Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

A Very Pretty Thanksgiving: Cranberry-Chipotle Relish

Posted: November 20th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: A Very Pretty Thanksgiving, Johanna, Make-Ahead, delish | Tags: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Being a native New Englander, I know the story of the first Thanksgiving very well. And even if it isn’t true, and even if Thanksgiving is a holiday to cover up the horrible, terrible things that the original Pilgrims did to the Wampanoag people, what with their smallpox and their venerial diseases….. I don’t care.

Not-Quite-Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s nice, to think that in celebration and thanks for the fact that they did not die alone in the horrible New England winter (a thing I too gave thanks for, every time it got to be spring in my childhood and I still had a pulse), my forebears sent a message to ol’ Squanto, and chief Massasoit, telling them to come hang out and bring some food and some friends. Together, said Miles Standish, we’ll all celebrate the fact that we did not die. And while there may or may not have been cranberries (although cranberries originated in Massachusetts and Maine), and there may or may not have been some gnarly old heritage turkey, I think that the Pilgrims were probably pretty happy that the Wampanoag hadn’t murdered them all yet, and had in fact helped them survive.

Along with laying an extra place for the people who might show up, and the people who are there only in spirit, my family is mindful of tradition. My father, true to his Yankee heritage, makes cranberry sauce every year, from a very nice recipe by Jeff Smith, that old preacher-man, whose ingredients are essentially, if memory serves, cranberries, oranges, and sugar. Dad, correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.

While I’ve often eaten it, I can’t say that cranberry sauce is one of my favorite parts of the actual holiday table. Cranberries are tough to eat, very bitter and sour. But I’ve long been intrigued by them, and wondered if it was just me, or Jeff Smith’s pairing of them with something that could ALSO be bitter and sour. So, emboldened and embarking on a trip into the land of Thanksgiving foods, I decided that Cranberries should be tested.
Cranberry-Chipotle RelishCranberry Chipotle Relish
Via Epicurious – Bon Appetit November 2009

The ingredients here are pretty simple: 1 pkg of frozen cranberries. 1 1/3 cup of sugar. Juice of 1 lemon. 2 chipotles in adobo (don’t bother soaking a dried chipotle. Trust me.) Garlic. Cinnamon (I’m working on a replacement). Cumin.

You combine the cranberries, sugar, lemon juice, and chipotles (rinsed. trust me.) in a saucepan, and bring them to a simmer. You can put the cranberries in still frozen, I learned. Once the sugar and lemon juice have dissolved and everything is at a simmer, let it go for about 5 minutes. I mashed some of the cranberries up with a potato masher, although I also mashed some of the chipotle by mistake, but didn’t see any adverse effects.
You add the garlic, cinnamon and cumin, and simmer until things start thickening and darkening. When this happens, immediately scoop or pour your cranberry relish into a clean bowl, and rinse. out. your. saucepan. STAT.
Melted sugar, especially when combined with fruit sugars, WILL TURN TO CEMENT. It’s a fact. Sort of. Regardless, you need to wash your saucepan while the sugar is still warm, and therefore liquidy, to avoid a situation that involves you chipping caked-on sugar out of it (sidenote: anyone know how my new saucepot got a dent in it already? dub tee eff?)

Back to the relish. Once it’s in the bowl, put it in the fridge while you prepare your baked chicken and brussels sprouts (roasted with bacon and garlic. delish. who knew?? not me. this was the first time I’d ever even SEEN a brussels sprout in person. legitimately.)
So technically they're Belgian Sprouts, right? It's not about the chicken.

And there you have it! A winning update to a Thanksgiving classic, and a TON better than whatever you shake out of the can on the big day, I promise. Not to mention, I bet if you mixed this with some honey mustard, it would create a sandwich spread that would rival the delicious one that I slathered on turkey burgers last year, at the behest of my girl, Rachael Ray. Also, it keeps for ages. Make it on Saturday and put it in the refrigerator until Thursday, and you’ll have one dish less to worry about on Thanksgiving.
Simplicity in the face of chaos – that’s really what we’re looking for, isn’t it?


