Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Zum Zum

How cool is *this* restaurant and shop? Lordy, I miss the East Coast!

Zum Zum

I'm not entirely sure that a jalapeno-filled pierogi is authentic Polish cuisine. Can you prove me wrong?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Icing Radicchio

I've wanted to grill radicchio for a while--it always sounds so good. I thought it would be a healthy side to the hamburgers and corn I'd thrown on the grill.

Unfortunately, I didn't read any recipes on how to cook it, so I didn't soak it in ice water first. Lordy, was it BITTER!

Next time this veggie is on sale (I think I dropped about $4.50 for a head that I tossed in the compost since it was inedible), I'll try Michael Chiraello's version.

Organic vs. "Deadly" Ground Beef

Yesterday was a perfect California Memorial Day: 80 degrees, blue sky, cool pool. I spent the afternoon reading and helping the Bug with a school project, and then I eased myself into the water when the sun got too hot. After that, the only thing that could top the day was a cold Sierra Nevada and burgers on the grill.

I bought two types of ground beef: Safeway's 93% lean at $4.69 a pound, and Organic Prairie's 85% lean at $5.59 a pound. I wanted to see what the difference was, other than the manufacturer's claims of the organic beef being "The most delicious and safe meat."

The organic meat seemed to be ground finer, with more consistent coloring, while the regular ground beef was a thicker grind, with lots of marbling. This surprised me, as it was supposed to be the leaner meat. Is the organic beef ground twice for a better mix?

When it came down to taste, I have to admit--I flubbed it. I forgot which ones were the organic ones when I laid them on the grill. And, I cooked them to well-done, instead of medium. I love a rare burger, but in these days of salmonella poisoning, I just didn't want to chance it.

The long and short of it was, we couldn't tell a difference from taste or texture. Since we rarely eat ground beef at home, I'm going to go the organic route from here on out. Yes, it's more expensive, but the Safeway brand was only cheaper because it was on sale.

Here's some good recipes from Organic Prarie:

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Yesterday, I went to lunch with a friend who's Chechen. I work with her and haven't known her for long, but I like her. She speaks many different languages, and seems to have a tapestry of experience that most people I know will never have. We ate lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. Sometimes we don't entirely understand one another, and our conversations can sometimes be stilted, sometimes with long pauses before we respond to one another, as we try to understand what the other one is getting at.

We got to talking about different types of restaurants: Middle Eastern, Russian, Thai. She mentioned that Chechen food is quite different than Russian, but couldn't explain how. Just that it was. "It's very complicated cooking," she said. It seemed, from her description, to have a lot of steps.

Her inability to describe what Chechen dishes are like raised my curiousity, and I told her I'd find some recipes to try. The following is from The Prague Post, a review of "The Refugee's Cooking Pot":

Serves four
• 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) meat
• 4 potatoes
• 4 onions
• fat for frying
• 1 kilogram corn flour
• 1 egg (optional)
• 1 cup plain flour
• 4-5 cloves garlic
Optional: carrots, parsley, green onions, dill, according to taste

• Boil meat (chicken or any other, except pork). When cooked, allow to cool, cut into small pieces and lay aside.
• Reserve approximately 150 milliliters (about half a cup) of the stock and put into a bowl with garlic, finely chopped.
• Boil the potatoes and mash them coarsely -- but not to the level of a puree.
• Chop the onions and saute with carrots and herbs, if desired. Add onions and reserved stock with garlic to the potato mash to form a thick soup.
• Prepare pancakes by mixing flours together and slowly adding very hot water while stirring until a thick dough is created. (If you do not have corn flour, you can use the same amount of plain wheat flour with an egg instead. In this case, roll the dough flat and cut into squares.) Form small cakes, approximately 3 centimeters (just over 1 inch) in diameter. Gently drop the cakes (or squares) into a pot of boiling water and cook for 15 minutes.
• Add the cooked pancakes to the potato-garlic soup.

• To serve this dish in the typical Chechen manner, as it is served at special occasions, seat guests around the table and place the soup in the center. Place a serving of meat in a bowl, pour the soup over and season with more chopped garlic.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Nearly a Year...and Fatter?

This does not bode well for this blog. My first post was nine months ago. I was supposedly determined to cook more healthy meals for my family. And through that, wouldn't you think I'd lose weight too?

But I'm fatter. And I think Juiceboy is too. Maybe for him it's been pints of Ben & Jerry's, maybe for me it's been wine and Croissanwiches. I definitely need to exercise more and control my portions. Cutting down fats is a big goal too.

