Monday, January 31, 2011

French Lentil Soup

Love 'em, hate 'em, tolerate 'em.  With the Cook What You've Got theory, at some point we eat lentils simply because I buy them.  I buy them because beans and legumes are full of lean, vegetarain protein and other good for us stuff. They are the quickest cooking of this category and don't require soaking.  In reality, though they end up on the List because they make me feel like I'm doing something good for me, my family and the environment on Meatless Monday after the weekend excesses (not that we follow this every Monday, I just appreciate appropriate alliteration.)

Though there are many colors of lentils, these little jade-like beauties reign supreme.  They look very elegant, in the truly French way, with a greenish-blue coat speckled with tiny black dots. They retain their shape (again like the French), rather than cooking down to mush like brown, red and yellow lentils do. They can be a soup or with a quick drain and toss with vinaigrette, they become a classic side dish to sauteed wild salmon.

This time, I did the basics...celery, carrots, onions (Mire Poix in the culinary world) along with some garlic, herbs, canned tomatoes and water.   A few greens were thrown in for good measure and to keep from having to also make a salad.  With a little freshly baked bread, it was dinner.  The bread was purely leverage for getting normally carnivorous boys to eat French Lentils  (A microscopic chunk of bread with the promise "you can have more as soon as you finish your lentils.")

Next time, I'll return to making the more Indian-esque lentil and red bean chili.  This seems to pass the carnivore test a little easier without the bread.  But for now, here's the starter version.  Oh, and I will puree the tomatoes if I make this version again.  With the tiny little lentils, the chunks of tomatoes were really an unpleasant surprise to my palate (as well as just one more thing for my kids to pick out).

CWYG List Items:  lentils, canned tomatoes, garlic, onions, broth (from Better than Bouillon), wine, yeast, flour, herbs

Veggie Box Items:  torn greens, carrots, leeks

Seasonal and/or extra items:  celery (I actually keep this all winter because my sons love it and it actually is a winter veggie even though we never get it in our box.)
French Lentil Soup
Serve with a crusty baguette or boule and salted butter.  For an easy alternative to salad, serve a platter of cool winter veggies to munch on like radishes, celery, fennel and carrots.

1 cup French green lentils
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 leeks or 1 small onion, chopped (wash the leek well first)
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup white or red wine (I used white because I always have that in the fridge)
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, pureed if you like
1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken broth
½ to 1 tbsp red wine vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Pick through the lentils and remove any pebbles, broken pieces or other debris.
In a large saucepan sauté the celery, carrots and leeks (onions) in the olive oil until they soften a bit.  Add the garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes until all the veggies are completely soft and starting to slightly brown.  Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes then add the tomatoes, herbs and chicken broth.

Add the vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.  Remove bay leaf and serve.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Soup Sunday

It’s Sunday night again and to fulfill that comfort need I’ve already mentioned, it’s soup again.  This time?  Potato Leek.  A classic French soup, this is super easy, very comforting and easy to dress up.  Hot, it is what it is, but cold with some chilled cream added, you can call it Vichysoisse.

Our farm has been sending beautiful gold potatoes and leeks every other week, The leeks will last a while in the fridge so they tend to stick around for awhile as do the potatoes since they are fine in the pantry for a couple of weeks.  So it’s a natural combination that I usually make at least once during this season.  When I’m really feeling indulgent, I make a Potato Leek Gratin, but tonight, with the December indulgences taking a toll on my jeans, I decided to go lowfat with the soup instead.

The other reason I decided on soup instead of any of the other multitudes of potato recipes is that although the potatoes are very tasty, they have some green tint to them which means they’ve been exposed to sunlight and contain a toxic substance called solanine.  While an adult would have to eat 2 kilos (4.5 lbs) of potatoes to truly feel the effects, a toxin is a toxin so I decided to not risk it with my family.  The only way to get rid of this is to peel them beyond the green part.  So at this point I could have made mashed potatoes, but then that requires something on top and I didn’t have the fortitude to make a full dinner at the end of the weekend. 

