Fennel! Fennel! Fennel! Fennel! (And an Acorn Squash and some salmon)

In case that title wasn’t clear, this post is about fennel.  Fennel in four different recipes to be exact.  G and I split the load again, so I’m going to start off by talking about roasted fennel and the acorn squash recipe that I served it with.

One of these days I will get some better lighting...

One of these days I will get some better lighting…

So the acorn squash is actually very similar to the way I grew up eating it.  My mom used to make baked acorn squash all winter long, except she would serve it with honey and a little butter.  Aside from the honey, the process is the same.  I found the molasses flavor of the brown sugar to be really pleasant with the acorn squash so I will probably be using it again sometime.  (Did I mention that I have a half bushel of acorn squash waiting in my pantry?)

I have also made roasted fennel before, but I usually serve it with fish.  This time I served it with a pork loin I made using a maple mustard glaze.  The fennel was a delicious complement to the pork flavor.  I’ll definitely be combining them again.

Next I made a Fennel and Potato Bake.

Still bubbling!!!

Still bubbling!!!

I have to say here, the recipe requires you to thinly slice two fennel bulbs.  If you have one, I would recommend using a mandoline for this.  Slicing with a knife is a bit rough because the fennel keeps falling apart and it is really difficult to get even slices.

The recipe itself is pretty simple, though it requires a decent amount of prep time if you are doing all the slicing with a knife (seriously folks, use a mandoline).  You just sprinkle some asiago, salt and pepper between layers of fennel and potato then pour a little cream over the top.

The outcome is awesome.  The texture is super satisfying and the flavor is amazing! As soon as I get a mandoline, I’m making this again!

Passing the torch to G!

Thanks, B!  First, of all, fear the mandoline.  I once came home from school to find nothing but a mandoline, some carrots, a lot of blood, and no mom.  This is back before cell phones.  She had cut off the tip of her thumb using a mandoline.  She was fine.  It was just a slice of skin, and it grew back.  How’s that for a good story for a cooking blog?  Anyway, it scared me off of mandolines for life.  I use a knife or the slicing blade on a food processor.  Mandolins on the other hand, are a lovely instrument.  😉

I made the linguine with fennel and tuna and the Fennel, orange, and parsley salad.  I served the fennel and orange salad as a side with the Salmon “steaks” with hoisin glaze, so I’ll talk about that too.  And you’ll find out why “steaks” is in quotes.

Linguine with fennel and tuna

It's difficult to photograph this many shades of off-white and biege in one picture...

It’s difficult to photograph this many shades of off-white and biege in one picture…

I adjusted this recipe by using thin whole wheat spaghetti instead of linguine.  Other than that, I followed the recipe as written.  It winds up being nice.  I don’t believe I’d ever had cooked fennel before.  It takes on a more subtle and nutty flavor than the sharp anise flavor you get with fresh fennel.  The capers added a nice briny bite.  The tuna grounded the whole dish and gave it some richness.  I like that even the bites that didn’t have a little of everything still tasted like something.  Too often with these Everyday Food pasta recipes, you get a mouthful of plain noodles and wonder why you bothered.  I’ll get to the whole wheat pasta with kale and fontina later…  The biggest problem with this recipe is how unappetizing it looks.  Aside from the green fennel fronds, it’s all kind of beige.  Ick.

Fennel, orange, and parsley salad

Salmon “steaks” with hoisin glaze

Salmon and fennel, new best friends

Salmon and fennel, new best friends

There’s also a video of this recipe online.  It looks like it’s from the old PBS show.  I miss that show.  The video teaches you how to segment an orange.  She (Allie?) points out that you can use the stalks to make stock.  That’s a good tip.  Mostly the video just serves to make me nostalgic for the PBS show and wish I had a knife sharp enough to segment an orange that quickly and cleanly.

