Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bruce's Veggie Stir-fry

Finished Stir-fry Plated
Bruce's Latest Stir-fry

Recipe by Bruce

My husband Bruce is the king of stir-frying, though he's quite modest if you ask him about it. Using a frighteningly high heat and an intimidatingly large wok, he cooks vegetables to perfection for any occasion. This most recent stir-fry was designed, as usual, to use up large quantities of veggies received from our CSA farm share. Because we were having Crispy Tilapia with Lemon-Onion Relish, he chose to use more cider vinegar than usual, to stand up to the strong taste of the relish. Stir-frying must be done quickly, so vegetables remain crisp rather than turning soggy. To execute this properly, one must be completely prepared before cooking.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Indispensible Kitchen Gadgetry

My Essentials!
You’re in Hawaii for two weeks and have just checked into the condo, or maybe you’re house-sitting at your friend’s country home while she’s in Hawaii. Along the way you were lucky enough (or prepared enough) to find a farmers market and pick up some local veggies to prepare along with fish/meat/rice/pasta/other staple that your friend/husband/kids are picking up at the local store. You’re preparing to cook, but oh no! How could the kitchen be missing a (fill in the blank)? But luckily there’s a (fill in the blank), which you’ve been wanting to have but haven’t been able to buy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cooking Disasters

Cheesy Leek Bake: Even a Bad Recipe can Look Good

Recipe FAIL!

The downside of the creative process, whether it’s in cooking or anything else, is that we don’t always get it right the first time. Sometimes it doesn’t taste quite right—the spicing, texture, or combinations of flavors are off—these are opportunities for improvement next time. Sometimes it’s a colossal failure. These recipes might never be saved.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Quick Asia-Inspired Salad

Asian Salad Plated
Quick, Easy, Healthful Salad

Recipe by Robin

During the process of cleaning out my deceased father's house, preparing simple and healthful recipes is best practice. I invented this recipe during another busy and stressful time when we had few fresh vegetables. Keeping some water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, mandarin oranges, canned pineapple, canned tomatoes, and sesame seeds on hand expands your food possibilities when time is short. And we love the light Newman's Own Lighten Up salad dressings: the taste, the low calories, and Newman's business practice of donating 100% of royalties and after-tax profits to charity. You may cut this recipe in half, and use the extra half-can of water chestnuts in a stir-fry with other veggies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Environmentally Friendly Kitchen Tips

Earth Image Courtesy of NASA
I am taking a break from menu planning and formal cooking (but not from blogging) for a couple of weeks as I work on cleaning out my recently deceased father’s house. Although my Dad didn’t know much about environmentalism, and likely would have considered it a subversive leftist plot, he was quite an organic gardener. He spent much of his youth living on a farm. As his engineering career soared, we moved from the country to the suburbs, where only a small area could be planted. Still he cultivated tomatoes, lettuce, trees, and flowers, and my Mom shopped for produce at the local farm.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pasta with Onion-Garlic Red Sauce and Veggie Crumbles

Finished Red and Green Pasta Dish
Green Onions and Garlic Make Festive Pasta

Recipe by Robin

In our quest for tasty meat substitutes, my husband bought some MorningStar Farms Meal Starter Recipe Crumbles. We thought we’d experiment with this ground meat substitute in our vegetarian pasta sauce. The texture and taste were excellent. Main “crumble” ingredient is textured vegetable protein (TVP), a combination of soy protein and wheat gluten. Minor ingredients include egg whites and skim milk (plus plenty of spices), so this is not a vegan option.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Marge's Coleslaw

Closeup of Coleslaw with Black Pepper on Top
Much Like Mom Used to Make

Recipe by Robin, inspired by Mom

In the early days of blenders, my mother filled her “Osterizer Container” with cabbage, carrots, and onions suspended in water. She pulsed each veggie into shreds, drained off the water, then mixed them all with mayonnaise, cider vinegar, salt, and pepper to make coleslaw. I did this a few times too, till I noticed that the green and orange water looked too nutrient-rich to waste. And so it was back to chopping and shredding, which I like because it’s quieter, and more eco-friendly.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rolled Sole with Oyster Mushrooms

Recipe from The Chinese Herbal Cookbook

Another recipe from the wonderful Chinese Herbal Cookbook, published in England, which combines Chinese herbs with European recipes. One odd thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t give a weight for the fish. Lemon sole fillets are native to Northern Europe, so are not a good choice for Californian locavores. Luckily this recipe is surprisingly versatile: summer flounder (on US east coast), black cod (sablefish), and tilapia (west coast) are all good substitutes that are sustainably harvested--although the name “Rolled Tilapia” sounds considerably less poetic than “Rolled Sole.”  The trick is to get uniformly sized fillets, so they all cook evenly. I used rather large (~1/2 lb. each) tilapia, and would not go larger. You’ll notice it takes several toothpicks, but I’ve found that to be true with fillets of all sizes. Functional but not elegant, you can remove the ‘picks before serving. I also had 10 oz. mushrooms on hand, which helped fill the large fillets.

