Budget Archive

Monday, February 18, 2013

italian stuffed cabbage

italian stuffed cabbage

Prior to November, what I knew of stuffed cabbage rolls were limited to the Jewish/Eastern European variety, which I make the way my mother-in-law does. I hadn’t given it further thought because as far as I was concerned, it was never broken, and needed little improvement, and when there’s little room for me to tinker in the kitchen, I quickly lose interest. But if I had, it might have occurred to me that cabbage, being one of the ultimate peasant foods, has probably been wrapped around meat that’s been ground and then stretched (always budget-minded, those peasants) with other ingredients and cooked in a sauce in a zillion different ways over the centuries. And oh, the fun we might have been having this whole time.

peeling the savoy
big floppy cabbage leaves

As it turns out, it could be argued that any region that can grow large cabbage leaves is indeed stuffing them with something. The most cursory of Google searches leads one on a tour of Greek lahanodolmathes, stuffed with ground beef and rice and covered with a traditional egg and lemon (avgolemono) sauce; French chou farci, stuffed with beef or pork, sometimes mushrooms, wrapped in large layers of cabbage leaves and served in wedges; Polish gloabki, or “little pigeons,” with pork and beef, and rice or barley (sigh); Slovak holubky or halupki; Serb or Croatian sarma with (hold me) sauerkraut and ham hocks, and Arabic mahshi malfouf which adds lemon juice, cinnamon and mint (swoon) to the usual ground meat and rice medley. And guys, I’m just getting started. The idea that there are this many ways to fall in love with stuffed cabbage torments me, and leaves me daydreaming about a Westeros-length winter wherein we could audition each one.

quickly blanching the cabbage leaves

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

pasta and white beans with garlic-rosemary oil

pasta, white beans, garlic-rosemary oil

If you have a thing for chocolate, the world is your oyster. On this very site, 86 of the just over 800 recipes boast a significant chocolate component and entire sections of bookstores will be happy to fill in any cravings I missed. If you have a thing for bacon, the internet would be overjoyed to find you places to put it, zillions, even, although I’d proceed with caution before auditioning a couple. But if you have a thing for something slightly less of a prom king/queen ingredient, say, tiny white beans, well, it can be tough. It’s not there are no uses for them, it’s just that when you’re very much in love, there are never enough ways to be together. And if you’re me — someone who sometimes ups and makes a mega-pot of white beans just because you feel like it, presuming you’ll find things to do with them later — you sometimes end up scrambling, yanking down nearly every cookbook in your collection but still coming up bereft of uses outside the well-trodden soup-and-salad territory.

sometimes i cook beans and figure out why later

So tell me: What are you favorite uses for beans outside the ever-popular realm of chili, tacos, soup and salad? Really, I’m hankering for more inspiration. I ended up finding some — but never enough — in this month’s Bon Appetit, in a stack of pasta recipes you will find it impossible to choose among from Sara Jenkins of Porchetta and Porsena (and green bean salad, sigh) fame. I was so charmed by the short tubes of pasta with chickpeas, I made it almost immediately but maybe it was because I’ve overdone it on chickpeas this month, but I kept thinking it would be nice with something… daintier. And considering that it is an established fact (um, in Italy, where I suspect both my white bean and artichoke obsessions could roam free) that white beans, garlic, rosemary and olive oil are a combination sent from above, I had a hunch they’d be happy here too.

parsley, garlic, onion, carrot, celery

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

spaghetti with broccoli cream pesto

spaghetti with broccoli cream pesto

Surely, you didn’t think I was going to stop my hasty populating of the broccoli archives with just one new recipe, right? I mean, sure, the slaw is still a star. The fritters were great. But when your kid likes broccoli, you will always be on the hunt for new and more advanced Methods of Broccoli Implementation. These days, I’ll read a recipe for a cauliflower dish in a magazine and think: broccoli would work here. I had a watercress salad at a restaurant in which the finest dusting of flavorful breadcrumbs clung to every leaf and thought: broccoli. I roasted potatoes with garlic and a little lemon zest and kicked myself: should have included broccoli. I guess you could argue that the obsession has spun off its toddler axis and landed squarely on the mama-ship. These things, they happen.

