LaLegumiste

Pasta, Or Something Like It

I am very happy to report that I will be headed to Italy, very, very soon, where I plan to eat enough fresh past and gelato to ensure that none of my clothes fit properly by the time I return.

Until then, I’m making do with zucchini pasta. Not because I couldn’t find excellent pasta in New York, but because this summer I couldn’t help myself and bought - gasp! - a trendy kitchen item. I could tell its popularity was no mere internet lore when I had to go to a second Bed Bath & Beyond location to find one, and even then I laid hands on THE LAST ONE IN THE STORE!!!

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I bought a spiralizer! It reminds me of a guillotine, and it essentially operates in the same way as a mandolin, but it does what it says - it turns a raw zucchini into thin strands that, with a bit of squinting and a bit of wine, I could kind of pretend were spaghetti. I love real spaghetti, a bit too much, so I figured this was a good way to pretend to be eating spaghetti while in fact eating a raw or semi raw vegetable. Not because pasta is bad for you, but because zucchini is great for you.

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You can see more pictures and find out how you go from raw zucchini and a few tomatoes to the above after the jump.

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Flash In The Pan

As much as I fantasize about cooking during daylight hours when, you know, there is natural light available and it’s easy to make food look good in photographs, reality is a bit removed from that. Most of my cooking happens just as natural light begins to fade (best case scenario) or well after darkness has fully settled in. This is why I have tried to minimize the number of pictures I post taken during those times, using only the strange, weak light I get from the ceiling fixtures and occasionally, the vent light above the stove.

But… a new day is here! I finally bit the bullet and purchased a DSLR camera. I have not yet done what I should have done even before getting the camera - buy additional sources of light. Somehow, I convinced myself that the new camera would also solve any outstanding lighting issue, turning murky, yellow light into soft, natural light. As I learned the night I tested out my theory, this camera is great, but it is not capable of miracles, and I will have to get those lights after all.

OK, enough about that, let’s go on to the food. Many nights, my dinner is a somewhat haphazard assemblage of nuts, cheeses, crackers, olives, peppers, and whatever else is lingering in small containers that would not qualify as a meal on its own. The are also frequent salad nights and soup nights. The other  times, the ones when I can’t pull together anything in one of the above categories, I cook.

When this happens, I want simple recipes, using whatever seasonings and condiments I already have and requiring only the acquisition of straight forward ingredients - like beans in a can, tomatoes and eggplants.


 

At these times, I also want recipes that involve a minimal amount of prep work and an even more minimal number of dishes. Because, let’s face it - my delusions about the speed of my cleaning, chopping and cleaning up are on par with those I have about lighting. It has taken some years, but even with huge improvements in all of these areas (not the lighting!), I am still not Top Chef, or line cook, material. 

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This is why I greatly appreciate the One Pot Wonders posts on the Serious Eats site. That is where this recipe came from, and it delivered on all counts. I didn’t have to chase down exotic ingredients, it involved minimal preparation and, surprise - there was only one pot to clean at the end! Oh, it also tasted delicious and made enough for dinner and a couple of lunches.

Some step by step pictures are after the jump.

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Easy Peasy

No peas were involved in the assembly of this post. Inspired by too many recipes, articles and pictures of tomato tarts, and feeling pressured by the half a package of puff pastry sheets dehydrating in my freezer, I had to make my own, especially since it sounded so easy. 

First, I wanted to make the sungold tomato tart from the NY Times, minus the bacon, and you can see why here. It just looked so happy, I had to have it. 

Then, I saw this tomato tart recipe on Serious Eats, and thought “I already have the crust for this one, plus the goat cheese, all I need are the tomatoes and ricotta.” A new winner in the tomato tart race.

 And then I thought about eating a good quantity of puff pastry, plus goat cheese, plus ricotta and then still fitting into the dress for my friend’s wedding a week later and had to reconsider. By now the puff pastry situation was weighing heavily on me, so I changed some things and this is what I ended up with. 

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There was also a tiny hitch that involved (in part) over sleeping on Saturday morning and missing my shot at the farmer’s market heirloom tomato bonanza. No heirlooms in my neighborhood, but I did have some dubious looking tomatoes from a friend’s garden and managed to locate something labeled “Mexican zucchini” at the vegetable store down the block. The tomatoes turned out to be some of the most flavorful I’ve had the entire summer, and the zucchini’s lighter skin kept things even more summery than I thought they would be. It’s true - you can’t judge a book by its cover (or the label on its plastic wrap).

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I also had these gorgeous, beastly sized bell peppers from a day earlier in the week when I did manage to make it to the market.

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You can see what happened to them all after the jump.

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Children of the Corn

I have a very good memory, generally, but for whatever reason, it does not extend to music and movies. I misquote lyrics all the time and could not tell you who sings a song I’m humming on a regular basis. I also couldn’t tell you where the following information came from, but I’m sure it was presented in one of the documentaries about food I watched at some point in the last few years. Maybe I will update this post when I end up watching the same movie again thinking I’ve never seen it, until this particular bit of information is brought up, and everything clicks into place … for a little while.

But I rant on. This documentary briefly discussed that most cultures on a particular continent rely on one one vegetable as their main source of starch. Following this logic, European cultures count on wheat for their starch, while  American (North and South) cultures rely on corn. 

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Since I was born in Europe and have lived in the US my entire adult life, this would go a long way towards explaining my reliance on both wheat and corn as my sources of starch. Doesn’t explain the penchant for potatoes, but for now I’ll put that off to my desire to diversify.

I try to be very diligent about eating any form of corn syrup and I still don’t buy the idea that popcorn is a healthy snack, even if I occasionally convince myself of that one. That said, I am powerless in the face of fresh, sweet, summer corn and we’ve just about reached that point where every store and market is piled high with ears of corn (and tomatoes and peppers, but I’m saving those for later).