Alex Runs, Joh Cooks p.4

Posted: November 3rd, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Alex Runs Joh Cooks, Johanna, Rachael Ray, cheap, delish, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

We’re back, with another installment of Alex Runs, Joh Cooks. This time around, we’re doing a straight up pasta dish. As always, the rule is that I will donate money for every single comment I get from you guys, up to 2 comments per e-mail address per post. So type away, tell me what you think, say the word “Duck” or “pants” or “filbert”. It all counts. Together we can fight cancer!!! Also – if you want to just throw some money at Alex on your own, DO IT!!!!!

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Lemon-Ricotta Cheese This recipe, I know Alex will enjoy. I hope you all do too. I borrowed it from Rachael Ray, and tweaked it a bit.
It bears strong resemblances to my Lemon-Ricotta Orzo, which Alex enjoyed when she was here back in July, and which I think everybody loves, because how can you not love lemony ricotta cheese, and pasta???

Even better, this version uses whole wheat penne rigate, which is high in fiber and heart-healthy whole grains, and Swiss Chard, which is a member of the leafy green family and can help you get some more fiber, as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants into your life. You can’t beat that bargain. :)
Whole Wheat Penne with Swiss Chard and Lemony Ricotta.

1 pound Whole Wheat short-cut pasta (penne, penne rigate, rigatoni, cellantani, cavatappi, campanelle, orechiette, the possibilities are endless)
3 cloves garlic – chopped
1 small yellow onion – chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake (or to taste).
1 bunch Swiss Chard, cleaned and coarsely chopped (cut off and toss out any super thick stems, but otherwise just run them under some water and chop them up)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup ricotta cheese (whole milk or otherwise, if you must, but I’d recommend the whole diary fats. yum!)
1 lemon
Grated Parm, Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta al dente (or a little past if you’re like me. no biggie).
2. Preheat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a big skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, salt, pepper and red pepper flake, and cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until the onions are mushy and turning a little brown on the edges.
3. Add the swiss chard, toss, and let the heat make the chard wilt. Once it does, crank the heat to high, and add the veggie stock and a ladle of the pasta cooking water.
4. Bring the liquid in the skillet to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 6-7 minutes. While that’s happening, combine the ricotta with the zest of the lemon, and some salt and pepper. Put 1/4 cup ish in each serving plate, or y’know, however much looks good to you.
5. Drain the pasta. Squeeze the lemon juice over the Swiss Chard, and throw all the pasta in. Toss everything around to get it nice and coated, and get the flavors mingling. Turn off the heat and add about a cup of the parm, and toss again.
6. To serve, plop the pasta/chard mixture on top of the lemony ricotta cheese, and sprinkle with more parm if you’re like me and can’t get enough. Stir, breathe in, and get that hint of lemony goodness and the joy of some dark leafy greens.

This is probably the best pasta dish for you if you’re trying to be good about not eating too much, because if you fail to moderate, you’re eating something PACKED with nutrients, healthy stuff, and yum. Who doesn’t love that?? Plus, the carbs will fuel your next run, and the protein in the greens will help bolster your energy for a longer burn.


A giant interweb dinner party

Posted: October 14th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Chicken, Johanna, delish, slow but worth it | 26 Comments »

The following is a very formative recipe for me.
Like many cooking stories that begin this way, this recipe involves leeks. It also, luckily, involves Gourmet Magazine. AND, it has a past.
When I was just starting out with this blog, this was the first recipe I ever cooked from Gourmet. So for A Mingling of Tastes’ Worldwide Gourmet Dinner Party, I had to take it on again.

Gourmet March 2008 — Chicken in Riesling

ChickyChickyBrowning

1 whole chicken’s worth of parts sprinkled with salt and pepper, and browned (in batches) in a combination of butter and olive oil.

4 medium (ok 2 HUGE) leeksEverybody in!

