Archive for Food bits

It’s not you, it’s me

Despite my protestations this is not a “food blog” it seems I only post when I have a new recipe.  That’s probably because it’s only when I’m cooking do I think “hey, this is something someone else might possibly be interested in, if they were really bored and/or felt like experimenting in the kitchen.”  I wish I could take good photographs and make this a food blog but, truly, I have not the dedication for such an endeavor.  Anyway, it’s summer, zucchini is in abundance and these little pancakes take advantage of that fact.  I happened upon some gorgeous fresh basil at the store and tried to incorporate it into dinner last night as much as possible.  These pancakes were a result.  I served them with some wild caught shrimp I had (briefly) marinated in some lime juice, soy, garlic, ginger, basil, minced jalapeno mirin, sesame oil and a dash of olive oil, sauteed in coconut oil and served with sriracha mayo on the side for dipping, and a cucumber-tomato salad dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sea salt.   Dessert was fresh cantaloupe and strawberries with basil sugar syrup.   God I love summer produce.

As per usual, I don’t measure (nor do I write things down as I’m experimenting) so everything is to taste/what you have on hand.  These pancakes would lead themselves to pretty much any seasoning you desired – shallots, cumin, garlic, whatever.  Inf act it’s possible I threw some minced garlic in the mixture but I truly can’t remember.  Same for the yogurt sauce.  Fresh dill would work, as would maybe a lemon-chopped caper/cornichon-parsley-shallot combo (think yogurt remoulade).  Play.   Make what tastes good to you.

Note: I shred the zucchini using a box grater and then use a ricer to press as much liquid out as possible.  The shredded zucchini is then spread out on a double layer of paper towels to fully drain; roll the towels up, squeeze any remaining water out and then zucchini is ready for mixing.  You could also shred zucchini into a colander, salt and let drain over another bowl (or the sink).  Blot with paper towels.  You want the zucchini as dry as possible in order to prevent sogginess and to ensure the pancakes don’t fall apart.  Note – these cakes are pretty fragile since I go very light with the binding ingredients in order to maximize the zucchini flavor.  Use a good wide spatula and flip with a gentle touch.

Zucchini Pancakes

2 zucchini, shredded and drained thoroughly
1 egg, beaten
1 tbl mayonnaise
fresh basil, chopped
1-2 tbl coconut oil

Gently combine all ingredients except coconut oil.  You want the pancakes to be mostly zucchini, not filler, so add just enough breadcrumbs so the mixture will stick together.  Heat coconut oil to medium-high heat in a pan.  Using a 1-2 tbl portion scoop scoop zucchini mixture into pan, making sure to leave plenty of room around each cake.  Gently mash into pancake shape with spatula and cook until browned, about 2-4 minutes.  Flip and cook other side until browned.  Remove and serve with yogurt sauce dolloped on top.

Yogurt Sauce

Greek yogurt ~1/4 cup
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2-3 tbl cucumber, finely minced
red pepper flakes
1 tbl mayo (optional)
Splash of lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together and let sit to allow flavors to combine.  All ingredients are to taste so make sure to adjust as necessary prior to serving.


I’m not pregnant!

Not that anyone was accusing suggesting I was (sure, I’ve gained a few pounds here and there but nothing that awful.  I think).  But, given the torrent of pregnancy/pregnancy progession/birthing announcements lately (mostly delivered via facebook) I feel the need to put that out there.  It’s an epidemic lately, it seem so many freaking people are knocked up.  Is this just some life cycle shit?  But with the rash of announcements lately, (not that I’m not thrilled for everyone, I certainly am) I felt left out and wanted to make my own announcement, affirming my status as an empty womber (by choice!)

Also, here’s a recipe for spinach pesto, apropos of absolutely nothing (don’t read anything into the fact that spinach is high in folic acid.  In my quarterly trip to Costco, a dizzying experience in consumer excess if there ever was one, I purchased a overgrown container of spinach, given my husband’s affinity for green monster smoothies.  I used the pesto for pizza topping (I’m not a fan of red tomato sauce for homemade pies, NO IDEA why).

I’m not giving exact amounts because everything was to taste (and I didn’t measure anything).  I trust your intelligence to figure it out.

