Sunday, May 31, 2009

Parsley and Garlic Mussels with Squid Ink Pasta

I apologize for the poor lighting in my kitchen. But I think the real reason you can't really see my plate is because the dish was essentially black-on-black.

Walking around West Side Market on Friday afternoon, I discovered a stand called Ohio City Pasta. They, as one would imagine, specialize in fresh pasta. Ashamed as I am, I have actually never bought fresh pasta, despite its availability at Reading Terminal (you know the Italian place in the back? Go to the side counter). The appeal of Ohio City Pasta is that it sells interestingly flavored pasta in individual portions.

I've been cooking for one for a little over two weeks now, and let me tell you: It is easier to buy groceries for a party of ten then for one. A box of pasta is about 4 meals. Economically, this is fantastic, but do I really want to be eating that much pasta? Not really.

I chose the squid ink pasta because not only did it sound a little badass, but it looked a little badass. I mean, how cool is black pasta? And for $1.25, I figured it was worth it.

The issue then became what to pair the pasta with. I received a good suggestion from my friend Courtney--something with garlic (olive oil, chile flakes, lemon, parsley and few tomatoes, she added). I read up on squid ink and decided seafood might be the best pairing to the pasta. With Prince Edward Island Mussels costing only $2 a pound (compared to $5 for the freshest clams), I decided mussels would be a great acommpainment.

The following recipe is really easy and, again, pretty cheap to reproduce. It is also simply delicious--parsley, butter, garlic and the mussel juices combine to create a light sauce that highlights the seafood undertones of the pasta--and it all combines for you in the oven.

I tried using a really good applewood smoked bacon with the clams, but they didn't cook the whole way through. Despite adding a deeper flavor element, I think you can go without. I'd be anxious to try a cured meet, like prosciutto.

Parsley and Garlic Mussels with Squid Ink Pasta
Based on a recipe from Gourmet, 2000
Serves 1 very hungry boy

1 lb mussels, cleaned
2-3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley. chopped
1/4 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. fresh squid ink pasta

1. Set the butter out to soften. Clean the mussels using a potato scrubber--discard any that are cracked or open. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Spread mussels in a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Blend all remaining ingredients to a paste with a whisk. Spoon mixture over mussels (see first photo). Cover tightly with foil and bake in middle of oven until all mussels are open, 12 to 15 minutes (discard any unopened mussels). Meanwhile, boil a small pot of water.
3. Boil pasta for 1.5-2 minutes. Plate pasta, spoon broth from the mussels over the pasta. Plate mussels on top, and spoon on more broth.

The broth is also delicious mopped up with bread.

Friday, May 29, 2009


This is a post dedicated to cauliflower. Note there is no cheese sauce or steaming in this entry.

I took the photo above back on February 10th. It was a roasted cauliflower recipe (though this was before the broccoli recipe, it was the same idea) that went horribly, horribly wrong. The cauliflower was dry and required a great deal of salt just to make it edible. To top it off, I had burnt the rice I made to go with it.

That experience was enough for me to want to take a break from cauliflower forever. But Heidi at 101Cookbooks convinced me to give it another try.

She posted a "Simple Cauliflower Recipe", and I have to say, I am a cauliflower convert. It was flavorful and delicious--oh, and cheap! I've even broken down the prices in the ingredient list (though I did not include prices for staples like olive oil and salt). I may have made out better than most being that I was able to go the West Side Market before closing time today, but I'd guess prices would be similar at other farmer's markers. Also, keep in mind there was plenty of garlic, green onions, and Parmesan cheese left over.

It would make a great side to some roast or grilled chicken breast, despite it being great on its own. I would be curious to toss it with some pasta, too.

Pan-Toasted Cauliflower
Serves 2 to 3 as a side, 1 if you're me

1 medium head of cauliflower ($0.75)
2 Tb olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic ($0.99)
1-2 inches from a bunch of green onions ($0.49)
Zest of one lemon ($0.25)
Grated Parmesan ($0.89)

1. To prep the cauliflower, remove any leaves at the base and trim the stem. Now cut it into tiny trees - and by tiny, I mean most florets aren't much larger than a table grape (listen, I didn't think she was serious either. But the smaller the pieces the better. Use your hands, not your knife, to break apart the florets). Make sure the pieces are relatively equal in size, so they cook in the same amount of time. Rinse under running water, and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil and a heavy pinch of salt in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot (throw a piece of cauliflower in there at the beginning. When it begins to bubble around it, it's hot enough), add the cauliflower and stir until the florets are coated.

3. Wait until it gets a bit brown on the bottom, then toss the cauliflower with a spatula (No, really, wait! It's hard and you're worried they're burning, but try not to turn them too much). Brown a bit more and continue to saute until the pieces are deeply golden - all told about six minutes. In the last 30 seconds stir in the garlic.

4. Remove from heat and stir in the green onions, lemon zest, and dust with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt. Serve immediately.

Heidi has some great variations on this recipe here, so be sure to check them out. Also, the total cost for this recipe, with ingredients to spare, was $3.37. Let's also not forget that cauliflower is a pretty healthy option, too.

I've been having a great time exploring West Side Market, and you'll be hearing all about the fresh pasta from Ohio City Pasta soon!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Never too warm for soup...right?

Here's another Smitten Kitchen recipe that has been a hit at least twice. If looks as though the meat balls are floating above the cutting board--they're in a glass pyrex. I'm a meatball making pro after making (literally) thousands for Karen Hunter--all in uniform size and shape.

I also admit that it is too warm for soup. I made this soup forever ago, when snow was still a possibility, and kept forgetting to post it. But this soup is delicious and filling--I can barely handle one bowl. And who knows: I have a sweater and a flannel on today. It is kind of cold in Cleveland.

