Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Buckwheat Pancakes

I was an adorable little girl.  It's not conceited to tell you this because it is a well known fact:  Little girls who are chubby also happen to be incredibly adorable.  And I was chubby.  Oh, how I was chubby.  From the chipmunk checks to the rubberband wrists to the Michelin tireman legs.  I was just cute pile on top of cute pile of chubbiness.  Part of the reason for my adorable chubiness was the fact that I was not a picky eater.  I kinda ate everything.  I went through a stage when I was 9 or 10 where my favorite thing to eat was beets from a can.  My mom thought it was strange, but I think she was happy that at least one of her children was eating the bright pink rounds. 

One of the things on my short list of food dislikes was buckwheat pancakes.  My grandma would always bring back a big bag of buckwheat flour for my mom whenever she went to Amish Country and for a few months afterwards, there it would sit in the fridge in her large green tupperware bowl and mom would occasionally make buckwheat pancakes.  To me, it was the epitome of ruining one of the best breakfasts a kid could ask for.  There was not enough syrup in the world to hide the fact that our mother was still trying to feed us something that was made of buckwheat, whatever that was.  And buckwheat certainly didn't sound appealing.

And that was my stance on it for the better part of almost two decades.  Yet, and almost suddenly, in March, that changed.  Ben and I had met in Charlotte, NC for the weekend and on our last day there, we had brunch outside at this very cute farm-to-table joint on the main street.  He had a pimento cheeseburger we both still dream about and for whatever reason, the buckwheat pancakes with peach and apple cinnamon compote caught my eye.  So I ordered them on a whim.  And I realized that for a very long time I had been very wrong about buckwheat pancakes.  They're good.  They're more complex than regular pancakes, and they hit different notes and they taste fantastic in any amount of syrup. 

So I have been craving buckwheat pancakes ever since, and sadly, dispute several attempts, I have not been able to get them.  I did buy myself a rather expensive little bag of buckwheat flour about a month ago, but that was the most progress I had made on the issue until last Saturday morning.  When I decided enough was enough and we were going to have buckwheat pancakes.  I googled searched andwent through enough recipes to annoy Ben until I found one that sounded just right.  And it helped that it was from the King Arthur cookbook, of King Arthur flour fame. 

And I'm glad I choose that recipe, because it was just about perfect.  The molasses made them dark and smell of gingersnap cookies, never a bad thing and they came out just as perfect as pancakes should.  The one and only change that I would make (and did, after trying the first batch to come off my cast iron) was to add cinnamon.  And that was it.  Buckwheat pancake perfection.  This recipe makes about 12-15 good sized pancakes.  Enough that the last two I polished off for my breakfast Monday morning.  And that was that.  So what I'm trying to tell you here is, despite all previous assumptions, buckwheat pancakes are tasty, even if I am still not quite sure just what buckwheat actually is...

Buckwheat Pancakes
Inspired by King Arthur's Flour via Cook's Hideout

1 c. Buckwheat flour
3/4 c. All purpose flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Large egg
2 c. Buttermilk
2 Tbsp. Molasses
1 Tbsp. Butter, melted

In large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flours, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and salt.  Create well in center of bowl.  

In separate bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, melted butter and molasses.  Pour into dry ingredients.  Mix batter quickly and until ingredients are just incorporated.  Do NOT overmix!

Heat cast iron skillet (or other griddle) over medium heat.  Melt a small pat of butter to grease pan.  Pour ~1/4 cup of batter to form pancakes.  Let cook on one side until small bubbles form all around, then flip a cook 1-2 minutes longer.

Serve warm with good maple syrup!

P.S.  I was a little too busy pancake flipping and then immediately stuffing my face to take many pictures... so sorry!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Skillet Sloppy Joe

Lately, any recipe with fresh corn off the cob has been catching my eye.  This one here, my new favorite pizza and a dip recipe I'll share with you soon.  I have fallen in love with sweet corn on the cob.  They're fantastic little bursts of fresh, sweet and summer and I'm trying to soak up as much as possible before it's all gone.  Even if I do love fall as much as I do, nothing really quite tastes as amazing as summer.

