every day is a good day for tacos

since the shelter-in-place order began in the Bay Area, i have been cooking a lot. more than usual? hard to say, i always cook nearly all of my own food as i’ve worked remotely over three years now. but now, it feels a bit more forced and panicked. though i think that’s becoming less-so, yayyyy…

at first i thought OHMYGOD what do i have to cook? but then i realized i can chill, there are still groceries, and there’s even takeout! not to mention i have a ton of food. if Tamar Adler’s enlightening cookbook, An Everlasting Meal, taught me anything, it’s that if you have some dried beans and rice… you’re golden. even more, if you have some parsley and lemon to serve with that, then you’re really cooking with fire.

so… this is mainly how i balance my meals. i keep the following ready to go in the pantry: grains like brown rice and rolled oats, dried beans, bananas, and nuts.

in the fridge, i keep: citrus fruits (lemons and limes), herbs (cilantro, parsley, and dill), fresh vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower), and lettuces (romaine, chicories), almond milk, plain greek yogurt, eggs, and some sort of protein. protein for me is typically tofu and tempeh.

in the freezer i keep mainly: frozen fruit and a loaf (or five) of sliced bread.

and then that bring us to, the tortillas. tortilla-style items have been a hot-button item for us lately. tortillas for breakfast, tortillas for lunch, tortillas for dinner — WHO CARES? it’s lockdown season, baby.

so, with the ingredients listed above… you know what i can always make?? TACOS. i can make salads, rice bowls, even traditional ‘recipes’ like a cheesy bean bake or chickpea bolognese (both things i’ve recently cooked). the bean bake was actually really beautiful so here it is:

cheesy bean bake

okay back to the tacos. tacos are a glorious food item to have handy. and all you need are a few crucial elements, the likes of which can be swapped out every time you make a taco so it doesn’t feel like you’re eating the same thing over and over again. that would be torture. to me, this is what constitutes a solid taco: good tortilla (heat on pan!) + deliciously cooked protein + accompaniments. my favorite accompaniments for a taco are: rice, beans, cilantro, hot sauce, mashed sweet potato (idk why!), shredded lettuce, avocado, and salsa. the wonderful thing about a taco is that you really only need the tortilla plus a couple of more elements to create a MEAL. if you don’t have a traditional protein, you can use beans + rice as the workhorse, or whatever! get creative, ya know?

i am obsessed with tofu chorizo though, which is a recipe by mark bittman, my dad. not really. but i’m going to share my version of it here. i like it because you don’t have to do anything fussy with the tofu other than take it out of its packaging and cook it. no wrapping it up in paper towels and pressing it, the water cooks right off of it in the pan.

TOFU CHORIZO

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoon garlic, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper
2 packages firm tofu
2 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

To prepare:

  • Add oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Using your hands, crumble tofu into the pan. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet occasionally and adjusting heat as necessary, until tofu browns and crisps as much or as little as you like, about 10 to 30 minutes.
    • NOTE: Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan, I cook mine closer to about 20 minutes until it has a similar texture to chorizo.
  • Add the chili powder, cumin and cinnamon. Stir and cook, continuing to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan until the mixture is fragrant, a minute or two. Stir in apple cider vinegar and adjust the seasoning taste.
    • NOTE: Taste and adjust seasonings until you love it. I often add more apple cider vinegar for that tangy-tang and kosher salt. This is your new tofu chorizo, so make sure you like it on its own. Taste and adjust til you can’t stop eating it by itself. That’s my rule of thumb.

that’s it! let me know if you have any questions about the recipe or tacos in general. this will keep in the fridge for about 3-4 days, maybe longer. my food-going-bad philosophy is that you’ll know when it’s bad because it will smell like it’s gone bad.

here is the final product (also seen on taco above!)

until next time, happy cooking and stay safe friends! i am always here to talk about food, so hit me up!

Farmer’s market tomato and radicchio salad

Food from the farmer’s market needs little more than simple preparation. But why does it taste so good? Read on for more information about locally grown foods, the inspiration behind this salad.

