Faked-Up Bi Bim Bap

Homemade faked-up bi bim bap.

Bi Bim Bap, Gringa Style

Hi! Remember me? I used to blog here sometimes. And then I started my PhD and got hired back as a professor and my daughter turned 3 (hello!) and a bunch of other crazy stuff happened and I stopped writing about food. I still cook food, a lot. I still get my CSA and come up with interesting and wonderful uses for local vegetables. And then I forget what I did because I stopped blogging it. Doh. So extra thanks to Tiffany for continuing to post her wonderful recipes and cooking experiences in spite of her insanely busy life.

I’m still doing a very limited sugar diet, which makes it even more challenging to use up certain CSA crops (beets and zucchini – I’m looking at you…). I have relied a lot in the past on ye olde baking to use up the bulk of certain veggies. But I now also spend even more time in front of a computer screen, and often forget to do things like eat and sleep.

My best innovation since everything became insane is my personal Bi Bim Bap recipe. I pretty much just throw some rice in the cooker earlier in the day, and when I notice that it is becoming hard to lift my fingers to type, I head into the kitchen and use whatever I’ve got lying around. Here’s a rough version of my recipe:

1 cup cooked white jasmine rice*
Bottle of Gochujang Sauce (Pretty easy to find in the Asian food aisle. You will want to put it on EVERYTHING.)
1 small sausage, diced
1 egg
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
1 small carrot, thinly sliced
1 small bell pepper, thinly sliced
Olive oil

*I cook my rice with a dash of toasted sesame oil.

Heat a small skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. Add sausage and cook until lightly browned. Remove with slotted spoon to a plate and keep warm. Saute vegetables individually or together in the remaining oil, and remove to plate and keep warm. Fry egg (you may need to add a little more oil).

Spoon a layer of rice into the bottom of a shallow bowl. Add sausage and vegetables. Top with egg. Drizzle with Gochojang sauce.

For CSA folks – you can use whatever veggies work. For a couple of weeks it was all cabbage, all the time for me. You can also garnish with green onions, toasted sesame seeds, or whatever strikes your fancy. Obviously you can go meat free, or use whatever leftover meats you have lying around. At restaurants it’s usually served with bulgogi beef, so leftover bbq meat would be most excellent.

Amaranth Greens with Broiled Tomatoes and Queso Fresco Mashed Potatoes

You want to talk about cooking without a net, let’s talk amaranth greens.  This was a first in the box for us.  My husband pulled them out of the box and I was instantly entranced by how pretty they were.  Silky leaves with a purple center, fading to green edges.  And the name just sounds like some kind of Medieval poison frequently used by a Shakespearean villain.  Amaranth.

I did what I always do when I encounter a new vegetable.  To the internets!  But I couldn’t turn up much for amaranth greens.  Plenty for the grain, but not much that sounded good for the greens.  I did find a site that said to treat them like spinach.  They did closely match the texture of raw spinach, so I gave it a shot.  I sauteed the greens with garlic and lime, and presented them with a big mound of potatoes mashed with queso fresco and broiled tomatoes.  The result was delicious and I felt buoyed by the fact that I took on this crazy mystery vegetable and won.   Sometimes it’s discouraging that we can’t swap out any of our vegetables at our pick up location, but other times it’s really really cool to have your boundaries pushed.  Sometimes you learn that the view from those new borders is pretty nice.

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Amaranth Greens with Broiled Tomatoes and Queso Fresco Mashed Potatoes

Feeds 2 -4

1 lb potatoes, diced into 1/2″ cubes

1/4 c butter

1 c crumbled queso fresco, divided

salt and pepper to taste

3 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch slices

1 Anaheim or similar pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

drizzle of olive oil

1 bunch amaranth greens, thick stems removed, cut into 1″ strips

Juice of 1 lime

For the mashed potatoes:  Boil 1 lb of diced potatoes in heavily salted water until they are tender when poked with a fork.  Drain the water, then mash the potatoes with 1/4 c butter and 1/2 c crumbled queso fresco.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside and keep warm.

Meanwhile, arrange the tomato slices on a baking sheet and place directly under a 500 degree broiler.  Broil for 3 minutes on each side or until the tomatoes are bubbly and have charred spots, carefully flipping with a spatula halfway through.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, saute the diced pepper and garlic until they are soft and fragrant, 3-5 minutes.  Add the amaranth greens and the lime juice, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes or until the greens are tender.  Stir frequently, and if the greens appear to be drying out, add a tablespoon of water.  Salt and pepper to taste

Arrange a mound of mashed potatoes on a plate.  Top with 3 or 4 slices of broiled tomatoes.  Top with the amaranth greens and an additional crumble of queso fresco.  Add a couple drops of sriracha on top if you’re feeling spicy.

