Category Archives: Recipes

Return of the Fluff

Holy gawd: it appears I let half a month pass by without posting. OOOOPS! Life gets in the way of blogging, it seems. But, hey: I have updates! I started a new blog (kategarklavs.com — add it to your G-readers, yo!*), signed on as the content manager for LitBridge, continued the dating blitzkrieg, and spent a week in the glorious Midwest! Forgive me my absence? Oh, hell: forgive me or not, I’m still gonna post.

Fluff salad, a midwestern treat

As I mentioned, one of my favorite parts of visiting my ancestral homeland is eating junk food. I eat junk food in my Real, Everyday Existence, but not to the extent that I do while jammin’ in the flyover zone.** I’ll relate more of my junk-food experiences in another post, because what I really want to talk about now is Fluff.

Are you familiar with Fluff? I was not until three days ago. A cold salad of unknown origin, Fluff (aka Five-Cup Salad) is disgustingly simple to prepare and unsettlingly tasty. It’s a food you don’t want to cop to liking, but you will like it — unless you have a heart of stone, in which case you have larger problems to attend to. Are you ready for the recipe? Here goes:

Ingredients

  • One tub Cool Whip or other non-dairy whipped topping
  • Half a bag of miniature marshmallows. (You may use colored marshmallows, if you like.)
  • One packet pistachio pudding
  • One can cubed pineapple, drained
  • One can Mandarin oranges, drained
  • Approximately one-third bag sweetened shredded coconut
  • One tiny jar maraschino cherries, drained, stems removed

Method

  1. Dump your marshmallows into a large (and I mean LARGE) mixing bowl. Add the Cool Whip. Stir.
  2. Add the pudding mix to the Cool Whip/mallow mixture. Stir well to combine.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients; stir well to combine.
  4. Refrigerate before serving.
  5. Eat until you feel ill.

That’s it: really. You dump a bunch of sugar products in a giant bowl, stir, and devour. I was skeptical at first, but you know what? I’m a believer, so much so that I made my own batch of Fluff yesterday. Sarah and I ate some, and then ate some more, and then I had to put the leftovers away so we’d have some Fluff for tonight.


This isn’t the most flattering picture of yours truly, but it does depict me holding one of my favorite sugar products: frosted animal crackers. Oh, man: those things are good. Didn’t eat any while at home (surprisingly), but as long as I’m on the FluffTrain, I might as well add these lit’l dudes to my shopping list.

***

*I will warn you, however, that kategarklavs.com is still under construction. There’s no About section, and I’ve only uploaded a handful of posts. Par for the lazy-ass course!

**Note: I do not consider Minnesota (or Illinois) flyover states, but some California residents do. They are missing out on the riches/wonders that would await them, were they to deplane before hitting the East Coast.

Forever Home

HELLO THERE, INTERNET! NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

Just kidding! I mean, I’m kidding about not having seen the internet, because God, what do I do all day besides cruise the Information Superhighway in my sick, imaginary PT Cruiser? As you all have noticed — or maybe not noticed — this corner of the internet has lain dormant. Not quite gone to seed, it’s nonetheless grown over with dandelions and brambles and tiny maple saplings and other flora that might not coexist IRL.Abandonment metaphors aside, take a look at the rad dinner Alex and I prepared last night: Moroccan chicken and olives, served over couscous (top) and an arugula salad with vinaigrette (bottom).

The chicken was a freestyle based on a Food52 recipe I found. My criteria for yesterday’s dinner were as follows: 1) it can’t be boring; 2) it can’t be too difficult to make; 3) it can’t require tons of equipment, because I have exactly one (dullish) knife. Lo & behold, this dinner fit the bill on all accounts!

Would you like to replicate this gorgeous dinner? Yeeeeeeees? Here’s what you’ll need to do.

