the curry comeback

I missed you guys!

I really like blogs. In fact, I have several I read every day, I enjoy catching up on daily musings and adventures of writers who feel like virtual friends. A Pear to Remember is not currently a site for daily recipes, and I decided recently that I am okay with that. Rather than disappointing myself with unrealistic expectations of time, or regularly pairing recipes with apologies, I’m going to visit to talk deliciously do-able cooking whenever I can–and that might not be every day. I just love living life, you know?

You see, I do get my blogging in: I also author a weekly WordPress blog at my new job, so you can find new recipes and Nutrition-talk here. I hope you’ll feel free to pop over and see what I’m cooking in my new career.

I don’t forget about you, no no—I’ve photographed many a dinner, anxious to share the secrets to recreating the magic in your kitchen. I even made homemade pumpkin spice lattes that are the best welcome home treat ever. Last night was the third time I made the dish in today’s post—you know I rarely make any recipe twice, so third time here is truly a charm. And I added a few special twists you will love. You do not need a dutch oven to make this rice, you can steam it right on the stove, or bake it in a covered dish—amazing baked rice has come from my Grammy’s vintage turquoise pyrex. But it does look pretty in Monsieur Pesto, oui?

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFinal disclaimer before we get to the goods: I know a few dears out there are going to FREAK OUT at the word preceding “cauliflower” in the recipe name below. In previous Indian dishes on this site, I’ve tried my darndest to remind you that curry is really a verb meaning to mix. When the Brits got a taste of how spectacular Indian food is (my favorite cuisine, in fact), they—yes, the Brits—invented a spice blend to mimic Indian flavors. Curry powder, I made some last week when I ran out, can be as simple as turmeric + cumin + coriander + cayenne. Put it in a jar and people freak out. An alarming number of people have said to my face: Oh see, I don’t like curry. Well, if I can’t change your mind, this rice will change your world.

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One-Pot Curried Cauliflower Rice

loosely based on a recipe from Everyday Food, serves 6

4 teaspoons vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter—oh God!!)

1 large head cauliflower, cored and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (or 1 bag frozen florets)

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

2 cups basmati or other long-grain white rice (we used brown), rinsed well

4 heaping teaspoons curry powder (if it’s been in your pantry for two presidents, time for a new jar)

1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 3/4 cups low-sodium broth

1/2 cup canned coconut milk

½ cup other veggies in your fridge (I diced carrot and fennel), optional

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high. Add cauliflower and cook, stirring frequently, until browned in spots. Transfer to a plate.

Add 2 teaspoons oil and onion (plus any other veggies) to pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 5 minutes. Add the rinsed rice, curry powder, and chickpeas.

Cook, stirring constantly, until rice is coated, about 2 minutes. Add broth and coconut milk (shake the can first!) and bring to a boil.

Scatter cauliflower over top (do not stir to combine). Cover and bake until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, 15 minutes (25 minutes for brown rice).

Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with cilantro and a pinch of salt for pizazz. We enjoyed ours with a side of fried paneer.

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plenty: multi-vegetable paella

To celebrate my new job(!!), my in-laws took Andrew and I to one of my absolute favorite restaurants, Jose Andres’ Jaleo. This is how I finished a memorable night of tapas:

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Back in our apartment days/my unemployed-days, I often stayed up to watch Chef Andres’ PBS show Made In Spain. His dishes looked remarkable, and I was especially envious of his children digging their forks into the paella he made on their backyard grill. Unfortunately for me, his paella consisted of many meat-lover’s ingredients, assuring me I might go my entire life without experiencing paella. Paella, meaning “frying pan”, is a saffron-flavored Spanish dish made with varying combinations of rice, vegetables, meat, chicken, and seafood. Those last three key ingredients just don’t fit in to my picky palate.

Then I bought this beautiful book last year that has rocked my kitchen over and over and over. To continue my series featuring the brilliant cookbook Plenty, I’m first going to tease you with this upcoming pistachio couscous recipe from said Cookbook-That-Delivers-Every-Time (then we’ll talk paella).

I did not have paella rice (though I realized yesterday I had risotto rice hiding in my pantry all along. Out of complete desperation I used long-grain white rice (you could use jasmine or basmati, though basmati has a strong flavor). I know using long-grain white rice means my chances of shaking hands with Chef Andres are now as slim as ever, surely I have embarrassed the entire country of Spain. But people: this is still the best damn rice you’ll have in your life, so don’t let a little grain get you down. Yes there are numerous ingredients, but this is very, very special. Bring this one out for company.

