Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving leftovers: Mashed potato cakes

The inevitable consequence of Thanksgiving is leftovers. But these, even after a couple days in the fridge, can be their own kind of magnificence. Witness the above.

Start with: Mashed potatoes (3-4 cups) mixed in with a little bit of leftover stuffing. (They were in the same pan).

Add: One chopped scallion (we had a large Japanese variety leftover from making ramen), two eggs, a cup or so of shredded mozzarella, homemade breadcrumbs (variously stored in the freezer; recently unearthed from their icy tomb), dried thyme, chopped parsley, copious amounts of black pepper. Mix well. (I use my hand, because I'm fancy.)

Shape: Using the palm of your hand, make a disk out of the potato mixture. Insert a slice of whole-milk mozzarella. Cover with more mashed potatoes. Coat with breadcrumbs. Set on a plate.

Heat: A lot of olive oil in a skillet. Enough to go halfway up the sides if you're feeling decadant, less if you're feeling less so. (We recommend the former.) Turn the oven to 400 degrees, and put a baking sheet with a wire rack in.

Fry: Your cakes, four at a time until golden brown. Turn carefully. They're delicate. After browning on both sides, transfer to oven for another 10 minutes.

Serve: Just on their own, or with a green salad if you're picky about having "vegetables at every meal." (Sigh.) Or with tomato sauce. (Also a vegetable, for the picky.)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Hearty three greens pasta

To hell with environmentalism. We had a green problem. A greens problem, actually.

Too many greens, too little time. The arugula was on life support. The spinach was still perky, but eyeing us warily. The spigariello greens were wilting. (Don't ask. We're just going to call them "kale" from this point on.)

The pressure was on. Plus, we had to have dinner. Again.

Back to a variation on an old favorite. Greens with whole wheat pasta, pork flavoring, substantial greens, walnuts, olive oil, and sharp cheese.

Hearty three greens pasta
1 bunch kale
1 bunch spinach
1 bag or bunch baby arugula
8 oz whole wheat rotini
1/3 a log of salami
1 package sliced crimini mushrooms (12 oz)
1/2 cup walnuts
4 garlic cloves
1 cup white wine
3/4 cup grated gruyere
olive oil, salt, pepper, red chile flakes

1. Start a pot of pasta water.

2. Cut salami into small squares. Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a large saute pan (with a lid). Add salami, rendering off some of the fat. Fry until darker brown and cooked-looking (not too long); toss and fry the other side. Remove with tongs and set aside on a plate covered in a paper towel.

3. Meanwhile, wash the kale, and cut off the tough ribs. (They will never tenderize, no matter how you coax them.) Chop roughly.

4. Add mushrooms to the pan, frying aggressively until they start to wilt. Add chopped kale. Meanwhile, chop arugula.

5. Cook kale-mushroom mixture until it starts to seem frighteningly dry. Add four garlic cloves, sliced. Add a glass of white wine. Lower heat to medium-low and cover for 5 minutes.

6. Taste kale to make sure that it's well on its way to cooked. Salt. Add a little more salt. Raise temperature to medium-high and add arugula.

7. Your pasta water should be boiling. Add 8 oz. (half a bag) of whole wheat rotini.

8. Add arugula and cook until tender. Add chopped spinach and salt a bit more.

9. Chop walnuts and add to pot. Add salami back.

10. Grate about 3/4 cup gruyere. Drain pasta and add to greens with about 1/2 cup cooking water. Add cheese to pot and toss until it's melty. Mmmm ... melty.

Serve with a glass of sauvignon blanc.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Chicken-quinoa last-minute thing

I am, in general, dissatisfied by easy weeknight meals. I mean, the ones published in magazines or appearing on television courtesy a certain delightfully perky television host. I'm not a hater, but I also don't want mu shu "stoup" for dinner. Also, I don't think easy meals involve mussels. (I think I missed the beginning of the easy weeknight meals revolution, so now I'm subject to the leftover drivel of "what haven't we done yet?")

Here is my not particularly original, not particularly unhealthy weeknight solution. It's kind of like chicken soup, but solid. Someone, ahem, might call it a "stoup." But we all know that's dumb.

