Wednesday, June 30, 2010

really quickly

If me today were to walk up to my self five years ago and urge Former Self to try baked tofu, Former Self probably would've smashed a piece of pizza in Future Self's face and then dumped the remainder of her 32 ounce Coors Light Draft over her head. But Former Self would be in the wrong here, and not just because she resorted to violence at the mere suggestion of healthy eating. Look, I was a tofu skeptic for a long, long time and still am, to a point, in certain venues. Tofu is for total crunchies, right? Self righteous vegetarian people who send Move On emails to your inbox at the rate of one million per hour? Right? Think again. Seriously, I implore you, think again. This here baked tofu is delicious. A game changer of the soy variety. I have been eating slices of this on my salads lately and let me tell you, it's toothsome, salty and satisfying and if loving tofu is wrong, I don't want to be right.

(originally found on the kitchn)

1 block extra firm tofu
Soy Sauce
Sesame Oil
Sesame Seeds

Remove your jiggly wad of soy product from its plastic box (but save the box, it's perfect for marinating the pieces in (of COURSE I recycle too, I'm freaking giving you a GD tofu recipe for chrissakes)). K, so take the tofu out and place it on a plate or a shallow bowl. Stack two other dinner plates on top of it and let sit for about 15 minutes, to purge its extra liquid. Preheat your oven to 350. Then, slice your tofu into equal width slices, you can go as thick or as thin as you want. I choose a medium thickness (about 3/4 inch) so that it will absorb its marinade quickly but still be a nice, sizeable piece of 'fu. Take your slices and cover them with soy sauce and a little drizzle of sesame oil. Let sit and marinate for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. I usually dunk them, go do a couple things and then deem them ready to bake. The longer they sit the more they will have a chance to soak in salty goodness. Give a baking sheet a light spritz of oil (olive or vegetable), place your slices on the sheet, sprinkle a few sesame seeds on. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, flipping over once during the process. Eat as a snack, on salads, or sliced into chunks tossed with noodles and your favorite Asian style dressing. See that wasn't so bad was it?


Longer post tomorrow! With lots of delicious pictures. My job has the nerve to be busy this week. Harumph.

*about this photo. I THOUGHT I took a picture of my pre-baked tofu slices, but it turns out it was a video, because just before that I had been taking video of my kittens doing cute things. Since I will spare you my shaky camera hand hovering over tofu while I softly sing "Alejandro" in the background (hello, embarrassing) the only photo I have is a picture I took of Paul's lunch. Yes, I make him lunch. I'm a CATCH.

Friday, June 18, 2010

ingredient WTF: pea tendrils

pea tenders 05

I know what you’re thinking. Jess, WTF are pea tendrils? I thought the same thing, which is why I simply had to buy them and cook them. I had visions of something that would wilt like spinach but be sweet like peas. I thought they were adorable and I was excited (slash slightly scared) to eat something with teensy flowers. I was going to revolutionize your idea of sautéed greens. I was. But I didn’t. Because they’re gross. In case you’re thinking you need to try this for yourself let me save you a step: go outside, grab a handful of grass and munch on it. There. You have experienced pea tendrils and what it’s like to eat them. I had high hopes. I sautéed with garlic and scallions and good butter; I thought they would be a delightful departure from my normal wilted greens. They weren’t. They were almost exactly like munching on grass. The only problem is, I don’t have the four stomachs that I would need to process grass. I’m not a cow or a horse. I am a human female (last time I checked). I can usually muscle through pretty much any vegetable if it has enough salt on it. With pea tendrils, I met my match. Thank god we had some chicken and potatoes. I strongly suggest skipping the greens and making the potatoes.


Toss with a generous drizzle of olive oil, plenty of sea salt and cracked black pepper. Roast at 425 for 40 minutes. Check for tenderness. Toss with a pat of butter and some fresh cut herbs. Fin.

Sorry for the truncated post this week. I have been busy finishing yoga school and drinking 7,000 glasses of wine to celebrate finishing yoga school (what, you didn’t know that alcohol and yoga go hand in hand? Apparently they do). I always go nuts during finals week.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Heavy Metal Salad Greens


I’ve been having a steamy spring fling with arugula lately. It’s getting pretty serious. If I was to calculate (and I won’t because I hate math) I would venture to guess that over 75% of my vegetable intake in the past two weeks has been arugula based. I have been jamming so much of it into my body that I’m pretty positive it’s going to start growing out of my arm pits. Sorry, that’s kind of gross. Anyways, have I lost you? So yes, arugula, we are thick as thieves right now. Sometimes, people call it “rocket” which I think sounds pretty cool also but then I always get Def Leppard “Rocket” (“YEAH! SAY IT LOOOUD”) in my head…and then I get images of Heavy Metal Parking Lot in my head and before you know it I’m out of the kitchen and in the basement digging through my “costume” box looking for my black mesh football jersey. Where was I? Let’s see arm pits, Def Leppard, mesh, ah yes! Arugula! Arugula is the bomb and you should try some. If you really dig its peppery kick, try this pesto.