The fennel salad is very nice and bright.  The recipe called for black olives, which I found confusing.  When I think “black olives” I still think of the dopey little olives you get on a pizza.  Taking a look at the picture in the magazine, it was clear that these were no pizza olives.  But what were they?  D wound up buying something at the store from the olive bar.  They were terribly salty.  The video says to use Kalamata olives, which makes perfect sense.  So why don’t you say that, Everyday Food?!?!  This recipe also represents the last gasp of the parsley from our garden.  Sunrise, sun barely shine on garden resulting in stilted growth and wan looking plants with no fruit on them, sun set.

As for the salmon, I really wish I would have bought salmon steaks.  That’s what the recipe actually calls for.  We had a giant side of salmon instead.  It was fine salmon, it’s just that when you broil a piece of fish that’s not uniform thickness, you wind up with an overcooked end and an undercooked end.  The glaze is awesome.  Why am I not putting hoisin sauce and orange juice on more things?  That could have been the dressing for the salad…  Of course, now that I have the 1/2 a jar of hoisin sauce, I’m facing the dreaded condiment glut in the fridge.  If I cook my leftover rice noodles, can I put hoisin sauce on them and kill two orphan ingredients with one stone?

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Help me get rid of these noodles

Thai beef salad

thai beef salad with rice noodles

I am desperately jealous of anyone whose box lunch looks like this.

This illustrates something that I have an issue with (some pun intended) in Everyday Food magazine.  I don’t know who has the time to make these wonderful lunches and breakfasts.  The lunch column is called “lunchbox,” which, to me, connotes that you make this ahead of time and pack as a lunch.  This recipe probably legitimately does take only 15 minutes, but that still seems like a lot for a boxed lunch.  I don’t typically “prepare” a lunch so much as I throw leftovers into a container or maybe make a sandwich and toss in a piece of fruit.  All that having been said, this is a tasty meal.

Using deli roast beef really does save a lot of time and impart a lovely flavor.  The dressing: lime juice, veggie oil, sugar, and Thai red curry paste, is wonderful.  Plus, any chance I get to eat rice noodles makes me feel like I’m getting a take-out treat.

Here’s a question for our readers (we know you’re out there!):  What can I do with all of these leftover rice noodles?  This recipe uses a whopping two ounces of noodles.  This is the second time D and I have made this recipe.  The last time, the leftover noodles sat in our pantry for years before we threw them out.  I don’t want this to happen again.  I also don’t really want to make pad thai.  I like for pad thai to be a special meal that I only get as takeout.  Like crab rangoons.  Could I make them at home?  I guess.  But, why?  So what can I make to use up these rice noodles?

In Case You’ve Ever Wondered What 10 lbs of Tomatoes Looks Like…

Fresh Tomato Sauce

September 2007, pg. 44

So many tomatoes, surrounded by some truly massive kale leaves.

So many tomatoes, surrounded by some truly massive kale leaves.

Needless to say, this recipe was one that we struggled to get to.  Not because it wasn’t something that sounded delicious, but because it required 10 lbs of fresh ripe tomatoes.  This, of course, would be perfect if either of us had a garden and all of our tomatoes were ripening at the same moment.  However, neither G nor I have the luxury of what you could really call a yard.  And so, we were at the mercy of the supermarket or farm stands (I don’t think they have many farm stands in the city where G lives…).  The Bear I live with and I went to see his mother who has access to a truly impressive variety of farm stands and bought a bushel of sauce tomatoes for some insanely low price!  She stocked us up for next to nothing with beautiful red tomatoes.  And finally, I could take on the daunting task of making this sauce.

The other issue I encountered with this recipe is the size of my kitchen.

This kitchen is nothing to joke about.

This kitchen is nothing to joke about.

Not only do I have next to no counter space, I have nowhere near the amount of cupboard space needed to store my admittedly excessive supply of cookware and kitchen accessories.  I have had to rig out an armoire to hold my larger pots/pans and all my tupperware, and took over the coat closet to make a makeshift pantry which also holds my food processor and kitchen aid, as well as a number of baking dishes.