2 HUGE leeks chopped, along with 1 shallot, browned in butter. The browned chicken pieces, as well as any juices accumulated on the plate, added back into the Le Creuset with the leeks.
Before the Braise

4 medium (ok, 2 HUGE) carrots are cut up and added into the casserole, along with a cup of Riesling. And here is where I had the problem a year and a half ago, and where I had the problem again tonight. The next instruction tells you to boil until the liquid is reduced by half …. 3-5 minutes.
I can confirm for you that after boiling the hell out of the dish for at least 10 minutes, the liquid level had INCREASED rather than reduced by half. This is frustrating to me.

Regardless, the chicken, carrots, wine, and leeks went into the oven to braise, and when they came out, they met their old friend “heavy cream”, and became…. Chicken in riesling.
The big reveal

The things that amazed me about this recipe last time around could be summed up in this phrase: “Basically, I was proud that my first foray into nice cooking had produced something so…. nice.”

That’s the thing. That’s what I will miss about Gourmet. Their recipes were perfect. And they made me confident. I was brave. Even though I initially was intimidated by all the techniques involved, when I approached this dish last night I was confident. I knew I could do this dish. And I was not disappointed. It was the perfect thing.

Cheers, Gourmet. You always knew the perfect thing. And this week, I’ll be cooking a few more, to send you off in style.


Alex Runs, Joh Cooks, p.1

Posted: August 18th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Alex Runs Joh Cooks, Johanna, cheap, delish, quick, spicy, vegetarian | 25 Comments »

I threw a dinner party on Saturday – Jesse and I threw one. In honor of Julia Child’s 97th birthday. I will post about it as soon as I’ve processed it. There are not many food photos, because the food disappeared, although one of my friends apparently took a few more. Until I can sort out the post, here is something to tide you over.

Think of it as an hors d’oeuvre.

This is a new facet of this blog, something I’m incredibly happy to be a part of. It’s for a good cause and it’s promoting something that’s important to me.
My college roommate, and dear friend, Alex, is running a half-marathon (my apologies to those I told a full marathon) as part of a charity team, to raise money for cancer research. This is a cause close to both my heart, since my Grampa lost the fight to lymphoma in 2006, and Alex’s since she has lost both her cousin and her father to blood cancers(in whose honor she’s running and raising funds). Please check out her site and support her.

I’m making a pledge to donate to this race, and in an effort to get as many people involved as possible, here’s the plan: I’m creating a category of recipes and posts called “Alex Runs, Joh Cooks” — for every comment I get on one of these posts, I’m donating money to Alex’s cause. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell runners, or any other athletes you know. Tell people – I would rather not be able to afford my donation goal, than not be able to give my friend support.

The Rules: Each individual comment counts, up to 2 per person per post. You don’t have to give insight – you just have to leave your name (although I welcome your insights!!!) Check Alex’s site, check the blog, leave your name here, and Alex will get money!! These recipes will be largely vegetarian (because Al is a vegetarian), lots of veggies, lots of protein, lots of energy and fuel. They will not be difficult.
You can do this.  She can do this. Help me help her, and everybody else!!

Seared Tofu with Lentil Salad and Spicy-Sesame DressingThis, my friends, is tasty and easy.

Seared Tofu, Lentil Salad with Spicy-Sesame Dressing

1/2 container Extra-firm Tofu
1 cup dried lentils
1/2 red onion
1/2 carrot
1 stalk celery.
Sriracha, Sesame Oil, Low-Sodium Soy Sauce, Cider Vinegar (if you like)
Assorted veggies, any type you choose. I used a green bell pepper, half a zucchini, and a crap-ton of heirloom tiny tomatoes.

1. Put lentils, 1/2 of the onion (so 1/4 of the TOTAL onion), carrots, and celery in a pot. Cut the onion, carrot and celery into large chunks. Cover by 2 inches with water. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. If the water boils off, add more. Keep them covered for the first 10 minutes. Taste a lentil, and check every 2-3 minutes until the lentils are soft on the outside, but still have some bite. Maybe 10 more minutes, tops.
Lentils and veggies2. While the lentils cook, cut up into small dice the vegetables – pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, and the rest of the red onion. Put them in a big bowl.
3. When the lentils are done, drain them, pull out the big chunks of celery, onion and carrot, and rinse the lentils under cold water. Drain and rinse a second time to really cool them down, then put them in the bowl with the veggies. Season the veggies a little with salt and pepper. Taste, and make sure they taste good on their own. This is very important.

