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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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emerging from hibernation

Good evening readers and eaters! As I mentioned two posts ago, I have an exciting life project that occupies my evenings—hence the lack of recent recipes. I have indeed been cooking and photographing lovely meals to share with you. Warning: this blog is about to grow in its proportion of heart-healthy, veg-filled delights.

Andrew and I are really cutting back on saturated fats these days: it’s not about a fad diet or vegan trends. As we venture into our fifth year of marriage, we’re unhappy with the weight gain we’ve experienced in this brief time—over 20 lbs. between the two of us. Neither of us is overweight, but 20 lbs. in 5 years is a scary trend considering the inevitable metabolic slow in the coming 5 years. A generous topping of high-fat cheese was making its way into too many of our meals.

My two years immersed in Nutrition grad studies taught me that the most realistic way to weight loss is small, simple dietary substitutions. One less soda a day, less fattening milk, etc. For Andrew, this meant switching from sandwiches to soup for most workday lunches. For me, this meant cut-up fruits and veggies as snacks before meals insteaPhoto & Video Sharing by SmugMugd of my infamous feed-a-family lunch portions. Smaller portions, more frequent meals. Now Andrew eats breakfast. We eat smaller dinners and finish the evenings with yogurt fruit smoothies.

So now I must share my thrilling very-recent discovery: ethnic markets. I had heard about the affordable produce prices for years, and finally visited my local Korean and Hispanic supermart. Not only were the prices one-third of what I paid at Shoppers (which I had found less expensive than my other local chains), but the produce was fresh, abundant, and varied beyond my imagination. Where Shoppers has carried three to four moldy eggplants the past five months, Fresh World had hundreds of firm, blemish-free eggplants—five different varieties! I realize I am spoiled in my metropolitan area, but if you have the opportunity to explore an international market, this is a wonderfully affordable way to incorporate far more fresh ingredients into your meals. I left with seven stuffed produce bags  for barely $40.

Sometimes, we’ve just got to stop complicating dishes with steps and stress. Have a simple, fresh meal. Give yourself a break, your body a boost. Here was our light Friday night…Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Pita and Feta with Vegetables

inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Very Full Tart” recipe (minus eggs, heavy cream, buttered pie crust)

do substitute/omit ingredients per availability

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced

handful cherry tomatoes, halved

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced (1-inch)

1 zucchini, diced

1 large onion

4 tbsp. grapeseed/vegetable oil

4 oz. feta, crumbled

whole wheat pita for serving, cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 400F. On at least two baking sheets, scatter the chopped vegetables into an even layer. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with dried thyme or oregano as you like. Roast the veggies about 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until potatoes are fork tender and browning occurs. Season with ground pepper and sprinkle with feta. If you have fresh oregano or chives, add them here.

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We spooned this vegetable mixture into whole wheat pita pockets, dunking the pita into homemade baba ganoush as well. Surprisingly satisfying.

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plenty: the mighty eggplant

I’m limited in many of the cookbooks of my shelf; vegetarian entrées are less than a third of each book. Imagine my delight when I opened this new cookbook to 120 main course vegetarian recipes. Yes, I coveted Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook Plenty since Christmas when it popped up on all my favorite food blogs.

Consider this new series a reader’s guide to Plenty. The book is packed with abundant photos and paragraphs, the latter of which can appear daunting. When I received the Peter Gorden’s book Salads from a co-worker, I thought I had to roast an entire red onion to use 1 tsp onion juice in the final dressing. It took many years growing comfortable in the kitchen to realize how I could create the dish without four hours devoted to “leaving tomatoes in the sun”. To the discerning palette, some of these steps make a world of difference; the rest of us work and want to get dinner on the table before midnight. I will walk you through some of Plenty’s recipes (four this week alone!) and hope to take the intimidation out of 600-word recipes.

If you purchased Plenty, or plan to, it is surely inspired by the cover photo: roasted eggplants blanketed in a creamy sauce and sparkling pomegranate seeds like jewels. It looks remarkably elegant and utterly original. It is. And it is so do-able, you need to make this  tomorrow—impress the heck of out your friends. I ate my last eggplant the next day, dressed to the nines and refrigerated overnight: it held up perfectly and was delightful cold. (Good thing, since yogurt does not heat well). The ease of achieving this dish: slice, roast, and dress the eggplant for a memorable evening.

Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce

from Plenty, serves four as a starter

2 large and long eggplants (firm and unblemished)

1/3 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tsp thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish

1 pomegranate (or package of pomegranate seeds)

1 tsp za’atar (or equal parts dried oregano, thyme, sesame seeds—crushed)

Sauce:

9 tbsp buttermilk

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I purchased a single serving yogurt cup)

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish

1 small garlic clove, minced (on a microplane or like this)

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways, cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for the look; don’t eat it).

Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin. (I made a few too many! didn’t make a difference) Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern.

Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil—keep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed by the flesh.

Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and some coarse salt and pepper.

Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft, flavorful and nicely browned. I increased the heat to 475°F the last five minutes to achieve the proper color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely.

A delightful za’atar substitute from The Internet: crush 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. leftover fresh thyme, 1 tsp. sesame seeds.

if you can’t find packaged pomegranate seeds:

While the eggplants are in the oven, cut the pomegranate into two horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon or a rolling pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Continue beating with increasing power until the seeds start coming out naturally and falling through your fingers into the bowl. Once all are there, sift through the seeds to remove any bits of white skin or membrane. For the visual learner.

To make the sauce: Whisk together all of the ingredients. Taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed.

To serve, spoon plenty of buttermilk sauce over the eggplant halves without covering the stalks. Sprinkle za’atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with thyme. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

What would YOU serve alongside this eggplant extravaganza? share in the comment section.

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is it a brie day or bulgar day?

When I’m not shoveling in pastry-wrapped brie, I try to plan healthy meals for Andrew and I. With our Charleston trip just a week away (and belly-aching memories of monstrous pancakes from last year’s visit), we’re trying to eat light before a week of Southern cuisine. After 350 days, I think I am ready to look at biscuits again.

I love the search engine on Epicurious.com, which provided an abundance of quick, easy and healthy recipes. I chose an herb-packed grain salad to accompany a different take on green beans. With almonds and lemons on hand, edamame in the freezer, and a healthy mint plant on my windowsill, the meal was budget-friendly with ample leftovers.

I grabbed bulgur, a whole grain, in the bulk bin for less than $2 and was pleasantly surprised to find it tastes fluffier than couscous and not at all bland like whole wheat pastas. It tastes buttery.

The following recipes—marrying here for a substantial meal—are adapted from the September 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine. Oh, and you need to be open to cilantro.

Bulgur with Herbs

1 cup bulgur wheat

2 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1 cup chopped scallions (from 1 bunch)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup chopped mint

1 tablespoon store-bought roasted-almond oil or olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus 1/2 tsp. lemon zest

In a medium pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Stir in the cup of bulgur, and cover, allowing the bulgur to simmer on low heat. Stir occasionally and cook about 20 minutes until the bulgur has expanded. Fluff gently with a fork. Drain any excess water.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small heavy skillet over medium heat until hot, then cook almonds, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute.

Return drained bulgur to serving bowl and stir in scallions, herbs, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and almonds (with oil).

Season with salt and more lemon juice if desired. Serve at room temperature. Oh how crunchy and loaded with lemony flavor!

Bevy of Beans and Basil

3/4 frozen edamame, thawed (soybeans; shelled saves time)

3/4 pound young fresh Romano beans (Italian flat beans), stemmed and cut diagonally into 1 1/2-to 2-inch pieces (I omitted)

1/2 pound green or wax beans, trimmed and halved crosswise

1/4 cup packed basil leaves

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons water

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil; add thawed edamame for about two minutes, remove with slotted spoon and transfer to serving bowl. Cook Romano beans (if using) in same pot of boiling water, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a bowl.

Cook green beans in same pot until just tender, 6 to 7 minutes and add to other beans.

Cut basil into very thin shreds. Cook garlic in oil with a rounded 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 1 minute.

Add beans, water, zest and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Stir in basil and 2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice and remove from heat. Season with salt and additional lemon juice if desired.

Serve beans warm or at room temperature.

It’s a record-hot spring already in Virginia, this is perfect picnic food!