Since I’ve gone on long enough, I will leave you with a recipe that is mercifully short, fairly easy, and terribly delicious. Thanks to the kind people at Serious Eats, you can find it here.

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This is evidence of my weakness for fresh corn. I bought way more than needed for the soup, so I made the rest into a succotash of sorts.

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More photos of the entire process and a few notes are after the jump.

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Cool Beans

This is a short, sweet and cool one - perfect for summer.

I like beans a lot and eat them year round. I like them in their pods and out of their pods, and am not so seasonally biased that I only eat shelled beans in the winter and beans in their pods in the summer.

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But, if I had to pick one bean dish that I only have in the summer, this would be it. The reasons for it, like much of my thinking in general, are more pragmatic than ideological - the lovely flat yellow beans required are only available in the warm months where I live, the cooking involves very little stove time, and the final product is best consumed well chilled.

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Yellow Bean Salad

1/2 lb flat yellow beans

4  large garlic cloves, shredded or pressed

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1 t sunflower oil

2 T apple cider vinegar

1/2 t sherry or red wine vinegar

1/4 t kosher salt

1 T cold water

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. 

Trim the ends of the beans, and if you need too, cut each pod in two. 

Place the beans in the boiling water and cook for 4 - 5 minutes, until barely tender.

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While the beans are cooking, mix together the oil, vinegar, water, garlic and salt.

Drain the beans well and place in a shallow bowl, spreading them out as much as possible. Pour the dressing over the beans while they are still hot, and garnish generously with parsley. 

Let sit until beans are room temperature, then refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. This dish gets better the longer it chills, so it can be made well in advance of serving.

And that’s it! With a piece of crusty bread, perfect light summer lunch,

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To follow up something so simple, I thought dessert should be similarly easy going and decided to cut up this lovely Charentais melon, picked up at the same time as the beans. The French name made it sound fancier than a regular old cantaloupe, but unfortunately, I must have picked one that was not ripe enough. It smelled and looked delicious, but tasted barely sweet at all, requiring a follow-up with dessert number two - chocolate!

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Chasing Fairy Tales

I first saw this recipe when it was printed in the “In Season” series in NY Magazine. I already knew what eggplants tasted like, didn’t imagine these would be so different, but I absolutely had to have them for one reason: the name.

I chased these fairy tales for the past 4 years and only found them, appropriately enough, when I stopped looking. Isn’t that just like a fairy tale?

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Happy to report they were worth the wait! They’re sweet , with tiny seeds and almost as importantly, just plain cute. To satisfy my own curiosity, I tried to find out if they ever grow much larger - nope. According to this, they always stay their “dainty” size and sound perfect for appetizers. They may even be the best way to convert eggplant haters.

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There is not much to the recipe above, but a few pictures of the process are after the jump.

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In The Summertime

"When the weather is fine," to quote Mungo Jerry, I have a harder time than usual understanding how anyone could dislike vegetables or find them boring.

Let’s examine the evidence

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They’re so bright and colorful and full of flavor that you really don’t have to do much to them to enjoy. Which, of course, doesn’t mean I left my vegetables completely alone. I tried very hard to restrain myself, but to see what happened, click below.

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How To Flame-Roast An Eggplant In A One-Bedroom Apartment

If, of course, you happen to live in an one bedroom apartment with a gas stove and no outdoor space. And if you also don’t mind the smokey air that lingers, on average, 3 - 4 days, even with the windows open and the fan on. 

All of the above apply to me. The eggplant spread that requires this particular preparation has been a favorite for as long as I can remember, so it’s worth potentially concerned looks from neighbors every few months or so. 

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Less about a great recipe or pretty pictures, this post is mostly meant as a reminder to my future self. So without further ado,the step by step, according to my mother, is after the jump.

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Not Quite Gazpacho

Do you ever have moments when you remember something that you used to love and eat frequently, only to realize you haven’t had it in years and years? I had one of those flashbacks last week. I was thinking of cold vegetable soups that would make good dinners for the coming workweek, and was all set for my lazy default in that category - gazpacho.

Then I remembered how much I like dumplings or noodles in my soup - they make the soup feel more like a meal onto itself. Unfortunately, most of the soups I favor in that category are eaten hot, which sounded unbearable for August in New York. Then lightning hit - tomato soup with dumplings. I ate it all the time growing up and had last tasted it about 15 years ago. I think. 

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I couldn’t tell you why I haven’t had it in so long. Probably because that’s around the time I started cooking for myself and I don’t know how to make the cream of wheat dumplings that make this cold tomato soup special. Since a dumpling-making instructor was easily located, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to remedy my dumpling making deficiency.

I had all the ingredients on hand, a few hours of free time, and a need for nightly dinners, so the decision was easy enough. 

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The recipe and photos are after the jump. To be sure, making this cold tomato soup is more involved than making gazpacho, but the end product and trip down memory lane made the effort worth it to me.

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Nettles Redux

I am not on a crazy nettle kick, a fad food joy ride or trying to be trendy with my choice of edibles. It’s funny that I even feel like I have to justify my decision to make a recipe with an ingredient I’ve enjoyed since childhood, but there it is. Blame it on living where I currently do and too much time spent reading food blogs and magazines.

I already made one nettle soup this spring, the same nettle soup I try to make once every spring. But then this popped up on the T blog, and I had to try it, just for comparison’s sake. When I read it I promised myself that if I found all the ingredients at the market without having to go to extremes like showing up at 9:30 am on a Saturday, then I would make it. Guess what? They were all there, and here you have it - step by step photos of the recipe linked above.

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