Monday, June 29, 2009

I've never been much of a fish-cooker. In fact, I'm not particularly good at cooking any kind of meat. I was a vegetarian for many of my formative culinary-skillz-learning years, so while I can whip up a lot of veggie dishes, I can also mess up a perfectly lovely steak like nobody's business.

It's time to start learning, though. Fish is tasty and light and full of protein, and it's kind of ridiculous that the full extent of my fishy knowledge is what kind of sushi I like to order. So I found this recipe for prosciutto-wrapped halibut that looked not only yummy (hello, pork fat!) but also pretty hard to mess up.

The asparagus puree was so not going to happen, though. By the time I got home from work and the gym, it was already eight, my tummy was growling, and I wasn't about to drag the food processor out of its hiding spot just for the vegetable portion of the evening. Instead, I sauteed my CSA's swiss chard with a little bit of garlic scape and some shallots. It was great - there really is a difference between super-fresh chard and the supermarket kind. It just tastes... I don't know. Green. In a really good way!

The empty spot on the plate was reserved for some maple-glazed turnips. Unfortunately, I only had one saute pan.... and I kind of timed everything wrong... thus, no picture of the turnips. (You're not missing much. Just visualize a bunch of white chunks covered in dark-brown syup and you've pretty much got it.) They were awesome, though, and they arrived on my plate after most of the fish and chard were gone, making for a sort of sweet, vegetable-based dessert.

Mmm... sweet vegetable-based dessert. Great, now I'm craving sweet potato pie. Thanks a lot, maple-glazed turnips!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Christmas morning at my parent's house is always something I look forward to. The lights, the tree, the presents... the mimosas! Christmas breakfast, on the other hand...

My parents, like any good Italian-Irish parents, go nuts on the holiday food. Christmas Eve dinner is always a feast of seven fishes, Christmas dinner always involves my dad's spectacular garlic and turkey broth minestrone with plenty of beans and escarole, but Christmas breakfast has, for as long as I can remember, featured a sausage, cheese, bread and egg concoction that the rest of the family calls "strata" and I call a holiday disaster.

It's not that the premise is bad. Strata is like a savory bread pudding - egg and milk soaked bread baked with cheese and meat. What could be bad about that? I think it's the sausage that pushes it over the line for me. I like every single kind of meat in the universe - except breakfast sausage. Maybe it's the fennel, or the inevitable fake maple syrup flavor. Whatever it is, though, it makes me kinda queasy whenever I get a whiff of it. So every Christmas, I gorge myself on homemade cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs while trying to dodge the wafting strata fumes.

I digress. Strata is a great idea. It uses up all of your leftovers and it tastes really good, when it's not chock-full of Jimmy Dean. By the time I made this on Tuesday night, my chard was getting kind of wilty and the sell-by date on my chicken sausages was rapidly approaching. But mixed up in a casserole dish with some bread that had seen better days - and some brand-new milk and eggs from the bodega - my veggies became a tasty dinner that was even tastier for breakfast the next day.

It kinda freaked me out, though. Putting chicken sausage in an egg dish. As I was pouring the eggs in the casserole dish, I was like, "Eggs... meet your mommy!"

Sick, dude.

Chard and Chicken Sausage Strata
serves six

one bunch of chard
clove of garlic
scallions, if you got 'em
olive oil
three chicken sausages (I used Italian-style, but you can use whatever you feel like. Veggie sausage might make the whole chicken and egg thing less creepy, too. Or pork. I have no objections to pork.)
four big slices of white bread, or five smaller slices of white bread
nine eggs
a cup and a half of milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, if you are the kind of person who can remember to preheat your oven. (I'm not.) Saute the chard and scallions in olive oil and garlic until they're all wilted. Then take the greens out of your pan and add the chicken sausages. Cook them until they're done. Mine were pre-cooked so I just cooked them til they got a little crispy. Dump the sausage in your casserole dish. Chop up the bread into big chunks and put that on top of the sausage. Then put the chard on top of that. Mix up the eggs and milk with some salt and pepper and pour it into the casserole, making sure to smush the bread down a little so it all gets soaked. If you are me, this is the point where you will remember to turn your oven on. It's okay. The bread will just soak a little extra while you wait for it to heat up!

Anyway, cook the strata for 50 to 60 minutes. You'll know it's done when it gets all browned and fluffy and a knife to the middle comes out clean. It's tasty hot or cold, on cozy winter holidays with your family or on rainy summer days while you're scrambling around getting ready for work.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tonight's dinner began as a pork tenderloin special at Garden of Eden about a month ago, during the height of swine flu panic. I'd ordered a quarter pound, saw the price, did a double-take and asked for a few extra cuts. (I can't remember what it was now, but I think it was something totally insane like $2.99/lb. Hot damn!) I stuck the miscellaneous pork in the freezer, feeling totally thrifty and proud of myself.

