Oct 242016
 

Beet zoodles with greens and goat cheese

There’s this thing that few people will tell you when you have a second kid. It’s more than twice the amount of work.

Which means that things can get neglected. This blog is Exhibit A.

And the topic of this blog is Exhibit B.

Baby Om Nom Sauce #2 is starting to get to the point where he lets me cook more, and if I keep my camera handy, I can sometimes get a photo or two of it before my precious children descend upon the food like a pack of hyenas.

But in order for me to get back in the swing of things here, I’m probably going to have to start cutting back on time. So this will be one of the first times that I leave you not so much with a recipe, but with an idea, and you can decide what proportions, cooking time, etc. look right. Which is hard for me, as a type-A I-love-precision person in all things. But if it gets me back in this space more regularly, I’ll take it!

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Jun 292014
 

Tomato-watermelon salad

It’s summer and peak tomato season is nearing, which means one thing for sure: I am soon to be entirely in the grip of Tomato Madness.

I wait all year for tomato season to roll around, abstaining from buying those cardboard-like, sprayed-with-ethylene-gas-to-make-them-turn-orange facsimile tomatoes through the cold months, biding my time until the (swoon!) heirlooms show up in the farmers’ markets. (I grow a paltry number of them at home but am not yet proficient enough at it to satisfy my appetite for the fruit.) They’re beautiful, aromatic, colored all the way through, and the taste? Unlike any tomato you’ll find in a grocery store.

The inevitable result of this is a tomato binge in the summertime. One weekend last August, our trip to the market yielded just such a thing: in addition to the 2-3-ish pounds I already had in the house, I came home with 6 pounds of my all-time favorite Black Krims (gazpacho, anyone?), along with a whopping 1.75-pound Gold Medal tomato that my favorite farmer gifted me when he saw me going crazy on the Krims (for they are his favorite too), figuring that he’d never be able to sell it because it was so huge. Seriously, the thing was as big as The Wee Baby Om-Nom Sauce’s head.

Huuuuuuuge tomato!

Huuuuuuuge tomato!

(Oh, and speaking of Krims: I had a plant in my back yard last summer and I got so excited at one point because I had two beautiful tomatoes on it that were just a few days away from ripeness. I went out there one morning and they were gone. I’m not going to blame the squirrels, or the bunnies, or the birds, or the odd deer that comes through the neighborhood, because I suspect that the culprit was THE DOG. She developed a taste for tomatoes when I was growing black cherry tomatoes in Tucson and I haven’t been able to break her of it: I catch her with MY harvest now and then. And this year? A bunny came through and ate two of my five tomato plants — that’s right, not tomatoes, but the plants. But I digress.)

I came home and immediately busied myself with making my favorite soup (because if cherry-pie-making-day is Mr Om-Nom Sauce’s favorite day of summer, then surely mine is the one when I make gazpacho), but upon finishing that, I had to face the (1.75-pound) elephant in the room: what to do with the Gold Medal? I sifted through lots of ideas in my head and finally settled upon re-making a tomato-watermelon salad I had thrown together on a whim earlier that week for a cook-out. Because after the guests had left, Mister Om-Nom Sauce said “I’m going to clean up the kitchen” and I responded with, “Ok, Imma gonna stand here and eat this salad,” and predictably, the left-overs disappeared with breakfast. So clearly, more of this (delicious, healthy, refreshing, nutrient-packed) salad needed to be made. And if you have any ginormous tomatoes on hand that you don’t know what to do with, send them my way, because that is a problem that I love to have.

Tomato-watermelon salad

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Sep 012012
 

Tomato medley | Savory Summer Caponata

Summer is probably my favorite season for fresh produce — but really, if you ask me in the fall or the spring what my favorite seasons are, you’ll probably get a different answer. Despite that, there’s one jewel of summer that makes me especially prize its produce, and it’s a gem that eclipses and asparaguses and strawberries of spring and the delightful hard squashes and greens of fall. If you know me at all you know that I am absolutely bananas about summer tomatoes. I wait all year for them and when they show up at the farmers’ market I go absolutely crazy buying them (alas, I haven’t mastered tomato-growing yet, and we moved across the country this summer, so I didn’t even get to try this year). This year has been trying for my tomato mania, as the pregnancy has caused incredibly awful heartburn since the beginning of the second trimester, and tomatoes are a major trigger for me. I’m stubborn though, and as my tomato lust has continued unabated, I haven’t tried to hold back from slaking it.