Ideally, I would have had a nice big island with a range so I could have set up a processing area.  The tomatoes could have gone straight from boiling water to ice bath to sheet pan to cool.  Then next to that I would have had a garbage bowl for all the skins and seeds, next to a cutting board, next to a giant bowl to hold all the tomato “meat” before it is returned to the pot with the onions and garlic.  Alas!  I don’t even want to tell you what my situation looked like but it wasn’t pretty.  I think I was just lucky that most of the tomatoes didn’t end up on the floor.

When it actually came down to the recipe the only major alteration I made was adding extra garlic.  The recipe called for 6 cloves. I did 10.  It was good.  It was actually really good.  And if not for the whole ordeal leading up to eating it, I would probably make it again.  I do think you could make a similar taste by using whole canned tomatoes.

Image

I served that wily sauce with thin spaghetti as recommended in the issue and I also did a quick chicken breast with some of the sauce and a couple slices of fresh mozzarella to make a fry-less chicken parmesan.  It was a really satisfying dinner.  And it felt quite healthy and wholesome.  I sort of wish the process had made more sauce than it did, because after saucing a lb of pasta and my chicken I was only left with about 2 cups so there wasn’t really enough to “put by” in the old fashioned sense.  If I do someday end up with an excess of tomatoes, I’ll know what to do with it.  And hopefully I will have a better kitchen by then!

Italian for “why am I buying these?”

Pasta with turkey meatballs and bocconcini

The best pasta is shiny pasta

The best pasta is shiny pasta

This recipe is delicious.  It is such a great comfort food choice.  It has the turkey meatballs that are tasty without being so rich and heavy as meatballs made with pork.  It has grape tomatoes, which really do take on a nice flavor when you heat them.  It has pasta.  It has butter.  It has cheese.  Sold.

Let’s talk about the cheese.  This recipe is a “have you tried” recipe.  So I felt compelled to follow the instructions and use bocconcini.  Well, I think for this one I used one of the other sizes of tiny mozzarella balls.  I think maybe it started with “C.”  Like I said in my last post about the mini pizzas, I just can’t see why you couldn’t cut fresh mozzarella into cubes to use in these recipes.  Even the introductory information in the magazine says that these are just small pieces of fresh mozzarella.  Yeah, they’re cute, but so what?

Another substitution note:  The recipe calls for orecchiette or other short pasta.  They had pipe rigate at Aldi (or at least I think I remember that’s what it was.  This website seems to confirm it.  How much fun is a pasta shapes dictionary, by the way?).  B called them “little snails.”  They were very good with the recipe.  The one drawback was really my fault.  I like to test pasta by taking pieces out of the boiling water and eating them.  Well, these little guys, like a lot of tubular pastas, hold a fair amount of water.  I scalded my tongue a couple times.  Oops.  I think shells would have been fine too.  I’d be hesitant to go much smaller with the pieces of pasta, like macaroni or something, because I think you’d wind up chasing a lot of little pieces around the plate.  This pipe rigate or the orecchiette snuggle in nicely with the meatballs and tomatoes.  Nothing beats a nice snuggly pasta.

Mac and Cheese!!! (This is one cheesy post)

www.marthastewart.com/313113/macaroni-and-three-cheeses

September 2007, pg. 116

One thing that Everyday Food does often and does well is mac and cheese.  Loads of variations of mac and cheese.  I’ve never tested the theory, but I suspect there is some form of cheesy baked noodle dish in just about every issue.  No complaints here!

Can you tell it's still bubbling?

Can you tell it’s still bubbling?

While I love mac and cheese, I’m usually too lazy to make it from scratch.  It’s not hard or anything, I just struggle to wait for the baking portion to be over to indulge in the cheesy goodness.  So this was a nice change.  And yes, I still couldn’t wait, so I saved a few noodles from the oven so I could do a quality assurance test (a must when there is cheese involved).

