Not Yet the Size of a Grapefruit

Another lull, I know. To be honest, I haven’t been in the habit of cooking meals lately. It doesn’t feel right, and I want to get back to it. Otherwise, I will continue to spend too much money on food, and my husband will eat too many bowls of cereal for dinner.

In my personal life, a question I have been getting from people frequently is whether I have any cravings. (Why have people been asking me this? Well, what is the most common reason for that question? 🙂 ) I haven’t noticed any strange or strong desires for food. Something [healthy] that I have found even more delicious than before is grapefruit. I usually buy one or two at a time, and most recently I bought an entire bag.

My affliction has been slight aversions but mostly indifference toward normal entrée eating. And, unfortunately, most cooking and prep. As a result, I haven’t been grocery shopping properly or planning for recipes, as mentioned before. Crackers, bread, and chips need regular replenishment instead. I purchased fennel the other week, a rare whole food purchase, and unlike me, completely forgot about it. Fortunately it is something that can be combined with the abundant grapefruit!

A Friday night at home is the perfect time to muster up some motivation. Nevermind that I met a friend to eat dessert BEFORE I got around to this.

A large bulb of fennel yielded enough for a second salad, which I made the next afternoon. (In retrospect, since these two recipes had similar flavor profiles, I wish instead I had thawed some chicken and made my chicken thighs with caramelized fennel recipe). The two salad recipes are below.
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Fennel and Red Grapefruit Salad
Developed with inspiration from Fine Cooking, Martha Stewart, and Giada de Laurentiis on Food Network

1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 red grapefruit
About 1/4 of a red onion,
thinly sliced
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp of honey
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a little white wine vinegar
, to taste
salt and black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
Parmesan cheese, to taste

Using a sharp paring knife, slice away peel, pith, and outer membranes from the grapefruit.
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Holding the peeled grapefruit over a bowl (or in this case a measuring cup), slice each side of each segment with the paring knife. You may want to use a colander or sieve to catch the segments – place them aside as you slice. Squeeze what is left of the grapefruit and membrane over the bowl to capture as much juice as possible.
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Take out the dreaded mandoline, or a sharp chef’s knife, to thinly slice your red onion and fennel. (At this point I continued slicing fennel and red onion for my next recipe).

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Measure 3 Tablespoons of the saved grapefruit juice and add to a blender or food processor. Add the red onions to the remaining juice.

To the food processor with the grapefruit juice, add the oil and salt and pepper to taste.
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In a bowl, combine the fennel, red onion, and grapefruit. Pour in dressing, add chopped walnuts, and toss until everything is combined.

Garnish with fennel fronds and shaved Parmesan cheese. Chow down!
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Grain Salad with Fennel and Pecans (and Herbs, if you have them)
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 Cup of red rice, brown rice, or barley (in this example)
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
2/3 Cup pecans
about 1/4 Cup olive oil
Would be better with 1/2 Cup cilantro, chopped (as in original recipe)

Cook the grain according to package instructions. Spread out to cool on a baking sheet.
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Get your fennel and onion sliced up nice and thin, and toss together in a bowl with 2 Tablespoons of lime juice. Allow to sit and absorb for about 15 minutes.

Chop the pecans.
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Cook in about 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan until golden brown.
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To the fennel mixture, add the grains and pecans and an additional tablespoon of lime juice. Toss. Add cilantro if using along with salt and pepper for seasoning. Drizzle with olive oil, and use flavored oil, if desired — I had some oregano oil that I added in order to punch of the flavor, since I lacked a fresh herb.

Eat immediately, or chill until lunch the next day. Bring to room temperature before enjoying.
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Everything Beer Cheese Bread and Beer Poached Shrimp with Fennel

I’m not always great with decisions. Ceramic, porcelain or stone tile for the bathroom floor? Buy the 2 year or 5 year extended warranty? What color fireplace stone and curtains will match our current living room? Should I get a green or a blue sweater; which do I have more of in my closet? Should I spend the next 45 minutes of free time cleaning the kitchen floor or filing the office receipts?

