Warning: ob_start(): non-static method wpGoogleAnalytics::get_links() should not be called statically in /homepages/12/d92832203/htdocs/digestLA/wp-content/plugins/wp-google-analytics/wp-google-analytics.php on line 259
weeknight » digest LA
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?

my healthy dinner - shrimp, black beans, spinach salad

my healthy dinner - shrimp, black beans, spinach salad

The whole reason I got involved in endurance sports in the first place was to continue eating any old food I like. And I sure like a lot of food. I recently joined the cult of Crossfit and there is a lot of talk about nutrition and eating clean. I am definitely not going to start eating the Paleo diet, but I was thinking that it can’t hurt to try my hand at cooking healthy during the week.

So for tonight’s dinner, I kept it simple and healthy. I made my family’s Cuban frijoles negros recipe. Then I just sauteed some shrimp with some extra sofrito (onion, garlic and peppers) from the black beans and served with rice and a spinach salad. I made the black beans last night after a crossfit class and I was so tired by the time they finished cooking that I may have forgot some finishing steps. Even better than being healthy; the meal was delicious, simple and super cheap. If only I had time to make dry beans every day.

By the way, my crossfit workout included handstand pushups, sumo deadlift high pulls and hang power cleans. What the heck am I doing? If you are my dad, please don’t comment on that question.

Middle Eastern Chicken Pot and Butter-Nut Quinoa

Middle Eastern Chicken Pot and Butter-Nut Quinoa

One thing that has struck me recently is the sheer number of different ingredients I have in my kitchen. If I need vinegar, I can choose from white wine, champagne, sherry, balsamic, apple cider, and even raspberry. I have been trying to save a bit of money so it makes sense to choose recipes that use things I already have around the house. I am not a fan of Rachel Ray, but her recipe for Middle Eastern Chicken Pot and Butter-Nut Couscous uses chicken thighs (cheap), pine nuts, dried fruit, cumin, coriander, olives — all of which I have. I replaced the couscous with quinoa to add an educational element to the recipe. I haven’t ever eaten quinoa much less cooked it. Of course with all my clever planning, I forgot that I didn’t have any paprika so I added a bit of cayenne pepper instead.

What can I say? It is not the most glamorous or photogenic recipe, but it is affordable and easy for a weeknight. And for me, it provides meals for days.

grilled lamb and roasted veggies

grilled lamb and roasted veggies

I went to the doctor today for a cold that won’t go away and she suggested that maybe I just need to take it easy… what?! I thought I was taking it easy… I didn’t even go on my third planned business trip this month. For my mellow night at home, I decided to cook some lamb chops I bought at the Culver City farmers market. Nothing much to learn here since you all know I likes the lamb, but I did find out just how expensive sustainable lamb is to buy. I am going to have to find a better compromise for the omnivore’s dilemma.

For a side, I roasted some asparagus, squash and potatoes that I had laying around the house. You know back when I cooked dinner for the husband, I used to just cook some way too complicated main thing and no sides. He would always tease me about it. Now I can’t imagine cooking dinner without sides. It is like Vladimir said in Waiting for Godot, “Never neglect the little things in life.”

sausage and peppers

sausage and peppers

The other day I was hungry and I looked around my kitchen and found yellow peppers, green onions and those gross packaged cooked sausage you can get at the supermarket. I heated up some french bread from the freezer, cooked it all up and realized it wasn’t half bad. I really wasn’t sure what I was going to make and I ended up making a Philly classic – a sausage and pepper sandwich. I tried a few more times with better ingredients and it occurred to me, this is my first recipe. I made it up myself. I know that is a rather minor accomplishment for a normal chef, but I am still just aspiring to be an amateur home chef.

I just made it for my visiting sister and her husband…

a little taste of Philly

olive oil
salt & pepper
1.5 lbs sweet Italian sausage
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 c chicken stock
fresh french bread
grated parmesan

Add a bit of olive oil to a saute pan and cook the sausage covered over medium heat. After 8 minutes, turn the sausage over and cook on the other side for 8 minutes. Remove the sausage to a cutting board and slice on an angle.
Pour out excess oil from the pan, but leave nice sausage bits. Add a bit of fresh oil, season with salt and saute the sliced peppers. After a few minutes add the onion. Season a bit again. Add the tomatoes.
* Tangent This is an excellent recipe for practicing your pan tossing skills. I have to admit, I watched a how to video, but never actually did the pan tossing homework. This recipe just naturally calls for it and I started doing it pretty easily.
Once the peppers are starting to become soft and the onions are translucent, deglaze the pan with around a 1/2 cup of chicken stock (homemade, please). Make sure to scrape up all the delicious brown pan bits and make a bit of a pan sauce. Add the sausage back to the pan and simmer for a few minutes to heat through.
Serve the sausage and peppers on toasted french bread with a little parmesan cheese and enjoy yourself an Eagles game. Go Philly!

