A Shameless Plug

This is a shameless plug for my new companion blog, Good Enough Life Coach.  Like Good Enough Gourmet, it will provide hacks for getting through life the easy way.  However, while I’m actually pretty good at cooking, I’m not all that great at the things I plan to write about on Good Enough Life Coach.  But that just makes it more fun, right?

Pizza with Tomato, Prosciutto, and Greens

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This pizza was amazing. I got the recipe from my CSA (Farm Box LA) newsletter.

Ingredients:

  • pizza dough (homemade or store bought – I used Trader Joe’s brand for this)
  • cornmeal
  • olive oil
  • garlic (1-2 cloves)
  • salt (optional)
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes
  • fresh oregano (optional)
  • fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • greens of your choice (e.g. chard, kale)

Instructions:

First a note on quantity.  A tub of fresh mozzarella balls (get the medium or large sized, not the tiny ones), a 4 oz package of prosciutto, and a bunch of greens will be enough for two pizzas.  So make two pizzas! Double the very approximate quantities listed above.

1) Preheat oven to 450 (preferably with a pizza stone in the oven but ok if you don’t have one).

2) Cut or tear the greens and add them to a baking sheet, tossed with olive oil and salt.  Put in oven for 10 minutes, until they’re a little brown and dried out, but not completely dry (i.e. not as dry as kale chips). Remove from oven and set aside.

3) Roll out pizza dough and stretch it to a roundish shape.  Sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza peel or a baking pan.  Transfer the dough to the peel or pan and adjust shape.  Brush some olive oil on the dough.  Add chopped garlic and brush it around to make sure all the garlic’s not in one place.  Then – my secret pizza technique – sprinkle a little kosher salt on the dough, especially the outer edges that won’t be covered with toppings.  Slide the dough onto your pizza stone or put the pan into the oven and bake for 4 minutes.

4) Slice your tomatoes.  After the dough has baked for 4 minutes, add the tomatoes.  The tomatoes don’t have to cover the whole pizza – just make sure there’s tomato in each bite. Bake for 10 minutes.

5) Slice the mozzarella balls.  After the pizza has baked for 10 minutes, add the mozzarella balls and bake for 5 more minutes until the crust is nicely brown. Remove from oven.

6)  Slice prosciutto into thin strips.  Scatter the prosciutto strips over the pizza and then scatter the greens over the top.

Enjoy.

 

Cookbook Review – VB6

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Ah Mark Bittman, why don’t I like your recipes more?

I like Mark Bittman.  I like his approach to cooking and eating and I like what he has to say about food.  I have his “How to Cook Everything” and “Minimalist Cooks Dinner” cookbooks.  “How to Cook Everything” has pages falling out of it because I refer to it alot – it really does have recipes for pretty much anything you want to make, with lots of variations.  None of the recipes are the best one you’re going to find for that particular dish but they’re passable.  I only cooked from “Minimalist Cooks Dinner” a few times because the recipes were, meh.

I first heard about Bittman’s VB6 diet at a lecture he gave in 2012.  I arrived early, hoping to stalk him – I mean make chit chat with him, and get a good seat.  He was sequestered away in a private room so stalking was not possible but I did get an excellent seat.  His talk was about the type of food Americans eat (bad) and where it comes from (also bad).  I kept forgetting that I wasn’t listening to Michael Pollan — their messages are similar.  During the Q&A, he talked about his diet which he calls VB6, or Vegan Before 6:00.  (The VB6 cookbook hadn’t come out yet.) He needed to lose some weight and had some health problems so his doctor recommended that he become a vegan.  His compromise was VB6.  He eats vegan for breakfast, lunch, and any midday snacks and eats what he wants for dinner.  The diet was successful for him and over time, his dinners became less meat heavy and healthier. He still has the flexibility to eat what he wants or splurge from time to time, but his overall diet is good.

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I found the VB6 cookbook to be a bit overwhelming.  To follow the suggested diet, you’d have to cook breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  Bittman gives alternatives, for example when you’re eating in a restaurant, but I get the impression that this should be an exception.  I generally eat toast (no cooking involved) and coffee with frothed milk (one of my reasons for living – coffee with frothed Clover whole milk – no way am I giving that up) for breakfast, I go out for lunch when I can (my opportunity to take advantage of the wonders that is Los Angeles) and dinner is the meal that I cook every day. I went on a three-week cleanse once and had to cook all three meals and snacks and although the food was delicious and healthy, it was alot of work.  I was so happy to go back to my morning toast and coffee.

However, I did cook some recipes from VB6.  I liked that the recipes, even the ones with meat, were veggie-centric. I make a vegetable-laden pasta sauce that yielded enough for two meals — I froze half (sauce was ok, nothing spectacular), baked falafel (bad idea or maybe it was just my execution), a vegetable-laden frittata (very good), muesli (excellent and simple, a worthy replacement for my morning toast), and baked ziti with greens (by this time, I had returned the book to the library and had to remember the recipe along with some improvisation).

Bottom line, I did not love any of the recipes.  However, I do like the VB6 approach if you’re the type that needs rules to guide your diet yet also don’t want to be denied the foods you love.

How to Build….Risotto

Risotto is easy if you follow the basic formula. Read the formula all the way through before starting to cook — when you add the vegetables depends on which you choose, and you have to heat your broth at the beginning of the process.

1) the onion: all risotto starts with onion. You can use a shallot or onion. Melt 1 T of butter and 1 T of olive oil in a dutch oven and add chopped onion and cook until softened.

