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Archive for July, 2010


Swiss Chard.  I don’t know what’s Swiss about it (according to Wikipedia, it was called “Swiss” to distinguish it from French spinach back in the way; whatev), but I do know that since I started getting bunches of it from my Harvest Moon CSA, I’ve become utterly obsessed with it!  And thanks to the recipes  from Chef Bradley Borchardt that Harvest Moon sends out via email to its members,, I had some very helpful direction on how to turn these huge, leafy bunches with gorgeous, bright red stems into a delectable meal.  Check out my dinner!

Yum, right?  This, my friends, would be sautéed chard with yellow split peas and my beloved poached egg on top I’m like some eat-eating freak on a hamster wheel, trying to keep up with the half-dozen fresh farm eggs I get each week from Harvest Moon).  It’s DELICIOUS!  You’ve got the fresh, bitter bite of the chard, accented with the salty tang of capers, with the hearty richness of yellow split peas and a party of green herbs and then the creamy delight of a poached egg on top for a light, yet hearty bowlful of SUMMER DELISH! 

 And get this: it’s healthy, too!  Get out – good, fresh and healthy, all together?  Stand back! I adapted this recipe from Chef Borchardt (mostly because I didn’t have the exact  ingredients he calls for) but he definitely gets the credit for the whole shootin’ match.  Here’s what you do:

Ingredients

1 bunch of chard

1/8 C. Extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 C red onion, minced

1 Tbl capers, drained

4 Tbl minced fresh herbs – I used mint, basil, rosemary and thyme

1/4 white wine vinegar

1 Tbl sriracha sauce (the spicy red Asian chili sauce), or your favorite hot sauce

3/4 C. dried yellow split peas (you could use green, but I had yellow and they look pretty!)

What You Do

1) Put the split peas into a saucepan with 5 cups of salted water and bring to a simmer; cook for 30 minutes with the lid half-on; taste at 20 minutes to check for texture.  When they’re tender but still firm, drain into a mesh sieve and set aside.

2) Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a cast iron skillet, and add the garlic and red onion; saute for 5-10 minutes until soft

2) Slice the chard into strips and add to the pan.  Cook until wilted – about 10 minutes or so.  It will look like you’re piling a veritable Swiss Alp of chard into the pan, but it will cook down (like spinach does).

3) Chop your herbs.  I used what I grow on my deck (thyme, basil, mint, rosemary), but you could also use cilantro,  parsley or tarragon, too. 

4)  Add the vinegar, capers, herbs and cooked lentils to the wilted chart.

4) Poach an egg – or multiple eggs, depending on how many you’re feeding. 

EASY POACHED EGGS: Bring a pan with three inches of water to a simmer – like very lively club soda (not vigorously boiling, or you’ll be screwed), and crack an egg into a ramekin or small dish.  Slip the egg into the simmering water and let it be for 2 minutes, 15 seconds (for a large egg).  Remove the poached egg with a slotted spoon and let it drain for a minute on a paper towel.  Plop that poached egg on top of your bowl of Chard and split peas, add a shower of freshly ground pepper and some sea salt and crack that yolk!  The gorgeous, golden yolk is like creamy gravy (and adds an extra dose of low-cal protein to the whole thing).

5) Eat and enjoy!  You’re eating healthy, high-anti-oxidant greens, protein-packed, low-fat legumes and a healthy poached egg and loving it.  The Lazy Cook would definitely appreciate the nutritional aspects of this, but she would never do all this cooking!  (And frankly, the whole thing takes about 30 or 40 minutes, start to finish, so shut up.)

Long live Swiss Chard, long live summer and happy, crazy-good eating to you!

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Eat Summer-on-a-Cob!


When I was a kid, growing up on the North Shore of Chicago (hello, Glencoe!), we’d drive down to Streator, Illinois, about 2 hours south, to visit our grandparents.  We’d drive through miles and miles of cornfields, bored to death.  Now, as a cook and a crazy one at that, I appreciate corn more than ever (even tho most of those cornfields were feedcorn for animals, whatev.)  And how funny is it that my favorite recipe for corn on the cob was born in Texas, where I (shockingly), lived for 11 years (Dallas, to be exact)?  Check this out:

Yes, ma’am, that is roasted corn wrapped in bacon!  And it is gooo — ooddd! (Two syllables on that, please; that is how one would say it in Texas.)  It celebrates the fresh sweetness of home-grown corn-on-the-cob, with the rich, smoky, salty boom of bacon and I wait for it all year along.  Here’s all you do:

1) Shuck an ear of corn.  I like to buy fresh corn at the farmer’s  market, or get it from my CSA, Harvest Moon Organics, and cook it the day I get it, for maximum deliciousness.  But you could store fresh corn in the fridge for up to two days, in an unsealed plastic bag.

2) Take one slice of bacon and just wrap it around the corn, on a piece of aluminum foil

3) For extra decadent deliciousness, sprinkle about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of sugar on it.  Yes, sugar.  The beauty of this is that you enhance the natural sweetness of the fresh corn and you get a beautiful little caramelization going on in that foil packet.

