Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pionnier des boulangeries bagel a Montreal

Montreal is apparently famous for their bagels.  There is said to be a rivalry between New York City and Montreal over whose bagels are better.  Since bagels are pretty delicious, I decided to check out one of the top bagel bakeries in Montreal: Fairmount Bagel.

Fairmount Bagel is located in the Mile End neighborhood, an area that unfortunately for me does not feature a Metro stop.  I took the Metro as close as possible and walked the rest of the way.  Normally, I do not mind walking, but the weather was windy and cold (28F).  I got a bit turned around leaving the Metro station, and my walk to Fairmount Bagel, which would not have been exactly short to begin with, ended up taking about a half hour.  When I rounded the corner and saw Fairmount Bagel and the associated line (see picture above), my first thought was 'forget bagels'.  I was way too cold to stand still in line, and I had no idea how fast the line would move.  

But I didn't give up so quickly.  I had come all that way out to Mile End, and I figured I may as well check out the neighborhood.  After walking around a bit and spending some time in shops warming up, I was ready to go back and brave the line.  I lucked out, and when I returned there was almost no line.  In no time, I had seen the tiny inside of the shop, briefly watched this guy roll bagels, and purchased a dozen and some cream cheese.

I pulled a sesame seed bagel out of the bag the instant I hit the street.  It was still warm from the oven.  How did it stack up against NY bagels, you ask?  The exterior of the bagel is very good.  I like the sweetness that comes from boiling them in honey water, and the wood fire baking results in a delicious crust.  The inside is light and chewy.  This may have merit for some people, but I like my bagels dense.  

When I got back to my hotel I sat down for a proper bagel with cream cheese.

It was pretty damn delicious.  Perhaps I could get used to a lighter, chewier interior?

Bon appetit.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

tartare de cerfs communs et frites

I love raw meat.  There you have it.  When I cook ground beef, you can be assured I will have at least a little pinch of the raw stuff before cooking it up for spaghetti sauce or forming it into patties for burgers.  So, steak tartare is one of the pleasures of my life.  I don't eat it much because it can be done so poorly.  The meat can be too sinewy, the restaurant can be too sketchy, or the waiter can use Ceasar salad fixings instead of steak tartare fixings (this happened at El Gaucho in Portland - a story for another time).  And it's not a common item on menus in Portland.

During my wanderings in Old Montreal on Saturday, I passed a few restaurants that served steak tartare.   It had been my plan to stay in the area for dinner that night, but the dark and cold set in around 5, and I couldn't find a way to while away enough time to stay for dinner.  I decided tonight would be a perfect night to venture away from the area around my hotel for dinner; I can't watch the Blazer game anywhere and there isn't any good TV on, so why not spend time walking and riding the Metro instead of wasting time in my hotel room?

I picked a restaurant in my Lonely Planet and headed there after work.  The Montreal Lonely Planet that I have was printed in 2004, so it's a little old.  I could not find the restaurant I was looking for on Rue Notre Dame Ouest, but I happened upon L'Assommoir, a place featuring numerous varieties of tartare on their menu outside the door.  I couldn't resist.

Upon entering, it was obvious this was a popular after work happy hour type place.  It was packed.  The hostess offered up any open seat, and as I walked down the long bar, I realized the only open seats were covered in coats and purses.  I found a solitary empty chair at the very end next to the place the waiters come pick up their drinks.   I didn't think my entree choice was up for much thought, but after seeing deer tartare on the menu, I was intrigued.  I called the bartender over, ordered a dirty gin martini and asked for his recommendation between the steak and deer tartare.  He gave a no-thought answer: deer tartare.  And so it was raw deer for me.

Apparently there was some issue in the kitchen, so my dinner was a bit delayed.  I was perfectly happy reading my book and drinking my martini, but apparently the bartender felt bad.  He brought me plantain chips and salsa on which to nibble while I waited.

I only got through two of these massive chips before my dinner arrived.

The pictures do not do this meal justice (though, I should be proud that I braved taking pictures at all - it is a bit humiliating using one's Blackberry with flash to take pictures of one's meal at a nice, crowded place).  The tartare was spectacular.  There is really no other way to describe it.  The meat was perfectly tender and not gamey like I expected out of deer.  It was mixed with toasted hazelnuts and nestled on a bed of parmesan shavings and, of course, topped with a quail egg.  It reminded me of Oregon.  Something about the combination of a game animal and hazelnuts.  