I found this recipe on Dash and Bella. A truly beautifully made and inspiring blog that makes me want to have lots of babies and cook with them in a sun drenched kitchen. Seriously, this blog is visually stunning and the recipes are excellent! I found this pesto, quickly assessed in my head that yes, I pretty much had all of the ingredients on hand and made it that night. I tossed it with some brown rice rotini, added a sliced tomato as my side dish, poured a generous glass of white wine and quite enjoyed myself. A couple nights later, I dolloped it on a pizza with a little shredded gruyere, grated parmesan and hunks of fresh mozzarella. I would use less pesto than I did for this pizza (it was a bit intense and heavy) but if you make this pesto (and I suggest you do), toss it with pasta; smear it on a pizza or on some crostini with goat cheese. You can join me in my month long arugula intensive. Rocket! YEAH!

(adapted, just barely, from Dash and Bella)

½ cup walnuts, lightly toasted (recipe called for pine nuts, I had walnuts so yeah)
2 cups spinach
2 cups arugula
2 cloves garlic, peeled
½ to ¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup gruyere, grated
¼ cup parmesan
¼ cup goat cheese
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in your food processor. Process. Toss with pasta. Eat. So easy. The proportions listed above are from the original recipe. If you are a normal person you will most likely follow these and make a delightful pesto. If you are like me you will not measure anything toss it all in the Cuisinart and call it dinner. I used walnuts as a last minute sub. My pesto was tasty but I would advise against making this substitution. Walnuts are a bit bitter by nature so pine nuts would really have been best. I will most definitely make this again.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

pulled pork(y dickens)


I eat a sort “vegetarian” diet most of the time. It’s neither politically charged nor diet based. It just feels good and costs less, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s more socially responsible. However, whenever I talk about giving up meat for good I always maintain that I could quit the beef, I could quit the chicken, if only I could still have pork. Now I realize this is sort of ridiculous, but it’s just how I feel. Like, I could eat salads and vegetables and beans and tofu til the cows come home (pun intended) so long as I could shred some delicious Parma prosciutto over that salad, or simmer the beans with a little bit of bacon fat. Pork is one of those proteins where a little goes a long way. The pulled pork dish I made below is something that could make even the strictest vegetarian among us take a second look.


We had a small Barbeque over Memorial Day weekend and it was the best, most delicious, simplest menu I have ever undertaken at a party. Everything was ready a full two hours before the guests arrived and all I had to do was down some Pimm’s cups and socialize. That’s my kind of menu.


(from the Splendid Table)

4-5 lbs. boneless Boston butt pork, cut into 2-3 inch chunks
¼ cup quick dry rub
½ cup liquid smoke
Barbecue sauce of your choice


1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dry mustard


Cut your pork butt (hee) into 2-3 inch chunks. Combine dry rub ingredients in a jar. Screw the jar lid on and shake to combine. I loved making this rub. Not only was it super simple, while I was making it I noticed it looked like one of those fancy bottles I filled with layers of colored sand at a the town fair when I was 11. At the time I thought those were the height of sophisticated decorating. I made one at the 4th of July fair one year and it held a place of honor on my bedroom window sill until one day I knocked it down and the grains of multicolored sand all blended together to make a gross purple color. Sigh. Regrets to last a lifetime. Anyways, where was I? So, the recipe I found for this pulled pork was so easy I was dubious. Like, legitimately as I was making it I was concerned that come Saturday afternoon I would be sending Paul to Tennessee’s BBQ to pick up some pulled pork. I just tend to be healthily skeptical, especially when the recipe calls for something called “liquid smoke” an ingredient I have never used before and to my ears, sort of sounds like someone’s rapper or DJ name rather than something I want to eat with my food. BUT STILL. I had to try it.


Prior to combining all my ingredients in the Crockpot, I gave each chunk of pork a quick sear in a hot skillet coated in olive oil. The recipe did not call for this but I figured adding another layer of flavor wouldn’t hurt anybody. So, please note this step is optional. Sear each chunk of pork in a hot skillet (medium high). Just quickly sear them- they don’t need to get deeply brown, just a little golden on each side. Searing the pork will take a couple batches to do so. Set pork aside once seared and move on to the next batch. Once all the pork has been treated, toss with the dry rub, thoroughly to coat each piece (you can do this in the bowl of your Crockpot- but due to the amount of the meat- I also suggest working in batches here to really coat all the pieces—my Crockpot was chock full of pork and there wasn’t much room to navigate. Place your dusted pork in your Crockpot, add your D.J. Liquid Smoke, place the cover on and cook on low for 10-12 hours, or until internal thermometer reads 190 degrees.


