Good Eats

Back to the Holden Arboretum where we didn’t have anything to feed the stomach, but our eyes and souls feasted on the beauty of the trees and rhododendrons.

We have been eating well lately.  In an effort to clean out the refrigerator before our upcoming trip, M and I have become creative with the food that will not hold up well while we are away.  I’ve been almost tempted back into food photography, but haven’t had the time to indulge.  While the meals have been creative, delicious, and enjoyed in a slow eating fashion, setting up the tripod and camera at the right time of day (because, I’ve found, natural light is best) just hasn’t worked out.

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Delightful and delicious

Dandelion delight

‘Tis a gorgeous day here in the Bogs.  The sky has been mostly clear and a lovely shade of blue.  The sun has been warming and brightening.  It seems unusually quiet without the bellowing of the blustery winds.  All is calm.

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206: Kitchen traveler

(Evening reflections in an empty bowl.)

Sometime last year I blogged about being in a cooking rut, and made the decision to randomly pick a recipe from the many cookbooks on my kitchen shelf.  The idea behind this is we would try something new at least once a week.  I’ve continued that project in some form or another, getting recipes from various places (books, online, magazines), but haven’t blogged about it much since I started my outdoor commitment.

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146: Deep dish pizza

(The pond at sunrise this morning.)

It’s a pretty day here in the Bogs.  The sun has been shining with only a few thin clouds streaked across the sky.  The wind has finally settled down and is coming to us from the south.  Nice.  It’s a little chillier than it has been the past few days, but that won’t last long.  We start warming up again tomorrow.

(Early sign of spring.)

The pussy willow is showing some early signs of spring.  Maybe.  I’m not sure.  Those fuzzy things might be left over from the warm-up we had in November.  I’m going to take the optimistic approach and think of them as an indication that spring will be arriving soon.

There is also this to consider:

(What happens under the snow — the secret revealed!)

The earth has been awakening under all that snow.  Now that the snow is melting, we can start to see what’s been happening.  Those bright, spring-green things are new growth.  The crocuses, maybe.  Or some other bulb sending up shoots.

It was very nice to see some new green growth.  Of course this makes it official — I have spring fever.  No doubt about it.

Day 5 of the 10-day yoga challenge was completed early this morning.  I am enjoying both the yoga and the early morning.  It’s nice to be up to watch the sunrise.

I promised you all a Chicago-style deep dish pizza recipe so let’s get to it.  I originally got the recipe from a Chicago newspaper that attempted to come up with recipes for the three most famous pizza styles in Chicago.  This one is supposed to replicate Pizzeria Uno’s style and flavor (before they became a franchise, when the flavor was still good).

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Vegetable Stifado

I don’t typically think of stews as a summertime meal.  However, Vegetable Stifado from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day is one of my favorite dishes to make this time of year.  Almost everything in it can be found locally grown and freshly picked or, better yet, in my garden.

I vary the recipe a little in that I like to add extra tomatoes, peppers, and squash.  I use a zucchini and a yellow squash, and 2-3 different colors of peppers (green, red, and yellow were on the menu when I made this the other day, but I’ve also used orange and purple).  I leave out the optional okra (because I am not a fan).  The potatoes I used when I made this the other day were  small, thin-skinned new potatoes so I scrubbed them well and left the skins on.  This stew freezes well.  The potatoes might get a little mushy but it’s a stew so it works out okay, even thickening it a little.  The recipe calls for it to be served over rice.  I’ve been known to substitute couscous for the rice.

Vegetable Stifado

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large potato (about 2 cups cubed)
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 3 cups undrained canned tomatoes (28-ounce can)
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary (1 scant teaspoon dried)
  • 1 medium zucchini or yellow squash
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 cup frozen sliced okra (optional)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (1 teaspoon dried)
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • grated feta cheese

In a large stewpot, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil over medium heat until just softened.  Cut the potato into 1/2-inch cubes and add to the pot.  Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes.  Add the eggplant and the juice from the tomatoes, setting aside the tomatoes.  Stir in the water, salt, and rosemary.  Bring the stew to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes.  After the first 10 minutes, the stew can be simmered uncovered.

While the stew simmers, cut the squash into 1-inch cubes and the bell pepper into 1-inch pieces.  When the potatoes are just beginning to soften, add the squash and bell pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes.  Coarsely chop the reserved tomatoes and add them to the pot, along with the okra, lemon juice, and dill.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.  Add black pepper to taste, and remove the rosemary sprig if you used the fresh herb.

Serve topped with feta cheese.

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day is one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks.  There are a lot of good recipes that don’t take nearly as much time as many of the recipes do in Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant (Cookery)Sundays At Moosewood has some fantastic recipes but they can be complicated and/or time consuming.  Moosewood Cooks at Home was a great cookbook to have while I was working (outside of the home) because most of the recipes don’t take that long to prepare and/or cook.

(Yesterday’s sunset.)

Spicy Chipotle Shrimp Salad: Adventures in Cooking #4

(Grilled shrimp with some of the makings of the chipotle sauce)

Thank you to CookingLight for this week’s adventures in cooking.  The July 2010 issue of CookingLight magazine has loads of great summery recipes so it was difficult to choose one.  I happened to have a bag of shrimp in the freezer so it made sense to pick a recipe which called for shrimp.  The Spicy Chipotle Shrimp Salad had me almost drooling just looking at the photos and reading the recipe.

Someday I will take the time to properly photograph food so it looks as yummy and colorful as it does in the foodie magazines.  The main problem is that I’m usually so busy with the cooking (and then eating) process that I don’t have the time to set everything up with the right lighting.