Frittata Margherita

I love summer vegetables.  I love basil and tomatoes and dinners that take only 15 minutes from walking in the door to sitting at the table.  The frittata is the perfect vehicle for a fast dinner.  It’s easy, flexible, and you usually have all you need in the larder to complete the meal.

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Frittata Margherita

2 medium, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1″ cubes

Drizzle of olive oil

4 eggs, slightly beaten

4 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2″ cubes

10 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your broiler to 500 degrees.

In a 10 or 12 inch oven-proof skillet, cook the tomatoes in the olive oil until they start to soften and release their juices, 2-3 minutes.  Push the tomatoes into a single, even layer in the skillet then pour the beaten eggs around the skillet, making sure to cover the whole area.  Sprinkle in the cheese and basil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Continue cooking until the eggs begin to set and pull away from the edges of the pan, 4-5 minutes.  When the eggs are close to set on the edges but still loose in the middle, move the pan under the broiler for another 2-3 minutes, or until the center of the frittata is set.

Arugula and Eggs on a Raft

Arugula.  Ugh.  I cringe every time I pull it out of the box.  I’m just not a fan.  I went into this meal completely uninspired.  I stumbled across a recipe for open faced arugula sandwiches somewhere on the internet, but only looked at the picture, not even reading the recipe because I was cringing at the big fat pile of arugula.

But then dinnertime came.  I went to the kitchen, decided to bite the bullet, and threw what we had together into some sort of arugula-featuring meal.  I served it, then sat down to eat like a little kid ordered to finish her peas.  I started eating.  My husband, who equally dislikes arugula, ate as well.  *Silence*  Then it was broken with my picky husband saying “this is really good.  We should make this again.”

*Angels singing*

I don’t know why this works so well, but it does.  I think it could just be the batch of arugula we got this time around.  It’s milder, not nearly as bitter and spicy as the greens we’ve gotten in the past.  That seems to make all the difference.  But overall, it’s a really fast, really easy recipe using arugula and a bunch of things you probably already have in your kitchen.  Sandwiches are forgiving, feel free to dress it up or down based on what you’ve got.  I bet avocados would be delicious in there.  Or maybe even bacon!

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Arugula and Eggs on a Raft

Makes 2 entree sized portions

1/2 a loaf of ciabatta or similar bread

1/4 c salted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 c mayonnaise

2 tomatoes, cut into 1/4″ slices

2 c arugula, washed and spun dry

4 eggs

salt and pepper to taste

 

Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Split the bread in half and generously butter the cut sides of the bread.  Toast only the cut sides of the bread in the skillet until the bread is golden brown and toasty delicious.  Set each piece of bread cut-side-up on separate plates.

While the bread is toasting, mince the garlic.  When the bread is removed from the skillet, put the garlic onto that same skillet, and move it around to absorb any excess butter.  Cook about 1 minute, or until the garlic softens.  Don’t let it brown or it will be bitter.  Remove the garlic to a small bowl.  Add the 1/4 c mayonnaise to the garlic and combine, making sure to press the garlic with the back of the spoon to really smoosh it all together.  Spread the garlic mayo evenly over the two pieces of bread.  Top with the sliced tomatoes and arugula.

Fry the eggs to your desired level of runny-ness.  Place two eggs on the top of each pile of arugula.  Season with salt and pepper.

 

Caprese Salad

Sometimes you just don’t need to mess with the classics.  Basil season, tomato season, Caprese.  Fresh mozzarella layered with fresh tomatoes that have never seen the inside of a refrigerator*, sprinkle on basil leaves and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Pile on some proscuitto if you’ve got it, and you have the recipe for a perfect no-cook summer meal.  Sometimes cooking just isn’t necessary.

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*Never ever ever refrigerate tomatoes.  It turns the texture into mealy, grainy mush and it destroys all flavor.  Leave them in a bowl on the counter out of sunlight.  They’ll be fine for several days.

Herb Focaccia and some Italian Grandmother failures

It’s herb season!  We got thyme in the box for the first time, and basil is coming out of our ears.  My neighbor’s rosemary bush, which might have made some surreptitious contributions to meals past, is exploding right now, practically covering the sidewalk.  Herbs are everywhere, and I love it.  I decided to put some to use in some herb focaccia.  This recipe makes a half sheet (18″ x 13″) of bread, which is a lot.  We sliced big chunks in half and filled them with sandwich fixin’s.  Then used big pieces to sop up sauce in a pasta meal.  There also might have been some breakfast focaccia consumed.  At any meal, it’s good.

