Needs a little protein

Brown-rice salad with spinach and tomatoes

Green vegetable stir fry

Thanks, feta!

Thanks, feta!

Kudos, tofu!

Kudos, tofu!

Here are two recipes that just need a little something to save them from themselves.  The first is the brown rice salad.  It’s not some great elements: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, dill, a nice dressing, and some nutty brown rice.  Know what it’s missing?  Some kind of protein, preferably of the dairy variety.  It’s got cucumbers and dill, so it’s already vaguely Greek.  In steps feta, and it’s perfect.

Then there’s the green vegetable stir fry.  So so good.  So so so little going on besides vegetables.  Leeks, snow peas, bok choy, celery, ginger.  I served it on brown rice, and that helped.  Again, it needed protein.  Delicious cheese didn’t really seem right (not that it ever seems wrong), but tofu was perfect.  Please take a second look at those cubes.  I have a slightly (read: extremely) anal trick for stir frying tofu.  Cut the tofu into cubes.  True cubes with nearly equal sized sides.  Heat up some vegetable oil.  Place the cubes into the hot oil and turn them every 3-4 minutes.  I turn them by knocking them over on to another side and paying attention to which sides are brown and which are white.  This way, it all gets evenly fried.  You have to be willing to sit with a pair of tongs and gently bob tofu cubes on to their sides by a quarter turn.  If that sounds like madness, just stir them…like the lout that you are!  Either way, the tofu adds the protein and makes this a satisfying meal.

Something has happened with this green veggie stir fry that hasn’t happened with this blog in a very long time.  The recipe is not online.  Sonofa!  So I’m going to do you a solid and give you the recipe, adapted for to add the protein and brown rice that it needs.

Green vegetable stir fry (adapted from Everyday Food issue # 69 January/February 2010 p. 91)

  • 2 medium leeks (white and green parts only), halved lengthwise and rinsed well
  • 3 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 T minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 head bok choy (3/4 pound), cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 c snow peas, trimmed
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • coarse salt (omit if using normal broth or substitute a little soy sauce when you serve it)
  • 1/4 low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • cooked brown rice for serving
  • block of extra firm tofu, drained and cut into perfect 1-inch cubes
  1. In a non-stick skillet, heat 1 T of the vegetable oil on medium-high heat.  Place the cubes into the hot oil and turn them a quarter turn onto a new side every 3-4 minutes, browning them evenly.  Pay attention to the first turn, you may find you need more or less cooking time to brown the cubes.
  2. In the meantime, cut leeks into 2-inch pieces; separate layers.  Heat another large skillet (your biggest, widest saucepan is a good choice here) or wok over medium-high heat until hot.  Add another 1 T oil, swirl to coat skillet.  Add half the ginger, half the garlic, and half the leeks.  You’re doing the veggies in two batches because they are going to lose a lot of liquid.  Stir until the leeks begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes.  Increase heat to high; add half the bok choy, half the snow peas, and half the celery.  Season with salt or soy sauce, if using low-sodium broth.  Stir until vegetables begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add half the borth; toss until snow peas are bright green, 1 minute. Transfer veggies to a platter or big bowl.
  3. Repeat all of that stir frying with the remaining ingredients.  Remember that’s: ginger, garlic, and leeks, then bok choy, snow peas, and celery.
  4. Serve over brown rice with pan-fried tofu cubes on top.  Season with soy sauce, as desired (as they say in cookbooks)
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Mexican food can be fussy, you know

Green chile posole with black beans

D wants to know why hominy is always squeaky.  Good question.

D wants to know why hominy is always squeaky. Good question.

French food has a reputation for being very complicated, difficult, and time-consuming to cook.  But I’d like you, dear reader, to compare this recipe linked above to a recipe for Potage Parmentier.  Which one would you pick for a weekday?  This recipe has no fewer than 15 ingredients, not counting the salt and pepper and the cheese on top.  You have to chop a lot of them.  The “active time” of 10 minutes on this recipe is nonsense.  It’s more like 20-30 minutes of prep before it gets cooked for 45 minutes.  Looking back, the most complicated dish I’ve ever made was chicken mole.  So I think that Mexican food deserves a little bit of the fussy reputation that French food gets.  It’s not all beef tacos.

Ah, but how does the soup taste?  Delicious.  The parsley, cilantro, and spinach make for a green and fresh soup. We had this as an appetizer before our New Year’s Eve dinner.  It served as an appetizer/first course/salad.  I also think that the allspice made this one special.  It gave the soup a spicy earthiness.  It’s certainly spicy, but not too hot.  It’s like an excellent salsa verde, but deeper and richer.  If you’ve got the time to make something like this, I recommend it.

Ugh! Radicchio… (And a really super awesome chicken recipe)

So.  How to start?  The November 2007 issue featured radicchio in the “Have You Tried?” column.  The extent of my radicchio experience was the little shreds of it found in salad green mix.  From that experience, I thought “Great!  I love radicchio!  I bet it’s delicious on its own!”.  I was wrong.  Very, very wrong.

Looks good, right?!  Well, partly right...

Looks good, right?! Well, partly right…

In addition to the awfulness that is radicchio, none of these recipes appear to be online anymore.  I can only assume this is because Martha realized they were inedible (except the lovely chicken!!) and had them banished from her domain.

