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.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Samphire and salmon risotto

More samphire! I didn't use up my entire supply in the salad I made, so in it had to go into another marine-themed dish. Why take it out of its natural environment? I'm sure it would perk up pork or beef up beef (sorry), but anything that grows by the ocean would have to be married to fish. It would be a saline match made in heaven.

This particular vegetable would take a particular type of fish: a rich, creamy foil to samphire's snappy saltiness. Luckily, salmon is not only alliterative but is also stocked at my local grocery store. The secret is to add the salmon at the last minute and just barely cook it through so it retains its unctuous texture.

Risotto is one of my favorite dishes. It's simple, easy to make (confession: I don't stand there stirring continuously. Yes, I may be banished from the halls of great risotto-making, but it still tastes pretty good), and is the perfect foil for almost any ingredient you can think of. All you really need is a shallot, some rice, and some wine or stock -- you can even skip the parmesan (though why would you?) -- and it's already a complete dish. But gilding the lily: some fish, some greenery, and a zesting of lemon makes this recipe a big fish in a little pond.

Samphire and salmon risotto

1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 C. arborio rice
2+ C. vegetable stock
8 oz. salmon fillet, cut into small pieces
Approx. 1/2 - 1 C. samphire
1/4 C. grated parmesan
Lemon (juice and zest)

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 the rice is nearly cooked, stir in the salmon with the final addition of liquid and let it just cook through. Add samphire and parmesan at the end, stirring through, and finish with a sprinkling of lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice, and some cracked black pepper.

Serves 2

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Some blog

I started this blog to share my recipes with my mother and grandmother since I was emailing them anyway.  I never imagined my readership would extend beyond those obligated by love and blood relations.  Lo and behold, a few others actually read what I have to say.  Yes, this is my Sally Field "You like me, you really like me" moment: I, ahem, have been given an award.

Thank you Resh!  (and for those of you who haven't read her amazing and beautifully photographed blog posts, get thee to her site immediately).

So, the name of the game is to pass this on to 10 worthy blogs I have discovered recently.  In no particular order (ok, in alphabetical order), these are a few that have been making me drool:

Happy reading/eating.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Samphire, shrimp, grapefruit and avocado salad

I recently had to kill an hour in Borough Market in London.  That situation is not among life's hardships.  In fact, several hours have been known to have expired while I whiled away an afternoon among the vegetable, cheese, and meat stalls.  Apparently in business since at least 43AD (but who's counting?), Borough is the market to beat all markets -- at least in England.  The great markets of Italy might give it a run for its money.

So what to do when you have sampled the cheeses, eaten several kinds of sandwiches, tasted boar and ostrich sausage (not together), and been educated about the different varieties of sea salt (is there a marine version of terroir)?  Clearly, one's only option is to shop.  So shop I did.

I picked up bags of luscious cherry tomatoes, boxes of strawberries and raspberries, some arugula and mizuna, a few avocados, some shrimp, asparagus, morels and a few other things that weighed down my bag.  Having exhausted the seasonal and typical delights, and down to my last few pound coins, I stumbled upon an extremely seasonal but atypical British delicacy: samphire.

This succulent resembles a small cactus and grows in the marshland near the ocean.  Crunchy, bright green and briny, it is both earthy and out of this world.  Seems like the sort of thing the Celts would have eaten back in 43AD, unless they were being invaded by the Roman hordes (in which case boar sausage would have been more filling).

Samphire, shrimp, grapefruit and avocado salad

1 medium grapefruit
1 medium avocado
10 peeled, deveined and cooked shrimp
handful of samphire, blanched for 1 minute
juice from grapefruit
1 T. ground nut or other neutral oil
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. fish sauce

Section grapefruit over a strainer placed over the salad bowl to catch the juices.  Squeeze excess juice from grapefruit skin when finished.  Pit, peel and slice avocado.  Mix grapefruit juice with remaining dressing ingredients, adjusting to taste.

Mix grapefruit, avocado, shrimp and samphire with dressing.  Serve chilled.

Serves 2

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Swiss chard with black bean sauce

At this time of year (ok, really at any time of year), we get bags and bags of different varieties of greens in our vegetable box.  Lately it seems to be chard season.  I have made chard in soup, chard in pasta, chard in frittata, chard in pretty much anything we can think of.  If we were a Dr. Seuss story, we'd be the chard-belly Sneetches.  Better than green eggs and ham, I suppose.

In any event, when I have too many vegetables, my go-to recipe is some variation on a stir fry.  My go-to stir fry sauce is a black bean sauce that's as easy as anything that comes in a jar, and much better.  I use fermented black beans that I buy at the Loon Fung grocery store in Chinatown (along with any one of a hundred varieties of soy sauce, curry cubes, or some other mysterious jar that just looks good).  Just a spoonful of these beans add an incredible flavor to a dish that's impossible to mimic.  Plus, they can sit in the back of the cupboard and last forever.  

