Because really decadent brunch is super important once in a while, and it’s the only time I will surrender my kitchen dictatorship to squirrelfriend, who rules forever at Dutch baby pancakes and has de-pescetarianized me by finding out my SECRET CRIPPLING BACON WEAKNESS OH GOD APPLEWOOD SMOKED UNCURED BACON AGGGHGHGHGGHGHGHGH UNFFFFFFFF. Needless to say, unlike most of my food posts, this is not vegan, gluten free, or even marginally containing any sort of nutritional value other than perhaps hangover curing properties. And it RULES.
YOU NEED and probably have in your house already:
Got it all? Cool, here we go.
Why so many food posts lately?! I have no idea. Deal with it. Today: Fried rice, but you know, minus the gut bomb and growing regret part afterwards, and with way more veggies than the few wrinkly peas you see sometimes.
Fried rice always feels like a.) kind of a cop-out to order takeout and b.) the unhealthiest thing ever to eat, and attempts to make it at home (at least for me) always seem to end in…. a greasy disgusting mess of overly-salty rice mush. Gross.
HOWEVER. This is not always how it has to be! You are totally allowed to mess with concepts, like “what fried rice is.” Forget your notions of $3 greasy takeout and failed attempts to re-create it! Fried rice can totally be a meal in and of itself.
Like that huge coconut lentil stew I posted last week, wok-fried rice with plenty of tofu and veggies is another great, cheap way to feed a shit-ton of hungry people or just yourself for a week straight. And honestly, it’s surprisingly healthy, especially if you add a ton of veggies, use brown/wild rice, and keep the oil and sugary/salty sauces to a minimum. (Garlic and ginger go a long way for flavor, seriously.) And once you’ve stocked up on the seasonings (most people might not always have soy sauce and sesame oil and cilantro on hand, but, uh, I do) it’s super cheap and easy. It’s also really easy to adapt to vegan or gluten-free diets, or you can replace the tofu with shrimp, chicken, pork, or steak for your meat-eating friends.
The secret is all in the prep, which is also super easy and fast once you get the hang of it. As usual, sharp knives (and a perverse enjoyment of, say, “julienning peppers”) help a ton, and a really awesome nonstick/well-seasoned wok is absolutely necessary.
You’re gonna need:
Ready? OK, cool. Let’s go.
I like to pretend like every day I plan some amazing meal and go all-out to cook it, but the truth is most of the time I’m excruciatingly lazy and like, whip something together out of whatever is in my house. (Or just eat omelettes. I eat a lot of breakfast for dinner. I won’t tell if you won’t.) I was a little low on basics last week and as I desolately stared at the leftover vegetables, lentils, and coconut milk in my pantry, I remembered that Caroline posted a tasty-sounding lentil curry soup recipe a while ago, and I’d been all about some really tasty curried lentils I had at a dinner party a few weeks ago. I was also craving Indian or Thai takeout, but all the options that deliver to my house are super oily and not great. I figured I’d wing it and try to come up with something similar to all those things, with whatever I had in the house. Miraculously, it turned out to be maybe one of the tastiest things I’ve ever made (despite the rather unflattering photo) and is definitely going to become a staple.
It’s also vegan, for those of you who care about that kind of stuff, and is super healthy and full of protein and fiber and other good stuff, and even my super-carnivorous other half (“Meg, all the food you make is basically vegetable mush, I want a steak”) admitted that it was damn good. It’s also relatively cheap, and the huge pot that this recipe yielded fed me for like a week.
SO! Onward! You will need:
FOOD POST TIME Y’ALL. Mixing sweet and savory is kind of my jam, and while my usual breakfast is pretty modest (yogurt with some almonds, fruit and a protein bar, toast with peanut butter and honey, etc) I actually have a huge weakness for breakfast pastries and muffins and sweetbreads and so on. These muffins — with no butter but full of omega-3’s from olive oil, and fiber from apples and whole wheat flour — let me pretend that there’s some sort of vague nutritional value in something so tasty. These seriously are delicious — you’ll be amazed at how light and fluffy they are and at how well the flavor of the olive oil comes through. They’re amazing right out of the oven spread with some fig jam or mascarpone cheese or apple butter, but keep pretty well wrapped in foil for a few days as well.
BLACK PEPPER AND OLIVE OIL APPLE MUFFINS
recipe after the jump, adapted from here
I’ve been trying to make an effort to cook at home and bring lunch to work more often, and as a result I’ve been spending my Sundays preparing giant bowls of salads that I can grab and go in the mornings. This lentil salad is one of my favourites — it’s spicy, sweet, refreshing, filling, and ridiculously easy to make (well, if you like chopping, which I totally do, OH GOD YOU GUYS I COULD JULIENNE PEPPERS ALL DAY THE BEST STRESS RELIEF EVER IS DICING CELERY I LOVE KNIVES.) We also already know about my near-obsessive ongoing love affair with fresh mint — and this is just another option for it before summer’s over.
More in summer dinner favourites: shrimp, marinated for a few hours in a Caribbean-ish mixture of soy sauce, olive oil, ginger, garlic, scallions, lime, cilantro (buy it fresh! not frozen! it’s life-changing!), and hot pepper, then grilled (or sauteed, depending on what you have available: we know grills are hard to come by when you live in a 350 sq foot walk-up in a 52-unit building in Brooklyn, cough cough) then served over a chilled confetti orzo salad, garnished with more lime, scallions, and cilantro.
I’m a huge fan (if this wasn’t obvious already) of all things sweet-and-spicy, and of using fruit unexpectedly in savory dishes. Here, cubed grilled pineapple and mandarin orange wedges (from a can, to save time) add a summery kick to a colourful salad of orzo, red and green bell pepper, red onion, chickpeas, black beans, and corn, with a dressing made of lime juice, olive oil, ginger, tons of garlic, scallions, hot pepper, and again plenty of fresh cilantro.
Fresh mint is by far one of my favourite things to cook with during summer, and Memorial Day weekend calls for summer food and drinks if nothing else. Above, gin cocktails with muddled cucumber, mint, lime, and club soda (almost dangerously refreshing, considering that each one more than two shots of gin…) and below, one of my favourite salads (seriously, I make this almost weekly from June to September): watermelon, feta, mint, a drizzle of olive oil and fresh cracked pepper.
And totally not involving mint, but we all basically know I can’t help myself from baking for every possible occasion… So, ginger & black pepper spice cookies with dark chocolate chips as well — to be made into mini ice-cream-sandwiches with vanilla or pistachio ice cream for dessert.
…and we all know what that means by now. LOTS OF PHOTOS OF FOOD. And festivities, and, you know, that GIANT FUCKING BLIZZARD that stranded me for one extra day in the suburbs of New Jersey.
More after the jump….
It really amuses me when things which are actually relatively simple to make - for example, sea salted caramel/toffee/chocolate - become trendy in a way which seems intimidatingly gourmet. Toffee (and other sugar-based candies like marshmallows and butterscotch) are suprisingly easy - and the addition of a dark chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt makes for an impressive-looking gift. It does take a bit of patience and probably a few botched batches before you perfect it, but when I say simple, I mean simple.
What you need for a basic butter tofffee is:
• 1 cup butter
• 1 cup sugar
• a stove, a saucepan, a wooden spoon, and a large piece of aluminum foil on a hard heatproof surface