While the recipe says you can mix and match your favorite three cheeses, I actually stuck with the original suggestions and used white cheddar (can you get any other kind in VT?), havarti, and muenster. I’m glad I did!  I had forgotten how much I love muenster!!

I did make two slight alterations to the recipe.  I used cavatappi instead of shells and I used crushed buttery crackers instead of bread crumbs, mostly due to laziness again. I already had to wait for the cheesy delight to come out of the oven, I wasn’t going to delay it going in by having to process bread crumbs.

*Small side note on pasta choice.  The bear and I have recently discovered De Cecco pastas.  They are expensive for boxed pasta, but they are sooo worth it.  The texture is so much closer to fresh pasta its unbelievable.  We try to stock up whenever we can catch a sale.  Give it a try if you can.

Anyway, I waited so very patiently and the outcome was great.  It tasted even better the next day!  I would say I plan to make this again, but there are always so many mac and cheese options I suspect I won’t need to do a repeat!

Rice and Noodles: Dinners this week took an Asian adventure

Shrimp Fried Rice (no recipe online, see below)

Chicken, Edamame, and Noodle Stir Fry

September 2007, pg. 18 & 111

Chicken, Edamame, and Noodle Stir Fry

Chicken, Edamame, and Noodle Stir Fry

The hardest part of this dish was finding the ingredients.  I just spent the last five years living in the land of Wegman’s.  For those of you who know Wegman’s, you will already understand why this is an issue for me.  For those of you who don’t, educate yourself.  Needless to say, I started to take Wegman’s a little for granted and just assumed most things could be found at my local grocery store.  So when I moved here and had to deal with (gasp!) normal grocery stores, I have found myself a little lost.  What do you mean they don’t always carry lamb chops?!  Where is my Republic of Tea?!?!?!?! (This issue has resulted in approximately 3 weeks of checking every supermarket and specialty store which could fathomably carry Republic of Tea Earl Greyer.  I’m fairly traumatized.) What is this pathetic olive bar selection?? And where are my 300+ specialty cheeses?!?!  Anyway, I assumed I would be able to run up to the Shaw’s and just grab a package of udon noodles and some pre-shucked edamame.  Wrong! I had to check 3 different stores before I managed to luck out at basically a local version of whole foods.  I couldn’t even find udon noodles at the local Asian Market which strangely had mostly Indian stuff…

Anyway, after all that, it turned out ok.  I just say ok because while it was decent, it was lacking anything that thrilling.  The Bear I live with says it would have benefitted from some duck sauce (hey, what wouldn’t benefit from some duck sauce?!) but he settled for some sriracha sauce (yeah, pretty different from duck sauce I know).  If I decide to make this again, I might try to add in a little more rice wine vinegar and maybe a little sesame oil.

The real star of my Asian romp was the Shrimp Fried Rice (recipe below)!

Ugh, I wish I had some I could eat right now!

Ugh, I wish I had some I could eat right now!

First of all, I had managed to find some incredible deal on some really incredible shrimp (I guess Shaw’s isn’t all bad…) and was super psyched to use them.  I was a little nervous that the Shrimp Fried Rice wouldn’t do them justice but I took the risk and it was sooo worth it!!!!

This recipe uses a fair amount of lime juice and I am certain that is what made all the difference.  It was so sharp and vibrant and the shrimp was so sweet and plump! My only complaint is that it could maybe use a little more crunch.  Next time I will add some thinly shredded Napa cabbage.  And there will definitely be a next time!

Ok here’s the recipe:

Shrimp Fried Rice*

Prep Time: 15 minutes (depending on how fast you are with a knife) Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups rice (I used brown rice and was very satisfied with the results)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil (I used coconut oil and again, very satisfied)

2 eggs beaten

1 lb peeled-deveined shrimp coarsely chopped

2 carrots thinly sliced

2 scallions sliced

1 garlic clove minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (so good!)

