Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Spinach tacos. Roasted chickpeas. Work-at-home day is the BEST.

It's barely a recipe, but here's how I made the spinach tacos I had for lunch...this actually made enough spinach for 3-4 tacos, though I only had two. So this could be a "serves two" recipe.

6-oz. bag organic baby spinach
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. finely minced shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 big pinch cumin
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
salt to taste

4 corn tortillas
grated cheddar cheese to taste
chopped pickled jalapenos to taste

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet; add shallots and saute until softened, about five minutes (if they start browning, remove skillet from burner and turn down heat). Add garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes; saute until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add spinach and salt to taste; cook until wilted, about five minutes.

Heat tortillas over gas burners until softened and blackened in some spots. Divide spinach evenly among tortillas, top with cheese and jalapenos, and there you go.

My post-lunch snack was the roasted garbanzo beans "recipe" I got from watching some Rachael Ray holiday special while I was at home in California. I was skeptical, but these turned out really yummy, and somewhat healthy. Preheat the oven to 350. Drain and rinse one can of garbanzo beans in a colander; add them to an oven-safe skillet along with two tablespoons olive oil, salt and freshly-ground pepper, and a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes, let cool a few minutes, and you're done. They turn out with a crunchy exterior and creamy interior, and very much taste like the type of snack food that's awful for you. They definitely have a lot of oil, but at least it's olive oil...and they're packed with protein and vitamins, unlike Pirate's Booty!

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Though I never disguise my feelings about winter, my recent lingering cold/flu hybrid (newest development: lost voice!) has lately sharpened my denunciations of this terrible season. What is there to like? Winter is life without its best parts: get up, go to work, pay your credit card bills, clean the catbox, etc., without consolations like sunshine, fresh berries, spending the morning at the greenmarket, riding bikes, walking around the city, picnics in the park, etc. Instead, I've been huddling under my light-therapy lamp, drinking ginger tea and eating the same veggies every day (all from the grocery, none local: spinach, green beans, carrots), totally uninspired and demoralized.

However, I will grant winter one (and only one) advantage over other seasons: winter is the best time of year to make chili, and chili is one of the very best foods. Though its spiciness might make it seem appropriate for warmer seasons, it's far too hearty and cooked too slowly to fit anytime better than a winter's evening when conditions make leaving the house impossible; the three or so hours of cook time a pot of chili wants are best passed with a cozy occupation such as reading curled up on the sofa, enjoying the lovely smells as they overtake the house.

One such pot of chili is bubbling away on my stove at this moment; I'm debating whether to add some diced zucchini for the last few minutes of cooking, to add vegetable value...but regardless, here's the recipe. As chili is always different depending on what peppers and beans are available/everyone's favorites, I'm providing the recipe I used this time around, which is turning out quite well, and is on the spicy side.

Three-bean winter chili (makes about 8 servings)
3 poblano peppers
2 anaheim peppers
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 jalapeno peppers, diced finely
6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano (dried)
2 (28-oz.) cans diced tomatoes, drained, with liquid reserved
2 (15.5-oz) cans black beans, drained
2 (15.5-oz) cans red kidney beans, drained
2 (15.5-oz) cans pinto beans, drained

Roast poblano and anaheim peppers under the broiler (or over a gas flame); remove skins and dice when cool (this can be done far ahead of time; cooled, peeled peppers can be refrigerated for up to two days or so). Add olive oil to a big, heavy pot over medium-low heat (an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven is ideal); when hot, add onions and cook, stirring, until almost softened, about 10 minutes. Add jalapenos, and continue cooking, stirring, until onions are soft and peppers are beginning to soften, about 5 more minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and oregano, stir well, and cook until aromatic, about a minute. Add tomatoes roasted diced peppers, and beans, and stir until well-combined. Cover pan and let simmer, stirring every ten minutes or so, for about an hour (the longer, the better!), adding liquid from tomatoes if chili becomes too dry (this isn't very likely). Taste chili and adjust seasonings if needed; every time you adjust seasonings, stir chili and let it simmer, covered, for ten minutes. At this point, the chili will be very liquid; remove cover halfway and cook, uncovered, until chili has reached desired thickness, about another hour.

Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream, crumbled cheddar cheese, and/or cornbread. Leftovers should be frozen; they'll taste even better when you heat them up.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Perhaps my last post hinted that it would be my last trip to the greenmarket for awhile. I didn't plan it this way, just got sick, so when Saturday morning rolled around, I couldn't possibly brave the cold for what I knew would be slim pickings. So I'm on a greenmarket hiatus until things get a little less dismal. Meanwhile, I have to keep trying to remember where people who don't go to greenmarkets shop for their fruits and veggies...and the supermarket prices and supermarket quality are certainly not worth writing about.

Nevertheless, I did invent some soup! It's nothing too out of the ordinary, but it's the most satisfactory veggie-noodle soup I've had, and I'm quite happy with it. Usually I find vegetable soup to be lacking (probably in chickeniness), and I really only crave it when I have a cold, but this turned out really well (and served as an acceptable dinner, even to the non-sick).

Vegetable Noodle Soup (serves 3)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 shallots (or about 1/2 medium onion)
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 stalks celery, diced (about 3/4 cup)
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
32 oz. vegetable stock (I like Trader Joe's brand the most)
2-3 tbsp. soy sauce
1 large or 2 small carrots, diced (about 1/2 cup)
4 oz. capellini, broken into thirds
Optional: about 1/2 cup diced prepared seitan

Heat vegetable oil over medium heat; add shallots and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about five minutes. Add garlic and cayenne; stir until garlic is aromatic, about 30 seconds. Carefully pour in stock, stirring, and add soy sauce, carrots, and seitan (if using). Bring to boil, then turn down heat and simmer about 20 minutes. Bring to boil again, add pasta, then turn heat down and simmer about 10 minutes. It's ready! Serve in your cutest bowls to two friends with the sniffles.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Braised celery

It was all I could do not to reference The Celery Stalks At Midnight in the title of this post - I loved Bunnicula when I was a kid. Naturally white vegetables like turnips, daikon, and eggplants always remind me of those books, and I half-expect to turn them over and glimpse the pierce-marks of two little fangs, where the bunny-vampire sucked out all the veggie goodness and color...

