Run, Cook, Eat!

(Un)Recipe – Vegetarian Tacos
June 20, 2009, 8:31 am
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There’s not many groceries in our house right now. It’s a sorry state of affairs. I haven’t been to Trader Joe’s since before both trips, yikes. That’s over 3 months ago. We haven’t been cooking too much, but when we do it’s been very recipe driven, and entirely bought at the organic store down the street. ($$$).

That’s just a long way to say I miss having wonderful TJ’s staples on hand, like basmati rice, canned chickpeas, dried fruit, Indian simmer sauces, frozen naan…oh this list could go on for pages.

The other night I got fed up with going out to eat constantly, and told J I was making dinner from what I had in the fridge. So we ended up with minimalist veggie tacos.

I had extraordinarily low expectations for this, as J really likes non-veggie tacos, especially from the many authentic and cheap Mexican places in the Mission. But I barged ahead, and we were both surprised with how good the results were.

The basis of my veggie tacos were Field Roast’s Smoked Apple Sage vegetarian “sausages.” I had these left over from a trip to the organic store, and I had really enjoyed them the first time around, served simply with the ill-fated dandelion greens. I expect the Mexican Chipotle flavor would be more fitting, but hey, it’s what we had.

I heated oil, added cumin, cayenne pepper, and sriracha (hey, it’s what we had), and crumbled and sauteed the sausage until warm and lightly browned. In addition to that, I chopped up what we had in the fridge – french breakfast radishes, cilantro, and a bunch of avocado. The tortillas were heated with manchego in between, also since it’s what was in the fridge.

The end result was REALLY good. I was skeptical about many elements of this meal, and it all worked. The biggest hurdle was J’s belief that veggie tacos cannot come anywhere close to traditional minimalist style tacos with meat. But without even prompting, he proclaimed these tacos “frighteningly eerily good.” That’s probably the best compliment I’ve gotten from him in awhile!

The sriracha + lack of salsa-like inclusion also made me nervous. (As a 12+ year vegetarian and Midwestern native, do more traditional meat tacos have salsa on top? I thought so?) I seasoned the sausage with generous amounts of sriracha and spices, and the sausage absorbed all of the moisture quickly. The resultant taste was really nice with a moderate amount of heat, proving that the oh-so-versatile Thai chili sauce can sub in with other non-Asian cuisines quite well.

How’s that for a “recipe”? Verdict: make again! An unexpected success.


Farm Fresh To You CSA Box – June 16, 2009
June 16, 2009, 7:02 pm
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We signed up for the Farm Fresh To You CSA about two months ago, and have been less than thrilled with the results. Of the 4 deliveries we’ve gotten, the first one was sent earlier than we requested and our house-sitter reported it was mostly spoiled, the second delivery was mostly spoiled within a day, and the third one just entirely never showed up. This week was the fourth scheduled delivery. This week’s haul was notably less spoiled than the previous few weeks, so I think I will give them one more test delivery instead of immediately canceling.

Here’s what arrived:

  • 7 little white nectarines
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 3 heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 bunch greenleaf lettuce
  • 6 lipstick peppers – 1 was spoiled
  • 5 tiny red onions – 4 of them are questionable/possibly spoiled

The lettuce, some peppers, and tomatoes will become a big salad tonight. I’ll give Farm Fresh one more shot, mostly because the newsletter apologized for sending everyone crappy spoiled produce and said they’ll try harder. We shall see. I really want to support you, local organic farmers, but I’m not paying high prices for food that I would pass by if I saw it at Safeway.

Mujadarah with Spiced Pita Crisps
June 13, 2009, 4:42 pm
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While cleaning up the kitchen, I found a huge bag of onions. Which thankfully led me to make mujadarah for dinner.

Mujadarah is a simple but wonderful Lebanese rice dish with lots of caramelized onions & red lentils. I discovered mujadarah through some sort of vegetarian cooking website (vegweb?) a long time ago, and made a horrible-tasting batch of it during college.

Since then, I’ve made this a few times using various vegetarian cookbooks I own, with much better results. I always forget which recipe turns out and which doesn’t, so this time I went with the Veganomicon recipe. (I love this cookbook, but everything takes so long to make!)

In line with my past experience with the Veganomicon recipe, the onions – cooked in the oven with lots of oil – took nearly twice as long to caramelize than what the recipe claimed. (I vaguely remember this from last time.) Perhaps I just want mine SUPER brown.

Aside from that, the recipe went off without any problems. The low amount of water in the pot while adding the lentils to the rice made me nervous, but it turned out just fine without adding any extra water.

The pita crisps, however, could have turned out better. I prefer mujadarah with crispy pita crumbled on it, otherwise the texture just gets too mushy for me. We were hungry, so I didn’t let them toast and cool long enough to get really crispy, so the crumbling-on-top part didn’t work. The recipe was fine, although the amount of spice mix created by the recipe was wayyy too much for a few pitas. I have a little bowl of it left over with nowhere to put it.

Verdict: make again! Just use less spice for the pitas, and let them bake long enough to crisp up.

Farmer’s Market – 6/14/09

We had a beautiful sunny day today for the farmer’s market, and I’m SO happy to be back after being out-of-SF for so many weeks. I came back to find that according to CUESA, we’re at the tail end of artichoke season, and asparagus is entirely gone from the market. Apricots seem to be halfway through their season, and strawberries are nearly half the price they were before I began traveling.

This week’s haul was supposed to be tempered by 1) my lack of cash and 2) our CSA box arriving on Tuesday (if they manage to not f-up again), but we spent more than planned.

