Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Green Bean Salad 2011 or Haricots verts avec fenouil, citron et champignons

My Current Bean Salad- Just for One
 Even today I wrinkle my whole face (not just my nose) at the words "bean salad."  I don't care what kind of bean salad it is or was.  I just have this awful smell of canned yellow wax beans mixed with canned red kidney beans, green beans and bottled Italian dressing in my nostrils.  "Ach" isn't a bad enough sound. Clench teeth; hiss out through the sides.  Pee Yew.  What a snot, huh?

Once, when we were newlyweds (or close), we moved into a neighborhood where the neighbors had a welcoming potluck for us.  Sweet.  Nice people, great neighborhood.  Except that when I asked what I could bring, the person organizing the meal said, "Oh, why don't you bring bean salad."  Now I may have only been 22, but I already hated bean salad and so replied in a stinky-sweet whine, "I don't know how to make that; could I bring potato salad?"  No way, she instructed me about how to make bean salad.   Said it was high time I learned how to make it.

Today, I would have pointed my finger down my throat (figuratively), and I sure as heck would not have brought bean salad.  In those "young wife" days, I did as I was told and gagged attractively through the making of it.   Chopped my onions and green peppers and mixed it up with Wishbone.  Yuck.

 2009 Bean Salad from 6-7-09 More Time at the Table post

 These days I make LOVELY green bean salads--several of them.  Interesting salads are a trademark (I think) of interesting restaurants or cooks.  While you and I adore green salads, isn't it cool when there's something very different?  Here's one you make yourself, putting your skills up there with a fine vegetable or salad chef.  This would also wow your friends at a dinner party where it might serve as a first course or third, a la francaise.  Did I mention what a healthy meal this is?  ( A serving of green beans contain over a quarter of the amount of vitamin C you need daily.  Move over orange juice.)  Stir in a bit of seasoned, dressed brown rice (use the same dressing) for a larger meal or to fill up your vegan boyfriend.  (Skip the Parm for him.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Asparagus Risotto or Si Place (Do as you please.)

There are crocuses.  Perfect harbingers of spring.

So determined, these bloomed indoors.

But the spring...there's nothing like it.  And, unlike the beautiful crocus, you can actually chew it up.  Of course, the crocus stamen is edible and we call it  We call it saffron.

Risotto, that dish we think of as so very special (but which the Italians just think of as rice) is one of those often made for a side that is perfect for  a main course as well.  Especially for the solo cook.  Most people make it in larger quantities, but, like pasta, it can be made in small batches as well.  An inexpensive, but hearty meal, it's sufficient unto its own.  A bit of Parmesan cheese added and you have vegetables, starch and protein. 
Sauteing the asparagus and onion before adding the rice.
At sea level, my risotto was a bit softer than al dente (I like it like that.) in about 25 minutes.  You cannot rush the cooking by turning up the heat; only time and care finishes the risotto.  It takes nearly constant supervision.  So if you don't care for that kind of cooking, don't make it.  Or make the same dish as a sopa seca (dry soup) or a pilaf (no constant adding of stock and stirring-just saute, and add 2x as much liquid as rice--cover and cook on low or bake) and blend in cheese with a bit of cream at the end for a fake "risotto."  Of course, it will no longer be a risotto.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Yellow Pepper Salsa and Coffee Cup Cornbread

An hour's time... a small pot of soup just for you
Your Coffee Cup Cornbread
 One of the things people (solo cooks or other cooks) often say to me is, "I just never know what to cook."  Sometimes this is an excellent cook talking and other times it's someone who seldom wields a spatula except to shake it at fools or make a grilled cheese.

