Saturday, May 30, 2009

Spicy Aioli Sauce with Roasted Potatoes

Often when I get invited to a party that has a theme to it I go through this cycle: First, I become excited because I think whatever the theme is a really neat idea (ex. Halloween party with 80s movies costume requirement; dinner party with things made with mango; etc.) Next, I am riddled with anxiety because I can't think of a good idea to fit the theme. This leads to me not wanting to go to the party anymore because I don't know what I'll wear/bring. Then, I typically come up with an idea, not being sure if it's a good one. Last, I get to the party and I'm totally energized and impressed with everyone's creativity.

Last night we were invited to a get together where the theme was "food on sticks". The caveat was that really most anything could count since toothpicks counted as sticks. Todd and I waited until the last minute to pick something (as I was experiencing the aforementioned stages). Often when I go out for Spanish tapas, I get a dish called "spicy potatoes" that I've been wanting to try out at home. We decided to make these and put toothpicks in the individual potatoes with the sauce on the side. It's simple and the result was pretty yummy. The best part was that Todd both did the grocery shopping and prepared the food while I was at work (with his unemployed status he is taking over some different household chores). I walked him carefully through the steps over the phone. I had to chuckle when he was reviewing the ingredients to make sure we had everything and when he got to "minced garlic" asked, "Do we have any of this?" Now, he just bought garlic at the store. So, I said, "Of course we do, once you take the garlic you just bought at the store and mince it." I know some people like to buy that jarred stuff, and I'm sure it's fine, but I prefer to use it fresh. I also hate those garlic presses. I think it's more work to clean it, than it is to just mince it with a knife. Todd went with the garlic press and it all came out great. I have to admit, I think I like him even more today. I keep looking at him and thinking to myself, "he made some damn good potatoes last night and he is all mine."

This sauce would also work really well with other veggies, or on a sandwich or roll up.

Roasted Potatoes with Spicy Aioli Sauce
12-15 small new potatoes (we used a mix of red, white and blue ones - fun!), quartered
1 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1 cup of mayo
1 tspn mild chili powder
1 tspn paprika
1 tspn minced garlic
1/2 tspn salt (maybe a little more to taste)
1/4 tspn black pepper

1. Toss the potatoes in the olive oil and a little salt and pepper, and then put into a baking dish. Cook at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, blend the ingredients for the sauce and chill in the fridge.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quinoa with Zucchini and Black Beans

Last week, like many others before us, we were impacted by the suffering economy. Todd was laid off from his job, and while I am not panicking, I have certainly become more aware of expenditures. I would prefer to take precautions now, so we don't find ourselves in a place where we have to panic down the road. There are some obvious places to make cutbacks. We will not be going on a guided mountain bike vacation this summer like we were thinking. I had been looking into buying a commuter/winter bike, but will be delaying that. In general, I'll be scrutinizing all purchases differently.

Food is one area where we need to consider modifications. We don't dine out frequently as it is, so don't need to make a lot of changes there. But, Whole Foods will definitely be seeing my face less often. For produce, I'm planning to make my way over to Russo's in Watertown regularly and get to farmers' markets whenever I can. I find this tough because I am typically working during the hours they are held, but I'll have to figure out a way to work it into my schedule. (However, Todd may now have some free time during the day...) I will also shop around a bit to compare prices on things like canned beans and canned tomatoes. It may be time to start getting in the habit of buying dried beans and cooking them myself. I'm sure there's a cost savings there, but I'm not sure how much, and whether it's worth the investment of time. Another thought is buying these types of things by the case. I think Whole Foods even offers discounts if you do this. There are also a lot of frivolous items we can do without. For instance, I'm pretty sure we won't wither up if we don't have Tofutti Cuties or licorice Scotty Dogs. But, certain things I'm not willing to sacrifice, like our favorite brand of yogurt (Wallaby), good bread or certain organic items.

Luckily, we both really like rice and beans. Since it's both an economical and nutritious meal, I'm sure it will be making more frequent appearance on our dinner plates. But, of course, we don't want to over-do it. I will be on the lookout for some more variations of grains and beans. Another of this sort of dish that is an old standby for me is quinoa with black beans. The recipe includes zucchini, but I often make it without it, since I try to buy most veggies mostly when they are in season. It also calls for fresh cilantro, but dried can be used as well.

Quinoa with Zucchini and Black Beans
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 tblsp olive oil
3/4 cup quinoa (if you want to use more, increase the amount of broth. Use a 1:2 ratio), rinsed
1 1/2 cups of veggie broth
1 tspn cumin
1 tspn dried cilantro or 1/2 cup fresh, chopped
1 pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 14 oz can of black beans (or up to 2 cans, depending on how bean-y you want it)

1. Sautee onions and garlic in olive oil until light brown
2. Mix in quinoa, veggie broth, spices (except for cilantro if it's fresh), and zucchini. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes
3. Stir in corn, black beans, and cilantro (if fresh), and cook another 5 minutes until heated through.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fresh Asparagus Soup

Each season has its good characteristics, and its not so good ones. For spring, on a positive note: the days are longer; nature is very active and there's lots to fill your senses; you can take your wool coat and put it away for a while, and the seasonal food becomes a little "lighter". On its less favorable side: it's hard to have the right wardrobe to dress weather appropriate each day when the temps are up, down and in between; while nature is very active, so are people's allergies; and it starts to get too warm to turn on the oven.

On a bit of a tangent, I wonder if historically people have suffered from allergies to this great an extent, or if because of all the other toxins we are exposed to our bodies are less able to tolerate things like pollen.

Anyhow, when the temps do drop down, I do use that as an excuse to turn the dial on the oven up. I made another pan of roasted veggies the other day, but this time with a blend of winter and summery vegetables. To sweet and white potatoes, I added mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus and tomatoes. I liked that blend a lot. There are also lighter soups that lend themselves well to spring. I made this asparagus soup a couple of weeks ago when we had a few friends over for dinner. It's simple and a fun way to use this spring veggie. I should take this opportunity again to mention how much I adore my immersion blender.

Fresh Asparagus Soup
1 lb fresh asparagus
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup veggie broth
1 tblsp butter
2 tblsp all purpose flour
1 tspn salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups veggie broth
1 cup soy milk (I used rice milk)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tspn lemon juice
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Place asparagus and onion in a saucepan with 1/2 cup veggie broth. Bring the broth to a boil and let simmer until the vegetables are tender.
2. Blend vegetable mixture until smooth
3. Melt the butter in the pan that was used for simmering the asparagus and onions. Stir while sprinkling flour, salt and pepper into the butter. Do not let the flour brown. Allow the mixture to cook only 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/4 cups veggie broth and increase the heat. Continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.
4. Stir in the vegetable puree and milk into the saucepan. Whisk yogurt into the mixture, followed by lemon juice. Stir until heated through. Ladle into bowls and add grated cheese if desired.