Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Fearful Gourmet BAKES -- Date nut bars!

The Fearful Gourmet does not ordinarily bake. In fact, I think the only thing I've baked til now was a cheesecake for a boyfriend when I was 20 (which I wouldn't eat because I'm afraid of cheesecake) and  a batch or two of simple cookies. But I was inspired by my friend Janet, baker extraordinaire, to give baking a try.

Janet shared with me an easy recipe that doesn't require too much equipment and uses very little butter. Aside from a little mishap with my mixer resulting in my being covered in sugar (and to a lesser extent, butter) it went off without a hitch. The resulting bars are rich, flavorful and filled with crunchy nuts and chewy dates. Yum!

Prep time - Minimal
Nice enough to bring to someone's house?
Oh yes!
Would I make it again?
Yes - Possibly even later today!
Gluten free?
My grade
- A 

Date Nut Bars 

  • 2 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp hot water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 box dates (1 1/4 cups chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I used closer to 3/4 of a teaspoon)

Cream butter with sugar, add eggs, water and vanilla. Mix flour with baking powder - add to wet. Mix and add nuts and dates. Spray square pan with pam and spread batter. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cut into bars when cool and roll in confectionery sugar. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Curiously Comforting - Greens and Egg Noodles

Everyone has their own version of comfort food. For some, it's mac and cheese, or mashed potatoes, or chicken soup. By definition, comfort food "comforts" -- makes you feel better, makes you feel cared for. (It's funny how food can do that).

My comfort food is a little odd. When I'm having a rough day and I need a lunch or dinner that will make me feel happy, I always turn to the trusted greens and egg noodles. The beautiful thing about this simple recipe is that you can (and I have) use any greens you have around -- Swiss Chard, turnip greens, beet greens, kale, spinach, even broccoli rabe will work (although it may take a bit more cooking).  I use garlic salt instead of fresh garlic to speed up on the prep, but you can use fresh garlic if you prefer.

This recipe is for a single, generous serving.

Greens and Egg Noodles

- 2 oz uncooked wide egg noodles
- 1 bunch of greens (any kind - see above), washed and roughly chopped with water still clinging to the leaves
- olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- whipped butter
- garlic salt
- crushed red pepper

Fill a pot of water and bring it to a boil and cook egg noodles according to the package directions.

Pour a small amount (a tsp or two) of olive oil in the bottom of a pot on medium heat. Sprinkle red pepper flakes into the oil according to how spicy you like things. (Start off with just a shake - you can always add more later).

When the oil is warm, add the chopped greens, sprinkle generously with garlic salt, and cover the pot. Let the greens cook, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes or so, until they've cooked down and are tender. If there is too much liquid in the pot, uncover and cook uncovered until it reduces. If there is too little liquid to steam/saute the greens, add a sprinkle of water and cover the pot again.

When the greens are cooked and the noodles are done, drain the noodles thoroughly. Add the juice of a small lemon, and about a tbsp of whipped butter (or less) to the greens and stir until butter melts. Add noodles to the greens, mix well and taste. Add garlic salt or extra hot pepper if needed.

Prep time - minimal
Nice enough to bring to someone's house? Perhaps, but this is best made for just one or two people.
Would I make it again? Over and over!
Gluten free? No
Vegetarian? Yes
My grade - A

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Beat the Heat with Watermelon Gazpacho

When I get my New York Times on the weekend, one of the first things I look at are the recipes in the Magazine section. This week, they had a whole section on watermelon and one of the recipes was for Watermelon Gazpacho. Now I happen to LOVE gazpacho -- which is typically made with tomato, cucumber and onion/garlic -- but it doesn't always love me...  It's a heartburn-inducing dish.

But I showed the watermelon gazpacho recipe to my daughter, Emily who is an excellent cook, and she was interested enough to try making it. The result? Oh man -- now THIS is something I could eat the entire summer. Sweet, savory, spicy and refreshing, all at once, this is a dish that would wow anyone. Serve it with a crisp green salad for lunch on a hot summer day, or as the first course before a BBQ.

Credit goes to Mark Bittman, one of my favorite cookbook authors, who wrote the NY Times article. I highly recommend this dish.