4. Put a big skillet or grill pan on the heat, and get it SCREAMIN’ hot. Combine a teaspoon of Sriracha, a teaspoon of soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil. Whisk together and adjust to your flavor preferences. Cut your tofu brick into strips and brush one side of each strip with the marinade.

5. Put the tofu marinade side down on your pan. You don’t need any additional oil. Sear for about 2 minutes on one side, brush the side that’s up with the marinade, and flip. This flip is why we need extra-firm tofu.

6. Bring it all together. Take the tofu off, and let it cool a bit. Take whatever marinade you may have left, and add more of all the elements: More sriracha, more soy sauce (but not too much, let’s not be crazy) more sesame oil, and probably some regular oil to thin it out. You’re going to need between a third and half of a cup total.
Assembly: pour the dressing over the veggies. stir, gently, to combine. Taste, and dish out. Put a tofu slice on top of the salad, and call it dinner. 

Tofu, side 1Tofu, side 2The usual suspects

Enjoy, and help me help Alex!! I cook, she runs, we all win!!!!


Spatchcock: That’s what she said?

Posted: August 14th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Chicken, Johanna, Roast chicken, Silliness, Spatchcock, cheap, delish | 28 Comments »

Spatchcockery!I’m sure you’ve noticed that there’s something……off about that roast chicken over there. Typically, chickens are shaped like American footballs, only with legs and wings. But this one, it’s flat. In fact, it looks like it’s holding its hands to its chest, saying “Oh my!” Very flat. Like a book that’s been opened along its spine. Some people call this butterflying. But the Irish….Oh, the Irish. They have to come up with “funny” names for things. Silly names. Names that are contractions of the phrase “Dispatch the cock” and end up as “Spatchcock” and make me giggle just about every time I think about them. Curse you, Irishmen!!!

“Spatchcocking” is the process whereby you cut the poor chicken’s backbone out, then either remove or smash open the breastbone, so that you have a single plane on each side, instead of a round chicken. It makes the meat cook much faster.  Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay, and others have used this technique with a brick to cook a chicken pressed flat on a grill or skillet. Jen and Dietsch at Last Night’s Dinner use the spatchcockery for roasting sometimes. I figured that since spatchcocking reduces the cooking time drastically because it increases the surface area that can be cooked at once, that on a hot Sunday it was the perfect thing.

So, I watched this video, which ended up being only slightly helpful. In the end, I’d recommend this video, which actually appears to show the effort exerted in spatchcocking the bird. After watching the video, I girded my loins, cleaned my kitchen shears, and got to work. It was harder than I expected, but what I ended up with looked exactly right. In fact, it looked perfect for rubbing with toasted spices, and roasting in the oven.

Oh dearCumin & Corriander seedsYellow hands from Tumeric!!!

So, I did that. I salted the bird up, inside and out, and then toasted cumin and corriander seeds in a dry skillet, ground them in my coffee grinder, and mixed the cumin/corriander mix with tumeric, a tiny bit of cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. I smeared this all over, as you can see from my hands, and turned myself thoroughly yellow. But, it was worth it, I promise.

The roasting pan (my Le Creuset braiser) went into the oven at 425 to heat up. It may have been 450. I can’t remember.  However, when the oven was preheated, I took out the roasting pan, put in a tablespoon of oil so the chicken wouldn’t stick, and put the chicken in skin side up for 10 minutes. Then, I flipped the chicken and roasted it skin side down for 15 minutes. Finally, I flipped it one more time, stuck my probe thermometer in the thigh, and let it cook skin side up until it reached 167 degrees. Why 167? Because I’m weird.

I served it with some fresh eggplant and spinach shaak from Dipali’s mom’s recipe, and white rice. And ohhhh boy.

Dinner!

Good times were had by all.


