Sunday, September 14, 2014

Is there anyone out there who owns an embarrassing quantity of cookbooks? Like spilling off the shelving unit, taking over your night table, embarrassing? 

I might know someone with that embarrassing situation. Someone who spends WAY too much money fueling this habit.

The thing that makes it a little more embarrassing is that said-someone rarely actually cooks from said-cookbooks. She reads them like other people read fiction. She takes them to the beach and to the pool. Seriously. She draws inspiration and ideas from them. But she rarely actually cooks a full recipe from them.

So that's why said-someone was particularly pleased to remember that one of her 139 cookbooks had a recipe utilizing two of the few ingredients in the fridge: string beans and dill. So nice to actually be able to use one of those books and convince said-family that they are not a complete waste of space and money.

Buttered Dilly Green Beans 
This recipe is adapted very slightly from The Essential New York Times Cookbook. It serves 4-6 people as a side dish. Use olive oil or margarine for a vegan version. 

2 cups (about a pound) of string beans, trimmed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (more of less - depends how much you like dill)
2 tablespoons butter

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and return to a boil.

Add the green beans and continue to boil on high for about two minutes until the beans look cooked but are still bright. Test one if you're not sure.

Drain the beans in a colander. Quickly pour cold water over them to stop the cooking. Let them drain completely, for at least a few minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the green beans and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a few times, till the beans are warmed through and the butter is coating them evenly.

Toss the string beans with the dill and serve.

Posted on Sunday, September 14, 2014 by Rivki Locker

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

This time of year is filled with bittersweet. The bitterness of saying goodbye to the warm lazy summer days and happy times at the pool. The sweetness of welcoming in a new school year, with sharp new pencils and shiny new shoes. 

The bitterness of putting away the relaxed summer wardrobe - flip-flops, careless t-shirts. The sweetness of taking out cozy winter sweaters and fleece.

And last, the bitterness of saying goodbye to peaches and plums, cherries and asparagus. And with it, the sweetness of welcoming back pumpkins and winter squash, sturdy greens, hearty stews.

Consider this post an ode to the last weeks of summer. This crisp is a celebration of a new fruit I discovered this year: Ground Cherries. (No, they are not ground. They grow in the ground. They have these soft papery husks around them. And they don't taste anything like cherries. Go figure.) And a celebration of the fruit I have enjoyed as far back as I can remember: plums. Thank you, Cedar Post Farmer's Market! You make my world a happier place!

Ground Cherry Plum Crisp
This is my standard fruit crisp formula. The ground cherries gave it an exotic, almost tropical aroma and flavor. But you can easily leave them out or swap in regular cherries. That's what I usually do when I'm not off finding exotic ingredients. 

1 pint ground cherries
6 medium plums
2 granny smith apples, peeled
2 teaspoons corn starch
¾ stick margarine or butter
¾ cup flour
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup Turbinado Sugar

Preheat the oven to 350*.

Peel the ground cherries. Cut the plums and apples into wedges about ½ inch thick. Add the corn starch, mix together in a large bowl, and put in a large pie dish.

In a separate bowl, combine the margarine or butter, flour, and sugars. Use your fingers to mix the ingredients together into a coarse meal.

Pour the topping over the fruit. Bake for 60-70 minutes, until the crisp is bubbling nicely. If you are using a glass pie plate, look at the bottom of the crisp. The fruit should look soft and bubbly even in the very center.

Allow to cool for at least an hour before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2014 by Rivki Locker


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Well it appears that I don't know what salsa is. I've read dozens of salsa recipes. Eaten more than that. But apparently, my qualifications are not good enough. 

A Very Knowledgable Person in my household, on the other hand, knows better. His qualifications include a LOT of tortillas and store bought salsa. And so apparently he is much better qualified. And said Very Knowledgable Person doesn't think this dish qualifies as salsa. Salad, maybe. But not salsa. 

Well, call it what you will, this stuff is good. Really good. The tartness of the tomatoes. The sweetness of the peaches. The 'kick' of the jalapeño. Yum. 