To know what you want to cook isn't as important as just going ahead and cooking.  People who cook daily don't always know what they want.  They peer inside the frig or freezer and bang the cabinets a few times, wondering what's to eat.  Or they jump in the car and run to the store, only to wander around aimlessly until something strikes them.  Everyone does this...experts and beginners.    More important is to have a head-start on the process
  • by maintaining a pantry of some sort
  • by making a habit of shopping a couple of times a week for fresh food and specials
  • spending some time thinking about what you'd like to cook and what you're willing to cook (often two very different things)
  • having access to recipes or cookbooks
This means you will have already made a time and financial commitment to feeding yourself well, which is an effort well worth the time.  If you can't think of something that looks worthy of the Food Network or your favorite expensive restaurant, then that's exactly how it should be.  We all can't eat like that every day (nor should we) and what's cool is that you jump in and make something.  Anything.  Something like:
Corncakes...using the recipe for cornbread on the cornmeal container.  Why not?
  • Huevos rancheros (Fry up eggs and put them on tortillas with salsa and some shredded lettuce, tomatoes, beans and cheese...)
  • Broccoli salad (Just like at Whole Foods...broccoli, mayo, nuts, raisins...maybe a little soy sauce or curry)
  • Fried rice (Last night's Chinese take-out rice leftover..cook some eggs and push them to the side, then add chopped garlic, celery and carrots (cook 'til tender), throw in  the cooked rice and soy sauce or stir fry sauce, let it cook a couple of minutes more and--top with chopped green onions if you have any.)
  • Black Bean Soup (Saute onions and garlic, add drained black beans, toss in a sprinkle of cumin, a couple of cups chicken stock, salsa and hot sauce.  Top with sour cream if it's in the frig.)
  • Turkey burgers (You  made patties and froze Italian-seasoned Jennie-O; you also keep frozen whole wheat bun or wraps in the freezer.  Some sliced tomatoes finish the meal.)
  • Omelet and whole wheat toast (Made with the cheese that's starting to mold and the cold asparagus you cooked the other day and didn't finish.)
  • Fried corncakes served up with the chili you brought home from Wendy's. (Follow the directions on the cornmeal canister, add chopped onion  and fry up big spoonfuls in butter or olive oil.  After one side is golden, turn and cook the other side.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Recipes and or Food Online (or elsewhere)

Some people still cook from the New York Times.  Like Me.  Above:  Melissa Clark's Greek Goddess Dip.  Yum.
But most folks dig online.  Recipes abound online.  Food info abounds online.  Of course you can google anything and find any kind of a recipe, but it might not always be the best that shows up.  Here are some places I like for recipes.

Epicurious:   (Includes BON APPETIT, GOURMET, RANDOM HSE)  I also love BON APPETIT hard copy... and still miss GOURMET.
Foodily:   (New in 2011--wide-ranging professional recipe retrieval)
Food Network:
Food Network:  Their Healthiest Recipes all in one place 
Read about what Google recipe searches might be doing to you and your cooking.
Read what Lydia Walshin (The Perfect Pantry) says about googling for recipes
Top Ten Recipe Sites
Cook's Illustrated
New York Times: 
Food News Journal:  (Not a recipe site per se, but a fine site for daily food articles and "best of the blogs" where there are recipes.)
Bloggers Choice Awards-Fav 10 blogs 
UK Times Online Best 50 Food Blogs:  
San Francisco Chronicle Recipes
Sign up for the TODAY food newsletter to be sent to your email box
Sign up for SPLENDID TABLE'S (Lynne Rossetto Kasper/NPR) recipe newsletter
Subscribe to CULINATE newsletter-all about eating well with recipes, articles, interviews, guest blogs and book reviews.
CHOW newsletters  w/ recipes to you email; click on "sign-up" in top right corner
Cooking Light has delicious recipes that are often on fb links. Friend them.  Link is an example of all kinds of things to do with noodle bowls.  I like their fb info as well as their hard copy magazine.
All Recipes:  sign up for newsletters on specific food topics like weekly slow cooker recipes
Taking care of your spices buying, storing, etc...

FOOD BLOGS  There are at least 10,000 food blogs (See above for best 50)

I have lots of food blogs I love; some are more helpful than others for beginners. 