Dipali’s Dinners

Posted: August 9th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna, cheap, delish, quick, vegetarian | Tags: | 22 Comments »

Hello friends! Yesterday, something strange happened. Other people cooked……for ME!!! It’s a rarity, and I enjoyed it immensely. :)   To make sure that she get her due credit, last night for dinner I hung out with my fantastic friend Marla, who is a fashion student and an all-around hell of a gal. She made me spaghetti with sauce that I swear had…. magic in it. Maybe it was the parmesan. Maybe it was the tomatoes. I’ll never know, until I go home and hang out with her mother and stalk her spaghetti-sauce making. But mmmm. And the brownies!! Marla made brownies that had cherries, and walnuts in them. I’ll let that sink in.

Cherries (freshones, real ones) and walnuts.
They may have looked a little fugly, fallen apart a little, but believe me, I am not one to turn down chocolate, and who ever said brownies needed to LOOK nice??? These were delicious. Delish!!!

Dipali's DinnersYesterday afternoon, my friend from work, Dipali, came over to do the first of a series of guest-cooking posts, called Dipali’s Dinners. Dipali is Indian, and since I alerted her to the site, she has graciously offered to come over and teach me authentic Indian dishes, from her mom’s recipes. I was really excited about this, because any curries that I’d made from scratch had always taken lots of steps, and lots of pots and pans, and I couldn’t find a respectable curry paste in my grocery store, and I was reduced to Thai Yellow Curry Paste which is HOT and not as delicious as what I’m looking for, and finally, I was fed up.

Dipali promised there wasn’t that much to worry about. I trust her. She’s sweet and pretty. Always trust the sweet and pretty. They will not steer you wrong.
So yesterday, Dipali came over, armed with her lovely, fragrant little spice tin, and taught me how to prepare two different vegetable dishes from her repetoire: Channa Masala Shaak, and Eggplant & Spinach Shaak.

I was immediately heartened, because Dipali said that a lot of Indian cooking uses those three words I love so much, “Season to Taste” — there isn’t really measurements, it’s about the flavor you’re looking for. She also laid out the basic theory or principle behind the cooking: Get the oil really hot, add your aromatics (usually onion and/or garlic), add the spices, and get the spices really hot so that they infuse the oil with their flavor. This, I can do.

EggplantWe started with the eggplant-spinach Shaak.
1 medium eggplant, cut into small cubes or chunks.
4 cloves of garlic, chopped.
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole corriander seeds.
1 teaspoon each: Tumeric, Ground Cumin, Cayenne powder, Salt
1 package frozen spinach (defrosted)
4 tbs. oil, 1 c. Water.

Heat 4 tablespoons of cooking oil in a large skillet with high sides. Add the garlic and the cumin and corriander seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the eggplant, tumeric, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and water. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Let it all simmer for about 10 minutes, until the eggplant has softened.  You can cover it if you want, to make sure that the flavors have nowhere to go but into the eggplant. After about 10 minutes, add the spinach, stir well, and cover again. Let everything get friendly on low heat for as long as you need to. This food will not rush you. It will not make demands on your time. In fact, it’s happy whenever you’re happy.
After simmeringAdjust To Taste
Look at all that yum. Dipali decided after the simmering (left) that it needed some more tumeric (right). Like I said, since she’s sweet and pretty I trust her. Plus, I can definitely get behind any cuisine that says “Stick your finger in the pot, lick the finger, and decide what else to pour in”. That is my kind of cuisine.

Channa Masala, everyoneWe accompanied our eggplant and spinach with some channa masala.
1/2 Red Onion diced
1 clove garlic chopped
1/2 teaspoon Corriander seeds
1 teaspoon each: Cumin, Cayenne pepper, Tumeric
3 cups chopped tomatoes
2 cups (1 can) chickpeas. (If you’re using a can, drain and rinse them)
1/2 teaspoon each salt and garam masala (spice blend, you can buy it at Whole Foods)
Once again, heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pot. Add onion, garlic, and all the spices (except the 1/2 teaspoon garam masala) and cook until they start smelling delicious and amazing. Then, add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the tomatoes break down into a lovely sludgy tomato-sauce esque consistency. Add the chickpeas, and up to half a cup of water. You may only need 1/4 cup, depending on your tomatoes. If you add too much, you can always boil it off until the liquid reduces. No worries here. Bring the channa masala to a simmer, add in the garam masala and salt, and simmer for 10 minutes or until your willpower gives out. Try for at least 10 minutes. Taste this too at the end, and adjust the seasonings to what you’d like. You’ll probably end up adding more of at least one of the spices, since this is a very malleable dish.

