Sunday, September 26, 2010

...and about that ricotta

By the time my monkey bread was done, it was time for dinner. As good as it was (and it only got better with time as the sweet risen bread had time to soak up the syrup), earlier in the day I had decided and committed to using last night's fresh ricotta with broccoli rabe and pasta. I did a bit of prep work just whipping the ricotta with some salt and olive oil in in the food processor.
Keeping to plan, dinner was a success. I am going to have to buy another quart of milk and make more ricotta, because this stuff is so good! I think next time I'll also buy some higher quality olive oil, because I really think whipping the homemade cheese with better oil will make a world of difference.
I feel spoiled by my dinner, and even further by the bounty I enjoyed all summer.
Warning: cheesy moment (and I'm not talking about ricotta). I want to relay to you, my readers, that I feel truly grateful for having access to local farmers' harvests.

OK this was dinner:
1 bunch rapini, bottom inch cut off and tossed out, the rest chopped into inch long pieces
pot of water, boiling rapidly, salted heavily (make it taste like the ocean. for real.)
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
crushed red pepper
salt
whole wheat pasta of choice
whipped ricotta cheese

Blanch rapini in water. Set aside. In a skillet, heat olive oil. Add garlic and cook until it starts to color. Add crushed red pepper and then rapini. (You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan.) Add generous pinch of salt and saute 2-3 minutes. Serve atop whole wheat pasta with a dollop of ricotta. And enjoy.

Monkey Bread and other musings

I've come across recipes for monkey bread a million times before. And it always looks so good in photos. And those who know me well know I have the biggest sweet tooth of perhaps anyone I know (which works to my detriment, of course, in the way of cavities...) Well anyway, today I was feeling a bit down, and all I wanted was some buttery, bready, sweet comfort to sink my teeth into to make me smile.
I consulted my favorite virtual wholesome cooks and bakers and settled on a happy medium in ingredient and style between Smitten Kitchen and the Pioneer Woman. 'Cuz you know, as much as I like to study, cook, preserve, eat, buy, and talk about wholesome local, seasonal veggies and fruits, I also fully embrace fats and sugars as essential parts of life that must be celebrated at times!
So here's to celebrating. Hello to delicious whole wheat monkey bread (didn't you just know I had to draw the line somewhere!). See below, let mouth water, and get on with the baking!
Here's what you need:
3 T butter, melted
1 c whole milk (I use Ronnybrook creamline)
1/4 c water
1 packet yeast
4 table spoons sugar
3 c whole wheat flour
pinch salt
Mix butter, milk, water, yeast, sugar in bowl. Place flour and salt in separate large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour. Pour wet ingredients in, and mix until you can no longer mix with a wooden spoon. Dump out onto floured surface and knead, 10-15 min, until dough is elasticky (I made up this adjective because whole wheat flour does not become smooth and elastic as does its white counterpart. That is ok. Just stop after 15 minutes.) Put kneaded dough into lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic, allow to rise 1-2 hrs, until doubled in size. Pat dough into rectangle and cut into 6 strips one way, 8 another, so that you have 48 little pieces of dough. Ball each individually and then put the balls in a large bowl. Then:

1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 c sugar
3 T freshly ground (or not) cinnamon
Pour melted butter over the pieces of dough. Put sugar and cinnamon into a plastic bag. Toss buttered dough pieces into plastic bag, trying to separate into individual pieces that will coat with the cinsugar.
Then put into a buttered cake pan (or bundt- I just didn't have one). Cover with plastic wrap again and let rise 45 minutes in a warm place. Uncover, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. While it is baking, make glaze by whisking:

1/2 stick butter, melted
1 c brown sugar
1/4 c maple syrup (optional)

When monkey bread is done, put a plate over the pan and invert it to get the monkey bread out. Pour glaze on top. Serve warm. OMG OMG OMG!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ricotta!

I made ricotta just now! How cool! I thought it would be easy but not THIS easy!

I finally remembered to return 2 quart bottles to Ronnybrook today at the Grand Army Plaza market...and picked up a new quart of their creamline milk (the best).
I also bought a bunch of broccoli rabe- it was the last bunch (!!!) at Maxwell farms. I was super happy to walk away as if it was a gold medal! Anyway, on my way home, I thought, hey, I can make ricotta and serve it with sauteed broccoli rabe and some whole wheat pasta!