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup lime juice

So have your rice already cooked and ready to go.  I made mine the day before.  Put half the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and add your beaten egg.  Don’t scramble it further.  Let it cook until it’s set like an egg pancake then slide it out and slice it up.  Set that aside.  Then add the rest of your oil to the skillet, still on medium heat, and toss in the shrimp, carrots, scallions, garlic and ginger.  Keep tossing it around as it cooks.  It only takes 3 – 5 minutes.  When the shrimp are pink and have firmed up they are done.  Don’t overcook them!  Tough shrimp are the worst! (Well maybe not the worst, they are still shrimp after all…).

When your shrimp look cooked add in the rice, eggs, soy sauce and lime juice.  Keep mixing it up until it all seems heated through and bam!  You have a really awesome dinner ahead of you!  You can add some scallion greens to make it look pretty. Enjoy!

*adapted from Everyday Food Issue 45 (September 2007) p. 18.

Yellow Squash Four Ways

September 2007, pgs. 20 – 30

B here, starting off our first joint post!!

I do love yellow squash, but I am sad to say I have rarely strayed from one recipe which features yellow squash, zucchini, onion, garlic and FETA!!

image

(You may recognized this from my post of Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Herbed Couscous)

The first recipe I tried was the Quick-Marinated Yellow Squash Salad.  It features shallots (yay!!), lemon juice, and thyme.  I never would have thought to eat yellow squash raw (mostly based on texture issues I have), but by very thinly slicing it and mixing it with the acidity of the lemon juice it changed the texture enough to be very pleasing.  It was crisp but not exactly crunchy.  And the squash itself was much more nutty than when cooked.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be making this one again.

The next squash recipe I went with was Slow-Cooked Yellow Squash, which was very similar to my standard yellow squash sauté.

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Unfortunately, I was a little heavy handed with the salt in this instance.  It still tasted pretty good, but I drank like a camel after.  Luckily, I can safely say that when properly seasoned this recipe is absolutely delicious (especially if you toss in a little feta at the end)!

Hey, it’s G.  I took care of the creamy fusilli with yellow squash and bacon and the stuffed tex mex yellow squash.  Let me begin by informing you that today’s word is “calabcita.”  Here’s a picture of one:

I have small hands, so this isn't very good for scale

I have small hands, so this isn’t very good for scale

The internets tell me that it is a Mexican squash roughly akin to summer squash and zucchini.  Yellow squash was looking nasty at my store, but they had these instead.  They were sitting right next to the summer squash and looked summer squashy, so I decided to use them.  It was a good choice.  Here it is all hollowed out and ready for stuffing:

doing their best zucchini impression

doing their best zucchini impression

The tex-mex stuffed squash recipe is good, but not at all unique.  I count on the “have you tried?” or “in season” recipes to take the ingredient to new and interesting places.  Anyone who hasn’t had stuffed zucchini a million times, raise their hand.  I don’t see many hands.  This doesn’t break any new ground.  It’s onions, peppers, chopped up squash innards, corn, etc. all stuffed in with a tomato sauce and baked.  Yawn.  I would have liked to see maybe a Greek version with oregano and feta.  That would be something new.  I guess mine is different because of the funny squash.  It’s not different enough for me.

The note in the magazine says that all of the beef and corn and cheese adds “kid appeal.”  I’m lucky enough to a have a kid who is too young to make much of a protest, not that I tried feeding him this.  I think maybe I would, if I broke it up a little.  They say corn kernels are a choking hazard, though…  Goodness knows this kid needs to get used to eating stuff make out of Everyday Food!

at least it's colorful

at least it’s colorful

Before I go on, I’ll tell you something that might make you think of this dish differently.  I guess I have two words for today.  The other is “zuccanoe.”  You pronounce it like the first part of zucchini (the “zucc”) with the word “canoe.”  I was eating the leftovers of this dish in the break room at work when my co-worker came in, looked at my food, and said “Oh!  Zuccanoes!”  It almost sounded like he said “zut alors!”  I asked him what he was so excited about, and he told me that he has an old book that calls stuffed zucchini, zuccanoes.  I’m making up the spelling, by the way.  I thought it was so cute.  I hope it catches on.

