Squeaky Peanut

"Dot takes on the Domestic Diva"

Tomato Hand Pies & Grilled Green Maters August 7, 2011

Filed under: Other recipes — squeakypeanut @ 8:50 AM
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Because I am a glutton for punishment, I tried two new Martha Stewart recipes this week: tomato hand pies, and grilled green tomatoes with creamy basil sauce. No photos again this week–my camera appears to be possessed; there is a photo of the hand pie if you click that link, above.

The first I had seen written up on a couple of blogs, where it was reported that they were tasty. No one complained about them being fiddly and taking five hours, so I proceeded naively. The recipe involves making a pâte brisée, which is cut into squares to line muffin cups, and filled with roasted tomatoes and onions, oil-cured olives, feta, and thyme. Sounds delicious and rather simple, right? Well, of course it was not. Oh, it tasted good, if a bit salty, but it was totally a pain in the arse.

The dough came together easy enough in the food processor, and it was to be chilled for an hour in the refrigerator. Naturally, I put it in the freezer by mistake, so after an hour it was hard as a rock and I had to wait for it to soften up. This was not Martha’s fault, but it was her fault that the dough cracked. The Husband just shook his head and asked why I didn’t use Julia Child’s recipe. Indeed. 

While the dough froze, I roasted the tomato and onion slices for 30 minutes. Well, the tomatoes roasted but most of the onions burned to charred crisp. Sigh. I also had to pit the olives, which was tedious, even though I only made a half batch. After the dough softened up enough to roll out and put in the tins, I had to put the tins in the frig for 30 minutes, which only made the dough harder to work with, as the corners were supposed to be folded over top of the tomato/olive/feta filling, but as mentioned above, the dough cracked. Then the “pies” were baked for 50 minutes. The whole thing took forever; I mean, I started these at 6:30 or so, and they weren’t done until 10 pm! They did make a nice little snack the next day, but I would use less salt when roasting the tomatoes since they were salty.

The second recipe was plucked from Everyday Foods. It’s quite simple: slice three green tomatoes, brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side. They are served with a sauce that consists of 1/4 c mayo, 1/4 basil, 1 garlic clove, and 1 T lemon juice, salt and pepper, all whirled up in the food processor (better to use a mini chopper since there isn’t much to whirl). These were quite tasty, and a bit healthier than a fried green tomato. The Husband used some extra sauce on some roasted salmon the next day.

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Green Food Stuffs February 13, 2011

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 11:39 PM
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So! I think I may have found a cookbook under the Martha Stewart umbrella to work my way through.

The editors of her Whole Living magazine have just released a cookbook titled, Power Foods, featuring, natch, 38 “power foods” that are the healthiest things to stuff in your pie hole. I try to eat fairly healthily, but could also use help ingesting more vegetables and such. I like that there are only three red meat recipes in the entire cookbook, and very little dairy other than Greek yogurt and the occasional sprinkle of parmesan or goat cheese.

The book has a large section at the front describing the benefits of each of the 38 power foods, and tips on how to prepare them, which is great if you are reading about papaya, but not so helpful for eggs. Then the book is broken into sections on breakfast, snacks, sandwiches, soups, main dishes, side dishes, and desserts.

There is a foreward by Martha herself! I don’t pretend to believe that she wrote any of the recipes, but some are awfully similar to recipes in Dinner at Home, like the pears with chocolate and baked apples, both of which were terrible. Yay.

I think there will be lots to snark at, such as the concoction I am drinking as I type this. It is an avocado pear breakfast smoothie ( it is 9 pm in reality–I don’t do fruit or sugar in the morning) made with avocado, silken tofu, honey, pear nectar, vanilla and ice. Hmm. Well, it isn’t as terrible as you would think,  but the vanilla overpowers it and it has a very odd taste. I would certainly never drink one willingly again. It’s good for me, though, right?

With the other half of the avocado (you don’t think I would make a full batch of that nonsense, do you?) I tried another breakfast item, the avocado and boiled egg salad. Can you make a salad with two ingredients? The  recipe is to mix chopped avocado, boiled egg whites, olive oil, salt and pepper. I do not know why this is considered a “recipe” any more than pouring booze on fruit, but this time I actually liked how it tasted and would eat it again. The Husband refused to even try it.

The third thing I’ve tried so far is a soy wasabi dip I made for my book club. It involved pureeing endamame, silken tofu, wasabi paste, Chinese hot mustard and lemon juice. I made it the night before and it was very spicy, but by the next day it had mellowed enough that I had to add more wasabi and mustard. I couldn’t get it to be as spicy again, and so I gave up. Some people said they liked it, but they are all very polite. I thought it was ok–endamame are kind of bland to me so I think it needed something else to help it out. It was a good excuse to eat rice crackers, at least.

