Thursday, May 29, 2008

You made what?

I love to thumb through cookbooks. If you invite me over to your house, I'll probably take a peek at what's on your cookbook shelf. And sometimes, the odder the recipe the better. I found the above recipe in an old community cookbook. In case you can't read the recipe card, the ingredients are a pound of spaghetti, half a slab of velveeta, a cup of ketchup, and butter (the butter is for frying of course). The recipe is called "Mother's Famous Spaghetti Recipe". I copied this recipe back in the days when I didn't give a second thought to eating food products like velveeta. But even then, this was never a recipe to make. I copied the recipe down onto an index card just so I can stare at it every once in a while. Someone once thought, "You know what would make an awesome spaghetti sauce? Ketchup and velveeta. Ooo, and when it cools down, I can fry slabs of it in butter!" Genius.

I still sometimes see a recipe and think, that's so weird. I have to make it. When I first got How to Cook Everything Vegetarian I found a few recipe ideas that fascinated me, including this recipe for seaweed mayo. That's right. Mark Bittman wants you to blend seaweed with olive oil in your food processor and then eat it as a spread on a sandwich. I couldn't resist.

And actually, it's pretty good. Surprisingly good. It looks almost like a pesto. And it doesn't taste like a catfish pond, which is what I expected. The fishy flavor is mild, and there's a bit of rice vinegar in there for tang. This is the kind of thing that you eat spread on a sandwich and think, what IS that. Taking one bite after another until it's all gone and you still don't know what you ate. I'll definitely be making this again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More food in a bowl

Chickpeas in their own broth

I finally got it together this weekend to cook up a pot of beans. Once a month or so, I like to cook a pound or two of beans. I use some up right away, and the rest goes into the freezer. The bean of the month for May is the chickpea. Chickpeas are one of the longer cooking beans, taking up to three hours to soften. Fortunately, I was so together this weekend I even managed to soak the beans overnight. Soaking isn't absolutely necessary to cook beans, but it dramatically reduces the cooking time. After soaking for ten hours (I had a good long sleep), my chickpeas cooked up in just over an hour.

While the beans cooked, I came up with a list of ideas for what to do with them. I'm just about out of tahini, so hummus was out of the question. Chickpea cutlets, warm chickpea salad, roasted chickpeas, saffron rice with chickpeas, and the simple dish above all made the list.

Chickpeas in their own broth is another Bittman inspired dish. He raves about the flavor of chickpea broth, and I have to agree with him. I'm never pouring this stuff down the sink again. The chickpeas are spooned into a dish with their liquid, and then drizzled with lemon juice and tahini and sprinkled with spiced toasted bread crumbs. I love dishes like these because they're practically recipe-less.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tortilla Soup

The first of the summer's squash showed up at this weekend's farmers' market. And tortilla soup is always the first recipe I think of when confronted with a vegetable drawer full of summer squash. My friend Merf taught me to make tortilla soup this way one summer when we both worked testing ESL students. After tasting this, our coworkers wanted to know why we were bothering to go to college. After all, we already knew how to cook.

Merf is the kind of cook who throws in a cup of this and a dash of that and mixes it up up with her hands. Every time she makes a dish it comes out a little different, and it's usually pretty delicious, too. The amounts in this recipe will be vague because it just wouldn't be right otherwise.

Free Spirit Tortilla Soup
oil for sauteing
an onion, chopped
garlic, minced
summer squash, sliced and cut in half if the pieces are large

Saute the onion over medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about thirty seconds). Add the squash and saute until the squash is golden and soft but not mushy. Add the broth until it covers all the vegetables by about half an inch. Heat the soup and salt to taste.

My friend E tells me that when Merf taught her to make this soup, they added tomatoes with the broth. So feel free to add tomatoes. Or anything else.

The most important part of this recipe are the garnishes. Garnish with

a squeeze of lime
avocado, chopped
broken tortilla chips