Creamy fusilli with yellow squash and bacon

If you’re going to have pasta carbonara, but it makes you feel bad about yourself, I recommend this recipe.  Look, it has a vegetable!  Cream and bacon and cheese justified.  You’re welcome.

This recipe suffers from a problem I find with a lot of recipes, the veggies are too big for the pan.  I cut up my four yellow squash and that was enough to fill the pan:

perhaps they weren't "medium" sized after all

perhaps they weren’t “medium” sized after all

I wound up taking out about a cup and a half of cooked squash.  Otherwise, the recipe is very easy and straight-forward.  I once again failed to read closely and cooked the bacon slices whole, then chopped them after they were cooked.  I know better.  It takes longer that way, and you wind up with unpleasant, little bacon shards in your food.  Also, the recipe says you can substitute parmesan for asiago.  Don’t mind if I do!

There's a veggie in there somewhere...

There’s a veggie in there somewhere…

So if you need to use up some yellow squash (by the way, I can’t see why zucchini or our new friend calabcita wouldn’t be good in this) and/or you need an excuse to eat cream and bacon, this is a good recipe.

G over and out!

Iceland is expensive

Lamb chops with garlic parsley crust*

Issue 45 September 2007 p. 66-68 (no link found online)

Rice pilaf with vermicelli

p. 130

getting all artsy with the angles

getting all artsy with the angles

Shopping at Whole Foods makes me lose all sense of the value of money.  Everything is so expensive, and you’ve already committed yourself to shopping at Whole Foods, so you might as well just go nuts.  I can’t seem to make it out of there without panicking and buying a bottle of wine from a display just because it said something vague like “yummy with beef.”  Yummy with beef?  I’d be stupid not to buy it!  $100 later, I trundle out to the car a broke(n) woman.

This trip was no different.  You see, this recipe calls for a lamb chop.  Does lamb have a season?  It should be spring, right?  Because that’s when baby animals are born?  Something about Easter?  Anyway, my goofy grocery store has entire sides of lamb around Easter.  I don’t want to talk about what a side of lamb looks like sitting in a meat case.  It looks sad.  Anyway, when I went shopping neither the sides of lamb nor any other pieces of the lamb were available.  I should have tried a couple local butchers in the neighborhood.  I really should have.  But my grocery store was also all out of yellow squash.  What magical place would have out-of-season meat and out-of-season vegetables?  Probably Whole Foods.  Sigh.  Whole Foods also sells bulk bacon, which is nice for when you just need it for a recipe and don’t want to buy a whole pound.

*panicked breathing*

*panicked breathing*

I’ll cut to the chase.  I purchased $17.99 per pound Icelandic lamb chops. Here’s the actual text message exchange between B and me in response to these chops:

G: This lamb had better be spectacular.  $17.99/lb at whole foods.  Meep!

B: Gah!  That’s ridiculous!!!  [Did] the sheep graze in pristine alpine meadows and drink nothing but glacial spring water?!

G: Im sure they lived an infinitely better life than I have.  In Norway.  That’s right.  Norway.

B: Well I hear the Scandinavians have a great lifestyle

. . .

G: Oh and the lamb was from Iceland.  Even more absurd.  But oh was it good!!

B: Yum!  Maybe the lamb regularly immersed itself in hot springs to make it extra tender.  That might make it worth $17.99 /lb

Hot spring bath or no, this was very good lamb.  It was delicious and tender and lovely.  In fairness to the good people at MSLO, this is supposed to be a Cooking for One recipe.  I could have saved money by not feeding D.  The spinach was nice, but it was really just there as a foil for that lovely lamb.  If you make this, and I hope you do, please note that there is no reason (except for fussiness) not to get your lemon wedge from the same lemon that provided the zest.  It’s an ugly wedge, but it saves you from buying another lemon just for the wedge.  Also, be confident, but gentle, when placing these chops in the pan.  Press all you like, these suckers are going to shed some crust when you place them and when you flip them.  Speaking of which, take their advice and use tongs.  Finally, wipe out the skillet with a paper towel between the lamb and the spinach.  Because the lamb chops shed some of their topping, some of it gets burned sitting in the oil with no lamb to keep it in check.  There’s really no reason to cook the spinach in burned crumbs.

