Put An Egg on It: Gnocchi Edition

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In my campaign to be a more frugal, protein-fortified, maybe even eco-friendly human being, I’ve taken to putting poached eggs on top of many, many things–big piles of sauteed spinach, pasta, rice and beans–instead of eating meat. (Ok, I still eat meat, just not much.) So after picking up some whole wheat gnocchi at Trader Joe’s (<3 you), I decided instead of doing my usual gnocchi with sausage and spinach or broccoli rabe, an all-time fave from Real Simple, I’d go the egg route. And since I had broccoli at home, I’d use that as my shiny green veggie component.

Now, you may have noticed from my picture that the broccoli is also very finely chopped. I’m still pleased with myself for making this decision. I just sauteed it with olive oil, garlic, salt and lemon juice, and then I just threw it in the food processor. Like shredded brussels sprouts, there’s just something so exciting about vegetables served with different textures than usual.

So, this is a super-simple, really cheap meal. Gnocchi. Food processored broccoli. Poached egg. Little crumbles of goat cheese–I mean, a meal’s not a meal without cheese. It was so good that I almost didn’t miss the cupcake I was thisclose to getting on my way home from Trader Joe’s.

Quick, Grab an Eggplant and Run to Your Slowcooker. It’s Baba Ghanoush Time

Steamy baba

When I got my slowcooker, the intent was definitely hearty one-pot meals–cassoulet, chili, beef stew. But lately I’ve been exploring the world of simpler dishes. I made apple sauce a couple of months ago, which is also a great way to make the entire house smell like apples and cinnamon, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Yesterday, inspired by Big Girls, Small Kitchen’s slowcooker challenge and wanting to use my eggplant before going out of town, I made baba ghanoush. It was easy, came out delicious, and despite it not being traditionally a one-pot meal, I did just scarf down a bowl of it for lunch.  As with most of my recipes, this one’s made to be adjusted and not super precise, but here goes:

Ooooh shiny1 large eggplant
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. tahini
1/2 lemon juice
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. salt
pinch black pepper
pinch hot pepper

Cut the eggplant in half, as pictured at right. (Mine’s got a chunk missing from the top. A sandwich needed it.) And then peel it. I did this with a paring knife.  Smash the garlic cloves. Put everything in the slowcooker and cook on low for three hours. Mash with potato ricer. You can also use a food processor if you like creamier baba ganoush, but I like it chunky and don’t like washing dishes.

I love, love, love eggplant–I mean, it’s up there with cheese for me–so I’m always happy to have a new way to get it into my face. And this was so absurdly easy to make, it’s likely to become a staple. So thanks, Big Girls, Small Kitchen. And thanks shiny purple veggie.

 

Homemade Sorbet: Sor-Good With Booze

a glass dessert cup of raspberry sherbet
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve discovered the perfect end to a summer evening, dessert and aperitif all rolled into one. It’s homemade sorbet. With booze. I didn’t exactly invent the stuff–the idea came to me when I was writing about champagne sorbet for the July issue of Hemispheres–but I think I’m perfecting it. So far I’ve made peach-strawberry-tequila and mango-raspberry-Cointreau. Sounds good, right?

Because I’m a frozen-produce kind of gal (phobia of spoiled fruits and veggies; normal), I was able to shave off chopping/pitting/stemming time. I let my fruit thaw about halfway, dumped it all in the food processor, pureed, added a little brown sugar and booze to taste, mixed, put in a container and put in the freezer. You’re supposed to use an ice cream maker, but I just took it out and stirred every few hours. The raspberry-mango-Cointreau one utilized Goya frozen mango pulp, which is available in an array of delicious tropical flavors. So, viva la summer, I say!

[Incidentally, this is the second post in a week that has mentioned Goya. They’re not giving me money to talk about them, but if they want to, I’m down.]

My Great Goat Taco Experiment

First things first: These are not exactly tacos! They’re more like burritos but smaller (burrititos?) and open, not wrapped. Whatever. I made some goat, I made some yellow rice, and I made some refried beans from scratch. If you want to quibble about what this dish should be called, please do so in comments! It will be fun.

Anyway, here’s what all went down to bring this creation into the world. [Ed. note: I used multiple Goya premixed products. I am unapologetic. But if you want to be a show-off, go ahead and sub in your homemade equivalent.] 

Refried Beans
Make these the night before or even a full day in advance, as both they and the goat are made in the slowcooker. Unless you have two slowcookers.
1 lb. dried kidney beans
1 onion
1 tsp. Adobo
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Lots and lots of water

Put beans in large pot. Add enough water to cover, plus about 50 percent. Let soak for eight hours.

Drain, transfer to slowcooker. Dice onion and add it to beans along with salt and Adobo. Once again, add enough water to cover plus about 50 percent. Cook on low for 10 hours.

Heat olive oil in largest skillet you own. Add beans in batches, and kind of mash and fry all at once. They should be pretty soupy, so they won’t really stick, and they will stiffen up nicely. This is a good time to taste. You may want more salt, although I didn’t.

Please note that this is WAY more than you’ll need for your tacos. Put some in the freezer. Nothing bad can possibly come of having too many beans on hand.