You’ll notice there is no cream in this, just a touch of butter, then we top it with a bit of drained yogurt and snipped chives.  Shredded cheddar and bacon would add a little more substance or if you are feeling a little extravagant a little shredded smoked salmon.

CWYG List Items – potatoes (could already be in your pantry), chicken stock (Better than Bouillon), garlic, salt and pepper, yogurt
Veggie Box Items –potatoes, leeks
To Buy Items – nothing…if no leeks, just use extra onions.

Potato Leek Soup
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large leeks, sliced and rinsed well
1 cup chopped onion (1/2 of a large)
3 cloves of garlic
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and quartered
6 cups of chicken stock
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Yogurt or sour cream and chives for garnish
In a large saucepan, heat butter and olive oil til butter just melts.  Add leeks and onions.  Saute until softened but not browning. Add the garlic and potatoes.  Cover with chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer until the potatoes are falling apart and thickening the stock.  At this point you can serve it as is and call it rustic.  But the more traditional way is to puree it with a hand blender or by actually transferring it to a blender (a bit at a time and with a towel covering instead of the lid for safety’s sake.)

Serve topped with yogurt and chives.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pan Asian Noodles with Ginger Chicken, Bok Choy and Fried Shallots

Suddenly, I’m rocking along yesterday and then I felt it…scratchy throat, the sudden tiredness of having run a marathon (or birthed a child since I haven’t run a marathon, but have birthed a child) without having done anything.  A cold was setting in and today, feeling all the effects of it, all I could  think about eating was soup in all forms so short of having anything soupish at home, I picked up tortilla soup for lunch.  Last night however, to keep my promise to you, I knew it was going to be me making dinner, not picking anything else up. 

For some reason, when I feel the first sensations that I am “catching” a cold, I want either Mexican or Asian and the more spicy the better.  My boys love Pad Thai so and I got Bok Choy in my veggie box so I set about making a fusion of Pad Thai and Bok Choy stir fry.

Though the ingredient list is long, you will have most of it if you keep your List items stocked.  If you’re feeling a cold coming on (though I pray you are uber-healthy and simply want to create this dish) and don’t feel like going to the store, feel free to sub onions for scallions, extra dried ginger for the fresh and even using scrambled eggs and extra peanuts instead of the chicken for protein. (Scrambled eggs are part of Pad Thai anyway!)

CWYG List Items – rice noodles, dried ginger and garlic powder, shallots, garlic, soy (or tamari), agave, paprika, sesame oil, canola oil, peanuts, chicken (if you have kept it stocked)
Veggie Box Items – Bok Choy
To Buy Items - scallions, ginger, chicken (if not in your freezer)          

Pan Asian Noodles with Ginger Chicken and Fried Shallots
1 12 oz package wide rice noodles (look in Asian aisle; these are the ones that are the width of fettucine)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced thinly (partially frozen is easier to slice)
1 tsp each dried ginger and garlic powder
1 bunch Bok Choy, leaves separated from stalks.
1 large shallot
5 cloves garlic, minced and divided (garlic is a great decongestant and natural antibiotic so I use a lot!)
1 2” piece fresh ginger (another natural decongestant)
2 scallions
¼ cup soy or tamari sauce, or more to taste (Tamari is a gluten-free soy sauce)
2 tbsp agave nectar or 3 tbsp sugar (we use organic to avoid processed sugar)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp canola oil
¼ cup peanuts, chopped
Sriracha or chili garlic sauce for serving

Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand til softened then immediately drain.
Either directly on the cutting board you used to slice chicken (hopefully a different one than veggies) or in a bowl, toss the chicken slices with the dried ginger and garlic powder.

Slice the bok choy leaves and stalks thinly and keep separated. Slice the shallot lengthwise very thinly. Mince garlic, grate it with a Microplane or put through garlic press.  Finely chop ginger or use a Microplane to grate it. Thinly slice scallions

In a bowl, mix the remaining garlic, soy sauce, agave or sugar, and paprika to form the sauce.