You can imagine that restaurant ordering presents a challenge for me. The worst (or best) example of a paralyzing menu is from Shopsin’s, known for a menu like none other. Ooh boy, I feel a twinge of anxiety coming. Can’t I have an extra stomach, available to access on the special occasions when I know I’ll never again get the chance to taste this particular preparation of food? I like to believe that my difficulties stem from some kind of advanced analytical ability, i.e. my brain is processing the complexities of the situation and considering all angles before reaching the best conclusion (not likely). The problem is, most of the time the choice is no big deal! Take my cooking choices: these are by no means life or death. Yet there are times I wish someone else would tell me, outright, exactly what to do with ingredient X, Y, Z.

That’s how I was feeling last week when I put a query out on Facebook, asking what to do with the leftover beer cans in our fridge.
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I explained that I had no intention of drinking the beer plain, now six months past its purchase date (as if I ever choose to drink it “fresh”). I expected to catch a little more flack, since it sounds a bit snobbish. Indeed, I came home last Friday to find that my father, who was visiting for the weekend, had cracked one open to sample. My dad is no elitist. Born on a farm during the Great Depression, I can always count on him to check food for spoilage–allowing great leeway, of course. He consumes leftovers with a gusto. In other words, he’s great to have around.

People were quick to respond to my poll. Beer batter, fondue, brats, soup, and “target practice” were among the answers. The most popular idea, by far, was beer can chicken. Beer chicken wasn’t something I was tempted to make at the time, but the idea of using beer to cook shellfish was spot-on. Also, the runner-up response, beer bread, caught my eye. I knew adding cheese was an option. In fact, I could really add anything to the bread that pairs well with beer, which meant tapping into the CSA vegetable share. An oniony, starchy, gooey, boozy concoction was on its way.

In case you’re counting, six cans remained after my Dad’s refreshment. Two cans went into dinner on Saturday night, for Beer Cheese Bread with Everything Bagel Topping and Warm Beer Poached Shrimp and Fennel Salad. Two recipes for the price of one in this week’s post!

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Beer Poached Shrimp and Fennel Salad
From Bryan Miller in The New York Times

Vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon fresh dill or fennel fronds, chopped
1½ teaspoons mustard, preferably spicy
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper
, to taste

Poached Shrimp:
12 ounces of light beer
2 cloves garlic
, peeled and smashed
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1 pound shrimp, peeled
Salt and pepper, to taste

Fennel, etc.:
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 fennel bulbs
, cored, sliced thin and cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
Additional dill or fennel fronds for garnish

Prepare vinaigrette. You will need to adjust seasoning according to your mustard. I used a combination of Dijon and coarse stone-ground mustard, enhanced with a touch of pepper. Fennel fronds made up a good portion of the herbs for my vinaigrette. I should have had plenty of dill, since I planted it in my garden this spring, but it went mostly to seed before I got the chance to use it!
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In a deep saucepan (with lid reserved), pour beer and add garlic, dill sprigs/fennel fronds, and some salt and pepper. At medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil before lowering the heat and allowing it to simmer for ten minutes.
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Meanwhile, take a separate skillet/saute pan and heat the olive over medium heat. Stir in your bite-sized fennel pieces and cook until they are starting to soften. Remove from stove. You can place the fennel on the serving plate, but keep warm.
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In the saucepan with the beer, drop the shrimp. Turn heat up, cover with lid and cook for about a minute. Turn off heat and remove lid.
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Use a slotted spoon to remove and drain the shrimp. Arrange shrimp over the fennel. Pour vinaigrette over the salad and add more salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with fresh dill or fennel fronds.

The quantity shown here is a scaled down portion of the full recipe.

The quantity shown here is a scaled down portion of the full recipe.