More Time at the Table is my own blog.  A variety of recipes, stories, etc.  Of course, it's my fave.  On this blog is a list of blogs of which I'm very fond and read most of the time.  Of those, I particularly like:
  • David Lebovitz American pastry chef living in Paris.  Sweet--sweet writing and sweet food. Lots of desserts, but also lots of other.  Follow his tweets, too.
  • On the Road and in the Kitchen with Dorie.  Cookbook author and veteran blogger Dorie Greenspan from NY and Paris.  Well known for her sweets, she's top notch at the savory side, too.
  • The Perfect Pantry  Lydia Walshin's lovely blog about great stuff made from a pantry ingredient
  • Soup Chick 6 new soups every Saturday
  • Sunday Sauce NYT Photographer Andrew Scrivani's, food, etc.
  • Three Many Cooks  ... in Pam Anderson's kitchen.
  • The Family Table   A Canadian favorite family recipes and story blog from cupcake.

What are your favorite online sites for solo cooking?

Gingerbread cupcakes from More Time at the Table

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Taking my own Advice or One More Pantry and Kitchen Set-up List

The stash I brought plus purchased salt and pepper grinders.
 I've just moved.

And had to follow my own advice about starting a pantry from scratch.  My husband said, "Use the Dinner Place blog posts on pantry and kitchen set up and see if they work."  So I have.  We are day 4 in the new house and have no truck or shipment with kitchen necessities yet.  I have, of course, been to the store three times.

  1. Once for the first night:  tp,  milk, bread, yogurt, granola, blueberries, eggs, and bacon.  A friend brought coffee, wine, cheese, crackers, fruit, plates, wine glasses, cups,  and cutting board-thanks!
  2. Second time for a few essentials listed on the Setting up Your Kitchen List "First Trip to the Store."  I couldn't print the list out, but I copied it onto a legal pad and set out to follow it.  (See end list for what I actually bought.)  I might have gotten more, but the store was a zoo on Sunday afternoon.  I wanted out of there more than I wanted flour when I was sure I wasn't baking that day.  In fact, we went out to dinner.
  3. Third time for things I refused to fight the crowd for on Sunday, which included flour, sugar, yeast, baking powder, baking soda, chicken, asparagus and birdseed.   Our yard is full of birdfeeders and they're all full of birds who assume they eat here, too.
The kitchen window feeders.
In other words, the first $100 trip to the store turned into three trips totaling nearly $300.  Live and learn.

 A move of a thousand miles just about requires leaving behind your pantry.  Now I've moved flour in cannisters and open boxes of crackers, but decided against it this time.  Even my spices are in Colorado, with the exception of
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • bay
  • cinnamon
  • curry
  • crushed red pepper
  • chili powder
I  bought salt and pepper in disposable grinders.  Just like in the pantry post.

My equipment.

As far as kitchen equipment, I brought in the car (or purchased on arrival) with me:
  • one 10" skillet, one spatula and one wooden spoon
  • a small Bodum coffeemaker
  • a tea kettle, Starbucks instant coffee and green tea
  • my knife block (A friend loaned a cutting board.)
  • a cheese knife and wine opener
  • a 9x12 Pyrex casserole dish for baking or microwaving
  • 1 roll of paper towels and two purse-paks of kleenex
  • 1 dishcloth, 1 dishtowel
  • a small container of dish washing liquid
Unlike some moves, I packed nearly my entire kitchen and shipped it via Yellow Freight, separate from the moving van shipment that arrives much later.  Cost:  $600 shipping  for 600 pounds and over $100 in packing materials as you must bubble wrap and peanut well every shipped container, unlike the typical newspaper-packing in boxes for a regular truck move.  Alyce plans; God laughs.   This kitchen delivery was scheduled for last Friday, but still hasn't arrived.  Hence the one skillet meals.

    And what I discovered is this:  you can do a lotta stuff with one skillet.  Or you can eat out.

    Glad to get it.