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Multi-Vegetable Paella

from Plenty, serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, cut into strips

1/2 fennel bulb, cut into strips

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

1/2 tsp. ground turmeric

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 cup short-grain paella rice (however, I used jasmine)

6  1/2 tablespoons sherry (I used sherry vinegar)

1 tsp. saffron threads

2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

3/4 cup fava beans (fresh or frozen)

12 plum tomatoes, halved

5 small artichokes in oil from a jar, drained and quartered

15 pitted kalamata olives, crushed or halved

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

4 lemon wedges

Saute the veggies.

Heat up the olive oil in a paella pan, or a large shallow skillet, and gently soften the onion for 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and fennel and continue to cook on medium heat for about 6 minutes, or until soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the spices and cook the rice.

Add the bay leaves, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne to the vegetables, and stir well. Then add the rice and stir thoroughly for 2 minutes before adding the sherry and saffron. Boil down for a minute, then add the stock and ⅓ teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat to the minimum and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Do not cover the pan, and don’t stir the rice during the cooking.

(I omitted this step:) Meanwhile, pour plenty of boiling water over the fava beans in a bowl and leave for a minute, then drain well and leave to cool down. Now squeeze each bean gently to remove the skin and discard it.

Steam the vegetables.

Remove the paella pan from the heat. Taste and add more salt if needed, but without stirring the rice and vegetables much. Scatter the tomatoes, artichokes, and fava beans over the rice, and cover the pan tightly with foil. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Take off the foil with gusto to reveal this exquisite presentation. Scatter the olives on top of the paella and sprinkle with parsley. Remove the bay leaves and serve with wedges of lemon.

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Andrew and I haven’t been to Spain—yet—but this dish provided a divine cultural experience. We have been traveling abroad recently, more on that next time ;)

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all is revealed

I679859_522448151100932_725830429_o had a food processor at age four. I should have seen food in my future.

My name is Lindsey, I’m 27 years old, and it finally happened: The Job. Your reading and supporting this blog is a huge part of it, so THANK YOU.
Let’s rewind:

new 525In 2008, I graduated from college with my Social Work degree. Like most grads interested in future employment, I began job-hunting midway through senior year. I really wanted to work for a small nonprofit, with a special interest in homelessness or senior citizens. I went to the job fairs, wrote a stellar resume, e-mailed organizations left and right. (Oh, and this is during the height of America’s current recession). Nada.

Later in 2008, Andrew and I married and he got The Job shortly before our wedd369_526374195049_468_ning. He majored in film and landed a spectacular job in television (that he still loves), while Little Miss Social Work Major has no luck. For several months I was churning out resumes full-time, my heart filled-to-the-brim with discouragement and self-doubts. Planning our nightly dinner menu was the most exciting part of my day. And then I realized I had a knack for cooking. Later, at Andrew’s insistence, I began this blog about that passion.

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Is it becoming clear now how I spent my time?

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In 2010, I began graduate school for Nutrition. I still had a great interest in working with the homeless, but actually began the program thinking I might start an independent company to serve marginalized seniors. I focused most of my grad projects on food insecurity and hunger in the District of Columbia, as my full-time job in Elementary Special Ed had me interested in meeting the nutritional needs of children. Getting a full-time job as an instructional assistant (4 miles from my house) while in grad school was an amazing and fulfilling opportunity. But the lingo was frustrating; I didn’t complete 7 years of collegiate work to think about standardized tests or gain know-how on severe behavioral issues. And I worked for three years beside many passionate, inspiring teachers so devoted to their work. I admired how much joy they took in their work, because it was the profession they had set out to do. Despite my absolute dedication to my very special students, I felt afflicted like Shel Silverstein’s Missing Piece, wanting so much to find the place where I really felt my life’s calling.

And then it’s that chance thing: I ran into my friend Nate Ho at our gym’s water fountain when he asked me about my job hunt. I shared my discouragement, having now completed graduate school and always making it to the final round of job interviews with limited experience leaving me out in the end. Nate said, “Try informational interviews.” And that, my friends, nearly a year later, finally did it. IF YOU ARE SEEKING EMPLOYMENT AND KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO DO: CONSIDER INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS! So I went to nearly every foodbank in Virginia, Washington D.C., and one in southern Maryland; I introduced myself to Executive Directors, asked them to talk for an hour  (often more!) about the work they do and how my skill-set might fit into the food assistance field.