Diced jewels | Savory Summer Caponata

One of the things about Ohio that’s made me really happy is that heirloom tomatoes do really well here, unlike Arizona, where it’s just too damn hot and the pollen literally burns up in the flowers. I wasted no time finding an amazing farm that’s less than six miles from my house that produces all of my summer favorites, including a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes! Every week I go and stock up, buying several different varieties, for the week’s cooking and noshing.

Eggplant disks | Savory Summer Caponata

It turns out that the farmer also grows everything else that I could possibly want for another favorite dish of mine: caponata. This is a dish that I liked pretty well the first time I had it, even though I was cooking it in the winter and the ingredients were so far from peak-of-flavor that it wasn’t even funny. Since I started making it in the proper season, I’ve completely jettisoned the original recipe I was using and re-worked it to play better with in-season ingredients. Of particular importance is getting the tomatoes to fully complement the eggplant: eggplant readily absorbs flavors, so if you salt the diced tomatoes and let them sit for a while, lots of juice will be drawn out of them and they’ll lend lots of tasty flavor to the eggplant. Who knew these two relatives could play so well together? So go, hurry: summer is waning, so grab the last of the summer produce and whip this dish up!

It's caponata time! | Savory Summer Caponata

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Oct 022009
 

Everyone needs a recipe that can answer a host of dietary and culinary questions single-handedly. These questions might be along the lines of “How am I going to use this vat of spinach before it goes bad?” or “How can I make canned beans interesting?” or “What can I make that is attractive, delicious, very nutritious, and quick?”

Cannellinis star alongside tomatoes and wilted spinach
Nikon D50

For me, this recipe answers all those questions, plus a few more nagging ones about lean proteins and just how, exactly, one can get all the benefits of spinach without smothering it in salad dressing. It also answers the call when it hears the stomach thinking “Oh my god I am so hungry but I don’t wanna cook anything involved and I don’t want any meat today” but the tastebuds are all like “Dude, don’t forget about us!”

This recipe seriously comes together in a matter of minutes, tastes and feels like genuine comfort food, but packs in a lot of nutrition when you’re looking the other way. Serve it alongside some whole-grain pasta tossed with a fruity olive oil and couple of tomatoes you didn’t use in this dish, some brown rice, or a whole-grain bread, and you’ve got a complete lean protein and a satisfying well-balanced meal.

Cannellinis star alongside tomatoes and wilted spinach
Nikon D50

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Oct 262008
 

You may be sad because summer has come to an end, taking with it delightful foods like nectarines, plums, berries, and locally grown vegetables like greens, cauliflower, chard, beets, and carrots.

But don’t fret! Fall has its place in a foodie’s heart because it brings delights like root vegetables, butternut squash, pumpkins, an untold number of apple varieties, Bartlett pears, and pomegranates.

I recently celebrated fall by having a harvest dinner (suggested by my most wise and venerable husband). On the menu was a roasted pear salad with candied walnuts, blue cheese, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette, cabernet-glazed shallots, butternut squash risotto with wilted spinach and toasted pine nuts, sauteed pork tenderloin with an apple-sage sauce, and stuffed baked Jonagold apples with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. I love this menu — it’s so autumn-y with its warm, subtle flavors and unifying themes. Sage and apple are present in many of the dishes but are different and subtle enough to not get old or tiring. And as my guests pointed out last night, there’s plenty of booze in every dish! So dig in and get to love autumn as much as I do, and share it with some good friends too.

Savory, delicious flavors star in this sumptuous autumn feast
Nikon D50

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May 142008
 

I love orzo. It’s such a hybrid – it looks like it wants to be rice, but it’s got the taste and texture of pasta, and because of its small shape it’s perfect in side dishes and salads. This dish that I’m about to share with you is my favorite orzo dish. There’s really nothing not to love about it – it has lots of highly flavored elements that manage to not compete with each other, a couple of highly nutritious veggies, and a wonderfully textured sauce that tastes rich and creamy without actually being either of those things.