    Here's the grocery list I used over a three-day period:

    Dry/Canned:  Sesame oil, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, Dijon mustard, mayo, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salsa, soy sauce, jam,  honey, maple syrup, salt and pepper, oatmeal, pancake mix, crackers, bread, tortillas, granola

     Produce: Onions, garlic, shallots, potatoes, salad greens, asparagus, zucchini, apples, pears, celery, carrots, lemons and limes.

    Dairy:  Milk, Eggs, Cheese, Butter, Yogurt

    Protein:  Chicken, cheese, peanut butter

    Paper:  Paper towels, toilet paper, kleenex, napkins (I shipped cloth napkins; they didn't arrive yet.), foil, gallon bags, "disposable" food storage containers and garbage bags.

    Cleaning: Dish soap, bleach spray, clothes washing detergent and dry sheets, Windex, bath soap, scrubbing sponges.  I forgot rubber gloves, which I need badly to clean old shelves and to fill birdfeeders.  I also had to buy a broom and dustpan.

    What did I cook?
    Out of all of that, so far, we ate eggs and bacon for breakfast once,  lots of yogurt, fruit and granola, coffee and tea , peanut butter toast, apples, wine and cheese with bread and so on. We ate a big helping of purchased sushi for lunch as the local grocery store boasts two highly-skilled Japanese chefs making it right before our eyes.

    Last night I cooked the first "cooked" dinner.  I sauteed chicken (seasoned only with salt and pepper) in the skillet with butter and olive oil and then put it in the oven to finish cooking.  I made a sauce by cooking mushrooms and shallots (to which I added white wine) in the chicken drippings.  The asparagus went in the microwave for 2.5 minutes and was dressed with fresh lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper.  I'll admit we were thrilled to eat a home-cooked meal, however simple. 

    A different approach:  When we moved as a family (this is our 23rd house) and I could get it accomplished, I bought a beef round roast and put it in the crock pot on arrival in the new house.  I sent someone to the store for hard rolls and salad greens and we had Italian Beef.  I've also done this for a lot of other people over the years. The smell of the beef cooking all day is so comforting in a new environment and also gives people hope there's light at the end of the moving tunnel.

    I'm having fun cooking and taking care of myself,

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Pasta out of the Frig and Pantry

    Boil the pasta, chop and cook whatever veg.  Dinner for one is served.

     As a young cook, I would marvel at my mother's ability to walk into a kitchen and come out with something good to eat.   While this doesn't sound like such a feat (there are many accomplished cooks in the world), she managed it when there didn't appear to be any food (that I could see) in there.  Well, of course there were milk, eggs and cheese in the frig.   In fact, there were often fresh eggs from her hens. There were root vegetables on the counter.  The deep freeze held fish she and my dad had caught and cartons of last summer's vegetables.  In the closet were shelves brimming with quart jars of canned tomatoes,  4oz jars of crab apple jelly, various sized containers of figs, as well as odds and ends -- batches of canning she'd done when someone had brought her half a bushel of something or other about to go bad.
    Mom and nephew Michael

    Last year, I read and reviewed a book called Lunch in Paris; A Love Story with Recipes  by Elizabeth Bard (the paperback version has come out recently), which is a memoir about an American  woman who falls in love with (eventually marries) a Frenchman named Gwendal.  Full of sweet, not-too-long-ago stories, each vignette ends with a recipe. One I  particularly liked:  Gwendal (who cooked for just himself often) was notorious for rummaging in the frig and coming up with a tasty pasta dish. All this when it looked like there was simply nothing to eat and a run for take-out must be attempted no matter the weather or time.

    I tried my hand at Gwendal's pasta (blogged it once) and continue to do so because it quickly morphs into my pasta and will soon be yours.  See what you think. You, too, can learn to look around, grab a few things, and cook your dinner out of what you have.  Just like my mom or Gwendal.  Julia Child would say, "Have the courage of your convictions..."  and go for it.