September 30, 2011

Patton, a Special Dog

This is the scene I came home to yesterday. Someone had fun while I was gone.

Then he got all hyped up, ran around with the turkey (you can see its leg in the top right of the picture) and dug a nest for himself in his couch. What a special dog.

September 29, 2011

CSA Autumn Week 1

In the first week of the autumn share, we have:

salad mix
butternut squash

September 27, 2011

Chocolate Espresso Biscotti

I usually leave the biscotti-making to my mom, because I don't like how sticky the dough is and how it sticks to your fingers when trying to shape the dough into logs before baking (no matter how much flour I use). (A while ago I watched this show on the Discovery Channel, or something similar, about the Serengeti and a part of it described how when the baby flamingos walk across a dry salt lake, the salt builds up on their wings and it becomes so heavy that some of them collapse and die. Clearly this has scarred me for life and I can't help but think about this every time I make biscotti!) Anyway, I put aside my biscotti/baby flamingo neuroses and attempted these beauties!

I found this recipe on a blog named Make It Naked, which is not about cooking in the nude, but rather cooking with whole ingredients and real food. (Kind of like the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver.) The biscotti turned out all right. They weren't incredibly chocolatey or espresso-y. They have kind of a cake-like consistency. One of my friends described them as tasting a little like devil's food cake. I like the idea of chocolate espresso biscotti, but I would try a different recipe next time. (Or maybe I like the idea of chocolate espresso cookies! No flamingos will be harmed in the making of cookies!)

September 26, 2011

Gajar Halwa (Indian Carrot "Pudding")

A month or two ago, a couple co-workers and I went to an Indian buffet for lunch. At the dessert station there was this delicious, sweet, decadent carrot "pudding" called gajar halwa. With my surplus of CSA carrots, I decided I needed to try to make it!

There are actually a lot of recipes on the web for this, but I chose one on the blog Beyond [the Plate]. As you can see from my picture compared to the ones on Beyond [the Plate], my patience (or lack thereof) got the best of me and I didn't let all of the liquid evaporate. Regardless, I was really pleased with the results. I thought the cardamom flavor was a little strong and would  be interested to try one of the other recipes out there to see how it compares.

September 23, 2011

Roasted Vegetables

Hey, look, BlB is roasting vegetables again!

Did I even give you time to miss them?

My brain and my energy were running on empty this week and quite frankly, the bags of CSA vegetables have started to overwhelm me. It can be annoying to cook for one person! All that work! All those leftovers! (I ate the vegetable barley soup for five meals!) Wait, I have to do the dishes, too?! Can't I just have cheese and crackers again?

That being said, there is nothing wrong with roasted vegetables. It gets them out of the fridge and into my belly and really, isn't that the point? In fact, I think the high heat and silky olive oil do wonders for the texture and flavors of vegetables. I was especially impressed by the eggplant. The outside was crisp and salty and the inside creamy like melted cheese. Everyone would eat eggplant if it tasted like this all the time!

I know you don't need a recipe for roasted vegetables, but here is what I did anyway.

Roasted Vegetables
Serves 1 hungry person and 1 begging dog (seriously, Patton loves vegetables)

1 medium eggplant, diced (unfortunately week 14's eggplant had gone bad, so I used this week's)
1 red bell pepper, diced (I had been scared of week 12's large red pepper, so I was ignoring it; I am so bummed I waited so long to eat it! It was sweet and delicious.)
7 (I think) medium carrots, peeled and diced (from week 14)
1 celeriac bulb, peeled and diced (from this week)
extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
dried Italian seasoning

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss all of the vegetables together in a bowl with a couple glugs of olive oil, a tablespoon of salt, some pepper and about a teaspoon of dried Italian herbs. Spread onto a baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, stir, and roast for 15 minutes more. Depending on how large you cut your vegetables they may be done now or they may need more time.

September 22, 2011

CSA Week 16

In week 16's CSA bag, we have:

baby turnips and greens

This is the last week of my summer share and the fall share starts next week. Bring on the sweet potatoes!

September 19, 2011

Vegetable Barley Soup

In the DC area this week, fall gave us a sneak preview of what's to come during the next couple months. Notice I don't say that fall has arrived. Anyone who has lived in DC for longer than a year knows that fall always teases us in September. We get a couple cool days and nights, we open the windows, and rejoice that the stifling sticky summer is gone. Then summer laughs in our face and says, "I'm not done with you suckers! That's what you get for building a city on a swamp!" (Side note: It turns out that DC was not built on a swamp, although it is a myth that won't die. If you have ever been to DC in the summer, I am sure you'll agree that there must be some truth to that myth.)

