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chicken steak, spaetzle, and roasted asparagus

chicken steak, spaetzle, and roasted asparagus

After a hard workout at Brick Crossfit, I stopped by Lindy & Grundy to pick up some meat. Lindy & Grundy makes unique cuts of meat to use as much of the animal as possible. Today, I picked up a chicken steak. I guess it is a cut of steak that maximizes the available meat, but is good if tenderized. When I was planning dinner, I realized that I had asparagus in the fridge, but no starch. Luckily, this morning my neighbor left me half a dozen eggs and this ominous note.

note from my neighbor

note from my neighbor

I saw his present and thought… eggs! What can I do with these? So I looked and found a recipe for spaetzle over at Smitten Kitchen. A perfect use for my eggs.

I made spaetzle once long ago when I was engaged and living in Chelsea in NYC. These single LA spaetzle were much better little pillows of buttery goodness. I topped the spaetzle with fried sage leaves fresh from my garden. Now who wants to come over and help clean my kitchen and keep my neighbor at bay?

rhubarb chard from my garden

rhubarb chard from my garden

My mom sent me these planting systems called Earth Boxes for my birthday. An Earth Box is a container that allows your plants to water themselves and it includes all kinds of fertilizer/plant food ingredients. I don’t have the greenest thumb so I went to the nursery and asked for easy to grow and eat plants. My garden now includes strawberries, sage, rosemary, heirloom tomatoes, Japanese eggplants, baby lettuce, thyme, cippolini onions, chives, basil, and rhubarb chard.

The rhubarb chard is one of the plants lucky enough to live in the earth box, which is clearly powered by some alien kryptonite substance because the chard will just not stop coming. I cut all the leaves and a few days later, I have a full chard plant with giant leaves again. The problem is I don’t really know what to do with chard. I usually add some to my salad, but that is not really doing the job. Today I harvested my chard and removed the stems and spines. Then I cut the chard in 1″ strips. I thinly sliced some onions and chopped garlic. I sauteed all of this in a combo of olive oil and butter with salt and butter. Zomg, delicious! Is it so good because it went from my garden to my plate in 10 minutes? Or is chard the biggest secret hiding in our backyards?

I didn’t take a picture of the finished project partially because it didn’t look that pretty, but mostly because I couldn’t stop eating it long enough to photograph it. Huzzah. Three cheers for chard!

Lindy Grundy

Lindy Grundy

I have been excitedly waiting for Lindy & Grundy to open for months. Lindy & Grundy is a new sustainable butcher shop opened in my neighborhood by two butchering ladies. I went in tonight and asked for something easy to make after a hard week.  I got a single pork chop figuring the shop is so close I can come by every day for meat if I want to.

pork chop, chinese broccoli, garden salad

pork chop, chinese broccoli, garden salad

Of course, I didn’t expect to disrespect Lindy & Grundy’s beautiful pork the way I did. I decided to try a breaded chop since I had awesome panko bread crumbs. I put the chop in the pan and ran outside to cut some fresh salad greens (zomg, can you believe that lettuce came from my garden?!) and came back to some burning breadcrumbs. I don’t think I had enough oil in the pan. It ended up okay, but a bit overcooked. If I have learned anything from Top Chef it is that you have to respect your protein. I also steamed some chinese broccoli and served it with a little garlic oil and lemon.

spice rub station

spice rub station

I definitely know where to find more pork chops when I need them. Now, how to cook them?

tuscan surprise

tuscan surprise

Okay, so the CSA didn’t last too long. Last week, I got more eggplant and I was so busy at work that by the time I looked in on the veggies to cook anything they were all rotten. I got frustrated and felt guilty that I had nothing I could think to do with eggplant so I quit the CSA, bought an eggplant and decided to conquer this problem.

Going through my recipe folder on Google Docs (boy, I wish I had Recipe Byte), I found my sister’s recipe for Tuscan Surprise. The surprise, she says, is that it tastes so good. The recipe is a CSA dream with eggplant, yellow peppers, and tomatoes… and surprise! It is delicious. I also got amazing italian sausage from the meat stand at The Farmer’s Market on Fairfax.

Joanna adapted this recipe from The Silver Spoon cookbook, which for some reason calls this hearty fall dish something like Summer Bean Salad. So, here, I happily present Joanna’s Tuscan Surprise:

Tuscan Surprise
named so because i was surprised it was so good.

adapted from the Silver Spoon cookbook to include sausage. Make it without for a vegan dish.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
4 large or 6 small italian sausages (i prefer hot)
1 eggplant, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, halved, seeded and diced
2 fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
12 ounces canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
grated rind of 1/2 lemon
4 basil leaves, chopped
1 fresh flat leaf parsley leaf, chopped
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a pan. Add a clove of garlic (whole) and chopped Italian sausages and cook through.  Remove the sausage and discard the garlic.  Add the eggplant and bell pepper to the pan and cook over high heat for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes and beans, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and cook, uncovered, for a further 5 minutes.  Mix in the cooked sausage.  Remove the pan from the heat, transfer to a warm serving dish and sprinkle with the lemon rind, basil and parsley.  Mix well and serve.