Smoothie:  D  for demented ingredient list

Avocado & Egg Salad:  B  It tasted good, but why not add some additional foods to it?

Soy Wasabi Dip:   B (edited grade. I had some leftovers and thought it was pretty ok).

 

Shakshuka & Lepinja January 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — squeakypeanut @ 5:19 PM
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Hello, again!

Can I just tell you have relieved I am not to have some Martha menu hanging over my head this weekend? I am very relieved.

I haven’t found a cookbook to work my way through yet; I pick them up and feel too constrained, so for this week I made one of the recipes I have bookmarked in my Favorites folder.

This is a Saveur recipe they call ‘Eggs  Poached in Tomato Sauce” but I have it on good authority (according to the interwebz) that it’s a dish called Shakshuka, and is frequently eaten for breakfast in Israel. It was brought over by Jews from Libya. Whatever you call it, it sounded good and easy.

To accompany it I decided to try making a Serbian flatbread called lepinja that we had last week at the new Balkan restaurant in town, named, cleverly, Balkan Restaurant. This bread was so far beyond an ordinary pita–it was light and fluffy and spongy in all the right places. I LOVED it.  According to numerous forum postings there is no way to make good lepinja outside of Eastern Europe because the flour isn’t the same. I would not be deterred, however. I found a recipe on allrecipes.com, which doesn’t exactly have the best pedigree, but three people gave it 5 stars so I thought I’d give it a go.

Well, of course, I immediately screwed it up, despite the simple directions: heat 2 T milk, sprinkle on yeast, mix with a cup of water and some sugar, then combine with flour and a bit of salt. I thought the dough seemed wetter than it should be, and then I realized that I had mixed two cups of water into the yeast. So, I fixed up some more yeast, added more flour and planned what to do with lepinja for 24. The dough rises three times, but the last two are just 30 minutes so it wasn’t too onerous of a process.

(That same day I also accidentally used the men’s restroom at Borders! In my own defense, there were no urinals, just stalls…. I blame all this on the fact that I was at the gym by 7:30 am that morning. Delirious.)

The bread didn’t turn out as well as what we had at the restaurant, and there was no pocket inside, but it was still tasty bread.  I certainly didn’t mind eating it!

The shakshuka involves browning onion and jalapeno, then adding cumin, smoked paprika and garlic, followed by some whole tomatoes that you crush in your bare hands like a beast. The sauce cooks until slightly thickened, then the eggs are cracked on top to poach, covered. After the five-minute recipe-alloted time the whites were still clear, so I turned the heat up. That resulted in overcooked yolks, but it was fine. The dish is topped with chopped parsley and feta cheese before serving.

I liked this dish well enough, and would be thrilled if this were a regular breakfast item in our culture. It’s much better than soggy French toast, for example. That said, I think the sauce could use more flavor. The jalapeno didn’t add much heat, so next time I would add more or try a different pepper. I will admit it isn’t much to look at.

Hot mess

Bread: B+

Shakshuka: B

 

Fall-Flavored Flautas November 14, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 11:40 AM
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Meal No. 44: Roasted Pumpkin Soup; Black-eyed Pea Salad with Baby Greens; Cheese Flautas with Cilantro Pesto; Apple-Cranberry Crumble

Well, Ms. Martha gets an A+ for using all seasonally appropriate ingredients this week! There is also nothing I don’t like, except for cilantro, so that earns her another point or two.

Soup:

My eagerness to try this soup was quickly diminished by the fact that I had bought the world’s hardest sugar pumpkin. It took me 10 minutes to even get the thing cut in half! I had sharpened my knives, and was terrified I would cut my finger off in the process. So, once I got it halved there was no way I was cutting it into cubes for roasting, per the instructions. I drizzled olive oil on the pumpkin halves and roasted them, along with a quartered onion, for 30 minutes. It was easy to scrape the pumpkin out after it baked.

I forgot to roast the garlic clove, and I didn’t buy fresh shiitake mushroom caps, which were also to be roasted. I only needed two, and I find those bins of loose mushrooms very suspect. Who knows what kind of mushrooms those really are? The packaged shiitakes cost as much as a car, so I decided to use the dried ones we had left over from the mushroom broth recipe of a few weeks ago. I reconstituted them in the vegetable broth, and that was that.

The pumpkin and onion were blended along with the mushrooms and the broth, and salt and pepper were added to taste. I added garlic powder when I realized that I had forgotten about the garlic.