 


 

As I mentioned earlier, the beer cheese bread recipe is highly adaptable. The recipe on myrecipes.com includes several suggestions. I used shallots and scallions because I had some, already pre-chopped from other recipes. The scallions got me thinking of my favorite bagel spread, scallion cream cheese, which got me thinking about bagels, which reminded me of the Everything Bagel Topping I purchased from good ol’ King Arthur Flour. Of course, you can replicate everything bagel topping with the requisite individual ingredients of onion, sesame, poppy seed, garlic and salt. I thought all of this would pair well with cheddar cheese, a type I always have on hand, in place of the Monterey Jack cheese specified in the original recipe. What a delicious brainstorm. I imagine being asked at a restaurant if I would like something from the beer, cheese, or bread section of the menu. Easy answer: “Yes, please.”
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Beer Cheese Bread with Everything Bagel Topping
Adapted from Cooking Light’s recipe on myrecipes.com

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 Cup shallot
, finely chopped
1/4 Cup scallions, sliced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove
, minced
13.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 Cups)
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 Cup (4 ounces) cheddar cheese
, shredded
12 ounces bottle light lager beer
Cooking spray
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
, melted
2-3 Tablespoons Everything Bagel topping

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Preheat oven to 375°.

In a small skillet set on medium-low, heat the olive oil. Add shallots and green onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to caramelize (about 7 minutes).
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Add pepper and garlic, stir to incorporate for 1 minute.

Measure flour and combine with sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir with a whisk.
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Make a well in the center of the dry mixture for adding the onion mixture, cheese, and beer. Stir to moisten the batter completely. Lumps are OK.

Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray. Pour batter in and drizzle 1 Tablespoon of melted butter. Sprinkle with the everything bagel topping.
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Bake at 375° for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. After about 30 minutes, you could drizzle additional butter on top.

Pay no attention to the beat-up oven mitts!

Pay no attention to the beat-up oven mitts!


Cool for a few minutes, and then turn loaf out of pan to cool completely. I took my bread out of the oven a little early, so it was still very moist in the center. This gave it a deliciously tender, cake-like quality. If you want it more toasty, leave it in longer.
It's hard to resist this bread, even under-done.

It’s hard to resist this bread, even under-done.


Try your best not to consume the whole loaf right away. As expected, it makes a wonderful breakfast. Haven’t you always wanted to have beer for breakfast? Breakfast of champions. Enjoy!

Orange and Green, Two Ways

I’m getting nervous that my food is starting to look the same.

I was going to make my next post about pasta with cauliflower pesto. I’m putting it off because I’m afraid it will remind you of a recent post, one that happens to use the same pasta and has many of the same textures. You’d rather have some visual variety, right?

As you know, with my mostly seasonal, vegetable-based, waste-minimizing cooking, I find myself looking for recipes that use up ingredients I have on hand, ideally many at once. Through this pursuit of efficiency, I have come to learn about certain important combinations. The sweetness of dried fruits counteracts bitter greens. Earthy vegetables take well to sugar. If a vegetable has a lot of sweetness, particularly after roasting, it will benefit from a touch of acid, from vinegar, or perhaps can be enhanced by the tang of a tomato from my garden. And orange and green make a solid couple.

Sure, I could learn these lessons through broad culinary study. But it is the personal experiences that make the facts “stick.”

I prepared the below two recipes a few weeks apart, realizing their connection only afterwards. The broccoli bowl recipe is from a Smitten Kitchen blog post, and the kale dressed with roasted vegetables and tahini through a random search. Both authors suggest that sweet potato could be replaced with butternut squash, which is also in season. I’m sure the kale and broccoli could be interchanged. Whatever items you choose to pair, they will look together.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Chickpea Over Kale
From The Vegan Cookbook Aficionado adapted from Orangette

15-ounce can chickpeas (about 1 ½ cups, you can also attempt soaking and cooking from dried beans like me), drained and rinsed
2 lbs (about 3-4 medium) sweet potatoes cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
1 large garlic clove, smashed
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
4 Cups kale, washed, stems removed and roughly chopped
1/4 of a medium red onion, finely chopped
1/4 Cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Sauce:
1 garlic clove
, finely minced with a pinch of salt
3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 Tablespoons tahini
(be sure to stir well)
3-5 Tablespoons water
up to 1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 teaspoons maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Dry chickpeas slightly by blotting with a paper towel in a large bowl. Add cut sweet potato, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, cayenne, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss until the sweet potato and chickpeas are evenly coated. Spread on a baking sheet, and bake for 15 to 25 minutes, mixing from time to time until the sweet potato has softened.