4) Light a charcoal grill.  I’m a charcoal girl because gas scare the daylights out of me, after a near-explosion last year, although I’m probably exaggerating about the nearness of the explosive factor.  Whatev.  After that fright (on a wood deck, no less), I tossed my gas grill and go with hardwood charcoal – no briquets and no lighter fluid — in a good, ol’ Weber grill.  My safety system is this: keep a full watering can at the ready and I don’t leave the deck while anything is on fire.

5) OK, now that we’ve got safety down, roll up your foil around your bacon-wrapped corn sprinkled with sugar and smush the ends together. Plop it on the grill, right over the hot part.  Let ‘er go for 10 minutes, with the hat on (you know ,the lid of the grill).  After 10 minutes, using your handy long-armed grill mitt and some tongs, turn the corn. Hat back on.  Let ‘er cook for another 10 minutes, and roll ‘er about again.  All total: roast on the grill for 25-30 minutes.

6) Remove from grill and let rest for a bit.  Crack the foil to let some of the steam escape so you don’t get mushy corn.

The Final Step: EAT!  Because of the smoky, fatty, salty bacon and sugar, you don’t need to add any butter or salt.  It’s AMAZING!  And it’s summer.  On a cob.  Enjoy!

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Yes, one of the tenets of being a lazy cook is to NOT spend hours chopping. Yet, that is what it takes to make my signature (and top summer special occasion request) fruit salad. Three hours and 50+ pounds of watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, pineapple, bananas, strawberries, kiwi fruit, peaches and blueberries later, voila! It is sooo good, that it is worth the effort once (or twice) a year.
But, I probably couldn’t have done it without an audio book.

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Recently, the Lazy Cook and I made a trip to Chicago’s Green City Market to seek inspiration.  This is the first of four videos featuring piles of perfect produce we discovered there.

We got to the market at 7:30 a.m. one hot, July day, and I about jumped for joy at the sight of a mountain of colorful carrots — yellow, orange, purple — so PRETTY!  And cute!  We grabbed a bunch and this is what we did with them.  (Or at least what I, the Crazy Cook, did with them.  That Lazy Cook never fails to amaze me with her reckless abandon of all cooking.)  Check our two concoctions here.

I swear, these glazed rainbow carrots are the bomb.  You can eat them hot as a side dish, or refrigerate them and eat them cold as a little snack.  Plus, as the Lazy Cook can appreciate, carrots are a very good source of fiber and Vitamins A, C and K.  Here’s what you do:

Crazy Cook’s Caramelized Carrots

Ingredients:

One bunch of rainbow carrots (you can also use regular orange carrots – the rainbow ones are just more fun.  The taste is basically the same).

2 Tbl butter

1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil

1-2 Tbl brown sugar

Salt, to taste

What You Do:

1) Rinse the carrots; no need to peel them.  Slice them into long spears.

2) Melt butter in cast iron pan (I like the caramelization you can get from a cast iron pan) and then add the olive oil.

3) When everything’s good and hot (the butter and olive oil are bubbling, but not smoking), add the carrots and stir them all about to coat them with the butter and oil.  Then shower them with the brown sugar, and stir again. Let them cook for a good 20 minutes or until they have a nice, toasty brown sear on them and they are soft, but definitely not mushy.

4) Serve and savor!

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Make no mistake: I love meat.  Steak? Bring it.  A good burger?  Love.  But since I joined this CSA (Harvest Moon Farms), I’ve been powering through massive amounts of farm-fresh produce and I find myself skipping the meat part of a meal.  Kind of accidentally.  And you know what?  Not only have I dropped a few pounds, but I feel good – as if my body is saying, “Oooh, yes, this fresh produce is sooo good.  Kind of makes up for the massive amounts of wine you pour into me and the occasional cigarette you smoke.” 

Now, those of you who know me, let me assure you, I am still enjoying my wine (a lot), and I have not turned into some hippie-dippie veg-eating health nut.  Please.  But let me show you what my din-din was tonight:

This all came from today’s Harvest Moon delivery.

  • Steamed Green Beans with a shower of fresh lemon juice and some good Spanish olive oil I bought in Madrid, and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese
  • Corn on the Cob with a mild basting of good French Plugra butter and sea salt (did you know that you can microwave an ear of corn wrapped in a wet paper towel, for 60 seconds?  Perfection).
  • Salad of fresh leaf lettuce, shaved zucchini, sliced cucumbers and grape tomatoes with a blitz of Champagne vinaigrette

And it was DELICIOUS!  It did occur to me that I could’ve added a poached egg to the whole lot, to add some protein, but I’m good for now.   (Watch for future post on my poached egg mania).

And check this one out: the most amazing summer Saturday breakfast ever:

This, my friends, would be a mash-up of left-over roasted baby potatoes, grape tomatoes and the famous poached egg with a small storm of basil ribbons.  I’d roasted a rainbow of baby potatoes (purple! red! white! pink!) days earlier, and then just threw some into a saute pan with some grape tomatoes and a splish-splash of olive oil and sea salt to warm it up all up, then plopped a poached egg on top.  Stellar!  And it keeps you full almost all day long!