Last week I was leafing through one of my least favorite cookbooks:  Cooking Light's Fresh Food Fast.  The book itself was an impulse purchase that wasn't quite what I expected.  The recipes inside call for a lot pre-made, pre-chopped, specific canned ingredients and I usually steer clear of it when I'm hunting for new things to cook.  But for whatever reason there I was flipping through it last week and there was a recipe for a skillet sloppy joe with some corn, even if it did call for it frozen.  With a simple substitution of fresh corn sawed off the cob through, I was willing, even excited, to give it a whirl.

As it turned out, the shopping trip ended up yielding a few more substitutions then was first expected.  There was no call for onion in the original (an obvious oversight), I diced up my own (even if over-priced) green bell pepper, a can of kidney beans (because I love them) and a few spices to bring it up a notch, because the stewed tomatoes I bought were straight forward and brought only tomatoes to the table.

And I liked the end result.  There is something satisfying and home-ish about cooking a big one-pot dinner in just your cast iron pan.  But in the end, it just ended up too sweet.  Between the corn, the cinnamon I added, and the ketchup it was too much.  But the corn shouldn't go anywhere, because that was the whole inspiration of the recipe.  And personally, I loved the cinnamon in it, it added some warmth and depth of flavor, something fun and different.  In all truthfulness, the ketchup has got to go.  It's too sweet, too much.  A simple sub of tomato sauce though, and I think you're in business.  Guten Appetit!

Skillet Sloppy Joes
Inspired by Fresh Food Fast

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion chopped
1 corn on the cob, kernels removed
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 can stewed tomatoes, undrained
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add crumbled beef, bell pepper and onion.  Saute until meat is browned and veggies are soft, about 5 minutes.  Drain excess grease.

Add corn, kidney beans, tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir in remaining 3 ingredients.  Simmer mixture for about 10 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached.  Serve on hamburger buns or other bread.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Garlicky Baked Fries

I kind of love having things to blog about during the week without the stress of trying to orchestrate exciting dinners, take pictures before the sun disappears, be witty and blog and still eat at a decent hour.  All this while trying to maintain an early than the average bear bedtime.  I know cooking dinner isn't supposed to be stressful, but, you know, the opposite.  But unfortunately, these last few weeks, it has been, for whatever reason.  And while I'm trying to get out of my slump, there can't be too much harm in enjoying the non-cooking for one more day, right?

Or, you know, there's always cheating.  Writing bits and pieces of entries whenever I am feeling particularly articulate and clever.  Cooking a new dinner tonight, but not even bothering to think about when I will actually blog about it, although I did smartly take pictures.  Trying to see this more as an enjoyment of my post-work free time rather than a chore.

Isn't it crazy how all of a sudden things become a chore, simply because you have to do them?  I think that's what happened with this here, already, only 40 some-odd posts in.  But now that I actually have two, count it 1-2!, recipes stored up in my backlog, it's as if the weight of the blogosphere has been lifted from my shoulders.  Ok, maybe I exaggerate just a teensy bit, but maybe you also kinda know how I feel too.  When you don't have to cook a new meal each night, suddenly you can't think of wanting to do anything more. 

Anywho, I greatly digress.  But be proud of me.  I only told you about these fries on Sunday and I am already talking about them (sort of...) on Tuesday night!  The fries were good, but as my fair warning, you must love garlic to like these fries.  If you don't mind garlic odors seeping from your pores all night and into the next morning, as Ben so kindly pointed out to me on Saturday morning, you may need to steer clear.  Or at least warn your significant other.  But I liked them.  They hit that spot in your stomach that only a warm potato, be it mashed, fried or baked, can hit.  Being oven fries, they did lack the crispiness that their deep fried cousins sport, but you'll only miss it a little.  And they truly were wonderfully garlicky, a bit spiced from the added cayenne and the leftovers made a wonderful hash brown sort of deal when fried up for Sunday morning breakfast.  All in all, not a bad deal.  But don't say I didn't warn you if your dearest tries his best to leave in the morning and not to kiss you good bye!