A quick stop at Whole Foods will get you everything you need, especially because you can buy the quinoa and red lentils in bulk. You can get you to the store, home, and have dinner made in 90 minutes, with most of that watching last night's "The Colbert Report."

Chicken-quinoa last-minute thing
1 hearty boneless skinless chicken breast (3/4 pound)
1 onion
3 carrots
4 stalks of celery
4 cloves of garlic
1 cup of quinoa
1/2 cup red lentils (don't substitute; you want the ones without peels. Yes, they're still good for you.)
1 14-oz. can of chicken broth (Swanson's)
the cheapest bottle of white wine the guy at Whole Foods will sell you ($7.99, a pretty good Trebbiano)
1 cup of peas, or as many as your paltry pea plants will give you (paltry!)

While you're madly washing, peeling, and dicing your onions, carrots, and celery, heat up your enameled cast-iron Dutch oven to high, add olive oil and toss in your chicken breast. While it cooks (maybe 5 minutes? Until you're scared it's going to burn, and it releases from the pan), continue washing, peeling and dicing the veggies. Flip the chicken breast. Wait for it to get a little brown (at least properly white and opaque) on the second side. It doesn't have to be cooked through, and it'll be tastier if it's not.

Remove chicken from pan. Toss in your carrots, celery, and onion. Take this time to chop your garlic, then slice chicken crosswise. When your mirepoix starts to brown the tiniest bit, add the chicken and garlic in. Stir; meanwhile, open the wine. Pour a glass for yourself. Add your quinoa and red lentils. When the steaming and sauteeing food in the pot gets a bit dicey, pour in a solid splash of wine. At least 1/2 cup. Let it almost cook off, then add your can of broth and another can of water. (The food should be submerged. If my measurements are off, add more water till it seems sloshy in there.) Let it come to a boil, then turn heat down to medium and leave it for 30 minutes. Return occasionally to stir and make sure it's not boiling too vigorously.

When the quinoa is almost tender and lentils are dissolved into mush, add your peas and cook through, about 10 more minutes. Add another splash of wine. Serve in wide bowls, perhaps with a dollop of yogurt (if you're not a yogurt hater. Like someone I know. Brian.)

The many joys of pulled pork

So, here's a funny thing: One of us used to be a vegetarian. For a decade. And then we got a dog, and started thinking seriously about animals and animal relationships to humans. We met a sheep at the San Mateo County Fair (and saw the unmistakably blank look in its eyes). And we thought about not eating meat and we changed our mind. (The royal we, of course. One of us was eating meat the whole time.)

Anyway, here's our fail-safe Crock-Pot recipe for pulled pork, which is only slightly modified from the recipe for Carolina barbecued pork that came with the Crock-Pot instruction book. You don't have to sear the meat, and like the wife we don't have, it stays at home and makes us delicious dinner all day while we toil away at our offices.

Pulled pork so good you can't believe it
Pork and its rub:
3- to 4-pound boneless shoulder or butt roast. (Or whatever the nice butcher suggests when you tell him you're making pulled pork. Sometimes they have crazy-delicious random cuts that work like a dream. Hello, picnic shoulder!)
4 red onions, quartered
2 T brown sugar
4 tsp. of kosher salt (1 1/3 T, if you're paying attention)
1 T paprika
1 tsp. black pepper

Remove large or weird pieces of fat on the surface of your hunka pork if they freak you out. Put onion quarters in Crock-Pot. Combine brown sugar, paprika, salt and pepper; rub over surface of pork. Place pork in slow-cooker.

Vinegarlicious sauce:
1 cup cider vinegar
4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins)
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp mustards seeds, mostly crushed in a mortar and pestle
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp. cayenne

Combine all ingredients for vinegarlicious sauce. Pour 1/2 over roast. Cover and refrigerate the rest of the sauce.

Cover the Crock-Pot and cook on low 12 hours. When you get home from work, pour the rest of the vinegar sauce on your roast. Remove meat from slow-cooker and slice or shred. Drizzle on vinegar sauce. Serve on soft white hamburger rolls, and don't forget to add the onions.