I began my informational interviews in August 2012, and got The Job Offer just two weeks ago in May 2013. Since 2007, I had sent out countless resumes, cover letters, and applications—then I changed my approach. That’s six years, people. Six years. But it happened.

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Now I am the NUTRITION EDUCATOR for a large foodbank. (And it’s one of those nonprofits Doing It Right, I love that.) I just started this week! My job will entail traveling to homeless centers, women’s shelters, schools and community centers to demonstrate healthy cooking techniques and do food tastings. Back at the warehouse, I will also do food demos and tastings for clients waiting in line for food boxes, and hold regular nutrition classes for clients. It is humbling and rewarding work already.

THANK YOU for allowing A Pear to Remember to be a place where I really began the journey of teaching others to cook and explore healthy eating habits. Your comments and encouragement strengthened my confidence in this field, and gave me something pretty groovy to put on my resume. You’re the best.

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the only exception

I’m not usually drawn to recipes that require specialty ingredient substitutions to make a dish healthier. Brewer’s yeast, soy cheese, nut cream—not my thing. I often find little other uses for expensive health alternatives.

Oh, but today’s cookie—a whole different (do-able) story.

Pear readers know not to bother visiting this spot for dessert recipes. It’s not that I don’t like desserts—if I could bake, I would eat the entire pan of whatever chocolate-y goodness popped out of my oven. Thankfully, I flop at nearly everything I bake, which means it’s easier to be healthy when there’s no cookies in the house.

Let’s also clarify something: ours is a healthy home, so I don’t really endorse daily cookie eating. Or recipes that call for funky ingredients and substitutions. BUT HERE’S WHERE I’M WILLING TO MAKE A PERMANENT EXCEPTION.

When Vegetarian Times magazine called this “The Heart-Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookie in the World”—let’s say I was intrigued.

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I am an oatmeal-for-breakfast girl through and through (berries + cinnamon + honey = mmm mmm), and typically I would raise an eyebrow at you if you ever tried to put my breakfast in a dessert. But seriously, people: the exception.

Besides that this is deliciously chocolatey and moist, let’s talk nutrition facts for a sec. Take a Mrs. Fields’ Oatmeal Chocolate Chip (65 grams) made with butter, brown sugar, whole eggs, vanilla, salt and baking soda—standard cookie ingredients…

MRS. FIELDS                                   THIS COOKIE

280 calories                                      173 calories

13 g fat                                                 10 g fat

8 g sat. fat                                           3 g sat. fat

40 g carbs                                           21 g carbs

140 mg sodium                                122 mg sodium

35 mg cholesterol                           0 mg cholesterol

1 g fiber                                               2 g fiber

17 g sugar                                           12 g sugar

Two big points I take away from this cookie comparison is the fat content—both cookies are high in fat per serving, but the cookie with walnuts and oat flour has less saturated (artery-clogging) fat. The cookie here is also cholesterol free.

It is not time to start substituting cookies for breakfast or a nutritious snack, but this is a great dessert alternative for get-togethers—a huge hit among a crowd of family members that might have freaked if I mentioned the word “vegan”… With nine people in the house the weekend I cooked these in Delaware, they were gone by morning! This cookie is work, but not complicated work. This cookie is worth it.

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Note: I found oat flour in Giant’s “Natural” health aisle. (Does it drive anyone else bonkers that a commercial FOOD store has a single aisle devoted to “healthy” products?)

The Heart-Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World

Vegetarian Times, February 2009

makes 30 cookies, active time: less than 30 minutes

3 Tbs. canola oil

2 cups walnuts

1 cup light brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1½ cups oat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

2 cups rolled oats

3 3.5-oz. bars bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped, or 12 oz. dark chocolate chips

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Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper.

Blend walnuts in food processor 30 seconds, or until ground into a fine meal. Add canola oil, and blend 2 to 3 minutes more, or until mixture has the consistency of natural peanut butter, scraping down sides of food processor occasionally. Transfer to bowl.

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Whisk together brown sugar and ½ cup water in small saucepan, and bring mixture to a boil. Pour brown sugar mixture over ground walnut butter, add vanilla extract, and stir until no lumps remain.

