For Whom the Slaw Coles

If you’re like me, you like the idea of coleslaw more than coleslaw itself, more often than not. That’s because nearly every incarnation of coleslaw I’ve tasted has run the gamut from boring and bland to gloppy and over-sweet. It’s sad, because coleslaw is such  a great, simple dish,  and great way to get fresh raw veggies onto your plate.

So, I’m board with coleslaw. What I’m not on-board with is a thin, vinegary sauce or a thick, sickly sweet one. So, where do I go from here? I go to my go-to sauce, which is neither too thick or thin, too sharp to nor too sweet. I think I’ve perfected the art of slaw, and I invite you try to my super-simple formula.

The following makes enough sauce for 1/2 head of  shredded cabbage and a handful of stir-ins of your choice, or 1 bag of coleslaw mix.

Beth’s Foolproof Coleslaw Sauce

  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup good quality, full-fat mayo
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp. celery seed (and poppy seeds, optional)
  • 1-2 tbsp. white wine or cider vinegar
  • a generous pinch of sugar
  • a generous pinch of salt and pepper

Whisk the following together in a bowl, and pour over your slaw ingredients. Enjoy.

How Not to Waste Food

Food waste is something I think a lot about. I make two big shopping trips a month, and I call myself a “suburban shopper,” because my shopping habits are not like I imagine an urban shopper’s to be. In other words, I won’t be popping into the store every couple of days to pick up perishables. So keeping my food fresh and using it in a timely matter is really important to me. Not just because wasting food is a waste of money, but also because it feels like the worst kind of decadence, knowing there really *are* starving children in the world. Wasting food feels profoundly disrespectful to me.

So here are some things I do to avoid wasting food:

  • I usually wash all my produce when I bring it home, which makes cooking with it that much simpler.
  • I store my more delicate fresh herbs in herb-keepers. They really do work.
  • ALL proteins that are not being used in the next few hours go in the freezer.
  • I keep my pantry fairly well-stocked with *my* staples, so it’s easy to create a dish on the fly
  • I keep tabs on what’s “turning” in my produce drawer. Delicate herbs, veggies and fruits tend to get used first–hearty veggies can wait. If something is starting to look “iffy,” it gets used.
  • Make roasting your friend. Tomatoes look lousy? Roast them. (It makes them sweet and improves lousy texture.) Potatoes getting soft? Cut out the eyes and roast them. Mushrooms starting to get brown? I roast them or put them in a sauce. Bread getting stale? It gets turned into breadcrumbs or croutons.

Here’s probably the most important weapon in my arsenal: Google. Seriously. Stumped about how to use up an item in your fridge? Google it. Google “fennel recipes.” Google “uses for ground turkey.” Google whatever the hell you want, and you’ll have thousands of recipes at your fingertips. There really is no excuse not to use up all the perishables in your pantry and fridge. Plus, trying new recipes is fun.

And now a quick note about simplicity. I tend to eschew recipes that have 500 ingredients in them, mostly because I’m lazy, but also because I’m an experienced enough cook to know that you don’t need to empty your pantry to make something delicious. So, I rate for these tacos, which I made they other night. Wow–yummy and healthy.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. minced chipotles in adobo
5 oz. packaged classic coleslaw mix (about 2-1/2 cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 6- to 7-inch corn tortillas
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
10 oz. deveined, easy-peel medium shrimp (41 to 50 per lb.), peeled
Kosher salt
Lime wedges, for serving

This One’s for the Ladies

A few days ago I did not get around to answering a couple of comments. I’ll answer them now!