The spreadOur lovely lunch spread, which fed 3 people and gave leftovers. I love indian cooking!!! I also love it because it’s yummy and warm and lovely and …. sigh.

Try these. And we’ll be back soon with a second installment of Dipali’s Dinners. :) YAY!!!


No, not THAT meatloaf

Posted: July 9th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna, delish, meatloaf, slow but worth it, sneaky veggies | 26 Comments »

I’m posting this from my office, so I’m not leading with a picture. You’ll just have to wait for the update.

The first time I ever ate meatloaf, I was 23 years old. I made it after seeing the meatloaf that my boss made for her daughter. And I mean a few months after I saw my boss’s meatloaf. Because you see…. I didn’t know from meatloaf.
My grandmother (hi Gie!!) is a wonderful cook. An amazing cook. And everything about her food is so filled with love, with care, that it makes things 10 times better.
For all this, my mother never enjoyed Gie’s meatloaf. I don’t know why, having never had it. So when I was growing up, we never ate meatloaf. I guess that’s part of being a parent — you don’t ever have to cook or eat the shit you don’t like again. But seriously. I am 25. I can remember every single time I’ve ever eaten meatloaf. Because it’s 5 times. (For the record, one of those times was a Rachael Ray recipe for Mini Meatloaves with Gorgonzola-Sage Gravy and Garlic Proscuitto Mashed Potatoes. The meatloaves tasted like baked hamburgers. Disgusting. )

My way of approaching meatloaf is different than most people’s, I guess. I figure this, since everybody that I’ve ever given meatloaf to has said “It’s really good, but it’s not meatloaf” — I think I’ve mentioned before that I understand their disbelief — no ketchup. An actual flavor. Not what they’re used to. But I feel like these things make us have a narrower view of food, instead of broader. Why does it have to have ketchup or bbq sauce or orange marmalade or whatever on top? Meat tastes good on its own! Especially when it’s cooked correctly! Why go covering it with sugary, salty, sodium-infused STUFF?

On Thursday night, I made meatloaf. As I’ve mentioned, I approach it differently than most. Back over the winter, I found a recipe for braised short ribs from Anne Burrell. After the ribs are browned, a whole bunch of pureed vegetables are browned, and then tomato paste is added and also browned, and the whole thing is deglazed with wine and set as the base for the sauce for the braise.

Thinking of a meatloaf as a roast with a funny texture, as I do, lead me to thinking that preparing vegetables like in a braise (up till the deglazing part) could give me a way to sneak as much veggie goodness as actual MEAT into the dish!
Since I am susceptible to the power of suggestion, and based on Lyssa’s Leek Week, I pureed 1 leek, 2 ribs of celery, 1 shallot, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 carrots, and one orange bell pepper. You can really go out there with this — use as many veggies as will fit in your food processor, do it in two batches, basically go to town. I loved the extra something that the bell pepper gave – maybe add a cubanelle/fryer pepper. If you’re feeling brave, perhaps a jalapeno! Basically puree a ton of vegetables, and put them in a hot skillet with a tablespoon or two of oil. Season liberally with salt.

Then, just let them sit, until browned gunk forms on the bottom. Scrape the veggies up, flip them around, and let gunk form again. Repeat one more time, and after the third round of gunking, add a teaspoon and a half of tomato paste, stir, and let that all brown for a minute or two.
I was using a non-stick skillet, so I was of course terrified that I would get no browning. I needn’t have feared, although I would recommend a cast-iron or stainless one. Better browning, more even heat.
When the tomato paste has gotten all nice and incorporated and browned, feel free to pour in a little deglazing liquid of your choosing. I used about 2-3 ounces of Jesse’s Sam Adams Blackberry Whitbeer. But whisky, red wine, any kind of beer, stock…. anything would be good. You just don’t want the veggies to get too wet – they’re going IN something, after all.

