Thursday, March 31, 2011

bake sale for japan

Saturday morning is going to be great. I'll be sitting out in front of Hotel San Jose on South Congress with more than 20 bakers who have signed up to contribute to Austin Bakes for Japan. So many things about this event strike me as being really special: for one thing, multiple bake sales are happening at the same time nationwide (Austin alone has five locations). Then there's the fact that people who mostly, I'm assuming, don't know each other and won't meet in person until they arrive to set things up are making this happen. Yay, Internet!

And, of course, the cause of this benefit is certainly worthy of attention. I love the idea that getting together to meet neighbors over treats and good will is just a side effect of something that's already worth doing.

I'm bringing ginger-molasses chocolate chip cookies and linzer cookies with strawberry jam. And, it just occurred to me, cash so I can try other people's goodies. Photos and recipes to come!

Funds raised at this event go to AmeriCares. Find the Austin bake sales at these locations:

Downtown Austin: Woof Gang Bakery
1204 North Lamar Blvd., 78703

East Austin: Nomad Bar
1213 Corona Drive, 78723

2785 Bee Cave Road, 78746

Central Austin: Foreign & Domestic
306 E. 53rd St., 78751

South Austin: Hotel San Jose
1511 South Congress Ave., 78704

Sunday, March 27, 2011

my name is beth, and i just finished eating barbacoa tacos

I plan to start making a similar statement after each meal.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

garam masala improves everything

Here's an odd tidbit: last night I dreamed I was rummaging through a drawer of kitchen utensils, then realized whose it was once I saw a tiny fish-shaped cookie cutter mixed in with some spatulas. My unconscious squealed, "I'm in the Smitten Kitchen!"

I told Miguel this in the morning, and he said he'd dreamed about Kevin Nealon guesting on Weekend Update, just like the old days. Then Jerry Seinfeld piped up and said, "I had a dream last night that a hamburger was eating me!"

Well, anyway. I wonder if my dream means A) I spend way too much time reading food blogs, or B) I should make those Pepperidge Farm replicas myself. It could also mean I should diversify my recipe sources, as crazy as I am for well-tested and well-photographed SK cooking. So tonight I cooked dinner from the Whole Foods website: collards with lentils, tomatoes and Indian spices. For once, I already had all the ingredients on hand, thanks to my delivered bushel, of course.

I admit to feeling a little weird while I took this picture of vegetables.
With a cake or finished dish, it's something I made, sort of an accomplishment.
This, I just found on my doorstep. Still, aren't they pretty?!

I used a green onion that came with my delivery and something that could be either collard greens or kale — I'm honestly not sure. First, the onion is chopped and — get this — sauteed in water. Or maybe there's a more precise cooking term for that. (Do you know it?) Whatever it was, I'd never cooked onions and garlic that way before. Later, I looked at the nutrition info given with the recipe and saw that a serving has zero fat and zero cholesterol. When have I ever prepared something to fit that bill? That's what happens when you skip the olive oil, I suppose. I should really make cookies now.

On to the next step. As soon as the garam masala hit the pan, the smell seemed to slow that 20-minute cooking time to a crawl. When the timer finally beeped, it was full of deep color and an even better smell. Not to mention the taste. Made from a few basic ingredients and somehow with no additional salt, it reminded me of this Moroccan dinner. I'd say simple and from the pantry is the way to go.

Collards with lentils, tomatoes and Indian spices
Serves 4

1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 bunch collard greens, thick stems removed and leaves sliced into 1-inch-thick ribbons
1 cup red lentils

Bring 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for five minutes or until onion is translucent. Stir in garam masala and cook for one minute. Add tomatoes and their juices with 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in collards. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine lentils and 2 cups of water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook about 8 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir lentils into skillet with collards and serve.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

it's italian for 'layer'

Loose-leaf lettuces, spinach, turnips, hot house tomatoes,

cilantro, broccoli, oranges, chard and leeks!

In my first few days with Farmhouse Delivery vegetables filling my refrigerator drawers, I learned for sure what I had suspected: signing up to have a lot of vegetables around doesn't mean you're set for groceries. It means buying more accompaniments — cheeses and breads and beans and grains are what turn greens into meals. In case I'm making it sound like it, I should be clear and say this is not a bad thing. See below:

Before being doused with egg.

This is a Gourmet spinach and cheese strata I found by way of Deb. What she calls a do-ahead brunch meal, I'm calling lunch and dinner for the next few days. With the exception of eggs, milk and cheese, the major ingredients (you know, not seasoning and oil) for this recipe came from my bushel bin — my first-time delivery came with a free whole wheat baguette, too!

These remind of a calendar I had that cracked me up daily.

It took a small bit of adapting. For one thing, I don't need to eat six to eight servings of an eggy brunch dish on my own (Miguel's not into quiche-like things, surprise), so I halved it. I also used leeks instead of the onion called for and fresh spinach instead of frozen and sort of guessed at how much bread and spinach I could fit in. I'm pretty sure this is fine because it seems like the kind of recipe you could get away with filling any old way.

I accidentally added all the salt and pepper to the vegetables rather than saving some for the eggnog-like mixture that gets poured over the whole thing, but to no ill effect. It's cheesy and satisfying, the two best adjectives that can go with food, and reheats quite well. While the whole point of the strata was to put fresh vegetables to use — and it is a wonderful way to do that — I have to confess: my favorite bites are heavy on baguette.


Next up: what to do with turnips? Any suggestions?

Spinach and cheese strata

Adapted from Gourmet

Serves three to four

1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3/4 cups finely chopped onion or leeks
1 large bunch of spinach, roughly torn

1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 tsp. black pepper, divided
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
4 cups baguette in 1-inch cubes (1/2 lb)
3 ounces coarsely grated Emmentaler cheese (1 cup)
1 ounce shredded Parmesan
Just under 1 1/2 cups milk
5 large eggs
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until soft, about three minutes. Stir in spinach and add 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and the nutmeg. Continue cooking until the spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.

Spread one third of the bread cubes in a well-buttered ceramic baking dish. Top with one-third of the spinach mixture and one-third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese.

Whisk together eggs, milk, mustard and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a large measuring cup and pour it evenly over the strata. Cover the strata with plastic wrap and chill it for eat least eight hours or up to a day.

The next day, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand five minutes before serving.