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rosemary’s baby (back ribs)

In the spirit of Halloween, I could not help myself.

If you salivated over read Andrew’s meat-lovers’ birthday menu from my last post, it might have also dawned on astute readers that ribs with a side of grilled hot dogs left little for the vegetarians in the group. Yes, I whipped out my top-secret, future award-winning mac and cheese, but thought the menu could use a little greenery.

Here’s a swift budget-friendly side dish to feed a crowd, a tasty last-minute Linvention. Like the rest of Andrew’s birthday dishes, it’s only five ingredients.

Rosemary Grilled Vegetables

a Linvention, serves 12

1 sweet onion

1 bunch petite asparagus

3 large redskin potatoes

olive oil

2 large sprigs of rosemary

you will also need

aluminum foil

a mandolin

Scrub the potatoes. Keeping the asparagus tied in a bunch, remove the woody asparagus stalk by slicing 1.5 inches from the bottom. Discard the woody asparagus ends and cut the bunch into thirds; the asparagus pieces should be about 2 inches in length. (If you can only find jumbo asparagus, remove woody ends and cut each stalk into 1-inch pieces).

Peel the onion. Using a mandolin or slicing disc, slice the potatoes and sweet onion into very thin slices. Because the potatoes take longest to cook through, you could cut each potato in half before slicing to decrease grilling time. Add the potatoes and onion slices to the bowl with asparagus. Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat, and sprinkle with two large pinches of coarse salt.

Snip the rosemary sprigs into 1-inch pieces and toss with the vegetables.

Add one handful to each sheet of aluminum foil (at least 12 x 15 inches). Make sure each packet has at least one sprig of rosemary. Enclose the vegetables leaving an accessible opening on top.

Put each foil packet, opening face up, over direct medium high heat—checking after about 8 minutes. The potatoes should be tender enough to pierce with your fingernail. Once the potatoes are cooked, remove from the grill and serve.

I had never combined asparagus with rosemary or potatoes, and what a delightful combination. Of course, this would also be a lovely melange for roasting in the oven on the coldest days. There are still lovely autumn days ahead to grill outdoors! What are you grilling?

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as seen on tv

Television I adore: Frasier, Monk, I Love Lucy, Arrested Development—anyone sensing an off-air theme here? I mention this little trivia because Pear readers love to discuss reality cooking shows, and I’m saying it again: I simply don’t watch them. Remember when I judged Iron Chef? I’m not competitive in nature, whether we’re talking about my flute playing or putt-putt game. I don’t watch much food tv anyhow, with our new condo kitchen far from living room viewing potential, and I prefer to spend my time in there. Listening to LPs.

Back in the day, when we lived in our apartment (you know, two months ago), I would come home from work, throw on my apron, and saute simultaneously with Ina. My routine has changed, but one particular television recipe stuck in my mental taste buds all this time. So I finally attempted Claire Robinson’s White Pizza.

“Attempted” is a joke, because a first grader could create this 5-ingredient wonder with equal success.

And Andrew had a cow it was so good—not one complaint over the lack of pepperoni.

This would be a smashing appetizer. Add it to the repertoire, folks. Fab.u.lous.

Easiest White Pizza

God Bless You, Claire Robinson, serves 4

garlic-flavored olive oil

1 lb. ball pizza dough, thawed

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup whole milk ricotta

2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano leaves, more for garnish

Never a fan of fresh oregano, I insist you try it in this context. This is how oregano was meant to be enjoyed. If your mother-in-law’s wild oregano bush is not so close by, you’ll just have to grab one of those fresh herb packs in the salad section. Trust me. Do not skip the oregano.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven.

Brush the pizza pan/pizza stone with oil. (Homemade garlic oil: heat several crushed cloves of garlic in oil over low heat  until fragrant). 

On a work surface, using your hands (or, who are we kidding, a rolling pin), press the pizza dough into a large flat disk and transfer it to the greased pan. Using your fingers, press the dough out until it has stretched to the perimeter of the pan. Create a dough “lip” around the outer edges of the pan. Brush the entire surface of the dough lightly with garlic oil and pierce the bottom of the crust all over with a fork, to prevent bubbling.

