Where’s the beans?

Grilled chicken thighs and garden salsa

Bravo.  That's the worst picture on the entire blog.  Possibly the entire internet.

Bravo. That’s the worst picture on the entire blog. Possibly the entire internet.

First of all, let me apologize for possibly the worst picture on the internet.  A 90’s GIF of stars twinkling would have been better.  I’m guessing I need the paid version of WordPress to insert a GIF, so we aren’t going to find out which is worse.  So I apologize for this crime scene photo of a half eaten piece of chicken and some scattered salad.

Second, the chicken is fine.  It’s grilled chicken with a marinade.  We made it with bone-in, skin-on thighs and adjusted the cooking time.  That was fine too.

Third, and here’s where I really have something to say, the salsa needed beans.  Let me back up.  Do you know what Texas Caviar is?  It’s that salad with the black eyed peas, tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers, etc and a basic vinegarette.  You’ve seen it at cookouts.  I promise.  It’s usually served with tortilla chips.  It’s amazing.  I had a hard time eating this salsa because it’s just beans and jalapenos away from being Texas Caviar.  That and the total lack of tortilla chips.  Always a problem.  So while this was tasty, the constant reminder of something tastier ruined it for me.  By the way, there’s an awesome Texas Caviar recipe in Martha’s American Food.  Ah, yet another 50 state cookbook that I own that could be used for some kind of dinner party theme, but is not.  Sigh.

Upshot: make some Texas Caviar and recommend some photography lessons.


That Old Bay river…

Poached Shrimp on Succotash

SHRIMP!!! (with guest appearance by succotash)

SHRIMP!!! (with guest appearance by succotash)

This is from a feature on poaching.  I’m on record as loving poaching as a cooking method, but I’ve never poached shrimp.  It never seemed necessary to me.  I like to poach chicken because chicken gets dry when you cook it other ways (has anyone ever had dry shrimp?), needs flavor (shrimp is a flavor), and I hate checking to see if chicken is done or not (shrimp cooks almost instantly).  So the draw was not there.  It turns out that poached shrimp is amazing.  This is poached in water and Old Bay with a halved lemon thrown in there for good measure.  My can of Old Bay is almost certainly 10 years old, but this was still good.  I should probably buy another can, but let’s be honest with ourselves, I do not cook a lot of seafood, let alone the kind of awesome seafood (read: crabs) that takes a lot of Old Bay.  So old Old Bay keeps on rolling along.

The succotash is fine.  It’s just zucchini, green beans, and corn.  It’s almost certainly a waste of corn on the cob to cut it off and cook it like this.  Unless the price of corn on the cob is truly great (and it isn’t yet), then frozen corn is going to be a better bet.  Really, the shrimp is the star here.  I’d recommend poaching the shrimp this way and serving it with some cocktail sauce.  I don’t have my secret cocktail sauce recipe in front of me to share with you, so I’ll have to give it from memory…  Here it goes: about a 1/2 c. of ketchup, an 1/8 c. prepared horseradish, 1 T or more of hot sauce, 1 t Worcester sauce, maybe a little salt and pepper.  Honestly, I think the recipe might be closer to 1/4 c. horseradish.  I add so much horseradish that this is actually pink, not red.  If you like hot cocktail sauce, give this a try.


Tofu-vegetable stack

Through the magic of small plates and camera angles, this doesn't look all that small!

Through the magic of small plates and camera angles, this doesn’t look all that small!

This dish is labeled as a “Meatless Main.”  It also gives its calorie information as 175 calories per serving.  Now, unless you’re going to have a rather substantial side dish or you’re saving ample room for dessert (good move) or you’re using MyFitnessPal and you find yourself with no more calories left….this is a side salad.  That’s how we served it.  We had frozen pizza with this as a side.  I wound up eating less pizza because this was here, so that’s good.  Anyway, I just wanted to point out for you that this is meatless, but it’s probably not much of a main dish as is.

On to the more interesting things.  Can you really grill tofu?!  Yes!  You definitely have to drain it to get it nice and dry.  The recipe says to split the block crosswise in four and the picture looks like big slices of tofu, so I took that to mean that you were supposed to cut it horizontally to make, in essence, wide patties of tofu.  This made sense from a grilling standpoint.  My tofu was wider than your usual block and not quite so tall, so I just cut it once.  If I cut it into four big slices, there’s no way they’d have the structural integrity not to fall through the grates.  Plus, only two people were eating, so why bother?

D is silly

D is silly

The veggies also grilled very nicely, and the dressing was awesome.  I took some liberties with the dressing.  I only had a little bit of parsley, but I have an herb garden in my window that’s producing basil, thyme, and oregano.  I chopped up some basil and oregano and added it to the little bit of parsley I already had.  That was delicious.  It took on more of an Italian flavor.  I really enjoyed the earthiness I got from the oregano.  Fresh oregano is really pretty awesome, but who wants to bother, right?  Right.  So I definitely recommend getting creative with your fresh herbs.  And here’s the real bonus to getting creative with your herbs…and this is kind of a fat kid move…the dressing is very good on frozen pizza.  How do I know?  Are you going to make me say it?  I dipped my pizza in it.  I figure fresh herb, fresh lemon, and olive oil dressing on pizza is the classy version of dipping it in ranch dressing.  Whatever.  It was good.