Moroccan Chicken and Olives (adapted from Food52.com)

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil (several tablespoons’ worth)
  • One pound boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of most visible fat
  • One small onion, finely chopped
  • Three cloves garlic, minced
  • One-inch hunk of ginger, skinned and diced
  • About three cups organic chicken stock
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Three carrots, cut into coins
  • Two bay leaves
  • Several strands of saffron
  • One teaspoon smoked paprika
  • A DASH of curry powder
  • Approx. 1.5 teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • Hearty dash of cumin
  • 1/2 cup olives, rinsed and drained
  • Chopped cilantro (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup)

Method

  1. Begin by drying, salting, and peppering your chicken thighs. Heat several tablespoons of veggie oil in a skillet. Place batches of the thighs in the skillet & brown them. Remove chix from skillet and set aside.
  2. In that same skillet, cook your onion until it’s translucent. Midway through the onion-cooking process, add your garlic and ginger to the pan.
  3. Once the onion is cooked, return the chicken to the skillet. Add just enough stock to cover the chicken. Add your lemon juice, lemon zest, carrots, and spices, and simmer until chicken and carrots are cooked through.
  4. At the very very end of the cooking process, add the olives and cilantro to the mix. Allow the olives to become warm, and then remove the skillet from heat.
  5. Serve chicken over couscous (or rice, if that’s your thing). You’ll have plenty of leftovers, and this will make you very happy.

In case any of you were wondering about the title of this post, I have news: I’ve moved! Again! Srsly, though, this is the last time, and trust me when I say this. (Trust: I signed a yearlong lease, so I won’t be schlepping across town anytime soon.)

I’m living with my pal Sarah, queen of snark and killer vegan cupcakes, and together we will furnish our Forever Home with the best craigslist has to offer. We’re already loving the new place, which was completely renovated prior to our move-in. That’s right: we’ve got new bamboo floors, a landscaped backyard, stainless appliances (incl. a DISHWASHER), and — best of all — a six-burner stove. Have I died and gone to heaven? Is heaven a 2BR railroad-style apartment? Don’t answer that. Instead, stop by and say hello! I’ll offer you a teacup of wine and whatever baked good I have available.

 

Savory Bread Pudding: Weeknight Save

I got home late after the longest day at the office, and I was inches away from getting takeout. Yes: Kate getting takeout, one of the rarest naturally occurring phenomena. Papalote beckoned me; Serrano’s suddenly seemed like the tastiest slice in the world. I was about to duck into a bodega for a sleeve of Pop Tarts, but at the last second, I withdrew. I had big plans for a loaf of stale bread.

You see, I’d been saving this bread for bread pudding. I was thinking sweet, initially, but then recalled a Bittman recipe I’d seen for savory. It would be perfect for dinner — the day had been cool, and I envisioned myself all wrapped up in a blanket, listening to Cat Power, eating a bowl of the pudding: Max Coziness. The power of this image was able to destabilize my momentary laziness, and I got to work.

My pudding was a modification of Mark Bittman’s Savory Bread Pudding, the recipe for which can be found here. Curious about the tweaks I made? Read on:

  • I reduced the amount of milk from 2 cups to 1.5 cups. BUT, to prevent the pudding from becoming too dry, I added two beaten eggs to the milk mixture.
  • I only used parmesan cheese (maybe 3 ounces? I didn’t measure) because I was too lazy to grate any mozzarella. Ooops.
  • In addition to sautéed shiitakes, I added garlic powder, minced green onions, and golden raisins to the bread mixture — worked like a charm!

How was the end result? See for yourself:

 My first bite was a timid one: I had small doubts about my willy-nilly inclusion of raisins. My second bite was much larger: the sweet raisins tasted perfect alongside the earthy mushrooms. Bittman, those mushrooms were a good call — without them, this dish would have tasted like, uh, bread soaked in milk and then baked for a bit. With them, the pudding was a real meal.

Next time around, I’m going to add some toasted nuts (toasted pistachios, or maybe pecans) and some additional sautéed veggies, just for healthiness’ sake. I might also bake the pudding for 3 – 5 minutes longer. (Note: The range is 35 – 40 minutes; my pudding baked for 37 and could have been a tetch crisper.)

As I set about my dinner prep last night, my roommate Scott asked if I’m “always in a cooking mood.” The short answer is no, I’m not. Last night, I was especially not in a cooking mood, but overcoming that initial stubbornness made my dinner all the more enjoyable: not only did I sidestep takeout temptation, but I felt good about having achieved something tangible at the end of a crazy day. I felt good about using that stale bread, and I felt good eating a warm meal. So many good things — I’ll remember these things the next time I feel like a cereal dinner.