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Whisk together oat flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in separate bowl. Stir oat flour mixture into walnut mixture. Cool 10 minutes. Fold in oats, then chocolate chips.

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Shape cookie dough into 2-inch balls, and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten cookies with bottom of drinking glass dipped in water.

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Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until cookies begin to brown and tops look dry. Cool 3 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

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There aren’t too many desserts here, as baking is simply not my strong suit (ironic that I was employed as a baker four years ago…) Still, there are a few desserts I love to recreate. Find my galette, brown-butter krispies, fresh berry tart, watermelon bites, chocolate peanut-butter pie and more here.

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pantry picnic

If you live on the East Coast, you know Mother N. hit the fast-forward button straight from winter to summer. I’m rocking sundresses on a daily basis these (80-degree) days and ready to eat outside. Andrew and I have re-opened Cafe Lindrew for the season—that is, our little stone patio looking out to the woods. This week has been barbeque with cousins and Mickey Mouse birthdays, and Happy Hour on the patio with the hubs (yuengling for Andrew, textbook for me).

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Isn’t it clear it’s time to get outside for some Vitamin D? In keeping with our humble canned-food quest, here’s a two-minute slaw to take on your next picnic—even if it’s in your backyard. Yes, I realize the contradiction: canned food + a $150 food processor? A big ol’ food processor makes this salad lightening-fast. In case you don’t have a large food processor, you could make this in batches in a small $14 food processor, or just chop up all the ingredients and stir in a big bowl! I never have luck with these hand choppers, but this slaw is the perfect use for one if you’ve got it!

I was missing several ingredients (indicated below) and this was still delightful—like the chicken salad solution for vegetarians. A surprising hit in both the teacher’s lounge and my hubby’s sneak taste-test. “Wow, that smells awesome,” he said over my shoulder. “Am I allowed to have some?” Don’t mention it’s missing meat ;)

Chunky Artichoke and Chickpea Salad

Vegetarian Times, serves 6

For a spring picnic or lunch, serve this dish as a dip with crackers or spread on pumpernickel and top with tomato.Or enjoy with your favorite sandwich (apple and cheddar). Don’t freak out at the number of ingredients until you see how many steps follow.
1  16-oz. can / jar artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
1  12-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped cornichons (French baby pickles)—I used a bread & butter spear
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh celery
¼ cup vegan mayonnaise (I used regular Hellmans)
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. capers (I omitted)
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1 tsp. seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay (I omitted)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard (I omitted)

Pulse all ingredients in food processor until chunky. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Chill at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

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Thank you Vegetarian Times for the nutrition facts! Per 1/2-cup serving (note the majority of the fat is not saturated):

Calories: 148, Protein: 5 g, Total Fat: 9 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Cholesterol: 2 mg, Sodium: 435 mg, Fiber: 6 mg, Sugar: 3 g

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a salad to weather the weather

It’s April, and I find myself discussing “Spring” with the kindergarteners each day. Spring, however, is a confusing concept on the east coast of the United States of America in the year Two-Thousand Thirteen.

Last week was Spring Break; I spent three days in the mountains with my in-laws and the remaining weeks shivering with my folks at the beach.

Spring break day one (at a magical mountain cottage) looked like this:

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our NEIGHbors

Spring break day two looked like this:

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Last week I wore short sleeves to work; the following night’s forecast was sleet and flurries. This weather certainly leaves one stumped about dinner. Something potato-laden, bubbling with cheese? Or shaved asparagus with lemon, crisp and chilled? Here’s a very special salad featuring some buttery comfort from the oven and simple fresh veggies.

$19 mandolinFIRST, SECRETS TO A SUPERB SALAD: I get lots of compliments from guests about my salads, and this is the real texture secret: a mandolin. I have a $10 mandolin from Home Goods and love using it to slice peppers, apples or pears to toss with salad greens, lemon juice and olive oil (those last ingredients are Secret Number Two). The salad is uniformly thin, fork-friendly and crisp. No more salads weighted down with thick cuts of carrots and radishes that require endless chomping. I used my mandolin (carefully, so carefully) to quickly slice the onions and bell pepper for this recipe. You can find a mandolin at Target, Wal-Mart, TJMaxx, Amazon, etc. (Other kitchen essentials here).

Andrew and I loved this restaurant-quality dressing, exciting enough to enjoy the salad for two dinners—and use up the leftover buttermilk for fruit-topped pancakes on night three.