I broke the egg out of the shell before remembering to take the pic, unfortunately.

After the meal was finished and my place cleared, the bartender came over with three shots, called the other bartender over, and told me that I was going to do a shot with them so they could apologize for making me wait so long for my food.  Oh those Canadians and their hospitality.  What started as a bit of an awkward seat at the end of the bar ended in shots with the staff.

Bon appetit.

Monday, November 15, 2010

deux déjeuners à Montréal, parte deux

Gerard, my Iranian-quebecois cabbie, gave three restaurant suggestions while driving me from Elliott Trudeau to my hotel last Wednesday:  L'Entrecote St. Jean, Restaurant L'Express, and Schwartz's.  The first two are bistros, basically, and the last an 80 year old jewish deli specializing in smoked meat.  Not surprisingly, my mouth watered for Schwartz's.  I woke up late-ish on Sunday morning and decided that a walk around Parc Mount Royal before heading to Schwartz's for a late lunch was a good way to spend Sunday's daylight hours.

After getting lost on Mount Royal, which, by the way, is more of a hill than a mountain, and walking approximately 12 km, I was very hungry when I finally found Schwartz's.  To my dismay, despite it being 3 in the afternoon, there was quite a line.  Gerard had warned me of the ever present line, but I thought he meant there are always lines at regular mealtimes.  I waited for about 35 minutes before I lucked out with a single spot at the counter.  Sometimes, it's great to be alone.

The wait was totally worth it.  The smoked meat is tender and oh so flavorful, and the pickle ranks among the best pickles I have ever tasted.  I love pickles, and eat them a lot, so that is quite a statement coming from me.  (Quick side note:  Until I was about 13, pickles were just about the only "vegetable" I would eat.  Just solidifying my love of pickles for you readers. Quick side note #2:  Yes, the preceding makes me feel a bit like Snookie.)  I don't really know how to give more of an endorsement for Schwartz's.  It was very very very good.

Bon appetit.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

deux déjeuners à Montréal, parte une

I know.  After all my talk of turning over a new leaf and posting every day, I completely stopped posting for a long time.  Now I am in Montreal for 2 weeks, followed by Thanksgiving in California, so I won't be back to posting meals I cooked myself until December.  

But, Montreal has excellent food, and though I have not taken pictures of all the meals I have eaten here so far, I did manage to capture my lunches of this weekend. 

Saturday I spent the day wandering around Old Montreal.  According to a guy I work with, Old Montreal is the oldest settlement of non-Native Americans in North America.  I somehow do not think that is true, but the original mission dates to 1642, so that is pretty old. (A quick wikipedia search verifies that Montreal does not even come close to the oldest European settlement in North America.  Veracruz, Mexico was inhabited by Europeans in 1519.  For those of you who don't consider Mexico to be a part of North America - I have heard many Canadians include Mexico as part of South America which just makes no sense - San Juan, Puerto Rico was settled in 1521.  Further, Tadoussac, Quebec was settled in 1599.  So Montreal isn't even the oldest settlement in Quebec.)

I would call my wandering of Old Montreal "controlled wandering"; I did one of my Montreal Lonely Planet's walking tours.  I must say, I love Lonely Planet's walking tours.  I started at the Basilique Notre Dame on the Place d'Armes then walked along Rue St Jacque, what used to be the Wall Street of Canada.  Lots of old buildings.  Then more old buildings, and I started to get hungry.  I stopped in Cafe St. Paul which, embarrassingly, was part of the walking tour.  It is a cute old cafe, and when I saw poutine on the menu, I knew I had to have it.  

Poutine is the quintessential québécois fare.  It is french fries smothered in cheddar curds and gravy.  I already know I love the stuff, as I have often times eaten it at the Potato Champion cart on 11th and Hawthorne in Portland.  But I was really excited to have authentic Quebec poutine.  I was disappointed.  I think the gravy was the problem.  Potato Champion makes real gravy.  This stuff tasted like something out of a can.  My Lonely Planet lists the 5 best places to get poutine, and I will have to go to one of those places and see if they can top Potato Champion.

