Tonight, I made dinner for the first time this school year for my roommates, one of whom does not eat cheese and another of whom does not eat meats that are not pork, beef, turkey, or chicken. (On the other side, I don’t eat beef or pork.) I tend to serve cheese on the side when I cook for this reason, and this sauce spread is highly adaptable for that purpose.
Starting at midnight in the photo, we have a recipe from Mark Grant’s Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens called Haricot Beans with Bacon. I used nitrate/nitrite-free turkey bacon and added garum, a fermented fish sauce from Ancient Greece and Rome that I picked up in the Italian neighborhood while in Boston this past summer. The flavor was really interesting, and the recipe does not need salt at all due to the cured meat. My roommates devoured this.
The second sauce, salsa al dragoncello, comes from the Italian Academy of Cuisine’s La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy. I picked this up from the library the other day, and the book is the size of my head. The sauce contains tarragon, wine vinegar-soaked bread, salt, basil, garlic, olive oil, and salt/pepper. It’s on page 71 of the cookbook.
The final sauce is my own, and it follows the following recipe:
Mash the goat cheese with half of the honey until well-mixed. Add the remainder of the honey and the dried lavender and mash again. Chill for several hours before serving so the flavor of the lavender infuses the cheese.
I served all of these with ciabatta bread. One good-sized loaf of ciabatta will feed four people with these sauces.
The dinner is Roman because the main sauce is from Ancient Rome and we served it traditionally with bread. I would have made lagana, but lagana does actually take some time to prepare.
Last night, I was kind of tired and cooking barley at the same time.
Because I like my barley soft, I usually cook it in advance, store it in water that just barely covers the grains, and re-cook it according to recipe instructions a day later. The result is usually a less chewy texture.
I … kind of forgot the barley was on the stove, smelled something burning, and assumed it had been the toaster oven.
I ended up with a pot of barley that had a very, very burnt bottom. I salvaged what I could and rinsed it in a sieve to hopefully remove some of the burnt smell. It got better, but not great, so I put it in the fridge while I Googled solutions.
And here’s a hint: searching for “burning the barley” comes up with wood stove household tips and Biblical stories. This stuff was not useful for my problem.
This post fills a gap.
Now, there’s this recipe from the Vegetarian Times (April/May 2011), the bok choy skillet recipe. It calls for bulgur, but I intended to use the barley for this (another good reason to pre-cook it).
I decided to use my salvaged, burnt-smelling barley, and the recipe turned out really, really good. In fact, it was this good:
It had a nice smoky flavor, probably akin to the flavor one gets from liquid smoke (which I have never used and find a bit ridiculous), but there were enough other ingredients in the skillet recipe that the flavor was not overpowering.
The difference when adding pre-cooked barley to a recipe like this is that you can’t add as much extra water as they call for. I added a 1/2 teaspoon of Better than Bouillon to the barley after I added it (remember, it’s been packed in a layer of water, so it’s not dry) and maybe about 3/4 cup of water from the tap total to approximate the broth. No extra water.
I also added garlic to the recipe instead of using garlic-flavored oil. I diced two cloves, sautéed half with the mushrooms, and sprinkled the rest of it over the steaming bok choy.
So burning the barley isn’t the end of your pot of grains. Do not use the burnt bits, do not stir it as you’re getting the intact barley out, and rinse it.
This was a savory recipe, though, with lots of other ingredients. I’m not sure the burnt barley would work as well if it were the primary ingredient or if the recipe were less savory.
Kaye here. This is a salad. Remember how I said I’m not a huge salad person? I’m not. Iceberg lettuce is my least favorite leafy green on the planet unless it’s in Thai or Vietnamese summer rolls, where the other flavors are enough to overpower its drab, tasteless wateriness.
And drab, tasteless lettuce is the stuff I’ve been exposed to all of my life — draped in corn syrup-laced dressings or whatever the restaurant or school served up — so as soon as I discovered strong-tasting greens, my estimation of salads went way up.
This post contains a recipe for a simple vinaigrette. One of my grad school roommates mentioned that in New Jersey, they just serve oil and vinegar separately with salads. I thought it was a bit weird because vinaigrettes have so much more flavor from herbs or whatever else gets thrown in, but I’m a slave to my taste buds.
Tonight, I picked up some arugula ($2.00) at the farmers’ market in Belmont, along with a lot of fresh basil ($2.50), some grass-fed chicken eggs (1/2 dozen for $4.00), and a pound of lamb kebab meat ($14.00). This means the arugula in this arugula, cucumber, and pea shoot salad is super fresh and crunchy.
The really weird thing about eating on my own is that the portions of everything sold in the market are enough to tide me over beyond a week, at least if I want variation in food and get a nice sampling of things. I added garlic scapes like a maniac to everything this past week, and I’m still going through the pea shoots (1 bag), cucumber (1), dill (1 bunch), and kale (1 bunch). I only managed to finish the strawberries (1 pt), tomatoes (1/2 pt), zucchini (1), and garlic scapes (3 handfuls).
Combine the arugula, pea shoots, pepper, cucumber, and avocado in a large bowl. Toss with a tolerable amount of dressing. I used a tablespoon-ish (maybe). Keep tossing until the ingredients are well-coated. I mean, look at how shiny that cucumber is in the photo. This should be emulated.
When tossed, transfer to serving bowl or plate. Sprinkle with the small pieces of well-done toast.
Kaye here. This is adapted from a recipe at the Vegetarian Times. However, it’s good with any fresh seasonal veggies, as I am discovering … and extra tasty with in-season zucchini.
The dough comes from a recipe at Forno Bravo, cut in half. (I mean, I’m only one person.) Dough prep starts before I leave the house. I combine 2 cups of flour, 1/4 tsp of yeast, a bit of salt, and mix thoroughly. Once mixed, I add 3/4 to 1 cup of warm water and let it rise until I get home in the evening. I break the dough into two equal pieces, throw one in the refrigerator, and let the other one rest under a damp towel until I’m ready to work with it.
This pizza dough makes a very thin crust, and the thinner it is, the crispier —- especially with a perforated pizza pan. I tend to chop extra ingredients so they can go in the fridge and be used with the other ball of dough.
Trader Joe’s has insanely cheap goat cheese. I found a name brand 10.5-ounce log for just over $4.00, and their 8-ounce store brand is $3.75. Much cheaper than anywhere else, I’ll say. The other stores sell the 4-oz containers for about the same price.
And that’s that.