Monday, February 27, 2012

Celery Salt - DIY Pantry

Here's another fun thing from my DIY Pantry - celery salt. It sounds like such a gourmet item and costs an arm and a leg in the store - if you can find it! - and yet is so simple to make.  I use it in soups, stews, to dust savory pizza, especially with mushrooms and it adds the je ne sais quois that is always so much fun to have!

Of course it was Heidi from 101 Cookbooks who first planted the idea in my head. I would love to get into her pantry and play around! It is almost not even a recipe since it consists of celery and salt. That's it.

The trick is getting really fresh celery leaves which will be on a really fresh bunch. When you buy celery, look for one with lots of leaves and smell and taste a leaf before buying it. There should be no bitter taste otherwise that will be perfectly captured in your celery salt! This means NOT buying the ones that come in a plastic bag with the tops trimmed - all the good leaves are gone.

Celery Salt (from 101 Cookbooks)
(makes about 1 cup)

leaves from 1 bunch of celery, washed and patted dry
3/4 cup good salt (I used celtic sea salt)

Arrange leaves on parchment lined baking sheet and baked at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes. Do not let the leaves touch each other so that they crisp rather than steam. Allow to cool completely and then crumb with your fingers - throw away any that are not crisp enough to crumble immediately. Mix with salt and store in an air tight jar.


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Butternut Squash Soup with Orange Zest and Spicy Pepitas at Stacey Snacks
Quinoa Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Feta at Cinnamon Girl Recipes
Spicy Carnitas and Black Bean Tamales at Honey From Rock

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thai Style Crab Soup

It is Dungeness Crab season here on the West Coast and apparently these are the end all be all of crab meat. So I mosied over to my local fish shop to see what they had to offer. Sure enough, they had cooked Dungeness Crab, and it was pricey, just as I suspected, so I only bought one. The lovely man behind the counter cracked it for me so that it would be easier to pick the meat out once I got home.

If you have no qualms about being a omnivore, feel free to skip this paragraph. But as for all of you pescatarians or vegetarians who indulge in seafood occasionally let me tell you that pulling the meat out of a dead crab made me realize that this was a creature, alive and vigorous, whose muscular cavities I was now mining for my meal. It was a bit of revelation for someone who never thought of fish or seafood as "meat," primarily because as a child I was allowed to eat it on Fridays during Lent when we couldn't eat meat.

Ethics aside, the meat was sweet and succulent as I had read and I proceeded to eat half of it standing up at the counter. But catching myself and remembering that I wanted to blog about it, some did make it into this delicious and simple Thai Style soup. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ancho Lentil Tacos

I am in love...yup, it's official. I think of my love night and day, dreaming of when we can spend time together, drooling over recipes, cooking up delicious food and of course eating it until the plate is licked clean.

My love's name? Isa Chandra of Post Punk Kitchen.

Have you looked at this woman's stuff? She's amazing! I know I'm a bit new to the vegan party but, girl, let me tell you, she has it going on! She figured out how to make awesome vegan sausages (sure, someone else may have come up with the format but she so surely perfected it because she's my love!) Her desserts are to die for, and that is saying something coming from little ole miss-who-turns-down-free-chocolate samples. To top it all off, she's got a fabulous writing voice, second if not first in my blogroll world - quickly edging out Deb of Smitten Kitchen. In short, Isa Chandra is my new It Girl Cook and I'm looking forward to a long and delicious relationship!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chipotle Chick Pea Dip

Here's a super quick and easy dip that I love to whip up, especially when I have a jar of homemade Chipotle in Adobo in my frig. Most of the ingredients are pantry staples for me - chick peas, garlic, chipotles, lemon juice. While it is similar to hummus, the spiciness plus the cilantro take it continents away from hummus! Enjoy with crackers or cut up veggies, this is a great appetizer, snack, or meal.