The rice pilaf was a rice pilaf.  It was buttery.  It was a little rich with the butter and broth, but not too much so.  It had pasta in it, which is always nice.  Here’s a question, dear readers, do you recognize this as Rice a Roni (the San Francisco treat)?  The MSLO website tries to be coy about this by calling it “our homemade rendition of a long-popular packaged side…”  Nudge. Wink.  Another question: D and I both grew up believing that the long pieces in Rice a Roni were long grains of rice.  Anyone else think this?  It’s ok to admit it.  This recipe reveals that those are, of course, pieces of pasta.

I did not, in fact, use vermicelli.  I used what Aldi calls whole wheat “thin spaghetti.”  What is vermicelli if not thin spaghetti?  Speaking of the pasta, the recipe has you cut the pasta into little pieces with kitchen shears and set it aside before you cook the rest.  This is dumb for a couple reasons.  First of all, you add the rice, pasta, and oil together before you cook them all for 3-5 minutes.  That gives you enough time to snip the little pasta pieces into the pan while the other ingredients get started.  All you sacrifice is a little extra cooking of the raw pasta strands.  Second, cutting the pasta over the pot contains the wildly ricocheting strands and keeps you from having to gather all that up again into a nice, neat pile until you’re ready for them.  Just cut the pasta over the pot when it’s time to add it.

It’s a nice side, and it complemented the lamb and spinach very nicely.  Oh, and in a little more blog synergy, we had the citrus spritzers as a before dinner drink.  Stay tuned for more about that.

*Recipe for the chops and spinach

prep time: 20 minutes; total time: 25 minutes.  This recipe is pretty much all prep and very brief periods of cooking

(NOTE: original recipe is a Cooking for One recipe.  I doubled it to feed me and D)

  • 2 T plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 2 T chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 t grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedge for serving (if you don’t care if it’s cute, you can get the wedge from the denuded lemon)
  • 4 t olive oil, divided
  • 4 loin lamb chops (3-5 oz each)
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, stems trimmed (I don’t think I actually doubled this part.  I thought a whole bunch of spinach per person seemed excessive, even if it is cooked down)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, zest, and 2 t of the oil; season with salt and pepper.  Dividing that breadcrumb goo equally between the four chops, press the mixture firmly on one side of the chop.  This works…ok.  Just press hard, set it to the side on a flat surface and resign yourself to a mess.
  2. In a non-stick skillet, heat the remaining 2 t oil over medium.  Working gently, but confidently and quickly (lest the crumbs fall off) place the chops, crumb side down; season with S & P again.  Cook until crust is browned, 3-4 minutes; using tongs, turn even more gently than you did before, and cook 4-6 minutes more for medium rare.  Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil just to keep the chops warm.  Wipe out the skillet because there are probably burned bits in it.
  3. Add spinach to skillet; season with S & P.  Cook, tossing, until wilted, 1-3 minutes.  Serve lamb with spinach and lemon wedges.

-adapted from Everyday Food Issue 45 (September 2007) p. 66-68

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Herbed Couscous

www.marthastewart.com/338178/chicken-breasts-stuffed-with-herbed-cous

September 2007, pg. 105

Ok folks, there are many types of things that I would recommend stuffing inside a chicken breast.  Asparagus with tomato, basil and fontina: Absolutely! Ham and Cheddar: Fabulous! Herbed Couscous: No thanks!

It’s not that it didn’t taste good.  Because honestly it was tasty, but it was such a pain to prepare and cook that it really wasn’t worth it.