Anyway, I decided a soup was in order to take the chill off (no matter how low the temperature goes, I refuse to close the windows during the first couple days of cooler weather). I wanted to use up the majority of the CSA vegetables that have been languishing in the fridge and was craving barley for some reason, so I came up with this vegetable barley soup. It turned out quite delicious. The only thing that would have made it better is if I had had a Parmigiano-Reggiano rind to throw in.

Vegetable Barley Soup
Makes a ton of soup (about 10 cups)


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup diced carrot
1/4 cup diced celery (I would have used more, but my celery from week 14 had mostly gone bad. This celery was the most flavorful celery I have ever tasted. One word: potent.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 yellow bell pepper, diced (from week 13, it was still in perfect condition!)
28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes with their juice, slightly mashed (I would recommend mashing the tomatoes in a bowl with a potato masher, or your hands.)
1 3/4 cup vegetable broth and 2 cups chicken broth (The vegetable broth was leftover in the fridge, so I wanted to use it up and I didn't have more vegetable broth in the pantry, so I had to use some chicken. You could definitely use all vegetable or all chicken broth and 4 cups would be fine.)
2 cups diced peeled potato (I used all of the potato from week 15, I would probably use less next time)
1 cup pearled barley
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for a couple minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds - 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the carrot and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 or so minutes, or until softened.  Add the bell pepper and cook for another couple minutes.

2. Add the mashed tomatoes, their juice and the broth. Bring to a simmer and add the potatoes, barley, bay leaf, oregano and 1 tsp salt. Cover and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the barley is tender and the potatoes are cooked. (I wanted the potatoes to keep their shape and not become mush, which is why I added them towards the end.)

3. Taste for seasoning and serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

September 16, 2011

Basil Hummus

Calling all hummus lovers! This is an excellent variation on traditional hummus. And it contains no tahini, which I know can be a divisive ingredient for some people.

I found this recipe on the blog Simply Recipes, which is a blog that just about everyone who reads food blogs reads. (Does that sentence even make sense?) As you can see, I used the purple basil from this week's CSA, so it doesn't have the vibrant green color you'd get from regular green basil. I didn't have any pine nuts, so I used 1/2 cup salted roasted almonds. Ever since I made purple basil pesto with almonds a couple weeks ago, I find I actually prefer the taste of almonds with basil over the flavor of pine nuts.

In the end, if you like hummus, you will like this recipe!

September 15, 2011

CSA Week 15

In Week 15's bag, we have:

brussels collards (the top of the brussels sprouts plant)
purple basil
garlic (the official BlB household head of garlic count is 9!)

September 13, 2011

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Can you see Patton's out of focus face at the top of the picture? He was willing the cookies to fall off the plate and into his mouth. I keep telling him he can't have chocolate, but he doesn't believe me.

Oh my goodness. No baked good I have ever made has solicited the kind of response that these have. My co-workers are asking for seconds and asking when I will be making more. They really are that good.

I am a little late to the Kim Boyce, Good to the Grain bandwagon. Her whole-grain cookbook came out in early 2010 and has accumulated accolades ever since. I had three adaptations for her whole wheat chocolate chips cookies clipped in my recipe book: the Washington Post's version, a skillet version, and Molly Wizenberg's version. I decided to go with Wizenberg's version because she can do no wrong and there were helpful instructions included.

Remarkably, the hardest part about this recipe was finding 8oz of bittersweet chocolate! I had a 4oz bar of 75% chocolate in the pantry and headed to the grocery assuming it would be easy to find the other 4oz. Silly me. Scharffen Berger's 70% bar is only 3oz. Both Lindt's 70% bar and Ghirardelli's 70% bar were 3.5oz. (Hmm, Ghirardelli's 70% bar online is 4oz. Sneaky!) So I decided on the Lindt bar and I threw in some Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chunks to make up the difference (the bag was almost gone, so it needed a purpose anyway).

It was a little annoying to chop up the chocolate, but I liked the results in the cookies. There were some large areas of chocolate, similar to how it would have turned out with chips, but the chocolate also got incorporated throughout the whole cookie because of the smaller chards from chopping.

One more thing to mention: as Wizenberg mentions in her post, the dough benefits from chilling. In the picture below, the cookie on the left was on the first pan that went in the oven. As you can see, it totally spread out. The cookie on the right was on the last pan that went in the oven and had been chilled for 20-30 minutes. Same amount of dough (I always use my 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, no matter what the recipe says), but different results. There is certainly nothing wrong with a flatter cookie (and if you like crisper cookies, you would probably prefer flat), but you have to place them further apart on the sheet so they don't all run together, which means you have to put fewer on a sheet and as a result, it takes longer to cook all of the batter. And for impatient people like me, that just doesn't fly.