Week 6 Menu Plan

Gigantic Strawberry Covers Palm of Hand
Infinitely Dippable Strawberry

Featuring cauliflower, oyster mushrooms, sugar snap peas & more strawberries

I wish I had time and an occasion to make chocolate-dipped strawberries this week. The huge, ripe, and flavorful strawberries in the CSA share this week cry out for it. Perhaps I will melt a few chocolate bits and dip one or two for fun. Thank you Live Earth Farm!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Week 6 Veggie List & Ideas

Frying Pan with Onions and Garlic, and Olive Oil Bottle
Another Round of Pasta a l'Olio Likely This Week!
Week 6 of our CSA farm share and we’re getting more spring onions and green garlic, no surprise at this time of year. Sounds like another week for Pasta a l’Olio, possibly adding the oyster mushrooms we’re getting. A few sundried tomatoes would be another tasty addition.

More fava beans, broccolini, sugar snap peas and watercress.  Does anyone have a new idea for watercress? I only have one watercress recipe, and the watercress is more of an accompaniment than an ingredient. Any watercress recipes out there?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Braised Whole Fava Beans with Lemon

Fresh Young Fava Beans and Lemon

Recipe by (Bon Appetit)? and Robin

First of the season’s fava beans this week. Young favas can be eaten pod and all, if the beans are small. Even if the beans inside are big enough to eat on their own, as long as the pods are still green and smooth and “give” when you squeeze them, it’s still fine to eat the pods, if you like. When the pods are big and yellow, and/or tough, you will want to shell them and find another way to eat them. But in the meantime, enjoy this recipe.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sweet & Sour Herbed Carrots & Cabbage

Carrots and Cabbage Plated
Sweet & Sour Carrots & Cabbage

Recipe by Robin

We’ve heard that necessity is the mother of invention, and this is especially true for chefs who cook with seasonal ingredients. I invented this recipe one winter with leftover purple cabbage and carrots, and used it again for our veggies this week. I like the way the purple cabbage intensifies the color of orange carrots, but you could substitute red or yellow carrots or green cabbage. The purple cabbage makes this a prettier dish than green cabbage, though.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Week 5, Menu Plan

Giant Bunch of Chard is Bigger than Basket
Another Huge Bunch of Live Earth Farm Chard

Featuring fava beans, sugar snap peas, cabbages & strawberries

I’m feeling rather under the weather today, so my menus will be simple this week. I’m sautéing the mushrooms tonight rather than saving them for the stuffed sole dish, because mushrooms boost the immune system and I need that asap. The fava beans look pretty big for this time of year, maybe too big to use as planned. Bruce is the chef for the Chinese Chicken Salad. It looks like an experimental and loosely planned week ahead.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pasta a l’Olio with Spring Onions and Green Garlic

Plate of  Pasta a l'Olio with Multicolor Onions and Garlic
Simple Ingredients Make Colorful Springtime Pasta

Recipe Adapted by Robin

Back in my college days, I loved anything flavorful that could be made cheaply with few ingredients in little time, especially this recipe. In its original form, taught to my friend Joan by some guy named Sandy (who still owes her $20), the onions and garlic were fried until black and crispy, then tossed with pasta. I didn’t see the point of essentially burning the vegetables, so sautéed my onions and garlic to light golden. Simple, cheap, and filling, I fed many a friend on pasta a l'olio using just yellow onions, dry garlic, oil, and pasta.  Lots of spring onions, young leeks, and green garlic in our April CSA shares reminded me of this recipe. It’s even better with fresh spring produce--and real olive oil.

Week 5, Veggie List & Ideas

Twin Golden Carrot
Week 5 of our CSA farm share already! First of the fava beans! I have a delicious recipe for them featuring Meyer lemons, which we’re also receiving. Never mind that I just bought 6 lemons last night because I thought it was the end of the season last week. Perhaps a lemon cake or bread is in order.

After our huge onion fest last night, I am rather relieved to see that the only onions on tap for this week are bunching onions. We still have some of the dry yellow ones. We do need to start using some carrots leftover from the past couple of weeks.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chicken with Black Beans and Red and Black Dates

Chinese Black Dates with Garlic & Ginger

Recipe from The Chinese Herbal Cookbook

In search of a recipe for the large bunch of watercress, I remembered this stew recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks [read my book review on]. The Chinese Herbal Cookbook combines Chinese herb ingredients with European cookery. When used as an accompaniment to this stew, the watercress takes on an amazingly mild character. The stew itself is dark and smoky, and slightly sweet, and as such is actually a more appropriate dish for fall or winter than spring.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Creamy Lemon Pie

Uncooked Lemon Pie from Above
Pie before baking

Recipe from Weight Watchers

Happy Beltane (mid-spring)! Hope you enjoyed your holiday today. I finally made the Weight Watchers Lemon Pie, but as usual made some alterations. The crust did not press into the pan easily, so I added another tablespoon of butter to the graham crackers (it would have tasted fine without). A hint for pressing crust into pan evenly: pat in with fingers, then use the back side of a teaspoon to press more firmly and evenly. To make the crust top edge even, hold your fingers on top edge of the pie pan as you push crust up against the sides of the pie pan with the spoon back. Crust does take a bit of finessing. The filling is simple to make, though.