Garlicky Baked Fries
Inspired by Bon Appetit August 2011's San Francisco Garlic Fries

2-3 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
3 1/2 Tbsp. Canola Oil, divided
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4-1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper (depending on your heat level)
4 cloves garlic, minced well

Preheat oven to 450°. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet or casserole dish with nonstick spray.

Slice Potatoes into fry length, being consistant with size.  A mandolin will help with this, just, as always, be careful around the sharp blade.  Toss potato slices with 2 and 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl and season with salt and cayenne. Arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet/dish.

Roast potatoes, turning occasionally, for 30 minutes, until fork tendered and brown. Set oven to broil.  Broil potatoes for 2-3 minutes, turn potatoes than broil a few minutes more.  Combine remaining tablespoon of oil and garlic in large bowl.  Add hot fries and toss to coat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Broiled Top Sirloin

Well, the weekend is drawing to a close and my guest chef and house guest has left.  Tara, my roommate from college came for a visit and on the list of things to do was cooking.  (There's not a terribly lot to do in Terre Haute...)  Besides, she's moving out into her own apartment soon and wanted to expand her cooking repertoire beyond spaghetti and chicken breasts. 

We started slow on Thursday night, you know, spaghetti but with the addition of some Italian sausage.  Staying within the comfort zone for our first joint kitchen experinece together.  And then we dived on in it on Friday: broiled, marinated steak and garlic fries. 

It was an easy marinade, made even better by the fact that it required me to open a bottle of cabernet sauvignon and my cooking companion was not a wine drinker.  It was fun to have another set of hands in the kitchen, that way I could focus more on the glass of wine in my hands.  And, as always, as she had her beer and I polished off the majority of the remaining bottle of wine, it was great to see her and catch each other up on our lives since sharing a 8x12 foot dorm room.

Dinner was good, the steak broiled to medium rare, with the perfect strip of pink through the middle.  It was moist and tender too.  The marinade was good, nothing fancy but tasty enough.  It went great with the remaining wine and I'm sure great with Tara's beer.  And the fries balanced the plate well.  Speaking of, I'll get to the wonderfully garlic-y fries soon enough, but first I must get to the mess that once was my clean kitchen.

Broiled Top Sirloin
Inspired by Parade 2008's Marinade

1/3 c. dry, red wine
1/3 c. soy sauce
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
Salt and Pepper, to season
1 lb. top sirloin steak

Mix first 4 ingredients together in a shallow dish.  Add steak.  Marinade steak, covered and refridgerated, for at least 30 minutes, or over night.  Turn steak occasionally. 

Preheat broiler.  Remove steak from marinade and pat dry.  Place on broiler pan.

Broil steak, 3 inches from heat.  Broil on each side 4 minutes for medium rare.  Once cooked, move onto a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes, so juices can redistribute. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

No Bake Cookies

And now we return to our regular scheduled blogging... well, sort of. 

Here again is a wonderful example of one of my birdwalks as well as another of mom's recipes and childhood favorites.  I think it is more than fair to say that quite a few recipes in my big green cookbook, both now and I'm sure more in the future, are really stolen from my mother's assortment of recipe cards, cookbooks and own pile of random clippings, contained in a large danish butter cookies tin.  I have lots of good memories associated with her well-worn, orange Betty Crocker cookbook and the gray Mead notebook she still has that was once my great grandma Esther's.

This recipe is your run of the mill generic no bake cookie recipe.  There are no frills, nothing special or surprising.  But is the same recipe my grandmother makes every Christmas and the cookies my mom would finally concede to make for us when we begged for cookies in the middle of August in Arizona.  It's good, if for no other reason it reminds me of being 7, during Christmas and eating nothing but no bake cookies and bird's nest for dinner.

