Kitchen Boot Camp – Week 1 plus Asian Salmon Salad

Last time we spoke, I had set my goal to save time in the kitchen to spend more time writing. Next thing I know, I find myself skimming recipes on the web. Does this sound familiar to any of you? Set a goal and then get distracted. So I went out and bought a desk-size family calendar. The purpose of this calendar is to schedule and organize my boot camp steps and to record my weekly meal plans. The benefit of having a physical calendar is that it answers the question, “What’s for dinner?”

I have gotten into the habit of planning my weekly dinner menu in my head. While it works, I don’t always plan for setbacks, colds, late nights at work and joy. If I write down my menu, I am less likely to forget to buy ingredients at the store and have enough ingredients to improvise when the unexpected happens. It also inspires me to add some creativity to dinner. My

family loves Taco Tuesday and Friday Burger night but it might be nice to add a few new recipes to the mix. When I plan in my head, we have pasta on Monday, chicken on Wednesday and pork on Thursday. I am going to use the calendar to plan my weekly menu and plan for my success. Are you ready to start planning? Do you prefer a paper or an electronic calendar? I use an electronic calendar for work but I want my family to be able to share in the meal planning process. I wouldn’t want them to think that they get hungry and meals just appear.

I went to a Healthy Pantry Basics class at 18 Reasons on Monday. I was planning on cleaning and organizing my kitchen as part of the boot camp and the class was a fun reminder that a little planning can bring huge benefits when you need to cook for your family. It was just the inspiration I needed to stick with my boot camp. Listed below are the boot camp activities I am planning for the remainder of the month. An additional bonus was the amazingly easy and tasty recipe I made in pantry class. It was an Asian Salmon Salad. If you have a well-stocked pantry and fridge, all of the items should already be in your kitchen. It is perfect for an easy weeknight meal.

Here is my list of boot camp activities:

1. Clean and inventory my pantry, refrigerator and freezer
2. Reorganize my kitchen tools and equipment
3. Schedule a shopping day to use my Williams-Sonoma gift card and buy one new appliance.
4. Pick a menu planning and grocery shopping day.
5. Decide which day my weekly menu will start (it will be Monday because I start everything on a Monday).
6. Schedule pizza night at Georgio’s.

Next week – Meal planning and grocery shopping.

Asian Salmon Salad (or Black Soy Bean Salad)
Serves 4
Recipe from One Bite at a Time, 2nd edition, 2008, Rebecca Katz

1 (7.5 oz) can Wild Pink Salmon (big bones removed) or 1 (15oz) can Organic Black Soy Beans
½ teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon scallions, finely chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Place salmon in a small bowl and use a fork to break it up. If using Soy Beans, rinse in cold water and massage gently to “waken” from canned state. Add the ginger, lime juice, scallions and sesame oil. Mix well. Add salt to taste.

Serve on top of salad greens, in a whole grain wrap with more veggies or with whole grain crackers.

How Do You Cook Kale?

I want to quickly share with you my new favorite kale recipe. It is so easy. Back in January, I shared a soup recipe that had white beans and kale; it is quite yummy but takes time to prepare. My new favorite only takes 15 minutes. Now for all of you scrunching your face because you don’t care how I make it you are not going to eat it – you have to try this recipe. It is as good as roasted cauliflower. Also, if you have a CSA you are probably getting kale regularly and last week I saw Kale at Whole Foods for $1.50 a bunch. It is cheap, super healthy and now delicious. Don’t think about, just try it.

Kale with Garlic
The original recipe comes from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I have tried using less oil and greens like spinach and chard. You have to use all the oil and hearty greens like kale or collards, trust me on this. While the garlic mellows as it

cooks with the greens, I don’t use as much as the recipe originally called for. If you love garlic use six cloves instead of three and the second addition of garlic, which I omit. You could also substitute the second addition of garlic with ginger if you want to give it an Asian twist.

1 pound kale, collard greens or broccoli rabe with stems under ½ inch thick
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper to taste
½ cup chicken, beef or vegetable stock
Lemon wedges, optional

Coarsely chop the stems and leaves of the kale. Place the oil in a large, deep saucepan. Add the sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper and cook over medium-high heat for about 1 minute. Make sure that the garlic does not brown. Add the kale and the stock. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Uncover the greens and continue to cook, stirring until the liquid has evaporated and the greens are quite tender, 10 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. If using, add the remaining garlic, cook for 1 minute more, and serve with lemon wedges.

I went crazy one night and added and browned ¾ pound of chicken sausage and half of an onion before adding the greens and cooked as directed. Once the greens were softened, I added 1 pound of cooked penne pasta and 1/3 cup parmesan cheese. Both Andy and Zoë had two servings.

JJ's Miami Beach Sweet Potato and Potato Salad

I regularly combine sweet and white potatoes when making oven fries and hash browns. However, it never occurred to me to combine both in a potato salad. That was until I found myself in a mansion in Miami with six of my other girlfriends. While we had bought food to stock the mansion, the grand plan for an egg and hash brown breakfast was over taken by wine-infused late night discussions. On the last full day of our trip we found ourselves with 2 dozen eggs and about 3 pounds of sweet and russet potatoes. With continual strokes of creativity Jorja and I decided to make potato salad using both the sweet and white potatoes. While I was a little hesitant, I had tasted Jorja’s cooking and she knows how good food should taste. I trusted that together we could make it work. It was so good, we ate it at the beach and then had more at the pool. You just have to love the sweet potato and the Miami sun.

Zoe doesn’t like potatoes and Andy doesn’t like eggs in his salad so I doubt I will make it much. When you make the recipe drop me a note and remind how tasty it is. A good tip I learned from a friend is to bake the potatoes instead of boiling them. I have tried her potato salad and I think she is on to something. It makes for a lighter and fluffier potato. I don’t have the patience to wait the hour it takes to bake them but if you have time, do it. No, I don’t like microwave baked potatoes.

JJ’s Miami Beach Sweet Potato – Potato Salad
We used the ingredients we had in our rented mansion so feel free to refine them as you see fit. You could use apple cider vinegar or Dijon mustard. Or you can leave out the eggs as is required in my family. You could use regular mayo or make your own, if that is how you roll. The point is that good potato salad is all about personal taste.

3 large sweet potatoes, about the length of your hand*
2 large russet potatoes, about the length of your hand*
8 eggs
½ red onion, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 – 1 ½ cups Miracle Whip
2 -3 teaspoons mustard
2 -3 teaspoons vinegar
2 -3 teaspoons celery seed**
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt & Pepper to taste

Peel and cut the potatoes in large chunks. Place the potatoes and eggs in a larger pot and cover with enough cool water to cover by 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil over high heat and boil for 12 minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and run soak in cold water. Check the softness of the potatoes by piercing with a fork. The fork should easily pierce the potatoes without breaking the potato. Once the potatoes are soft, drain them and then return them to the pot and let them cool.

Add the onion and celery to a large bowl. Peel and finely chop the eggs and add to the onion and celery. Cut the potatoes into ¾ inch cubes and add to the bowl. Mix to combine. Add Miracle Whip, mustard, vinegar, celery seed, paprika, salt and pepper. Mix until thoroughly combined. Taste the salad and add condiments and seasoning to taste, see notes below.

*We probably used about 3

pounds of potatoes in this recipe. Since you may use more or less than three pounds it is essential that you taste your salad as you prepare it. You can start by using the smaller amounts of the seasonings and condiments and then add more to suit your taste.

**We originally used celery salt because that was all we had on hand. I prefer using celery seed because it is more flavorful and gives you more control over the sodium in the salad.

The Summer of the Fresh Tomato – Tomato Sauce and Basil Ice Cubes

Yesterday I received what I think will be the last of the fresh tomatoes in my produce delivery. It was a pleasant surprise. I was obsessed with using fresh tomatoes this summer. Tomatoes don’t easily grow in a small San Francisco backyard but I did my best to give our summer the feel of a bountiful tomato harvest. Zoë is into tomatoes and salad. She doesn’t request salad for dinner but she will eat salad greens and tomatoes when put on her plate.

I received a fair amount of tomatoes in my CSA deliveries and I had a friend bring me some from her Sacramento garden when she came for a visit. Our best tomatoes came from Gowan’s farm stand in Philo, CA. We drove by on our way home from a camping trip. They had deep red, juicy plum tomatoes by the bag full. I couldn’t resist and bought a bag. It was about three pounds of ripe tomatoes so I had to be pretty decisive about what to would do with them. I made a simple tomato sauce with some beautifully colored heirloom tomatoes and it was good. I figured I would use the same simple sauce for my baked penne.

I was intimidated at first but I figured people have cooked with fresh tomatoes for centuries; canned tomatoes are a relatively recent convenience. I took a deep breath and started. The most time-consuming part of making your own sauce is blanching and peeling the tomatoes. If you get yourself set up with the boiling water and ice bath before blanching it helps create a rhythm. Zoë thought it was an interesting science project. Heating and cooling a tomato and then watching the skin easily pull off.

The whole process took more time than opening a can of tomatoes but it was gratifying to be able to create a sauce from scratch. It also gave the penne a light texture and fresh taste.

Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce
This recipe is adapted from Diane Seed’s The Top 100 Italian Dishes. I have started making basil oil ice cubes (see below) by freezing fresh basil with olive oil. I added a basil ice-cube instead of fresh basil and I couldn’t taste the difference. Using fresh tomatoes makes a lighter, thinner sauce but the flavor of fresh seasonal tomatoes more than makes up for the consistency.

2 lbs tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped (optional)
Salt & pepper
8 basil leaves, chopped or 1 basil oil ice-cube

To peel the tomatoes: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Score the bottom of each tomato with an X. Fill a medium bowl with ice water. Place 3 -4 tomatoes in the boiling water for 10 – 15 seconds. Remove and immediately place in ice water. Repeat until all the tomatoes have been blanched. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins.

To make the sauce: Heat the oil and gently fry the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in a shallow uncovered pan. Cook until the vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and spinach and cook uncovered until the sauce thickens but remains bright red. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add basil and cook until it is well incorporated. Serve with pasta.

Optional preparation: Cook as instructed using whole tomatoes. Before adding basil leaves place sauce in a blender, add the leaves and puree sauce until smooth.

Basil Oil Cubes
This recipe comes from Leda Meredith’s The Locavore’s Handbook. She has a number of good suggestions for preserving foods. This tip on herbs is brilliant. I have used the cubes over and over in sauces and on pasta. Some herbs, including basil, cilantro and parsley, do not dry

well. They don’t freeze well either. But you can preserve the bright flavors and vibrant green color of these herbs by creating herbal oils and then freezing them.

1 large bunch of basil
1 pot of boiling water
1 bowl of ice water
1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 ice cube tray

Holding the bunch of basil by the stem ends, swirl the leaves in the boiling water for a few seconds. Immediately plunge into ice water. This blanching preserves the herb’s bright green color when frozen.

Remove the blanched leaves from the stems and put them in the blender along with the olive oil. Puree until well blended with a few flecks of leaves still visible.

Pour into ice-cube trays and freeze. Pop the frozen cubes out of the trays and store in freezer bags or containers. Each cube is approximately 1 tablespoon of basil oil, so you can take out just what you need.

Pear Pecan Cake

I believe, almost to the point of a religious fanaticism, in feeding my family fresh and healthy food. I use food as a way for us to stay connected. I feed them what they love so they want to come to the dinner table. But last Friday, I decided to take a short cut. I was tired and had a two very busy weeks at work; some of you may have noted my absence. Friday was burger night and I decided to bump up the comfort level by baking a cake. Andy and Zoë were on their way home from school, via the grocery store, so I had time to bake a cake. Light bulb moment – I remembered I had a box of yellow cake mix in the back of my pantry. I pushed aside all the tenants of my food beliefs and dug into the pantry to find it. I didn’t read the nutrition facts and I didn’t check to see if there was an expiration date. I just kept remembering how much I loved to lick the beaters as a kid. I remembered the smell of cake and how it was always a special occasion when Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines came out. I got all fuzzy feeling thinking about the childhood memories I would create with Zoë.

I decided to make the cake look a bit more homemade by using a Bundt pan. I didn’t alter the back of the box directions; I

just thought it would look inspiring. I broke out the mixer and 5 minutes later the cake was in the oven. I licked the beaters. The batter wasn’t as tasty as my memories. It was thin and flat and very yellow. It occurred to me that it had to have taken a lot of food coloring to get that hue but then the house began to smell sweet. It was the sweet smell of classic yellow cake. How else could you describe it? I knew that Zoë would love to come home to the smell. As the cake baked, I looked for a glaze recipe to drizzle over the cake when it is done; I was too tired for frosting. I opened The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook and I saw a recipe for Pear Pecan Cake, it had a simple glaze recipe. I paused. We had pears, we didn’t have pecans but we did have walnuts. I read the recipe twice. It was easy. It wasn’t as easy as classic yellow cake mix. But the directions were only about a paragraph long. The glaze was even easier and I focused again on my tiredness and want of quick and easy comfort. I made the glaze and 30 minutes later classic yellow cake was out of the oven and cooling on the counter.

They came home and smelled the cake. Zoë was so excited she jumped into my arms and told me how much she loved me. She wanted to see the cake in the pan, so I made a big display of putting on my oven mitts and told her to be careful because the cake was still hot. She inhaled the classic yellow cake aroma. I saw the memories being made. The cake easily popped out of the pan, I glazed it and displayed it on the counter.

Burger night was going well and Zoë had decided to eat apple slices instead of onion rings. She still won’t eat French fries. We were talking about our day and how Andy enrolled Zoë in to soccer tots. She wasn’t too excited but says she will use perseverance to get through (the word came from a Disney book). Zoë was careful to save room for dessert.

It was time. I cut and served the cake. Andy ate it; he remembered yellow cake, too. Zoë took a taste using her fingers and contemplated. I told her she should use her fork and she made a fake attempt to cut a piece with her fork. I took her plate and cut the cake in bites. She took a bite with her fork. She looked at me and said, “It is very yellow.”

She doesn’t like it. I asked her why. She said it tasted very yellow and it was yucky. I looked at Andy and he said, “Well, it is starchy.”

Oh my god, they don’t like boxed cake mix. I suddenly felt a little un-American, had I really raised a family of purists? I was happy to see they didn’t like processed food but yellow cake. I suppose I did this to myself. I made the hard decision and threw it in the compost bin. After all, I am American enough to “nibble” on it until it is all gone.

Here is the recipe for the cake I should have made:

Pear Pecan Cake
From The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook
Makes One 10-Inch Cake
I haven’t made this cake yet but I would definitely use whole wheat flour. I would think that substituting apples with a sprinkle of cinnamon would also work.

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Bosc pears, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 ½ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a 10 –inch tube or Bundt pan.

To make the cake: In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt, making a well in the center. Stir in the oil, eggs and vanilla. Stir in the pears and pecans. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until cake tester inserted into center of the cake comes out clean. Let cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely on wire rack.

To make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and the water until smooth. Drizzle decoratively over cooled cake. Garnish with pecans if desired.

Procrastination justification: Some great/scary reads around the web this week (via Little House on the Southern Prairie)

This is not a case of self promotion. I am reposting this blog because you have to watch the Story

of Cosmetics video. And thanks LHSP for sharing my post.

Remember that charming flap a few months back when excessive chemicals dumped in Kellogg cereals made people throw up or poop their brains out? The Washington Post looked into that, and found U.S. regulators lack data on the health risks of thousands of chemicals added to our foods. Blogger Food on Our Table considers unsubscribing from the government's food safety alerts because she's finding it just so gross and stressful — like the latest hel … Read More

via Little House on the Southern Prairie

Tortilla Pie – A Mexican Meatless Monday

The pinkalicious beans made a strong comeback this evening. I had frozen half of the pink beans when I cooked them last month and decided to use them today for a Meatless Monday tortilla pie. I have made this pie using a combination of ground turkey and beans and I have used canned black or pinto beans. This was the first time I used homemade beans and no meat. Tortilla pie used to be one of Zoë’s favorite meals but today she decided she wasn’t going to like it. We just rode the wave and kept eating. We called a truce after she SLOWLY swallowed three bites. The nice thing about slow dinners is that we have good conversation. She shared her thoughts on breakfast which is her favorite meal. You see last Sunday was a full day, so I made quick breakfast of bagels with cream cheese and dried fruit. She feels that bagels don’t qualify as breakfast food. She said that breakfast is eggs, pancakes, French toast, oatmeal or waffles. I told her that I liked to cook and made sure that she ate a good breakfast every day but that many people eat bagels for breakfast. Andy added that they even eat them in the car on their way to work or school. She said nooooo they don’t. We explained to her that they do and she had a hard time believing us. I think it did make an impact because after that conversation she decided to at least taste dinner, thus the three bites.

Let’s get back to the pie. Occasionally, I make this as Mexican lasagna, layering it in a small lasagna pan before baking. It is a little easier to make but you miss out on the crispy, cheesy crust that bakes around the edges if you do. Today, I had fresh corn so I removed the kernels from two ears of corn. The recipe calls for 1 – 10 ounce package of frozen corn and I usually omit it. If you love corn add it, if you have fresh corn definitely add it, otherwise you can skip it. This makes about 8 servings but it is even better the next day so don’t worry about having too much.