The soup was pretty bland; maybe the roasted mushrooms would have made a difference. The soup barely tasted like pumpkin; if we had closed our eyes while eating it I think we could have guessed it was some sort of squash soup based on its texture, not the flavor. At least it wasn’t sweet, though. Sweet soups are just wrong.  I plan to add some chipotles to the leftovers to flavor it up.

Salad:

A can of black-eyed peas was mixed in with red onion, cilantro, Dijon mustard (of course), garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Right before serving it was added to a baby spinach salad blend. We both really liked the black-eyed pea mixture on its own and didn’t think the salad added much other than soaking up all the oil that was on the peas (and I had added less than recommended, which was three tablespoons!). The pea blend would be good added to a wild rice mixture, or maybe some kind of pasta for a pasta salad. The recipe can be found here.

Cheese Flautas:

You might call them taquitos, but Martha calls these flautas. They involved making a cilantro/pepita/lime juice/garlic pesto, which was smeared onto a corn tortilla, along with some shredded Monterey Jack cheese. After rolling them up they are pan-fried in peanut oil.  They were fine, if a bit oily, which is why I prefer enchiladas to fried tortilla-type-things.  I had gotten some ‘artisanal’ corn tortillas at a fancy market and the flavor of the corn pretty much overwhelmed the mild cheese, so a blend with some cheddar would be better. The pesto was interesting. Martha said to toast the pepitas, which I didn’t think was necessary as they are already roasted. Mine were bordering on overcooked, so the flavor was a bit off.

The recipe makes 8, but I halved it and made 4. We only had one each, so I tried one of the left overs for breakfast the next day. I popped it in the microwave and it was so nasty! All the oil came out. Blarg.

Crumble:

It would be extremely hard to mess up a fruit crumble, but we can never underestimate Martha, so I was a tad worried since her baked goods have been hit or miss. This one  involves apples and cranberries topped with a mixture of brown sugar, oats, chopped pecans and butter. It was not overly sweet and quite tasty!

OVERALL:

It took nearly two hours to make all of this, and half the pans and dishes in the house, so I’m not sure it was worth it. The black-eyed pea salad and the crumble were the stars of the show. We could have been perfectly happy to eat just those two. It was nice that this meal, aside from the fried flautas, was relatively light. All the flavors melded well together, which is unusual for a Martha Meal!

Soup:  C

Salad:  A

Floutas:  B

Crumble:  A

OVERALL: B

 

Eating Soup Like a Goop September 22, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 3:39 PM
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 Meal No. 38: Spicy Stir-Fried Shrimp; Rice Noodles with Coconut Broth; Braised Bok Choy; Sorbet with Wonton Crisps 

Although most of Martha’s Asian-style meals have been good, the last coconut soup was a slimy disaster, so I was a tad nervous.  (more…)

 

And Another Thing… July 11, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 7:39 PM
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You know what else irks me about this menu? The broiled tofu calls for one and a half packages of tofu, for 4 people. Why not just use two, Martha?! Why not just be generous and give your family or friends an extra slice? Or be stingy and use just one container? Because what am I supposed to do with half a block of tofu? If anyone suggests tofu scrambled “eggs” you will be summarily unsubscribed from this blog.  I don’t get the point of those–they don’t taste anything like an egg. And what is the vegan’s problem with eating eggs, anyway?  What is the harm in eating an egg from a truly free-range chicken, that gets to roam around eating bugs, pooping wherever it wants, and biding its time until it gets carried off by a hawk (true story)? Those eggs won’t ever be chickens, so just eat the damn things. 

******************** 

Since I had already purchased the tofu and apricots, I figured I should just make the stupid meal. I had an errand at the mall and found some organic soba noodles at nearby Fresh Market, where they were $35.  Ok, not really. This week’s complete menu is on Martha Stewart’s website, evidently she invited Andie McDowell to make it on her TV show. She is just giving this stuff away, isn’t she? 

Tofu: The tofu was fine, and we liked the texture the broiling gave to it. I have a recipe for Thai-inspired marinated, grilled tofu with a carrot salad from my Weber grilling cookbook that is better. Also, she says to slice the tofu then press it, and everyone knows it’s easier to press it before you slice it. What is her problem? 

Sauce: Didn’t we make this a while back? Almost, but the dipping sauce for the sweet potatoes was just lemon and soy sauce, and this also has ginger and lemon peel. It’s good, but salty. The Husband liked it on the noodles. 