So please enjoy this side salad or very small main dish or pizza dip.

Well, once you notice the lemon wedge for scale, you really do see how small this is.

Well, once you notice the lemon wedge for scale, you really do see how small this is.

Clean it out and cook it up

Big-batch vegetable soup

D ran a marathon.  Go D!  :)

D ran a marathon. Go D! 🙂

This recipe is spectacular for a few reasons.  It’s a freeze it, so right away you know I’m excited.  It’s soup.  Soup’s a good thing (cite: David Sedaris…does WordPress do footnotes?  What’s the HTML tag for footnotes?  Please don’t tell me).  Here’s why this recipe is great, and it’s not something that jumped right out at me.  Take a look at the last ingredient:

8 cups mixed fresh or frozen vegetables, such as carrots, corn, green beans, lima beans, peas, potatoes, and zucchini

8 cups of whatevs.  How great is that?  Random half bags of frozen veggies in the freezer staring you in the face?  Toss em in!  Recipe last night only used one of two potatoes now you’re stuck with one potato?  Toss it in!  I had leftover calabcita from September’s squash substitutions.  I had a bunch of lima beans from making a succotash for J.  I had a ton of frozen corn because Everyday Food recipes use a surprising amount of corn.  It all went in there.  I think I actually used 6 or 7 different vegetables.  I think this makes this a great recipe for times when your freezer or fridge has an odd glut of vegetables.  Or for when lots of things look good at a farmers’ market and you can’t think of what else to do with it.  No matter the reason, this is a tasty soup.  I look forward to having it some night when I’m too lazy to cook and too guilty/cheap to order in.

Zucchini Spice Bread Gone Wrong… Sort Of…

Doesn't that look autumnal?  It smells autumnal...

Doesn’t that look autumnal? It smells autumnal…

So once again, we have stumbled onto something I have never baked before.  I tend to go for banana bread personally (usually because I fail to eat all the bananas I purchased and need to do something with the remainder!).  I also wasn’t sure I would love the Zucchini Spice Bread recipe so I decided to get it out of the way quickly.

For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised.  The combination of spices is just so delicious smelling (and tasting).  I baked this on one of the first pretty chilly days we had here so I had the added warmth from the oven and the lovely spices wafting around.  It was so cozy that I had to go throw on some knee socks to really get the effect I was going for (I have a thing for knee socks).

I followed the recipe pretty exactly, except I used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.

I let it bake for 50 minutes.  I inserted a toothpick into the center and it came out clean.  I let it cool in the pan for a bit.  When I returned to the kitchen it had collapsed! Somehow that darn toothpick test got the best of me and it was still a bit doughy in the middle.  I didn’t discover exactly how doughy until I had cut into it and I ended up trying to finish the baking process in the microwave.  As a result the texture was not quite as glorious but the flavor was still pretty awesome.  So when you bake this, because you should, maybe do a double or triple toothpick test to make sure it is really done!!

We’re bloggers!!! (And I make Spiced Chickpea and Zucchini Sauté)

That’s right! We have officially finished with our first issue of Everyday Food!  I think it is safe to say we are officially bloggers now.  It didn’t quite feel real before…

The next issue we selected is Issue 6, October 2003.  It’s a good one, so stick around!

We have learned a few things since starting.  First of all, there are occasionally recipes that are really hard to make yourself cook. Not because they don’t look tasty, but maybe they require an absurd amount of fresh produce (hello, fresh tomato sauce!) or maybe they involve making enough cupcakes to feed a small army.  Either way, some recipes are harder to get to than others.  So, to prevent a stall out this month, we are attempting to tackle our least tempting recipes first.

Which leads me to Spiced Chickpea and Zucchini Sauté.


Ok, ok I said the recipes we struggled with weren’t because of a tastiness factor.  That in some instances is a lie.  I was in no way tempted to make this sauté.  Not because of the flavor profile, but because of the chickpeas.  Unless they are ground into a hummus or chunked up in a falafel, I have no desire to eat chickpeas.  They are so grainy!

Anyway, I decided to take one for the team and knock this out straightaway.  I couldn’t have been more shocked by the outcome! The seasonings create a sort of North African vibe (which I love!) much like those in a traditional tagine recipe.  And miraculously, all that simmering turns the chickpeas into a smooth, almost velvety texture in your mouth.  I went back for seconds! Who knew I could love a chickpea in its original form?! I definitely plan to make this again, but I may need to wait for zucchini to come back into season.  (Insert sad trombone sound here…)

Hooray for chickpeas!!!