In a previous food-related entry where I discussed cooking for people with different food needs/wants, bbkf said this:

I know if i made a light soup or salad for supper, hubbkf would be aghast and rummaging in the cupboards about a half an hour after eating because he tends to not eat during the day and is ravenous by evening…also, he’s one of those a-holish people who can eat all the junk food they want and not gain weight…so, if i do make something on the lighter side, i make sure there’s bread and other things to fill it out…

the thing i find most difficult about cooking for hubbkf is gauging his satisfaction: i mostly get ‘it was alright’…’pretty good’ is high praise with ‘i didn’t care for that’ as being the worst…although one time i made a meatloaf that was so bad that he quietly fed his piece to the dog…who wouldn’t eat it either…

This sounds so eerily similar to my situation, I’m frankly a little freaked out. The whole thing. Especially the part about gauging satisfaction. I get “It’s delicious.” for everything. Now, I know that not everything I make is delicious so that, of course, has no meaning for me. Lately hubby’s been getting “better” about this. It’s pretty easy to coax a “I wasn’t crazy about it.” from him. Soooooooooooooo Yay(?) for me?

oh, hai! i am feeling especially blabby today! here’s a couple of recipes/sites i have had much hubbkf related success with: pork tacos and a racheal ray soup recipe of all things…not a fan at all of racheal’s teevee stuff, but i get her mag and i must say any recipe i have tried from them has never failed…go figure…

I’ve had every outcome you can imagine trying Rachel Ray recipes. Can’t remember a time I actually completed a recipe in 30 minutes, so I have to call bullshit on that, but I think she’s actually pretty great at writing recipes for home cooks that are healthy (they’re well-balanced and don’t use a lot of–if any–processed ingredients), yummy, have a hint of sophistication and are eminently doable. And actually I find that the more of her recipes I try, the more the success rate goes up. I know she’s not considered, like, a hoity-toity foodie-type, but I genuinely think she’s onto something with her formula…so I’m sticking with her.

Rachel’s must-try soup? Her Sausage and Peppers Stoup. It’s almost indescribably delicious.

wiley asks:

Do you make Lord Chubbington’s (he’s growing out of that name, hey?) baby food?

I do not. LC is very sensitive to textures. He hates “in-between” textures. So a food either needs to be toothsome or crispy or completely smoothly blended. It’s very hard for me process my food to the consistency he likes, and when I’ve tried he has disliked it intensely. He also does not seem to like things like fresh fruit and veggie slices. He is, however, learning to like things like little ham cubes, and he he ate some of my turkey chili on pasta and turkey bolognese, so he *is* branching out.

I am always open to suggestions re: toddler food.

notimpressed

A Table Divided Cannot Stand (Recipe Review)

As a notorious omnivore, I like everything from hearty meat and potatoes meals to light salads. I’m also of the opinion that any time you can cram another fruit or vegetable in a dish, you’ve done yourself a good service. My husband is not a huge fan of light salads, light, brothy soups, or what he would refer to as “veggie-intensive” meals. I am. So I thought this pasta-veggie soup, which starts by rendering fat from a bit of Pancetta, would be a great compromise of a dish. The soup calls for a head of escarole, to be chopped and then wilted in the hot broth.

Here’s where the funny/gross part comes in, depending on how much one enjoys “veggie-intensive” meals…I bought a head of escarole, and it was literally the biggest head of escarole I have ever seen. It really wasn’t a head of escarole, it was more like magnificent afro of escarole. Erykah Badu would look at it and say “Damn. I need that escarole.” Seriously, it was ridiculously big (and gorgeous).

Like this, but more magnificent. A LION'S MANE of escarole!

Like this, but more magnificent. A LION’S MANE of escarole!

So I made soup according to directions, adding the escarole at the last minute and letting it wilt a bit before serving. Normally a big bunch of greens would take no time to wilt. But I brought the soup to the table with the escarole still looking a tiny bit perky. Aside from that, there was a just a HUGE amount of it. Now, the idea of sitting down to a big bowl of greens floating in a flavorful tomato-chicken broth with pasta and cheese sounds terrific to me…but it’s the kind of thing that resonates less with hubby. So that meal did not go over well.

That being said, I think the recipe is an absolute winner. I’d give the broth a chance to simmer a bit more than the recipe calls for and I’d season it generously. I’d also make sure to let the escarole swim in the hot tub a bit before serving, but those tweaks aside, it’s a really healthy, satisfying dinner. And, like all things of this nature, it benefits from an overnighter in the fridge. The flavors really get a chance to develop and–wow–what a lovely lunch…even if the pasta does lose its toothsomeness.