Evenly spread the mozzarella over the crust. Using 2 spoons, dollop teaspoon-sized mounds of ricotta evenly over the mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and evenly sprinkle the chopped oregano over the top.

Bake in the lower third of the oven until the crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly and browning on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes before garnishing with additional oregano—serious about this—and slicing into 8 pieces.

I served this with a very simple salad of romaine and dried figs. Drizzle lightly with equal parts balsamic vinegar and agave nectar whisked together. One of those unexpected Linventions that complemented this light meal. It might sound dainty (and risky for a pepperoni-loving spouse), but Andrew returned for thirds.

What’s your favorite pizza topping?

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weeknight fiesta

Last time we were talking about fabulous (and freeze-able!) creamy corn soup, which definitely requires an accompaniment—don’t ‘cha think? Let’s go for something quick, foolproof, and not too messy. I spent three-too-many years putting the salsa inside the tortillas and am thrilled to share my leak-proof quesadillas with you.

To make this an exceptionally budget-friendly meal, grab a container of pre-cut mixed onions/peppers in the produce section, or a small melange of your favorites from the salad bar. Either runs around $2, far less than purchasing a variety of whole bell peppers.

You’ll find a variety of quesadillas here on A Pear to Remember, and they are a fabulous go-to for last-minute inexpensive dining. Simple grilled healthy goodness.

Your Favorite Grilled Quesadillas

whole-wheat quesadillas (love Trader Joe’s handmade Whole Grain)

your favorite cheese, shredded or cut in small pieces (cheddar, goat cheese, etc.)

mixed vegetables (only your favorites: onions, peppers, mushrooms, squash, whatever)

shredded, cooked meat (if that’s your thing)

olive oil

herbs (optional) like chives, cilantro, or basil

your favorite salsa (red, green, or fruity)

you will also need:

a grill or large nonstick skillet

Heat the pan to medium-high heat. Toss your vegetables (cut into even pieces) with just enough olive oil to glisten—adding a pinch of coarse salt if you desire.

When the pan is very hot, spread the vegetables evenly over the heat and leave the vegetables to brown for a few minutes. Using tongs or a large spatula, turn the vegetables a few times until they are browned and tender. Remove from the grill and set aside.

Place a tortilla open on the grill. On one half, sprinkle cheese, a thin layer of vegetables and meat (if using), followed by another sprinkling of cheese—the quesadilla should not be overflowing. Fill another quesadilla the same way so you have two quesadillas in the pan, their folded sides touching.

Use tongs to gently turn the quesadillas after about three minutes, or when the first side is browning. When the second side is brown, transfer to a cutting board and let cool for a minute. Using a large chef’s knife (or pizza wheel), cut each half into four wedges.

Serve with salsa for dipping, sour cream (if you’re feeling indulgent), and herbs (if you read my recent windowsill post). Perfect alongside this corn soup, appetizers, or maybe my favorite cilantro rice. Do let me know your favorite variations, the possibilities are easy and endless.

Exciting news for Facebook users: you can now find (and Like!) A Pear to Remember on Facebook right here!

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charleston chickpeas

No, these garbanzos are not native to our vacation locale. My Alice-in-law asked what we might bring for kitchen basics, and I couldn’t help but grab several cans of chickpeas from our well-stocked cabinet.

For a week of cooking at the beach, I needed to pack my essentials: kitchen scissors, citrus zester, mini food processor, chef’s knife, mini whisk. Three spices: cinnamon, red chile pepper, and my new favorite smoked paprika. Along with olive oil, salt and pepper, these really cover the bases!

I’m a funny little vegetarian (in more ways than you can imagine); I really don’t like beans—and wouldn’t it be helpful if I did? Like my distaste for meat, it’s all a texture thing. My one exception is chickpeas, and preferably when they’re crunchy. What a fabulous, fiber-filled snack. It’s like healthy bar food.

Paprika is a subtle, mild spice of dried, ground sweet peppers. While it is often used for color alone, smoked paprika adds such a smokey essence it almost has a bacon flavor. Far from my vegetarian tastebuds, but so fabulous I’m in love.