Soba Noodles: Martha is very, very fond of sugar snap peas.  We’ve already used them once, and there’s another recipe that calls for them coming up. I admit they are cute, but they are not the most flavorful things. How about some eggplant or zucchini? I substituted some local green beans. It’s a long story, but I ended up with fewer noodles than the recipe called for, but the full amount of vegetables (including carrot tendrils). The flavor was good, but The Husband thought it needed the dipping sauce, which I thought made it too salty. It could use some garlic. 

Sammy Soba

 

Apricots: YUCK! I think I mentioned that this was my least favorite fruit. The dried ones I had to get for that couscous recipe weren’t too awful, but these were nasty. I used almonds with skins, instead of blanched, because that’s what I had and they tasted weird to me, like they were three days from going rancid. That, paired with the baked apricot, just grossed me out. I had to eat a blackberry hand pie to recuperate. 

You can get with this : 

Or you can get with that: 

 

The Husband thought they were fine. He also pronounces them as APE-pricots, instead of AH-pricots, like I do.   

Last summer I grilled peaches with butter and brown sugar sprinkled on them. They were delicious. We should be doing that, instead. Or watermelon, to help get rid of all the salt we just ate. 

OVERALL: 

The tofu and soba noodles went well together, but it was a lot of salt; I did end up eating some watermelon afterwards. The apricots, aside from being icky, are a weird choice with the other menu items. 

Tofu:     B 

Sauce:   B 

Soba noodles:   B 

Baked apricots:  Since I have a prejudice against them, and suspect the almonds were not right, I will concede to The Husband’s grade of B.   But seriously, they were gross.

 

Pasta Verde and Cherry Ice June 28, 2010

Filed under: Recipe Review,Uncategorized — squeakypeanut @ 4:07 PM
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Meal No. 26: Mushroom and Goat Cheese Crostini; Grilled Pork Paillards; Pasta Verde; and Cherry Ice
The entire menu is, once again, available online. Why, exactly, did I spend money on this cookbook?  

Number 26! This means I am halfway through the book!  

I know I said BBQ was next up, but we deviated from the order in the book a bit. We will probably make the summer menus as fresh, local produce is available.  

Crostini:  

This was easy– make crostini, then top it with goat cheese, sautéed mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini, shiitake and oyster), and chives.  

  

This was fine; it’s hard to go wrong with goat cheese and mushrooms, yet it needed an herb or two aside from the chives. Maybe even a bit of cayenne would have helped.  

Pork:   

You know how Oprah was sued by the Texas Beef guys? Well, whoever is on the Pork Board, if there is such  a thing, should slap Martha with a cease and desist order. Her pork recipes have been so boring and bland, it really is giving the other white meat a bad name.  

This recipe called for pounding boneless pork chops thin (ergo the paillard part), and marinating them in balsamic vinegar. Then they’re wiped off with a paper towel, salted and peppered, and thrown on the grill for a minute per side.  

Bo-ring. Wiping off the meat saved me from a flare-up, but also wiped off the flavor. They had a hint of the vinegar taste, but that was it.  

By the way, the prep work for the rest of the meal took so long that I had to grill these in the dark. The ones in the photos had deep grill marks, but she said to cook these over medium, so that didn’t happen for me. They look as bland as they tasted.  

I grew that little tomato on my window sill!

 

Pasta Verde:  

This is a pasta salad, served warm or room temperature. Gemelli is tossed with a dressing (mustard, vinegar, olive oil salt and pepper), basil, baby spinach and shallots, then with some vegetables that were sautéed in the following order: sweet onion, zucchini, and sugar snap peas.  

Thankfully, this had a lot of flavor. The Husband thought it was oily, but I thought it was fine. It made a ginormo amount. I had prepared all the veggies by the time I realized she was calling for a pound of pasta, so I went ahead and made the whole batch. She says it served 4, but a 1/4 lb of pasta as a side dish seems ridiculous. This makes at least 8 servings.  

Cherry Ice:  

This is a lazy person’s frozen dessert–it’s chunkier than a sorbet and doesn’t require hauling out the ice cream maker. Cherries are pureed until coarsely chopped, then added to some dry white wine, lemon juice, sugar and water. It’s frozen for 20 minutes, then stirred. You have to keep stirring it every 10 min or so for an hour, then it’s served.  

  

This was really good, and refreshing, especially since it was 100 degrees when we made it. Our cherries weren’t all that flavorful and this still worked! We made a half batch, and were sad we didn’t have any more left. Good one, Martha!  

OVERALL:  

I would have been happier with this meal without the pork; the crostini, pasta salad and the cherry ice were plenty by themselves. Make this for your vegetarian friends (maybe add some Parmesan to the pasta)!  

Crostini:    B  

Pork:          C  

Pasta Verde:     A  

Cherry Ice:       A