I love to cook and I love to eat good food.  Alas, the fact that I work 9-5 means that I can't do either as much as I would like, and like many I am often stuck at my desk during my lunch "hour".  My solution is to try to bring my lunch to work as much as I can.  This is my collection of recipes, all made quickly the night before (either as lunch or as dinner with leftovers that can be taken in).  Happy eating.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Blueberry and peach galette

Another post from guest chef Momster. (Yes, that would be my mother.) My regular calls home are on the weekends due to the 8 hour time difference. Every Saturday afternoon in London, I call home to California and, depending on the time, I either catch her before or after the Farmer's Market. During the summer, she comes back with varieties of peach, plum, pluot; blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries; and everything else from apricot to, erm..., zucchini! I always listen, trying not to drool, filled with food envy. There are fantastic markets in London, but I have never been to one where I could pick from 10 different varieties of nectarine.

What to do with this bounty? Obviously some gets eaten straight, fresh and ripe, not even making it out of the basket. Some makes its way into fruit salads, unadulterated or mixed with a sweet and tangy poppyseed dressing. But the very luckiest fruit gets baked with pastry and eaten with ice cream.

I love a pie as much as anyone, and always enjoy a rumble with a crumble. But sometimes I like something a little less structured, a little more rustic: the fruit galette. A free-form pie, like a tart but without the tart tin or blind baking, the galette is more like a fruit pizza, but so much better. And so much easier!

Bonus points for arranging the fruit in a nice pattern: I think my mother did well.

Fruit Galette

1 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 oz. unsalted butter
ice water

2-3 Tbsp. flour
6 Tbsp. sugar (or to taste)

Combine flour and salt and cut in butter until pieces are pea-sized. Add water 1 Tbsp. at a time until the dough is moist but not sticky. Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 15 minutes or so. Roll out to 12" diameter, and transfer to a (parchment lined - optional) pizza pan or baking sheet. Cover with plastic and refrigerate.

Pre-heat oven to 400 (200C) and prepare fruit (pit, slice, etc.).

Leaving a 2 inch border, sprinkle dough with 2-3 Tbsp. flour and 1 Tbsp. sugar. Arrange fruit on top and sprinkle with remaining 4 Tbsp. sugar, or to taste. Fold dough over the fruit about 2 inches to form a rim. Make sure there are no cracks where the juice can leak out.

Brush the rim of the dough with melted butter and sprinkle with final 1 Tbsp. sugar.

Bake until well-browned and bubbly, about 30-40 minutes (maybe less, depending on your oven). Brush fruit with its own juice to glaze it. Serve warm, preferably with ice cream.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Broccoli with peanut sauce two ways

At the last minute, I found this week's Blogger Secret Ingredient on Chaya's Comfy Cook Blog. Being somewhat of a working stiff these days, I don't always discover the BSI in time to ponder, prep and post an appropriate recipe. This week, I found out Sunday morning of the closing date. That meant I had some time to cook and lunch to think about, so I did what any blogger in my position would do: I went out to buy some broccoli.

I know it's not everyone's favorite vegetable, but I love broccoli. I like to think it's because of the emerald green colour, the sweet taste of lightly steamed florets, and some sort of sub-conscious/pyscho-somatic appreciation for the vitamins and anti-oxidants. But really, I think it's because of The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, a favorite cookbook in my house when I was young. What child wouldn't want to think of her vegetable as home to a magical land?

Sadly, said favorite cookbook is still in my parent's house, so I had to use a more recent favorite broccoli recipe. I decided to post two versions because the basic recipe usually gets turned into the second variation (and, well, why not?). Broccoli is the perfect vehicle for strong flavors. When lightly cooked, its inherent sweetness provides balance to garlic and chili. The vegetable is a great side dish and ingredient itself, but is also hearty enough to be the main attraction. Plus, both recipes are dead easy.

So, without further ado, here goes:

Broccoli with peanut dipping sauce

Steamed or blanched broccoli

¼ C. smooth peanut butter
1 T. oil
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. minced ginger
1 T. lime juice
1 tsp. mirin
1 T. soy sauce
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

Blend or just mix well. Serve with broccoli.

