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brussels

I’ve embarked on a new food adventure, which is a challenge to myself to cook 5 recipes in 5 days using one main ingredient. I’m calling it Made Weekly. I’m not sure how many weeks I can keep it up, but it’s just week one so we’ll see. First up? Brussels sprouts!

Check out my first two recipes on my new tumblr:

Stir Fry with Brussels Sprouts and Tofu
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

I imagine many people have terrible memories of eating green beans as children. Green beans from a can, mushy green beans, green bean casserole… these were never dishes foisted upon me, and for that I am grateful.

My mom’s method for cooking green beans is awesome. They have lots of garlic and soy sauce, and they’re cooked in a pan until crisp and tender but nowhere near mushy. I remember helping to snap off their little ends before she would cook them.

I don’t make green beans all that often at home and I’m not sure why. But I was at a barbecue recently and someone brought green beans, which I cooked in this manner, and was inspired to do it again at home. So this is another “method not a recipe” kind of post. You just rinse your green beans, remove the root ends, heat some olive or neutral oil in a large saute pan and toss in a bunch of chopped garlic. Cook it just a little bit but careful to not let it brown. Then toss in the green beans. Add a splash of water, cover the pan, and let them steam for 3-4 minutes. Remove the lid, add a few tablsepoons of soy sauce, and let them continue to cook a few more minutes until any remaining liquid has boiled off. Taste for doneness and seasoning. Add some toasted sliced almonds for a nice crunch, if you’ve got them.

I broiled some tofu slathered in miso, soy, and rice vinegar and made some rice to go along with the beans. But this is a great side dish for your repertoire, and definitely try it if you don’t think you like green beans. It might just change your mind!

I had this post sitting, waiting to go up before I left for vacation…so here it is! I was in a rush so the pic is crummy, but use your imagination.

Latkes are so simple and quick — the shredded veggies cook up in no time, and you can spice them up with whatever you want. I found a recipe for beet latkes and decided to combine them with the sweet potatoes. For a simple topping, you could just add a dollop of sour cream (always yummy with beets — think borscht) and if you like dill, it’d probably be great with this as well. I chose to make this tangy green apple & celery slaw instead, with greek yogurt in place of sour cream or mayo. The crunchy texture of the slaw goes nicely with the crisp yet soft latkes. A great weeknight meal served in this case with some Trader Joe’s chicken sausage for bulk.

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gratin

Saying you’re making a “gratin” (especially if you pronounce it “gruh-taaaan”) sounds super fancy. Secretly, it’s not that hard. (sssh!) This particular gratin combines two of my favorite things: swiss chard and sweet potatoes. It even charmed Brian, a swiss chard skeptic. It’s a bit of work, what with the prep of the chard, the slicing of the sweet potatoes (I have no mandolin) and the making of the bechamel, but it’s worth it. This would be a fabulous vegetarian side for Thanksgiving. In fact, maybe I will make it again!

I got the recipe from smitten kitchen, and I have to say, I feel pretty lazy when I visit that site these days, because Deb, the proprietress of the blog, just had a baby and yet — and yet! — still manages to post lovely photos and delicious recipes. My many excuses for laziness pale in comparison.

I didn’t have any gruyere on hand, but I did have most of a log of goat cheese, so I substituted the cheese. I also used some sage in place of parsley — again, using ingredients I had on hand. I topped mine with a bit of parmeggiano reggiano for some color and tang. Here’s the recipe as posted on smitten kitchen. Enjoy!

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Ramps, ramps, ramps. It’s all the New York foodies can talk about this time of year. They’re in season for about five minutes, so everyone scrambles to get them from the farmer’s market before they’re a fleeting memory of early spring. What are ramps you ask? At one point I was under the false impression they had something to do with ferns, but in fact they are spring onions, otherwise known as wild leeks (they are like a very delicate cross between a scallion and a leek, but the roots are tiny and the flavor is mild).

Aware of the ramp fervor yet at a loss for ramp-related recipes, inspiration arrived by way of The Spotted Pig this weekend. Brian’s dad was in town, and very generously took us out to dinner Friday night at said West Village gastropub. There were a few items on the menu featuring ramps, but what spoke to me was the braised rabbit with ramps and fennel. Ok, you may think I am a horrible person for eating rabbit — well, I defy you to try it and not want to eat it ALL THE TIME. It’s like the most flavorful moist dark meat chicken you’ve ever had, times a million. I cannot sing its praises enough.

In any case, the dish was expectedly delicious, and the braised vegetables were no exception. I knew I wanted to cook a farmer’s market meal Saturday so I decided on braised vegetables (whatever looked good) with ramps for my side. Saturday was the first really warm day we’ve had this spring, so people were out in droves, and as I feared, many market stands were picked over by the time I got there. Luckily, I found some good ramps, some tiny, tiny potatoes (the tiniest I’ve ever seen, in fact), and carrots. Because the licorice flavor of the fennel had been so good in the rabbit dish, I decided to flavor my veggies with tarragon, an herb I rarely use, but which worked out perfectly here, enhancing the natural sweetness of the carrots and potatoes.

Braised Potatoes, Carrots and Ramps with Tarragon
Cooking and prep time approx. 35 – 40 minutes
Serves 4

1 lb. small potatoes — creamers, fingerlings, Yukon Gold would all work. If you can’t find tiny bite-sized ones, dice as necessary
1 bunch ramps, root ends cut off, leaves separated from roots (you could easily sub for greens like kale or spinach when ramps are out of season, or stick with the onion family with leeks. Cooking time would increase.)
6 small carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thickly
3/4 c. chicken stock
1 T. tarragon, chopped
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 T. butter

Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a dutch oven or heavy stockpot with a lid. Add potatoes and garlic and saute for a few minutes or until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil; lower heat so liquid is simmering but not boiling. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and tarragon. Cover again and cook for another 10 – 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender and the carrots are just tender. Stir to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add the ramp roots and cook for 2 – 3 minutes with the lid off, then add ramp leaves and cook, stirring, until leaves are just tender. Add butter and stir until melted; taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.

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I can’t claim to have any authentic Chinese cooking experience – in fact, I’m fairly skeptical about the authenticity of most Chinese food in the U.S., so have I even eaten “real” Chinese food? Who knows. All I know is that fried chicken and french fries are not Chinese and yet! Every fast food Chinese place in New York has them. It’s a mystery.

So please take it with a grain of salt (or a dash of soy?) when I say Chinese-style. I could be way off. Anyway, I made Chinese-style eggplant awhile back with a simple ginger garlic sauce that I really liked. Ginger + Garlic + Soy sauce = delicious. I decided to use it this time for baby bok choi and it was even easier because the bok choi cooks up so quickly. It made sense to me to serve it with tofu – I broiled it this time – and white rice. I tried to follow Mark Bittman’s advice of freezing the tofu first and then thawing before broiling. He claims the texture changes significantly and lends itself well to grilling or broiling. But tofu takes a long time to defrost – i.e. more than 6 hours. I learned that the hard way and had to get more tofu. Maybe I’ll serve the eventually thawed tofu with my leftover cabbage!

Also, if you don’t have sweet chili sauce, get it. It’s sweet and a little spicy and a funny pink color and it adds so much flavor to a simple Chinese-style dish. I got mine at Trader Joe’s, but then, that’s not so surprising, is it?

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