While the sweet potato is baking, combine the kale, onion and cilantro in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
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Make the tahini sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and lemon juice. Add the tahini, and whisk to blend.
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Add the water and olive oil, whisk well, and taste for seasoning. The sauce should have plenty of nutty tahini flavor, but also a little kick of lemon.

Transfer roasted chickpea-sweet potato mixture to the mixing bowl with the kale. Let the mixture rest for a minute while the heat wilts the kale, and then toss gently to combine.
DSC_6226Add tahini sauce to taste, and toss carefully. If you are not serving the full recipe at once, you may want to keep the tahini sauce on the side.
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Miso Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Grain and vegetable bowl:
1 cup dried rice* or another grain
1 to 2 large sweet potatoes (about 1.5 pounds)
1 large bundle broccoli (about 1 pound)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoon sesame seeds, ideally a mix of black and white

Dressing:
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 Tablespoons miso**
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 Tablespoon honey
1/4 Cup rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 Tablespoons olive oil


Adaptation notes:
*The heartier the grain, the better, in my opinion. I used the deliciously nutty Trader Joe’s brown rice medley, the one used in the hummus fritters recipe.

**The original recipe (like so many I keep finding) suggested white miso, but I only had the red kind on hand, so I used that, dang it. Incidentally, when I first bought the red miso it was for a broccoli recipe. Since then, I have learned that the general rule for miso is “the lighter the color, the more mild the flavor.” Well, go bold or go home, I say.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
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While you prep, cook rice or grain according to package directions. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Cut broccoli into bite-sized florets.

Coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Layer sweet potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, until browning underneath. Flip and toss chunks around, then add broccoli.
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Season again with salt and pepper, and roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, until broccoli is lightly charred at edges and sweet potato is soft. Check periodically to see if you need to toss the vegetables more for even cooking.

Toast sesame seeds until fragrant, either on a stovetop skillet or in the oven (being careful not to burn).

Black sesame seeds would have made this much prettier!

Black sesame seeds would have made this much prettier!


While vegetables roast, prepare dressing: Combine everything in a blender and run until smooth, scraping down sides once.
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Taste and adjust seasonings. Deb suggests that the dressing should taste more salty than sweet for this dish.

Scoop some rice into bowls and top with the roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli. Coat with a little dressing and finish with toasted sesame seeds.
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Set extra dressing on the side to add as needed.
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And so it begins

This past week, I picked my first of 26 weekly shares of vegetables from Golden Earthworm Organic Farm.

I started this writing in this blog, in earnest, after my CSA farm share season had ended last year. But this regular supply of truly fresh, unique, and beautiful produce is a major source of inspiration for “Make Haste Not Waste.” Each week, I feel compelled to take advantage of every vegetable.

I knew that the beginning of the season meant that I would be faced with at least one thing I wasn’t excited about: radishes.

It’s not that I hate radishes — there are very few foods I truly hate — but they don’t do much for me. They are more likely to elicit “ehhhhhh” than “mmmmm.”

In advance, I started collecting every recipe I can across that used radishes in an interesting way: I have recipes for radish butter, chicken, arugula, and radish pizza, and sesame cucumber and radishes. My hunch was correct: radishes were included in this first share.

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The first time around, I went with a salad recipe that would utilize lettuce greens that were also included in the share and which have a shorter shelf life.

Radish Salad with Goat Cheese
adapted from Cooking Light, April 2013
2 servings

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1.5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 – 1 teaspoon honey
– I like my salad dressing a little sweet, especially when dealing with the slightly spicy/bitter flavor of radish
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 cup radishes, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch wedges, leaving on root and 1/2 inches of stem
1.5 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
2 cups mixed lettuce greens, or baby spinach
4 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground, or to taste

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well.
Add radishes and oregano; toss to coat.

Divide lettuce between 2 plates. Using a slotted spoon, top each plate with 1/2 cup radishes. Sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons cheese and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle remaining dressing evenly over salads.

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You know what? I was fine with the radishes in this dish. The assertive flavors of oregano and vinegar stood out more. In fact, I think my reaction to eating this salad might have been closer to “mmmm” than “ehhh.”

Still, I’ll probably be keeping my eye out for a recipe that hides radishes in a cake 🙂