Saturday, December 15, 2012

A slaw, really, but we call it Mom's Pico de Gallo

This morning, I bring to you an accoutrement. A slaw, really, given the inclusion of cabbage and involvement of steps such as "shred as thinly as possible" and "toss well". But for some reason we call it pico de gallo in my house, even though the cabbage part sort of takes it out of your usual pico de gallo realm. We play with words in our family.

We use this pico de slaw most often as a garnish to Mom's White Chili, i.e. my all-time favorite comfort food en el mundo. [Tangent: I've realized that I haven't posted on thishereblog several of my top foods/recipes and am in the process of remedying that. Stat!] I will be posting a recipe for Mom's White Chili soon (the Beckett-friendly, brown rice, low sodium version - I did it, Mom! and it was super good!), but I thought I'd share the slaw de gallo recipe with you now because while, yes, it's delicious on chili or any other cumin-spiced soup, it can also be enjoyed a thousand other ways too - on nachos or tacos, mixed with rice and beans, in a salad, tossed with a colorful blend of citrus segments (they're in season!), et cetera. Also in its favor: its super cheap and simple to make, lasts a few days in the refrigerator, and, particularly when made with purple cabbage, is quite pretty.

toss well!

I think you'll like it v. much.

Purple cabbagehalf a tomatolots of cilantrowhite chili ready to be devoured

Mom's Pico de Gallo
Yield: about 3 cups
From Mom (duh)

1/2 head of cabbage
1 small, or part of a large, tomato
1 jalapeno, seeds and veins removed (optional)
About half a bunch of cilantro (big handful)
Juice of one lime
1/2 teaspoon salt (or, better yet, Penzey's 4/S Special Seasoned Sea Salt)

Shred cabbage as thinly as possible. Finely chop tomato, jalapeno, and cilantro. Place everything in a bowl, top with lime juice and salt and toss well. Let sit for 10 minutes or so before serving. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cooking By The Seat Of Your Pants! - featuring Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Mediterranean-Spiced Tomato Sauce

I've talked before here about how I feel my greatest asset in the kitchen is my resourcefulness. It really is, and I take great pride in it when I remember to, but most of the time, when food merely gets on the table but it's not necessarily anything to shout (or post) about, I don't think much about it.

But sometimes - the best times, really - after a long snowy cabin-feverish day, a day when my under-the-weather children spend half of it crying or whining to be in my arms and the other half actually in my arms (my arms can only handle half a day), and I really just want to order take-out because being in the kitchen sounds awful and potentially dangerous (see above: children in arms), but I'm conflicted - maybe I've just looked over the bills and am horrified by the amount of money we've spent dining out recently, maybe I weighed myself this morning (and that's enough about that), or maybe I'm just in need of that sense of accomplishment I get from making a great dinner against all odds (refrigerator is bare, pantry is uninspiring, produce on my counter falls in the "too hard" category, it's mighty close to dinner time). When this happens, I rally. I take inventory - spice cupboard looks good, that lemon has potential, I bought those jarred tomatoes for exactly this kind of evening, hey! Beckett's not allergic to spaghetti squash!

spaghetti squash 005spaghetti squash 009spaghetti squash 010

And then, with the help of Thomas the Train, via streamable Netflix, I get to it. Roast the squash, zest the lemon, chop some aromatics, settle on a spice profile. It comes together. I expected it to come together. What I didn't expect was for it to be the most delicious thing I've eaten at home since I can remember. Definitely our best (not to mention healthiest) meal in weeks.

spaghetti squash 013

And so I pat myself on the back and then go back for seconds. 

Oh my gosh, spaghetti squash. You did NOT let me down!

spaghetti squash 012

And you make a wonderful compost container.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Mediterranean-Spiced Tomato Sauce
Yield: 4-5 servings
From me

1 large spaghetti squash
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Half an onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3+ cloves garlic, minced
Zest of 1 lemon
1 24- to 28-oz jar tomato sauce or tomatoes
1 cube vegetable bouillon (or a teaspoon of Herbamare or sea salt)
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon aleppo pepper (optional - could use 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes instead too)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons honey or sugar
1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil (optional)
Large handful or two of baby spinach 

Other additions: garbanzo or other white beans, feta or parmesan cheese, fresh herbs (oregano, basil, tarragon, marjoram)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare the spaghetti squash by cutting it in half lengthwise, removing the seeds, rubbing the inside of each half with a drizzle of olive oil, then seasoning with salt and pepper. Place face down on a lined baking tray and place in the oven – cook for about 45 minutes. Once it's done, remove it from oven and allow it to cool for a few minutes until it's manageable.