So here's the ricotta. So easy, so awesome. It tastes delicious! Here's what to do:

2 c whole milk
1 T lemon juice
pinch salt

Bring milk to simmer over low heat. When the simmer is pretty rolling, add lemon juice and reduce heat to even lower. Simmer for two minutes. Strain through cheese cloth or fine mesh sieve. The end!

Friday, September 24, 2010

#4: Breakfast of Champions

Two egg posts in a row: allowed?
Regardless, here it is. Instead of trekking down the street to Tom's Diner for greasy eggs and potatoes, I'll keep the 6 bucks and make my own feast right after I unnecessarily move my car for street cleaning (which apparently doesn't happen on Sukkot?)... yeah.
Two eggs over easy served atop raw tomato sauce with rosemary homefries. And toast with chevre.

If you're cooking for one, which I am still doing, you will need:
Olive oil
1 small onion
2 small potatoes of any kind (I used the last of my Carolas)
salt
rosemary
*optional washed spinach leaves*

butter
2 small (although sold as "large") eggs

RAW TOMATO SAUCE: 1 blanched tomato+2 cloves garlic+pinch salt in the blender/food processor

TOAST+CHEVRE

In small pan on medium heat, heat a bit of olive oil. Add onions. Cook 5 min. Add potatoes, salt, rosemary to taste. Cook until potatoes are done. If using spinach, throw it into the pan just as the potatoes are finishing and let it cook down. Dump potatoes out onto plate.
In same pan, melt butter.
Crack your eggs. Cook until whites are set, then carefully turn over. Over easy is the best way. Period.
Pour a puddle of tomato sauce onto plate next to potatoes. When eggs are done, serve atop tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Eat with toast. Yum.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

#3 How to eat Cheap and Alone: Midmorn Corn

You read that right...
In my excitement about this summer's bounty, I almost completely forgot about corn. You'd think it wouldn't be easy to forget about, considering both that I love corn and that the Sunday NY Times magazine has been running fresh corn recipes for weeks now (see here and here or here). Can you believe, I went almost the entire season without buying a single ear? Sweet, juicy, crunchy, fresh summer corn is one of those things that if you're not careful you won't see again till next year.

So I made a point of buying some ears (and it's so cheap!). This morning, post-jog, I whipped up scrambled eggs with chevre and fresh corn kernels served alongside a favorite of mine: versatile chipotle black beans.

I think next up will be corn pudding or grits or corn fritters... we'll see.

Fresh corn scramble with black beans:
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/3 c)
1 can organic black beans with liquid from can
1 t chipotle pepper powder
pinch salt
 sliver butter (less than 1/4 T)
1 ear fresh corn, kernels cut off the cob*
1-2 eggs
1 T chevre (I used Vermont butter and cheese co.)

Start the beans first. In a small saucepan, heat oil on medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened a bit (about 5 min). Add beans, chipotle, and salt. Stir. Bring to simmer.
Heat butter in pan on medium heat. Whisk eggs, about 1/2 c corn kernels, and chevre and add to pan. Jostle pan and move eggs around until just done.
Check beans-- most of the liquid should have evaporated. Serve alongside eggs.
You'll probably have leftover beans and corn. Definitely save these for snack later- the beans are great atop rice or with tortillas or chips.


*I save the cobs in case i want to use them to make a quick corn soup or something with their good flavor later on.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Veggie Curry with Rice Noodles

While I was really into my series, "how to eat cheap and alone," tonight's dinner made use of a bunch of farmers market produce that was sitting in the fridge just dying to get used. I had to cook it for fear of not using it soon enough! So this is more like dinner for 4, or for 1 with leftovers (which is how I will be using it).