Cozy Food: Pasta Sauce with Mushrooms and Squash

I’ve been feeling cozy. To increase the feeling, I keep my overhead light low and turn on two auxiliary lamps (one bedside, one tabletop). I light a candle. My current candle is fig, but pine is next on the schedule. I also bundle in large, homely clothes to increase my personal warmth. We do have a functional furnace, but my roommates prefer much lower temperatures than I do.

Yesterday, I bought the loveliest sweater that, when worn, morphs into the most hideous sweater. It is wool, Scottish, and vaguely Fair Isle. It’s also two sizes too big. I guess I’m the uglifying factor?

No matter: warmth is what’s important here.

Late last weekend, I had a keen craving for my mom’s pasta sauce. Saturdays of my youth, my mom would make this sauce for immediate and future use. She didn’t chop her garlic by hand, but instead used a press. That press, weatherbeaten, is still in my childhood kitchen.

For a Saturday dinner, we might have spaghetti with sauce, garlic toast (made with store-bought French bread spread with butter, sprinkled with garlic powder, and toasted at 350), and a green salad. One chore I hated was tearing the lettuce — I could never quite get it dry enough. The emergence of pre-bagged salads has all but extincted this task.

Here is my own cobbled recipe for pasta sauce. I used San Marzano tomatoes, 90/10 ground beef, yellow crookneck squash, and baby bella mushrooms, among other things. Not too spicy and not too sweet, the sauce is perfect with thick spaghetti.

Pasta Sauce with Mushrooms and Squash

Ingredients

  • One medium yellow onion, diced
  • Five cloves garlic, smashed and then minced
  • Approximately one pound lean ground beef (turkey, TVP, or Boca Crumbles may be used instead)
  • Two yellow squash, cut into like-sized pieces
  • 10 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • Two 28-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes
  • One can tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • White pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Herbes de Provence
  • White sugar — about 2/3 tablespoon (or to taste)

Method

  1. Start by browning your beef (or turkey, or alternate protein): heat a large skillet (lightly coated with olive oil), crumble the meat, and cook until browned. Drain meat, reserving in a dish, and discard excess fat.
  2. Using that same skillet (+ a dash of olive oil), cook your onions and garlic until onions are soft.
  3. Before proceeding, heat a large pot (soup pot, Dutch oven, or what have you) on a separate burner. Add a little splash of olive oil. Keep over low-medium heat until you’re ready to use it.
  4. To the onions/garlic, add your squash and mushrooms. Sautee the veggies for a few minutes until they’re starting to look soft. These veggies will be simmering in sauce for a bit, though, so don’t cook them fully.
  5. Transfer the veggies to your large pot. Add the meat. Add the two cans of tomatoes (and all accompanying juices) and the tomato paste. Also, add your spices: generous shakes of salt and pepper, a dash of white pepper, red pepper flakes, Herbes de Provence, and a little bit of sugar. The sugar is important — it cuts the acidity of the tomatoes. Also, it reminds me of my mom’s sauce. Maybe it reminds you of your mom’s sauce, too.
  6. Reduce the heat, allowing the sauce to simmer. Stir occasionally.
  7. Allow sauce to cool. Serve.

Quick & Dirty Minestrone

Via gchat, SS and I discussed the limitations of canned soup. Well, one limitation: that it’s spiked to the gills with sodium but strangely flavorless. “I just want to keep dumping salt in,” SS wrote, “but I don’t because it’s already hella salty, so then I force myself to eat bland soup.” And that, folks, sums it up.

Making soup from scratch isn’t difficult, just time consuming. If you use canned beans, it’s not that time consuming — certainly not in the geologic scheme of things. The bit of effort you invest will yield stellar results.

Aida Mollenkamp recently published a Minestrone recipe via Chow. Minestrone, I thought, I haven’t had that in ages. Just like that, the craving set in. Campbell’s minestrone — the only kind I knew — was one of my childhood favorites. I loved the uniform cubes of potato, the strangely symmetrical green beans, and the rich, tomatoey broth. I was gonna own this recipe.

My version deviates from Mollenkamp’s. As stated, I used canned beans. I also omitted a few things (frozen peas, zucchini) and added others (random chickpeas, Manchego rind, cilantro). Though a bit less salty than I’d have preferred — HA! — my soup was pretty spot on.