I am not a snobby eater, though, so I managed to put back the whole plate of poutine pictured below before continuing on my walking tour.

Here's a ridiculously simple poutine recipe that gives basically no more instruction than my description of what poutine is above.  

Prepare french-fries, approximately 2 cups into a serving bowl. Drop 1/2 C of cheddar cheese curds on top of the fries. Ladel 1 cup of sauce (while hot) on top of the fries and cheese. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes, permitting the sauce and cheese to work together. Grab a fork, and enjoy!

For the sauce, apparently the most common one to use is out of a pouch from the St. Hubert brand.  No wonder the gravy on my poutine at Cafe St. Paul tasted like it was out of a can; it was probably out of a pouch.

I'm already thinking of how good some poutine with fresh Tillamook cheese curds and homemade gravy would be (leftover Thanksgiving gravy?).  Perhaps I'll make some when I'm back in Portland.

Bon appetit.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Spicy Peanut Noodles

*** The Giants have won the first two games of the World Series.  It's hard to talk about cooking with that kind of excitement! ***

I didn't really make this dinner last night.  With the first game of the World Series starting at 5 and a Blazer game at 7:30, there was no time to even consider cooking a meal.  I ordered a pizza from American Dream and forgot to take pics, not that a pepperoni pizza makes for interesting photos.  And how am I supposed to talk about ordering a pizza on a cooking blog?

This meal is from last Friday.  Per the norm, I got home starving but without any idea of what to cook.  I rummaged through the pantry and found some wide rice noodles.  That was a start.  I had a jalapeno and some garlic in my produce basket, so I thought - peanut sauce.  Peanut sauce makes everything delicious, in my opinion.  

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small chili pepper, minced
1 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
1 Tbsp finely chopped mint

Heat oil in saucepan.  Add garlic and chili pepper and cook for 15 seconds.  Add remaining ingredients, except mint, and cook 4 minutes.  Add mint and serve.

In the case of this dinner, I did not have roasted peanuts or mint.  Also, I don't really use this recipe to the T - I just sort of add peanut butter, water, soy sauce, and brown sugar until it tastes right to me.  Also, I always put in a squirt of Sriracha.

As I mentioned, I was quite hungry while I put together this meal.  It ended up taking longer than I anticipated, mostly because I did a bad job of softening the rice noodles, so while I waited, I set up the photo shoot.  I took a pic of the bare plate because I thought it was sorta funny.  

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blazer Burger

I have season tickets for the Blazers, which I failed to mention last night.  Gamedays are tough for dinner as games generally start at 7, and I usually do not get home until about 6, giving me about 45 minutes to make and eat dinner.  This season, instead of giving up on having decent dinners on gamedays, I am going to attempt to be prepared.  Like a boy scout, I defrosted ground beef and mixed it with garlic, jalapeno, and a little bit of barbecue sauce on Monday evening so that all I had to do last night for dinner was form patties, grill them on the cast iron grill, and throw one on a bun.  Quick and oh so tasty.  

Since I don't have much to say about this dinner - I mean, it's a burger - I am going to talk about why cast iron cookware is the best cookware in your kitchen.  If you don't have at least a 10- or 12-inch skillet, get one.

As much as I love cooking, I do not spend money collecting kitchen gadgets or new cookware.  I prefer purchasing handbags and shoes to copper pans and microplane graters.  Further, I believe in sticking to the basics.  And when it comes to the basics, I believe firmly that a kitchen is not complete without at least one cast iron skillet.

I swear by cast iron cookware.  The benefits are numerous.  Cast iron is cheap and durable.  I bought (or, I should say, my mom bought for me) a Lodge 12-inch skillet in 2003 for something like $20.  I bet I will still be cooking with that skillet when I am 90 years old.  If any of you read my best friend’s fashion blog, Style by Santina, you know that she is a firm believer of the price per use rule.  At this point, the price per use on my cast iron skillet, assuming I have used it once every other day since I purchased it – a very conservative estimate – is about a penny.

Cast iron is second only, and only slightly second, to copper when it comes to heat distribution, and, having cooked with both, I argue that since the other benefits of cast iron outweigh those of copper, I prefer the cast iron.  Cast iron can be transferred from the stovetop to the oven and back (see here and here), if seasoned properly it is as non-stick as any other pan, and cooking in cast iron ensures that you get enough iron in your diet, as iron slowly seeps out of the cookware into your food.