Short post, crappy pictures, sorry!  It's been an off week or so.  I hope to come back strong and with vengeance in the very near future.  As in this weekend.  With any luck, we'll have a guest chef in the kitchen too!  I'll get back with you soon.

 No Bake Cookies

½ c milk
½ c butter
2 c sugar
1/3 c cocoa
3 ½ c oatmeal
½ c peanut butter
Coconut (about 1/4-1/2 cup)
Vanilla (about a teaspoon or two)

Boil milk, butter and sugar on slow heat for one minute.  Remove from heat, stir in cocoa and peanut butter.

Mix in remaining ingredients.  Drop by the rounded tablespoon onto wax paper.  Cool.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Cucumber Salad

There are more than a few posts on here that I know took me a bit away from my original blogging goal.  The initial brilliant idea was this: I had this wonderful green photo album that I was going to turn into my very own cookbook and the blog was just a way to share the good and not so good recipes I was trying along the way.  And it would serve as a nice little kick in the butt to make sure I was trying new recipes, and not just sticking to the same few.

But there have been a few little bird walks here and there.  Some cookbook recipes thrown in, justifiable because they were new recipes I was trying.  And some recipes that were already in my big green cookbook.  Which also totally count, of course.  But, this is kind of taking my original blogging intentions and throwing them out the window.   Because, you see, this is my  very own recipe.

It's not all too impressive, and not all that complicated, but it is of my very own invention.  And I've been making it all summer long since arrive here in the Haute.  At home, mom would occasionally make cucumber salad if she ever had an extra cucumber laying around.  It was delicious, fresh and bright and tangy with some bite from the vinegar.  I'm pretty sure my mom didn't use a recipe and I never really have either.  After slicing the cucumber and onions, I start throwing in seasonings and streaming in the vinegars and oil.  So this is sort of a rough estimate of the many cucumber salads I have made since this summer started.  And the exact recipe I made last night.

By the way, cucumber salad is wonderful.  It's sharp and tangy and vinegar-y.  It's the kind of salad made for the kind of people who lick vinaigrette of their plates.  It is perfect if you have bags full of free garden fresh cucumbers filling up your vegetable crisper.  Ben was a big fan of snacking on it with his cold beer and I will eat it sitting on the floor in front of my TV, like I am now.  And you can mess with the vinegars, the oil, the seasonings.  Maybe go Asian, with some rice vinegar and sesame oil or enjoy with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to top.  Remember, this is a very rough estimate.  And so here it is, for the very first time ever here on My Big Green Cookbook, a Liz original recipe:

My Cucumber Salad

1 large cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
4-5 whole cloves
8-10 peppercorns
1/4 tsp. salt
Good Dash of crushed red pepper
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. white vinegar
Good Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Mix all ingredients in medium bowl.  Stir well to coat cucumber and onion slices with vinegar and oil.

Cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for a few hours.  Will keep refrigerated for a few days.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte


Work lately has been grand.  Word has gotten around that I'm a big fan of fresh produce and lots of the guys are using that as an excuse to pawn off their garden excess.  I have as of late found myself with bags brimming with squash, cucumbers and on one very lucky occasion, beautiful, big blackberries.  But, and I am sorry but there is no other way to say this, it is both a blessing and a curse.  There are only so many things you can do with summer squash.  And disguising them in tortes, hidden between layers of yukon gold potatoes so your boyfriend doesn't notice you're feeding him vegetables, is one of them.

It should come as no surprise that when I went hunting online for recipes to use up my free harvest, my first stop was at the smitten kitchen.  And while I really do promise that I look elsewhere for cooking inspiration, my blog crush has saved me several times when I needed kitchen help.  It makes sense that it is my first stop on any recipe scavenger hunt.  And wouldn't you know it, but my first search resulted in a recipe that was actually already on my "recipes to try" list.  
All I needed was some potatoes and fresh thyme.  

