Archive for the ‘Cheap Eats’ category

Tortilla de Patata

January 23, 2010

I am part of a gourmet lunch club at work.  When we get our schedules coordinated, we meet monthly and have a meal around a theme ingredient or cuisine type.  In the past, we’ve done Indian, cranberries, beans and legumes, chocolate (including savory dishes), and probably one or two more that I can’t remember.

This month, we joined forces with the other group that really “got into it” as well (as opposed to one group who went out to eat).  The theme was Mediterranean food.  I have spent time with Spanish friends and in Spain and one of my favorite dishes is the Tortilla de Patata.  I was fortunate to receive instructions from my dear friend, Charo Rueda.  If I hadn’t seen Charo make one, I don’t know that I’d ever have had the courage to do the plate flipping thing.  It’s well worth it!

Tortilla de Patata

5-6 yellow potatoes, peeled* and sliced not too thin, not too thick (1/8″-ish)
1 large onion, diced
2 cups olive oil – yes, TWO CUPS
2 t. salt
6 eggs

Have ready:  the widest round plate you’ve got.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying or high-rimmed saute pan at medium-high
heat.  Test the oil to be sure it’s hot enough by putting a little piece of potato in
it and watching for little bubbles all around the potato.

* – About peeling: I normally keep peels on to keep the good nutrients in food and I like the texture of peels.  However, out of respect for the good home cooks of Spain, I peel my potatoes for this.  All of the Spanish women I saw cooking peeled everything.  With knives.  Quickly.  It’s truly impressive.

Fry the potatoes and onion until the potatoes are soft and some of them are a little brown, about 20 mins.  Once fried, you have two options:  drain the oil out of the pan and use that pan for the tortilla, if medium sized, or, I used a strainer to take the potatoes out of the bigger pan and into a good medium sized non-stick pan (and then I hear Charo’s voice in my head that I’m so American to use two pans).

Important Note & Caution: It is essential that your non-stick is really non-stick.  If any food sticks to the pan, the tortilla won’t work well.  I’ve even bought a cheap, new non-stick pan when out of town just to make one tortilla.

Okay, so you’ve got your drained potatoes and onions in the non-stick pan.  Salt them liberally and stir a bit.  Now, put the heat at medium-low.  Beat the eggs in a bowl and add to the pan.  Be patient here.  Let it cook slowly.  Watch for the edges to be cooked.  Use a spatula to check for browning underneath.  When the sides are cooked and it’s brown on the bottom, loosen the sides with your spatula.

Here’s the hard part:  Place the large, round plate over the pan and flip the tortilla onto the plate.  Then, slide it into the pan so the raw-egg part is down in the pan to get cooked.  Cook until the bottom is lightly browned.

Serve at room temperature.

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Recession Special: Bulk Bin Bean Soup – Dressed Up

January 17, 2010

Occasionally, I’ll try a multi-bean soup mix.  This time, I had a beans & barley mixture from the bulk section of one of my local stores.  My friend Wendy and I put together an impromptu 4-course meal with things we had in our respective fridges instead of going out to eat one evening. This was the first course, followed by some Trader Joe’s multigrain pasta & TJ’s Organic Vodka pasta sauce.  Then stir-fried onions, zucchini, and shrimp (seasoned with garlic & lemon pepper), and some of the leftover thumbprint cookies for dessert, washed down with a $3.49 bottle of Malbec.

Here are my guesses on proportions & spices I used:

Bulk Bin Bean Soup
1-1/2 cup bean and barley veggie soup mixture
2 cups of different vegetable stocks (I use Trader Joe’s broth packets & some powdered stuff)
3 cups of water
About 1/2 teaspoons each:  garlic granules, onion powder, marjoram and basil
Plenty of salt & pepper

Cook in slow cooker around 8-10 hours on low. Garnish with carmelized onions and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  *Voila*  A cheap, but sort of elegant, little bowl of soup.

Thumbprint Cookies – something with leftover jam

January 11, 2010

I wanted to make cookies as a music practice snack for me and the guys I play with.  Looked in the cupboards and drawers for chocolate chips – nope…raisins – nope.  I checked the fridge and saw that I had a lot of jam left over from making doughnuts in December.  I found this recipe and made a few adjustments.  I have loved thumbprint cookies since they were a treat while shopping with my mom in downtown Montpelier, VT when I was young.  Little cookies with blue and pink frosting from the little bakery near the Grand Union were unforgettable.

Slightly Healthier Thumbprint Cookies with Jam

3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened (but not too soft).  I used part butter, and part vegan buttery sticks
1/2 cup white sugar (I think they’d work with sucanat substituted for half the sugar)
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup fruit preserves of any flavor

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla until combined well and creamy.  Add flour and mix with mixer until blended.  Roll into 1″ balls and press down with your thumb or a small spoon.  Fill the thumbprint with about 1/2 teaspoon of preserves.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until the bottom of the cookies are golden. (I have NEVER seen a cookie bake in 8 minutes in any oven I’ve used at any point in my life, so I take the 8-10 minute guideline in recipes as 10-12 minutes.)  Cool on a wire rack.

Zesty Chick Pea Soup

January 3, 2010

It’s Sunday, when, if I get my act together, I cook ahead for the week. Today, I made a few adjustments to this recipe.

Zesty Chick Pea Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. coriander
1/2 t. basil
1 t. garlic granules or garlic powder
1 t. salt
plenty of ground black pepper
3 1/2 c. vegetable stock
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans/chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can peeled/diced tomatoes
lemon wedges
chopped cilantro

Sautee the onion and celery in olive oil over medium to medium-high heat until onions are transluscent. Add cumin, coriander, basil, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Sautee for another minute.
Add stock, chick peas, and tomatoes. Simmer for at least 30 mins, or all afternoon if you can.
Squeeze lemon and sprinkle cilantro over.