Cast iron is ideal for everything from searing to roasting, and if you invest in a grill pan or griddle, you can even add the aesthetic of grill lines, which I have to say, I love.

So, cook with cast iron.  You won't regret it.

Bon appetit.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pan-Seared Wild King Salmon with Pickled Cucumbers

This is going to be a quick post because it is late, and I am tired.  Today was the Portland Trailblazers opening night, they played the Phoenix Suns, and they won.  It is stressful for me to have Blazer season starting AND the Giants in the World Series.  Obviously the Giants take priority, but I can't just ignore the Blazers.  Yes, I know, life is tough.

I made the salmon and pickled cucumbers last night.  It is a combination of two recipes, pan-seared wild king salmon with dill tartar sauce from the Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook and dill-marinated salmon and pickled cucumbers from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics.  I like the salmon from the former recipe and the picked cucumbers from the latter.  I have made this combination many times, and I love it.

(I am going to omit the parts of the recipes I don't use)

2 cucumbers, peeled
3 Tbsp rice-wine or red-wine vinegar
3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt

1.  Slice cucumbers into very thin rounds.  Transfer to a bowl with vinegar, dill, the sugar and 3/4 tsp salt.  Toss to combine; set aside.

4 wild salmon fillets, 6 oz each and 1 inch thick, skin removed
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Salmon Rub:
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp lemon zest

1.  Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400F.

2.  For the rub, combine the sea salt, pepper, brown sugar, and lemon zest.  Sprinkle the rub over the top side of the salmon, then gently pat with your fingers to distribute evenly.  Heat the olive oil in a 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Place the salmon fillets in the skillet and cook for 2 minutes.  Carefully turn over and cook for 2 minutes on the other side.

3.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the fish flakes easily with tested with a fork, about 6 minutes.  

4.  Place pickled cucumbers on a platter, top with salmon fillets, and serve.

Just as a note, you might notice that I often show portions of food that it would be somewhat absurd for me to eat by myself for dinner (e.g. the two salmon fillets shown in the cast iron skillet above).  I often cook more than I need so that I can bring leftovers to work for lunch.  Doesn't this look like a delicious lunch?

I it today for lunch, and it certainly was delicious.

Bon appetit.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rib Steak and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

A good steak and roasted Brussels sprouts may just be my favorite dinner.  I would not want to eat it every night, but once a month or so?  Perfection.  I don't think any of you will be surprised that I love a good steak, but brussels sprouts are one of those veggies that a lot of people don't like.  It wasn't so long ago that I was in that class of Brussels sprouts-haters.  Actually, I vividly remember gagging on one at a very fancy, very expensive restaurant in DC circa 2004.  Maybe I am just killing my taste buds as I get older, but there are a whole host of food items that I would not have willingly eaten before I was about 25 that I now if not love, at least like.  

The Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook definitely contributed to my love of Brussels sprouts.  They are crispy and salty and all-together delicious.

1.5 lbs Brussels sprouts
3 Tbsp good olive oil
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.
Cut off the ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves.  Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Turn them out on a baking sheet (Erin's note:  I use a large cast iron skillet.  My baking sheets are crappy and warp in the oven, and I generally think a cast iron skillet does a better job for roasting veggies.) and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp outside and tender inside.  Shake the pan from time to time, to brown the Brussels sprouts evenly.  Sprinkle with more kosher salt (I like these salty like french fries) (Erin's note:  That is Ina Garten speaking, not me, but I whole-heartedly agree with the Contessa) and serve.

For the steak (6 Ranch beef, of course) I seasoned it with salt and pepper and grilled it on my ever trusty cast iron grill, about 4 minutes per side.