Crunchy Paprika Chickpeas

makes 2 cups, adapted from Fresh Flavors Fast

2 cans (15.5 ounces each) chickpeas

3 tbsp. olive oil

1.5 tsp. coarse salt

1.5 tsp. smoked paprika

Be wary of extra-virgin olive oil here. It has such a low burning point, it will smoke and pop under the high heat. I nearly set our oven on fire and scarcely avoided spattering oil burns. Pure olive oil, or another oil with a high smoking point (grapeseed or canola) is safest when crisping these beans in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 450F. Drain and rinse chickpeas, patting dry with a paper towel. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle with oil; toss to coat evenly. Spread in a single layer and roast until deep brown and crispy, tossing occasionally, 35-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with salt and paprika; roast until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool completed. Chickpeas can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature in an airtight container.

A faster, stovetop method I use most days after work:

Add the drained chickpeas to a very large skillet (I prefer a 12″ nonstick) with olive oil over medium heat. Stir occasionally until crisp, then stir in smoked paprika. This is a great time for a splatter screen if you’ve got one; my itty IKEA investment has been well worth it—far less oil on our stove!

Upside to the stovetop method: the chickpeas crisp in about 10 minutes… and you can snack while you cook.

Upside to the oven method: you can leave the chickpeas alone for 40 minutes, and they develop the deep crunch of an almond under such heat.

I made these smoked paprika chickpeas for a party recently, and thought it would be a fun beach snack for our vacation. Such a hit among the in-laws!

Nonetheless, I don’t know if even these crunchy delights can compare with my super super favorite snack of the trip: this fresh-grilled Everything pretzel from the Charleston farmer’s market. Accompanied, sweetly, by luscious lemonade squeezed just moments earlier…

Gets me so darn excited for summer! Which summer treat excites you most??

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the friendly giant

Traditional vegetables that makes us happy? For my husband Andrew, it’s green beans. For this Polish-raised gal, what delights so much as the potato?

twelve inches of golden goodness.

Whether you call ’em rosti, latkes, rårakor or blinis, surely we can all agree the only thing better than a potato pancake is a massive potato pancake.

You can find a variety of rosti and fritters on this blog; I find no guilt around the potato.  In moderation, like everything. A white potato has only 30mg of sodium (1% recommended daily value), 7 grams of protein, and 7 grams of dietary fiber (26% recommended daily value). The poor tuber has developed quite a bad rep over the decades. Paired with a healthy side, we enjoy fried potatoes on occasion to spice up meatless meals.

Before we move on to this crunchy and comforting concoction, I’ve been so excited to tell you about this easy and nutrient-packed salad I find every excuse to make. Delicious with the following potato entrée and fantastic in the fridge—your co-workers will have (envious) inquiries.

Tangy Carrot-Apple Salad with Cider Vinaigrette

adapted from Vegetarian Times, serves 4 (consider doubling!)

1.5 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 small clove garlic, minced (1/2 tsp.)

2 cups carrots (grated or sliced with a vegetable peeler)

1/2 red apple, diced (1/2 cup)

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries (I use unsweetened)

1 tsp. agave nectar or honey

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 cups baby spinach

Oh friends, please don’t be intimidated by this seemingly lengthy list. One apple, a pack of craisins, a 40-cent bunch of scallions? This salad is quick and economical—besides having only 4 grams of fat, 0 cholesterol, and 3 grams of fiber. It improves overnight, as too few dishes do!

hassle-free: use a small scoop to remove the apple core, then dice

More quick and elegant than the recommended shredding, I take a veggie peeler to my carrots and vigorously shave them into ribbons. I find this texture more pleasant than a pile of crunchy shreds.

Combine the cider vinegar and garlic in a small bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together carrots, apple, green onion, and cranberries in a large bowl. Whisk agave nectar and oil into the cider vinegar mixture. Season with salt and pepper, if desired (I never do). Cover, and chill 2 hours or overnight. Serve the salad on a bed of spinach leaves.

If you toss this quick chopped salad and let is rest while making the potato, the vinegar will have sufficient time to mingle these remarkable flavors.

(Enormous) Potato Rosti

loosely based on Martha Stewart’s Potato and Celery Root Rosti, serves 8

3.5 – 4 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled

1 large yellow onion

2 tbsp. coarse salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

sour cream, for serving

If you have a food processor, bring out that shredding disk to make this a faster weeknight dish. If not, stretch those triceps and shred the potato and onion on the large holes of a box grater.