I used Rapunzel vegan bullion cubes instead of the chicken broth, mostly because it's cheaper and still tastes fantastic, however, it's probably also more healthful. I can also never find escarole, and instead decided on spinach, which is just delicious wilted in soup.

Spinach and Orzo Soup with Meatballs
from Smitten Kitchen

1 large egg
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
12 ounces lean ground turkey
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth, or 3-4 Rapunzel Vegan Bullion Cubes (Herb with Sea salt)
1 cup chopped peeled carrots
3/4 cup orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
4 cups baby or chopped spinach (1 bag)

1. Whisk egg and 2 tablespoons water in medium bowl to blend. Mix in breadcrumbs; let stand 5 minutes.
2. Add turkey, Parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper; gently stir to blend. Using wet hands, shape turkey mixture into 1 1/4-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on baking sheet; cover and chill 30 minutes. While you wait, chop the carrots.
3. Bring 8 cups chicken broth/water with bullion cubes to boil in large pot. Add carrots and orzo; reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered 8 minutes.
4. Add turkey meatballs and simmer 10 minutes.
5. Stir in spinach and simmer until turkey meatballs, orzo, and spinach are tender, about 5 minutes longer.
6. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Rewarm over medium heat, thinning with more broth if desired.) Ladle soup into bowls and serve.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I miss fruit picking.

Over the summer, the days I am home are usually built around two questions:

1) Am I working for Karen Hunter?
2) What is Alex doing?

Imagine my bewilderment without either, but especially without Alex, who goes fruit picking with me, helps plans cobbler night, and appreciates a good sock pattern.

So we've started a blog together, here, to catalogue our adventures while we're apart. Both of us will post one to a few photos everyday. Today was day two.

I'm coming back this weekend to deliver a very belated soup recipe, with accompanying matzoh.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Make me a bug.

Today is my first day working at the UCC's national office in Cleveland. I'm really excited about being able to work here--I got on the elevator at one point today and had a moment of "Oh my goodness, this is my life."

I'll be working primarily on myucc, which is the UCC's answer to social networking. We're on myspace, facebook, and twitter, of course, but having our own system will give us the opportunity to start really specialized groups, with their own blogs, and make communication that much more effective and cohesive across the denomination.

But if you've visited the website in the past month or so, you've noticed these bugs all over the website. Of course, the bugs are "theological" in the sense of "All things bright and beautiful/All creatures great and small/All things wise and wonderful/The Lord God made us all". But David Runnion-Bareford, of Biblical Witness Fellowship, had a different take on things:

"Non-UCC friends of ours who believe with some reason that the UCC has long been a bacterial infection in the blood stream of the American church have chimed in with the prophecy in Joel about God’s judgment on an unfaithful people, Joel 1:4, “that which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten.” Self-revelation is always an amazing phenomenon, and perhaps the UCC website’s infatuation with the bugs as a self-image is more profound than anyone anticipated?"

Immediately after reading that, I had a different thought:

Dear God, make me a bug. Let me chew like a termite at the structures of oppression and injustice. Help me be like a spider and spin a web that catches joy, hope, and love. Make me like an ant, strong and hardworking in Your name. Amen.

Also, I saw a new poster today that plays with the "UCC" acronym (you know how we love our acronyms...OGM, JWM, PAM, COREM, MRSEJ, CYYAM, PFKAPOC, just to name a few). The one I saw was "Unapologetic Church of Crossdressers". After writing a 15 page paper on drag queens, it warmed my heart to see that.

If you are UCC, you should make my life easier and get on over to the website, sign up for myucc, and explore. Also, check out Schatzi's blog. Sure, Schatzi is a cat, but the blog is hilarious.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Poached Eggs and Asparagus.

I can't even remember where I saw asparagus and a poached egg for the first time. Whether it was on someone's food blog or in Gourmet, I don't know, but something intrigued me. Never mind that I had never eaten a poached egg (or made one, for that matter), I thought that I might like it.

Eggs are everywhere these days. Yes, I know you've always been able to get them in grocery stores--I mean people seeing eggs as a versatile and inexpensive protein source. I'm fairly certain there was a spread in Gourmet not too long ago about them.

For the poached egg over asparagus, I simply blanched the asparagus for about a minute, poached the egg (to the best of my ability--I can't tell you how to do this just yet, I'm still trying to figure it out myself), and sprinkled it with Parmesan cheese and black pepper. It was delicious, even if the egg wasn't poached right.

I tried it again a few times (both immediately afterwards and over the next few days) and have had varying levels of success. So I'll throw this question out there--how do you poach an egg?

Thursday, May 7, 2009


I love good Asian food, be it Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian or Malaysian. But more often then not I'm afraid to cook it myself. I had one bad experience after another concocting sauces for cellophane and soba noodles--sauces involving peanut butter, brown sugar, lemon juice and soy sauce in various combinations that were some of few things I've ever made and deemed "inedible".

I had never bought ramen until a few weeks ago. My dad is always eating it at home--I think it's one of very few things he knows how to make. I was thinking of something else to toss broccoli with and it hit me--ramen without the broth packet! I could eliminate the sodium (though the amount of soy sauce I use could negate that...) and turn that $.30 wonder into a well-balanced meal!

But what sauce would I use? I decided to keep it simple and toss the noodles, pan-steamed broccoli and some sauteed tofu (to warm it through) with soy sauce and just a touch of chili garlic sauce. I've also used bottled teriaki sauce. I just invested in some toasted sesame oil--I'll let you know how that goes.

This meal has been a real life saver this week. I'm in the midst of starting the second of three papers due Monday. To get a carb, a veggie, and some protein all in one bowl in under ten minutes (for $1.50, more or less) is pretty incredible.