Bon appetit.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Beef and Barley Soup

I mentioned this un-posted dinner in my rosti post (here).  Since I ate leftovers from my taco bowl dinner last night (I would have had to talk about warming up ground beef, rice, tomatoes, and cheese in the microwave), I will finally post this soup.  I have quite a few packages of soup bones in my freezer.  I love soup, but I rarely make beef soup, and, in fact, I rarely make soup unless I have ingredients that must be used like a Thanksgiving turkey carcass.  But, my mom and I ran the inaugural Portland Half Marathon a couple weekends ago, and I thought having soup around for before the race would be a good idea.  Both my mom and I are the type of runners - and I use that term loosely - that really have to watch what we eat before a race.  We don't want to get "bad stomaches" during a race.  Soup is a mild item, and the barley makes it hearty enough to eat alone for meals.  

The soup turned out really well, and we did eat it the day before the race.  Unfortunately, I didn't put the dutch oven back in the fridge after we ate on Saturday night, and I did not discover the abandoned soup until Sunday night.  It broke my heart to dump a pot full of soup, but I think 24 hours is way too long for the soup to sit out.  At least it was a good first experience with beef soup; my mom doesn't really eat meat so the fact that she enjoyed it gave me confidence to try it again.

3 to 4 lbs beef shanks
2 Tbsp bacon drippings - or other fat
2 quarts cold water
1 tsp salt
1 small onion, chopped
1 15-oz can tomatoes, diced
6 sprigs parsley
5 carrots, sliced
2 cups fresh green beans, cut
1 cup diced potatoes
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup rice or barley

Brown meat in drippings.  Pour off excess fat.  Cover with water; bring to a boil.  Add salt and onion and simmer for 2 hours.  Add vegetables and rice.  Simmer for about an hour longer.  Remove meat from bone and add back to soup.

I am writing this post during breaks in tonights Giants game.  It is currently the top of the 6th and the Giants are down 2 runs to the Phillies' 3.  Let's go Giants!

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Go Giants (and a taco bowl)

*** Updated with pictures.  Not much to show for this meal, but I feel like a beef post isn't complete without some raw meat ***

Apparently I can't upload pictures this evening, so I'll tell you about my dinner last night sans-photos and add some later.  But first I must express my excitement about the San Francisco Giants win versus the Phillies tonight (and yesterday for that matter).  I love the Giants.  My mom grew up in the Bay Area as a Giants fan, and all through my childhood, Giants games were on the radio all summer.  They haven't been in the World Series since the fall of my senior year of college (2002), and if they can get one more win, they're in!  GO GIANTS!

Back to food.  I again returned home from work yesterday tired and hungry.  I again walked in my kitchen and looked around at the limited options.  I knew I could hold off on food for a bit, so I decided on a "taco bowl".  I defrosted and cooked some ground beef, made rice, opened a can of Muir Glen diced tomatoes with green chilies, and shredded cheese.  I layered the ingredients in a bowl along with a couple slices of pickled jalepenos on top, and, voila, my dinner.  The taco bowl is one of my standard I-don't-know-what-to-make dinners.  I always have ground beef, rice, and canned tomatoes in the house.

I should mention that what makes this dinner so good is quality ingredients.  The ground beef is from the cow I purchased from 6 Ranch. A friend of mine came over once while I was in the middle of cooking ground beef.  He commented that it must be some really good beef because it smells like steak.  I think that's a pretty good commendation of ground beef! And I always buy Muir Glen organic canned tomatoes. They just taste better to me than other canned tomatoes.  I particularly like to have the fire roasted tomatoes with green chilies on hand because it's almost like a salsa.  It gives good flavor to my taco bowls :)

Bon appetit.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rösti Potatoes

I haven't posted in a week, and I could give many excuses, but the real reason is that I haven't been cooking to the standards that I normally cook (think veggies with bottled indian curry).  I am embarrassed for the world to see some of the dinners I throw together for myself.  But, I started a new job yesterday (yay!), so what better time to have a new outlook on blogging.  I am going to attempt to post about every dinner I eat, even if it's chinese takeout.  

To start, my dinner last night.  The first day of a new job is bound to be exhausting even if you end up sitting at your desk for most of the day filling out paperwork and getting settled.  I think the first-day exhaustion is due to the weeks, or even months, of anticipation and anxiety about the huge change of a new job.  So, as expected, I was very tired when I walked in my door last night.  I was starving, and I immediately went to the kitchen to see what I could cook up.  Of course, there is a freezer full of beef, but I couldn't stand to wait for anything to defrost.  I have one of those hanging produce baskets, and in the basket was one lonely potato.  This potato was supposed to go in a beef and barley soup I made a couple weeks ago (and never posted, ahem), but I decided to omit it from the soup.  A rösti immediately popped into my head.  Quick, easy, and satisfying, it was a perfect dinner.