2) the rice: Arborio. No choice there. Add 1 c rice to the onion and cook for a minute, stirring to coat.

3) the liquid: white wine and broth of your choice. Add about 1/2 c. of white wine and cook for about 2 minutes. Heat 4 c. broth so it’s warm when you add. Set timer for 35 minutes. Over the course of the 35 minutes, add warm broth 1-2 ladlefuls at a time, stirring frequently.

4) the vegetables: use any vegetables you want. When you add the veggies depends on which you choose. If I’m using asparagus or peas, I add them near the very end because they need minimal cooking. Mushrooms or butternut squash might be added at the beginning, after sauteeing the onions. Alternatively, you could cook the vegetables separately and add them at the end.

5) the extras: After the 35 minutes, add 1/4 c. Parmesan or a similar (e.g. asiago) cheese, 1 T. of butter, fresh herbs (e.g. thyme or parsley), salt and pepper.

Recap of ingredients (for your shopping list):
butter
olive oil
onion or shallot
1 c. Arborio rice
1/2 c. white wine
4 c. broth
vegetable of your choice
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
fresh herbs (optional)
salt and pepper

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Good Enough Gourmet Goes “Down Home” – Lukshen and Cabbage

I grew up eating this so I feel sort of silly blogging about it. But it was easy and delicious, and if you get cabbage in your farm box for three weeks in a row, this recipe might come in handy.

Ingredients:
butter (and a little olive oil)
2 red onions
cabbage (I used 2/3 of a cabbage)
salt and pepper
1 16 oz. package of egg noodles (lukshen, if you grew up a a Jewish household)

Instructions:
1) Cook the noodles according to package instructions. FYI, I bought Whole Foods’ 365 brand extra wide egg noodles. Who knew Whole Foods made lukshen?! My Bubbie would be amazed.

2) Melt butter (around 2 T.) in a large skillet and add a little olive oil so the butter doesn’t burn. Slice the onions thinly and add them to the skillet. Cook on medium low heat for at least 10 minutes, until the onions get brown. Stir frequently.

3) Slice the cabbage thinly. Add cabbage to the skillet. You may have to add half the cabbage, let it wilt a little to make room in the pan, and add the rest. Add salt and pepper. Cook until onions and cabbage are soft.

4) Drain the noodles and add to the skillet. Add a little more butter if too dry, and toss until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Add salt if needed.

Good Enough Gourmet, keepin’ it real.

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CSA – Yes or No?

I’ve said in earlier posts that I joined a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture). I get a farm box with fresh fruits and vegetables delivered to my doorstep every Sunday. Now that I’ve been a member for a while, I can talk about the pros and cons. Some of the novelty has worn off. So in case you’re considering it, here’s my list:

Pros:

- The produce is all in-season, locally sourced and sustainably grown.

- Grocery shopping is fast and easy, since I’m building meals around my farm box produce.

- I try fruits and vegetables that I wouldn’t otherwise try. Mulberries, cherimoyas, guavas, fava beans are recent examples.

- I eat more produce than I ordinarily would.

- It gets delivered to me every week, so even I don’t have the chance to go grocery shopping I can generally make a meal out of my produce and staples around the house (e.g. eggs).

- It’s fun to see what surprise I’m going to get.

- It forces me to be a more creative cook.

Cons:

- Since the produce is all in-season, you get the same thing for weeks in a row. Enough with the beets – really! And I don’t care if it’s cone cabbage, Napa cabbage, or regular cabbage — there just not that many things to do with cabbage! They try to change it up by giving me a different variety of kale every week but it’s still kale every week.

- It’s more work to plan meals around the produce I’ve received rather than picking my go-to recipes and shopping accordingly.

- It’s a little pricey, although for me it’s worth it not to have to make an extra stop at the farmers’ market.

- Sometimes we don’t eat the produce fast enough and it goes to waste.

- Although the produce is very good, it’s not amazing. I used to buy my produce at Whole Foods or the farmers’ market and my farm box produce is equivalent. Once I added eggs to my farm box and they tasted just like the brown eggs that I buy at Trader Joe’s.

- Some of the produce is weird or too fussy. What’s the point of a baby artichoke? Too much work for too little yield. And once I got flowering rapini which I thought was going to be like broccoli rabe but it wasn’t. Watermelon radishes are gorgeous but kind of bitter. And I’m just not into guavas – way too many seeds.

- Sometimes this happens:

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Turnips? Beets? Watermelon radishes? You tell me what these things are!

So stay with the CSA or quit? I think I’ll stay for now, at least through summer fruit season. Then the jury’s out.

Vegetarian Chili

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This is a simple chili recipe. Feel free to make substitutions — regular chili powder for the chipotle (but use a little more of it), add other vegetables such as red peppers or corn, or different types of beans.

Ingredients:
olive oil
onion
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 t. cumin
1 t. chipotle chili powder
1 t. oregano
salt and pepper
2-3 zucchini
tomato paste (about 1/2 can, or a couple large squirts if you use a tube)
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
2 c. water
cheese for serving (optional)

Instructions:
1) Chop the onion and garlic. Add a little olive oil to a hot pan (I use my beloved dutch oven) and cook the onion and garlic until softened.

2) Add the cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper and cook for about a minute.

3) Add the zucchini and tomato paste and cook for a few minutes.

4) Drain and rinse the beans. Add the beans, diced tomatoes, and water.

5) Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

6) Top with shredded cheese (sharp cheddar or pepper-jack would be good) if desired.