Fresh cherry tomatoes star in this dish
Nikon D50

This recipe also has the bonus factor of minimal stove use, which is key in the summer. You use a stove but it’s much more about mixing things together at the end than it is about simmering for hours. I love taking this dish to dinner parties because people tend to expect a typical pasta salad dish – made with mayonnaise and flat-tasting – until they actually try it and realize how much complex and fresh tasting it is than what they were expecting. So give it a try and let it change your ideas of a pasta salad.

Perfect on a summer day!
Nikon D50

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Jul 062007
 

Green beans with red pepper and garlic

Around this time of year I’m always looking for delicious, light food that really takes advantage of the season’s freshest produce. If it happens to pair with the fresh bounty from the sea that Alaska has to offer, all the better.

Right after I got back from my honeymoon I realized that halibut was in season and that was, of course, a perfect reason to have people over. Halibut needs little accompaniment on its flesh — but that’s another post. The tough question was what to serve beside it. Really, just about anything could go next to, but I needed something bright in color, texture, and flavor. Then I remembered green beans with red pepper, lightly sauteed and adorned with garlic.

Green beans with red pepper and garlic

It was perfect — this light, flavorful, and wonderfully textured vegetable side dish just screams “SUMMER!” to me.

This is also a great dish to serve while entertaining. It comes together in mere minutes and is visually pleasing, thanks to the red and green. I’ve also found a couple of key substitutions that help adapt this recipe to different palates — if you want something with a bit of spice to complement the garlic, use the red pepper flakes. If you want to add a different kind of crunch that brings some white to the presentation, use sliced almonds instead. You could also substitute other vegetables in, or just add them. It’s a great, versatile, healthy dish that often finds its way to my table.

Green beans with red pepper and garlic

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Jul 032007
 
Roasted rosemary potatoes with green beans

Roasted rosemary potatoes with green beans

Growing up, one of my family’s favorite accompaniments to meat dishes was steamed red potatoes and green beans. For some reason, the flavors go together quite well, especially when paired with a meat dish. I brought this idea along with me when I moved out, but as I learned more about cooking I couldn’t help but modify it.

My experimentation all started with a recipe I found for a Salade Niçoise. It called for roasted potatoes, green beans (good so far) but then added in all this other stuff like chopped kalamatas, onions, anchovies, capers, and lemon and was served along unadorned flavorless grilled tuna steaks. Something had gone terribly wrong. I like a lot of those things, but the combination was simply too much. This recipe was trying way too hard. Instead of being warm, inviting, savory, simple, and satisfying, it was bitter, salty, and, well, gross.

Nevertheless, it did introduce me to roasting, and I knew that I was on to something good here. Knowing that the basic premise of red potatoes and green beans was pure and solid, I made it several more times over the coming months, but omitted the offending ingredients and added an aromatic or two.

Of course, the potatoes are heavenly on their own without the green beans. Last Christmas, my mother-in-law was roasting those red potatoes I love so well, and was of course adding in the requisite rosemary. This caused her father to protest loudly “Don’t add so much rosemary! You’ll ruin the flavor!” I couldn’t help but laugh at this well-meaning but misguided advice, given that the potatoes have practically no flavor on their own. Potatoes and rosemary go together like tomatoes and basil: a match made in heaven. What would be the point of roasting them without it?

Roasted rosemary potatoes with green beans

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Jun 262007
 

Growing up, while probably no different than most other American households, I was familiar with startlingly few grains. I knew of wheat, oats, rice, and…. that’s about it. Since I’ve struck out of my parents’ house and have had a kitchen — and some cookbooks! — to call my own, I’ve been making a conscious effort to branch out.

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks. It’s odd that it’s one of my favorites, give that I’m usually somewhat dissatisfied with the way the recipes turn out. Luckily, the recipes are usually a good 70% solution and I find it very easy to take their recipes and solve dissatisfaction with a few simple — and still healthy — substitutions. The original recipe for this dish called for (perfectly revolting) mushrooms but still lacked a thing or two in terms of taste and color. So I varied the cooking method a little bit, added in some much-needed flavor, and here is the result!

Quinoa pilaf with arugula

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