Posts tagged ‘fast and easy’

August 25, 2011

Experiments with Side Dishes

As a way to eat more of our veggies, we’re trying out making side dishes every now and then.  It feels weirdly grown up.  But maybe once you have a car and pay rent every month and have bills you pay and jobs and can tomatoes, you also cook and eat healthy side dishes.

I guess the real challenge is, can you guess which is the side dish – the butter steamed green beans (well, purple beans) or the chickpea and tomato stew?  The answer is the beans.  We’ve been cooking our green beans in a delicious and simple way:  wash them, melt a tablespoon of butter in a pan and add the beans.  For one of these we also added some broccoli.  Add a few tablespoons of water and cover.  Cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

And of course, the lovely thing about using purple beans is watching they turn green as you cook them.  If you can get them off the heat while they’re still a little undercooked and crunchy you can enjoy them warm and multi-colored:

As for the chickpeas: 1 can chickpeas, 1 pint of cherry tomatoes cut in half, 1/2 a white onion cut into small squares, 3-4 cloves garlic.  Cook all of these together in a sauce pan and season with a dash of balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

August 14, 2011

Bottom of the Week Stew/Stir Fry

So, it’s Sunday evening, and we’re hungry, and we’ve eaten all the meals we planned out.  So, this:
1 red onion, chopped medium-small
1/2 white onion, chopped medium-small
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, sliced small
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tomatoes, chopped small
1 eggplant, cubed
5 small carrots, cut into coins
1/2 small head red cabbage
1 handful fresh cilantro


Tomato Cilantro sauce (yes, we did cheat with this one, it’s a lovely Indian tomato and cilantro sauce.)

1. Cook the onion,s garlic, and leek, for 5 minutes with pepper and olive oil on medium-low heat.

2. Add the carrots, tomatoes, and  eggplant, turn down the heat a little.  Add a tablespoon of the tomato cilantro sauce.  Cook for 10 minutes.

3. Add the cabbage, cover, cook for 10 minutes or until everything is cooked.

4. Add a few more spoonfuls of the tomato cilantro sauce.  Stir in the fresh cilantro and let sit, covered, off heat for 5-10 minutes.

Eat with yogurt and bread or rice.  We baked some bread (I know it may not sound like a quick dinner when it involves making fresh bread, but we had our no-knead bread dough in the oven, so it was easy to pull some out)

June 21, 2011

Simple Tomato and Basil Pasta

Real easy, very yummy:








Stuff You Need:

Five small (somewhere between cherry tomoto and small slicing) tomatoes
A large handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
2 green onions
2 stalks green garlic, from the bulb to the scape
A few tablespoons garlic/veggie broth
Olive oil, salt, pepper, pasta


Stuff You Do:

1. Put on water for pasta, enough for 3/4-1 whole box

2. Chop garlic and the white part of green onions.








3. Put them in the pan with olive oil, veggie broth, salt, and pepper and saute on low heat.

4. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and add them to the pan with the finely chopped basil.








5. Add green parts of green onions (scallion parts)

6. Cook on low heat for another 5-10 minutes, until the pasta is ready.








7. Toss pasta with sauce and top with mozzarella or parmesan.  Rejoice in the reappearance of tomatoes and basil.

June 12, 2011

Green Pasta Sauces

Since we have such an abundance of greens right now, we’ve been making a range of green pasta sauces.  It’s amazing how many greens taste good on pasta, and how great they are no matter how often you eat them.  So, several green pasta sauce ideas:

  1. Parsley Garlic Noodles  – this is more or less our favorite quick dinner.  Or dinner at all.

1 bunch parsley

1 head of garlic or 3-4 stalks of green garlic (the more the better)

Olive oil or butter

While making a box of pasta, wash and roughly chop the parsley and finely chop the garlic.  When the pasta is done put the parsley and garlic in the still-warm pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil or butter.  Stir it for a minute or two to coat in oil then add the pasta and mix.  It’s great on its own or with any kind of cheese and lots of salt and pepper.

  1. Cilantro & Ramp Pesto

1/2 bunch of cilantro
3 ramps, tops and bottoms
1 stalk of green garlic
a handful of arugula

Put all of these great things in a food processor with 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  It makes a lovely, light pesto and is great with a little Parmesan.

