuffed with almost any mixture of rice or meat and fresh herbs (think dill or mint), but this time I stuffed 15 squash blossoms with:

3/4 pound good quality grass fed ground beef (or choose the best beef at your store)
1 medium egg
5 dried California plums, diced
2 green onions, diced
Two Tablespoons fresh parsley (I'm weird, I like the curly stuff)
2 tablespoons pine nuts (other nuts or seeds are good too, that's just what I have today)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper (estimate)
1/4 teaspoon allspice (if you've had your allspice for ages, use double)
1 lemon wedge to squeeze on after
a little olive oil

Clean blossoms if they need it and get rid of the stems. Rub baking dish with good olive oil. Mix ingredients and stuff into squash blossoms. Arrange them on the baking dish and spray or lightly drizzle with more olive oil. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes (could be longer depending on your oven) basically cook them until your meat is cooked through. Serve warm or room temp. with olives, cheese, and/or fresh bread.