cherry upside-down cake

I recently came across a bowlful of cherries languishing in the fridge — a little too soft for eating plain, but too firm and fresh to throw out. What to do, what to do?

Here’s what to do: cherry upside-down cake. Continue reading

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huevos con whatnot

It’s time to document an embarrassingly simple dish. I I threw this together in desperation some months ago, and it’s become a staple dish ’round these parts. It’s not remotely authentic, it’s so easy that it barely qualifies as cooking, and it’s not even got a proper name. I’ve taken to calling it “huevos,” purely to distinguish it from the simpler egg dishes we eat daily.

Uh, except that lately, “huevos” is what we eat daily. It’s a great hearty breakfast, a fine simple dinner, or an easy lunch. We always have the few ingredients on hand, and even if we didn’t, we could pick them up in any corner market. I like it with warmed tortillas (corn or flour) on the side, or arepas, or a handful of corn chips, or a piece of toast. Garnish it with a scant palmful of grated cheese, a spoonful of diced tomatoes, a scallion quickly cut up with kitchen scissors, or nothing at all.

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sandwich party: pantry roulette

When our town was hit by a snowstorm and subsequent parking ban early this week, The Fella and I cheerily decided to stow the car somewhere safe and not go out anymore. Instead, we huddled down in our cozy apartment, watching movies and playing Trivial Pursuit.

Among the places we did not go: the grocery store.

Accordingly, I discarded my plan to browse delicacies and craft some luxurious entry for the sandwich party. Instead, I find myself playing one of my favorite games: pantry roulette.

I regularly play this game when I’m staying with friends, and especially when visiting my mother: I offer to make dinner out of whatever ingredients they have on hand. The barer the cupboard, the greater the challenge. I rarely get to play it in my own (usually well-stocked) larder, but by the end of this week, our supplies were running pretty low, and the challenge felt almost daunting.

Digging through the cabinets for any scrids and scrads of goodies hanging around the dark recesses of the pantry, I found a jar holding a fistful of old, scabby-looking sun-dried tomatoes. That sparked the idea:

sandwichpartywithnapkin.jpgopen-faced sandwich of sun-dried tomato neufchatel with apple, onion-garlic jam, and shaved parmesan.

As the idea bloomed, I thought I could imagine the taste with some clarity. Boy, was I wrong. It is better than I thought, and though each component loses some individuality, they meld together surprisingly well. It’s sweet and tart, silky and creamy, warm and cold, and altogether surprising. ‘

On the side (and everywhere else) you see oven-baked russet potato chips (crisps). The instant I saw the Utz chips (crisps) accompanying Jagosaurus’ tuna sandwich, I knew I needed chips, but after a brief internal struggle, I simply could not face the arduous task of first finding and then donning shoes and a brassiere* so I could walk two blocks to the nearest store to buy chips.

Incidentally, that telling detail illustrates the peculiar brand of laziness that shaped this whole exercise: note that I’m too lazy to dress and walk two blocks, preferring to spend forty minutes making oven-baked potato chips.
*And other requisite garments, but it was the shoes and brassiere that proved onerous.

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squash pizza

Stay with me, now.

Last night’s dinner was a quick assortment of pizzas, where quick = too lazy to make dough. Though I bought a ball of whole wheat dough made by a local pizza joint, The Fella had the brilliant idea of using the last of the yeasted olive oil dough from his galettes.

Frugal soul that I am, I also used the leftover filling. I flattened out the galette dough, smoothed on a layer of spicy tomato sauce and olive oil, then mozzarella and parmesan, spooned on glops of cinnamon-scented roasted squash pureed with caramelized garlic, scattered caramelized onions over that, covered the whole thing with more cheese, and plopped it on the baking stone.

We also had our standard: Kalamata olive and sauteed mushrooms with garlic on whole wheat dough, with plenty of rosemary.

No contest. The galette dough (several days old at this point) outranked any pizza dough I’ve seen, and the creamy sweetness of the squash mixes perfectly with the tangy onion and the zing of the sauce. It all disappeared far too fast for our liking, and certainly too fast to snap a photo.

Until last night, the official policy on both the dough and the filling for those galettes was make extra. Addendum to the official policy: for pizza!

herbs, onions, tomatoes, and comfort

It’s been raining and dreary here for days, and will be raining and dreary for many more days. I count myself lucky, though; friends just an hour to the south are being rained out of their businesses and homes.

