Monday, May 28, 2012

Meatless Memorial Monday

For the past month I have been living in Chicago, separated from my Valentine and my pooch.  This week I made a mad dash back to Memphis for the Memphis Children's Theatre Festival, Memorial Day, and a blissful reunion with loved ones.

As I rolled in, my Boo told me that we have been invited to a BBQ this weekend and that he had volunteered me to bring something.  Like many Americans, and particularly Southerners, we choose to celebrate the holiday with the traditional Great American Grilling of Meat. Ummm...

Conundrum #1:  I don't eat much meat any more.

Conundrum #2:  I moved most of our kitchen to Chicago. 

Time to Improvise!

In the pantry:  northern white beans, cannellini beans, olive oil, rice vinegar.  And a can opener.

And thus the White Bean Salad was born.  Quick and tasty!

Comes together in minutes!
White Bean Salad

A great salad to bring along to any Memorial Day picnic!  Chop and Drop, and you can play around with different ingredients.  I would stick to your white veggies (cauliflower, radishes, diced daikon, even sliced pears or apples).

3 cups northern white beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
1 large red onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 Tbl rice vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
pinch of crushed red pepper
salt and pepper

For realz,  drop all of these ingredients in a bowl.  Dress with lemon, vinegar, and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and toss.  It's that easy.

Monday, May 21, 2012

There's Nothing Funny About an Artichoke

When I made my first foray into the blogosphere, my intention was to write witty and pithy observations about food, life, and whatnot and to provide a tasty little recipe as an accompaniment.

At times I was successful.  Other times...not so much.

Today, as I attempt to wax poetical on the artichoke, I realize that there is nothing neither witty nor pithy to say about them.  So I Googled "artichoke jokes".

"A guy walks into the doctor's office. 
A banana stuck in one of his ears, an artichoke in the other ear, and a carrot stuck in one nostril. 
The man says, 'Doc, this is terrible. What's wrong with me?'
The doctor says, 'Well, first of all, you need to eat more sensibly.'"
That's the best they could do.
And then, using the researching skills cultivated from my former high school students, I turned to Wikipedia.  And found out that artichokes are indeed no laughing matter.  They aid digestion, strengthen liver and gall bladder function, and raise the HDL/LDL ratio which reduces cholesterol levels, diminishing the risk for arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
Don't mess with the artichoke.

So the next time someone asks you, "Where does an artichoke go to have a few drinks?"  Do not respond with, "The salad bar."  

Simply reply, "There is nothing funny about an artichoke."

Penne with Lemony Artichoke Sauce

I actually like this better without the cheese, but it makes for a pretty picture!
This quick and easy sauce is perfect for a tasty meal in minutes!  Feel free to play around with other ingredients, like tomatoes or spinach, but I do like the bright simplicity of just the lemon and artichokes.

1 14.5 oz can of artichoke hearts (rinsed, drained, and quartered)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tbl olive oil
1/2 cup shallots, sliced (one medium shallot)
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 bay leaves
Thyme bundle
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
pinch of salt
and a whole lotta black pepper
1 lb whole wheat penne
Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package in salted water, cooking it slightly under the suggested time.
In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and add the shallots sliced into rings.  Season with a little salt and saute for about three minutes.  Add garlic, thyme, and bay leaves, and cook for another couple of minutes careful not to burn the garlic.  Once the shallots are tender, add artichoke hearts, lemon zest and juice.  Reduce heat and simmer for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.  Remove thyme and bay, and add penne directly into the sauce.  Sprinkle in parsley, and toss to coat.  If desired, add pasta water to "stretch" the sauce. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

'tis the season

I have completely forgotten how temperamental the temperature is in Chicago.

Last week the lows were in the 40s and today we're pushing 90.

What's a gal to do except to bust out some salsa!

Mango Salsa

This is fabu on its own with chips or try pairing it with grilled fish or pork.  If'n you have a mind, add some black beans or diced jicama as well.

2 ripe mangoes, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/3 cup seedless cucumber, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, zest and juice
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp cumin
salt 'n pepper

Ummm...put all of this in a bowl and mix it up.  Let it sit covered in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Dorothy Parker said, "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think."

But perhaps you can convince her to make that delicious sauce that is her namesake.