Spinach (3? 4? cups? something like that)

Basil leaves (3? 4?)

pine nuts (ok, this one I got – 4 ounce container. I also got these pine nuts FOR FREE from Publix because they rang up incorrectly – I seldom watch prices but since it rang up $2 higher than marked (life is generally too short to quibble over anything less than $5 but I made an exception, only because I had consciously noted the price for purposes of comparision)

Parm, lots (1/2 cup? 1 cup?  just keep throwing it in there)

Garlic, crushed (3-4-5 cloves? sure)

Squeeze of lemon juice

Whirl all that stuff in a food processor.  It’ll be vibrantly green and only a little disgusting looking.  Slowly pour in olive oil while the food processor is running til you get the consistency you want.  Taste.  I found the spinach made initially for weak flavored pesto so I kept tinkering.  I added some red pepper flakes and salt and pepper.  Still not quite there.  Since I was out of anchovy paste (which was my first inclination) I drizzled in just a tad of fish sauce (made from anchovies) which gave me that savory umami taste I was after.  Walnuts would work for pine nuts if you can’t finagle free ones.  I’m not sure what a good vegetarian sub would be for anchovy paste or fish sauce.  What vegetarian condiment provides that rich savory taste?   Soy sauce or vegetarian Worcestershire? (reg Worcestershire is made with, you guessed it, anchovies).

Anyway, you could certainly toss this over pasta, I guess, or use to to spread over pizza dough topped with mozzarella di buffalo (also a random Costco buy, not too bad, relatively tender texture and not too rubbery).

Oh, and make sure whatever you do, serve with a nice glass of wine to cut the richness because, hey! I’m not pregnant!  Hooray!

Hey Good Lookin’, Whatchya Got Cookin’?

I was asked the other night if I had been cooking anything “good” lately.  I was hard pressed to think of anything, but I think that was due to the tequila.  We’ve (J and I) been eating well, although I haven’t exactly been “cooking” much.  For instance, I finally tried my hand at making pickles.  It was a decent first effort, if I do say so myself.  (J loved them, my father didn’t appreciate the allspice notes).  I would make some adjustments to the pickling spices I used but they were very flavorful (if a little on the hot side).   But not much “cooking” involved.  I made shrimp ceviche and key lime piea few weeks ago to moderate success.  (Shrimp ceviche = tasty, despite the fact I forgot the cilantro; key lime pie needs some work, turned out a little bitter, probably due to my over-zealous zesting.  I think skipping the zest would cure the problem, although the delicious crust and copious amounts of freshly whipped cream helped to compensate).  So there has been some new experimenting going on. 

Mostly, in keeping with my previous post extolling the virtues of summer produce, we’ve been eating simply.  And since our meals mostly consist of tossing fresh chopped produce together or maybe throwing some stuff on a grill or lightly sauteeing some veggies with eggs there hasn’t been much to report. 

In the summer I’m also much less disciplined in my approach to meals, as opposed to winter when I insist on planning out a main dish and appropriate sides.  In summer, anything goes.  For instance, I found some fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes today at Whole Foods.  (For a non-Italian, I’m *very* picky about my mozzarella).  That’s now going to be dinner tonight, along with a drizzle of olive oil, balsalmico and sea salt and maybe some grilled corn.  (We eat corn this way several times a week during the summer – I never get tired of it).  Sometimes I throw some grilled shrimp in the equation.  It’s basically whatever I have on hand that sounds good at the moment (or whatver I need to use in my fridge – I have some purple carrots from the farmer’s market that need some attention, maybe I’ll add some slices of those tonight).   Dessert tends to be fruit based – grilled pinapples with brown sugar glaze and pound cake (storebought, I’m afraid, due to lack of time and a renewed effort on my part to not go overboard and drive myself crazy when entertaining).  Fresh peach milkshakes (sometimes made with homemade ice cream, sometimes not).  Nectarines, just as is (I know it’s crazy, but the nectarines from Costco have been AMAZING, even if they aren’t local – J and I went through a plat of them in one week!)  Blueberry compote over anything (ice cream, leftover poundcake, etc.) 

In the meantime, I’ve kept up with my obessive food reading.  I recently obtained Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s The Bread Biblefrom the library.   I’ve been inspired and although I’ve yet to attempt my first loaf of bread I’m almost there (truly, it’s a matter of finding the time – jesus, where does it go?!!) 