Just throw roasted spuds into a pan with some grape tomatoes, to heat up the whole lot, as a bed for a poached egg.

So – what I am saying is: I’ve accidentally not eaten meat in days and days.  I’m not missing it, but I am prepared for a future craving for a Cro-Magnon-size steak sometime soon.   With a big glass of Cab, or something.  But summer is my favorite time of year and fresh veg is what I want most of time.  I gotta eat as much of it as I can —  corn, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, greens, peas, fresh carrots, beets, whatev — while I can, and I hope I can share some good, easy recipes with you at the same time!

Love,

The Crazy Cook

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Thanks to Foodbuzz,  Buitoni sent me a coupon for some of its new Buitoni Riserva Wild Mushroom Agnolotti. And they asked this: what kind of salad might one pair with this new product?  Well, the Crazy Cook here is always up for a challenge.   Bring it!  First I considered the wild mushroom filling, spiked with parmesan.  It would be a bit rich.  So I considered a variety of lettuces, a variety of dressings.  And then I said, “No! Not lettuce!  Come on, let’s think of something more interesting!”  Caesar, schmaesar.  I needed something earthy, something fresh, something summery and savory that would cut through the richness of the agnolotti and lend a light, Italian touch to an easy summer dinner.  And I think I nailed it.  Ready?

I present to you: Zucchini Ribbon Salad.  I shaved a fresh zucchini from my Harvest Moon CSA stash with a Y-peeler, threw in some halved grape tomatoes and added a shower of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, a whisper of hearty, aged Italian balsamic vinegar (I figured the mushroom – cheese agnolotti filling would appreciate a bit of heft from the balsamic), a pinch of Maldon sea salt and a dash of fresh thyme (thyme and mushrooms are big, earthy friends) and it was DIVINE!  The fresh, raw, zucchini had just enough freshness and just enough of an “al dente” texture to complement the rich (and I must say, really delicious) pasta perfectly! Victory!

As for the agnolotti, I just dropped it in gently boiling and salted water for 6 minutes, and then transferred it to a saute pan with about 2 Tbl of butter and about a Tbl of fresh thyme leaves for about a minute, and then hit it with a small but flavorful flurry of grated Parmesan.

It was easy, it was fresh and it was delicious.  And who doesn’t want that on a hot summer night?  Buon appetito! (And thanks, Buitoni and Foodbuzz.)

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Just in time for the long summer holiday weekend, we raise the bar on summer sipping, with three delightful summer drinks.  Two feature alcohol, one does not, but of course you could always spike the Lazy Cook’s Pink Punch with your choice of vodka, tequila or Champagne!  Cheers!  (And I’m probably supposed to add this: Drink Responsibly and only if you’re 21 or over.  There, now we’re covered.)

Tequila

People who know me are aware of my passion for Tequila —  the good stuff – the 100% agave variety.  Many people have hazy memories of college tequila-shot-swilling raves, but I swear, if you stick to the good stuff, you will NOT have a psychotic, near-hallucinogenic experience that will lead to hang-overs, regrets and an application for the Witness Protection Program.

 The Paloma is a very traditional Mexican cocktail, and the way most Mexicans in Mexico enjoy tequila.  It’s an awesome alternative to the margarita.  The greater Guadalajara area is tequila-central, with the town of Tequila only 30 miles east (home of the Sauza and Jose Cuervo plants), and the town of Arandas is 30 miles west, which is where El Tapatio tequila, known as El Tesoro in the States, is made).  Tequila is made only with the juice of Blue Weber Agave plants, which are grown only in this region.  In the Guadalajara area, if you and your friends ask for Palomas, they will often bring bottles of Squirt to the table, along with a bottle of tequila and a bowl of lime wedges and cups or glasses  of ice and you make your own. 

There are three types of tequila: blanco (not aged), reposado (aged) and anejo (extra aged).  Aging concentrates the sugars in tequila for a more intense spirit.  I usually go with reposado.  Anejo is good for sipping over ice on its own.  Blanco is the most common choice for margaritas, but reposado bumps up the flavor of a margarita nicely.

I like the Paloma better than a margarita, because it’s refreshing,  just sweet enough (and tequila is already very sugary, from the juices of the roasted agave hearts) and doesn’t have that sour bite of the Margarita.  Try it for yourself!  Salud!

The Raspberry Crazy-Tini

This is actually a riff on the “Lookingglass Martini” made by the fine mixologists at the bar at  NoMi in the Park Hyatt Hotel in Chicago, in honor of Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre, which is right across the street  (and of which I am an emeritus board member and life-long fan).  I spin it with Prosecco instead of Champagne, but both are delish.  The  Absolut Raspberry lends a nice fruit flavor without too much sweetness, because the Cointreau is pretty sweet.  Get your crazy on, and make one – or a whole batch – this weekend!

For each drink:

2 ounces raspberry vodka

1 ounce Cointreau

Shake with ice, strain into a martini glass and top with a splash of Prosecco.  Garnish with fresh raspberries.

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