Do yourself a favor: set aside an evening to make a big pot of this Minestrone. Put half in the fridge and half in the freezer, and you won’t have to reach for a weird microwaveable cup of Chicken and Stars for your weekday lunch.

Aida Mollenkamp's Minestrone -- mine is a lot chunkier than this (but no less tasty)

(Photo Source)

Garky’s Minestrone (adapted from Aida Mollenkamp’s recipe)

Ingredients

  • Three tablespoons butter
  • Two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • One smallish yellow onion, minced
  • Four cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • Salt and pepper
  • One huge carrot, cut into small pieces
  • Two celery ribs, cut into small pieces
  • One bigass Russet potato, scrubbed and cut into uniform cubes
  • Two Bay leaves
  • One 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes (juice and all)
  • Four cups of low-sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • Parmesan or Manchego rind (optional, but recommended)
  • Eight ounces fresh green beans, cut into small pieces
  • About 1 cup of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • One can of cannellini beans (liquid reserved)
  • About 1.5 cups of water
  • About 1.5 cups small pasta (I used orichette, but use what suits your fancy)
  • One-quarter bunch cilantro, chopped

Method

  1. Heat butter and oil in a soup pot over a medium flame. When the butter is mostly melted, add your garlic and onions. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Add hefty shakes of salt and pepper.
  2. Once your onions are cooked, add your carrots, celery, potato, and Bay leaves. Mix to combine with onion/garlic mixture, and cook until celery is soft. Again, add salt and pepper (trust me on this one).
  3. Add your diced tomatoes, liquid and all. The original recipe recommended simmering until most of the liquid had evaporated, but I didn’t follow this directive — I knew I’d need that liquid.
  4. Add your broth and cheese rind. Simmer for a bit.
  5. Now, add your green beans, your chickpeas, and your cannellini beans (and the bean juice). If your soup looks more like stew, add water. It’s OK to eyeball the amount of water — I added more toward the end of the process, right before I added the pasta.
  6. Now is a good time to add your cilantro. Cilantro doesn’t belong in Minestrone, you say? Rubbish! (The store I went to was out of Italian parsley, so I subbed this in. Worked great.)
  7. This step is important: ten minutes before you remove your soup from the heat, add your pasta. Don’t add it too early, lest it become overcooked. I let my pasta cook for about eight minutes before moving the pot to an unused burner.
  8. Allow soup to cool, and enjoy!

One note: the next time around, I’ll add a bit more water (or broth). Though the soup’s consistency was dead-on right after I pulled it from the flame, the pasta absorbed some of the liquid and my soup is a little chunky as a result. This doesn’t bother me — I’m a lover of chunky soups — but it’s a good thing to bear in mind.

Brunch that Will Change Your Life: Porcini Manchego Eggs with Breadcrumbs

No melodrama here: today’s brunch changed my outlook on the meal. That’s saying a lot, given that brunch is already my favorite eating occasion. The seeded toast (heavily buttered), Prather Ranch maple bacon, and steamed purple kale were understandably delightful, but Alex’s Porcini Manchego Eggs with Breadcrumbs have srsly improved my quality of life.

Based on Bittman’s recipe for Fried Eggs with Breadcrumbs, Alex’s dish is easier to prepare for a crowd. Classy enough for guests but simple enough to be made on a whim, these eggs are going to become your favorite brunch (or lunch, or dinner) staple.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe.

Alex’s Porcini Manchego Eggs with Breadcrumbs (Serves 5-6)

Ingredients

  • One loaf of high-quality, stale bread.
  • Seasonings of your choice — flavored salts, Italian seasonings, and fresh-ground pepper are all solid options.
  • Large pat of butter (2-3 tbsp.) and a generous pour of olive oil
  • One package dried porcini mushrooms, soaked
  • Three cloves garlic, minced
  • 10-12 eggs, beaten with milk and reserved liquid from the mushrooms
  • 2/3 cup finely shredded Manchego cheese