So, no, not a lot of “cooking” going on.  But good food, nonetheless, even if rather simple.  What’s going on in your kitchen?  Anything inspiring lately?  Let me know.

Meet ze (green) monster

I finally got up early enough this morning to make myself a Green Monster.  I’ve been seeing variations of this smoothie all over the place and finally gave it a spin.   I don’t know if I believe all the hype as  far as being a healing panacea but it was delicious, healthful and I suppose provided sufficient energy to get through mediation today without coffee – and if you’ve never been stuck in a day-long mediation that’s going nowhere, that’s really a feat, let me tell you.

Everyone kinda blanches at the spinach in smoothie idea and honestly, I wasn’t really concerned with taste, I knew with enough fruit and other stuff you wouldn’t taste the spinach.  And you don’t.  I was a little more weirded out by the color, truthfully (you eat with your eyes, you know) but in a plastic cup in the car I barely noticed.   Some people also use stuff like kale and parsley; I’m not that advanced yet.  I’ll stick with spinach for now until I turn into Popeye.

Here’s the basic recipe I used and it made 2 servings:

1 frozen banana

1 handful frozen raspberries (I really wanted strawberries but was out; raspberries tasted good but I hate the seeds)

1 container of yogurt (I used full fat vanilla flavor – use soy for a vegan version)

splash of OJ

splash of agave nectar (just a tad)

almond milk, probably b/w 1/2 and 1 cup (I didn’t measure)

1/2 scoop of whey protein powder

4 cups, give or take, spinach

Give it a whirl in the blender til well blended and it’s a vibrant green color.   Really, it’s pretty delicious.  And packed with vitamins, nutrients, whatever, yadda yadda yadda.  And feel free to reward yourself for making such a healthful breakfast like I did – by making a cherry clafouti for dessert 🙂

Free Chocolate Fridays for the Chosen few

Free chocolate on Fridays until September, as long as you’re one of the first to sign up.  Thanks, Arielle, for the tip!

Warm Panko-crusted Chicken salad

I’m totally backwards.  I post a cold chicken salad recipe as we’re still transitioning from Spring and a warm chicken salad recipe after it appears warmer days are here at last.   I also do things like make unseasonal cobbler in the middle of winter (using frozen fruit) but that’s another story.  

Also, I may have mentioned this theory before – that the more ingredients you list in a dish name, the fancier it sounds.  Chicken salad?  Meh.  Panko-crusted warm chicken salad?  Now I have your interest, don’t I?   What if I said Warm Panko-Crusted Chicken Salad with avacado and red-wine vinaigrette?   Salivating yet? 

I had some grilled chicken breasts I needed to use and had a hankering for greens.  But I wasn’t feelin’ the usual make green salad add cold chopped chicken – booooring.  So I made a green salad with baby greens, spinach, bellpeppers sliced into matchsticks (red and orange), cucumbers (I peeled the cucumber and scooped the seeds out and then sliced the hollow tube – I won’t tell you what J said the slices looked like but try it yourself and you tell me) and avacado (of course).  As for the chicken, I sliced the breasts fairly thin, dipped them in flour, egg then panko and pan fried til the outside was crispy.  This didn’t take long since the chicken was already cooked.  I then draped the slices artfully over the plate of greens and veggies and topped with a redwine vinaigrette (although a honey mustard dressing would be fab).  All of a sudden I turned a potentially ho-hum salad into something that could be served in a restaurant.  I almost took a picture, it looked so good.  Best thing though?  It took like only 20 minutes to make.  Suck on that, Rachel Ray you hack. 

There’s truly no large point to this post except to say panko makes everything better.  They’re the only breadcrumbs I’ll buy.  (If I need the dusty kind I make my own from leftover bits of bread I store in the freezer).  I really like panko because even oven baked stuff (often mistakeningly referred to as “over-fried,” a phrase I abhor) turns out nice and crispy.  You could totally make the chicken pieces in the oven.  Or use raw chicken breasts, slice thickly, coat in a red curry-yogurt mixture, then panko and bake and make some excellent chicken fingers.  Vegetarians could easily sub tofu or zucchini, which has that nice meaty texture.  