Once squash has been in the oven for about a half hour, start on the sauce. In a skillet over medium heat, heat a little oil and add onion and carrot to pan. Saute, stirring every couple minutes, until soft, maybe browning a little, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and lemon zest and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes (with juices) or sauce, bouillon cube, paprika, aleppo pepper, and oregano. Bring to simmer and then reduce heat to low. Cook for about ten minutes, allowing flavors to marry.

Meanwhile, using two forks, shred the flesh of the spaghetti squash and place it in a bowl. Add a little more salt and pepper.

Back to the sauce: stir in honey or sugar and butter or olive oil, if using. Throw in the spinach and incorporate into sauce, stirring until just wilted. Pour sauce over spaghetti squash, add any of the optional additions above or others you can think of, and serve. Babies love this! Three year olds not so much... but the one in my house only really eats bread and cheese, so perhaps she's not a good representative.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Coming Back With A Bang! Yeah, a salad's a bang, didn't you know? - Cranberry-Miso Vinaigrette and an Autumn Salad

Oh heavens. Remember when October happened? And then November? And then a third of December? Yeah. I'm really sorry about that. I mean, I didn't have anything to do with the general passage of time, but I did fail to post for approximately 75 days and that is just rude. I consider this thing we've got going on a relationship. An important one. Not hearing from me for coming-on-three months? Unforgivable. Not to mention - totally not my style. Generally on the relationship front I embrace stalking over silence. This approach scored me a husband a few years back, so, obviously it works. I should have stuck with it. I should have bombarded you with documentation of my mad skills at work and run-on sentences and trying-too-hard jokes.

There are no good excuses. I was traveling and then I was lazy.

I am sorry.

So sorry that I am coming back with a bang - something to WOW you and WOO you back. But it's not an overt bang like a brownie or cinnamon roll. I wouldn't want to seem desperate - talk about mixed signals.

And so I bring you, humbly, contritely, a little excitedly: a salad. But not a boring salad! A decidedly fall salad with a creamy, heavenly cranberry dressing. And this dressing. Oh this dressing! Friends! It is something special - fragrant, tart and tangy, a tiny bit sweet. Plus it's fuschia. And if fuschia doesn't say bang, I don't know what does. So go pop that cranberry already.

Pile of cranberry goodness!Heavenly Cranberry Goodness

Cranberry-Miso Vinaigrette
Yield: 1.5-2 cups

1 teaspoon oil (I used sunflower for this part)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
Juice of one large orange or 2 small ones (I used 2 clementines)(~1/4 cup total)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup (or any liquid sweetener)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 heaping tablespoon(s) light miso
1 teaspoon orange zest (from whole clementine or half an orange) (optional)

In a small sauce pan, heat oil over low heat and add green onions and ginger. Stir for a minute or so and then add the cranberries. Stir for a couple minutes (just a minute or so if using fresh cranberries), then add a tablespoon or two of water to mixture. Reduce heat to lowest possible setting and cover with led, allowing cranberries to pop open from the steam.

Meanwhile, put all the other ingredients in a food processor or blender. Once the cranberries are soft and have "popped" (this will take like 5 minutes or so - they kind of crack open a bit and look v. plump and juicy), pour sauce pan contents into food processor or blender, using a spatula to get all that ginger-cranberry gooey goodness, and process until smooth. Add a tablespoon or two of water if you want it thinner (I did not).

Eat on salad (see below) or use it as a dip with vegetables (picture below - toddler crudité) or sweet potato fries or drizzle some over a block of cream cheese or warm brie and serve with crackers. So good!!!

Some salad with my dressingCrudite, toddler style

Autumn Salad with Cranberry-Miso Vinaigrette
Serves 2-4

1 head or bag of lettuce of choice
1 pear or apple or orange, diced or segmented, respectively
1 avocado, diced
1 carrot, finely chopped
Handful of something crunchy like seeds or nuts or cacao nibs

Toss all ingredients in a bowl with 1/4 cup cranberry-miso dressing. Enjoy!