parmesan, a heap of it
peeling the broccoli stems

And who am I to fight the broccoli love? I started making this… well, I’m going to call it pesto but it’s less a pounded mixture of raw herbs, garlic and cheese and more a tender broccoli sauce. Anyway, I started making it over the summer. It was loosely inspired by this dish I saw on the most stunning blog, one that is in fact dangerous for me to look at because I immediately start to question everything: Why don’t we live in the French countryside? Why haven’t I ever biked home with a cluster of warm-from-the-oven baguettes prepared in the ancient style in my wicker basket? Why don’t I have any heliciculturalist (escargot farmers, of course) for neighbors and why don’t those yelling people down the hall (my actual neighbors) ever bring me freshly-dug morels? Alex, are you reading along right now? Honey, why don’t we have 14 dogs? It’s gotten to the point where I greet a new post on the blog by peeking nervously through my fingers the way you would when watching a scary movie because I’m so terrified that it will be the post that breaks my will to live a single moment longer as we previously happily did, that all there will be left to do is pack this place up, and holler “Thanks anyway for the morels!” at the yelling neighbors door as we head for the stairs/street/taxi/airport/new life, one with backyard plum trees.

chopped broccoli

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

bacon corn hash

bacon corn hash, wisp of steam

I just realized we are almost halfway through with summer and while I should be totally stoked about this — seeing as we’re melting through our fourth heatwave so far this summer in NYC and given what awesome things are in store for the fall — I am spectacularly bummed as I am just getting used to having an avalanche of delicious summer produce at my disposal and haven’t had time to do half of what I wanted to with it yet. Plus, this guy turns three at the end of the summer and I can’t, I won’t accept it. More time, please! For everything.

oatmeal strawberry cookies so much broccoli slaw
summer salsa fresca summer squash torte, simplified
cherry chocolate chunk scones buttermilk cornmeal chicken tenders

I missed you last week, a crazy week that did not entail, as hinted, a vacation but the heard-it-all-before-so-I’ll-spare-you tune about too much to do and too little time. I’ve been cooking more this month then my absence let on, just not a lot of things that seemed worth stepping up to this internet microphone to clear my throat and tell you about, things like oatmeal strawberry cookies (utterly delicious, but only for the first hour, after which they became chewy and sad, sigh) and a spectacular amount of broccoli slaw (five batches already this summer, a record). A summery salsa fresca with the first cherry tomatoes to go with our huevos rancheros and a streamlined version of this summer squash torte we can’t get enough of (there are new notes in the recipe, but I’d like to reshoot it and add more details soon, too). I made heart-shaped tiny whole wheat cherry chocolate chunk scones (closet Cherry Garcia fiend, here) for a friend’s daughter’s second birthday party and I’ve been fiddling around with various baked chicken tender recipes (for times when you crave crunchy chicken but have little desire to deep- or shallow-fry anything), looking for a winner.

diced red potatoes

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, April 19, 2012

pasta with garlicky broccoli rabe

easiest garlicky broccoli rabe pasta

In my humble opinion, there’s cooking and there’s cooking. (I know, I’ll just give you a minute for the staggering profundity of that sentence to kick in.) What I mean is, it’s one thing to turn banana bread into a crepe, that crepe into a cake, that cake into a vehicle for walnut butterscotch, drooling, diet-postponing, and seconds, and it’s an entirely other thing to find yourself at the playground at 5:15 p.m. and realize a) you don’t actually have anything in the fridge that you can turn into dinner, b) you, in fact, barely feel like cooking, in fact, your interest in cooking is only a single degree stronger than your desire to order in, so this better be easy, and c) the adjacent farmers market which you have heard from others boasts ramps and asparagus and spinach and other new! spring! delights! in fact, at the tail end of the day, boasts few things aside from a straggler of a single bundle of broccoli rabe. And you like broccoli rabe, you’ve warmed to it quite a bit since you’ve accepted it into your life, but you hardly excel in turning it into a lightning-quick, lazy, and completely satisfying dinner (or LQLACSD for short).

all you need: oil, pasta, garlic, rabe, pepper
mowing the rabe lawn

Or, I didn’t before last Wednesday afternoon. This thing where you can grab anything at random without a shopping list in hand or recipe in mind and transform it effortlessly into a LQLACSD, this is real cooking. This is what separates those grandmothers that cranked out dinner like clockwork every night for 60 years, that didn’t throw in the towel because they only had canned peas and stale rice in the pantry, from the dilettantes. And people? Over 750 recipes into this site, I’m still getting there. Sometimes a simple recipe, one that you make once and instantly memorize and throw into the dinner rotation, helps.

pretty, pretty pasta ("campanelle")

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