This is a salsa salad that totally elevates a simple tilapia dish. It would also work really well with grilled chicken. Or just plain. Eaten right out of the serving dish. Not that I would know firsthand or anything.   

Tilapia with Tomato Peach Salsa 

This recipe serves 6. You can easily reduce it if you have less mouths to feed. 

5 plum tomatoes, cut in small (½ inch or so) pieces
2 peaches or nectarines (I used white ones), cut in small pieces
1 jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed, minced super fine
1 shallot, minced
½ lime
1T olive oil
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
a few sprigs fresh mint, chopped fine

6 tilapia fillets (feel free to substitute another non-oily white fish)
1T butter
2 T heavy cream
½ lemon
1 T chopped chives and parsley
Coarse salt

First, prepare the salsa. (It needs about 30 minutes for the flavors to meld.)
Combine the tomatoes, peaches, jalapeño, and shallot in a large bowl.
Squeeze the lime over the fruit. Add in the olive oil, salt and chopped mint.
Mix gently till well combined. Allow to rest for 30-45 minutes while you prepare the fish.

Now, prepare the fish.
Melt the butter in the microwave. Use a pastry brush or paper towel to spread it across the bottom of a large (preferably glass) baking dish.
Rinse and dry the fish. Spread it in the buttered dish so the pieces are mostly not overlapping.
Drizzle the heavy cream evenly over the fish so each fillet gets about a teaspoon.
Squeeze the lemon evenly over the fish.
Drizzle the herbs over all, and sprinkle lightly with some salt.
Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, until the fish is cooked through.

Serve the fish with salsa next to it, or mounded on top.

Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 by Rivki Locker


Sunday, September 7, 2014

I know there's never a good time to get sick. But it's especially un-just when it happens on the weekend. Timed just perfectly with my days off, my only days to chill and catch some time for myself. 

Don't get me wrong. My family came through for me 100%. The kids pitched in with babysitting and cleanup. My husband ordered dinner. But it pained me to sleep through the weekend. All of my plans for catching up on reading, cooking, and shopping went by the wayside. It was lousy. 

I'm feeling a little better now, and aside from my wonderful family, I also have this soup to thank. It was nourishing and filling. Warm and satisfying. Just the thing for my burning throat and cranky body. 

Lemony Summer Squash Bean Soup 
This soup serves 6-8. It reheats well, and will last in the fridge for a few days. The beans need to be cooked before you start. For best results, use dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked till tender. 

½ lb. dried small white beans (I used these.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon thyme
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium-large yellow summer squashes, scrubbed but not peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 cups water or vegetable stock (make your own if you like)
1 lemon 

Put the beans in a large pot and cover with water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat and let the beans sit, covered, for an hour. 

Meanwhile, warm the olive oil over medium heat, in a large frying pan. Add the onion and thyme, and sauté for about 10 minutes, until softened. 

Add the garlic and squash and cook for another 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, till the squash is warmed through but still firm. 

Cook the beans, in their soaking water, for about 60-90 minutes, depending on the age of the beans. (Taste the beans to make sure they are done and that the texture is just right.) Don't drain them! That liquid is TASTY (and good for you!). 

Pour the vegetables and salt into the beans. Add enough water or vegetable stock to cover the vegetables - you'll need 3-4 cups, more or less, depending how thick you like it and how much liquid is left with your beans.

Cook for about 20 minutes, just to heat the vegetables through. You want them to retain their color and firmness. 

Turn off the flame and squeeze the lemon into the soup. (Use a strainer if you want to avoid pits.) Stir well. 

Taste and correct seasoning, if needed. Serve right away.  

Posted on Sunday, September 07, 2014 by Rivki Locker


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What a whirlwind of a week.  What a lot of adjustments. My oldest daughters (twins) are starting high school. My baby is starting 'big girl school.' And my husband is starting his first job as a Physician Assistant after five years of school.

I'm just doing the same-old, same-old. Trying to keep up with my marathon of a life. Full time pressure-cooker job. Four kids. Workouts. Groceries. Laundry. 