Time-saver Note: I whipped up Trader Joe’s Cornbread Mix in two minutes and baked this while prepping the remaining salad. I have still included a from-scratch cornbread recipe I’ll try on a weekend ;)

Corn Bread Salad

Adapted by Deb from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 recipe Crispy Corn Bread (below) or 3 cups of 1-inch cornbread cubes
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (4 to 6 medium or halved cherry tomatoes)
6 cups roughly torn sturdy fresh lettuce, such as Bibb, butter or Boston
2 cups bitter greens, such as arugula (crucial!)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large Vidalia onion, trimmed, peeled, sliced crosswise as thinly as possible and separated into rings
1 recipe Buttermilk-Lime Dressing (below)

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Preheat oven to 250°. Scatter the corn bread in a single layer on a half-sheet pan and bake until the pieces are lightly toasted, about 7 minutes.

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Chop the tomatoes with the skin on. Place lettuce, greens, 3 cups of toasted corn bread, onion and tomatoes to a large bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle with buttermilk dressing, season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Serve immediately.

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Deb’s do ahead tip: If you’re making this for a picnic or pot-luck — and oh, you should — she suggests keeping the croutons in one container, the dressing in another and the salad mixture in a third; this is best freshly assembled, or in the 30 minutes after.

Buttermilk-Lime Dressing
Adapted by Deb from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

3/4 cup whole or lowfat buttermilk
5 tabespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (they say from 3 to 4 limes; I only needed 1 1/2)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (optional, this was my addition to give it more zing)
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup finely minced fresh basil
1/4 cup finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely minced green onions
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

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Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Can covered tightly and stored in the fridge up to two days.

Note from Lindsey: I kept this hand-chopped and chunky, but I think it would be creamier (and faster) in a blender. Since this is a repeat recipe, I plan to puree next time. This recipe is a fabulous twist on my favorite couldn’t-be-easier salad, Panzanella. Try it here.

if you’re not making the cornbread from a mix, read on…

Thin, Crispy Corn Bread
Adapted by Deb from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole or lowfat buttermilk (whole is preferred, here’s how you can make your own)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease a 12-inch skillet with one tablespoon of the lard or butter, leaving any excess in the pan, and place it in the oven.

In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg until frothy and then whisk in the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix thoroughly. Melt the remaining butter in a small skill (or your microwave) and whisk the butter into your batter.

While the fat in the large skillet is smoking, carefully remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the fat around to coat the bottom and sides evenly. Pour the batter into the skillet; it should “sizzle alluringly”, says the Lee Brothers. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top of the bread is golden brown and the edge has pulled away from the side of the skillet. Remove from the oven and either serve hot, in six wedges, or let cool and reserve for Corn Bread Salad (above).

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armed and embroidered

Several weeks ago, The Chef’s Emporium asked me to write a product review for them. The amazing catch? I got to pick the product. The Chef’s Emporium has an array of cooking clothing and accessories—even chef clothing for kids (the Children’s Lime Green Chef’s Coat is irresistible). Because my knife rack suffers overcrowding, I decided on V-Series Black VERONA Women’s Cool Vent Chef Coat from the appealing Women’s Collection. The poly/cotton twill coat has a number of wonderful features, better even in person: side seam slit at the hip, ¾ length sleeve, Under-Arm and Sleeve Cool Vent Inset Panels, and a thermometer pocket. For $59.95, I was very pleased with the durability yet lightweight fabric. I was expecting an awkwardly thick top like my karate uniform, and this was a truly pleasant surprise. The sizes run from XS-2XL. I ordered the XS.

I like to consider my “catering” gigs informal: wedding showers, events under 50 guests, dinner parties. Yet in true American female fashion, I am always concerned about what to wear when I’m cooking for others in public. I want to look nice, yet it is guaranteed I will get food on myself. For me, this coat is practical and professional. I would recommend it to any caterer, restaurant cook, or—like myself—the enthusiastic entertainer looking to leave the party without olive oil on her blouse.

I am planning to don this fashionable coat for upcoming cooking demos, so I have been wearing it regularly in my own kitchen in lieu of my usual array of aprons. I especially love the ¾ sleeves for all my prep tasks. Yesterday, I was vigorously shaking salad dressing ingredients in what I swore was a sealed container and proved that this coat does indeed protect one from the neck on down—and is stain-resistant even from oil and vinegars. (If the salad dressing splashes onto your bangs, this coat—regardless how awesome—will not, I discovered, protect you).

