Don’t miss Mark Bittman’s article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine about grilling watermelon and, of all things, cabbage. Several of the recipes sound like interesting and relatively easy side dishes: Vietnamese-style Portobello Mushrooms, Teriyaki Cabbage Steaks, and Curry-Rubbed Sweet Potato Flanks.
David Tanis’s new column about Pan-Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with Peas caught my eye. The recipe looks tasty and, unlike so many Indian or Indian-inspired dishes, it doesn’t involve a dozen spices and a spice grinder. Which is good because I broke my spice grinder (or, to be accurate, The Professor’s coffee bean grinder) making chick pea flour for last week’s Spinach-Chick Pea Burgers.
In any case, I will definitely try Tanis’s recipe soon. Both The Professor and my almost-four-year-old like cauliflower, so I serve it fairly often — usually roasted. Though there was that Cauliflower Cake … and a pasta with cauliflower and walnuts that I’m trying to master. In any case, I’m still adjusting my recipe for chili-lime roasted cauliflower (which you can see below, served with salmon cakes), but look for a post on that soon.
From the basic shallot-lemon vinaigrette to the Southwestern Arugula Salad with a spicy chipotle dressing, there are options for weeknight dinners and dinner parties alike. Next time The Professor’s family comes up North I’m going to serve them greens like they’ve never had ’em — Bittman’s Cooked Collard Salad with Peanut Vinaigrette.
David Tanis — a cookbook author and longtime chef at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse — just kicked off a new column for The New York Times called City Kitchen. The column is about cooking at home and, more specifically, about cooking in cramped city kitchens. But no matter the size of your kitchen, the column promises to be great source of cooking insight and experience.
His debut column — titled “Small Space, Big Flavor: First, Start the Beans” — reminded me that I’m a dolt for not cooking with dried beans. As Tanis writes, “a small batch of freshly cooked beans is well worth the little effort it takes to get them cooked. … Don’t cave and go the canned-bean route — save those for emergencies or camping trips.”
I’m going to throw my can opener away. Or at least as The Professor to hide it.
In any case, check out the column and the accompanying recipe for Cannellini Bean Salad with Shaved Spring Vegetables, which looks delicious.
The New York Times columnist Mark Bittman — aka The Minimalist — has a great video on making Four-Spice Salmon. It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write two posts — one on the matter of eating seafood and one on how to cook fish. So I’ll take Bittman’s video (which includes two tricks I use myself) as my excuse to write up my cooking tips. While Bittman pan fries his salmon in the video, my tips are geared towards roasting or grilling.
#1: Cook Individual Pieces: Cut the filet into individual portions before you cook it. Not only will it look nicer on the plate, but it will help you cook all the pieces evenly and make it easier to determine when the fish is done. If you’re cooking an uncut three-pound piece, it’s sooooo difficult to know when the thickest center pieces are ready.
#2: Use a spice rub: This is Bittman’s second tip and I second it. No I third it! In any case, I approve. In the video he mixes cumin, coriander, nutmeg and clove. Because I sometimes don’t have time to make my own spice mix, I’ve also bought them. My current obsession is Whole Food’s Tequila Lime spice mix, a combination of chili pepper, coriander, cumin, oregano, garlic, onion, parsley, lime and tequila. Or “tequila flavor,” at least. Bittman puts the spice mix on top of the fish. Why stop there? I smear the mix on all sides of the fish.
#3 Buy an oven thermometer: The oven gods are fickle and rarely heat the oven to the temperature that you set it for. An inexpensive thermometer will tell you your oven’s true temperature, helping you reach your pre-heating goal. And when it comes to cooking fish, you need to have confidence in your oven temperature so that you can be confident in your cooking time.
#4 Time It: Rather than going by the old “10 minutes per inch of thickness” rule of thumb, I recommend using a resource like Weber’s On the Grill app, which provides standard cooking times for different kinds of seafood (and meats as well). if you’re making tuna or salmon, which some people eat rare or medium rare, adjust the time to suit your taste. If the timer goes off and you’re not sure that the fish is really cooked through, take it out of the oven, cover it with tin foil and let it “rest” for 5 minutes. It will keep cooking but much more slowly than it would in the oven, so you’re not as likely to over-cook it by mistake.
I don’t know when Memorial Day became a National Day of Grilling. But what was once a day of remembrance, has become a time to relax — with friends, a six-pack or two and a Weber.
If you doubt the significance of the Memorial Day barbeque, look no further than this hilarious New York Times story about the Weber Grill hotline and its busiest week of the year. While the tale of Weber’s grill experts (who are overwhelmingly women) is my favorite cooking-related article of the weekend, grilling stories abound. And here’s what irks me: Most all of these articles ignore vegetarians — or insult them. A recent O slideshow titled “6 Inventive (and Tasty!) Takes on the Classic Burger” includes this telling line: “To come up with topping ideas for vegetarian burgers, I think of a big bowl of plain rice—what could I add to that bowl that would taste delicious?”
In other words, meatless burgers are about as tasty as a bowl of plain rice.
I guess I should give the O editors props for including a real vegetarian main course — a brown rice and lentil burger — rather than just a side dish like grilled corn.
But still. I want more. I want to take the grill back. I want backyards across the nation to fill with the scents of slowly roasting peppers, of carrots and onions — getting sweet and charred, of spicy black bean burgers, and generous slices of corn bread. I want the grill-queens at the Weber hotline to be answering questions about the right temperature for grilling cauliflower and how to stop their portobello mushrooms from drying out. Dammit, I want to hear Sarah Moose-Shooting Palin brag about Todd’s grilled asparagus!
