Friday, July 25, 2008

Cooking as Procrastination

And why not??

Here's the thing: I'm trying to write a quickie 5-minute speech for my New Sector Residency graduation thingy next Thursday, and although I already know what I'm going to talk about, I can't seem to put anything concrete down. I've shunned the empty notebook page, I've been avoiding the blank computer screen (this doesn't count) - so what does that leave me? One of the most glorious blank canvases in existence: the frying pan!

How about I tell you what I just made for dinner instead of why this past year has been a meaningful and enriching experience?

The Salad That Was a Scramble:

- 2-3 eggs, beaten with some milk
- crumbled goat cheese
- baby spinach leaves
- walnuts
- balsamic vinegar
- salt

To make this really good, heat a skillet over low heat and pour in the eggs. Stir slowly and constantly. Nothing will happen for a while because the heat is so low, but don't get antsy; you'll thank me later. When the eggs start to curdle, add in the goat cheese and keep stirring to keep the stuff from sticking to the sides of the pan. When it's all pretty curdled up but still not set, turn the heat off and just walk away. Go fold your laundry. Or cut your toenails (away from the stove!). Then come back and give everything a good stir with a heat-resistant plastic spatula (thanks to Kat for introducing me to this satisfying utensil). Turn the heat back to low and add the spinach. Mix everything well and remove from heat when the eggs just stop being runny. Transfer to a bowl and mix with a handful of chopped walnuts, a few splashes of balsamic, and some chunky salt.

Et voila! My dinner - but you can have some too, I guess...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Further Cause for Cooking

I have two new inventions to share.

The first was inspired by the overwhelming heat and humidity of last week, and the unveiling of a new drink at Starbucks (you're gonna charge me $6 for that, buddy??!)

The second is a tribute to the wonderfully sensuous texture of meat sauce. But without the meat. Now why, you might ask, would a person who's never claimed to be a vegetarian go out of her way to make a meatless meaty-sauce? Good question. My response: I'm not sure! But I can tell you this: I've steered clear of meat almost entirely for the past 3 months, not out of any conscious decision, just cause I haven't felt like it. (well, there are some environmental reasons that factor in, but why complicate things now?) So slap me with whatever label you'd like. (And if you must, I have a personal preference for "vegequarian" - credit goes to my friend Zahra for that one) Anyway, I enjoy this stuff with spiral whole wheat pasta - like rotini! Or fusilli!

So here goes:

Choco-Banana Smoothie:

- 8 oz. (half package) of silken tofu
- 1 frozen banana
- a few heaping tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
- a blender/food processor

I'll leave it to you to figure out the rest, brainiac. This stuff works in a cup or a bowl. But I'd go with a big ceramic mug if I were you. A spoon is definitely a must.

Garlicky "Meat" Sauce

- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cloves - 1/2 head of crushed garlic (I prefer the more intense side of the garlic continuum)
- a few healthy shakes of crushed red pepper flakes (Turkish chili, if you have it)
- 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (with liquid)
- 1/2 - 2/3 cup ground almonds (food processor does the trick)
- 8 oz. (half package) silken tofu
- 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
- salt

Saute the garlic and red pepper flakes in the olive oil over medium-low for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes, liquid and all, and raise heat to medium. Stir frequently, about 10 mins. Add the ground almonds and the silken tofu, and mix well. If you're adding peas, add them now also. Lower the heat and simmer for another 15 minutes or so, and season with salt to taste. Serve over shapely pasta right away, or store in the fridge or freezer for later. This stuff gets ridiculously flavorful after a few days in the fridge. Plus, if you feel like having a cooking bonanza (and aren't vegan), mix the sauce in a baking dish with egg-coated cooked pasta, sprinkle the top with cheese, and bake for about 30 mins at 400 degrees F, until the top is golden.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lentil Salad with Cilantro and Lime

On Friday my co-experimenter extraordinaire Kat told me about a lemony lentil salad she had just made, and when I peered into my fridge and saw the lime and the cilantro, I knew at once what had to be done. And here it is:

- 1 cup dried lentils
- 3 cups water

- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1 tsp. cumin
- salt

- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 yellow or red (or orange!) bell pepper, diced
- handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
- handful of chopped cilantro

Cook the lentils. In a big bowl, mix the dressing (middle 4 ingredients). Add the veggies, then the drained lentils, and let this sit in your fridge for a while to marinade. Taking a bite of this refreshing stuff is like dipping your big toe into a bucket of ice water...ahhhhhh.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Chilled Avocado Slurp!

A recipe I spotted in an issue of Cooking Light inspired me to invent my own kind of avocado soup. As I normally do with recipes, I took a look at the ingredients listed, jotted down a few of these along with my own ideas for what to try, and started sculpting this raw green goodness in my beloved mini-cuisinart. Here's how it went down:
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • some veggie broth (enough to get the desired texture)
  • 1 seeded and chopped jalapeƱo
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • a whole lotta cilantro
  • a big splash of lime juice
  • salt
  • 1/2 diced red onion, for garnish
Puree all ingredients (except onion) in food processor. Add more broth as needed to get the right texture. Salt to taste. You want to refrigerate this at least 1 hour (but more makes the soup even tastier) before serving. Spoon over bowls of brown rice and garnish with red onion and a sprinkle of whole cilantro leaves.

* tip: leave one of the avocado pits in your serving/storage bowl to keep the soup from browning too much. Also, cover the surface of the soup entirely with plastic wrap, for the same reason.

I ate my soup for lunch all this week and it was amazing. It's incredibly nourishing and satisfying. With every day that passed the flavors mingled and intensified beautifully.

I was very sad to see it all go so fast (down the hatch).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I welcome myself to the world of the web log!

BEING NEW TO THE UNIVERSE OF BLOGS, I'm going to start off by ...not making any silly excuses!! (why do most fledgling writers begin in such a miserably apologetic fashion, anyway?)

I wish to create a receptacle for my culinary musings (recipes to follow in subsequent posts). Feeling pretty satisfied with my recent food explorations, I suddenly find myself moved to join the ranks of those who hand over their particular life experiences to the shifting, shapeless worldwide nets! I've never shied away from an audience, so why start now??

Anyway: I love to cook and hope to share this passion with other bloggers who feel the call of the cuisinart. I don't know where this gusto for the gustatory will lead me, but I invite any and all to read my postings and please do make a comment if the heady scent of garlic doth move you...