Not only was it the perfect dinner, but I also considered the post I could write praising cast iron cookware.  But now I have spent two paragraphs talking about new jobs and turning over a new (blogging) leaf, so I will rant the benefits of cast iron another time.

1.  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add 2 lbs russet potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled, and cook for 10 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.

2.  Peel the potatoes and coarsely grate them (a food processor fitted with a medium-sized grater does the quickest work).

3.  Heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil and 2 Tbsp butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the grated potatoes and brown until a crisp, golden crust forms, about 10 minutes, gently pressing down on the potatoes with a spatula occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper.

4.  Invert the potatoes by placing a plate face down on top of the skillet.  Using oven mitts, grasp the skillet and plate firmly with 2 hands and carefully turn the potatoes onto the plate.  Add another 2 Tbsp vegetable oil and 2 Tbsp butter to the skillet, let the butter melt, and then return the rösti to the skillet with the crisp side up; cook for 10 minutes longer.  Transfer to a serving platter and season again with salt and pepper.  Scatter 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese over the top and serve hot.

The recipe is from The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook, from which I also made a Slow Roasted Beef Brisket (see here).

And no, I did not eat 2 pounds of potatoes for dinner last night.  I made a small version of this recipe with the one yukon gold potato I already had.  Also, I did not have Gruyere cheese, so I topped the rösti with pepper jack and a squirt of Secret Aardvark Habanero Hot Sauce.  Not quite so classy, but man was it delicious.

Bon appetit. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pimientos de Padron

I mentioned yesterday the absurd amount of zucchini I bought at the farmers market.  Many times when I have an item that I am not sure how I want to cook, I will either look to Martha Stewart or the New York Times Recipes for Health.  For an item like zucchini, NY Times is definitely the go-to.  The Recipes for Health are generally pretty simple and, as the name denotes, healthy.  When I saw the Rice Noodles with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Fresh Mint, I knew it was the perfect recipe; I had all the ingredients necessary already in my kitchen.

I also decided to cook up the pimientos de patron that I picked up at the aforementioned farmers market.  Pimientos de patron are one of my favorite treats.  I love peppers, and these little guys are just delicious.  All they need is a quick saute in olive oil and a dusting of coarse salt.  

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 garlic cloves (to taste), minced
1 pound zucchini, cut in 1/4-inch dice
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded* and cut in 1/4-inch dice, or 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, partially drained
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
7 to 8 ounces thin rice sticks
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino or crumbled feta (optional)

* To seed the tomatoes, cut the tomatoes in half along the equator, place a strainer over a bowl and seed the tomatoes into the strainer. Rub the gelatinous seed pods against the strainer to extract flavorful juice, and discard the seeds.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, place the rice sticks in a large bowl, and cover with hot water. Let sit 20 minutes, until pliable. Drain and cut the noodles in half, into roughly 6- to 8-inch lengths, with kitchen scissors.

2. While the rice sticks are soaking, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy skillet, and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and add the zucchini. Cook, stirring, until the zucchini begins to soften and the skin becomes bright green, about three minutes. Add the tomatoes with juice and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often, for 6 to 10 minutes until the zucchini is tender and the tomatoes have begun to break down. Remove from the heat, taste and adjust seasonings, and set aside.

3. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the rice sticks. Boil one minute and drain. Toss with the zucchini and tomato mixture, the remaining olive oil and the mint. Serve, passing the cheese for people to sprinkle on at the table.

Bon appetit.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Roasted vegetable burrito

One thing I really like about Portland is the abundance of farmers markets.  There are farmers markets downtown on Mondays and Wednesdays during the day, so it couldn't be easier for me to buy produce.  Sometimes I get a bit carried away and return to work with multiple bags full of fresh foods.  A recent Wednesday was one of those days.  I don't know what came over me, but I was purchasing everything in site, including about 5 pounds of zucchini.  I didn't really have any specific plans for all that zucchini, but arriving home from work knowing I still had quite a bit of Jacquis Rich Beans left, I couldn't think of anything tastier than a roasted veggie burrito.  