In tonight's curry, I attempted to cook with half of a cup of simple peanut sauce I made on Sunday and neglected to use (peanut butter, mirin, soy sauce, and chopped fresh cayenne pepper, all whisked up). I added this peanut sauce to onion and garlic being sauteed in butter along with added chopped orange squash, an ear of corn kernels, and carola potatoes. After I added the peanut sauce, in went one chopped tomato, light coconut milk, orange cauliflower, and spinach. Spices were thrown in without measurement: mustard seeds, garam masala, fennel seeds, cumin, paprika, and whole black pepper. I stirred. I covered. I sat down for 15 minutes. I came back and boiled water for rice noodles (though this curry could easily be served atop rice or regular pasta) and allowed the curry to simmer uncovered. When the rice noodles were done, so was the curry.

This dish was brightly colored (see for yourself!), pungent, fresh. I will admit, I even saw a little green worm crawl off of the cutting board. For you insect-phobic people, this is a good thing! If the worms want to eat our food and survive, it means it's safe, it's tasty, it's pesticide free! These are positive qualities of our food!

I sat down at my dining room table, added torn pieces of fresh basil and mint to my bowl of rice noodles and curry, and topped it off with sriracha. And I ate until there was nothing left in my bowl. The end.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

#2 in the series of How to eat Cheap and Alone

 
Yesterday I went to the farmers market. Oh, how good it was! It makes me feel amazing being able to go there, touch the vegetables, talk to the vendors, smell the smells. It is one activity that always puts a smile on my face without fail.

Yesterday I didn't buy much. I am cooking for one, after all, and yesterday was only a Wednesday. (If I run out of goodies post-Yom Kippur, I can always go down to the Cortelyou market on Sunday.) I bought a beautiful head of orange cauliflower, some carola potatoes (that supposedly taste like butter), purple carrots, orange carrots, beets, SPINACH, and some button mushrooms. Oh and a cute, cute, cute orange squash about the size of a large orange. I can't wait to eat squash! (I am going to try to stick to farmer's market fare for as long as possible, although I predict stopping at some point in the dead of winter, sick of potatoes, apples, and squash.)

OK so tonight's edition of how to eat cheap (and alone) is spinach and mushroom quesadillas. Easy Peezy. My ingredients were either from the farmer's market (all of the veggies) or here, at home, but I want to emphasize that buying vegetables from the farmers market is typically cheaper and better quality than anything you will find in a store--the veggies used for this meal cost less than $3 all together, and they tasted like what they were, instead of like "COLD" (which is how I find supermarket veggies tend to taste!). It is entirely possible to cook healthy, wholesome, tasty meals for cheap.
Here's what you need:

1/2 T butter
2-3 T chopped onion
8-10 big button mushrooms, sliced
a few fresh oregano leaves (or any herb. or none.)
salt and pepper to taste
3 small bunches (about 2 c loosely packed) spinach, washed well
cooked or canned black beans (optional)
1 oz cheddar cheese (optional)
3 tortillas

In a medium saute pan, heat butter on medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they release their juices and then cook down, about 10 minutes. Now add oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir. Add spinach and cook, tossing ingredients, until wilted. Remove from heat. In another pan, heat tortillas. If making quesadillas, assemble one at a time by layering shredded cheese, veggies, and beans into a tortilla and either folding after several minutes or laying another tortilla on top (I use both methods).**

**These quesadillas are messy. A better way to eat this messy food may be to make straight up cheese quesadillas and then eat your veggies on the side, with a fork.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How to eat cheap and alone

The past two weeks, and hopefully the next couple of months, are an experiment in just how cheaply I can cook and eat healthy, wholesome meals for one. Mr. Ripe is off in the bay, and I am alone at home in our awesome new apartment.

I love to peruse other people's food blogs for inspiration, but there is one in particular that has been extremely helpful in laying out exactly how possible it is to cook at home using great ingredients (yes to farmers market produce!) for cheap. Not Eating Out In New York, a blog based in (of all places) Brooklyn (what what) provides readers with healthy, cheap, green meals in very simple terms. Cathy Erway's writing style and food ideas are simple (I find them quite comparable to my own) and accessible. I had her blog on my mind tonight when I made my super simple leftovers dinner from last night's dal atop two slices of whole wheat bread spread with Vermont Butter and Cheese company's original chevre. It may sound yucky, and my apartment may smell like an Indian restaurant, but this meal was super satisfying, tasty, and definitely cheap.