Swiss chard with black bean sauce

Olive or a neutral-tasting oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
small pinch dried red chili flakes
Bunch of swiss chard (about 8-10 stalks)
1/2 C. warm water
1 T. fermented black beans
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. soy sauce or tamari

Mix black beans with water.

Add just enough oil to a wok or large pan to keep garlic from sticking, then over medium heat cook garlic and ginger for a few minutes until soft.  Add chili flakes, then chard, and stir fry until the greens wilt.  

Add soy sauce and cornstarch to water and black beans, mixing well.  Pour mixture into pan and heat through until sauce thickens.  

Serve on its own or over rice.

Serves 2.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Purple sprouting broccoli and canellini bean salad

Summer has finally started to emerge from its long winter nap here in the UK. Like Punxsutawney Phil, the warm weather comes out slowly and tentatively, as though it's not altogether sure it's going to stay. On the occasion that we get some sunshine and warmth on a weekend, the entire nation decamps to their closest park or beach, picnicking and playing outside, and returns to work on Monday red as the proverbial lobsters. I personally prefer to stay in the shade, drinking lemonade and snacking on sorbet. I crave cooling, fresh foods.

Luckily, May and June burst forth in fruits and vegetables, if not always the weather to go with it. Purple sprouting broccoli is one of my favorites, not only for the color, but also for the delicate and sweet taste of the lightly blanched stalks. Still warm, I like to sprinkle them with a mild vinaigrette or dip them in a peanut sauce. That and some rice can be enough for dinner on a hot day.

Whenever I cook a grain for dinner, I always make extra for lunch the next day. Rice, barley, quinoa, bulgur and others make a great base for a filling salad. Especially with a few seasonal vegetables, a dash of vinegar or lemon juice transforms some day old rice. No longer will leftovers from dinner hang around the fridge for days on end. Like the summer sun, it will be here one day and gone the next.

Purple sprouting broccoli and canellini bean salad

1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. each sherry vinegar and rice wine vinegar
1/2 C. cooked brown rice
1/2 C. canellini beans
1/2 C. cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced
4-5 stalks of purple sprouting broccoli
Salt to taste

Steam broccoli for about 3 minutes in the microwave, just until the stalks turn bright green and become slightly tender. Chop into bite-sized pieces.

Mix oil and vinegar in your container. Add in rice and mix through the dressing. Add beans, cucumber, broccoli, and a pinch of sea salt.

Serves 1.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Gingered carrot soup

I owe many debts to my teachers over the years.  They have left me with poems that I will always know, mnemonic devices for calculating mathematical formulae, a discovery of certain books, and -- fundamentally -- a love for learning.  Yes, I admit it: as much as I loved summer vacation, I also looked forward to September and starting school again.  There was something so hopeful about new notebooks and sharpening pencils so full of promise (though only in a metaphorical sense -- obviously I had to have the latest, greatest mechanical pencils).

One teacher I had for most of my high school years was my Latin teacher.  From her I learned not only the language, but also more about English grammar than I'd ever thought possible, as well as the literature, culture, and history of the Roman empire.  We made togas and mosaics and tried out the occasional historical Roman recipe (which have not aged quite as well as, say, the Virgil or Tacitus.  Tongue of dove, anyone?).  

While I don't have as much call to use my Latin in everyday speech these days, what I do use more frequently is my Latin teacher's gingered carrot soup recipe.  This soup is a bright orange blend of the sweetness of carrots tempered with spiky ginger, lime juice, soy sauce and a little peanut butter.  It's perfect for the coldest winter day or even livening up a slightly cool summer day.

I know that many people hated the first day of school (or the rest of the days of school for that matter).  In Latin we would say "de gustibus non est disputandum."  This is true in general, but regarding this soup there can be no argument.

Gingered carrot soup

1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. ginger, peeled, chopped
1 lb. carrots, peeled, chopped
4+ cups chicken or vegetable stock
¼ tsp. dried red pepper flakes
¼ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. turmeric
1 ½ Tbsp. fish sauce (leave out if vegetarian/vegan)
3 Tbsp. lime juice 
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. sesame oil (dark/toasted)
½ cup coconut milk
salt and pepper
cilantro and sesame seeds for garnish

Saute onion in olive oil. Add celery, garlic, and ginger, and saute a little more. Add everything else except garnish. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until carrots are soft. Cool and puree in blender, or blend carefully with a stick blender in the pot. Correct seasonings and reheat gently. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and chopped cilantro.

Serves 4+
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