Heat a large skillet or wok.  Add canola oil then when it’s shimmering add the shallots and cook, stirring often until the shallots are very brown and crispy.  Remove to a paper towel leaving behind all of the oil and lightly salt.

Add chicken, just enough to make a single layer.  If necessary, cook the chicken in batches to avoid steaming rather than browning the chicken.
When all the chicken is cooked, add the sesame oil, ginger, scallions and bok choy leaves.  Cook until the bok choy leaves are beginning to get tender.  Add the stalks and cook for another minute then add the noodles and sauce mixture.

Garnish each serving with chopped peanuts and pass additional soy and Sriracha or chili garlic sauce for everyone to season to taste at the table.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to Make Your Own Barbecue Sauce

My roommates and I had an arrangement in college…I cooked, they cleaned. Though for most students college is when cooking ramen noodles is the height of culinary arts, I have always loved to cook even in the days of zero extra cash.  So, I used the budget we had, bought groceries and  made dinners.   

I don’t remember many of the meals, but I do remember the crockpot barbecue chicken.  It was the “we’re having people over for dinner but are being good girls and not skipping classes” meal.  I would throw a bunch of chicken breasts in the crockpot cover them with a bottle or two of the cheapest barbecue sauce and let them cook for the whole day.

Fast forward a few (or several) years and I can’t get past the large quantity of high fructose corn syrup that is in most bottled sauces and the exorbitant prices of gourmet versions.  So when I feel the urge to make something that is comforting to me and reminds me of my Texas roots, I just make the sauce myself.

If you talk to BBQ people or watch the occasional barbecue cook-off, you will be subtly persuaded that it is actually rocket science.  I will admit that the whole smoking thing is not my bag because there is a bit of science involved, and admittedly view it with some sort of culinary reverence.  But as for the sauce, there’s not much to it, which is probably why everyone else guards their sauce recipes so closely.  I was just chit-chatting with a BBQ guy one day and innocently wondering out loud whether he used a whole  chile or dried version and he actually told me “Don’t ask me any more questions.”

Since my whole mission in life is to pass along what I know, I can’t keep mine a secret.  I’will only share, though to you if you promise me one thing…don’t stick to the recipe!  Think about your family and add what you like.  Though water is fine for the needed liquid to dilute the tomato paste, I am always looking for ways to bump up flavors, so I use prepared espresso for part of the liquid.  Coffee would work fine, too.  When I use espresso, I tend to use balsamic vinegar for my acid since it’s natural sweetness balances the slight bitterness of espresso.  Apple Cider would be the more traditional acid if you’re just doing water.
I have included my “secret” recipe.  All you need to do is prepare it (up to 3 days in advance) and then pour it over chicken breasts before slow-cooking for 4-6 hours.  We served the chicken with baked potatoes and a salad.  


CWYG “List” items– chicken breasts, tomato paste, espresso, brown sugar,  vinegar, ancho chile powder, cumin, smoked paprika, garlic, onion, potatoes, yogurt (we use this instead of sour cream), cheese

Veggie Box – lettuce for salad

Homemade Barbecue Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp smoked paprika
4 tsp ancho chile powder
2 tsp cumin
2 6 oz cans tomato paste
2 cups water (I used a shot of espresso and made up the remaining liquid with water)
½  cup brown sugar (or to taste)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (I used this with espresso but apple cider with water would be fine)

Sauté  the onion and garlic in the olive oil.  When they are just starting to turn barely golden, add spices and sauté for another minute to lightly toast the spices.  Add the tomato paste and sauté until it begins to turn a darker shade of red.  Add the water (espresso/water blend), the brown sugar and vinegar.  Let cook until slightly thickened.  Pour over chicken breasts and cook until they are falling apart pretty easily.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Spinach Artichoke Pasta & White Bean, Celery and Sausage Salad

Not the prettiest dish ever, but it's dinner nonetheless!  Spinach Artichoke Pasta Bake.
This was one of those "Dad's at a meeting, let's eat out" kind of nights, but since my mantra is "Cook What You've Got" and I am the originator of the mantra, I figured I should live it out.