I’m also lucky that my momma taught me to cook whatever is on hand in the pantry, without going out in the driving rain to pick up groceries. That’s exactly what I did last night at her house; we had a comforting but tempting dinner cobbled together from whatever I found on the pantry shelves. Most of the recipes were experiments, and they turned out so well that I wanted to document them here, for future rainy nights*.

soup: cream of tomato with golden sherry
tartines: sun-dried tomato, sautéed mushrooms, black olives, herbed neufchatel, and parmesan on onion herb bread
oven-fries: potatoes and sweet potatoes
salad: mixed greens with chile-spiced almond slivers and balsamic vinaigrette

* The next of these future rainy nights was sooner than you think: D and I had the soup, sandwiches, and sweet potato fries for dinner the very next night. I had my camera (thanks, Elli!) along, and just plain forgot to take photos. Infuriating.

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Is My Blog Burning? 11: Thai peanut and black bean soup

When I saw that Cathy at My Little Kitchen had chosen beans (or, more specifically, legumes) as the featured ingredient for this round of Is My Blog Burning?, I was flooded with ideas. Hummus? Black bean quesadillas? Dal? Roasted chickpeas? Panzanella? As a near-vegetarian and a poor student, I rely on beans as a cheap, delicious protein source, so I make all of these dishes regularly. I have also been planning to create my own recipe for casado, the dish of black beans and rice (with assorted sides) that I was served every day of my recent trip to Costa Rica.

Then, just a few days ago, I treated myself to a cheap lunch at a local sandwich joint, and skeptically ordered something called spicy Thai peanut and black bean chili. It was rich and zingy, wholesome and surprising. I decided to recreate it as closely as possible for IMBB?

I started by examining recipes for groundnut stew and West African peanut soup in Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant, but the final product has only a few elements in common with Moosewoos recipes. You will see that this recipe is highly improvisational, with amounts listed very approximately. I tossed this dish together from ingredients on hand, taking mental notes as I went.

I admit to being startled at the resemblance of the finished dish to that yummy, exotic, but comforting chili I was served earlier in the week. And with two legumes, this soup is doubly qualified for this edition of IMBB! Thanks, Cathy, for spurring me to give this a try!

Thai peanut and black bean soup

2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 large white potato, diced (I used Yukon Gold)
1 sweet potato, diced (I used leftover roasted slices of sweet potato,
chopped and added with the soup stock))
1 medium carrot, sliced (I used a handful of baby carrots, sliced)
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small red chile, seeded and chopped fine *
2 teaspoons Massaman curry paste
4 cups mild vegetable stock
1 tablespoon vodka
3/4 cup natural (or old-fashioned) peanut butter
3 cups cooked black beans
cilantro
chopped scallions
vegetable oil
salt
water as necessary

* I don’t know the variety of chile I keep on hand, but they are the long, slim, ferocious kind that are sometimes served in Kung Pao dishes. They are known in my family as “the little red pods of death.” Dried chiles would work well, too, I suppose.

Heat a large pot over medium heat; add 1 – 2 teaspoons oil. Add onions, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, and sweat until just translucent. Add potatoes (white and sweet) and carrots; cook until a golden fond develops on the bottom of your pot. Add ginger, garlic, and chile. Saute until fragrant, 2 -3 minutes, deglaze with vodka. Cook off the alcohol for a minute or two, and add vegetable stock, scraping pan to loosen fond.

Turn down heat to low; cook until potatoes soften. Stir in peanut butter. You may like to thin it first with a small amount of water or stock, which reduces clumping, but I hate to dirty an extra dish and prefer to stir like crazy, so I plunk the peanut butter right into the pot. Add black beans. Taste for seasoning: you may prefer more salt, or some hot sauce. If the soup is thick and lumpy, thin down with water.

Serve hot, topping each dish with cilantro and scallion. These additions are not garnishes, but legitimate ingredients making enormous contributions to the flavor of the dish. Lime wedges to squeeze over the soup would be zingy and refreshing, too, although I did not have any.

The restaurant served this with fresh tortilla chips, which complemented the silky texture of the peanut broth and the chunkiness of the vegetables. Tonight, I ripped open a bag of Goya brand garlic cassava chips to serve on the side. Delicious!

Another time, I think I would add some diced green chiles and maybe some tomato paste to the last stage of the saute, for an extra burst of flavor.