Broccoli and soba noodles with peanut sauce

I like to eat this dish cold, but it is very tasty warm. I also like to make broccoli the star ingredient, so it's more like a broccoli salad with soba noodles rather than the other way around. Depending on the consistency of the peanut sauce, you may need to thin it slightly with a teaspoon of water (or more soy sauce/lime juice/whatever your taste buds fancy).

Cooked soba noodles
Steamed broccoli florets
1-2 T. peanut sauce (see above) per person
1 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan

Mix broccoli and soba with peanut sauce, thinning if necessary. Top with sesame seeds. Eat!

Serves as many as you have broccoli to cook.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Beet and goat's cheese risotto

Part deux of my quest to use up my beets:

Election day 2008 was one of the great days in recent memory. I am a big fan of our new president for many reason, including but not limited to the fact that on the following day no fewer than 15 people of varying British and European origins in my office came by to congratulate me, as though I personally had something to do with it (in a larger-than-my-absentee-ballot way). I could go on about his attributes, but instead I will turn to something I consider to be a major drawback in him: Barack Obama does not like beets.

I can sort of understand people who don't like beets. Many of them are victims of canned or pickled beet induced childhood trauma. Those would certainly be enough to spoil my beet appetite for life. I personally think they should be banished to fall-out shelters and labelled "Eat last". But beets in general -- fresh, newly picked, boiled or roasted or shredded raw, these garnet gems of the vegetable crown -- clearly they make me wax poetic, but they also make me want to eat them. And with the new White House garden which could supply fresh beets, I think there is really no excuse. For shame, Mr. President

So my point, and I do have one, is that despite my taste for the roots, I have more beets than I know what to do with. Last recipe was a fresh and flavorful salad. This week, something a bit heartier. One of the pleasures (and dangers) of beets is that they turn everything bright pink. Well, who doesn't like bright pink food? Risotto is a great vehicle for beets because not only does it blush beautifully in their juices, but it also complements their inherent creaminess. I like some sharp counterpoints, so goat's cheese and arugula (which, I have on good authority, the Prez does like) are the ways forward there. A good grinding of black pepper finishes the dish. Hail to the beets.

Beet and goat's cheese risotto

1 small onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup arborio rice
2+ C. vegetable stock
2 medium or 1 large cooked beet, peeled and chopped
2 T. soft goat's cheese
handful of arugula

Saute onion until soft. Add garlic and cook gently for a few minutes, then add rice and cook, stirring, for another few minutes. Start to add warm stock, 1/2 C. at a time, waiting between each addition for the rice to absorb the liquid as it cooks. Stir frequently (or just enough).

When rice is nearly cooked, stir through the beets so they warm through. Then mix in the arugula so that it just wilts. Dot the cheese over the top.

Serves 2

Friday, 17 July 2009

Beet, feta and herb salad

This recipe was inspired by a dish at Mohsen, my favorite Persian restaurant in London (or in the world). There, along with flatbread, smokey eggplant dip, and hummus, they serve a plateful of fresh herbs, feta and radishes. Rolled up in a flatbread, or just eaten by the sprig, the intensity of flavors transports you away from the rather uninspiring view of the Earl's Court Homebase across the street.

Having received beets in the veg box several weeks in a row, it was time for a batch of beet cooking. I plunked them all in boiling water, peeled them, and put half in the freezer for future use. The other half went into the fridge for immediate delectation. (And more recipes to follow shortly.)

I love beets in a salad and their natural sweetness begs some robust flavors to act as a counterpoint. I started musing on the saltiness of feta, then the sprightliness of lemon and mint, and suddenly I thought of Mohsen and their herb salad. I didn't need to think any more about it: I simply mixed everything together, closed my eyes, and away I went.

Beet, feta and herb salad

1 medium beet, roasted or boiled, peeled and sliced
handful of herbs: parsley, mint, and tarragon pictured here
crumbled or cubed feta
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 - 1 tsp. sherry vinegar or lemon juice, depending on taste

Serves 1

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Greens Casserole with Tofu Topping

The other night, drowning in veggies quickly going limp in the fridge and totally uninspired (a lethal combination) I found in this recipe from the Abel & Cole website an answer to my prayers. A good, quick dinner, this was a welcome change from the usual stir fry or vegetable soup.