  1. Kale & Pasta

½ bunch of kale

½ a head of garlic or some green garlic stalks

Olive oil

Juice of ½ a lemon

Optional: Portobello mushrooms

Chop the kale into smallish pieces and cut the garlic into whatever shape you like.  Cook the garlic (and mushrooms-cut into small pieces) in the olive oil over low heat.  When the pasta is nearly done, add the kale to the garlic, stir, and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add a tablespoon of water or veggie stock and cover for 3-4 minutes.  Uncover and turn off the heat.  The kale should be starting to wilt.  Add the lemon juice.  If you cook it until done then it will become mushy on the pasta, so better to stop early.  Mix it up with the pasta and eat right away.

June 1, 2011

Asparagus and Sorrel Delight

A farmer friend of ours from market suggested this recipe a few weeks ago and we’d been looking for a chance to try it out.

All you need is some sorrel, some asparagus, and some chives (as always this spring, chives feature in this meal).  Sorrel, if you’re wondering like we were, is a common garden plant that also grows wild and is sometimes considered a weed.  It is spinach like in texture and looks somewhat like spinach, but with longer lighter leaves.  But it’s flavor is different.  There’s a slight bitterness in the flavor and it’s very lemony.

So, wash and lightly dry the sorrel and chop it roughly just a few times.

Melt two tablespoons of butter in an oven-safe casserole pan and mix in some salt and pepper.

Stir the chopped sorrel into the butter until evenly coated.

Break the tough ends off of the asparagus and cut the stalks in half.  Lay the cut asparagus on top of the sorrel and stir a little.  Make sure the sorrel remains on the bottom. Sprinkle a little finely chopped chives.

Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper and add a little butter on top of the asparagus.

Bake the whole thing uncovered at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

We ate ours with homemade bruschetta which was lovely.

May 31, 2011

Chive Flower Vinegar

This lovely vinegar was suggested to us by the kind potted herb lady at the farmers’ market.  It’s easy to make and it really adds something to your salads.  And also, it looks wonderful.

So, all you need is:

A bottle of white wine vinegar, a mason jar with a well-sealing lid (not the old fashioned kind that latch, unless you’ve got the rubber gasket as well), and a handful of chives with flowers.








1. Wash the mason jar really really well in hot soapy water.

2. Put the clean mason jar into a pot of boiling water so that it is completely covered in water and boil for 5 minutes.  Carfully use tongs to pull it out and set it to dry completely on a clean cloth.  You want there to be no water on the inside because it can cloud the vinegar.  But you also don’t want to dry it with a cloth because you could introduce bacteria.

3. When the jar is dry, cut off all of the chive flowers and snip up some of the stems and put them all in the jar.

Chive flowers in vinegar on the first day; the vinegar is a yellow/white color at first.











4. Pour white wine vinegar until the jar is full to about 2 cups worth.  Cap it tightly and let it sit on your counter, or in a warm place, for 2 weeks.

Pink chive flower vinegar

May 30, 2011

Springtime white bean dip

Earlier this evening, with a plan for portobello mushroom paninis on the horizon, the question feared by many vegetarians came up: what about protein?  (More thoughts on protein in veggie diets after the recipe.)  In addition to the usual answer of cheese, I whipped up a quick batch of white bean dip to spread on the sandwiches.  Here’s a versatile recipe based on Mark Bittman’s, along with my seasonal variations.  The chive flower vinegar and garlic stock might be idiosyncratic to our kitchen but substitute freely – this is a forgiving and delicious recipe no matter how you edit it.

Springtime White Bean Dip

1 can white cannelini beans
3 or 4 stalks green garlic (or 2-3 cloves cured garlic) – coarsely chopped
Handful of chives or spring onions (maybe 8 chives or 3 spring onions, depending on size & strength you like) – coarsely chopped
A few sprigs of parsley, coarsely chopped
A tablespoon or two of olive oil (less for thicker dip & vice-versa)
2 teaspoons chive flower vinegar, to taste (An herb vendor at farmers’ mkt suggested this mini-project to us, but you can view directions here.)
—Feel free to substitute white wine vinegar or maybe plain vinegar with a squeeze of lemon juice.
A few tablespoons of garlic broth (veggie stock made from garlic greens, aka, the top part of a garlic plant that you don’t eat)
—Regular veggie or another kind of broth would be fine.  Ideally you want one with a (complimentary) flavor of its own.
Salt and pepper

1. Put the chives, green garlic, parsley, 1/2 of the can of beans, and olive oil into the food processor.  Blend until mostly smooth, probably just 5-10 seconds.

2. Add the 2nd half of the beans along with the chive vinegar and garlic broth.  Blend until the new beans are smooth.

3. Add a generous amount of salt, pepper, and paprika.  Blend for a few more seconds and taste.  Adjust seasoning, including the oil to vinegar ratio if needed.