Roasting vegetables is as easy as cutting the veggies up, tossing them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and throwing them in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes.  I was in the mood for a bit more cooking than that, so I also made mexican tomato-colored rice from Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico by Rick Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless. Authentic Mexican is a cookbook that drew great skepticism when it was gifted to me.  The cover features a white guy with a goatee, not exactly the image that Mexican cooking draws.  Executing the recipes changed my mind.  It is an excellent mexican cookbook, as long as you are okay with truly cooking from scratch.  Which I am.

1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 c. long- or medium- grain rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 ripe, medium-small tomato, roasted or boiled, cored, and peeled OR 1/2 15-oz can tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 c. broth (preferable poultry) or water
Salt, about 1/2 tsp if using salted broth, 1 tsp if using unsalted broth or water
1 c. fresh or (defrosted) frozen peas (optional)
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/4" dice (optional)
Several sprigs of fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley, for garnish

1.  Frying the rice. About 40 minutes before serving, measure the oil into a 1 1/2 or 2 quart saucepan set over medium heat.  Add the rice and onion, and cook, stirring regularly, until both are lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes.  Mix in the garlic and cook a minute longer.

2.  The liquid ingredients.  While the rice is frying, prepare the tomato: Seed it, if you like, by cutting it in half width-wise and squeezing out the seeds, then puree it in a blender or food processor.  Pour the broth or water into a small pan, add the salt, and bring just to a simmer.

3.  Simmering and steaming the rice.  Add the pureed tomato to the browned rice and cook for a minute, stirring several times.  Add the simmering broth, stir the rice, scrape down the sides of the pot, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the rice stand 5 to 10 minutes, covered, until the grains are tender (but not splayed).

4.  The optional vegetables.  While the rice is cooking, simmer the fresh peas until tender (4 to 20 minutes, depending on their size and freshness), then drain and set aside; frozen peas only need to be defrosted.  Separately, simmer the carrots 5 to 8 minutes, drain and add to the peas.

5.  Finishing the rice.  When the rice is tender, add the optional vegetables and fluff with a fork to separate the grains and stop the cooking.  Scoop the rice into a warm serving dish, decorate it with fresh cilantro or parsley, and it is ready to serve.

I think you can figure out how to assemble the burrito, and if not, check out the pictures above.  Along with the beans, rice, and veggies, I added some cilantro and green salsa.  

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chiles Rellenos, Tierra Vegetables Style

This is the first of the meals I made to accompany Jacquis Rich Beans.  I wanted to make a Mexican dish, but I didn't want to prepare something that would dominate the flavors on the plate.  I also didn't want to spend too much time cooking the meal, and most of the mexican entrees I like to prepare are pretty time and work intensive.

My mom gave me this chiles rellenos recipe after I complained to her one night about my attempt to make traditional fried chile rellenos.  On that particular night, the cheese oozed out the of the chiles during the frying AND I ended up burning one of the batches.  I love chiles rellenos, but I am just not a huge fan of frying things.  I am not very good at it, it takes a lot of oil, and it's not particularly healthy.  Mostly I'm not very good at it.  This recipe is perfect: no frying.  

Oh, and in these particular chiles rellenos, I threw a little bit of bacon in with the cheese stuffing.  I had to defrost the second to last package of the Abundant Life Farms bacon, and now that it's sitting in my fridge, I want to put it in everything.  And I cut the recipe in half.

8 chiles (anaheim or poblano), roasted, peeled, slit, and seeds removed
8 slices monterey jack, length and width of chiles
4 large eggs, separated
1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 c. water
canola oil

Stuff each chile with a cheese slice and set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, flour, water, and a little salt.  In a large bowl, using a balloon whisk, whisk the whites until they are stiff but not dry.  Fold the yolk mixture into the whites in three batches just until combined.  Take care not to deflate the whites.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly oil a 9-inch square pan.  Spoon half the batter onto the bottom of the dish.  Put the stuffed chiles on top of the batter and cover evenly with the remaining batter.  Bake until browned, about 25 minutes.

I usually make my own salsa to smother the chiles, but as mentioned previously, I wasn't in the mood to be in the kitchen for hours. I used some green salsa I had in the fridge.

Bon appetit.