That’s it, I’ve got nothing else.  Oh, it’s Earth Day.  Happy Earf Day. 

(Tomorrow Today! is administrative professionals day, f/k/a secretary’s day.   Don’t forget to show your staff how much you love them!)  (My office is oberving admin day on Thursday, sorry for the mix-up!)

You’re such a corn smut

Do you ever find that you’ll come across something new (and, in my case, totally obscure and off the wall) and then you’ll see immediately see repeated references to that thing?  It happens to me all the time, usually about the most random shit.  For instance, Exhibit A:  while skimming Atlanta Creative Loafing yesterday I came across a reference to something called huitlacoche, also known as corn smut.  It is essentially a corn fungus which creates these mushroom like tumor growths.  Some consider it a pest, some consider it a delicacy.  TomAYto, Tomaaahto, right?  Point is, it’s an odd thing you don’t normally hear about often.  So of course, I saw a reference about it today while reading some NY Times dining review of some snobby place I will never go to.  It was an oblique reference, which made it even odder.  (A quick search of the NY Times archives reveals a highlight on huitlacoche, aka Mexican Truffle, in August 2000 – maybe it’s not as obscure as I thought.  Although I doubt even YDFM has huitlacoche).  And I would have never caught the reference unless I had seen it before in CL.  I probably would have glazed over it, thought “huh, what’s that?” and moved on.  (Ok, that’s a total lie, I’m an information junkie like you wouldn’t believe and I probably would have googled or wikied like I did the day before). 


And now, you, imaginary reader, are fully informed as to the wonder that is huitlacoche.  Feel free to use it in conversation, as in, “These Italian Black truffles are quite excellent but don’t compare to the raw earthiness and complexity that is huitlacoche.”  Then you can smugly explain to your clueless dining companion what huitlacoche is while feeling superior.  Wait, is that something White People Like?  (Apparently hating people who wear Ed Hardy is something white people like.  I guess that solves the internal debate I’ve had with myself ever since I was forced to first fill out my race on a standarized test scantron in elementary school – I am indeed white.  Whew, that’s a relief.  Imagine if I had turned out Mexican after all?  Then at least I might have known what a Mexican Truffle is.)   


Ps:  all references to huitlacoche are in bold italics b/c I copied and pasted the word from Wiki – each time I used it.  I really am that lazy.


On Life Support

Alternate title: How a Recipe is Like Mouth to Mouth but Can’t Give you VD – or Can it?

Oh blog, gasping for air, for life, fighting with all your might.  I have turned away, too busy to hear your death throes (and not caring, to be honest – I’m not alone in this).  I think I am simply Not Cut Out to be a Blogger – it requires time, attention and committment – (as well as sparkling wit, humor and CONTENT) – ALL things I am TERRIBLE at.  Now that Dolemite has gone to the big whorehouse in the sky I feel I have nothing to contribute – for what is left to be said after you’ve announced the death of the greatest pimp and overall badass muthafucka of all time?

Well, at a funeral you bring food, right?  Comfort food, at that – no haute cuisine, no acai berries or pomogranate infusions – no, good cheesy casseroles, jello based creations and carbs (calories eaten while mourning don’t count).   So, here is my humble chickeny salad recipe.   For times of death and life.


Grilled chicken breasts (or poached, or baked – just NOT RAW)

Carrots – finely chopped (real from the ground carrots, preferably with a little dirt still clinging that you have to wash off – baby carrots will not do)

Celery – ditto (can sub other crunchy veg, like bell pepper or radishes for you haters)

Golden raisins (or dried cranberries, snipped dried apricots, or, if you’re truly inferior, purple raisins but ugh)

Green olives – pitted and chopped(olive haters – well, first, let’s just say I don’t understand you.  But capers or pickles will work – anything briny and sour)

Toasted nut of choice – roughly chopped (walnut, pecans, cashews, pine – all good choices)

Plain yogurt – any variety (non-fat, low-fat, full-fat, goat, greek, etc. – maybe not soy – I’m not real sure about soy yogurt)

a mere dollop of mayo (totally optional)

white balsamic or tarragon vinegar

lemon juice


Washed greens OR toasted bread OR croissant to serve

To create:

Chop cooked chicken (grilled really is tastiest) into bite sized cubes.   Gently mix with assorted veggies and olives and raisins (or alternatives).  Add enough yogurt to bind everything and just a mere dollop of mayo for binding powers and flavor.  Sprinkle in vinegar of choice to taste, add S&P to taste.  Serve on top of greens or in sandwich form.  Sprinkle with toasted nuts and squirt of lemon juice.