Method

  1. To prepare your breadcrumbs, smash a loaf of stale bread with a rolling pin until you have smallish pieces. To finish off the crumbs, place the bread chunks in a food processor, pulsing until the crumbs are fine.
  2. Transfer breadcrumbs to a large bowl and add your seasonings. We used salt, mixed Italian herbs, and pepper.
  3. In a large skillet, heat your butter and olive oil. Once the butter is mostly melted, add the crumbs to the skillet and coat evenly. Transfer crumbs to the large bowl.
  4. Set the crumbs aside for a minute and prepare your mushrooms: soak the porcinis in hot water until they’ve plumped up. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid, and chop finely. Sautee mushrooms with finely chopped garlic, and set aside.
  5. Now, for the eggs. Break your eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat them with milk and some of the reserved porcini liquid. Bittman recommends two teaspoons of milk per egg, but we substituted mushroom juice for some of the milk. Add salt and pepper as you beat the eggs.
  6. In another large skillet (possibly one in which bacon has been cooked), begin to scramble your eggs. Add the chopped porcinis, garlic, and Manchego.
  7. Serve the eggs topped with breadcrumbs and additional cheese, as desired. If brunch is being served family style, get your paws on the eggs before anyone to ensure that your portion is adequate. Resist the temptation to eat leftover breadcrumbs with a spoon.

Quinoa with Pomegranate and Maple Brussels Sprouts

Tonight’s dinner figured into my ongoing Cook From the Pantry plan. In the cupboard and fridge: quinoa, chickpeas, Apricot Stilton, and a few giant olives from Valencia Whole Foods. Purchased: Brussels sprouts, a pomegranate, a lemon. Random? Y. Tasty? Also Y.

The dish I came up with had a lot going on, texturally and w/r/t flavor. Not too much going on, but it toed the line, for sure. That’s cool: I like to keep things interesting, both at the table and in life.

Initially worried that this dish would be bland, I was pleased by the combination of pomegranate arils + Stilton + maple sprouts. The sprouts tasted almost like caramel corn (and I’m not even exaggerating here: you know I’m not one of those ladiez who claims oatmeal tastes like creme brulee). Yeah, I was heavy-handed with the syrup, but that’s not a bad thing. The pom arils provided some tartness and crunch — tartness enhanced by the cheese’s pungency — and the olives (god bless ’em) added much-needed salt. Note: when I make this dish again, I’m going to salt the quinoa (not just the Brussels sprouts).

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give this lit’l guy a 6.75 — satisfying, light, and mellow. Pretty perfect for this Thursday night.

Budget about 45 minutes to make this dish: prep is fairly minimal, but the sprouts and quinoa require a bit of cooking time. I can’t yet say how well this reheats, but I’m stoked to have a bowl for tomorrow’s lunch.

Quinoa with Pomegranate And Maple Brussels Sprouts (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Approximately 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • Approximately 12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered (or halved, if they’re smallish sprouts)
  • One pomegranate’s worth of arils
  • Five giant olives, chopped
  • Approximately 8 ounces canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup white quinoa (rinsed)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Apricot Stilton (as much as you please: duh)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. To begin, prepare your sprouts. Preheat your oven to 350; as the oven heats, toss your sprouts in a mixture of olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Spread sprouts on a cookie sheet (or pizza pan) and bake for 15-20 minutes — enough to soften them but not so much that they become crispy critters. Keep your eye on the sprouts: they’ll surprise you.
  2. As the sprouts roast, chop your olives. Remove the arils from your pomegranate (Protip: wear an apron, and don’t wear a light-colored shirt, as I did). Place these items, along with the chickpeas, in a medium bowl.
  3. Now, prepare your quinoa! Fill a medium saucepan with two cups of water and one cup of quinoa. Bring the water to a boil and, once it’s boiling, reduce it to a simmer. You can set your timer for 12-or-so minutes. Or, if you’re like me, you can eyeball it (“eyeball it”) — your quinoa is done once all the water in the pot has been absorbed and the quinoa beads appear to be shedding their outer skins.
  4. Let your quinoa rest for a few minutes. Fluff it with a fork. Transfer it to a large bowl.
  5. To the quinoa, add your lemon juice and a good glug of olive oil. Mix well.
  6. Then, add the remaining ingredients: chickpeas and olives and pomegranate arils and sprouts. Blend well. Garnish with crumbled Apricot Stilton.