*Disclaimer, I made this up. I am sure there are other and better ways to make sausage and pepper sandwiches.

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.

Grilled Radicchio and Lamb Chops

Grilled Radicchio and Lamb Chops

You don’t have to read my blog long to know that I still have a lot to learn about cooking. It has taken me a while to eat something at a restaurant and even realize that I am eating food that I could actually make at home. The other day I ate at Chego! and noticed that I really loved the radicchio in the grilled caesar salad. It sounds simple, but I had never touched radicchio outside of a restaurant. My sister recently sent me a Lodge reversible stovetop griddle/grill so I decided to buy a little radicchio to play with at home.

Lodge reversible grill pan

Lodge reversible grill pan

I separated the radicchio leaves and brushed them with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper and wilted them on the grill for about a minute on each side. To serve, I simply sliced the leaves and topped with a little grated parmesan.

lamb chops cooking

lamb chops cooking

I then sprinkled the lamb chops with dried rosemary, thyme, basil, salt and pepper and grilled them about 4 minutes each side to medium rare. Sometimes I try to wing simple recipes and end up regretting it, but this turned out fantastic and only took about 20 minutes tops. The best part is that I had just picked up a lemon, lamb chops and radicchio at the grocery store without any idea what I was going to do and had everything else I needed. The next challenge will be trying to eat sustainably. I was sad when I noticed the lamb chops were marked “from Australia” on the packaging.

mercury ball

Water test at mercury ball stage

Last week, I stumbled across the web site rouxbe.com for culinary instruction. Most of the videos require membership, but the Pan Frying lesson is currently available for free.  I learned a lot from watching it, including the right way to do the water test for a pan’s heat. When a stainless steel pan is the right temperature for pan frying, water dropped into the pan will form a mercury ball and bounce around on the pan. It skates along the surface of the pan indicating that food you put into the pan will not stick. You should also put the presentation side of what you are cooking down first to cook because it will get the best brown on it.

Chicken with Mushrooms and Leeks

Chicken with Mushrooms and Leeks

Armed with my new found knowledge about pan frying, I decided to try making Chicken with Mushrooms and Leeks from the Le Cordon Bleu Quick Classics. This dish is one of my weeknight favorites, but in the past it was always made for me. I tried making it last week, but it turned out awful. The dish is simply chicken breast stuffed with leeks (that have been sauteed in lots of butter) with a sherry and mushroom sauce. It is simple and delicious.

The first thing that I realized when making this is that it isn’t really pan frying. The chicken is cooked in a combination of oil and butter and basted throughout cooking. I brought my pan to the right temperature, added the butter and it immediately began to burn. I cleaned out the pan, lowered the temperature and used clarified butter that I happened to have prepared already. Last time I made it, the chicken took forever to cook and the brown in the pan got overcooked and wasn’t suitable to deglaze for the sauce. This time, I pounded the chicken so that it wouldn’t take quite so long to cook. Of course, it made stuffing the chicken breasts pretty difficult. I also didn’t get quite the brown I was hoping for on the chicken.

I think this recipe is a good candidate for me to practice regularly until I really get it down. It can be expanded in different ways. I could start buying a whole chicken and breaking it down to the chicken breasts. All the scraps would be perfect for making stock. I can play more with using clarified butter or making it use less butter in general. I welcome any suggestions and will keep you posted.

Ginger Marinated Pork Tenderloin, Asparagus, Really Weird Italian Bread

Ginger Marinated Pork Tenderloin, Asparagus, Really Weird Italian Bread

I learned another thing from Julia Child recently, never apologize for your cooking. In My Life in France, she serves a friend really disgusting Eggs Florentine and never utters a word of acknowledgement that it is bad. I want to apologize for my plating in the picture above, but no. From now on, no more apologies. I am spending a week with my sister and her newborn and trying to help out by cooking meals as much as possible. For our first night, I made my old standby, Ginger Marinated Pork Tenderloin. This recipe is excellent for a bachelorette like myself because one tenderloin is enough for one person plus some leftovers. Of course, as soon as I became single, butcher shops began discriminating against me by only selling tenderloins in twos. The pork tenderloin came out pretty nice although I can never manage to get a nice sear on my meat. I think I need higher heat and to dry the marinade off the pork much more before putting it in the pan. I also tried to mince garlic the way I saw it done in a video recently where the chef smashed the garlic pretty flat and then just sliced it for it to break apart into a dice. That didn’t really work for me at all. I guess that is what practice is for.

We haven’t planned the menu for the rest of the week yet. I think we decided on some sort of rolled chicken dish for tomorrow. Any suggestions?