Here's the recipe from last night's dal. And think of this post as one of many to come in the series of How to Eat Cheap and Alone!

3/4 c split yellow lentils (or mung dal)
2 1/2 c water
2 whole cloves garlic
1/8 t cumin
1/8 t turmeric
3 T vegetable oil
pinch black mustard seeds (like really maybe 8 individual seeds)
pinch asafoetida

Rinse lentils. Place in pot with water and bring to boil. Add garlic cloves, cumin, and turmeric. Reduce heat so lentils simmer and almost cover the pot with the lid (leave it open a crack if possible). Simmer about 1 hour, or until lentils are soft and resemble lumpy mush. Remove from heat. In a small saucepan, heat vegetable oil. When hot, add mustard seeds and asafoetida powder. Cook until mustard seeds begin to make popping sounds, then pour spice oil over lentil mush. You now have dal! Enjoy over rice with freshly squeezed lemon and charred onions.

Enjoy again the next day atop a piece of toast slathered with chevre!

PIGS!


In an age when factory farming and antibiotics given to all animals, healthy or not, is scarily commonplace, it's nice to see articles like this one in the NY Times. It gives me hope. Especially after returning from another wonderful weekend in the Berkshires, after attending the season's foodiest event: North Plain's Pig Roast!

Now now, you may know that, as a Jew and a relative non-meat-eater, I do not usually enjoy the thrill of roasting a giant animal and then eating it. But there were a few wonderful details of the pig roast that made it quite exhilarating to be able to take part in. To start, the farm on which the even took place was a farm benefit. Proceeds from the mere $35 tickets (which, may I add, sold out before 6:30 pm on the day of the event), went right back to the people who supplied the night's delights. All of the food and drink served at the event was either from the farm itself, or from very very close surrounding farms. And man, you could sure as hell tell.

To be honest, after eating the local cheeses (including that BOMB Monterey Chevre) and the freshly made baba ganoush, and then having my second course of buttered sweet corn, beans, fire roasted summer squash, and fresh salad greens with a light vin, I wasn't even hungry for the meat! By the time the two big ol' pigs and one veal calf (all raised on the farm, killed by the men who fed them for their whole existences) were removed from the spits, I was stuffed to the brim. I managed to take one bite of some meat someone brought me on a plate, and to nibble on one of the 40+ chickens that were also slaughtered on the premises and roasted over the fire.

Local food prevails and continues to make me happy.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

One more time, Go GreenMarket!

I know all summer the few times I posted I raved and raved about farmer's market produce and the exhilaration I feel when I'm at the market. But I just can't stop! Until the local farmers' bounty is no longer available for purchase by me, I will continue to feel blissful and simply happy every time I cook in my kitchen. Knowing where my food comes from is one way I practice mindfulness in my everyday life. It gives me a satisfaction, a basic good feeling that stays with me.

Tonight I made stuffed baby eggplant with feta. Here is the ingredient list:

3 baby eggplants (about 5-7" long, 1-2" in diameter)
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 small onion, chopped
5 plum tomatoes, cored and diced
1 yellow sweet pepper, sliced
1/4 c oat groats (I bought mine from Cayuga Organics, but they're also available from Bob's Red Mill)
1/4 c water or broth
2 t salt
1 t dried oregano
1 oz goat feta cheese (optional)

Start by preheating the oven to 375. Next put the oat groats and water or broth in a small sauce pan. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and then cover. Cook until water is absorbed, even if they may seem a bit chewy to you- they'll cook more with the veggies and in the oven. While the oat groats cook, heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add olive oil. When oil is hot, add onion and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. While these saute, cut each eggplant lengthwise and then scoop out its flesh with a spoon. Set the eggplant bodies aside. Dice the scooped out flesh and add it to the cooking onions and garlic. Cook for 10 min, then add tomatoes. When tomatoes begin to break down and veggies get watery, dump the oat groats into the skillet with salt and oregano. Saute and then cover skillet to allow oats to cook more, for about 10 minutes.
Place eggplant skins in a baking dish and fill with veggie/oat mixture. Cover with foil, and cook for 30 minutes.
Serve with crumbled feta on top. Yum!