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Fresh Herb Focaccia

For the sponge:

1/2 oz (2 packages) active dry yeast

3/4 c warm, not hot, water

1 T sugar

8 oz AP flour

For the dough:

2 c warm, not hot, water

3/4 c olive oil + additional oil for the pan

3 oz sugar

2 T kosher salt

1 lb 14 oz AP flour

1/2 c minced fresh herbs like basil, thyme, and rosemary

To make the sponge, dissolve the yeast in the water.  Stir in the sugar and flour until the dough is elastic.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until the sponge rises so much that it starts to fall back in on itself in the center.

To make the dough, add the 2 c water, olive oil, sugar, salt, flour, and herbs to the sponge.  You can use an electric mixer if you choose, but this dough is soft enough to combine by hand, and it doesn’t require a long knead.  When the dough has enough flour to form into a ball, turn out on a floured surface and work in any remaining flour, resulting in a soft, smooth, elastic dough.  Cover with a tea towel and let rise 30 minutes.

Coat the bottom and sides of a half sheet pan with a healthy coat of olive oil.  Move the dough into the pan.  Oil your hands, then stretch the dough out as far as you can.  It’s not an exact science, get as close as your dough will allow.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

After the dough has doubled, use your oiled hands to push the dough into all the corners of the pan.  Then press your fingertips into the top of the dough, covering it with divots.  Let the dough rise again until it is doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Sprinkle the top of the dough with an additional drizzle of olive oil and a couple healthy pinches of kosher salt.    Place the bread in the preheated oven, then immediately reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake 25-30 minutes, or until baked through.  You can lift up a corner to make sure the bottom is golden and delicious.

Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes.  Then invert the bread onto a cookie sheet.  Using a second cookie sheet, invert it again so it is top-side-up again.  This keeps the bottom from getting soggy as it cools.

 

On another note…

I had a spectacular failure in my quest to become an Italian grandmother.  It’s artichoke season, which appears to be an important ingredient in my quest.  So I purchased two massive fresh artichokes at the market last week.  My goal was to make Roman artichokes, or artichokes cooked with herbs and olive oil.  I got home and realized the recipe called for baby artichokes, not the softball sized monsters I had purchased.  No worries, we work with what we’ve got, eh?  So I plowed ahead.  I followed the instructions carefully on how to prepare the artichokes.  I cut and pulled and peeled and was left with two small pieces of artichoke meat and a massive mound of artichoke castings.  I cooked them according to the directions and then served them up, proud of my accomplishment.

I took the first bite, or tried to, before my husband made it to the table.  It was like biting into needles out for blood!  It was awful.  Apparently I did not properly clean the inside of the artichoke, and the barbs on the very small leaves in the center were still there, like little cacti, out to tear my mouth to shreds.  My husband tried to delicately work his way around the death-chokes, but was unsuccessful.  I didn’t cook something properly in addition to not preparing them properly, so they were raw, inedible, and out to destroy all parts of our digestive systems.  I shrugged, defeated.  “Sorry…at least the chicken is good, right?”  Oh, well.  I’m sure all grandmothers have some spectacular failures along the way!

 

 

Becoming an Italian Grandmother – The Great Mussels Experience

This weekend marked my first big dive into Italian efforts.  I decided to kick things off with a bang.  While reading through the ad for a local grocery, I saw that mussels were on sale.  I quickly scanned through my Cook Italy book and found a recipe for mussels that looked pretty good.  I love shellfish, but rarely cook it, and I can’t recall ever cooking mussels before.  The recipe I decided on was Tiella de Antonietta, or Rice, Potato, and Mussels baked in Terracotta.  It was a layered casserole of potatoes, tomatoes, Arborio rice, and mussels.  There was also some pecorino cheese in there, then the whole thing is soaked in white wine and fish stock to make a delicious sounding one-pot meal.

I went to the market and bough the mussels, along with some pecorino and some tomatoes that smelled exactly like tomatoes I once picked in my grandmother’s garden in Brandt, OH.  I chatted with the dishy fishmonger about how to properly store and cook mussels.  He reiterated what the book had instructed me to do – to store them cold, soak them in salt water, and cook them today.  This evening I dove in.