So, if you have the issue, you can find the recipe for Chicken with Lemon-Mustard Sauce and Seared Radicchio on page 156.  If not, I’ll do my best for you here because really, this chicken is worth a try.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs all-purpose flour

1 1/2 lbs chicken cutlets (or cheat like me and slice a couple of breasts into 3 or 4 pieces length wise)

2 Tbs olive oil

2 Tbs dijon mustard

2 Tbs capers (drain them and rinse them so all that briny-ness doesn’t get into your sauce)

2 Tbs fresh lemon juice

2 Tbs butter (keep it cold and cut into cubes)

2 heads of radicchio, quartered (feel free to skip this part)

Get a large skillet heating up on medium high heat and add 1 Tbs of that once it is heated.  Meanwhile, dredge your chicken in the flour seasoned with some salt and pepper.  Once the skillet it hot, toss those cutlets in! Don’t crowd them, do them in two batches.  They cook pretty quickly so just cook them until lightly browned on either side and cooked through.  Once cooked move them to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep them warm.

Once you are all done with the chicken, add 3/4 cup water to the skillet and boil it until it has reduced to about 1/2 a cup.  This sucks up all the chicken drippings and floury goodness to lightly thicken the sauce.  Once that has reduced, remove it from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice, mustard and capers.  Once that is all combined, whisk in the butter a little at a time until the sauce gets glossy and beautiful. You can add a little salt and pepper at this point if you think it needs it.  Move the yumminess into a bowl and wipe out the skillet.

Add that last Tbs of oil into the pan and toss the radicchio in with cut side down.  Don’t turn it until it is lightly charred and then repeat on the other cut sides.

Serve it all together with a bit of the sauce on the radicchio as well.

*adapted from pg. 156, November 2007, issue 47

Now, I think I’ve made it pretty clear how delicious this chicken is.  It’s something special.  It’s something to make for guests.  The radicchio is not.  It’s just not.  The bear and I were both pretty excited about trying it.  It looked pretty awesome.  We each took a bite.  It took every ounce of will power not to instantly spit it out.  It was so intensely bitter that my body was literally rejecting it as poison.  The bear’s reaction was the same.  We tried again.  Same result.  We tried again with a bit of chicken on the fork thinking that might cut the bitterness.  No, it just ruined the flavor of the chicken.  We gave up.  The leftovers went straight in the trash.  We gorged on the chicken to forget the wretchedness.

The bear vowed we would never eat radicchio again!  Then G came for a visit.  We were certain that the Radicchio Slaw would be better.  Perhaps it was the searing that made it so repulsive.  If you are interested in giving it a try, you can find the recipe on page 158.  We were still wary so we cut the recipe in half so in the off chance it was just as bad as the seared radicchio, we wouldn’t have to throw so much out.

It's a pretty purple...

It’s a pretty purple…

Here’s the recipe:

In a large bowl,  whisk together 3 tablespoons cider vinegar and 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar.  Once the sugar is dissolved whisk in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Add in the radicchio that has been halved, cored, and thinly sliced along with a couple of scallions thinly sliced on the diagonal.  And finally add in 1/2 celery seed and toss it all together.  Let that all marinade together for at least 10 minutes.

*adapted from pg 158, November 2007, issue 47

Then throw it all straight in the trash.  We tried to save it. We coated it in gravy.  It was edible that way, but not worth wasting the gravy on.  I won’t say it was quite as bad as the seared radicchio, but it wasn’t good.  It was still incredibly bitter, we even went a little heavy on the sugar trying to compensate.  No luck.

Radicchio, you are not my friend.  G, the brave soul tried the third and final recipe…

G, here.  I think B is giving radicchio slaw smothered in gravy (aka “crunchy gravy”) short shrift here.  It was great!  All the texture of cabbage with the taste of gravy!  Who wouldn’t love it?

Anyway, as B said, the final recipe fell to me, Radicchio, spinach, and apricot salad with goat cheese.  B and the bear had already been traumatized enough.  Wouldn’t you know it?  This recipe also isn’t available online.  Trying to hide it, are you?  Nice try.

Radicchio, spinach, and apricot salad with goat cheese

You can see the purple, right B?

You can see the purple, right B?

*adapted from Everyday Food issue #47 page 152 (November 2007)

  • 1/2 c. dried apricots, halved
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 head radicchio (~8 oz), halved, cored, and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 bag (5 oz) baby spinach
  • 2 oz. soft, crumbled goat cheese
  1. Place the apricots in a small bowl, cover with boiling water.  Let stand 5 minutes, drain, and pat dry with paper towels.  Try not to eat them.  Try
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and oil; season with coarse salt and ground pepper.  You could also do this in a small bowl and toss the dressing with the greens when you’re ready.  That’s what I did.
  3. Add apricots, radicchio, and spinach to bowl with dressing; toss to combine.  Serve topped with goat cheese.

And?! And?!?!  The suspense is killing you, right?  It was really good.  How did my good friend B take this news?  Was she happy for me?  Well, first she accused me of eating mostly spinach in this salad.  And then…

B: How is it?

G: Are you ready?  It’s good

B: I hate you.

And for that, you get the robot face 😐

G: Robot face all you like.  There’s no getting around this.  Radicchio has been just barely redeemed.

We ultimately agreed that all of the other flavors worked together to practically mask the flavor of the radicchio.  So we wound up where we started: appreciating radicchio for the small supporting role it plays in salad mix.  And that’s where it belongs.

You’re welcome.