Chipotle Chick Pea Dip

1 1/2 cups cooked chick peas
1 chipotle in adobo and 2 tablespoons of sauce (make your own!)
3 tablespoons tahini (or you can use other nut butters like almond or cashew butter)
juice from 1 large lemon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
2 cloves garlic
10 sprigs fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Blend all in food processor, scrapping down to incorporate all. Taste for salt and serve with chips, crackers or cut up vegetables like carrots, celery and bell peppers.


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Roasted Mushroom and Green Bean Farro Salad at Closet Cooking
Penang Chicken at The Perfect Pantry
Homemade Nutella at The Garden of Eating

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chipotle in Adobo - DIY Pantry

It's no secret I love spicy food, but one of my favorite ways to spice up food is adding a dab or spoonful of chipotles in adobo (sauce). Chipotles are smoked dried jalapenos and are often sold "in adobo" in latino grocery stores. Funny thing is, "adobo" means sauce, so asking for chipotles in adobo sauce translates as chipotles in sauce sauce. I know, who cares, but it always makes me laugh. Kind of like asking for "Chai tea" since "chai" means tea. "More tea tea please!"

Language games aside, it turns out that making your own chipotles in adobo is both easy and economical. Made from basic pantry ingredients - onion, garlic, ketchup, cider vinegar - along with the chipotles themselves, this is a simple pantry item that will keep in the refrigerator for months, if you can hold on to them that long!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Red Cabbage and Fennel Salad with Creamy Wasabi Dressing

Nothing says winter to me like red cabbage salads. Perhaps its the vibrant color that brings me out of my doldrums or possibly remembrance of lives past when I am certain my Teutonic and Nordic ancestors ate entirely too much cabbage pulled from their root cellars. Or maybe it is just my sentimental side that loves the idea of eating a salad that is composed of vegetables that would have come from a root cellar, if I had one. Of course the cilantro is a tad out of season for a winter salad, but happily not where I live!

Red cabbage combined with tangy buttermilk and yogurt makes this salad feel creamy and decadent but the sour punch and spicy kick remind you that this is more vegetable than creamy dressing so you are free to eat as much as you like.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Snacks for Superbowl - Part 2 - Pizza and Big Bites

Continuing on to the heartier portion of Superbowl Snacks, here are my suggestions for entree-like finger food. Enjoy!
Stuffed Mushrooms are so simple to prepare and even reheat well if you want to make them the day before. Try to find mushrooms that are uniform in size to ensure they all finishing baking at the same rate.

While it seems tempting to buy lots of fried food from a package and bake it off in the oven, here's a recipe that will blow all of that packaged food away: Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos. Oh yeah, they're as good as they sound, and stuffing them with cream cheese is surprisingly easy. Baking them off helps keep the jalapeno crunchy and the prosciutto will dissolve any protests about the lack of deep-frying.

Here's a bit of summer in the dead of winter - Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes. If you're lucky enough to get the roma tomatoes that are coming out of Mexico right now (as opposed to Florida-grown) than make these delicious little amuse-bouche. They look great and are oh so satisfying!

No Superbowl spread is complete unless the hallowed wings are on the table. Forgo buying them from some fast-food joint, just double bake them at home! Last year I was inspired to re-create the Hot Wings I cooked at one of my college-era jobs and they were spectacular! Don't forget the creamy dressing as well (and simply add blue cheese to make it so.)

Ahhh pizza, my favorite food, bar none. Below are a few suggestions for types and toppings that I love, but of course make it your own! If you have the time making your own crust is so worth the effort. But do not let that limit you, buy premade dough if you have to.

Corn, Lime, Cilantro and Jalapeno Pizza
Crazy topping combination = crazy good. Don't knock it until you try it!

Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pizza
A classic that never fails to please.

White Mushroom Pizza
I am a late comer to the "white" pizza, at least as currently interpreted, but I'm loving it!

Sundried Tomato, Spinach and Shrimp Pizza
Very California influenced and delicious year round, don't spend a fortune on the shrimp, canned ones will work well.

Enjoy and hugs to all!