Monday, July 29, 2013

Peach Crisp

I feel sort of sorry for the other seasons because they cannot compare to summer when it comes to fruit.

All the exciting fruits are ripe in the summer: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, nectarines, plums, watermelons, peaches -- come on! Poor fall has figs and apples. Winter has the citrus fruits. Spring basically only has cherries. Summer has all the fruit fun. I guess that means we just have to enjoy it while we can.

Notes: This weekend my grocery store had local peaches on sale. I eyeballed them the whole time I was shopping. I finally caved and decided that a peach crisp was in order.

I modified this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It was so good, Scott had three helpings.

You can assemble the crisp and keep it in the fridge for about 12 hours, so it's a nice make-ahead dessert.


1 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled

6 fresh peaches (about 2 lbs)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled


Start with the topping. Add all the dry ingredients to a bowl and whisk together. Add in the melted butter and mix (I find using your clean hands works best) until it has the texture of wet sand. Set it aside.

Peel and slice the peaches. In a glass baking dish (I used an oval one), add the dry ingredients for the filling (sugar, flour, cinnamon) and mix to combine. Add in the peaches, butter, and vanilla and stir everything together so that the peaches are coated. Sprinkle the topping on top of the filling. Put the dish in the fridge and let it chill for about 15-30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 425. Let the crisp come to room temperature before you put it in the oven. Bake it for 30 minutes until bubbly.

Enjoy the fruits (ha!) of summer!

Q.E.D.: Aglio e Olio with Arugula

Back in college, I tried the Atkins diet for about 48 hours. Going cold turkey on carbs made me feel terrible. I decided then and there that no amount of weight loss was worth feeling that bad. So I happily went back to my bread and pasta.

Next time you get the urge to try a fad diet that asks you to eat only one thing, just don't. There's no magic food to get you healthy or make you lose weight. Getting healthy isn't the product; it's the process. It isn't something you achieve and then sit back and enjoy, like building a deck or washing a car. It's more like gardening: you never quit gardening. Sometimes its easier and sometimes it's harder, but it's something you have to commit to doing.

Healthy living means a balanced diet, not a perfect diet. So, don't give up the carbs. Just don't eat only carbs.

Notes: This dish is light on effort and big on flavor. Traditional aglio e oilo ("garlic and oil") doesn't have any greens, but (going back to the balanced diet thing) I needed some greens. Arugula is a great complement to the spicy garlic and red pepper flakes. It's got a mustard/pepper flavor.

If you can find pre-washed arugula, this dish is as easy as boiling water.

1 box thin spaghetti
1 bunch arugula, washed (about 2 cups or 8 oz.)
1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
4-5 garlic cloves
Red pepper flakes (1/4-1/2 teaspoon, but more if you like it hot)

Directions: Fill a stock pot with water and set it on high heat.

In a large skillet, add olive oil and butter and turn to medium low. Mince the garlic and add it to the pan along with the red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper.

Once the water boils, add a small handful of salt and drop the pasta. Boil for about 6 minutes.

When the pasta is almost done, turn the heat up on your skillet to medium. Put your arugula in the skillet and then using a pair of tongs move the pasta from the stock pot to the skillet (just drop it right on top of the arugula). When you've transferred all the pasta, use the tongs to mix it with the arugula and the olive oil sauce.

Once everything is combined,  heated, and coated with sauce, serve and enjoy!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cornmeal Brioche French Toast

Scott and I have been lucky to be able to live in several different places. In every town we've lived in, we've had our favorite restaurants. Hands down, the best breakfast belongs to the The Courier in Urbana, IL. I was particularly in love with their almond french toast. Someday I will try to recreate it, but until then, every time I eat french toast, I think of the many happy breakfasts we had at The Courier.

Notes: I make french toast next to never, but we had an older loaf of brioche in the fridge this weekend and I decided to try it out. It came out pretty well.

I made a cornmeal batter because I like the crunch. I should have whisked it together in a bowl first and then poured the batter into a flat dish to dunk the bread because the cornmeal settled to the bottom. Live and learn! It was still tasty.

Keep your butter or other fat handy while you're cooking. If the pan starts to look dry, add more. A couple of my pieces wanted to stick to the pan.

You will notice that MY french toast has bananas on it because I enjoy fruit in my breakfast bread products, unlike some other benighted person that lives in my household.

1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup of flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
4-6 slices of brioche
Butter or coconut oil for the pan
Confectioners sugar, fruit, and/or maple syrup for topping


Heat a large skillet or griddle on medium-high.

In a bowl, whisk together cornmeal, sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Add in the milk and vanilla and whisk. Transfer the batter to a flat dish like a pie plate, cake pan, or 8x8 glass baking dish.

Drop a pat of butter into the pan and swirl it around to coat the bottom. Take a slice of bread, lay one side in the batter, flip it over and lay the other side in the batter, and then add it to the hot skillet. Let it brown on one side and the flip and let it brown on the other side. Add more butter if the pan starts to look dry.

When the slices are done, dust them with confectioner's sugar and/or fruit and enjoy!