So, I was wondering: Any ideas on how to cope with a “divided table?” How do you balance the needs of one person with another? Ideas? Stories? Recipes?

Meeses In Place

Post-Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

What was on the menu:

  • Lamb Chops marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, dill, garlic, etc.
  • My usual Raita/Tzatziki monster-mashup. If there’s much of a difference between these two sauces/salads, I can’t figure out, thus I often make my own yogurt/mint/cucumber-based Raitziki thingie.
  • Mint & Pea Couscous
  • Curried Pumpkin Soup

How everything turned out:

  • The lamb was unbelievably good, seasoned beautifully and cooked perfectly. (Honestly, I find it’s hard to mess up lamb chops. You almost have to work at it.)
  • The Raitziki was terrific. I put Feta cheese in it.
  • The couscous was tasty, but under-seasoned. Definitely needed some more salt. And perhaps some Feta cheese crumbles, just to amp it up a little.
  • The pumpkin soup I just sort of made up as I went along. It was quite good, but was, again, under-seasoned. And it needed a bit of something to add excitement, perhaps a chile pickle (just a little!) or some lemon juice, or a bit of chutney or something.

Remember When…

I said I was gonna start a food blog? Well, I tried to, but ultimately decided doing the noble work of twitter-trolling Ted Nugent and taking goofy pictures of my son was more important. So after publishing a few recipes, I kinda gave up and started blogging about food here again.

I’m gonna bring those recipes from 60% Success Rate on over. So, Bon Apetit!

What I made: Pork Chop, Apple, Onion and Swiss Chard Skillet.

Why it works: This is just a wonderful combination of sweet and savory flavors, classic flavors that belong together. A homey comforting meal with just a touch of sophistication, brought to you with the addition of a splash of wine and some great-for-you leafy greens.

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 1/2 to 1-inch bone in, fat-on pork chops, seasoned with kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 1 large or 2 small apples, cored and cut into thin wedges
  • 1 large onion, cut into slim strips
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • a generous splash white wine or sherry
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. ground fennel seed or pinch of fennel seed
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, rough-chopped
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, fry bacon ’til crisp and fat has rendered. Move to plate, let cool and crumble or chop into small pieces. Do NOT wipe out the skillet.
  2. In the rendered fat, over medium-high heat, brown the pork chops on both sides. Remove them and put them on a plate. Again, do not wipe out the skillet.
  3. Add the apples, onions and spices to the skillet. Add a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat until the apples and onions are golden and quite tender. This will take awhile.
  4. Add the wine and stock. Let simmer until sauce has reduced and thickened a bit. Stir in the vinegar.
  5. Stir in the Swiss chard and let it wilt a bit.
  6. Nestle the pork chops and any accumulated juices in the skillet and continue cooking on medium heat until everything is cooked through and the flavors have had a chance to get to know each other–5 or so minutes.
  7. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.
  8. Serve over mashed potatoes, rice, buttered egg noodles–or whatever you like!

Choose Your Own Adventure Cooking

Last night–for reasons that are boring and would not make the live studio audience laugh–I had to make dinner on the fly. And while I’m a very self-assured cook, the only way to really know if a dish is successful is just go ahead and make it and eat it. So I looked in my fridge, gauged what needed to be used up (Swiss chard, mushrooms), and made a pasta dish with those ingredients plus a few more goodies.

Pasta with Mushrooms, Swiss Chard and Walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 3 pieces bacon
  • 1 big shallot, chopped
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, rough-chopped
  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces
  • 1 pound penne
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup reserved pasta water

Here’s what I did:

  1. I  cooked the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, I fried the bacon in a large skillet. I removed the bacon, set it aside, let it cool and chopped it up.
  2. I added a bit of olive oil to the leftover rendered bacon fat and sauteed the shallot ’til tender and translucent.
  3. I added the mushrooms to the pan and sauteed them until they started to brown. Then I deglazed the pan with the sherry and threw in the chard and garlic. (I had meant to use the garlic as  last minute fresh addition, but accidentally added it too soon. Cooking on the fly!)
  4. I toasted the walnut pieces in a small skillet.
  5. When the shard and mushrooms had cooked down, I turned off the heat and added them to the cooked and drained pasta.
  6. To the pasta-chard mixture I added the toasted walnuts, cooled bacon, the juice of one lemon, the Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, and reserved pasta water, to loosen the sauce a bit. I tossed it all together until everything was combined well.