Until then, I’m doing my little part to take back the grill.
The Professor’s sister and brother-in-law are visiting, and we fired up the Weber on the night they arrived to cook asparagus and pizza.
I admit, we did make one or two pizzas with chicken sausage for our Southern guests. I also made two with garlicky spinach and fresh ricotta. And one with sauteed wild mushrooms.
“When you make a mushroom pizza, you do not joke around,” said The Professor as he carried my portobello- and shitake-smothered pizza to the grill. He’s right. And hmmm, hmmm was it tasty.
Our lilac is blooming. A small basil plant has taken up temporary residence in a sunny spot on our kitchen island, waiting until it is warm enough to move outside. And it’s raining. In other words, spring is here!
The season brings fresh peas, fava beans, and fiddlehead ferns. It also brings recipes for asparagus. Every magazine, newspaper and cooking blog seems to be offering its take on the quirky vegetable. (I guess asparagus is to May what turkey is to November!)
Over at The New York Times’ Sunday Magazine, Mark Bittman recently offered a dozen recipes, with options for steaming, roasting, grilling, and stir-frying. Some of his suggestions seem worth trying — steamed asparagus served with home-made aioli or a fried egg, for instance, or asparagus roasted with carrots and drizzled with soy sauce. But none of the twelve feel substantial enough to be the main course of a vegetarian meal.
Deb, the cook and writer behind the lovely blog Smitten Kitchen, has a recipe for Ribboned Asparagus Salad, and I’m dying to try it. The salad isn’t main course material, but she also offers a recipe for Shaved Asparagus Pizza — a dish The Professor will be sitting down to soon.
Over at food52, a recipe for Absurdly Addictive Asparagus rose to the top of the site’s Your Best Asparagus Recipe competition. The recipe calls for cubed pancetta, though I’m going to try a vegetarian version.
Do you have a favorite asparagus recipe? If so, send it to me. In the meantime, I’ll be cooking up Deb’s asparagus pizza and will let you know what The Professor thinks of it.
Melissa Clark, in her most recent column for The New York Times, told the story of a recipe that she had copied from one of her parents’ cookbooks when she was a fledgling.
The piece is, on its face, a story about Catalan rice flan. As Clark writes in her “nut graph” — the paragraph, early in any article, in which a journalist lays out the basic theme and tells the story in a nutshell:
It was unusual in that it wasn’t like the soft and spoonable flans I’d met before. This one baked into a solid yet still creamy cake that I sliced and served in wobbling wedges topped with its own ambrosial caramel sauce. I made it repeatedly for several months, then dropped it to conquer some other culinary frontier — poundcake, I think.
But what struck me wasn’t her tale of flan. It was her obsessive pursuit of kitchen perfection — the fact that she cooked the dessert repeatedly for several months until she had mastered it. Moreover, having been reminded of the flan recently and unable to find her copy of the recipe, she writes: “I had to bake it nine times before I was happy, leaving a trail of crunchy rice, curdled custard and bitter-tasting batches in my path.” Several months! Nine times!
Her confession made me feel both better and worse about my recent months of cooking vegetarian dinners for The Professor. Better because I stopped feeling bad about both the little steps backward (such as my second attempt at bean risotto, which The Professor liked less than the first) and the failures (Ciao Giada’s stuffed peppers! And good-bye!).
And worse … or at least daunted, by the realization that it can take months of practice to really nail a recipe. Adding ten A+ vegetarian dishes to my repertoire is going take a lot of work!
I’m a big fan of soups, and already make several similar to those he suggests — a creamy and gingery butternut squash soup; a tomato soup with fresh basil; a black bean soup. I find the challenge is turning a yummy soup into a satisfying meal.
With the tomato soup, for instance, I serve grilled cheese sandwiches or bruschetta (as my “Italian” Mom taught me to call thick cut toast) rubbed with garlic and olive oil, and served with a selection of cheeses.
The butternut squash soup I served with seared scallops until I suddenly and inexplicably turned against the tasty molluscs. Now I’m struggling to find a good complement.
In any case, I’ll post my soup recipes soon. In the meantime, enjoy Mark Bittman’s.
The New York Times has a nice piece today about meatless burgers and how far they’ve come from the days of bland and freezer-burned veggie-burgers. In short, even high-end restaurants are starting to offer meat-free burger alternatives. Here’s the paragraph that tells the story in a nutshell:
“Across the country, chefs and restaurateurs have been taking on the erstwhile health-food punch line with a kind of experimental brio, using it as a noble excuse to fool around with flavor and texture and hue. As a result, veggie burgers haven’t merely become good. They have exploded into countless variations of good, and in doing so they’ve begun to look like a bellwether for the American appetite. If the growing passion for plant-based diets is here to stay, chefs — even in restaurants where you won’t find the slightest trace of spirulina — are paying attention.”
The article includes an interesting statistic from the market research firm Mintel: “the number of menu items labeled vegetarian or vegan increased by 26 percent between the end of 2008 and the end of 2010.” And it’s about time. Raise your hand if you don’t like the vegetarian option to be a plate filled with side dishes!
I thought so.
In any case, I’ve been meaning to try some kind of bean burger and the article gave me some oomph. It’s on the menu for next week, whether The Professor likes the idea or not!