Note from Michelle: as is typical of me, I left off the lemon rind. basil and parsley. Not sure what lemon rind adds here and I was too lazy to clip basil and parsley from my garden.

strawberry preserves on cracker

strawberry preserves on cracker

As if learning to cook wasn’t enough, my friend Kendra recently got me excited about canning. It turns out, canning isn’t all scary and filled with botulism. Botulism can’t exist in highly acidic environments so there are lots of good recipes you can safely preserve. For a starter, Kendra suggested this recipe for Strawberry Preserves with Balsamic Vinegar & Black Pepper. She said it wasn’t as overly sweet as some of the other strawberry preserves. Canning is really meant to preserve extra in season fruits and vegetables so I would like to say that I had an abundance of strawberries laying around, but I didn’t. I made the preserves using a pint of strawberries from the CSA, two strawberries from my garden, and the rest from the grocery store. The jelly made a great dessert with just a hint of pepper.

jars of jelly

jars of jelly

I only opened one jar and I am going to hold off opening the others for a taste of summer in the bitter cold of the Los Angeles winter. I think pickled cocktail onions might be next.

rack of lamb

rack of lamb

I am still in the throes of a love affair with lamb. Today at the market, I saw rack of lamb on sale. I have cooked individual lamb chops, but never a whole rack. I decided to buy it and give it a try. I found this simple recipe on Epicurious, which also allowed me to use fresh rosemary, parsley, and thyme from my container garden.

I needed something to go along with the lamb and I just received my first CSA box ever. Whenever I had previously contemplated signing up for a CSA, I worried what I would do with all that kale. I don’t know why I thought kale was a given in a CSA box, but I must have been on to something because I opened the box and bingo… kale. I have never cooked kale. I am not sure if I have even ever eaten kale. I decided to make kale chips. I also served some heirloom tomato and avocado with a little balsamic vinegar.

lamb, kale chips, heirloom tomato

lamb, kale chips, heirloom tomato

So, what did I think? I checked the lamb temperature a few times and confirmed that it was the right temperature for medium rare, but the doneness freaked me out a bit. Maybe I am a medium lamb girl. The kale chips were… like… slightly bitter, insubstantial papery things. Everything was seasoned well between the garden herbs on the lamb and the sherry vinegar on the kale chips. All in all, it wasn’t a bad meal for a mellow day where I did marathon training in the morning and just wanted to lounge about for the rest of the day. I have another week to figure out something else to do with kale before the next CSA box arrives. Now what to do with all that eggplant?

Some interesting stuff about cooking a rack of lamb

un-roasted diver scallops with brown butter sauce

un-roasted diver scallops with brown butter sauce

Do you ever cook something where everything goes wrong? I picked up Donatella Arpaia’s Donatella Cooks the other day and immediately spotted this recipe for Roasted Diver Scallops with Brown Butter Sauce. I love scallops and I recently discovered I love brown butter. From the get go everything went wrong. First I burnt my olive oil and had to start over. Then I couldn’t get any sear on my scallops. The butter never browned so it just ended up a too buttery mess. I cooked the cauliflower in too small of a pan. I almost burnt the cherries. At least, the sage (from my garden) was nicely crisped. I figure messing up is part of the process of learning, but boy it feels pretty bad when you do it. I guess I can always try again and it will have to be better.

Shrimp Risotto and Butter Lettuce, Citrus and Avocado Salad

Butter Lettuce, Citrus and Avocado Salad and Shrimp Risotto

I am somewhat relieved to say that I no longer am sous chef Michelle. I am a free woman again. The last class I worked, we made a tomato basil risotto that was terrific. It reminded me that I have always wanted to make risotto, but I have never tried. I picked some ingredients at random (shrimp, bacon, arborio rice) and consulted my good buddy, who is a risotto expert. He advised me to cook the bacon and sweat the onions (I used a bit of shallot also) in butter before adding the rice. Then I added a cup of white wine and then started the 20-30 minutes of slowly adding (homemade) chicken stock. I sauteed the shrimp with garlic and butter separately and then added it to the risotto with some parmesan at the end. I have to say, it turned out all right. I can’t wait to make risotto again… maybe with the truffle oil I picked up.

I also made a salad with some butter lettuce, navel oranges, garden tomatoes, and avocados. All of this is my practice at cooking without recipes.

my first tomato

my first tomato

One nice thing about living in LA is that it is perfect for gardening. I only have a balcony, but I was able to start a container garden. I am growing basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage (2 kinds!), chives, green peppers, strawberries and tomatoes. I have never gardened before other than some experimentation for the Wildflower Meadow Glacier Robot way back in the day. I harvested my first tomato this week. It sat on my counter for 2 days because I wasn’t sure what to do with it… one tomato. Plus I was nervous. What if it tastes bad? I hate a mealy tomato.

tomato with a little balsamic and salt

tomato with a little balsamic and salt

After an especially hot marathon training run, I was feeling like I needed some salt and nutrients to replenish. I cut up my little tomato and ate it with some balsamic and a pinch of salt. Pow zoom, what a tomato. I can’t wait to harvest the other 5 tomato buddies that are on their way.

me as a tomato

me as a tomato

Speaking of tomatoes, I have a tendency to turn as red as one when I run. Today was an extremely hot 7 mile marathon training run. I tried out a running skirt and it was awesome. Who knew? No pickles and peanut butter today though. Please consider supporting my efforts by donating to AIDS Project LA in my behalf. I will definitely think of you when I cross the finish line tomato red after 26.2 miles of Honolulu heat.

chicken saltimboca

The lessons I have been taking at rouxbe.com include recipes that practice what you just learned. The pan frying lesson, which is available for free, is the one that reeled me in to rouxbe.com. In typical obsessive fashion, I watched the pan frying lesson and then tried to get through every single lesson on the site. Now, I am taking a step back and practicing the techniques I have learned. For pan frying, Chicken Saltimbocca is one of the practice recipes.

chicken and sage

chicken with fresh sage

Chicken Saltimbocca is chicken breast layered with a sage leaf, Gorgonzola (or cambozola cheese for this recipe), and prosciutto. You pound it a bit and pan fry it. Then you make a nice pan sauce with white wine, chicken stock, garlic, butter and lemon. The caramelized bits of cheese and pan souk make an amazing sauce. The best part is that the sage came right from my garden. I still have to figure out how to make the chicken look pretty, like it does in rouxbe video recipe.