One last note before I share the recipe. My blog is now being featured on the Bloggers on Board section of the Meatless Monday website. You can check it out here.

Tortilla Pie
This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. They suggest assembling the pie ahead of time and then baking before serving. I rarely do that but it would hold up well if you do. Just add about 5 – 10 minutes to the cooking time. The original recipe also calls for jalapeno pepper. If you don’t have young kids and like a bit of heat, go for it. I added more seasoning than originally specified. I literally season to taste and am going to give some approximations in this recipe. One last suggestion, if you have fresh cilantro, chop up about a ¼ cup and add it. This falls under the heading of comfort food and goes over well in San Francisco’s blustery summers.

4 flour medium-sized tortillas, whole wheat work well
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced – I used a gypsy pepper I found at the farmers’ market, very good
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder, ancho chili powder adds a nice flavor
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon paprika
Salt & pepper
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed or 3 cups cooked beans
1 cup of Mexican beer or vegetable broth
Kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn
2 ½ cups shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, pepper, garlic, and spices. Cook stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 – 7 minutes. Stir in the beans and corn and cook until warmed. Add the beer and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated, 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Place one tortilla in bottom of springform pan; layer ¼ of the beans and ½ cup of cheese. Repeat three times, using 1 cup of cheese on the top layer. Place pie in oven and bake until hot and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Let pie cool for about 5 minutes and then unmold. Slice into wedges and serve with sour cream and salsa on the side. Serves 6 – 8 people.

Corn Pudding and Marinated Cherry Tomatoes

The weekly CSA and Mystery Box Thursday are changing our eating habits. We are becoming familiar with different types of vegetables and eating many more raw veggies. Left to my own, I would not buy radishes or beets. Now we are eating dishes like radish and fennel salad and I make beet or zucchini brownies for Zoë’s play dates. I am hopeful that Zoë is ending the three-year-old food boycott; she willingly ate salmon with beet greens for dinner tonight and even tried some baked zucchini and tomato tian the other night. She still won’t try corn or potatoes but I figure there are worse things than not eating starchy vegetables.

All these vegetable deliveries are keeping me busy. I made and froze a simple tomato and basil sauce and froze a batch of basil oil ice cubes. My two new favorite recipes are a corn pudding and marinated cherry tomatoes. Both recipes came with the vegetable deliveries so I figured they would be pretty good. Zoë wouldn’t try the corn or tomatoes and I think she was relieved that she gets to eat things like carrots, lettuce and greens instead. If I have to eat tons of radishes to get her to eat her vegetables, I will. As promised, I am including the corn pudding recipe and, as a bonus, I will share the recipe for marinated cherry tomatoes because it was fabulous. I am keeping track of Zoë’s favorites so there will definitely be more to come.

Summer-Time Corn Pudding

This recipe was included in my Farm Fresh to You CSA delivery. It is a savory pudding that called

for red bell peppers, which I didn’t have, and cayenne pepper, which I didn’t use just in case Zoë wanted to taste it. It also called for a full cup of half-and-half and I just couldn’t bring myself to pour out a cup of creamer. I lightened it just a bit, although it still has plenty of fat and taste. The best thing is that I cooked it on the oven while I roasted a chicken and while the recipe says cook at 350 degrees, it did just find at 425 degrees. I just cut the cooking time by 10 minutes. One last change, I used individual soufflé dishes instead of a large one. It just looked cuter but I am sure one dish would be easier.

3 eggs
2 cups fresh corn kernels
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped with tops included
5 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon paprika
½ cup half-and-half
½ cup 1% milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 1 ½ quart soufflé dish and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light and frothy. Stir in the corn and onion. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Add the flour mixture to the corn mixture, stirring to blend. Stir in the half-and-half, milk and butter and mix well.

Pour the batter into the prepared dish and place the dish inside a baking pan. Pour hot water into the baking pan to reach about ¼ of the way up the sides of the dish. Place in the oven and bake until the top is golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let rest at least 5 minutes before service. Serves 3 – 4.