Farmer’s market stands are stocked with fresh, local ingredients, often harvested that very morning. The food itself has spent less time traveling than most conventionally grown food that you’ll find at the grocery store. Not only that, but food grown organically, seasonally, and locally equates to more flavor due to their higher quantity of nutrients, made available through their growing medium. Food grown outside of its seasonality window is likely able to do so using GMOs and pesticides, which in turn damages the soil, so that the final product lacks those valuable nutrients. This is why you can taste the difference in a tomato from the farmer’s market and a conventionally grown tomato from a grocery store. This simple salad is all about amplifying the natural flavors that occur in these foods!

When beauty strikes

For this recipe, I’ve used two types of tomatoes from the SF Ferry Building farmer’s market: Cherokee Purple and Carolina Gold. I came upon these two choices because 1) I’m from South Carolina, so I had to try the Carolina Gold, and 2) I asked the vendor which other tomato he would recommend, and without hesitation, he pointed to the Cherokee Purple. So that was that!

The radicchio and pistachios are also from the farmer’s market. The basil leaves are from my indoor hydroponic garden (which sounds cooler than it is).

This combination of food is infinitely riffable, and could certainly be served with burrata or mozzarella! I didn’t have any on hand, and it was still divine thanks to the quality of the ingredients. The dressing would also swap out nicely with nearly any vinaigrette… the main point being the acidity. And if swapping out the vinaigrette, keep in mind that you want it to have a synergistic effect with the lettuce, so you may want to swap out the lettuce to match the vinaigrette in this scenario. This is essentially a simple salad paired with tomatoes, basil, and roasted nuts.

Here’s how this salad came to be: I started with the star of the show, the tomatoes. From there, I added the basil, because basil and tomatoes are always a winning duo. Then I hand-tossed the radicchio with the lemon-caper dressing in a separate bowl before adding to the plate with the tomatoes and basil. I finished with a topping of pistachios to give a nice hit of fat to the salad.

Ingredients:

  • A few handfuls of chopped radicchio
  • 1-2 small tomatoes
  • A few basil leaves
  • Lemon caper dressing*
  • Roasted, salted pistachios (optional)

Directions:

  • Slice tomatoes and arrange on a plate however you’d like, sprinkle with kosher salt, to taste
  • In a bowl, place the few handfuls of radicchio and add a tbsp or so of the vinaigrette, tossing with hands (to ensure each leaf is coated)
  • Add radicchio and vinaigrette salad to plate
  • Top with sliced or torn basil leaves and the roasted, salted pistachios
  • Grind some peppercorns on top
  • Serve!

*If you aren’t a subscriber of NYT Cooking you may not be able to access the recipe. It’s essentially as follows: 1 clove garlic, ten grinds of fresh pepper, and 1 tsp of capers, and a little kosher salt. These four ingredients are pounded into a paste using a mortar and pestle. Transfer the paste to a bowl, and stir in ~3 tbsp of lemon juice, and ~5 tbsp of freshly grated parmesan. Then slowly add in about 1/4 cup of olive oil. From there, try with a lettuce leaf, and adjust as needed by adding more lemon, olive oil, capers, cheese, and/or salt. Tinker and try a bit on the leaves after each adjustment until you think, damn! that is a good dressing!

Dutch Baby

Hi all!

This recipe is based on the NYT Cooking recipe for a Dutch Baby. Dutch babies are 100% my favorite omelet and pancake hybrid ever, though I do like crèpes a lot too. This is basically a puffy crèpe, and I’m here for it. The ingredients are all typically items sitting around in my pantry and fridge too, so it’s an easy and impressive go-to breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup milk (i used almond milk)
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • Powdered sugar and jam, for topping

Directions

  1. Bring eggs, milk, and butter to room temperature
  2. Heat oven to 425 degrees with a 10-inch cast-iron skillet inside
  3. Combine eggs, flour, milk, sugar, nutmeg, and vanilla extract to a food processor and mix until just combined
  4. Once oven is heated, remove skillet and add the butter to coat the pan
  5. Once coated, add egg mixture to skillet
  6. Place skillet back in oven for 20 minutes, until puffy and beginning to turn golden brown
  7. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees, and bake for about 5 minutes
  8. Remove and serve with powdered sugar and your favorite jam

I cut the dutch baby into fours for serving. I nearly ate it all myself, which is a bit excessive when you consider the ingredients involved. There was a good bit of butter left on the dutch baby, but as it cooled, the dutch baby soaked it right up and it was delicious.