Wild Mushroom Risotto with Pesto and Peas

Our weather has gotten cooler and it's hard to believe it's still July. I was able to comfortably wear jeans the other night, which is pretty unheard of. Since it's not so hot, a nice steamy bowl of risotto did not sound like the torture it otherwise would in the heat of summer.

Notes: Risotto gets a bad rep for being a fussy dish, but it's really not that fussy. The idea is just to let the rice absorb the liquid slowly so that it produces a creamy texture. That's why you add the liquid a little at a time rather than all at once.

Arborio rice isn't always easy to hunt down, but I've seen the bigger chain stores like Wal-Mart and Target carrying it lately. It's a bit expensive, but if you're in the mood to splurge, it's definitely worth it.

I used "wild" mushrooms (in quotes because most mushrooms in the US are cultivated rather than foraged), but you could use whatever mushrooms you like. If the store has a pre-sliced pack, all the better.

How do you know when risotto is nearly done? Two things: (1) it will  basically double in volume and (2) just taste it! If the rice is still crunchy, it needs a few more minutes.

1 1/2 cups uncooked arborio rice
4 cups chicken, vegetable, or mushroom stock
1 heaping tablespoon pesto (homemade if you have it!)
1/2 bag of frozen peas
8-10 oz. of assorted sliced mushrooms (baby portobellos, shitake, oyster)
2-3 garlic cloves
Butter or olive oil


Pour stock in to a medium sauce pan and heat to just below a simmer. Keep it at that temperature.

Mince the garlic cloves, clean and slice the mushrooms.

Heat the fat of your choice in a large skillet over medium high. Add the mushrooms and sautee until the edges just start to turn a little brown. At the garlic and cook another minute. Add the rice and toast it in the pan with the mushrooms and garlic for just a minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Add 4 ladles of stock and stir. When the mixture starts to look dry and sticky, add two more ladles of stock and stir. Repeat this process until the rice is tender and most of your stock is gone. The whole process takes between 35-40 minutes depending on the brand and age of your rice. If you run out of liquid before the rice is done, just add warm tap water to your sauce pan and use that.

Once the rice is tender, stir in the pesto and frozen peas (no need to thaw). Allow the peas to just heat through. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Eggplant Caprese

This dish is a cross between a caprese salad (featuring tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil) and eggplant parmesan (featuring fried eggplant). It came about mostly because I saw some very pretty eggplants in my grocery store and wanted to make something with them. Since it's hot, though, I didn't want to make eggplant parm because I didn't want to turn the oven on. And so eggplant caprese was born.

Notes: Everything about this dish celebrates the flavors of summer. Use the freshest eggplants and tomatoes you can find. And don't skimp on the fresh mozzarella! Nothing substitutes for it. The beauty of this dish is its simplicity. When you use few ingredients, make sure they're good ones.

This recipe serves two people, but it could be easily doubled to feed four. It will just take a little longer to fry all the eggplant.

Traditional caprese salad calls for basil leaves, but since I had homemade pesto, I figured a little play on the original wouldn't hurt.

It's a show stopper, so if you want to impress you friends, make them this dish!

Food as fashion

1 medium eggplant
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 large tomatoes
1 ball fresh mozzarella
2-3 teaspoons of pesto (use homemade if you have it!)
Olive oil for frying


In a medium bowl, whisk together milk and flour to make a wet batter. Pour the cornmeal into a pie plate or cake pan. Add salt, pepper, and oregano to the cornmeal and mix to combine.

Slice the eggplant into 1/2-1/4 inch rounds. Dunk each round into the wet batter, shake off the excess, then coat the round with cornmeal. Put the breaded eggplant rounds on either a large plate or cooling rack. When all the rounds are breaded, put them in the fridge for about 10 minutes.

While the eggplant is chilling, slice the tomatoes into thick slices. Pour oil into a large skillet and heat on medium high. Test the oil by sprinkling a little cornmeal in it. If if floats and starts to bubble, the oil is the right temperature. Take the eggplant out of the fridge and fry a few slices at a time, approximately 3 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown. Drain the rounds by laying them on a plate lined with a paper towel.

When you put the last batch of eggplant in the pan, slice the mozzarella and pull the pesto out of the fridge. When the eggplant is done, layer the cheese, eggplant, and tomatoes on a plate and top with pesto. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Q.E.D: Homemade Pesto

Consider this another edition of eat food,  save money.

If you're like me, you love pesto. You have made countless pesto pastas. You have put pesto in rice. You have contemplated eating pesto with a spoon. But you have yet to break your habit of buying pre-made pesto. It's easier, you'll say.

And you would be wrong.

If you have a food processor or an emersion blender, you can make homemade pesto and it is just as easy as store-bought pesto. And it's cheaper to boot.

Store-bought pesto, depending on the kind you get, can be anywhere from $3-$5. If you buy fresh basil and garlic, it'll cost you about a $1.50, maybe $2. You will have delicious, fresh pesto anytime you want.