When I saw the bok choy in this week's CSA pickup, I knew that my frozen pork had finally found its companion. I came home from work late today, after a bridal shower gift buying excursion that somehow turned into a shoe shopping excursion, and all I wanted to do was flip open my phone and order a bucket of sweet and sour chicken. But the bok choy and defrosted pork chunk were calling me instead.

"Eat us! We're dying in here!" they said. (Well... not dying so much as wilting. Or... defrosting. You know, whatever it is that food does that makes it important to eat it really soon.)

I obliged. Ten minutes - and a little bit of mysterious "stir fry sauce" - later, there was pork, scallion and bok choy stir fry on the table... and all was right with the world.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I know that some people will disagree with me, but I think that the reason we have Sunday mornings is so we can have brunch. Starting the last day of the weekend with a strangely-timed and inevitably indulgent meal sets the tone for the whole day. Some weekends, I crave complicated egg-y scrambles, fancy little mesclun salads and strong cocktails somewhere loud and busy and fun, but this weekend was all about comfort food, eaten at home in my jammies on the couch right next to Pickles the cat.

I still had some buttermilk from last week's strawberry cupcakes, and some blackberries from last week's trip to Fairway. Both were nearing the end of their useful lifespan in the fridge, and so they were more than happy to jump into a mixing bowl with some flour and egg and baking powder and become my breakfast.

Dinner was a bit more veggie-centric. I roasted a chicken breast with some of the mystery herbs from the CSA, sauteed the zephyr squash with a little bit of olive oil and butter and drizzled some honey over the world's tastiest caramelized brussels sprouts. A friend who's also in this CSA pointed out that the squash tasted kind of nutty, and she was right! It's really good - there's less mushy seedy stuff than in a regular summer squash, and there's a definite nuttiness to it.

Maybe the nuttiness is why I liked it so much. I can relate.

Yesterday started out with a field trip to Woodside to have lunch with Jamey and his sister at Sripraphai. The food there was fantastic - just as spicy and complex and yummy as zillions of reviews have promised - but we probably couldn't have consumed more deep-fried, sugary or heavy food if we'd tried. (We just couldn't resist the crunchy, deep-fried watercress salad with tofu and mushrooms and cashews, though! Or at least, I certainly couldn't.)

After such a late (and calorie-tastic!) meal, a lighter dinner was in order. I'd previously Googled "garlic scapes," trying to figure out what to do with them, and came across an article in the Times that suggested blending them into a simple white bean dip.

And so, I did. I had a can of white beans in my cabinet that weren't getting any younger, so I put them into the blender with both scapes, a big splash of olive oil and some salt. Thirty seconds later, my hummus was born! Scooped up with some sliced (and decidedly non-CSA) bell peppers, it was a tasty and healthy dinner.

It might not have been the best thing to eat before going out dancing, though. Unless my dancing partners were really into garlic breath. Next time, I'd just use one scape to one can of beans. Those suckers are strong!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

June 18th is finally here! Matt and I left work at five, both exhausted and grumpy after a long and rainy day. By the time we got to the pickup spot, though, our bad moods gave way to ridiculous excitement... our veggies were here!

I'm too tired to start cooking tonight, so here are some glamour shots of my half of the haul. The crazy curlicue above is a garlic scape... I've never had one before, but a bit of research has suggested that they're delicious sliced up and sauteed in butter. I'm thinking bruschetta...

These are zephyr squash! They're pretty small - and my picture of them is pretty out of focus - they're about the size of one of my fingers. We got seven of these to split between us.

I loooove bok choy. Super excited about sauteeing this with some sliced pork and soy sauce. There are weird little holes in the leaves, but I'm kind of whatevs about it. Maybe some bugs were munching on it... who can blame them? I'd be munching on it, too.

Herbs! In a little pot of dirt! I'm not entirely sure which herbs they are. One of them smells like oregano.

These strawberries are out of control. So red and perfectly ripe and sweet and tart and delicious. I doubt that they will survive the evening.

This freaky, alien-looking vegetable is apparently kohlrabi. I have no idea what to do with it. I bet Google will know, though...

And finally, the greens. To your left, we have some kale... scallions in the middle... and a big bunch of lovely chard on the right. Since it seems boring to just chop 'em up and cook them up with some garlic, I think I'm gonna make a strata with some of the greens and some chicken sausage.

Oh man. I have to go. It's strawberry time!