But that's neither here nor there. This braised celery recipe, on the other hand, is both. I was inspired to braise celery by a Recipezaar search, but none of the recipes there or on Epicurious were satisfactory, so I improvised...and it turned out great! I love cream of celery soup, and this has that delicate cooked-celery flavor without being made of, y'know, cream. Note that the celery quantity was difficult for me to judge, because the stalk I used was very small and tender.

Braised Celery
(serves 2)

1/3-1/2 stalk celery, trimmed of leaves and tough outer ribs, and cut into about 2" long pieces (you'll end up with about 2 cups of celery pieces)
2 small shallots, diced finely
1/2 cup vegetable stock (Trader Joe's is by far my favorite)
1/2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan (or a skillet that has a lid). Add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until shallots are translucent but not brown, 4-6 minutes. Add celery pieces, and continute cooking until celery begins to get tender, 3-5 minutes. If shallots or celery begin to brown, turn down heat. Add stock and seasoning, bring to a boil, then turn down heat, cover, and simmer until celery is tender and liquid is almost totally absorbed, about 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately.

The good thing about selections being limited at the greenmarket, is that I'm being forced to come up with creative ways to use things like celery and carrots, which seem always to be available. Last night's dinner was grain sausage, braised celery, and some of the fingerling potatoes, roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. They were good, but I think I'll slice them thinly and roast briefly next time, because the flavorful "crust" each piece developed in the oven was the best part - their flesh wasn't especially tasty.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

USG: Not-quite-futile pursuit of spinach

The first Greenmarket of the New Year was dismally sparse, and I imagine that's how things will remain for the next few months. I left without peppers, sweet potatoes, celeriac, and came close to leaving without spinach, until I splurged and spent $8 on 1/2 lb. of biodynamic/organic/greenhouse/fancy baby spinach leaves. But in my family, 1/2 lb. is about one meal's worth of spinach. Sigh.

Happy New Year:
1 bunch celery
2 lbs. carrots
1 acorn squash
1 bag shallots
2 yellow onions
1/2 lb. baby spinach
1 lb. Loratte fingerling potatoes
8 lbs. apples (Mutsu, Winesap, Fuji)
Total spent: $33

Everything here is pretty self-explanatory, I guess. I also bought a bag of yellow cornmeal for my first stab at polenta, which I'll serve with the spinach, white beans, and maybe some sun-dried tomatoes; the potatoes I'll probably roast for a potato salad with goat cheese, and perhaps I'll throw in some green beans. The Mutsu apples (which I was so relieved to see are still available) will be applesauce, and the rest I'll slice for lunches. And the carrots I don't eat raw will end up in a puree along with the acorn squash...or just roasted in the oven, if I get lazy.

Offerings aren't too inspiring, but it is winter (despite what the weather tells us). I am going to have to start getting my veggies from far-off locales via the grocery store, but I'm trying to stave that off as long as possible. But green beans, zucchini, and spinach are such staples that I just don't think I'll be able to last that much longer. Maybe next week I can make do with bok choy and mache, long will they last?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I'm back!...

...and not a minute too soon. I think a few more days on vacation and my body would have forgotten how to digest dietary fiber. Though I did try to keep myself from going crazy by making a couple of spinachy meals, eating salads wherever I could, and several giant platefuls of plain grated carrots, the order of the day (er, two weeks) was certainly refined starches, dairy, and too much sugar.

No greenmarket today (I'll make a quick trip tomorrow for necessities), so I scrounged for dinner in a massively crowded, extremely picked-over Trader Joe's. It was so picked over, in fact, that there were barely any bagged salads left, and no spinach (!!) I took the last bag of baby romaine leaves, since I've recently read that romaine can be cooked as a green. Inspired by my new favorite cookbook, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks At Home, which I got for Xmas (thanks big sis!), I also picked up some white beans and couscous in addition to green beans and some other staples.

So tonight's meal was a little experimental, but turned out well enough to share the recipe - Garlicky Greens with Cannellini Beans and Parmesan Couscous (we also had some of my favorite roasted green beans).

Ultimately, I bet this would have been yummier if I had used spinach or chard. I don't know if it was just a psychological thing, but I couldn't get over the romaine flavor in a cooked green. Not bad, just kinda weird. You know, like a 65-degrees-and-sunny day in New York in January.

Garlicky Greens with Cannellini Beans for Two
6 oz. romaine leaves, spinach, or chard (or a combination), washed and trimmed
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1-2 tsp. olive oil
pinch red pepper flakes
salt to taste

Heat about 1 tsp. olive oil in large frying pan over medium-high; add garlic and cook until garlic is aromatic and just turning pale gold in spots. Add greens and salt and cook until mostly wilted; set aside. Wipe out frying pan, add a splash more olive oil and red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant and add white beans, mashing them against the bottom of the pan, until heated through; add greens, stir to combine, remove from heat, and serve immediately.

Parmesan Couscous
Make couscous according to package instructions (use butter), and add a bunch of finely-grated Parmesan and a LOT of black pepper. Figure out how to make couscous without it turning out really dry, and you've one-upped me.