I threw everything but the kitchen sink into my pan: carrots, cauliflower, chard, cabbage, a last nub of zucchini, a few peas, and cooked up all my vegetables together, giving it a little kick with the soy sauce.

It was a satisfying and easy dish. I particularly liked the tofu crumble topping -- soft and chewy below, crunchy on top. You would never know it was actually tofu (which may be a bonus to some, a letdown to others). Working Lunch says two thumbs up.

Greens (and other vegetable) Casserole with Tofu Topping

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

450g any cabbage, cored, cut crosswise into thin slices

450g kale, stems and ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped

200g carrots, cut into thick matchsticks

240ml water

2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

1/2 teaspoon salt

150g fresh or 200g dried wholemeal breadcrumbs

200g firm tofu, drained and roughly chopped

50g Parmesan, finely grated

50ml olive oil

2 teaspoons dried basil, crumbled

1 & 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano or marjoram, crumbled

1 teaspoon paprika

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 180°C, 350°F, gas mark 4. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking; sauté the onions until softened and beginning to brown. Add cabbage, kale, carrots, water, soy sauce, and salt. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer all the vegetables and cooking liquid to a large, shallow baking dish. To make the topping, pulse the rest of the ingredients together in a food processor until combined well (or mash together with a potato masher). Spread the tofu mixture over the vegetables and bake, uncovered, until topping is golden brown, 15-20 minutes.

Serves 4 as a main dish, and 6-8 as a side.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Potato and thyme gnocchi with garlic mushrooms

I actually managed to find this week's BSI in time to think about making something. Better yet, this week's ingredient -- potato -- coincided nicely with a veritable explosion of said veg in my cupboard. An overly-zealous potato packer in the veg box, combined with several weeks of cooking less than normal, equals enough spuds to stave off a potato famine. Fate intervenes courtesy of Chez What?: I have an excuse to use some potatoes.

At first, I said to myself, "Self: what is better than pure, unadulterated potato? Make your favorite roast potatoes and call it a night." But then, I also thought that the whole point of the Blogger Secret Ingredient was to make it a bit of a challenge, a la Iron Chef, but with fewer pyrotechnics (one hopes -- but one does not always anticipate what happens in kitchens).

At last, coming home on Friday evening and feeling like a bit of a challenge after a challenging week, I decided that I would make one of my favorite potato-based foods: gnocchi. Fluffy little pillows of potato, they are the perfect vehicle for any sauce. Or no sauce. Yep: I just love gnocchi in any form.

Making gnocchi is not difficult, but it requires a little finesse. The most important step is getting the cooked potatoes mashed smoothly, which -- without a ricer -- is much more difficult to achieve. Once smooth, there is a balance between combining them with the egg and flour but not over-mixing: the fluffy little pillows will turn into concrete weights.

One mixed, you have to roll out the dough -- without too much flour -- and cut it into bite-sized pieces.

There is also a rather complex method of shaping them involving rolling them down the back of the tines of a fork, but I confess this is where I give up and leave them rustic. I think they look pretty nice:

Into a pot of boiling water and they are transformed into dinner. If only everything was so easy.

Potato and thyme gnocchi with garlic mushrooms

750g/1.5 lbs. potatoes, cooked (I microwave mine)
1 egg
1/2 C. plain flour plus extra for dusting
1/4 C. fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. salt

1 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 C. dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in boiling water to cover for 15 minutes
12 brown mushrooms, such as crimini, sliced
A few sprigs of thyme

When cool enough to handle but still warm, peel the potatoes and either pass them through a ricer or mash them until smooth by hand in a large bowl.

Mix the egg into the potato and then about ½ cup of plain flour. Add the thyme. Fold the mixture together, gradually adding more flour if the mixture is too wet. Do not add too much flour as this will toughen the gnocchi.

Cut the gnocchi mixture in quarters and on a lightly floured surface roll each piece into a sausage shape about 1" in diameter, then cut those into 1" pieces.

Heat a pot of water to a full boil, then add the gnocchi. When the rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon and let drain.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil and saute the garlic, fresh mushrooms and dried mushrooms (which should be drained and dried first). When cooked, add the cooked gnocchi, toss through, then stir through the remaining fresh thyme leaves.

Serves 4
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