We are eating more fiber, more fruits and vegetables, and less meat. In the past, I loved to make big meaty dinners on Saturday and Sunday nights, feasting on the leftovers throughout the week. This weekend we had much leaner fare, albeit non-vegetarian.

The "You'd Pay a Lot for This in a Fancy Restaurant Dinner" #1

Spinach and Cheese-stuffed Raviolis tossed with Fresh Asparagus, Shaved Garlic and Olive Oil.

Fresh British Columbia Clams steamed in a garlic-olive oil broth, garnished with minced parsley.

Hot garlic-studded Pugliese Bread.

I'd been shopping at Costco when I was hungry. The raviolis are fresh pasta and large-sized pieces. Five of them are a filling serving, especially when tossed with a pound of asparagus.

Question: they've created Beano to deal with gas. Has anyone come up with something to minimize asaparagus pee? Is there anything grosser than going into a bathroom after 10 people who've eaten asparagus?

The clams were also a Costco item. I definitely don't need five POUNDS of clams, but I don't have a fishmonger here to purchase fresh shellfish from. So Costco it is.

I steamed the clams with olive oil, white wine, garlic and chicken broth. I used the wrong kind of pot though and I felt they had a chlorinated taste to them. I was quite disappointed, but the Bug ate clams with gusto. DH abstained...he's not big on clams just for clams' sake--that's why I made the ravioli as well.

The best thing about the dinner? Leftovers! Watch for the delish clam chowder tomorrow.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Pepper Seeds for backyard yummies

There's a good site for seeds for backyard peppers:

Veggie Cinco de Mayo

Like St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo is a contrived holiday for the rest of us who don’t hail from the country of origin. Rather than go out drinking (are there other drinking holidays like these? New Year’s Eve….), I chose to make a nice dinner for my family.

I was craving carnitas, that delicioso braised pork it seems I can only get at taquerias. I’d noticed that Costco was carrying it. Only problem: Juiceboy is deep in the thick of veggiedom.

What to do? I made a vegetarian Mexi-fest.

Vegitas (fajitas minus the meat)
One yellow onion, thinly sliced.
One large red bell pepper, sliced
One Anaheim pepper (or other mildly hot pepper)

Stir fry the veggies until soft. Add one packet of fajita seasoning mix and ~1/2 cup water, simmer on low until sauce has reduced. Serve with hot tortillas, guacamole, shredded cheese.

Another meatless entree that was enjoyed by all was:

Chile Rellenos

Roast poblano peppers (the bigger the pepper, the better)
Once the skin is charred and blistered, pop in a paper bag for about 15-20 minutes. After this the skin will come off easily.
Slice down the middle to remove the seeds. I like to remove the stems and top, though this results in a floppier chile. Some restaurants serve the chile seeds and all, but I don’t recommend this, as the seeds are the hottest part of the chile and it’s just darned unpleasant to have all these little seeds marring your cheese.
Fill with the shredded cheese of your choice. I was lazy and used the pre-shredded Mexican mix from Safeway.
Top the cheese with scallions.
Bake until the cheese is melted. (350 degree oven, about 15 minutes)

I like these in a tortilla, Juiceboy ate them with a knife and fork. The Bug gave his away.

I served these two dishes with black beans, rice (Uncle Ben’s makes a really nice garlic & butter rice that I get for special occasions, otherwise I make it myself), guacamole, chopped cilantro, chopped romaine lettuce, good salsa, and sliced black olives.

Guacamole tacos are a good option too!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Waldorf Salad

Juiceboy has gone veggie on his annual summer-detox stint. I bought a trillion dollars worth of veggies and fruit yesterday and realized that I needed to use a bunch of it for dinner last night because it wouldn't all fit in the fridge!

Here's my version of the famous Waldorf Salad:
A bunch of organic spring mix (lettuce)
One bunch celery, chopped
Approximately 2 cups red seedless grapes, halved
One apple, cored and chopped (I like Pink Ladies but any firm apple will do)
1/2 cup cashews
One big spoonful light mayo
1/4 cup Litehouse Pommegranate Raspberry Vinegarette

Toss it all together, adjusting the dressing to your taste. My family likes more mayo, I like more vinegarette. Either way, this salad was a big hit.

Juiceboy said "This salad rocks!" and The Bug said, "Mom, can you make this salad every Sunday?"It definitely was a great main course salad!