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There they are, swimming in their salty ice water.  I will admit I was intimidated at the idea that I was going to be the cause of death for all these guys.  I will be a complete wreck when it comes to lobster, and heaven help me when I finally convince my husband to get those chickens.  I do have an adorable picture on my phone of a calf that will be on my table in a few months, though.  But that’s a different matter entirely.

Mise en place!

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The casserole is pretty simple.  Layers of thinly sliced potatoes, and tomatoes, cheese, a layer of mussels and rice, then onion, garlic, more tomatoes and potatoes.  Then that entire box of fish stock hiding back by the pineapple and a cup of that wine are poured over the top.  Bake for an hour and serve.  It came together fairly quickly and was pretty good!

IMG_2387A hot stew on a hot evening.

After I put together the dish, I realized I was in a bit of a pickle.  I had purchased a 2 pound bag of mussels, not knowing how many that held.  The recipe called for 15-20 mussels, and that didn’t even use up half the bag.  I threw in some extra for good measure, but still found myself with a pound of mussels that needed a home.  I remembered reading a quick recipe for stuffed mussels elsewhere in the book.  It was extremely simple.  Steam the mussels in a little white wine.  Separately, pulse breadcrumbs, basil, and garlic in a food processor.  Toss the mussel meat in the breadcrumbs, stir in 1/4 c olive oil and salt, then put the mussel meat back in the shells.  Broil and eat.  Why not?

IMG_2365The mussels went into a pan with a splash of wine.  Covered, they cooked for 5 minutes before they looked like this.  Steamed to beautiful perfection.

Tossed in the breadcrumbs and put under the broiler, 5 minutes later we had antipasti for the evening.  IMG_2375

My husband had never in his life eaten a mussel.  Eating this little dish was his first experience.  And he loved them.  The funny thing is that the dish that I started out to make, that I spent all the time working on, it was just ok.  Good, but not something I’d probably make again.   However, this simple throw-away dish that was just there to use up the rest of an expensive ingredient was perfection.  We ate the entire pound of mussels with our fingers standing over the kitchen counter.

For my first real experiment, I’m proud.  The food was somewhere between ok and great, but I’m mostly proud of myself for trying an ingredient I had never worked with before.  Really, you don’t have much to lose in the kitchen on a lazy Sunday night, but I’m proud that I left my comfort zone and gave this a try!

Becoming an Italian Grandmother – A New Feature

I’ve made no secret of my desire to become an Italian grandmother.  Really, my desire is to cook like an Italian grandmother.  I want to have that kitchen where everybody wants to gather and where everybody leaves counting the seconds until they get in the car, take off their belts, and unbutton their pants.  I love people with food.  It’s a character flaw.  And I want to love them with really good, really comforting food.  It’s a big character flaw.

I told one of my coworkers, Tina, about my desire to be an Italian grandmother.  Tina is not only an awesome person, she’s an honest-to-goodness Italian.  Sicilian, specifically.  With an Italian passport and everything.  And she has an honest-to-goodness Italian mother and two honest-to-goodness Italian grandmothers.  She loved my plan and was nothing but encouraging.  She told her mother about my plan to become an Italian grandmother, to which her mom asked “oh, when is her first grandchild due?”  “No no,” Tina explained, “she’s nowhere near being a grandmother.  She is just doing this as a lifestyle choice.”  By Tina’s account, the hysterical laughter from her mother lasted several minutes.

To be clear, I’m 32.  There is no chance of me becoming a grandmother for a long long time, as my only child is 3.  And I’m not the least bit Italian.  My mother is a genealogist, and has spent hours upon hours in the LDS libraries researching every twig on our family tree.  I assure you that not one single branch of that tree is growing olives or San Marzano tomatoes.  There is not one single drop of Italian blood in my body.  I do this because I love Italy.  I love the food, I love my visits there, and I want to get as close as I can to recreating that country’s love and comfort in my own home.

I needed a book – a big one – full of recipes and beautiful pictures.  For Mother’s Day this year, I decided to treat myself to exactly this.  I went shopping and returned home with a copy of Cook Italy by Katie Caldesi.  My goal is to cook my way through as much as I possibly can, using my CSA veggies whenever possible, and blogging the highlights and inevitable failures along the way.  So starting soon, keep your eyes peeled for a new regular feature – Becoming an Italian Grandmother!

