Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch

I know talking about the importance of cooking to readers of your food blog is preaching to the choir, but I wanted to highlight a few things from Michael Pollan’s latest article in the New York Times Magazine. Pollan is a Knight Professor of Journalism at Berkeley best known for his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I’ve been following his work since he called Twinkies “synthetic cream-filled pseudocakes” in an article two years ago about the problems with the U.S. farm bill. I also liked that he used the phrase “head-hurtingly complicated” a few paragraphs later.

His new article looks at what it means to “cook” in the age of fast food chains, frozen PB&J and more squeezable products than I like to think of. Pollan explores the relationship between the decline of true cooking and the rise of Food Network. “The Food Network has helped to transform cooking from something you do into something you watch,” he says.

Continue reading “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch”

Homemade Merguez and Harissa Couscous Salad

Merguez is a spicy African sausage usually made with lamb. It’s one of my favorites, and I wanted to suggest our school meat market start making it, but then I found a New York Times recipe that could be recreated at home without sausage casings. I didn’t think the recipe called for enough spice, so I added more paprika and cayenne.

Kat found a recipe for an herbed couscous salad with harissa and cherry tomatoes. It was the perfect side with the sausage, plus it used the harvest off my cherry tomato plant, my box of couscous and the can of harissa I bought at the eastern market a while ago. I am moving very soon and so every day is an effort to use up the goods that I have and not buy anything extra. The salad is supposed to have a lot more fresh herbs, but we weren’t about to go to the store, so we used the mint and cinnamon basil we could get off Kat’s plants.

I served the whole thing with a little plain yogurt since the sausage and couscous both had a lot of heat.

Continue reading “Homemade Merguez and Harissa Couscous Salad”

Apple Celery Salad

This is a little something I came up with a few months ago when the only fresh produce I had were apples and celery. The two are a great combination, and with sunflower seeds and a quick cider vinaigrette, this has become one of my favorite sides. The apples make it a good complement to pork, but it's so crisp and refreshing, it's a good addition to any barbecue or picnic.

With Mark Bittman talking about his favorite simple salads, I figured it was time to share my new one.

Continue reading “Apple Celery Salad”

Spicy Sloppy Joes

Posts have been slow for the past few weeks, I know. Michael is hiking in the Adirondacks and I recently returned from a trip with my dad to Finland and Sweden. I got back last week and started working as a mentor at a journalism workshop for high schoolers. Helping out at the workshop also meant I got free meals for the week, so I went about three weeks without really cooking anything.

I finally found a few minutes the other night to put together a quick homemade meal. I had a little bit of ground chorizo in the freezer, so I made spicy sloppy joes by adding onion, celery, ketchup and a splash of apple cider vinegar. (A little vinegar or citrus does something to a dish so that each bite leaves your mouth watering for the next.) I toasted a whole wheat bun and topped the chorizo mixture with some sour cream to tame the spice.

It was sweet, spicy, saucy…and definitely sloppy. Even better, it only took 15 minutes to make.

Continue reading “Spicy Sloppy Joes”

Risotto Three Ways

Risotto had been on our list of things to make for some time, and a few months ago the slow-motion shots of a Venetian chef flipping risotto on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations finally compelled us to buy arborio rice.

Since then, we've had three very successful risotto endeavors.

Our first effort was a knockout taste-wise, but too ugly to stand alone in a blog post. (The internet can be cruel.) Then Sycamore chef Mike Odette let me borrow his risotto cookbook, which had great information and fun stories, along with delicious sounding recipes. A few notes:

  • “Risotto is a simple dish, with relatively few ingredients. Consequently, each element gets its share of the limelight and sparkles individually on your palate.” — ie. Use butter, homemade stock and real Italian cheese
  • Risotto doesn't like shortcuts. The stock must be added a cup at a time so it is slowly absorbed by each grain. “Continue the game of add, stir, and wait, until the rice is just slightly resistant to the bite.”
  • “Good raw materials. Simple cooking procedures. No unnecessary frills. That's what Italian cooking is all about.”

Before Michael left, we finished off the arborio rice with our highest quality risotto yet. Homemade stock, a whole stick of butter, saffron, shrimp and scallops, and real Parmesan Reggiano.

Continue reading “Risotto Three Ways”

Green Tea Lychee Ice Cream

Lychee, if you’ve never had it, is an interesting little fruit that has a floral-like taste.

Michael is the one who picked up canned lychees with ice cream in mind, but he wasn’t around to experience it. Before Michael left for Chicago, we explored Hong Kong Market in Columbia. I usually go to Chong’s Oriental Market because it’s walkable from my house and where I work. Hong Kong Market is on the edge of town, but it is bigger, has a more options and is less expensive.

Anyway, we never got around to making lychee ice cream while Michael was still in town. A few weeks later, I decided to pair it with matcha (green tea) my sister brought home from Japan. I love the green tea ice cream at Sparky’s, and I’d been thinking about making matcha-mango ice cream until remembering the lychees that needed to be used.

The lychees gave the green tea a new dimension. Like I said, I find them to be almost floral. The flavors together make a nice, light finish to a meal or a not-too-sweet afternoon dessert.

It is National Ice Cream Month in the U.S., but of course we welcome everyone to celebrate with us. Any suggestions for new flavors we should create?

Continue reading “Green Tea Lychee Ice Cream”