The goods:

  • Acme herb slab bread – the best bread in the universe. Really, nothing tops this.
  • Acme wheat seed loaf – my vehicle for pre-running peanut butter toast.
  • Five avocados – for a salad or two for me, and for snacks for J, who has the metabolism of a bird.
  • One bottle of Bariani balsamic vinegar – in preparation of Stern Grove and the many salads/tomatoes in our future.
  • Half dozen of Judy’s organic brown eggs – beautiful eggs with wonderful orange yolks. Two of these will be going in brownies later today.
  • Andante farms goat cheese – J has designs for this+roasted cacao nibs
  • One pint of seascape strawberries – I ate most of these while waiting in line for Blue Bottle coffee.
  • Three smallish artichokes – not sure if they’re baby artichokes or not, or how I plan to cook them.
  • One bunch of French breakfast radishes.
  • Five endives – We didn’t need them, but I couldn’t resist. I love endive. It reminds me of delicate little baby birds you can hold in your hands.

Things we ate at the market:

  • New Orleans iced coffee from Blue Bottle – I’ve never tried this (normally I prefer drip coffee w/no sugar or cream), but I gave it a shot based on an article I read recommending it. It was VERY good, and it tastes like the iced coffee my mom and I make: low on sugar, high coffee taste with a medium amount of dairy. The barista said there’s chicory involved.
  • Frog Hollow pastries: ricotta, asparagus, and green garlic turnover, and a cherry turnover. I had my mind set on the cherry turnover, but the asparagus was way better than expected. Great flaky crust on both.
  • Samples: peaches and nectarines were sampled and in season, but I have an immense talent of smooshing any fruit I buy at the market beyond recognition before it gets home. So no buying. We have yet to solve this problem. Maybe a lined backpack would help transport them. Also sampled – apricots. This was the first non-dried apricot I had that I actually liked. I plan to buy some next week.

Next step – seeing how much of this (and the CSA box) we consume vs. throw away.

Spicy Sweet Almonds
June 12, 2009, 8:36 pm
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I stayed home yesterday, so I made Joy the Baker’s Spicy Sweet Almonds. Good recipe, but bad execution on my part! I was snacking on them like mad before they went into the oven. But I’m fairly sure my oven was actually too hot, since they turned much darker than they were supposed to. Some may even call them “burned.” But hey, they’re still in the realm of edible, for me at least.

Anyway, the fennel seed/red chili flake/sugar combination is GREAT. So many nice flavors, and I would have never thought to use fennel seeds for something like this. I like lightly sweet+spicy.

Verdict: make again! But next time I’ll pay attention to my oven thermometer and not let things get too hot.

Recipes to Try
June 11, 2009, 3:42 pm
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I’m home sick today, with nothing to do. Usually I just sleep in front of the TV if I’m sick….but we don’t own a TV anymore, alas. So I figured I’ll tackle one of my original goals of starting a blog – how to keep track of things I want to cook.

This list just keeps growing, thanks to a plethora of food blogs on my RSS feed. Which is searchable and great, but I think it will also be nice to have a list in one document to refer to when thinking “What do I want to make for dinner”. So here we go – this is what I have archived from Jan 1, 2009 through June 11, 2009. No doubt there will be more installments to come.

Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili from 101 Cookbooks. (Judging by the name, I think she lives in my ‘hood, weird.)

Salt Crusted Fingerling Potatoes from David Latt on the Bitten blog. Sounds incredibly simple.

Spicy Sweet Almonds from Joy The Baker. Also looks super easy, and I’ve been snacking on nuts and dried fruit quite a bit lately. This looks similar to my dear friends V+M’s almonds, who I should also bother for their almond recipe. (Sidenote – omg i love Joy the Baker. Beautiful pix, engaging writing, and good recipes. If she lived in SF I’d totally want to hang out and bake brownies with her.)

Francis Lam’s Baked Rice from The Wednesday Chef. Despite many attempts, I’m one of those folks who can only make rice decently using a rice cooker. I don’t quite get it. I usually delegate rice making (and vinagrette making) to J, but I know I need to master this. Baked rice may be the route.

S’mores Brownies from Joy the Baker. I need to order those vegan marshmallows first.

Buttermilk Biscuits, also from Joy the Baker. I’ve been trying to replicate the awesomeness of my mom’s buttermilk biscuits, but I can’t – even using my mom’s recipe.

Chana Punjabi from Heather Carlucci Rodriguezs via The Wednesday Chef. Indian food I can make using the spices I already own? GREAT!

Pan Fried Chickpea Salad from 101 Cookbooks. I love chickpeas, and I’m always looking for more ways to cook them.

Fast Scallion Pancakes from Bitten. A way to use up the leftover green onions I always seem to have.

Savory Cheesecake from the Chubby Vegetarian. I love sweets gone savory, so I’m curious to try this.

Requesón via The Wednesday Chef. Like ricotta, but with seville orange. This looks great spread on toast for breakfast.

Vegetarian Pasta Puttanesca from The Chubby Vegetarian. Lots of his recipes veer toward “meaty” veggie food, so I need to keep this in mind when I’m craving a bunch of protein!

Savory Bread Pudding with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese also from The Chubby Vegetarian. I love savory bread pudding. I make a great one with lots of mushrooms. This sounds delightful.

Paprika Cheddar Drop Biscuits from Joy The Baker. Back again on the biscuit train of thought…

Raspberry Lemon Chip Cookies from Erin Cooks. Adding in some raspberry & lemon flavors to beloved chocolate chip cookies sounds great.