Apple, Fennel, and Onion Pie

I was flipping through my copy of I’m just Here for More Food by Alton Brown, looking for a cobbler recipe, and I stumbled across this apple, fennel, and onion pie.  As CSA luck would have it, I had all three of these things in my fridge and absolutely nothing to do with them.  I decided to give it a whirl, hoping that my onion-phobic husband would look past the title and enjoy it.  He gave it his usual “it’s ok” which is as close to high praise as you get from him.  I loved it.  It was sweet and complex in its flavors.  This would be a perfect brunch dish, or for a light dinner with a soup or salad.

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Apple, Fennel, and Onion Pie

From Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for More Food

2 c AP Flour

1 1/2 t Kosher salt

1 t fresh ground black pepper

1/2 c Parmesan cheese

8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter + more for brushing

1/4 c cold water

1 T Grainy mustard

1 apple

1 fennel bulb

1 small onion (I used spring onions because that’s what we got – they were very mild, which worked well here)

1 t fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor, or working by hand, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and cheese.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Slowly dribble in the water a splash at a time until the dough just holds together when you grab a handful in your fist.  Turn out onto a lightly floured counter top and roll the dough into a rough circle until the dough is 1/4″ inch thick.

Carefully drape the dough over the rolling pin and transfer the circle to a baking sheet.

Peel, core, and slice the apple into 1/4″ wedges.  Core and slice the fennel into 1/4″ wedges.  Cut the onion into 1/4″ wedges as well.  Toss these together in a bowl and sprinkle on the thyme.  Spread the mustard in a circle in the center of the pie crust.  Carefully mound the vegetables on top of the mustard.  Fold the excess crust over the filling, working in a circle until the entire pie is covered.  Brush with additional melted butter.  Bake 50-55 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is soft.

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Garlic Soup with Poached Eggs and Croutons

I’ve been channeling my inner Julia again.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking is out and about and getting progressively more dog-eared on my counter.  When flipping through looking for some sauce or something, I stumbled across a recipe for Aigo Bouido Soupe a l’Oeuf, Provencale, or garlic soup with poached eggs.  We just received a big batch of fresh garlic in the box, only this was not the dried and cured garlic you’re used to seeing in the grocery.  This was a big bunch of young, green garlic with the greens still attached.  I figured why not feature it in a a special soup all to itself?  This seemed perfect, so I decided to give it a shot.

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And you know what?  It was perfect.  It was incredibly delicious.  Not the least bit garlicy, like you’d think a garlic soup would be.  It was flavorful and complex and the perfect light dinner on a Sunday evening.  My husband, who is usually anti-broth soups went back for seconds and thirds until the pot was empty.  In reality, with the eggs and the croutons, it wasn’t very soupy at all.  The croutons sopped up all the broth, making them into this delicious porridge consistency.

After the husband ate his final helping, I asked “so what did you think?”  “It’s very…very French.”  I giggled.  “I feel like it should have been at the beginning of a 7 course dinner on Downton Abbey.  I was seriously under-dressed to eat this.  And I need a staff of footmen.”  It’s a easy dish that feels very fancy for some reason.  If you love garlic, and who doesn’t (vampires?), this is an amazing dish.

Garlic Soup with Poached EggsFrom the 2010 edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Says it serves 6-8, as a main course, I would say half that many

1 head separated, or 16 cloves whole garlic

2 quarts water

2 t salt

pinch pepper

2 cloves

1/4 t sage

1/4 t thyme

1/2 bay leaf

4 sprigs parsley plus more for garnish

3 T olive oil plus more for brushing

6 very fresh eggs

1 fresh baguette

Bring a small pot of water to boil.  Drop the garlic cloves in the water and boil for 30 seconds.  Drain, shock in cold water, and peel.

Place the peeled garlic, 2 qt water, salt, pepper, spices, and olive oil in a wide saucepan.  Boil slowly for 30 minutes.  Adjust salt and pepper as needed after cooking.

While the soup is cooking, preheat the oven to 325.  Slice the baguette into 3/4 to 1″ slices.  Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Brush both sides of the bread with a good olive oil.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until crispy but not browned.

After the soup has simmered for 1/2 an hour, strain it through a sieve into a bowl.  Press the garlic cloves to get all the extra juice out.  Return to the saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Carefully ease the eggs, one at a time, into the simmering soup to poach.  Depending on the size of your pan, you may poach 2 or 3 at a time.  Poach the eggs for about 4 minutes, then using a slotted spoon, remove them to a waiting plate.

Arrange 2-3 croutons in the bottom of a soup bowl.  Carefully put 1 or 2 poached eggs on top of the croutons.  Spoon about a cup of the soup over the eggs.  Garnish with additional parsley.  A sprinkle of parmesan would probably be a delicious addition.