NOTE: Bringing the ingredients to room temperature is important for the dutch baby to fluff up!

Have you ever had a dutch baby? If so, what flavor? If not, are you ready to rumble?

How to use leftover meat from stock

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Hi, everyone! I recently read (and cooked) a recipe  that used lots of chicken thighs to make chicken stock. I then discarded the chicken. Even the recipe creator said, I haven’t found a good use for this chicken. The issue is that when you boil the chicken, the meat loses all of its flavor (that’s basically how you know the stock is done). It’s a beautiful thing. But, I’m not one to promote food waste, and I wasted a LOT of chicken meat that was simply flavorless.

Then, I was re-reading Tamar Adler’s book on cooking, “An Everlasting Meal,” and I happened upon a little tidbit on how to save some of the meat used from stock. Now, I am not saying you need to save ALL of it. I had a lot. But when I made stock again, I did save some of the meat from it. I gave (1) some to my dog, and then (2) I made toast topped with it, as you see above.

The key is mixing it with mayonnaise, herbs, and something acidic — this helps to give back flavor that it lost. I personally think it worked in a synergistic fashion, and I craved this for approximately 3 meals/snacks, and then I ran out.

Here I mixed it with *good* mayonnaise. Homemade if you have it, but I never do. Then I added thinly cut cornichons and sprigs of dill. It is so simple, yet elegant, because it is truly a recipe for those who seek to limit their waste. I also would recommend using fresh bread. I buy a loaf of Acme Sweet Batard nearly every week, slice it, and then freeze it. I hope this helps you in any effort to create a working kitchen.

Roasted Sourdough with Smoked Salmon and Vegetables

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This isn’t a “recipe” so much as it is a way to combine ingredients on top of bread so that it’s a full-on meal with minimal effort.

I had all of this stuff on hand, some ingredients thanks to meal prep (quick pickled bell peppers), and some ingredients courtesy of my local farmer’s market (smoked salmon goat cheese, heirloom tomatoes, & roasted garlic sourdough bread).

I am not going to write a traditional recipe for most of this, because it doesn’t really need one. I started out by roasting the roasted garlic sourdough bread drizzled with olive oil in the oven on 400 for about 6 minutes. Note: Fresh bread can be sliced and then stored in the freezer. I store each slice in individual plastic bags and date and label them. Then I take them out and pop them in the oven with some olive oil whenever I’m ready to eat them.

Now you have roasted bread (any kind of bread’ll do). Next up, I have spread a harissa, cumin, and and chili goat milk cheese on the bread. Honestly, I almost just stopped here. Good cheese on good bread with good olive is all you really need. Alas, I then added a couple of slices of an heirloom tomato (I saved the rest of the tomato and threw it in a beef bolognese I made later that day). Then I added some greens — I used sweet mixed greens, but you can use anything. I have made this before with romaine and the additional crunch is very nice. Arugula would work great too. Use whatever you have on hand. Then I topped this with smoked salmon. I am lucky to have a wonderful vendor at my farmer’s market, and I definitely splurge on smoked salmon. I would recommend you do the same — sub-par smoked salmon isn’t very tasty and it could ruin your dish! (Okay, so just make sure that you like it first.)

The only part of this recipe that I made prior to assembling were the quick pickled sweet bell peppers. I recommend making this at the beginning of the week, and storing in its brine all week in the refrigerator. I top a lot of food with these guys, they add a nice sweet crunch that many dishes deserve in order to feel complete. I will post the recipe in just a moment.

On top of everything, add chopped dill (parsley or cilantro would be lovely additions as well), and add kosher sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Now you are ready for a delicious lunch, breakfast, dinner, or snack!