(Mango and pineapple)

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but came pretty close.  M fired up the grill and we grilled the shrimp and fruit out there.  Rather than slice the fruit, I decided on large cubes so I could string it on the kebob thingy (it’s likely it has some other name but we call it the kebob thingy).  We also decided to have some grilled red potatoes with the salad.  The potatoes are simple.  Wash, quarter, toss with some olive oil and whatever spices you prefer.  I used Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning last night (the salt-free version as I prefer to add salt on my own if I want it or the dish seems to need it).  M has a veggie basket for the grill that he uses for the potatoes (and other cubed veggies that are not on a kebob thingy).

(Pre-grilled potatoes)

Other than that, I think I pretty much stuck with what the recipe called for.  It was a fantastic dinner.  The shrimp with the chipotle had a nice degree of spiciness without being overwhelming.  The fruit added sweetness and a cooling factor to the meal.

My finished dish doesn’t look nearly as pretty as the picture on, but I suspect they either left out the mayo in the chipotle sauce or they grilled the shrimp with the sauce on.  Either way, their photo is missing the creamy pinkish tinge that results from mixing mayonnaise with chiptoles and adobo sauce.  My lack of lighting doesn’t help.

It should also be noted that I am heavy-handed with the cilantro.  I heart cilantro and always add plenty of it to any dish in which the recipe calls for it (or I think is suitable for it).

Sassy mint

(Mentha suaveolens — Apple Mint)

One of the first things I did when we moved to our current home was plant mint in a spot where nothing else seemed to grow.  I started with Apple Mint.  Apple Mint loved it there, thriving and spreading.  Then I cleaned out some of Apple Mint and introduced it to Unknown Mint.  (When I bought Unknown Mint it was labeled as “spearmint” but the leaves don’t look like spearmint.  In looks it reminds me of oregano or marjoram but it does have a minty scent and flavor to it.)  Unknown Mint loved it there too and got along well with Apple Mint and they have been sharing their enclosed area quite well, splitting it almost in half and mingling somewhere in the middle.  Apple Mint can be a little aggressive, but she takes off for other areas rather than bullying out Unknown Mint.  Apple Mint has even popped up in the cracks of the front porch and across the sidewalk from where she is located.

(Unknown Mint)

Off in the corner, taking up very little space, is False Mint.  False didn’t mean to be false.  It was my fault that False came to be sitting in the corner, wondering what to do with itself.  You see, my favorite mint thus far in life is Pineapple Mint.  It has variegated leaves of yellow and green and tastes of pineapple.  I bought a little pineapple mint plant when we were living in Kent and planted her in the garden out back in a space where she had room to stretch out and enjoy herself.  It was early spring when we moved from Kent to our current location.  We gathered and/or dug up plants we wanted to take with us, planted them in a space near the barn as a temporary place to grow, and then hoped they would do okay until we finished the house renovations and could get back to them.

(This is not a mint and for this post I’ve named it False Mint but that is not its real name.)

I planted what I thought was the Pineapple Mint in the corner of the area where Apple and Unknown are now thriving.  I put her there because I knew that was where I wanted the Mints to hang out.  Well, it turned out it wasn’t Pineapple Mint at all but an imposter who looks a little like Pineapple Mint (a real gardener, I’m sure, would have known the difference).  False Mint is lacking the aroma and flavor of Pineapple Mint, does not have the square stem or leaf pattern of mints, and I’m not even sure it is edible as once I realized it was the wrong plant, I gave up on it.  I never bothered to look it up, thinking the Mints would eventually overtake it and force it out.

False has been there for about seven years or so, holding on to its little corner of the patch.  Apple joined it later that year and Unknown the following year.  I’ve been looking for another pineapple mint plant since that time but hadn’t found one until this spring.

(Mentha suaveolens variegata — Pineapple Mint)

I thought about pulling False out of the mint bed.  It was a fleeting thought that was carried away by the braveness of the little plant that has held its own against the Mints.  I have never had to weed the mint bed.  Apple and Unknown won’t let the weeds in.  There is a little fairy residing in the Mint Patch but she’s another story for another time.  Lemon Verbana lived in the mint bed for a year or two until she succumbed to a harsh winter and we were left with nothing except her skeletal outlines along the side of the house.

When I look at the differences between False and Pineapple now, I don’t see how I could have made such a big mistake.  False has bigger leaves, for one thing, and the edges are smoother than Pineapple’s.  I am fairly new to gardening, having always had a black thumb rather than a green thumb.  I killed houseplants just by looking at them.  Or so it seemed to me.

I am still not a master gardener.  I don’t see that as my path in life.  But I have finally learned how to grow a few things and keep them alive from year to year.  The Mints, of course, have never needed my help.  They are experts in their field (or bed, as the case happens to be).

I made up a batch of “sassy water” today.  I can’t remember where I first heard or read about sassy water.  It’s the kind of water I would expect to be served at a spa.  It is cool and refreshing and you can practically feel it doing healthy things to your body when you drink it.  I don’t have an exact recipe but I can tell you what I put in it.

  • Mint leaves — around 10-15 of them, depending on the kind of mint.  Apple Mint has huge leaves so I don’t need much.  Pineapple leaves are smaller so I use more.   Bruise the leaves a little to bring out the flavor.  If you want to make it look fancy, add sprigs instead of individual leaves.  Your choice.
  • 1-2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger (if you don’t want the water to look quite so cloudy, peel and slice the ginger instead)
  • The juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 1 liter of water

Chill overnight, strain and enjoy throughout the next day.  I use a small strainer and strain as I pour.  When I finish the water, I eat the cucumber slices.  They are delicious, having absorbed the lemon, ginger, and mint flavors.  Crunchy, too.  Sometimes I throw them into salads.