For leftovers, store the sauce separately from the pork and onions. The next day, you'll freak out about how much fat solidifies on the top of the sauce. Just scoop it off and settle down. You love pulled pork.

Pour the defatted sauce over the pork and onions and microwave till hot.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

extremely corn-y pizza

Although we have flirted with whole-wheat flour, our true love is pizza dough made with cornmeal. The crunch, the buttery flavor, the fact that if you find the right polenta, it's whole-grain but doesn't taste like punishment .. the list goes on. (We liked, for a while, the Trader Joe's cornmeal pizza dough, but after we got our own stand mixer — thank you, Adam — we started making our own.)

We have gradually been increasing the ratio of cornmeal to bread flour in our dough; we've moved from a sensible 1 cup cornmeal-2 cups flour to a ridiculously corny 2 cups cornmeal-1 cup bread flour. We have no fear.

The addition of so (so!) much cornmeal is a textural trade-off. We do let it rise, but it doesn't form the elastic, gluten-heavy dough that you normally think about with pizza crust; it's really more similar to a tart dough. That means you have to shape it into a crust form (rather than stretching and tossing and such). The final result is a very cornmeal-heavy, very crunchy dough. Some people might find it too crunchy. You are not our friends.


1/4 c wine, whatever you got, white or red
3/4 c warm water
2 1/4 tsp yeast (we purchased in bulk from Costco and keep it in the fridge)
2 tsp kosher salt
a big pour of olive oil, perhaps 2-4 T
2 cups cornmeal, preferably whole-grain (Whole Foods has excellent bulk polenta/cornmeal)
1/2 - 1 1/2 c flour, preferably bread flour but AP flour would work (we use Giusto's)
tomato sauce (we used frozen home-made sauce from our summer sauce extravaganza)
mushrooms, sliced (we used a 12oz pre-sliced package of creminis from Trader Joe's)
1 medium onion, chopped
sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
a Microplane snowfall of Parmesan

stand mixer with a dough hook
pizza stone
slicing knife
cutting board
wide glass bowl
Microplane (if you are Parmesan-inclined)

  1. Fill the bowl of the stand mixer with hot water. Let it stand for a moment, and then pour it out. (You are trying to warm up the cold metal bowl.)
  2. Pour the water, wine and yeast in to the bowl of the stand mixer. Swirl to mix. Let stand 0-10 minutes. (If you trust your yeast, no wait is needed.)
  3. Add salt, oil and corn meal. Stir to combine.
  4. Add 1/2 c flour, and stir to combine.
  5. Keep adding flour in small increments until dough comes together. Bias a bit towards less flour, as you can always add more later.
  6. Use the mixer to knead the dough, about 7 minutes on speed 2 (on a Kitchen-Aid)
  7. Move dough to an oiled glass bowl. Let rise for at least an hour at slightly warm room temperature (heat the oven on low, then turn it off and pop your dough in) or up to 12 hours in the fridge. It will not rise very much (all that cornmeal!) If you've kept it in the fridge, let it come to room temperature as you preheat the oven and your stone to 500 (or as high as it goes!) and prepare your topping ingredients.
  8. Saute the mushrooms until you're a little scared that they'll burn, then add in your sauce. Season with salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, thyme or whatever spices you like.
  9. Form the dough into a circle about the size of your pizza. A bench scraper is super-helpful during this step, because this dough can be sticky and altogether ornery. Add a bit of bench flour if it's unmanageable. Make yourself a crust.
  10. When your stone is ripping hot, sprinkle on some additional cornmeal. Carefully (carefully!) move the dough circle onto the stone and pop it into the oven for about, um, 10 minutes (half a glass of wine?) to blind bake just until it starts to brown. This will keep the bottom crust crispy and crunchy.
  11. Bring the stone and dough back out. Top with your tomato sauce (don't go overboard) and then your slices of mozzarella. Put back into your oven for another 1o or 15 minutes, or until it smells amazing and the cheese is very melty. Let stand for at least 10 minutes (the other half of the glass of wine) before cutting, or it will be an unmanageable mess.