Only I kind of really hate buying a bunch of fresh herbs at $3 a pop, using 2 springs and never being able to use the rest before it goes bad and then laying them to rest in my garbage can.  So I made the executive decision to use dried instead.  It's economical, less wasteful and surely I had some dried thyme in my spice cupboard I told myself.  And then I got home.  Well, actually a few hours later at 8 pm when I started to throw together dinner, I realized that last bit was more or less false.  Dried thyme was no where to be found.  I pulled out a few that I thought could be viable alternatives: oregano, rosemary, basil, but none of them really seemed to be agreeable to me at that moment.  And then there was my mason jar full of herbs de Provence, still hanging around from my trip to Seattle and Pike's Market.  One of the more underused herbs I have, I still love herbs de Provence every time I use it.  Some of that love is definitely for the pretty dried purple lavender flowers nestled among the herbs, which - hey, wouldn't you know it - included thyme.  I found my substitution.

The smell of the potatoes browning in the oven layered with Parmesan cheese and herbs de Provence was mesmerizing.  It was about 30 minutes of an apartment filled with yummy, homey, fresh baked aromas.  It was Ben's first comment as he walked through the door.  A few minutes later it was out of the oven and on our plates.  While Ben wasn't overwhelmed with the torte, I kept finding myself going back for seconds and thirds.  I wasn't blown away by the first bite, but I ate till I was full.  And I am really looking forward to my leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  I could definitely try this again.  I imagine with some zucchini would be good and maybe even some yummy mascarpone smeared in between the layers.  And I may just have to try this again, my produce drawer is more than heavy in the squash department.    

Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced and divided
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 Tbsp. Herbs de Provence
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, about 3 medium sized
6 oz. yellow crookneck squash, 1 medium sized (zucchini may be delicious as well)
3 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter an 8-inch bake pan.  (If using a glass dish, reduce by 25 degrees and preheat to 350)

Slice potatoes and squash into 1/8 inch rounds.  (I suggest using a mandolin.  But be careful.  Sliced my finger something bad while cleaning the thing.  It's a love hate relationship).  Set aside 2 tablespoons of green onions.  Mix remaining onions and next 5 ingredients, through pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
In prepared pan, layered 1/3 of sliced potatoes in concentric circles, overlapping slightly.  Layer 1/2 of squash slices on top.  Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with 1/3 of onion/cheese mixture.  Press layers down slightly.  Repeat: potatoes, squash, oil, cheese, potatoes, oil, cheese.  Press gently to flatten.

Cover pan with foil and bake until potatoes are almost tender, about 40 minutes.  Remove foil from torte and continue baking until it is browned and potatoes are tender, about 20-25 minutes longer.   Remove from onion and sprinkle with leftover green onions.  Slice into wedges and serve. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Linguine with Two Cheese Sauce

This whole post could easily be taken up with explaining how awful this recipe was, how some things like wannabe low-fat Alfredo sauce will never taste good, and how I'm all for eating healthy, but if all health food tasted like this, I would never eat healthy again, but that gets boring after awhile.  So I won't do that to you.

So instead, among the pictures of a very "meh" dinner last night, I'm going to tell you about all the many things that I am oh-so excited about.  Cause that is a much more worthwhile space taker-upper.  But first, a little bit of business: if you so desire to give this one a whirl on your own I'm just going to give you the link to the recipe here, because it's not really even worth the effort of me typing it out.  And if you are disappointed with the lack of a recipe with glowing accolades, then just imagine how I feel after dinner last night and 3 Tupperware servings worth of leftovers.  Yeah.  And now, without further ado...

Things I am oh-so-very exctied about!

Trying zucchini bread and using yellow summer squash, of which I have a beautiful bagful from a guy from work

My first Bon Appetite magazine to come in the hopefully very near future

My first submission in a Food 52 contest: Your Best Corn Off the Cob (You may recognize my entry...)

Making These

This Picture

The huge pane of glass I bought from Ikea's As Is section for $4

Eating more fresh peaches

Seeing the last Harry Potter Movie Again

Fall and the wonderful weather it brings along with it