I cooked mine for 12 hours. And at hour 12 I simply shut it off and let it sit for about another hour. This was solely due to the fact that I had other stuff to do, like go to the liquor store and get an iced coffee, but I think it worked out quite well. By that point in time, the contents of the Crockpot were so warm and juicy; the worst that could happen I figured was that they cook a little bit more. Did I mention my whole house smelled of smoked pork? Seriously it had this faint bacon tinge that reminded me of going to my Aunt Vinny and Uncle Johnny’s house when I was little. Their house always smelled of bacon. I don’t quite know if they cooked it every day, or had a special brand of salt pork Glade air freshener that was unavailable to the general public, but either way, it smelled of nostalgia and food and I was into it.


Once the pork had cooled just a bit (but not really- it was still really hot, but I plugged on) I scooped it out, one batch at a time, and shredded it with two forks. Once shredded, I scraped that pork into a separate bowl. It took about three rounds to shred the contents of my Crockpot. I was doubtful that the pork would just shred with merely two forks and I had gotten out one of my big knives just in case my “pulled” pork turned into “chopped” pork but SERIOUSLY? This stuff was like butter. It was the juiciest, shreddinest pork you have ever seen. Taste test? Ah-mazing! Once the shredding process was complete I took my Crockpot and poured out most of the cooking liquid (leaving approximately 1- 1 ½ cups in the bottom of the pot) into this remaining cooking liquid I poured in about ¾-1 cup of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce and mixed the two together thoroughly, which made a nicely thinned out BBQ sauce that was flavored with the savory cooking liquid. Then I added my pork back into the Crockpot and tossed it all together. Plugged her back into the wall and turned the temperature to warm. For the first time in my life, I had all the food ready for the party an hour before anyone even got there and did LEGITIMATELY no cooking while I had guests. It was, the bessssst.

Accompanying my pulled pork I decided to make a slaw. Now, we’re not slaw people in our house. Cole slaw, to me, is the shadowy corner of my plate that I won’t venture into no matter how hungry I am. It sits, neglected, not even poked at, to the side of my fish and chips. I barely even let it touch the other foods on the plate. But I knew that there had to be more to slaw than meets the eye and that if one were to forsake the mayonnaise laden soggy slaws of seafood restaurants across the globe, that perhaps there was a little something there to be salvaged. I wanted to make a slaw that was tangy and crunchy, without any mayonnaise. Something that would go with the pulled pork. I found it and it was easy and delicious and like I said, I am a well-documented slaw avoider. Even my girlfriends said “I never eat slaw but I love this slaw” Slaw conversion: complete.



One 16-ounce package of shredded Cole slaw mix
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
1 jalapeño, halved and sliced thin


1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sugar


Whisk together dressing ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Add the vegetables and toss to coat. Wait five minutes, toss thoroughly again. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 12. Toss before serving. I would like to note that I partially seeded my jalapeno. I love, love, love spicy foods. However, when I’m cooking for a lot of people I get a little gun-shy about making things too spicy. So whenever I use jalapenos, I tend to seed them. Since this slaw was supposed to be spicy, and the directions did not mention seeding the jalapeno, I figured seeds were meant to be included, but once again I wimped out partially. I seeded half the jalapeno, only including half the spicy seeds. As a result this slaw was barely spicy. I think that to rectify this you could either include all of the seeds or spice it up after the fact with a little bit of hot sauce, such as Cholula or Frank’s. This slaw is awesome on top of a big ole’ pile of pulled pork on a bun.


1 bag russet potatoes
1 purple onion, diced
1 cucumber, diced (plus additional rounds for decorating)
French dressing
Celery seed
Salt and pepper


Peel potatoes and cut into bite sized chunks. Cover in a large pot with cold water and bring to a boil. Let boil until tender. Test a big chunk with a knife. Drain hot water off and return to pot. Toss in some French dressing and mash/stir together to color. Let cool. Once potatoes have cooled, add onion, cucumber, salt, pepper and celery seed (a decent amount, I used about a palm full- approximately 1 ½ tbs., I would guess and then another sprinkle later). Add mayo and more French dressing. Toss together to coat.



This is a third generation potato salad recipe. My dad’s mom, Muriel Pithie, used to make this. She would serve it along side an ever-present pickle plate, on her best china. She taught my mom how to make it and every holiday or cook out during the summer months, it’s there. A bright orange potato salad, garnished with cucumbers and studded with crunchy bits of purple onion. The French dressing and celery seed are the two crucial ingredients here. Due to the fact that my mom rattled this recipe off to me in an email, I eyed everything out, using no formal measurements. If I were to venture a guess on proportions, I would guess that I used about ¾ of the bottle of French dressing (half while the potatoes were still steaming and the other half once the other ingredients were included), about 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of celery seed, generous amounts of salt and pepper and about a cup or more of mayonnaise. With potato salad, it’s personal. I personally don’t like mine drenched in mayo, but I also don’t like any dry hunks of potatoes in there. It’s a add, mix, taste, tweak a little more kind of dance with this particular salad and let’s just say, it’s probably the best potato salad around. In my humble opinion.

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