Scoop the veggies out of the skillet, and spread them on a plate or a cookie sheet to cool in an even single layer.

Once the veggies cool, combine 1 pound of ground beef (we used 85/15, I believe), some salt and pepper to taste, a tablespoon of Bisto (it must be Bisto) sprinkled over the meat, and the veggies. Add some breadcrumbs, until you have the proper consistency, and form into a loaf on a sheet pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

There is no glazing. There is no egg, although there could have been. I used plain old seasoned dry breadcrumbs from the cardboard container. I’m out of Worcestershire, and I decided not to add anything else fancy this time.
It was delicious. Delicious. I am going to make this again, seasonal appropriateness be damned. This is good enough that I will gladly turn the oven on in July for it. I urge you to try to make this. It is good. It is healthy. You could seriously add about a pound of vegetables, and use sirloin, and feel really good about yourself. Just get the puree done.

Do not touch this with ketchup. Or BBQ sauce. Not even mine. Just try it first. I promise you, it is worth it. Do not believe my friend Nicki, who once said, “Meatloaf doesn’t taste like anything. It’s not supposed to. It’s all about the sauce, about what you put on top of it.”
Because if that’s true then why not eat a hamburger?


Deconstruction

Posted: June 16th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna, cheap, delish, sandwich, vegetarian | 25 Comments »
Brioche!

Brioche!

There are many foods in this world that I love. And most of them, I eventually get sick of. Or at least, most of them I wouldn’t want to eat 7 days a week.
But there are a couple foods I love so much that I can’t help but eat them every chance I get. At the top of that list, my darlings, is this: Fried Eggplant.

I know, I know. Fried Eggplant?? WTF??

Just wait.
So while planning the weekly shopping for this week, I realized that I really wanted to work fried eggplant into the menu. And while I can eat just plain old eggplant, fried, as a meal….. it’s not exactly well-balanced. And I have a Jesse to think about too, to whom I wouldn’t feel right feeding JUST a fried eggplant.

I love eggplant parm, but my favorite thing about fried eggplant is the way the crispy crust contrasts with the soft, sweet eggplant. And when you do parm, it all becomes a bit soggy. I need that contrast. I need that crunch. It’s hard to get the crunch when the eggplant is buried under a mountain of sauce and cheese (not that I don’t LOVE sauce and cheese).
While thinking and wondering how on earth I was going to work fried eggplant into dinner, I had an epiphany!!!

Eggplant Parm could be deconstructed!!! It was nothing more than fried eggplant, tomatoes, and cheese! WHo said it had to be all melty and sauce? NOBODY, that’s who!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you…..

Eggplant Parm

Eggplant Parm

Eggplant Parm!!!

1 medium eggplant cut into even-thickness discs. Sprinkle a teeny bit of salt on each circle and set them salt-side up on a cooling rack. The salt draws out the bitterness of the eggplant. After 20 minutes, OR when there are little beads of liquid on the surface of the eggplant discs, rinse off the salt with cool water and dry them as thoroughly as possible with paper towels, a dishtowel, a hairdryer, do what you have to do.
1 -2 cups flour, divided. Put 1/2 cup on a plate. Put the rest in a deep bowl or soup plate.
1 cup Panko. Put this into the deep bowl/soup plate with the flour.
1 egg, beaten with 3 tablespoons of water.

Slice 1 large tomato into discs mirroring the size of the eggplant discs.
Slice 1/4 pound of mozzarella into discs as well.

Put enough oil in your skillet to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Heat it up until some of the panko/flour mixture fries instantly. Then, start the dredging assembly line!!! Flour, egg, Flour/panko. You are going to have to convince the second breading to stick to the eggplant. It will not want to. You will have to press, and smash, and coax it onto the egg-dredged eggplant rounds. And don’t forget to roll the skin side around in the dredge. Eggplant takes some convincing. But it will be worth it. I promise.