Since my kids will eat virtually anything mixed with pasta, I decided to go with what sounded good to me and make a baked cheesy pasta that was bumped up in the nutritional category with spinach and artichokes.  As I finished it I realized the lack of protein for my growing boys as well as the lack of anything remotely light and refreshing to balance the rich pasta.

A quick look at the fridge revealed some garlicky white beans I had cooked several days before and a big bunch of celery.  I always have lemons on hand thanks to the generosity of neighbors and friends and remembering a certain sausage and potato salad from Alsace, I grabbed a nitrate free smoked Italian Sausage link out of the fridge, too, thinking that would add more flavor along with a little meat to satiate my carnies (not the carnival working variety, the meat-eating kind.).

A countertop full of ingredients became dinner within 45 minutes and we had a pleasant evening together.  We even had drop-in guests so I was super thankful that I didn't go with my original thought of really going low-brow and eating straight out of the pasta dish.  (Not really, but sometimes the lack of dirty dishes is appealing!)

CWYG Stats - everything but the artichokes was from "The List". Because I'm an artichoke freak, they are always on my personal list.  They are definitely optional though because they can be expensive.

Spinach Artichoke Baked Pasta
1/2 lb penne pasta
10 oz frozen chopped organic spinach
1 cup frozen aritchoke hearts, cut in half, optional
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp rice flour (or use the same amount all purpose flour as fats combined)
2 cups milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1/2 shredded parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions cooking 1 minute less than what the directions say for al dente. (Better yet, use your own "dentes" and check it along for just barely beyond the crunchy middle stage.) Drain well.

In a mesh strainer, rinse the spinach to thaw then squeeze dry in a few paper towels or a tea towel. Halve the artichoke hearts.  In the olive oil and butter, saute the onion and garlic.  Add the rice flour and stir well.  Slowly incorporate the the milk until a thick sauce begins to form.  Add the spinach and artichokes as well as the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss the pasta in and then transfer to a oven-friendly pan.  Top with shredded cheese and broil the top until lightly browned.

White Bean, Celery and Sausage Salad
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (or 1 can cannelini beans, drained)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 stalks of celery slice very thinly
1 fully cooked Italian Sausage link, chopped (Note: this is totally optional and I liked it better without.)
Black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes to taste

Mix everything together in a bowl and let stand while you finish cooking everything.  I actually sauteed the sausage a bit to give it some color but that's also optional.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Uses for Lemons - Lemony Chicken Tagine

Bare limbs of pecan trees were about as close as we could possibly get to winter fruit trees when I lived in Texas.  Fruit trees in general were not part of life since I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas where most trees were planted as twigs by development contractors and were generic non fruit-bearing varietals.  So, here in California, I have yet to be jaded against the beauty of citrus trees fully fruiting in the middle of the coldest months.

Dark green leafy trees covered with the brightest orbs of yellow and orange.  They are everywhere.  Friends bring us lemons by the bagful.  Our farm brings us 5 lbs of oranges and Satsuma mandarins every week.  Kyle went to a local tree on open land and collected a giant bag of the most refreshing sweet-tart oranges I’ve ever had.  There are varieties of citrus I never knew before: Calamansis – green skin with yellow flesh, Sour Oranges – tiny oranges with green flesh and very tart juice, Meyer Lemons – cross between lemon and tangerine, juice that is tart but sweet enough to avoid a pucker, mini lemons – just what they sound like.

With all this citrus, I’ve learned to preserve them in a myriad of ways.  I’ve made marmalades, frozen the juice, made limoncello, and lots of lemon curd.  The more exotic method of preservation is to brine them and make Preserved Lemons. I did this with lemons in the Fall and finally had the chance to use them when I received turnips and carrots in our Veggie Box.  Morrocan cuisine uses preserved lemons regularly so a chicken tagine (with quinoa instead of the more traditional couscous) became dinner.

No preserved lemons, no problem.  Just use lemon juice.  No baby turnips, use celery.  Got lots of winter squash, use it or any squash for that matter.  Add garbanzo beans for extra protein.  It’s mostly about the lemon and warm spices with the chicken so the vegetables can be varied based on what you have or is in season.. For the pilaf, use quinoa, couscous or brown rice (if using rice, start before chicken because it cooks longer) and any fruits and nuts you may have. 

CWYG Stats
CWYG List Items – onions, garlic, chicken, chicken broth, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, quinoa, dried apricots, raisins, sliced almonds, green olives, preserved lemons
Veggie Box Items – baby turnips, carrots, leeks
Fresh Items to Buy – cilantro, harissa or chili garlic sauce, seasonal vegetables (if no veggie box)

Lemony Chicken Tagine with Quinoa Pilaf
2 tsp each cinnamon, ginger and turmeric
1 tbsp cumin
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
2 large chicken breasts, cut into 1” chunks
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped (reserve ½ cup for pilaf)
4 cloves garlic, minced (reserve ¼ of the minced garlic for pilaf)
1 leek, thinly sliced and rinsed well, optional (use more onions if you don’t have any leeks)
2 small turnips cut into 1” chunks
3 carrots cut into 1” chunks
½ cup good quality green olives
2 tbsp rinsed and chopped preserved lemons or 3 tbsp lemon juice
3 cups chicken broth
Quinoa Pilaf (recipe follows)
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Mix the spices and salt in a small bowl or ramekin.  Using half of the mixture season the chicken liberally.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown the chicken well.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened.  Add leeks, turnips and carrots.  Stir for a minute or so, then add remaining spice mix and olive.  Stir to slightly toast spices, then add preserved lemons (or lemon juice) and chicken broth. Taste for salt and add to taste.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve over Pilaf of your choice and top with chopped cilantro.  Serve harissa or chili garlic at table for everyone to season to taste.

Quinoa Pilaf (or coucous or brown rice)
1 tbsp olive oil
Reserved garlic and onion
2 cups well rinsed quinoa (or use whole wheat coucous or brown rice)
¼ cup raisins, optional
4 dried apricots, chopped, optional
1 ¾ cups water (3 ¼ for rice)
½ cup toasted sliced almonds, optional

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil.  Sauté garlic and onion until the onion is soft.  Add the quinoa (or other grains) and and dried fruits.  Sauté to coat the grains with the oil. Add the water and cook for 15-20 minutes for quinoa or couscous (45 minutes for brown rice).  Do not remove the lid, but take off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Corn Chowder with Pico De Gallo

The end of the weekend has always perplexed me. The sudden realization that the fun is over and we have to get back into routine creates an innate need for a box of cereal and milk in front of Sunday night TV which is what I did in my pre-kid days. But now, that’s not terribly responsible or healthy so I find myself looking for better examples of Sunday night comfort. Soup always seems to fit the bill and though I had thought about tortilla soup, I would have had to buy several things to make it. My goal with “Cook What You’ve Got” is to be a shining example of how keeping a stocked kitchen can provide you with unending creativity and yummy dinners so that would not work at all to go out and buy a bunch of ingredients.

Knowing I had a full bag of frozen corn in my freezer, a corn chowder made sense so I headed off to the kitchen armed with Rick Bayless’ Corn and Chicken Chowder recipe as a jumping off point. After browsing through my pantry, I created this recipe that strikes a balance between a classic chowder with bacon and the Chef Bayless’ version. We topped it with pico de gallo, avocado, a drizzle of plain yogurt and a sprinkle of feta cheese.
CWYG Items:  frozen corn, canned diced green chiles, milk, cornstarch, onion, garlic, shallot, diced tomatoes, yogurt, feta, bacon, olive oil
Seasonal/Other Items: cilantro, lime juice, jalapeno avocado
Corn Chowder with Pico De Gallo

2 slices of bacon, sliced ½” pieces
½ tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 16-oz pkg frozen corn kernels
1 tbsp cornstarch
4 cups of milk
1 can of diced mild green chiles
Pico de Gallo
½ 14-oz can of diced tomatoes, drained well
½ shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime or 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Prepare the pico first. Mix all ingredients together and let sit in fridge until ready to serve. (This can be done well in advance and will taste better the longer it sits.)