Prep time - minimal
Nice enough to bring to someone's house? Yes!
Would I make it again? Absolutely!!
Gluten free? Yes
Vegetarian? Yes
My grade - A

Watermelon Gazpacho

- 1 small watermelon (about 3 lbs) cut into large chunks
- 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- salt and papper
- fresh basil
- olive oil

Put watermelon, tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice in a food processor and pulse, adding a few ice cubes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the fridge, and garnish with fresh basil and a few drops of olive oil. Yum!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

One Pot Pasta - The Easy Way

I'll confess that when someone posted a photo and recipe on Facebook that involved throwing dry pasta, chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic and broth in a pot and boiling it all together to form a pasta with sauce dish, I was skeptical. But I was willing to try it. After all, in Ann's world, the less pots to clean, the better. I adore one-pot meals and make them whenever possible. So, despite my doubt, I was open to trying this one.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the right ingredients. So, I took the chance of using what I had: orzo for the pasta, chicken broth, veggies, some white wine....  The result? A winner! The pasta and vegetables were tender and well covered in a flavorful sauce - reminiscent of Risotto. Couldn't be easier.

One-Pot Pasta

  • 12 oz dry pasta (I used orzo)
  • 1 large head of Swiss Chard - stems sliced and leaves cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 can of chick peas (undrained - use the liquid as well)
  • 2 large cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes in juice
  • 4-6 small carrots, sliced
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 32 oz broth (I used organic chicken broth)
  • 1/2 cup or more of dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp high-quality olive oil
  • lemon juice
1. Pour dry pasta into a large pot. Throw in the rest of the vegetables, the crushed red pepper (I used a lot because we like it spicy), and sprinkle with lemon-pepper or black pepper and salt if desired (don't use too much salt because of the broth). Add the broth, wine and oil to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil (the Chard will start to shrink down).

2. Stir frequently and well. When the mix reaches a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Stir every few minutes to ensure that the pasta isn't sticking.

3. When the liquid is almost gone and the pasta is tender (10 -15 minutes or longer, depending on the type of pasta), remove from heat. Stir in a tbsp or two of lemon juice to taste and serve in bowls.

Notes: This is what I call a "loosey-goosey" recipe, meaning that you can be flexible. More broth, less wine. Maybe some other liquid instead. Any sort of pasta will do, as will any sort of vegetables -- mix and match. Same with the seasonings. Try oregano and basil for an Italian flavor, or cilantro and chili for a Mexican one. Be creative!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bok Choi and Bacon

Have I mentioned that I belong to a CSA? Don't know what a CSA is? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and basically it means that you are buying a share in a farm for a season and your payment entitles you to a share of what the farm produces. In my case, it means a box of interesting vegetables (and sometimes strawberries) once a week from The Golden Earthworm Organic farm

It's always interesting (and often challenging) to come up with ideas for what to do with all the vegetables. This week I got a couple of bunches of bok choi -- which is a Chinese vegetable, in the cabbage family. It's very good stir fried with garlic and ginger and soy sauce, or put in soups, etc, but I decided to try something different.

Last night a friend dropped off (of all things) a HUGE bag of bacon. I'm not sure I've ever seen so much bacon -- three or four pounds probably. Did I mention I live with vegetarians? So that four pounds of bacon... all mine.

I am, however, a fairly healthy eater, and I couldn't fathom just making a huge plate of bacon, so I decided that for lunch I'd combine the bacon and the bok choi and make myself a cooked green lunch. While I ate it as lunch, I think it's probably best suited for a side dish. It would work with any number of greens -- spinach, swiss chard, kale, etc.

Here's the basic idea...

- Bok choi (or any other greens) - chopped. About 4 cups, but really whatever you want.
- Bacon - 2-3 strips

In a frying pan, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove bacon, and put on paper towels to dry. Wash and roughly chop greens. (I also added a garlic scape - which is the top shoot of garlic - to this dish.). Cook the greens in the bacon fat, adding salt and pepper as desired. When the greens are wilted and bright green, remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Top with the crumbled bacon.

Easy and delicious!