Put the lovely little breaded eggplant discs in the pan. My pan holds 4 at a time. They should float a little…. otherwise they stay down in the icky oil that gets clogged up with fallen-off flour and it’s not a good time. Fry them until they’re roughly golden-brown, flip AWAY FROM YOU so you don’t splatter yourself with hot oil (not like I’ve EVER remembered that lesson), and when they’re done, remove them to a cookie sheet with a cooling rack on it, in the oven at about 200. OR you could preheat your oven, and turn it off when you start frying. You just want the rounds to stay warm and dry out a little, because the oil will make the crust soggy, and that’s just not cool.

Fried Eggplant

Fried Eggplant

Mmmmm. Hello little ones. I’ll be back for you, promise!!

Once you’ve fried your eggplant, and let it cool (very important), stack it and your sliced tomato and mozzarella on a lovely bun. I used brioche hamburger buns from Fresh Direct, because I’m fancy:

Sliced mozzarella and tomato
Brioche!

The sandwich was delish. I’d recommend stacking the tomato on the bottom, then the cheese, then the eggplant, so you still experience the joy of the crispy crust. Repeat as often as your supplies will allow, and enjoy.


Just for you:

Posted: April 13th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: beans, burgers, cheap, delish, quick, vegetarian | 31 Comments »

Have you found yourself lately thinking, “Y’know, I wish that Joh would post some fun, delicious, progressive recipes for us vegetarians” ?? Have you wondered what in heck you’d eat were you to come to a cookout at my place and not be able to stomach a burger, hotdog, or steak? Are you just hoping that I’ve finally updated this stinkin’ thing, so you can comment on my fabulosity once again??

You’re in LUCK!!!

Tonight, through a convergence of circumstances that can most accurately be described as “shite”, we had a delicious, nutritious, vegetarian dinner! BlackBean Burgers, with mango chutney!!
THey were delish. Seriously. And so easy!!
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained.
1 tablespoon onion flake reconstituted, or some chopped onion/shallot. Basically by 1 tablespoon, I mean a handful, thrown in a prep bowl with some water to get all fresh again.
cumin
chili powder
breadcrumbs
garlic powder
Salsita
dried parsley

Everything after the onion should be added to taste. Except the breadcrumbs, which should be a shallow palmful. Less, if you have big palms. You’ll have to come measure my palms to get something exact, suckas!!!!!
For those who’ve been reading along, this is a LOT like my falafel procedure. Smash up or food process the black beans, then add the seasonings and breadcrumbs and process again. Or smash again.

I dusted the patties with a little flour, and pan-fried them in a little vegetable oil (strained from my latest fried pickle exploits….nomnomNOM) until they were crispy on the outside and warm through. I put them on toasted Sandwich Thins, which are by far the most amazing inventions of mankind since fork-split English Muffins. I smeared the bottom of the bun with Mango Chutney that I had in the fridge, and it was heavenly.
These are really good. I’d post a picture, but right now Jesse is using the USB cable to help him build the site for our SuperSecretSideProject, which will be awesome. :) I promise.

For now, consider making black bean burgers. They’re delish. And cheap. very cheap. And when you’ve just smashed your lovely French Press by knocking it over in an attempt to not break anything else on your countertop….. cheap, tasty, healthy dinner is always for the win. :)


A long time coming

Posted: March 1st, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna, Rachael Ray, delish, pasta, pumpkin, sausage | 17 Comments »


Two words for you, my friends. Canned Pumpkin.

I’m sure there are more words I could give you, but these are the vital ones. Here are a few more: Sausage, Sage, Cream, Broth, Penne Rigate. Amazing. Outstanding. Delicious. I’ve been thinking about this recipe for ages. Since June, when I had a chance to make it but missed out because of a random babysitting job.

This is an awesome recipe and it totally goes along with my pumpkin obsession.
Here are a few fun facts about me: I don’t really like all things pork related. I mean, I really really like bacon. I’m not 100% in love with most other pig products, although I will try them, obviously. I’m coming around to sausage, in no small part because of this recipe. Browned sweet italian sausage, onion, garlic, sage, chicken broth, and canned pumpkin. Tossed with whole-wheat penne. Basically, it was intense. I even had seconds. Topped with tons of grated parmesan. Even cold, it’s delish. Make this recipe. Check it: