The Wednesday Chef’s Bolognese

Pasta Bolognese. Long-simmered perfection in a plate of pasta.

Pasta Bolognese. Long-simmered perfection in a plate of pasta.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, friends!  I hope that your weekend has been filled with feasting, family, and most importantly – time at home to relax. We had a lovely Thanksgiving with family on Thursday, and have been hiding out at home since – having a couple of days with no to-do list, and no agenda was just the balm we needed. The house may not be any cleaner for our sloth, but sometimes, a little laziness is just the prescription needed to rest and recharge for the final rush to close out 2012 and head into the rest of the holiday season.

I recently devoured yet another culinary memoir, My Berlin Kitchen, from Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef blog. I’ve been reading Luisa’s posts for years, and loving her reflections on a life lived with parts of her heart’s home residing in Boston, New York, Berlin and Italy, and always longed to learn more of her story. My Berlin Kitchen is the perfect answer to that longing, as she shares the bones of her personal story and the tastes, scents and flavors that make up her life. To say that you should buy the book is an understatement. You should buy one copy for yourself, and another for anyone else in your life who loves food. It’s that good.

bolognese sauce - sauteeing the meat

Sauteeing the meat for the start of the Bolognese.

Luisa’s story is punctuated by a recipe at the end of each chapter, a summary snapshot of a moment, a taste, a person, a conversation in her life. Much like Molly Wizenberg’s, A Homemade Life, this makes perfect sense to me – the intermingling of story and taste…that’s what food blogging is, right? As I was reading through, I found myself bookmarking recipes to be made later, and once done, I knew that Luisa’s Bolognese sauce would be first up. She describes the long simmered sauce as her ultimate comfort in challenging times, the meat laden sauce slowly contracting into a quivering, magical softness…I could not resist. And neither should you.

Truly, the hardest thing about Luisa’s Bolognese is mincing the carrots – not a task I particularly enjoy. But once you’re past that and the sauteeing of onion and carrot, the next 7 hours of gentle simmering pass by in a state of benign neglect. Give it a stir when you’re passing by the stove, to incorporate floating fat back into the sauce, but really, the sauce doesn’t need you. We walked to Taste Wine and Food and ended up chatting in the shop for over an hour, and then followed that with a 6 mile run…all while the sauce simmered away without us. The sauce didn’t miss us one bit.

And when we returned from our cold run, famished and ready to demolish anything in our path, we had to hold for one final hour, to allow the sauce to cook for the full prescribed 7 hour simmer…it’s hard to do when your house smells of red wine, tomatoes and meat sauce, but you should wait. Oh, yes. Your patience will be rewarded with a sauce that slumps and slinks into the crannies of your favorite pasta, and the gentle essence of meat and tomato blend with red wine in a perfectly balanced, nearly silky balanced bite. For a sauce with a skinny list of ingredients, and not a single spice beyond salt, this sauce is magical. Hands-down, the best I have ever made. You should make it, too.

The finished Bolognese. Meaty, silky perfection

The finished Bolognese. Meaty, silky perfection

Luisa has shared a different version of Bolognese on her blog, but you should really grab a copy of the book, and make the version stashed in its pages – it’s even simpler than the version on her blog. You won’t be sorry.

The Wednesday Chef – Marco Canoras Bolognese (not the version from her book)
What’s your favorite pasta dish that rings of comfort and home? Share your thoughts in the comments!

*Apologies for the not quite as good photos. I didn’t feel like getting out the DSLR and lights, so I made do with the iPhone. 

Grain-Free Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Pizza

cauliflower and sweet potato crust pizza

If you’ve been tooling around the food blogs or Pinterest in the last few months, you’ve likely seen a photo or post about cauliflower pizza. I’ve had friends share links with me, but I had never been convinced that this was a good idea.

You see, I have been a lifelong hater of cauliflower…not just mild distaste, but a full on aversion – odd since I love all other brassica veggies – broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts…but cauliflower remained the one lonely veggie on my “will not eat list.” I’ve always thought that the smell of cooking cauliflower smelled like sweaty gym socks (I still kind of do). I’d tried mashed cauliflower, roasted, spiced it up with Indian curry, or slathered with chipotle puree, and still – meh.

It wasn’t until one of my colleagues, Natalie, whose taste I very much trust, came into work one morning and declared that I MUST try cauliflower crust pizza. I was still skeptical, then Natalie assured me that the taste of cheese and spices in the crust could overturn my previous thoughts about this bland veggie. Well, Natalie was right – and then some.

grated cauliflower and sweet potato
In researching the many recipes for cauliflower pizza, I wanted to minimize the effort, maybe to cut my losses if it didn’t work out – just to swear that I had given this thing a fair shot. As always, Lori Lange had just the shortcut I needed. Rather than steaming and ricing the cooked cauliflower, Lori recommends grating the raw ‘flower with a box grater (so easy!), and simply microwaving it for a few minutes. Genius. With this tip, I was on my way.

My first pizza was good – and to go from a head of cauliflower to pizza in under 30 minutes makes this a great option for weeknight meals, when taking the time for a traditional gluten-free dough to rise just isn’t in the cards…AND, you’re getting an extra serving of veggies, too!

cauliflower and sweet potato pizza crust

On my second attempt, I had the tiniest little head of cauliflower in the crisper, and I needed something else to add a little bulk to the crust. I found a small, slightly shrively sweet potato hiding in a drawer (sweets shouldn’t be stored cold, as it will convert some of the sugars to starch and the taters will taste less sweet). I peeled the sweet potato and grated it along with the cauliflower, and the resulting crust held together a bit better with the starchier potato. This time, I also skipped the traditional pizza sauce, which kept the finished crust a bit firmer, but if you do add sauce, go a bit light on it.

This pizza is GOOD. Really good. It’s changed my perception of cauliflower, and to make pizza healthy, well…that’s something we should all be on board with.

What do you think – will you take the plunge and give cauliflower pizza crust a try? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Crust
Adapted from Lori Lange, Recipe Girl
Serves 2

Crust:
2 cups raw, grated cauliflower
1 small sweet potato, washed, peeled and grated
1 T fresh basil, minced (optional), or 1 T dried italian herb blend
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
⅓ cup finely grated fontina cheese

Toppings:
⅓ cup chopped ham
2 oz soft, marinated feta (Yarra is my favorite), or  soft goat cheese
drizzle of olive oil
½ T fresh basil, minced
Note: this is pizza, so use whatever toppings you like. If you use a tomato sauce, go a bit lighter on the sauce, as the extra moisture will take away from the crispness of the crust.

Special equipment: pizza stone, box grater, parchment paper, rolling pin

  1. Place your pizza stone in the oven (if you don’t have one, place your baking sheet in the oven), and preheat to 450 degrees.
  2. Grate the cauliflower and sweet potato with a box grater and place in a mixing bowl.
  3. Put the bowl in the microwave and cook for 6-8 minutes until the veggies are tender. Take the bowl of cooked veggies out of the micro and set aside to cool.
  4. Grate the fontina cheese, and mince the basil. Beat the egg in a small bowl with a fork.
  5. Add the cheese, basil, salt, pepper, cheese and egg to the cauliflower and sweet potato bowl. Gently stir together with a rubber spatula.
  6. Cut two pieces of parchment large enough to hold the pizza, and spray one side of each piece with olive oil. Set one piece of parchment on the counter, oiled side up, and scoop the crust mixture onto the middle of the parchment, using your hands to pat the mixture into a circular shape about 6 inches across.
  7. Cover with the other sheet of parchment, oiled side down. Use a rolling pin to gently roll out the dough into a large circle, until the finished crust is about ¼” thick. Peel the top layer of parchment off.
  8. Open the oven, pull out the rack with the pizza stone, and carefully transfer the crust to the stone on the parchment…I find it’s easiest to do this with a buddy, and each person grabs two corners of the parchment to move the pizza onto the stone. A pizza peel will also do the job well (I don’t have one).
  9. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until golden, and the edges look fairly crispy. Remove the pizza from the oven, and crumble the feta or goat cheese over the crust. Drizzle about 1T of the oil from the marinated feta (or just 1 T plain olive oil) over the crust. Sprinkle the ham over the pizza.  Return the pizza to the oven for 3 minutes to melt the cheese and heat the toppings.
  10. Remove the pizza, slice and serve. Enjoy!

grain-free cauliflower and sweet potato crust pizza

Sundays in the Kitchen

The glory of the Sunday fridge is undisputed.

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you know that each Sunday I post a list of my Sunday achievements in the kitchen. Sunday mornings are my time to get up early, walk the dog on the beach while making my mental list of to-dos for the morning. By 8am, I’m at the grocery to pick up any last needed items for the week, and by 9am, I’m in the kitchen. My weekly goal is to have all breakfasts, lunches, snacks and 2 dinners for the week prepped by 1pm in the afternoon…sometimes I’m a little quicker, sometimes a little slower. The important thing is that nothing intrudes on this block of time.

A morning in the kitchen sets me up for a successful week at work, where all I have to do is grab breakfast, lunch and snacks from the fridge and toss it in my lunchbag on my way out the door. Having a couple of dinners prepped ahead, and Sunday dinner leftovers for another night make it easy to get dinner on the table quickly, even after a long day in the office.

When I’m done with cooking and prepping Sunday afternoons, there is nothing more glorious than opening the fridge and seeing that wall of storage containers and know that I’m ready for whatever the week ahead brings. Friends often ask how I plan and get all the cooking done each weekend, so here’s how the magic happens (of course, there really is no magic, just some Type A organizational mojo and a teensy bit of help from my younger years spent in professional kitchens as a prep cook).

Lunches, breakfasts and snacks live on the top shelf – red lentil soup, pesto quinoa salad, sliced jicama and bags of veggies for snacks

Breakfasts: 

  • Baked oatmeal with with sour cherries (you can add any favorite fruit to this recipe – about 2 c of fresh fruit)
  • Granola bars for mid-morning snack

Dinners: 

  • Sunday: Mushroom Chorizo tacos w onions and bell peppers and jicama taco shells (similar to what I wrote for the Mushroom Council (client) – full recipe coming soon)
  • Monday: Leftover red lentil soup w roasted red peppers and Italian sausage from last Sunday
  • Tuesday: Grilled hamburgers, fresh sweet corn & cucumber salad
  • Wednesday: Leftover mushroom chorizo tacos & kohlrabi slaw
  • Thursday: Grilled Italian sausage & cabbage salad
  • Friday: Fresh sweet corn pesto pasta with bacon and basil (make this NOW)

Lunches: 

  • Green monster summer veggie quinoa salad with basil pesto vinaigrette
  • Leftover red lentil soup with roasted red peppers and Italian Sausage

Snacks:

  • Baggies of blanched fresh green beans and peeled and sliced carrots (I hate those slimy bags of baby carrots, and they’re 2-3x more expensive than whole carrots)
  • Nectarines and apples from the farmer’s market
  • Granola Bars

Second shelf: cabbage for salads, salsa for snacks, and fixins for chorizo mushroom tacos.

The Plan of attack:

Friday night: 

  • Take inventory of pantry and fridge
  • Menu planning, cruise blogs/Pinterest for inspiration
  • Start the farmer’s market & grocery list

Saturday:

  • Hit up the farmer’s market for local, fresh goodies
  • Make a batch of quinoa (1 1/2 cups + 3 cups water + salt) & stash in the fridge
  • Make granola bars (1 batch lasts us 2+ weeks) & stash in the fridge in a large storage container with parchment paper between layers
  • Night: Prep the baked oatmeal by putting the oats in the almond milk/egg mixture to soak overnight in the fridge

Sunday: 

  • 7am: Preheat the oven and bake the oatmeal. Walk the dog, bring the phone along to add to the grocery list on my list app.
  • 8am: Let the oatmeal cool, and raid Whole Foods or Rogers Park Fruit Market for any items needed for the week
  • 9am: Cooking begins…the trick here is to multi-task as much as possible for maximum efficiency – have something working in the oven or on the stovetop while you’re chopping. Turn on some upbeat tunes and be diligent in setting timers so nothing burns as you multitask.
    • Note: while you get down in the kitchen, this is a perfect time for your spouse/partner/SO to do some cleaning around the house
  • 12pm: Done cooking, and time to relax – perhaps with my favorite margarita.

This morning’s session went something like this: 

  • Preheat oven to broil.
    • Meanwhile: scoop baked oatmeal into storage containers for the week ahead & stash in fridge.
  • Roast red bell peppers for quinoa salad, turning peppers every five minutes.
    • Meanwhile: boil water and blanch green beans, drain beans and chill in an ice water bath
  • Shuck 3 ears of fresh sweet corn & slice kernels off cob. Heat a large, non-stick pan over medium heat, add 1 T olive oil and saute for 5 minutes
    • Meanwhile: Dump cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl. Dice leftover grilled steak from Friday’s dinner for deployment in quinoa salad. Peel & chop roasted bell peppers & chop a handful of beans for quinoa salad. Add chopped veggies & steak to quinoa bowl. Set aside rest of green beans for snack baggies.
    • Add sauteed corn to the bowl of quinoa, meat and veggies. Gently stir to combine.
  • Make pesto vinaigrette in the food processor: 2 handfuls of fresh basil, stems removed, 3 T marcona almonds, 1 garlic clove, juice of 1/2 lemon, zest of 1 lemon & 1/4 cup olive oil. Process until smooth, add salt & pepper to taste.
  • Scrape the pesto vinaigrette onto the quinoa salad mixture. Use a spatula to gently stir until all quinoa is lightly dressed in pesto dressing. Crumble a handful of feta into the salad and stir a final time. Scoop into storage containers and stash in the fridge.
  • Peel & slice 1lb of carrots and portion into snack baggies along with the rest of the green beans, and place all baggies of veggies into an open storage container in the fridge for easy grabbing.
  • Make watermelon lemonade sorbet base: slice and cube watermelon and dump into the blender. De-seed and juice 3 lemons. Make lemon simple syrup with sugar and lemon juice – add finished syrup to the watermelon, and puree. Stash the sorbet base in the fridge to chill before churning around dinner time.
  • Wash 1.5 lbs of mushrooms in a salad spinner filled with cold water. Swish the mushrooms around a bit to shake all the dirt loose, then pick up the basket to drain. Dump the filthy water, and spin gently.  (Now, I know washing mushrooms is taboo, but people – these things grow in manure, and that’s just not good eats, as Alton Brown would say. So if you’re planning to use mushrooms the same day you wash them, there’s truly no harm in it so far as I’ve experienced.)
  • De-stem the mushrooms (save the stems for stock in a bag in the freezer, since you’ve already washed them) and dice into 1/2” cubes. Store in a large storage container for use in mushroom chorizo tacos for dinner.
  • Dice 1/2 white onion and 1 large red bell pepper for the mushroom tacos. Store in a separate storage container in the fridge.
  • Make Salsa: dump 1/4 of an onion, a handful of cilantro, pinch of salt & garlic powder in a mini-prep processor with 1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes and 1 T chipotle puree. Whizz & jar. Done.

And that, my friends, is roughly what happens in my kitchen every Sunday morning.  What are your prep-ahead secrets? How do you tackle menu planning for the week?  Share your tips for weekday culinary success in the comments below! 

Spicy Buffalo Quinoa Salad

ImageSo….hey.  I’ve been away for a few months, and I’m really sorry about that. I owe you all a few posts about my travels, but let’s get real…it probably won’t happen, even though it’s been a pretty epic season.  I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference (check that one off in the “career dreams” category), attended and spoke at the Eat, Write, Retreat conference (definitely my favorite food blogger conference), and just returned from the Evo conference, where I soaked in the amazing conversations with so many smart, savvy women in between client commitments. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen….

Friends, we eat a LOT of quinoa in our house, in salads of all varieties. Quinoa has higher protein than other grains (technically, it’s not a grain, it’s a seed), is fairly neutral in flavor, cooks up quickly and makes some fantastic salads that can chill for days in the fridge. I love all of these qualities, which makes quinoa one of my go-to pantry staples. I’ve shared many a quinoa salad here, like the standard quinoa salad with black beans and lime-cumin vinaigrette, curried quinoa salad with mango and cilantro chutney, and roasted vegetable quinoa salad.

But with all of those variations, I’ve been getting bored. Quinoa had really lost that new-grain-on-the-block shine, and my attention has been captivated by millet, and experimenting with cooking all varieties of dried beans as inexpensive main dishes ( a la smoky bean tacos). Last week, a friend invited me to join her at Protein Bar for lunch.

For those of you not in Chicago, Protein Bar has been the HOT go-to lunch destination for Loop workers for the last year or so. It’s always packed, and they claim to do “healthy food…healthier.”  I don’t get out of my office much to take a lunch break, so I’d never been. And after eating there, I’m kind of kicking myself for the neglect, because not only do they handle gluten-free food very well, they have some interesting takes on quinoa that have reignited my love.

I enjoyed Protein Bar’s Buffalo Bowl – a generous serving of quinoa, chicken, celery, carrot, blue cheese and cucumber laced with their own buffalo sauce. I was hooked. It was amazing. I couldn’t stop thinking about the salad all afternoon, and couldn’t wait for the weekend to come, so I could try my hand at my own version.

This salad doesn’t disappoint. I added a few more veggies, and spiced it up a couple more levels over the Protein Bar salad, and I can tell you I am quite excited about lunches this week, and looking forward to a few more riffs on Protein Bar offerings. Consider me, re-pumped about cooking up a pot of quinoa!

ImageSpicy Buffalo Quinoa Salad
Serves 7 as a main lunch course
Inspired by Protein Bar

Like all quinoa salads, you can toss in any veggie you have on hand, or your personal favorites. If sweet corn happens to be in season where you are, do add in a couple cooked ears’ worth – it’s super tasty and a nice contrast against the spicy dressing.

1 ½ cups dry quinoa, cooked and chilled
1 batch of GF/DF Buffalo Sauce (note: I increased the amount of cayenne and used about ½ cup of hot sauce) 
2 cups cooked chicken, diced (optional)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 green onions, minced
3 stalks celery, minced
1 cup fresh sweet corn, cut off the cob (or thawed and drained frozen corn
3 carrots, sliced wafer thin
1 handful cilantro, de-stemmed, and roughly chopped
⅓ cup gorgonzola, crumbled
Extra Frank’s Original Hot Sauce, to taste

  1. Cook the quinoa according to the instructions (I make mine in the rice cooker, so am not one to advise on stovetop cooking), then chill completely.
  2. Make Nancy’s vegan buffalo sauce, and set aside. 
  3. Chop all of the veggies and set aside. 
  4. Mince the chicken, and place in a small mixing bowl. Add a few splashes of Frank’s Hot Sauce and toss to lightly coat the chicken, to give the protein a little extra kick. 
  5. Place the quinoa in a large mixing bowl, and break up the quinoa into individual grains with a fork or spatula. Add the black beans, red bell pepper, green onions, celery, sweet corn, cilantro and carrots and gently stir with a rubber spatula to combine. 
  6. Drizzle about half of the buffalo sauce over the salad, and gently stir to coat all of the quinoa. Taste. If you like it a little spicier (as I do), drizzle on the rest of the sauce, and stir again. You may find that you need a little extra kick, so don’t be shy, and shake a little more Frank’s Hot Sauce on there, and stir a bit more. 
  7. Finally, add the crumbled gorgonzola, and fold into the salad just before serving.  This salad also keeps very well in the fridge, and leftovers make a most delicious lunch! As the quinoa salad sits in the fridge, the spice level mutes considerably, so keep a bottle of hot sauce handy to spice it up. 

What are you favorite variations on qunioa salad?  Inspire me!  

Grilled Lamb Kabobs with Zaatar

Image

On the last day of winter in Chicago, a winter so mild that we lived in a constant state of anxiety waiting for the weather hammer to drop and get down to some real misery, it was 80 degrees. 8-0.  Bright sunshine was welcome on our pale faces, and the entire city ventured outdoors in shorts to run, bike, walk – anything to soak up this oddly wonderful close to the winter that never was. Perhaps this sunny and mild winter was our just reward for surviving the beast of Snowpocalypse 2011. One week later, the magnolia trees, daffodils and tulips are in full-bloom – two months ahead of schedule. The summery weather inspired us to drag out the patio furniture and invite friends over for brunch AND dinner – on the same day! Carpe diem, and all that. 

Crysta joined us for brunch on the balcony, and we kicked things off with my new favorite margarita, inspired by Diane Cu’s post sharing her discovery that bitters are the secret sauce for the perfect margarita. We’ve since gone and bought the Bitters cookbook, and have become fairly obsessed with classic cocktails – we suggest you do the same. The sazerac is the new black in our house.

With the weather so beautiful, we quickly made plans to fire up the grill. I had a pound of cubed lamb in the freezer from our farm share, and decided to whip up some kabobs with grilled veggies. These little beauties really hit the spot. And not even a blast of chilly air off the Lake that cooled temps from 80 to 60 just as we were starting the grill could deter us from eating outdoors. With cocktails in hand and sweaters on our shoulders, we raised a glass to celebrate the end of a winter and toast to the growing season ahead.

ImageLamb Kabobs
Serves 4

This is about as simple as cooking can get. Marinate, grill, eat. Simplicity and great ingredients are the way to go. If you can’t find the Middle Eastern zaatar spice blend of sumac and sesame in your area, just change things up and add some rosemary, garlic and thyme to the wine for the marinade – it will be just as delicious.

1 lb cubed lamb (all pieces of uniform size, as much as possible)
⅓ cup red wine
pinch of salt
1 T zaatar
pinch of red pepper flakes
½ of a large onion, sliced into 1 ½ inch squares
1 ½ red bell peppers, cleaned and cut into 1 ½ inch squares
wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

  1. Combine the red wine, salt, zaatar and red pepper flakes in a bowl large enough to hold the kabob meat. Stir together with a fork. Add the cubed lamb, tossing gently to coat the meat in marinade. Cover the bowl, and stash in the fridge for a couple of hours to marinate. 
  2. When you’re ready to eat, preheat the grill, then make the kabobs. Take your soaked wooden skewers and slide the meat onto the skewers, alternating meat and veggies, until the skewer is fully loaded. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the meat and veggies…if you have leftover veggies, make up a skewer of just veggies. They’re good for you.
  3. Place the kabobs on the pre-heated grill (target temp around 450 degrees), and grill for 4 minutes with a closed lid. Flip the kabobs over, and grill for 3 more minutes (or until desired doneness, if you want more than medium-cooked lamb). Remove the kabobs and serve…preferably on a patio with a margarita in hand.
     

Image

Guest Post: Eggs, Boiled, Hard; or Cooking with Engineers

Bad egg.

This guest post is brought to you by Mark, Jenn’s husband. You may remember me from such posts as the breakfast eggy muffins. My contribution to that post involved sticking my head into the frame when Jenn was photographing the food. This is pretty close to the limits of my cooking ability: getting in the way. In years gone by, Jenn used to say that she wished I cooked more so that she didn’t have all of the cooking responsibility. I have made a few attempts at cooking dinner. These adventures invariably went something like this:

LEGOs, I mean HEROES, arise to battle the sulphurous evil  

Me: I’m going to make dinner.
Jenn: Great! You are teh best husband evar!
Me: Where do you keep the spatulas?
Jenn: Cut up these carrots while I take care of this.

Ye olde field artillery

Right in the nards.

I’m only joking a little about this. We have since come to the realization that the kitchen belongs to Jenn, and that she really doesn’t want me in there. I am allowed in to make little things. Quesadillas, omelets, stuff like that. A week ago, while Jenn was out grocery shopping, I was overcome by the strange desire to make hard boiled eggs. I haven’t had a hard boiled egg in years, and came to the realization that I had never boiled one myself. TO THE INTERNET! I found some instructions (recipe?) and made a couple. I made a comment on Facebook that I had done this. Our friend, Chris, asked if I would be putting the recipe on Jenn’s blog. And the seed was planted.

Now, a week later, you are about to read a recipe on how to make a hard boiled egg. A recipe that is essentially boiling water with one additional step. I will turn this into 11 steps.

Its stony carapace encrackened by the frightening impact of the ballista bolt, Sir Percival Hedgeworth von Frinklington sallies forth to bestab the most sinister embryonic horror right in the cholesterol.

With the simplicity of the recipe stated, let me say this: My job description has “engineer” in it. I work in a highly regulated environment. I follow instructions. To the letter. Jenn doesn’t really measure anything. I measure EVERYTHING. Jenn views recipes as suggestions. I feel physical pain if I have to deviate from a recipe. “Salt the pasta water.” How much? I’m going to measure that shit. If a recipe isn’t very specific about something and I’m not sure what to do, I will probably become irritated and grumble and swear through the whole rest of the process. One of my engineery colleagues, let’s call her “Susan,” because that is her name, and I have had several discussions about altering recipes.  We are of one mind on these things.

“If we slew this beast before it cooled down, it would have been easier to flay.”

An actual exchange from the egg boil this morning:
Me: Does this count as “boiling”?
Jenn: No, that is not boiling. You know, it boils faster if you put a cover on the pot.
Me: [The Internet] didn’t say to cover it.

I know that water boils faster if you cover the pot. I studied a little thermal dynamics in school. BTUs. Conduction. Relative and absolute humidity. Shit like that. I’m not bragging, I’m just saying that this is obvious to me. But the recipe that I read didn’t say to cover the pot. So I didn’t. That’s how I roll.

Soup’s on, bitches.

So here is how to hard boil eggs:

Equipment:
One (1) pot capable of holding the appropriate number of eggs (see below) with 1-2” of water covering them.
One (1) lid, pot
Water, cold. Sufficient quantity to cover eggs placed in pot 1-2”.
One (1) device (stovetop is typical) capable of applying sufficient heat to the above pot, water and eggs to raise the temperature of the water to 212 degrees F (100 degrees C).
One (1) colander or strainer or spider. For removing eggs from heated water and/or holding eggs while running under cold water (See procedure).
One (1) timekeeping device capable of indicating the passage of 1-10 minutes.

Ingredients:
x Eggs, where x=desired number of hard boiled eggs.
Salt (optional) Quantity: unknown. The Internet claims that salting the water may prevent eggs that crack during boiling from oozing out all over and will make peeling easier. No studies were referenced that prove these claims.

Procedure:
1. Place eggs in pot.
2. Fill pot with water, cold. Eggs should be at a depth of 1-2”.
3. Add salt (quantity: unknown) to water (if desired).
4. Place pot+water+egg(+salt) mixture on heating device.
5. Engage heating device to a setting capable of boiling water+egg(+salt) mixture.
6. When water boils,
6.1. If heating device is electric: turn off heat, simmer for 1 minute.
6.2. If heating device is gas: reduce heat, simmer for 1 minute.
7. Remove pot+water+egg(+salt) mixture from heating device.
8. Place lid, pot onto pot.
9. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
10. Remove eggs from water using spider, or pouring water/egg mixture into colander or strainer.
11. Place eggs into cold water, or under stream of, to stop cooking process.

At this point, eggs may be peeled and consumed immediately or used for other recipes requiring hard boiled eggs (see other recipes for further instructions).

Blue Cheese Beans


I don’t know about you, but green beans…they’re just not at the top of my vegetable eating list. They’re a little bit plain, a wintertime staple pulled from the freezer when inspiration fails you – steamed and slapped on a plate, maybe with a little butter and pepper. Those beans, they don’t inspire me.

My mom makes an amazing Christmas dinner every year. The star of the meal is always the protein – either crown roast of pork, or a beautiful herb-crusted prime rib as we had this year. But then Mom served up these green beans. Glistening with a light coating of melted blue cheese and garnished with pecans and dried cranberries…I had three helpings. Everyone had seconds. There wasn’t a bean left at the end of dinner. And I’ll tell you, I’d rather have a second or third helping of those beans than that perfect prime rib. It was a green bean conversion experience.

You need to start with fresh green beans for this recipe, and even though it’s far from bean season…they were on sale at Whole Foods this weekend, so I went for it. A little dab of good, creamy blue cheese, and a few chopped nuts and dried cherries or cranberries, and you’re in business. Make these. Now. Soon. Often. You won’t be sorry.


Blue Cheese Laced Beans with Cherries & Pecans
Serves 2 (multiply at will)
From Cook’s Country Magazine

2 cups fresh green beans, stemmed, washed and cut in half
1oz blue cheese – something on the pungent and creamy side
2 T toasted, chopped pecans
2 T tart, dried cherries, chopped
1 T olive oil

  1. Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the oil, and when shimmering, add the beans. Toss to coat in oil, and sear for 2 minutes. Put a lid on the pan and cook for 2 minutes, allowing the beans to steam a bit. Take the lid off, and try a bean to see if they’re cooked, and still have a little crunch to them.
  2. When they’re done to your liking, turn the burner off, crumble the cheese over the beans and toss to coat in the melting cheese. Scoop the beans into a serving dish or onto plates and top with the chopped nuts and cherries. EAT!