Marinated Cherry Tomatoes

This came from the Mariquita Farms website. It was there because the mystery box had two huge baskets of cherry tomatoes. They were so sweet but there was no way we could just eat them all. I used savory instead of rosemary because it came with the delivery. I kept the rosemary in the recipe because I don’t usually find savory at the store. This is a super easy recipe and when served with toasted sourdough bread it makes a good bruschetta. We ate these tomatoes for three days in a row and never got tired of them.

2 baskets cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
¼ fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

Mix tomatoes, onions, parsley, rosemary, garlic, olive oil and vinegar in a shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the bowl and let the tomatoes marinate at room temperature at least 1 hour, but preferably 3 to 4 hours or overnight. Stir occasionally. Enjoy with crostini or as a side dish. Serves 6.

A Meatless Monday Flop

I was really looking forward to coming home tonight to make dinner.  I was attempting to take my game up a notch by making a vegetable soufflé.  I had cut the leeks and fennel and shredded the cheese yesterday; the ingredients were ready I just had to come home and execute. I studied and tweaked the recipes.  I decided to cut the fat in the dish by substituting 2% milk for half and half, you know I usually try to make things healthier. After taking out my pots and pans, I was ready to make a Leek & Gruyère Cheese soufflé that would have my family begging for more.  I sautéed the vegetables, made the cheese sauce and folded in the whipped egg whites. All was well as I popped it into the oven.  Then the trouble started, I took it out of the oven after 30 minutes and the top was brown but the middle had a jiggle and the sides were oozing. I spooned into and it ran, I didn’t think soufflé’s were suppose to run.  I put it back in the oven. Eventually, I had to take it out because the top was getting brown and crusty, looking something like the leather on a football.  It was 7 pm so I just scooped it into bowls and served it.  I didn’t even try to serve it to Zoë, I threw together a cheese quesadilla to keep the drama at bay. Andy kept repeating that it tasted like Quiche and you know the saying “real men don’t eat Quiche.”  To ease the tension, I joked that dish gets a C-, I could not bring myself to say F.   Andy just shrugged and ate it because he knew I had a bad day.  Zoë enjoyed her quesadilla.  The only reassuring thing about the dish is that we compost, that means that the “soufflé” will serve a better purpose in its next life.

I could have been off my game because I had a really bad day at work.  Or it could have been because I tried to combine a French soufflé recipe with Greek gratin recipe, I was trying to be creative people. Or it could have been because I have only made a soufflé once before in my life.  It was at a Sur La Table cooking class under the close supervision of a chef that taught us during one of Skadden’s infamous summer associate drinking extravaganzas.  Or at least I vaguely recall that that was the group.

I turned to dessert to save the night.  Not sure if this counts but it was meatless.  I pan toasted store-bought buttermilk pound cake and topped it with vanilla bean ice-cream, strawberry sauce and whipped cream.  The strawberry sauce was one of many dishes I made from the flat of strawberries I bought last Thursday.  I bought the flat of strawberries while I was still high from making home-made bread crumbs.  In case you are wondering, yes I know that it is not practical for a family of three to eat 12 pints of strawberries in 4 days.  We did it but that is a story for another post.

Strawberry Sauce
I adapted this sauce from a Thomas Keller recipe in his Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.

3 cups strawberries plus 1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/3 cup sugar

Combine 3 cups strawberries and sugar in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the berries are soft, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a blender, puree until smooth. Pour strawberry sauce back into the sauce pan and add 1 cup of strawberries. Return to pan to medium-high heat and cook until the strawberry slices soften slightly, about 3 minutes. Makes about 2 cups.  Keeps in the refrigerator for 3 -5 days.

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine ingredients into a mixing bowl. Using handheld beater, mix cream on high until stiff peaks form.  Makes 2 cups.

Meatless Monday Makes a Comeback

We have been on vacation for the past two or three Mondays and are ready to get back into the swing of Meatless Mondays. At least I am. Tonight I made the Cheese & Potato Tarts with a salad and was happy to have it as a repeat. However, I did want to update you folks with a fresh dish sans meat. I made this before we left on vacation and we all enjoyed it. If you cook your own beans instead of using canned so much the better.

Broccoli and Beans
I adapted this recipe from a salad made by Giada De Laurentiis. She uses green beans and serves it cold. Here in the chilly summer of San Francisco, I prefer to warm it up.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups broccoli, cut in to small florets
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt & pepper

Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and broccoli and sauté until broccoli turns bright green and begins to soften. Add cannellini beans and vegetable stock and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remover from heat and add Parmesan and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 4.