For the chowder. Cook the bacon in the olive oil in large saucepan until brown and cooked through. Remove and drain leaving behind as much of the bacon fat as possible. Saute onion in the bacon drippings until translucent, but not browning. Add garlic and frozen corn. Cook for a minute or two.

Remove 2/3 of the mixture to a blender container and add the cornstarch and 2 cups of milk. Blend thoroughly then pour back in pan with remaining corn mixture. Add the green chiles and milk. Turn heat to medium and cook until the chowder is bubbling around the edges and thickened. Top each serving with pico de gallo, chopped avocado and a drizzle of yogurt.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dungeness Crab Cake Salad with Lemon Tarragon Mayo

Not the most practical post for my readers at large, but for Cali residents, Dungeness crab is a winter delicacy and readily available sometimes for less/lb than regularly price boneless skinless chicken breasts.  So, take this recipe and feel free to substitute raw chopped shrimp, any white fish or canned salmon then bread and fry as directed.

We were headed to Half Moon Bay for a day of tide pool viewing and since no day trip is complete for us if we don't have some kind of food adventure, our first stop was the docks to get crabs freshly caught and very much still alive.

Since kids and dogs are natural community builders, Harry found a sweet Irish couple while walking the dog and they pointed us to the best place for buying crab.  "Go to the Blue sign - Manuel is the best".  So to Manuel we went (pictured above), had a chat with the sweet Portuguese couple (Manuel and his wife Maggie) and purchased two big guys.

El, my youngest son loves the idea of the crab, but really nothing else so his contribution was to pay for and carry the crab to the iced cooler.  He has a personal vendetta because his first encounter with one was having his finger firmly grasped by a front claw.  He continues to proclaim "I got revenge and I ate that claw!" when we talk about eating crab.

Harry on the other hand, loves the cleaning part which baffles me since I can hardly stand to see him do it much less do it. I know for an avid cook and would-be-in-another-life restaurant chef, that's pretty pathetic. I certainly would "man-up" and do it, but as long as he's here, I hate to steal the glory from my son.  (That's just the kind of Mom I am.)

I do like picking the crab, though.  It's time consuming and messy, but for some reason, it's rewarding to break the claws and body cavities (sorry to those who are squeamish or vegetarian) and find the big stuff then have the challenge of getting the last bits out.  Since I knew our guests for the afternoon were a bit averse to picking crab and preferred to simply eat it, we decided to pick it all and make crab cakes.

There's really no recipe here to speak of, but I'll give it a shot:

CWYG Stats
Veggie Box and Seasonal Veggies - Radishes, potatoes, mixed greens

Pantry Items - eggs, shallots, lemons, olive oil, panko crumbs, tarragon, mayo, olives

Dungeness Crab Cakes with Lemon Mayo

4 cups picked crab (or alternatives listed above)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 finely chopped shallot or grated onion
1 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup chopped green onion
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
To serve:
Lemon Tarragon Mayo (below)
Mixed Greens
Hard Boiled Eggs
Cleaned and stemmed radishes
Boiled potatoes, optional
Mixed olives

Mix crab, eggs, onion, salt, lemon zest and green onions.  Let sit in fridge for 30 minutes to a couple of hours.  Form into tennis ball size mounds, flatten slightly and coat with panko.  Set back in fridge for 15-20 minutes while you prepare Mayo, salad and heat the oil.