So, long story short, if you like chocolate chip cookies, but are looking for a slight variation that truly elevates the taste of the cookie, give these a try. But be warned, make sure you have enough supplies on hand to make a second batch!

September 12, 2011

Penne with Eggplant and Tomato

Ugh, no more eggplant! Fingers crossed that last week was the final allotment of eggplant from the CSA.

This recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables is pretty simple and delicious. The basil adds such a fresh aromatic quality to the dish. You will see that I added fresh tomatoes in addition to the tomato sauce. I did it because I have a bunch of tomatoes to use up, but I liked the additional texture it added to the dish, so I would recommend adding either fresh tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes if you give this recipe a try.

Penne with Eggplant and Tomato
Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables
Serves 4-6

2 small, 1 medium eggplant (I used week 13's eggplants)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
3/4 lb penne
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sherry vinegar
2-3 cups diced fresh tomatoes (I didn't remove their skins because I am lazy; if you wanted to, go for it!)
15 oz can tomato sauce
1 handful basil leaves, chopped
1 handful parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 lb ricotta salata

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut the eggplants into 3/4 inch cubes and toss lightly with olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast in oven for about 25 minutes, until the eggplant is brown and tender.

3. Meanwhile, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Saute the onions until caramelized, about 20-25 minutes. While the onions are cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil and generously salt. Cook the pasta until al dente and drain.

4. When the onions are caramelized, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant. Deglaze the pan with a splash of sherry vinegar. Add the eggplant, tomatoes, tomato sauce and basil and heat to a simmer. Add the pasta to the pan and toss gently. Remove from the heat and garnish with the parsley and crumbled ricotta salata.

September 7, 2011

CSA Week 14

In week 14's bag we have:

Thai basil (or at least that is what I am calling it!)

September 6, 2011

Farfalle with Kale and Lentils

Yum yum yum. This was so delicious. I absolutely recommend going to the store and retrieving the necessary ingredients to make this tonight.

I had some kale sitting around that I wanted to use up (I was obsessed with making kale chips when I got back from California two weeks ago) and I love lentils, so when I found this recipe on Epicurious, I knew I had to try it.

It reminded me a little of a lentil pasta dish I made last year, but the caramelized onions and the carrot (my addition) in this recipe added a subtle sweetness that just added layers of flavor to the overall dish.

I followed the recipe as written except that I added about a pound of carrots cut into a small dice to the lentils and cooked both in vegetable broth instead of water. 

September 5, 2011

Leftover Spaghetti Frittata

I tried a recipe from the Washington Post the other night called Summer Spaghetti. It was a part of the Post's annual "Top Tomato" contest where they invite Washingtonians to send in their best tomato recipes. This particular recipe was a finalist and intrigued me because the only item you cooked was the pasta. 

Well, I ended up having a couple problems with this recipe. The raw onion about killed me; the sharp taste lingered in my mouth for about a day (yes, I do brush my teeth), and the overall dish just lacked taste. I love vinegar and capers and I even added mozzarella and yet, I was so underwhelmed. But I saved the leftovers because I just couldn't stand throwing the good ingredients away. The next day I said, WWIT: What Would Italians Do?

Make a frittata! The frittata saved the leftovers - it turned out delicious.

Leftover Spaghetti Frittata
Serves 3


4 large eggs
1-2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cups leftover pasta
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Preheat the broiler.

2. Whisk the eggs and milk in a bowl. Heat the olive oil in an oven-safe 10 inch saute pan over medium heat. Add the pasta to the pan and heat for about 30 seconds - 1 minute. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta and gently stir so that the egg covers all of the pasta. Cook until eggs are just set, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and transfer the pan to the oven.

3. Broil until the top is golden, 3-5 minutes. Run a rubber spatula around the edge of the frittata to help it release from the pan. Transfer the frittata to a plate and cut into wedges.

September 2, 2011


This week's watermelon is yellow on the inside! I had never tried yellow watermelon, but it tastes pretty much just like regular red watermelon, except not quite as flavorful. Never a dull moment in CSA-world!

September 1, 2011

CSA Week 13

In week 13's CSA bag, we have:

garlic chives

And last week's mystery yellow item was canary melon!

Good texture, kind of sweet, but also kind of bland.