Notes: I have Dorot frozen garlic on hand in my freezer all the time (I find mine at Trader Joe's. I'm being compensated by neither Trader Joe's nor Dorot for this plug). I often forget to buy fresh garlic and there are times when I feel beyond lazy and don't want to haul out my cutting board to mince it. It works great in this dish. You just have to take a couple of cubes out of the freezer a few minutes before you're ready to whir.

Bear in mind that your pesto will turn a little brown if you store it in the fridge. Worry not -- just stir it and you will reveal the bright green pesto underneath.

Some people bother streaming the olive oil carefully in the food processor while it's running. These are people who cannot really appreciate (a) the Q.E.D. or (b) the sheer force of my laziness. I throw everything in at once and start 'er up. It comes out fine every time.

2 cups (or 4 oz.) of fresh basil leaves
2-3 smashed garlic cloves (or 2-3 frozen garlic cubes: see notes)
1/4 cup olive oil


If you're using an emersion blender, pull out the plastic cup it came with. Alternatively, use any wide-mouth plastic cup you have on hand.

Smash your garlic cloves by laying the wide side of your knife on top of each clove and whacking it hard with your hand (no need to mince). Remove the skin and discard.

Add your basil leaves to either the plastic cup or your food processor. Throw in garlic cloves, about a 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and about 3/4 teaspoon of salt (depending on your tastes). Pour in the olive oil and whir the whole mixture around until it's blended.

Store in the fridge (it keeps about a week). Add a tablespoon or two to pasta or rice. Add a teaspoon to sauteed veggies or soups. Enjoy the fruits of your very minimal labor!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

VTMK: Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I've become quite taken with vegan baking. I'm afraid this is for entirely unprincipled reasons, namely laziness and frugality. I love to bake, but I don't love having to run to the store when I realize that I don't have eggs or buttermilk (this is a problem, as you'll recall, because I am an impulse baker). I also don't love keeping eggs and buttermilk on hand because I don't use them that often and they end up spoiling (thus wasting money).

Vegan baking solves these problems. The staples in vegan baking are things I usually have either in my pantry or in my fridge already. The finished product turns out just as delicious as the non-vegan kind. It's a win-win.

Notes: I adapted the bread from this recipe. The original only calls for brown sugar, but it wasn't quite sweet enough for my taste. I wrote it with the added sugar.

This is a great way to use up extra zucchini. You could also replace the applesauce with a mashed up banana if you have one.

I will add my proviso here that this recipe is vegan to my knowledge, which is limited, so procede with caution.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat or spelt flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup grated zucchini (about one medium zucchini)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 chia egg (1 tablespoon of chia seeds + 4 tablespoons water)

Directions: Heat oven to 350. 

Add all the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, salt) to a large bowl and whisk to combine. 

Add the wet ingredients (water, vinegar, vanilla extract, applesauce) to a measuring cup and stir to combine. 

Mix up your chia egg in a small bowl. Add the wet ingredients, the grated zucchini, and the chia egg to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. 

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 40-45 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes then turn the loaf out on to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Black Bean and Mango Tacos with Avocado Broccoli Slaw

Hello friends! Needless to say, it's been awhile (since January -- yikes!). I cannot promise that this marks the resuming of my regular posts, but I am certainly going to try.

So, how about a summer-y taco recipe?

Notes: I'm sans photo for this one. I thought I downloaded it, but I didn't.

I recommend that you allow the lime juice to soften the broccoli slaw while you're prepping everything else. It can be crunchy, which is part of the appeal, but it's easier to stir if it's not so stiff.

This slaw would be great on a burger or as a side dish. If you have someone in your life who is not a fan of mayo, avocado gives you the creamy texture to replace it.

1 ripe mango
1 15 oz can black beans
2 ears fresh corn or half a bag of frozen
1 sweet onion
1/2 bag of broccoli slaw
1 lime
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 avocado
1 bunch cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
2-3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons butter or oil
Your favorite box of taco shells
Your favorite taco cheese (I used a gouda blend)


In a medium bowl, squeeze half a lime over the broccoli slaw. Season with salt and pepper. Put it in the fridge to let it marinate while you prep everything else.

Dice the mango and onion, strip the kernels off the ears of corn, and mince the garlic. Rinse and drain the beans. Add butter or oil to a medium-heat skillet and toss in the chili powder, cumin, and garlic. Let them heat in the pan until they become fragrant. Add in the onion and cook until soft. Add in the black beans and mango, season with salt and pepper, and stir. If the mixture looks dry, add about a 1/2 cup of water. Let all the ingredients simmer (stir occasionally) while you finish the other prep.

Heat your oven to 350. Chop the cilantro. Slice the avocado, remove the pit, and empty the flesh into a small bowl. Squeeze the other half of the lime over it and add in the honey. Season with salt and pepper and mash it together with a fork.

Bake your taco shells (between 3-5 minutes). Grate the cheese (if you don't have pre-shredded) and toss the avocado dressing with the broccoli slaw. Add the cilantro to the black beans. Spoon the black bean mixture in the taco shells, add cheese, and top with crunchy slaw. Enjoy!