Working in batches, wrap the potato in a clean dishtowel to squeeze out the liquid. (I set mine in an over-the-sink colander for a spell and pushed out the liquid with a wooden spoon.) Toss with salt in and season with pepper.

Preheat oven to 400F. Heat 3 tbsp. olive oil in a 12-ich ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Spread shredded potato-onion mixture evenly in skillet; press gently to flatten using a spatula.

creamy in the middle, ooh baby

Cook for 10 minutes. Run the spatula around the edge to loosen; spoon 2 tablespoons of oil around the edge. Cook until the underside is golden and beginning to crisp, 10 to 15 minutes more. Run spatula around the edge to loosen and invert onto a plate.

Add the remaining 3 tbsp. oil to a skillet. Return the rosti to skillet, golden side up, pressing gently to flatten. Cook, shaking occasionally to loosen, until the underside is golden and begins to crisp, about 20 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until cooked through about 10-15 minutes. Return to the plate and cut into wedges. Serve with sour cream.

And how many dinners can you really enjoy so for tomorrow’s breakfast?

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Filed under budget, dinners, lickety-quick

loving your leftovers: is it fry day yet?

Thank you, thank you readers!In its brief existence, A Pear to Remember reached over 6,000 viewers. 6,201 today! How do I express my gratitude? How about something interesting for the goods in your fridge?

in our fridge/freezer:

4 chicken tenderloins (from this meal)

romaine hearts

half a medium eggplant (from this meal)

3/4 jar tomato sauce

a hunk of fresh mozzarella

3 eggs

Don’t feel too bad for us, we’ve got orange juice and yogurt and sandwich makings, but these were most promising for a last-minute dinner. A really scrumptious undertaking for any night of the week…

tomato sauce has a short fridge life. andrew made us a special whole-wheat pizza on Monday night, but what to do with leftover sauce? read on.

 

 

Eggplant Medallions Over Grilled Romaine Hearts

a Thursday night Linvention

Finally, finally—do-able frying! I used to really complicate the batter and bread process, make a mess all over the place, and take a good 40 minutes from slicing to frying. Forget that.

It’s all about a line up—not far off from mise en place, which is about having all your ingredients measured and in place before beginning your recipe. This is a dip-n-drip station where tongs are your best friend. I used to do this by hand and the caked mixture all over your fingernails really slows you down.

Grab your slices (1/4 inch thin) with the tongs, dip in egg (2 eggs with a wee bit of salt and pepper beaten in) followed by breadcrumbs (this time from a can, lots of Italian seasoning sprinkled in). Then right into the skillet with hot oil—not too hot, it will burn right up and spatter all over the place. And not too deep, my slices were a breadcrumb away from submersion and cooked perfectly. About 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your pieces—just keep the width uniform. I made good use of my cheap-o mandolin here.

Set your golden goodies on a plate packed with paper towels and chug right along until you’ve fried all of your ingredients (zucchini, anyone?).

Now I had heard of grilling romaine lettuce, I thought it was as bizarre as you are thinking now; I had never seen it done. But darn it all, I want any excuse to grill.

I spritzed whole romaine leaves with a healthy sheen of olive oil, followed by a generous sprinkle of coarse salt and pepper—this made all the difference. After grilling both sides over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes, you’ve got a new lettuce experience. As in, lettuce forget about that side of pasta, okay? A rare mood to reject pasta, but this proved the perfect bedding for my fried friends. With a little tomato sauce drizzled over the entire thing and cold, cold mozzarella torn in big pieces alongside… yes! yes! 

If loving warm lettuce is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

The romaine is salty and flavor-packed in a way some rarely know lettuce to be. Serve it warm and enjoy the smokey flavor with the eggplant. I love homemade breaded eggplant because it makes this luscious aubergine into a filling meal I know you’ll love, too.

How did Andrew use his chicken? Check out his chicken parmesan technique here.

Also a good day all around—sometimes haircuts are as refreshing as new flavors.

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Filed under budget, dinners, lickety-quick, techniques, the basics