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I served it with the Quick-Marinated Yellow Squash Salad. More to follow on that in a later post.

First of all, couscous is not easy to jam inside a small slit on a chicken breast.  I much prefer a stuffing method that more or less involves butterflying a chicken breast and then wrapping it around the fillings.  Shoving tiny little beads of pasta inside a meat pocket is not so convenient.

I don’t mind going out of my way to use intricate methods in my cooking if it actually improves the final product, but this just resulted in a caked together lump of couscous instead of the soft and fluffy type I love.

I also found the herb options a little dull for my tastes so instead I used diced prunes (That’s right! Don’t knock ’em until you’ve tried ’em!) and toasted almond slices.  That on its own was delicious and I think next to a nice sautéed chicken breast would have been lovely, but no, I had to stuff it inside.

Not only did I not like the outcome, the stuffing made it so much harder to judge when it was finished cooking.  I can usually tell with chicken by poking it (I cook a lot of chicken) but I resorted to the quick-read thermometer with this and it still somehow managed to be undercooked!

Needless to say, this is not a recipe I plan on making again.   Oh well, on to my next experiment: Marinated Bocconcini!

Zucchini fish dish

Steamed Flounder with Vegetable Couscous

Bachelor chow?  Not bad.

Bachelor chow? Not bad.

This recipe explains a lot about why I love(d) Everyday Food.  The issue B and I chose is one of the issues that went with my husband, D, during our brief academic separation.  Let me back up.  I went back to school in the fall of 2009 to get a master’s degree.  D stayed in Chicago while I went downstate because we thought it would only be a year and why uproot two lives.  So we had to divide up our stuff.  Lots of it went in my parents’ basement, lots into his parents’ basement, then the truly essential things were split between my new place and his new place.  Which brings me to Everyday Food.  Our collection of the magazine was split between us so that neither one of us would have to be without it.  I’ve been a subscriber since my mom transferred her subscription to me the fall that I started law school.  It was the fall right after I got married and the fall when I first moved to Chicago with that husband and got our cats.  This magazine is as old as my adulthood.  It taught me how to cook something besides macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, and 2-mustard chicken (a delectable dish involving…wait for it…two mustards).  So it’s important, ok?!?!

Because this recipe is from an issue that was in D’s custody during that year, he is the one with all of the experience cooking it.  In fact, he cooked it again this time.  I asked him for his thoughts about the recipe as someone who has made it so many times.  I asked him why he made it so often back in his semi-bachelor days.  He told me that it was a good choice because it is quick (that’s true, this dish really only takes maybe 15-20 minutes.  Not cookbook 15-20 minutes.  Real 15-20 minutes), and it gives you a lot of chunks of hands-off cooking time when you are free to unload the dishwasher, set the coffee for the next day, and clean up after yourself.  Plus, it is delicious.  He’s definitely right about that one.  It has a real Mediterranean flavor to it with the selection of vegetables, the couscous, and the oregano.  That makes it wonderfully light, but flavorful.  It is also nicely moist.  One does not think of things cooked in the microwave as being particularly moist, but this fish was perfect.  He also noted that this recipe uses pantry staples (dried oregano, olive oil, couscous) and things that store well for a long time (bell peppers, zucchini, and, if frozen, fish).  That makes it a good one for a semi-bachelor who doesn’t always have time to make it to the grocery store on a regular basis.

Another reason why D likes this recipe so much, he said, is because it does well with substitutions.  You’ll note that the recipe calls for flounder.  D always makes it with tilapia.  Why?  Because that’s what they sell in the big bags at Aldi.  You can also swap in other steaming-friendly vegetables without losing much.  I can imagine green beans in this dish.  This time around, D also substituted whole wheat Israeli couscous for the usual couscous.  This was completely delicious.  This did require one change to the cooking time.  You need to steam the veggie and couscous mixture for another minute if you’re using Israeli couscous.  That’s it!

A family classic worthy of becoming a staple long after we’ve reunited.