But somehow it all feels new. New school uniforms. New bus schedules. New friends and teachers. No more baby girl in daycare. 

But there is one constant. The peppers. They just don't stop. Our CSA just keeps 'em coming. And coming. 

Which is actually ok, because I really do like peppers. Do you? 

Stuffed Peppers (Vegan)
This recipe makes six half-peppers, enough to serve 3-6 people depending how much they like peppers and how much other food you're giving them. Confession: I ate three halves. It takes about an hour from start to finish, with about 20 minutes of active prep. 

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 onion
2 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing
4 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon coriander
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ancho chili powder (use less if your chili is hot or you like things less spicy)
a few sprigs of oregano (or substitute ½ t dried)
a few sprigs of parsley
1 large tomato, or 2 plum tomatoes
½ cup cashews
3 large bell peppers (if yours are small, use 4)

Preheat the oven to 375*. Brush a large glass dish with olive oil.

Get your quinoa started. Measure the quinoa into a strainer and rinse well. Pour it into a small saucepan and add the water plus ½ a teaspoon of salt. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil on a high flame. Reduce the flame to low and simmer for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat, in a frying pan. Chop your onions pretty fine and sauté them for about 10 minutes, till translucent. Chop your garlic coarsely. Add the garlic, spices, and herbs, plus the extra ¼ teaspoon of salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer just till your kitchen smells amazing.  

Chop the tomato into smallish dice and add it to the onions. Mix it up and let it cook for another minute or two. Coarsely chop the cashews and add those too. 

Pour the cooked quinoa into the onions and mix well. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary.  

Now, wash and dry the peppers. Cut off the tops and cut each pepper in half. Clean them out, removing the ribs and seeds. Brush the insides and outsides with olive oil and lay the peppers in your prepared pan. 

Put a few spoonfuls of the quinoa mix into each pepper half. 

Cover the dish with foil and bake for about ½ hour until the peppers are warmed through. (The pan should let out lots of steam when you remove the foil.) Let them sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. These are also lovely served cold. 

Linking this up to Wednesday Roundup at Savory Experiments

Posted on Wednesday, September 03, 2014 by Rivki Locker


Saturday, August 30, 2014

I live a double life. Most days, when I'm in the office, I eat a protein bar for lunch. Yes, it's kind of nasty and tasteless. Yes, it's an embarrassment to the people who look up to me as a good home cook. But it works. 

It gives me the calories and nutrients I need to get through my day, with a minimum of fuss. Am I proud of this habit? Not really.

But here's the saving grace. Once or twice a week I work from home. And when I do, I can usually take a 15 minute break from the never ending meetings and documents to make myself a less-nasty and usually-less-tasteless lunch. 

Last night's leftovers are sometimes involved. 

Beautiful produce is always involved. 

This salad happened on a work-from-home day. But not just any. I had gone to the farmer's market the day before. And I had these absolutely gorgeous heirloom tomatoes in just about every color. Also some beautiful purple basil from my herb garden. Also some perfectly ripe peaches. 

This salad WAY beats a protein bar. Any day. 

Heirloom Tomato Peach Salad 
Although the recipe has 'heirloom' in the title, you have my permission to use regular tomatoes if that's what you have on hand. Your tastebuds won't know the difference (although your plate will feel a little less pretty). This recipe makes one large serving (enough for a one-person main dish) or 2-3 side dish servings. 

4 small tomatoes, cut in large chunks
2 ripe but not mushy peaches, cut in large chunks
1 scallion, minced
a handful of basil, chopped
½ a lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled

Put the cut tomatoes and peaches into a large bowl.

Add the scallions and basil. 

Squeeze the lime over the salad, and then add the olive oil and salt. Toss gently but thoroughly to combine. (At this point, you can leave it sitting for about 15-20 minutes. This salad will get a little mushy if left longer.) 

Right before serving, gently toss in the cheese. 

Posted on Saturday, August 30, 2014 by Rivki Locker