I thought it was great but could have used a bit of sweetness somewhere–caramelized onions or maybe a little syrupy balsamic vinegar…

Anything you would do to tweak this if you were making it?

UPDATE: Prefer vegetarian cooking? Leave out the bacon. I think this dish would still be terrific without it.

Recipe Review: Asian Tofu Salad

Yesterday, there was nothing lunchy in the house to eat, so I decided get creative and Googled recipes for “Asian Tofu Salad.” I ended up making this, a fried tofu-topped salad of greens, cukes and carrots.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 14-ounce package extra-firm, water-packed tofu, rinsed, patted dry and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 cups mixed salad greens
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 large cucumber, chopped

 

It was really, really tasty.

It took 10 or so minutes* to throw together and I loved the fact that the quick dressing acted as both frying oil and dressing.

I had to do a little tweaking to the recipe because I didn’t have everything it called for on hand. Did not have sesame oil. It was great without it, but I’d sure love to try it with next time. I also substituted romaine lettuce for the mixed greens. Which was fine. Finally, I added a tiny dash of Sambal Oelek and red pepper flakes to the dressing because that’s just how I roll. I’m impish and terrible.

All in all, this is a pretty terrific recipe: healthy, easy to make and extremely tasty. Unfortunately, it’s not terribly filling. So don’t be surprised if you eat every bit of it yourself. I mean, it’s basically tofu and lettuce, so I wouldn’t feel too guilty about it.

 

*all my produce is pre-washed by moi, so that really saves time

Bain Capital Did Not Save My Pantry* *”Staples” Joke

Since I’m a in a question-asking mood (plus I am extraordinarily nosy), I was wondering what you all keep in your pantries and fridges. What are your must-have staples you have on hand at all times?

Here’s my list. I’m going to try to to keep it basic:

  • Some sort of rustic or artisan bread
  • Frozen peas
  • Chicken stock
  • Cooking sherry
  • White/red wine for cooking (and/or drinking)
  • Coconut milk
  • Dried pasta
  • Dijon mustard/mayo
  • Fresh and canned tomatoes
  • Fresh basil, cilantro, parsley
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Fresh and granulated garlic
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery and Carrots
  • Soy sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Any variety Asian chili-garlic sauce
  • Red and Green Thai curry
  • Indian curry powder, plus cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, nutmeg, crushed red pepper (I have a huge spice collection…fessing up)
  • Olive oil/canola oil
  • Sour cream/Greek yogurt
  • Parmesan cheese (prefer ungrated hunk, but will take a grated tub in a pinch)

I think that’s about it. Not insubstantial. But, damn, I really just couldn’t function if I didn’t have that stuff.

Art and Food

I have created two new avant garde art installations. I call this one “Grass.”

I call this “Chair.”

In food news, I found an amazing blog. I’m picky about what kind of recipes I like. A lot simply don’t resonate with me or get my tastebuds workin’… but these sure do. And the fact that they’re written by a nutritionist makes the blog an even better find for me. I’ve already tested one of her recipes and it was a huge success.

Crockpot Asian Chicken Stew


I made a couple of substitutions–I used Chinese cabbage in place of the spinach because, frankly, it needed to be used up, and I used Sambal Oelek in place of the Sriracha because it was all I had. I also added an extra squirt of lime at the end, for extra freshness. With these little tweaks, it was unbelievably flavorful. What’s more, I felt good about eating it.

The stew is definitely vaguely pan-Asian…but the abundance of veggies and the strong peanut taste evokes African groundnut stews. I think–if you’re so inclined–you could easily substitute the chicken with tofu or sweet potatoes, and this recipe would still be a huge winner.