Note this salad has a combination of crunchy, salty/briny, sweet and acidic.  That is not on accident, each component contributes to making (in my opinion, anyway) a well balanced salad.  You can certainly use the alternatives listed or your own but make sure to keep the function of the component in mind.  And I didn’t provide measurements of anything – it’s all to taste.  For two people I usually use two chicken breasts, 1-2 carrots and celery stalks, handful of raisins, 5 olives, 1/3 cup nuts,  1/3 – 1/2 cup yogurt and 1 tbl. mayo.   And that usually gives us leftovers for at least one lunch.

As for my little corner of the interwebs – I’m not sure.  I’m too chicken (pun not intended – or is it?) to pull the plug.  What if I ever feel the need to spread unimportant info far and wide that anyone can access?  I also feel my original purpose – amusing myself – is no longer being met, as I no longer find this blog (or myself) amusing.  It’s become a drag – the magic is gone.  Kinda like all my previous relationships – I soon lose interest after an initial burst of enthusiasm (I married the man I managed to still have enthusiasm for every day, btw – it’s how I knew he was it).   So, while I’m in favor of assisted suicide in general, it’s not for me.  I’ll let this place limp along until maybe one day I find the willingness to make a decision either way.  In the meantime – if anyone feels like guest blogging – about ANYTHING (that won’t get me or you arrested) please let me know – mi blog es su blog.

How I learned to stop worrying and love pesto

Up until a few days ago I was an avowed pesto hater. I totally hated on some pesto. Don’t ask my why or try to convince me of its merits, I just did not like the stuff.

But then a few days ago I was making pizza (including homemade dough). And I realized I’m also not a huge pan of tomato sauce on pizza. It’s ok, but doesn’t really float my boat. (I’d been using wing sauce for a BBQ chicken variety previously, but it was time to branch out). I came to the unfortunate conclusion that pesto was a likely appropriate substitute and that I would have to overcome my negative feelings towards it. Of course, integral to this is realizing I would never ever love jarred pesto and I would have to make my own – luckily, making your own pesto is incredibly easy.

(Aside – yes, I’m well aware it’s NOT summer and that basil is NOT in season. Nor is the plastic package of basil I picked up local or environmentally friendly. I am not perfect people, sometimes I eat unethical basil. Deal with it).

So, I whirled my shameful unseasonal not-local basil in a food processor with the requisite pine nuts (threw some walnuts in as well, because I had some leftover toasted walnuts from another application), garlic, parm and olive oil. The raw garlic taste was very pungent but I figured it would mellow out a bit during baking (it did). I used pesto as the pizza sauce and topped it with chicken, (jarred) roasted red peppers, chopped olives, fresh mozzarella and grated parm. And know what? It was really freaking good. We actually ate the leftovers I saved, that’s how good it was.

I had some left over pesto which I saved. (another aside – I always, ALWAYS save left over food. We almost never, NEVER eat or use it, much to my dismay – I hate being wasteful). I assumed it would sit in my fridge til it was time to clean it out and I had to toss it in the trash (I know you can freeze pesto, but it just didn’t seem worth the effort for the amount I had). But, inspiration hit the other night. Usually, I plan meals for the week and buy necessary ingredients for each meal every week. I’m not really great about throwing meals together from pantry staples, even though I keep my pantry amply stocked – I’m usually just too tired at the end of the day to be creative. But I was especially tired the other night and didn’t feel like making the quinoa salad I had planned (it’s really bad if you can’t get your stuff together to freaking make some quinoa).

