August 30, 2009

Crispy Okra Salad

I've always loved okra, but it also always intimidated me. I found a really nice looking batch at the San Francisco Tuesday Ferry Building Farmer's Market last week and decided to finally give it a go. Not too bad! Delicious, actually! I was afraid that it would come out gooey and sloppy, but since this recipe asks that you cut it in thin lengthwise slices and deep fry the heck out of it, it turned out fine.

This dish went really well with our dinner that night: Israeli Cous Cous (not really cous cous, more like balls of yummy pasta) and a Moroccan beef stew that our friends made in their crockpot. I can't really describe the taste, because if I tried, it would sound gross: imagine deep fried okra in pico de gallo with an Indian twist?

The original recipe can be found here, but I changed the main spice (from chaat masala to garam masala and used far less of it)

This makes 4 servings

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium or 2 small tomatoes, quartered, seeded, and roughly diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
About 8 cups canola or vegetable oil for frying
1 pound fresh okra, trimmed and cut lengthwise into thin strips
4 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (a common/popular mix of indian spices - you can buy it at any store that sells indian spices)

In small mixing bowl, stir together onion, tomato, and cilantro. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In wide, 4-inch-deep heavy pot over moderate heat, heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches oil until deep-fat thermometer registers 350°F. Fry okra in batches (returning oil to 350°F between batches) until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer fried okra to paper towels to drain.

In large mixing bowl, combine okra, onion-tomato mixture, lemon juice, salt, and garam masala. Toss gently and serve immediately.

August 27, 2009

Iron Chef: Farmer's Market

Tonight I had a little competition (by myself), Iron Chef style. I realized I had a bunch of really gorgeous produce and no idea what to do with it all before it went bad. So I made up a few things, and tried a few things for the first time, and it came out pretty darn good. This is apparently what happens when I have to cook by myself. If you live within a one mile radius of me, you've probably realized I hate cooking and eating by myself, so this was a fun alternative. The only thing missing was Alton Brown's narrative.

Secret Ingredient: Eggplant

Optional Ingredients: Onion, egg, bread, cheese, parsley, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, yogurt, honeydew melon, peaches, pears, vinaigrette, salt and pepper

The Theme: Layering

Timeline: 30 minutes

I started by washing and slicing the eggplant in thick slices, then salting it heavily to rest - because that's what Michelle says to do with eggplant.

Then I pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees, washed the chopped broccoli, and placed it in a baking dish with the tomatoes from my garden. I tossed with vinaigrette and salt and pepper with dill. Once heated, I baked for 20 minutes.

I sliced and plated the honeydew.

I preheated my George Foreman Grill. Once heated, I grilled the eggplant tossed in vinaigrette and pepper. (I should have sliced them thicker for the GFG to work better.)

I heated my mini cast iron skillet and melted butter. I added the chopped onions I had chopped a few days ago, and sauteed them. Then I added two eggs on top, sunnysideup style, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and topped with parsley. Covered with lid and let cook/bake for 5 minutes. Then sliced cheddar cheese.

Once everything was done cooking, I plated two slices of eggplant, topped them with the sliced cheese, and added the onion/egg/parsley on top - which melted the cheese. Broccoli and tomatoes went on the side with the honeydew. It was all very delicious, and felt complete, since everything was cooked so differently (raw fruit - roasted veggies - grilled eggplant and baked egg). The eggplant was the most surprising, it turned out fabulous in the GFG.

August 25, 2009

Fennel Orzo with Shrimp

I've been meaning to post recipes over the last couple of months, but I've been quite busy--managing a business, moving apartments, going to my brother's wedding and such. I've been nearly too busy to cook, but still I find a way. Somehow. It's good stress relief to do something you enjoy---which for me is definitely the cooking, but especially the eating!

Mark and I made this awhile ago. I really wanted to make something with orzo, and I was interested in cooking with fennel---two ingredients I've never used. I cobbled some recipes from Gourmet together and came up with this tasty dish! Super easy and satisfying comfort food.
Fennel Orzo
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo
  • 2 tablespoons fennel fronds
  1. Sautee onion and fennel bulb in olive oil with fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Cook 8-10 minutes, until onions and fennel have softened.
  2. Meanwhile, boil orzo to package directions, making sure to keep it al dente.
  3. Stir cooked orzo into fennel mixture. Let stand, covered, for a few minutes off the heat. Sprinkle with fennel fronds and top with shrimp (or whatever else you fancy).
Serve with Parmesan toasts and roasted garlic!

August 2, 2009

Hobo Pies

Hobo Pies are the best camping treat you can make, even better than s'mores.  They are very versatile; you can make them on a grill or campfire, at home or camping.  Rossillini first taught us about Hobo Pies on an A's Spring Training trip five years ago.  He grew up making hobo pies when he lived in Ohio.  Over the last five years we have created some hobo masterpieces with many groups of friends.

So what exactly is a hobo pie?  It starts with a cooking iron, or what we like to call a hobo pie maker.  This can be used directly in a campfire, or on top of a grill or stove.  It's best to preheat the maker before using it.  Then, you would butter or spray with oil each side of the iron on the inside, to prevent sticking.  If you're going for a 'pie' style hobo, next comes two pieces of cheap white bread pressed into either side of the irons.  Then put in your filling (see below), and close the maker and cook over heat until bread is toasty brown.  They are a bit messy, so if sharing with a group around the campfire, it's best practice to take a bite and pass it along.

The best part about hobo pies are they are incredibly versatile.  You can pretty much cook anything you have laying around in one.  Here are some ideas below for the different types of styles of hobos - you can use any combination of ingredients depending on taste and style. Recently I had an epiphany that it's basically just like Raclette, just a different style.  That opened up so many more possibilities. 

Dessert Pie:
white bread for each side of the maker
canned pie filling
fresh fruit - berries, bananas, peaches, etc.
peanut butter

Dinner Pie:
bread for one or both sides of the maker (if just one, serve bread on bottom)
mini tortillas for one or both sides of the maker
chopped veggies (any kind!)
tomatoes sliced or chopped
herbs and spices
sausages/hot dogs

Breakfast Egg Pie: 
(hobo pie makers make the best eggs on the planet! I make them at home all the time.)
bread for one side of the maker (served on bottom) or no bread
onion and veggies
salt and pepper