Quick Pickled Sweet Bell Peppers

Depending on how many bell peppers you have, you may need to adjust the amount of brine you are making. I typically use two rather large bell peppers, and I make sure that the bell peppers are completely covered by the liquid in the container I store it in.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large bell peppers (I like to use two different colors like yellow and red)
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher sea salt

Directions:

  1. Deseed and remove the stems from the peppers.
  2. Slice lengthwise into about 1/4 of an inch.
  3. Add peppers to a glass container with a tight lid.
  4. Add vinegar, sugar, and salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring with a wooden spoon.
  5. Let cool completely.
  6. Add mixture to the glass container once cooled and toss to combine.
  7. Make sure peppers are completely covered and this should store in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.

 

Baguette Crisps

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This is a very simple recipe, but an important one if you buy fresh baguettes (or other fresh breads) — it helps preserve the deliciousness inherent within, that sometimes just gets tossed instead of made into its own wonderfulness.

Many other cultures relish their stale bread. They can be made into soups, croutons, bread crumbs, and the list goes on-and-on — or they can be made into crisps. These crisps taste a lot like a substitute for chips or bagel crisps that you buy in the store, except these are essentially FREE since you are just using leftovers that you already have. You can top them with anything you like! I topped mine with a little bit of butter and an olive-capers-anchovy tapenade with a little boiled chard on top, so you can do you and get a little crazy with these. Or you can just eat them as-is.

Ingredients:

  • Leftover stale baguette, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • Good olive oil

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 °.
  • Cut baguette into 1/4 inch slices if you have not already — the thinner, the better
  • Lay pieces on a baking sheet and leave space between each one. If you are overcrowding the baking sheet, use two.
  • Cook in oven for 6 minutes, then flip. Cook for 4-6 more minutes, until crisps are golden brown.
  • Enjoy by themselves, topped with your favorite ingredients, with butter, as a side for soups, etc.

 

 

Refried Bean Quesadillas

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This is probably the most basic recipe — to the point that I feel sheepish even calling it a recipe. It’s more of a life hack that has fed me many times when I thought I could not go on (without some food). If I don’t have any fresh produce or I am in dire need groceries, I whip these up. I always try to keep tortillas and a can of refried beans on hand just for this refried bean quesadilla occasion. You never know when the time may strike, so you gotta be prepared. The modifications are endless, and you’ll likely have at least one of the optional items in your refrigerator or pantry to spice things up (or not; they’re good as-is).

I add everything from sautéed onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms to hot sauce to shredded cheese on top, and sometimes when my goods are plentiful… all of them! I also think it is key to cook the quesadilla in butter, but this is not necessary. I’ve lately taken to serving an herb vinaigrette on the side as a dipping sauce. So. So. Good! Okay, here’s the base recipe:

Ingredients (1 serving):

  • 6 – 8 in. tortilla (really whatever size you want)
  • 1/2 can of refried beans (really as much as you want)
  • Butter

Directions:

  1. Lay tortilla flat and spread a layer of refried beans on it.
  2. Lay the other tortilla on top of the refried beans (add any of the other optional toppings below), and pinch around the sides so as to enclose the beans.
  3. Heat a large skillet on medium high heat. Once it is heated throughout, spread a layer of butter (or olive oil, or any other fat) to coat the skillet and then heat the butter (this prevents sticking).
  4. Once the butter is heated, add the quesadilla to the skillet, and cook until browned (about 2-3 minutes). Flip the quesadilla, and cook until the other side is browned (about 1-2 minutes).
  5. Add any optional toppings to the top of it all or find a dipping sauce that you like to serve on the side. And we’re done!

Optional:

  • Fresh herbs, chopped (cilantro is great)
  • Shredded cheese
  • Cooked rice
  • Sautéed vegetables
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • Sour Cream
  • Greek yogurt with lemon
  • Herb vinaigrette (olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, fresh parsley, fresh cilantro, any other fresh herbs)
  • Hot sauce
  • You do you — get crazy!