Sunday, September 30, 2012

Glorious Red Glop

Italian-style Red Glop

I wanted to grill the last of the summer vegetables, but the weather didn't cooperate. Although I love my grill, I refuse to stand in the rain to cook on it. So I took my assorted veggies (eggplant, red bell pepper, sweet onion, mushrooms, tomatoes) and instead made one of my all-purpose Italian-style red dishes. I had one grilled Italian sausage left over from a cook-out, so I chopped this up as well.

I call this "glop" only because it doesn't really taste like a great Italian tomato sauce, and its texture is somewhere between a stew and a sauce. However, it does taste really good, which is why it's glorious. Basically, I sauteed everything but the eggplant (I oven-roasted that and then cut it up and threw it into the simmering sauce) in a bit of olive oil, added about 1/3 about half an hour.

When cool weather arrives, I make this type of dish frequently if I have odds and ends of full-flavored meaty vegetables, such as eggplant, zucchini, broccoli, or winter squash. The sauce is very tasty on a slice of toasted bread, in a baked potato, atop pasta or pizza, or baked into lasagna. And it freezes well, so you can eat some immediately and then put the rest away until the next chilly fall day.

If I have leftover meat instead of vegetables, I sometimes make a white glop (basically a cream sauce with half broth-half milk, splash of sherry, plus sauteed mushroom and onions--good with leftover chicken, turkey, or ham) or a brown glop, which is a bit like beef stroganoff (sauteed mushrooms, onions, garlic, splash of red wine, throw in a heaping TBSP of sour cream or Greek yogurt right before serving--good with beef, liver, chicken). Like the red glop, this can be served over toast, pasta, noodles, or a baked potato.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Apple Season

I am lucky enough to live within minutes of at least half a dozen orchards. Living near orchards in New England provides numerous benefits. First, I get to enjoy the trees themselves, which bloom early and announce spring. Next, I can buy apples and apple products right at the source, from people I know. And finally, I enjoy a great variety of apples, which are incredibly versatile fruits.

We had apple trees on our farm when I was growing up, but those were different creatures from the ones in orchards today. Those trees were giants, and for all I know, they could have been planted by Johnny Appleseed. Modern trees, though, are smaller and denser, which makes pruning and picking easier. 

While apples are nutritious (Vitamin C, fiber, potassium, etc.), they are mainly chosen for taste and texture. For eating out of hand, I like firm, slightly tart apples, such as MacIntosh and Honeycrisps. For cooking, I often mix apples: Cortlands for sweetness, Granny Smiths for tartness. One of my favorite cold weather desserts is apple crisp, and one of my favorite cold weather beverages is hot cider, mulled with a cinnamon stick and a few cloves.

Apples are also good for mixing with heavy, bland vegetables. Here is one of my favorite cool-weather dishes, Baked Roots and Fruit:

 First, cut the following into large chunks:
  • 1-2 large onions
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 large parsnip
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 white potatoes
  • 1 apple, cored (peel or not, as you wish)
 Grease a roasting pan with olive oil and throw in the chunks of food. Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake at 350-400 for approximately an hour, stirring once or twice.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Another Great Sandwich

Is THIS the world's best sandwich?

Although I recently wrote that I'm not a huge fan of sandwiches, writing about them got the idea stuck in my mind. So naturally I began making sandwiches. So far, I'm made three more, two of which are worth mentioning.

I make the sandwich shown here only on days that I visit a food store, because I want the roast beef to be freshly sliced. I don't cram the sandwich full of meat; instead, I smear the bread with a little mayonnaise, slather on a goodly amount of horseradish, and add some sliced tomatoes and shredded lettuce. With a bit of salt, it's a great sandwich. I make this on some sort of rye bread, either marble rye or plain, and always serve with half-sour pickles, which can be somewhat challenging to find in this area.

A sandwich that I have made almost weekly this summer is a type of veggie wrap. I spread garlic hummus on a whole-wheat wrap, pile on grilled vegetables (mine always include sliced red bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms and usually some sort of eggplant or squash), and then add either lettuce or spinach. For some reason, the combination of the garlicky hummus and roast vegetables is somewhat addictive, which is why I make this often.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Scrumptious Sandwiches

A good sandwich is a thing of beauty; a bad one is a waste of calories. I'm not a huge fan of sandwiches in general. Often, they are too bready, too chewy, too meaty, or too bland. A few, however, really delight me. These usually provide a variety of rich flavors.

One, shown here, is not only a favorite of mine, but also a regular lunch or light dinner. It has lots of ingredients, but most are usually in my refrigerator.  This sandwich starts with a whole wheat wrap that is brushed with mayonnaise and mashed avocado. Then I add one slice of crisp bacon, some sliced turkey, lettuce, tomato and fixings. The sandwich pictured has a bit of blue cheese sprinkled on it, as well as chopped olives and scallions. The combination of the bland turkey and wrap with the crunchy lettuce, juicy tomato, and tangy fixings is truly satisfying.

 I have found several different ways to keep sandwiches interesting. One is to have numerous fixings on hand that don't spoil quickly. My favorites include crumbled blue cheese, anchovies, kalamata olives, feta, hummus, various mustards, and horseradish. In addition, I usually have some bacon (separated into strips on wax paper and then rolled up raw and frozen inside a plastic bag), and lately I have also kept an assortment of grilled veggies, including peppers and onions. 

By combining various textures, tastes, and colors, I can make a good sandwich in a few minutes. Furthermore, it's usually far tastier than one I could buy elsewhere—cheaper, too.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Glorious Green Beans

fresh green beans

When I was a kid, green beans were one of my favorite vegetables. My mother found that strange, because she thought that green beans had little taste. I beg to differ.

Well-cooked beans are a delight and a wonderful side dish for many foods. Furthermore, they are good for you. I usually buy far more than I can eat at one meal, because I am perfectly happy eating them for several days. The trick, I believe, is to basically buy them fresh; cook them very briefly (3-4 minutes) in salted boiling water; plunge them into cold water to stop them from cooking further; and finally finishing them in a fry pan with butter and garlic, olive oil and garlic, butter and onions, or butter and fresh dill. I cook them whole, just snapping off the ends.

Green beans also make a surprisingly addictive vegetable  pate. This is a great dish to bring to parties or to keep in the fridge for frequent noshes. Here's the recipe:

     1 lb. green beans, cooked
     4-5 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
     1 cup walnuts
     4-5 medium onions, chopped
     few tablespoons oil or butter
     salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions in the oil until soft but not browned. Then throw everything into a food processor and process until the mixture is combined but still has a rough texture. Serve on crackers or toast.

By the way, what you call green beans depends on where you live. People commonly call them string beans, green beans, pole beans, bush beans, snap beans, runner beans, and French beans.