4. Use as sandwich spread, dip for veggies or crackers, etc.

Finally, some thoughts on protein and vegetarian diets.  When I became a vegetarian at age 13, the first question anyone asked upon hearing about it was “Where will you get protein?”  My stock surly-teenager response was a self-righteous (and kinda defensive) critique of the “typical (meat-based) American diet” and how “most people get too much protein anyway”.  Yet as I ventured out beyond veggie burger dinners every night, I occasionally found myself hungry after what seemed like adequately sized meals.  I was eating reasonably healthy food and meeting most nutritional requirements, but I still wasn’t full.  This was particularly the case when working full-time on farms and needing even more energy than during the school year.  While I don’t control or plan what I eat beyond our vague weekly dinner menu, I have found a couple helpful approaches for feeling full on a veggie-based diet.

– Get some serious protein & fat with breakfast.  Examples include whole-wheat toast with peanut butter & honey or jam, eggs, yogurt, or soymilk and granola with some nuts.

– Find ways to sneak more beans, cheese, eggs, and nuts into your diet.  Keep a bowl of almonds on the kitchen table for easy snacking, spread some bean dip and/or cheese on a sandwich, crumble hardboiled eggs into your salad, dip cut up veggies into hummus, add a scoop of hummus to a salad, opt for peanut butter on toast rather than butter.

If you have other suggestions or opinions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

May 11, 2011

Loaf of Awesome

This recipe is roughly based off of a Turkish spinach roll recipe a friend taught me years ago.  Since she made me memorize the recipe, and since it’s been six years, I had to somewhat reconstruct it.  But it came out wonderfully.  Instead of making individual rolls we made one big loaf.

I should also say that this is tagged under “fast and easy;”  it really is.  From getting started to getting this thing in the oven was under half an hour.  It does bake for a while though.

The dough, smooth and ready to roll.

Spinach and asparagus filling spread out over the dough.

Spinach and asparagus filling spread out over the dough.

Finally, the loaf, sliced at a slight angle into spiraled rounds.



















The dough:

3 ¼ cups flour (I did 2 white and 1 ¼ wheat)

2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, at room temperature
½ cup oil, neutral or olive

Lightly beaten egg yolk for glazing (optional)

  1. Combine all the dry ingredients and use a whisk to mix evenly
  2. Add the oil, stir a bit.
  3. Add the milk and mix with a spoon until it is too solid for the spoon, then use your hands.
  4. Knead the dough just a little until it is smooth and pliable.
  5. At this point make the filling.  Do everything on the filling list now.
  6. Roll it out until it’s a bit more than a ¼ inch think then spread the filling over most of the dough and roll it from one end towards the other.
  7. Use your fingers to press it shut at the ends and bush it with a lightly beaten egg yolk.  Last sprinkle coarse salt and ground pepper on top.
  8. Bake on a lightly oiled and very lightly floured sheet at  350 for 35-40 minutes


½ lb spinach

A handful of chives


Green garlic, 1-3 stalks

Salt, pepper,

¼ – ½ teaspoon each oregano & basil

Olive oil

  1. Chop the asparagus into 1 inch pieces
  2. Finely chop the chives and green garlic.
  3. Put the asparagus, chives, and green garlic in a sizeable saucepan with the olive oil and cook on medium low heat for about five minutes.  Add some salt, pepper, oregano, and basil.
  4. Meanwhile, wash and roughly chop about of spinach.
  5. Turn off the heat, mix the spinach in the saucepan and cover, with heat turned off.
  6. Add to the dough as explained above.
April 20, 2011

Veggies and What A Closet-Dweller Did With Them

When it’s a thundery April night and one is suffering the effects of over-indulgence, be it chemical or emotional, there’s only one way to woman up and fly right. (And I dare you to listen to this song, sober or otherwise, and not end up feeling like you’ve overdone it)

So, now that you’re suffused in the light glow of melancholy, here’s what to do: eat a bowl of virtue. Specifically, eat a huge bowl of kale. “But closet-dweller!” I can hear you say, your voice small and muffled by ions and tubes and pictures of cats (that’s what the internet is made of, right?)

“I thought you were one of us! The great unwashed and unrighteous legions of lazy vegetarians who eat kale with a sense of dull, anhedonic, puritan purpose, much like a tethered cow sullenly chewing its cud!”