I speak, of course, of puttanesca

After some research, I found that the name "originated in Naples after the local women of easy virtue. Pasta Puttanesca means 'The way a whore would make it', but the reason why the dish gained such a name is debated. One possibility is that the name is a reference to the sauce's hot, spicy flavor and smell. Another is that the dish was offered to prospective customers at a low price to entice them into a house of ill repute. According to chef Jeff Smith of the Frugal Gourmet, its name came from the fact that it was a quick cheap meal that prostitutes could prepare between customers."

All I know is that it is fast, cheap, and easy.  Kinda like a ...

Penne alla Puttanesca

I add wilted dandelion greens, rapini, or spinach into this dish to add something green. But, it's not necessary to enjoy this spicy, salty dish.

3/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup black olives, halved (preferably oil cured)
8 anchovy fillets, diced
2 gloves of garlic
2 Tbl capers, drained
A healthy pinch of crushed red pepper
2-3 Tbl olive oil
1 lb whole wheat penne
2 cups of leafy green things (optional)

Prepare pasta according to the directions on the package in heavily salted water.

While the pasta cooks, in a large saute pan, heat oil and gently sweat the tomatoes (about five minutes).  Season with a bit of salt and the crushed red pepper.  As the skins start to pop, add garlic, olives, anchovies, and greens (if using).  At the last minute, add capers and cook for one more minute.  Drain pasta and add to the pan.  Toss well.  Serve with a touch of parmigiano.

Monday, May 14, 2012

In Need of Comfort


I have recently moved from Memphis to Chicago, a city I dearly love, and it truly feels like a homecoming.  Great people, wonderful food, and fantastic theatre. 

But my Valentine had to stay in Memphis.  With the dog.  And I am sad and in need of a little comfort.

What's a guy to do?

Call up one of your best lesbians and make a big ole comforting pot of soup.  Nothin' like lentils and lesbians to cure what ails ya!

Lentil Soup

This chop and drop soup is perfect for a pick me up.  The turnips and vinegar give it a bright little somethin' somethin' that really makes it sing! Important cooking tid bit:  be sure to season as you go. Waiting until the end just makes things salty instead of enhancing the natural flavors.

1 onion, chopped
1 turnip, diced
3 carrots, finely chopped
1 red pepper, diced
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups lentils
6 cups water or veggie stock
Thyme bundle
2 bay leaves
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
1/2 cup parsley
2 Tbl olive oil
salt 'n pepper

In a medium stock pot, heat oil and saute onions for about five minutes until translucent.  Add garlic, red pepper, carrots, and continue to sweat those veggies.  While you're at it, why don't you throw in that thyme bundle and bay leaves as well. (This would be a good time to season with salt and pepper).  Allow veggies to saute for another five minutes. Add tomatoes, lentils, and water (or stock), and bring to a boil.  Once it starts to bubble, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until the lentils are tender.  Before serving, remove thyme and bay and stir in the red wine vinegar and parsley.  If'n you're feelin' in a non-vegan mode, shave a little parmigiano on top as you serve.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Early to Rise

My new digs in Chicago are fabulous!  Open, airy, and great light.

Especially at 6:30 in the morning.

So until I get new curtains, I have plenty of time in the a.m. to make a delicious breakfast!

What I have in the house:  eggs, bread left over from last night's impromptu dinner party, broccoli pesto, chili oil, parsley.

Sliced up that baguette, gave it a little drizzle of the chili oil. and toasted it in the oven at 400 for about 5 minutes.  Rub it with sliced garlic and give it a sprinkling of salt and parsley.  Top with Broccoli "Pesto" and a poached egg and you have breakfast, my friend!

Broccoli "Pesto"

I've been playing around with this recipe for a while.  Poaching the garlic and almonds with the broccoli takes away some of the bite and allows for easy mashing up.

1 head broccoli, florets and stem chopped
3 cloves garlic
3/4 cup almonds
1 cup basil leaves
3/4 cup olive oil
parmigiano to taste (although I often leave it out...astounding for this Midwesterner)
1 lemon, zest and juice.
salt 'n pepper

Bring a medium stock pot of heavily salted water to a boil.  Throw in broccoli, garlic, and almonds and blanch for about 2-3 minutes until the broccoli has turned bright green.  Drain without rinsing.  Transfer to a food processor.  Add basil, lemon zest and juice, and 1/4 cup olive oil (just to give things a little encouragement).  With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the remaining 1/2 cup oil until the mixture is smooth.

Stir in cheese by hand and adjust seasonings.

This is great on bread, stirred into quinoa, or used as a sauce with pasta (thin it out with reserved cooking liquid of the pasta).