Goat
1 lb. cubed goat for stew (this is basically the only way they sell it at my grocery store)
1 packet Goya Sazon
2 c. chicken stock
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Goya soffrito
1 Tbsp. Tapatio hot sauce (any other brand will do, but I highly recommend that you don’t use anything too fancy, as the expensive stuff tends to be somehow both thicker and more vinegary)

Rub goat with Sazon and place in slowcooker. Mix all other ingredients, and then pour the mixture over the Sazoned goat. Cook on low for six hours, mixing occasionally to make sure all parts of the goat get equal liquid coverage so that none of it gets tough.

I’m not going to bother with a recipe for yellow rice. Either buy the mix or make regular old brown or white rice and add some Sazon and a splash of olive oil while cooking. Use your favorite taco shells or tortillas or whatever, your fave cheese (I put the cheese on the bottom so that it melts onto the warm tortilla), a dollop of sour cream, a splash of hot sauce, et voila!

This is a good meal, guys. You should really, really make it. I mean obviously have some veggies, too. Health comes first. But goat burrititos. Yes.

 

The Fish Market: An Exploration

[Ed note: I feel like this may need a disclaimer that the title’s not a euphemism? Gross. Another disclaimer: graphic fish images ahead!]

Part of my new life is that I can do things like go to the butcher and the fish market and the green grocer on an almost-daily basis. Except that I haven’t found a decent butcher in my hood. But yesterday I did go to the fish market, a kind of awe-inspiring place. Right there on Nostrand Avenue, between a hair store and a liquor store (I think?) is a salty-smelling haven of glassy-eyed fish luxuriating on beds of ice.

There were fishes I’ve never heard of (baby kingfish, which turns out to be a kind of whiting) and others I didn’t know people ate (angelfish). But I settled on bluefish. I have a fond memory of going deep-sea fishing with my dad, grandfather and uncle in Florida. I was a scrawny 10-year-old who caught a massive bluefish. My dad soaked it in milk to cut the oiliness before grilling it. He also cooked some of it with tapenade. Both were delicious and left me with a soft spot. Plus it was $1.99/pound, and it’s a great source of selenium. I don’t know what that is.

Although I was tickled by the idea of carrying home a giant fish and trying to fillet it with subpar knives, I got the guys there to cut it for me. To my great delight, they included the head. When I say I was delighted, I don’t mean because I actually had designs on cooking or eating it. I just had great fun trying to think of pranks I could pull and ways to dry and cure it to make a hat for Beatrice the cat. Because what could be funnier than a cat with a fish head on its head? Nothing, that’s what. After a quick photoshoot, I discarded the head, made a marinade of milk, lime, garlic, onions and cumin. About three hours later, I broiled my friend the bluefish with a little bit of salt. Perfection.

As for those fish I didn’t know so well, it turns out angelfish is often used for braai, or South African barbecue. This looks stupid-good. Watch out angelfishes. I’m coming for you.

Chop Chop Chop It Up

This morning, my coworker Brooke sent out a link about her experience at a knife skills class, and I was wicked jealous. Knife skills are one of those basic cooking things that I always feel like I could be doing better but maybe can’t teach myself through trial and error or sheer instinct. I tend to like my veggies very little but get bored chopping about halfway through, and I feel like if I got one really good chef’s knife and learned to wield it with the power of a master samurai, this wouldn’t happen anymore. Any suggestions for a nice knife that will make carrots quiver with fear? Or should I just use my food processor?

The Best Thing I Learned in Napa

Three words: shredded. Brussels. sprouts. Or, as they call them at Domaine Carneros, shaved Brussels sprouts. Whatever. You guys. If you’re like me, a woman torn between her love of the tiny vegetables and the man she loves’ refusal to eat them, this is big news. It cuts down on the sprouty taste. You can put them on anything!

I eat you
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At Domaine Carneros, they served them on caramelized halibut (they’re very good at putting a crusty exterior on seafood in Napa) with mashed (“pureed”) potatoes and sundried tomato aioli. Me? I’m going to put them on this baked potato recipe from Real Simple that I’m mad I didn’t think of long ago. That is, once I get (and maybe I’ve buried the lead here) my mothereffin’ food processor.

On the Lamb

A couple of nights ago, I went to one of the American Lamb Council’s Shepherd to Chef dinners at City Winery. Let me just say, I’m now on a lamb kick that won’t quit. I brought home some shanks and braised them in the slowcooker in chicken stock, a little rum, garlic, rosemary, Tellicherry pepper and a splash of curry powder. They were falling-off-the-bone delicious.

But I learned stuff too! It seems like a lot of American lamb is raised in small flocks, free-range style, grass-fed and stuff. So that’s good! Also, Americans eat less than a pound of lamb per year (per person, on average). I watched a butchery demonstration and learned that lambs are only about 5 percent trim and also that meat glue is a thing that exists, and you can use it to glue lamb trim together and make lamb bacon. Lamb lamb lamb.

The highlight of the night, for me was Matthew Accarino’s (of SPQR in San Francisco) lamb meatballs with creamy polenta. I think it’s one of those dishes (like Real Simple‘s gnocchi with sausage and broccoli rabe) that I will never get tired of and make variations of for the rest of my life.

Anyway, lamb chops are usually really cheap at my local Key Food, so expect a lot more lamb posts. Between this and my knitting, it’s becoming clear that I should just quit my job and become a sheep farmer.