Two Legume Dishes: Imjadara/Mujadara & Spiced Chick Peas et al.

January 3, 2010

Once a month, I help with Dinner-In-The-Shul at my synagogue, a Shabbat meal for dozens.  We’re never quite sure how many are coming, with RSVPs as a vague indicator.  My role in the cooking group is to make a protein-filled vegan or vegetarian option Although I eat meat, I hate to see veggies go without protein!  Two challenges a la “Dinner Impossible” are 1) make a dish that will go well with just about any other dish and 2) limit cooking to baking because the stovetop in the meat kitchen is fairly useless.  These are the legume dishes I’ve done in the past two months. Proportions are scaled to regular meals, not the 50 people we fed with the first dish!

Imjadara/Mujadara:  Lentils with Carmelized Onions

First – bake brown rice using Alton Brown’s brilliant recipe.
1 1/2 cup of brown rice
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
dash of salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease an 8” X 8” baking dish.  Put rice in the dish and pour the boiling water over it.  Add oil & salt.  Cover with foil.  Bake 1 hour.  Fluff with a fork when cooked.

Next (or beforehand depending on method) – carmelize the onions
3-4 medium onions, thinly sliced
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil.
Salt & pepper
3 options:
1 – stovetop – preheat oil to medium high heat.  Add the onions and lower the heat to medium-low to low.  Stir the onions every 10 minutes or so for 45 mins. to 1 hour until they are golden and carmelized.  .
2 – oven – put onions & oil in a dutch oven.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 2 hours, stirring the onions every 20-30 minutes.
3 – crock pot – onions & oil in the crockpot.  Cook on low 8-10 hours.  Add about 1/2 extra onion as some sticks to the side and you lose a little this way.  But, it’s the easiest.

And then – cook the lentils
2 cups lentils with 4 cups of water
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1/2-3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for approx. 20-30 mins. until lentils are soft but solid.  Mix about half of the rice, the onions, and the lentils together and season according to preference.

Spiced Chick Peas et al.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 can chick peas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
You can combine any combination of about 3-4 cups of other beans/peas
I used:
1 lb. bag frozen peas
1 c. frozen butter peas
Mix in a big bowl.  No need to thaw the peas.  Add seasonings (proportions approximate):
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. ground pepper
3/4 t. garlic salt
1/2 t. smoked or other paprika
1/2 t. ground coriander
2 t. olive oil
Toss to mix well.

3 T. butter or margarine:  cut up into little squares.
1/4 c. water
In the bottom of an 8 X 8 baking dish, put 4 little cubes of butter or margarine and add water.  Pour half of the bean mixture.  Put 4 more little cubes on this layer, then pour the rest of the beans in and then top with a couple of cubes of butter. Cover the dish with foil

Bake for 30-45 mins.  Stir every 15 mins. or so.  Add water if the beans are getting dry.

Roasted Carrot & Cauliflower Soup

December 31, 2009

I drove a friend to the airport and she had a bunch of food in her fridge that she needed to give away.  Included in the collection was a 2 lb. bag of carrots, just on the edge of sliminess, but still good.  I had some cauliflower and many onions from my food co-op.  After looking up a number of recipes, I went for roasting.

Roasted Carrot & Cauliflower Soup

2 lbs. carrots (if large/whole, peel & cut into 3 sections or so; I used baby carrots)
1 head cauliflower, cut into large florets
1 large onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, smashed
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
4 c. vegetable stock
2 t. lemon juice
1-2 t. Sriracha/Rooster Sauce or other hot sauce

Preheat oven to 400 or 425.  I have an odd habit of roasting at 410 degrees.

In a large baking dish, pour about 2 T. olive oil across the bottom.  Add carrots, onions and 2 cloves of the garlic.  Drizzle 2-4 more Tablespoons oil and toss.  Sprinkle salt & pepper.   Do the same with the cauliflower in a smaller pan with less olive oil.

Every 15 mins, turn the veggies.  The cauliflower was done in about 35 mins; the carrots & onions in 45 mins. Cool the veggies.

Once cool, put all of the roasted vegtables in a food processor and add 1 c. of stock.  Whir on medium speed until blended.  Turn up to high speed and add stock a cup at a time so the soup doesn’t get sloshy. Process until smooth.  Add lemon juice and Sriracha, whir and taste.  Return to pot to re-heat.  Adjust salt, pepper, lemon juice & Sriracha to your liking.

Next time, I may try to make a creamy, protein-filled version with silken tofu.  Will report back!

Black Bean Burgers

December 31, 2009

After having a really good black bean burger in an airport of all places (Chili’s Too at O’Hare), I wanted to work on mastering my own. These turned out quite well.  I combined elements from different recipes.

Black Bean Burgers

1 15 oz. can of black beans (or 1 c. cooked from dry)
1 medium onion, rough chopped
1 green bell pepper, rough chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 sm. or 1/2 bigger chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (from canned – I freeze these 2 peppers apiece in snack baggies)
2 T. sunflower seeds
1 egg
1/3 c. quick oats
1/3 c. matzo meal
1 t. cumin
salt & pepper to taste

Process onion, pepper, garlic, chipotle, and sunflower seeds until minced into small pieces.  Important:  Drain water out of this mixture in paper towels surrounded by rags.

Mash the beans in a large bowl with a fork. Leave some beans whole.

Beat the egg slightly and add onion mixture, egg, oats, matzo meal & spices.  Mix well.  Let sit in the fridge for at least 15 mins.

Form into patties. Either bake on parchment or Silpat at 400 degrees until browned (probably 20-30 mins. depending on size of patties), or fry in a pan with a small layer of olive oil, about 3 mins. a side.