I am pleased with the quality of this coat, both in the flattering tailored details and the embroidery. However, I have two complaints; I am to blame for both. I am four-foot eleven-inches short, and rarely need to consider a top size above XS. The XS supposedly suits a woman with 32-42 bust size. There is no mention of hips, and this home cook sure has them. The XS is tight on top, and impossible to button the final button on the bottom over my hips. Having not ordered a chef’s coat before, I failed to consider that I would be wearing this with another top beneath. I would recommend one to two sizes up from your normal, fitted-shirt size. Despite the tight bust, my broad shoulders are not at all constricted working in this coat—another pleasing feature.

I was also disappointed the embroidery is so close to the buttons that my “L” is not visible from certain angles of the coat. However, I chose to include 16 characters with a space in a single line of text: lesson learned. Now that I have a logo (courtesy of Steven DeFoliart), I would order from The Chef’s Emporium again with Steven’s artwork.

A very special thank you to The Chef’s Emporium for providing me one of their quality products I can enjoy for years to come. Check out their affordable knives, clothes, hats, aprons and kidswear at http://www.chefsemporium.net. Then click here to read the lovely things they had to say about A Pear to Remember!

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origanum majorana

Marjoram sounds like the name of a homely, studious girl in your mother’s eighth grade biology class.  I don’t know about you, but the scientific classification for the herb Marjoram, origanum majorana, sounds like a naughty phrase from the boy’s locker room. Utter its cousin, origanum vulgare, and it’s study hall for you.

However you like to address fresh herbs, I have a spunky friend for your new pal Marjoram. Oregano is her sneak-out-the-window older sister, so the same flavor rules apply. If you’ve visited A Pear to Remember before, cue palm-to-forehead smack as I gush over eggplant and feta YES SERIOUSLY AGAIN. (I find affordable, abundant varieties of eggplant at Korean/Latino grocers, discussed here).

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Andrew is a newly inducted member of the eggplant fan club and still weary of initiation rituals. When it’s not breaded or covered in cheese, eggplant in-the-nude lingers suspiciously longer on his fork on the slow ascend to his mouth. He liked this salad. Really, genuinely liked this salad. I like to think the Andrew-Stamp resides in the same circle of Kid’s Approval since, let’s face it, men aren’t always so excited about new veggies.

If you thought eggplant was only for Italian food, well, obviously you’re new here. Even if you’ve cooked it twelve ways, here’s a strikingly simple Middle Eastern salad for your expanding culinary repertoire.

Spinach Salad with Grilled Eggplant and Feta

from Gourmet, June 2009

serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as a side

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon minced garlic (I’ve got a sexy Brit to show you how)

2 teaspoons chopped marjoram or oregano

1 (1 1/4-pounds) eggplant, trimmed and cut into 8 (1-inch-thick) rounds (here’s how)

10 ounces baby spinach

1 cup crumbled feta (1/4 pound)

1/4 cup pine nuts (1 ounce), lightly toasted

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over hot charcoal (high heat for gas); we use this stovetop fellow year round. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, garlic, marjoram, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.

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Brush both sides of eggplant slices with some of dressing. Season with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper—you know, pinch it, don’t fret over measures. Oil grill rack, then grill eggplant, covered only if using a gas grill, turning occasionally, until tender, 12 to 15 minutes total. Cut into pieces.

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Toss spinach with enough dressing to coat and season with salt and pepper. Add eggplant, feta, and pine nuts and toss again.

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Serve atop fluffy couscous and sprinkle with some baby tomatoes. I imagine this salad would gladly accept an invitation from my juicy roast chicken to get together after school and “study”.

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pretty, perfectly awful food

Many Pear readers remark to me how they enjoy the food photos featured here. Now that I’ve taken a photography course (after two years of owning my camera!), the photos will hopefully improve to not just pretty but professional. A Pear to Remember is a place for recipes I have confidence are worth your time, money and effort—not to document meals only a skilled chef could recreate.

I cook nearly every night in our condo kitchen, so why aren’t there daily recipes posted here? Time is the biggest factor. Flops are another. In the five years I have cooked with determined diligence, the what-a-disappointment meals are increasingly distant from each other. But still.