So, of course, nothing left to do but make a frittata. Bonus, I got to use some veggies sitting in my fridge that desperately needed to be used. I sautéed some bell pepper and asparagus (from Mexico, I know, I’m going to hell, please don’t tell the food police on me, I didn’t know it was from Mexico til I got home) and scrambled some eggs with grated parm and cubed mozzarella left over from pizza making. I mixed in the leftover pesto with the sautéed veggies and then poured the eggs over and baked til puffy. And it was delicious, pesto and all. (Served with some greens not long for this world dressed simply with red wine vinegar and good olive oil). I even ate the leftovers for lunch! (With lots of hot sauce, of course). And I was very proud of being industrious and using things in my fridge that needed to be used.

So, I think the moral of the store is: I actually do like pesto. But not as a pasta sauce – I need to be a background player providing flavor in a larger dish, where it’s not the main player. Also, I’m really bad at this eat seasonally, eat locally stuff. Mostly because I’m lazy. But I do plan on trying to grow my own herbs at the new homestead so maybe that will help. I have no more plans to use basil until this summer, when it’s in season and plentiful. Other good ways to use pesto not as a pasta sauce? I hear it’s good slathered on fish – there’s probably a way to make a good veggie dip out of it as well. An I bet there are some sandwiches that would be made awesome with a dab of the green stuff (hey, today is St. Patty’s day, how appropriate!)

Oh, and for you old school folks, here’s how to make pesto “like an Italian grandma.” For your modern young things, here’s a cilantro “pesto” twist.

Recipe: Confetti Black Bean Soup

This recipe comes together quickly if you have all your ingredients prepared. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly industrious, when I get home from the grocery store on Sunday I’ll take the time to prep all the things for the week’s meals I have planned. This greatly increases the odds I’ll actually cook everything I planned and am less likely to order in when feeling lazy. (I mean, if you have 3 meals that week calling for chopped onions, might as well spend 10 minutes chopping enough for all three meals at one time). After chopping everything, I measure out ingredients into baggies and prep bowls and organize according to dish. Notice I said when I’m feeling industrious – I’m not anal enough to do this every weekend, although I’m usually pretty happy with the outcome when I take the time to do this (even if it means a few extra hours in the kitchen on Sunday). Also, having pre-chopped mirepoix (or soffrito or other cultural equivalent) mixture ready makes it easy to invent stuff on the spot, like the soup I have here. It all came about because I had a big baggie of chopped carrots, celery and onion ready to go. I added the bell peppers because I needed to use them and was really happy with the flavor. Plus, everything looked so pretty in the pot while I was sautéing! Hence the name.

One more note – all amounts are approximate to taste.  I’m really wildly guessing here to give people a ballpark figure.  Use your best judgment if something seems off, especially if you need more or less stock.

Confetti Black Bean Soup


4 pieces of bacon (turkey/meatless substitutes are fine; may omit entirely if you’re really boring)

2 stalks celery, finely chopped (approx. ½ cup)

2 carrots, finely chopped (approx ½ cup)

White or yellow onion, finely chopped, approx ¾ cup

2 cloves garlic, minced (I cheat and use a garlic press)

½ red bell pepper, finely chopped; plus additional 2 tablespoons finely minced for garnish

½ yellow bell pepper, finely chopped; plus additional 2 tablespoons finely minced for garnish

Low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock

1 can black beans

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 small container plain non-fat yogurt


Fry up bacon in a large dutch oven or stock pot on the stove. Remove, reserving fat in pot. Crumble bacon and set aside. Add enough olive oil to bacon fat left in pan to total approx. 3 tablespoons. Add carrots and celery and sauté for about 5-7 minutes. Add onions, garlic and bell peppers. Sauté for another 5 minutes. (The pot looks like colorful confetti at this point, hence the name). Add enough stock to cover vegetables, 2-3.5 cups. Add beans and red pepper flakes (to taste). Bring to boil; reduce to simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes, until all vegetables are soft. Remove from heat. Stir in yogurt. Puree beans and vegetables until smooth, using an immersion blender. Or, using slotted spoon, transfer beans and vegetables and enough broth to facilitate pureeing to blender. (Be careful blending hot foods!) Leave center in blender lid open and cover with a towel (covering completely can cause pressure to build up and contents to explode). In batches, blend until smooth and return to pot. Stir to combine and simmer until heated through. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with dollop of yogurt (or sour cream). Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and reserved minced bell peppers. Serves 4-5. As with most soups, the flavor improved somewhat the next day, but I was really happy with the way it tasted right off the stove.