Fry in about 1/2" of oil until both sides are golden brown and they are cooked through. Replenish oil as needed.  Keep warm then serve on top of greens surrounded by the eggs, radishes, olives and potatoes.  Drizzle everything with some of the Mayo, then pass the rest.

Lemon Tarragon Mayo

1 cup mayonnaise (preferably olive or grapeseed based)
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about one lemon)
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix mayo, shallot, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and tarragon in a large bowl.  Slowly whisk in olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Thin to a drizzling consistency with a little warm water.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The List

The List is an essential building block of this whole "Cook What You've Got" concept.

If your experience with cooking new foods has produced a pantry full of unused spices and a fridge full of condiments, The List will help you find a rhythm of cooking that will allow for a variety of cuisines without depending on buying specialty ingredients.

Once you've downloaded the List, feel free to add things that you regularly buy, but challenge yourself to whittle away the processed foods and prepared foods while buying more fresh ingredients.

The Essentials for a well-stocked and meal-ready kitchen?

  • You don't have to have everything on the List stocked all the time.
  • Keep the items in the first 5 sections stocked (Baking, Dry Goods, Flavoring Agents, Wine/Beer, Sweeteners) and buy everything else when on sale or in season. For the most part, these are inexpensive items and will help you make something without a trip to the store.
  • Buy only the dairy products that you use most regularly in quantity.  I always keep a well-aged cheddar, parmesan and either feta or blue for making interesting salads.  Other varieties pop up depending on season and when I find them on sale.  Aged Gouda or Gruyere for Fall and Winter dishes, Chevre to go with Spring veggies, Fresh mozzarella for juicy, fresh-from-the-garden (and PLEASE never refrigerated) tomatoes in the Summer.
  • Buy meat, poultry and seafood only when they are on sale or if they are priced smartly at a warehouse store.  Buy a little extra of each and then you'll slowly start a freezer cache.  I look for organic or (even more preferable) 100% grass-fed beef, hormone- and antiobiotic-free poultry, and wild and/or sustainable seafood.  
  • And finally, keep your frozen foods stocked as fillers.  When you've run out of fresh fruit, it's handy to have some frozen to make a quick breakfast smoothie or fruit crisp for dessert. Frozen peas brighten up an otherwise muted stew, frozen spinach and broccoli mixed in with the insides of baked potatoes are a quick option for dinner and frozen corn can lead to a Sunday supper of corn chowder with a few things from the pantry.  The other items are up to you and simply give you creative options if you choose to buy them. 
Menu planning takes on a whole new week with The List.  You don't have to stare at a blank page or wander aimlessly on recipe websites, or even worse, resort to the "If it's Tuesday it must be meatloaf" mindset.  Cooking is a lot more fun, and appetizing for your cooking beneficiaries, if you have variety.

Either look at my Recipe Index on the homepage or do what I do and make a game of it. Thursdays are when I get my box from Riverdog Farm so using the dry-erase board on my fridge, I write down the veggies I have in one column, the proteins in another (including vegetable protein sources like beans or lentils), and finally meal completers in another (rice, potatoes, pasta, etc.)  I draw lines to connect together something from each column then write the menus on my calendar. 

Email me if you're stumped and let me know about your successes.  I'd be happy to hear about less-than-stellar results, too, and would gladly talk through it with you and help you for the next time around.

One of my dreams for this website is for it to be an extension of the community I enjoy here in Northern California.  I teach cooking classes based on this same concept and while I love it when people tell me what they've cooked after coming to class, I equally love problem solving when something doesn't quite work right. I'm your personal cooking connection and can't wait to hear from you.

There is a small fee for the List, but once you've downloaded it, it's yours to use and even edit to your family's preferences. 

I will be adding collections of recipes on a regular basis so watch for these as well.  

Thanks for supporting me and this new concept.

Copyright 2012 TablaVie Personal Chef Service

All photos and recipes may not be used without express permission from Christi Flaherty, owner and creator of Cook What You've Got Concept and blog.
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