For those of you who pop over here to find visual culinary inspiration, the following photos are for you. I took them the day after I completed my photography course. What a beautiful meal! An exquisite entrée of herbs, vegetables and wine!

For those of you who want a reliable, replicable recipe—check out the many recipes on this site. The recipe that accompanied this dish produced a complete failure, nearly throw-away bad. The wine made the veggies a soggy, sour mess. I promise I will only ever publish recipes worth your while. I also promise I will always post photos to make you hungry and excited to cook. This is just a we’re-all-in-this-together-my-dinners-flop-too reminder ;)

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Any food disasters you care to share?

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the can-can gratin

My food snobbery diminishes by the day. I like to think.

In the past eight months, I visited six food banks—even as recent as yesterday. I’m learning how they operate, feed, support, and educate the hungry working poor they serve. In two weeks, I get to demo “creative cooking with canned spinach” at an incredible food bank in Maryland with a strong Nutrition Education emphasis. It has me thinking about canned food—where and how it has a place in the American diet.

In my blog profile, I reference my soggy canned corn/green bean childhood. (Allow me to mention here that I was raised in a loving, stable, incredible family and blessed to have canned vegetables as my main complaint). Indeed, my fresh-food-filled adulthood has thus far proven crunchy and delightful. I love witnessing how many food banks are providing seasonal produce to their clients when there are abundant markets. They wisely save canned products for colder seasons. Some local food banks are even sorting canned produce by nutrient priority: orange vegetables, beans, low-sugar fruit, low-sodium soup.

Canned vegetables are not ideal: fresh and frozen are more nutrient-dense and contain less sodium. However, my feelings here resemble my feelings toward the organic-local movement. That’s great if you have access to fresh, local, organic foods. That’s seriously awesome you can afford it. I, in fact, envy this privilege—my farmer’s market has been beyond our budget for the past two years. Hunger is a real and prevalent problem for more Americans than we imagine. Yes, canned vegetables are more susceptible to BPA and sodium. But for thousands of families living within ten miles of me, rent payments and medical bills take precedence over seemingly invisible issues like BPA.

It’s important to note that I don’t believe for a minute economically disadvantaged families should have to choose between nutrition and every other financial matter. I find it appalling it’s often acceptable to donate our leftovers and junk food to “the poor”.

As I am turning my own home into a novice test-kitchen for interesting and healthy canned-food recipes, it only seems appropriate to revisit this dreamy artichoke gratin I made in Brennan and Alejandro’s kitchen. Oh yes, a gratin—pronounced gre-tan—from a can.

Artichoke Gratin

from Plenty, serves 4-6

2 pounds frozen artichoke hearts (sold out, so I used 32 oz. canned in water, rinsed well)
4 lemons, grate zest and reserve juice
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons thyme, chopped (the thyme is crucial!)
6 tablespoons flat-leafed parsley, chopped (I omitted the parsley)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (lower fat is great)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup ricotta
6 tablespoons parmesan, grated 

Place frozen artichoke hearts in a large pot and cover with water. Add the lemon juice to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until tender. If using canned artichokes, no need to boil just rinse well. Drain.

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While artichokes are cooking, heat saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Add onions and some salt and pepper. Saute 15 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Add cooked onions and artichoke hearts to a bowl and mix with lemon zest, thyme and parsley. Add salt and pepper as needed.

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and then add the flour. Stir mixture constantly for 2 minutes. Add milk slowly, whisking as you pour. Add salt and whisk on low heat for 10 minutes or until sauce is thick and creamy. When the sauce coats the back of a spoon, it’s good to go—give it a taste (I like to add an extra tablespoon of parmesan into the sauce at this point).

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Mix bechamel—the groovy french word for the white sauce you just made—with the artichoke mixture.

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Lightly grease a medium-sized casserole dish and pour in mixture. Make small holes in mix and drop in teaspoons of ricotta. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

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Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees and remove foil. Top gratin with Parmesan. Continue baking for 20 minutes or until golden brown and bechamel bubbles. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve warm. Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

The thyme is a surprising match to the artichokes—and believe me canned vegetables deserve to be featured in such a decadent meatless entrée. Even Andrew and Alejandro—carnivores of carnivores—scarfed up spoonfuls. The best part? Company in the kitchen.

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For more recipes from the cookbook Plenty, check out this zucchini pasta and this unforgettable yogurt-pomegranate eggplant.

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