And I say to you, fear not. For I have tried kale anew. I have doused it in warm olive oil and balsamic and garlic. And lo, it is good. It also tastes extra tasty cause I got the idea from a farmer at the farmer’s market, where I went and handed over money for vegetables and did not even cry, not even once, not even alone in the parking lot.

So, do what I did, and chop all this stuff that’s in the conveniently placed photograph up (not the kale, wash that and put it in a bowl. And really wash it if you give the farmer’s market your custom, or you could inadvertently eat some bugs you’ve just killed in hot oil and have to turn your back on your whole way of life). Put it all in a pan except the kale, with lots of oil, more than is appropriate. Put salt and pepper in there, and a splash or two of balsamic. Then, when everything is soft and fragrant and smelling of righteousness and vitamins, pour it over the raw kale, and let it sit while you check your email or pick the lint out of your bellybutton (or both, who am I to limit you?) Then eat that beautiful big bowl of greens, and you’ll feel a little better.

Righteous Ingredients

Bowl of Virtue

And if you don’t, heat up a big bowl of pasta and cheese and go to town. I won’t tell.

April 15, 2011

Closet-Dwelling, Egg Sandwiches, and You

I have a few controversial opinions, and this is one:  I like my egg sandwiches like I like my men: Cheese, Stress, and Accessory free.

This is awesome.

My basic philosophy behind the egg sandwich is as follows: Of course you can dress it up.  Put cheese on there, avocado, tomato, bacon if you can stand the guilt, fancy lettuce, mushrooms. Go all Richard Gere dressing up Julia Roberts on that sandwich. It’s going to be delicious. But it’s not what I think of when I think about egg sandwiches. (Insert your own “what we talk about when we talk about blank” Raymond Carver bullshit here. Seriously when are people going to stop doing that? Am I the only one who notices this?)

This is bullshit.

But in the same way that I find Julia Roberts more fun and appealing as a prostitute than as a rich prostitute, an egg sandwich can be even tastier when left alone. An egg sandwich is about having no money and no patience and no creativity. You can make one when you wake up in the afternoon starving and the fridge is almost empty. Or right before you go to a party where you’re scared there won’t be any food you want to eat. Or when you come home drunk from a party and need to put food in your stomach immediately and are too poor for the all-night diner and too dignified to just eat uncooked bread. If you have friends and do things like go to parties and don’t live in a closet in small-town New York, that is. The upside of which is I can eat an egg sandwich literally any time, because I am always home.

The Julia-on-Sunset egg sandwich is the opposite of fancy, the opposite of carefully arranged gruyere and goat cheese and extraneous vegetables getting between me and hot egg yolk that has just sizzled in butter being in my mouth. Save the drama for your mama, put a fried egg on a hot piece of bread, salt and pepper, take a moment to gaze in wonder at the beautiful golden drippiness, and then shovel it into your mouth. And then you should probably eat another one, too. Here is a picture of what I mean. It is not a good picture, because I don’t have a nice phone or steady hands.

With all this said, if you want to put more shit on there, I’m certainly not going to stop you. This is America. You can put whatever you want on your sandwich. If you can put an undead baby bird on it, then you can put some cheese on it too, let’s be real.

Tomorrow I brave the small-talk wasteland of the farmer’s market.  (Sample dialogue: Nice Farmer: “Hi!” Pause as he or she tries to place where they know me from, namely me hovering behind my roommates while they “normally interact” every weekend. “Where are the non-closet-dwellers?” Me: “Oh! (Exclamation because I am relieved I know the right answer) They’re in England…” Pause as I try to remember their name, almost say it, then as I am saying it I decide that’s not the right name, which results in a winded snort-giggle.  NF: “That’s amazing! What are they doing there?” Me: “Oh, like, stuff. Your basic England stuff.”  Long pause while we smile at each other. Longer pause while I shove some potatoes onto their scale, drop some on the floor, and then crawl on the floor to retrieve them, escaping from this suburban hell-scape only after becoming so verklempt I  forget how to count money and the farmer finally takes what they need out of my hand, giving me a pitying head shake, as if to say, “Now I understand why your role is to hold the bags and smile into the middle distance”)

Oh well. For this, and many situations, I listen to this song. If you’re going to have cheeseless opinions about breakfast foods, if you’re going to live in a closet, if you’re going to drop the entire bag of beer bottles you’re bringing to the grocery store so that they roll all over the lawn and street, glinting in the sun and clinking merrily to broadcast your alcohol consumption to the neighborhood, if you’re going to be dumb, in other words, you gotta be tough.