And You Call Yourself Greek?! (Not-so Greek Salad)

Well, to be fair, this salad never called himself Greek. This salad can’t talk.

Though, if he had, he’d have been a real poser. Like a baseball cap-backwards, droopy-pants, rapping white guy. Okay, maybe not that bad, but a poser all the same. And why is my salad counterfeit, you ask? I’ll tell you why—my Greek salad contains NO olives and it full of BASIL! I even almost used ricotta salata instead of feta cheese!!

So, now you have, my salad is really an Italian posing as a Greek. But it’s still pretty damn tasty! I used zinfandel vinegar, which gave a perfectly sweet/acidic twinge, and a good olive oil for balance. It’s great for the end of August, when the days of summer are coming to an end—I like to spend this time cooking very little, enjoying the summer produce as raw and untouched as possible. A nice, ripe peach or nectarine could top off a dinner of this salad and a piece of fish perfectly.

And, even though you don’t really need a recipe for this one, here it is:

Not-so Greek Salad

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp zinfandel vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cucumber, chopped into chunks
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into chunks
  • 1 green pepper, chopped into chunks
  • 1 red onion, sliced very thinly
  • 1 small bunch of basil leaves, shredded
  • 5 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  1. Combine first 3 ingredients in small bowl, whisk together.
  2. Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl. Pour oil mixture over and toss. Salt and pepper as desired.
  3. Serve with Ouzo if you want a real party.

Blog or Bust #2 Round-Up?

Ok, so not only am I lazy this summer—going to the beach most weekends and doing absolutely nothing, but I’m also a bad blog-event host. I didn’t even participate in my own event!

Well, that’s not altogether true. I made a healthy dessert, involving red, black, and yellow plums, some phyllo dough, and a little honey and cinnamon—but I didn’t photograph! Jim and I stayed at his parent’s house, playing house while they were away this weekend. It was fun and super relaxing—and I even had a big kitchen at my disposal! But, alas, no camera. I’ll have to make my dessert again and take pictures to snip into this post, but for now, thankfully, we have two delicious delectables to drool at:


The wonderful independent baker, Sarah from What Smells So Good? presents to us some of her cute “When the Bees Met Lemonade” cookies! They look delicious, but if you don’t want to trust your computer screen on that one, you can buy them at her Bumblebee Bakery!

RosieCat from Life, Love, and Food (what a perfect combination) created a healthy dairy-free Peach Sorbet. It sounds amazing! I’ve recently found out that I’m no longer a sufferer of peach allergy, so I am super excited to make this. I love that she uses a teeny-tiny food processor—that’s what I have in my lil’ kitchen too!

And since it was only us three this time around (well actually, them two since I didn’t participate!) I decided to link in some mouth watering summer treats that I’ve noticed in my blog-hopping this past month. Thanks Sarah and Rosie!!!  I’ll have a post about the next blog or bust soon—any ideas?

For now, feast your eyes on these links!

Myriam, from Once Upon a Tart, created a beautiful (and season-friendly) Cinnamon-plum Compote with Raspberries. If you don’t know of her blog, you are in for a serious treat. Even though I don’t bake sweet-stuff normally, I look at this blog daily. Over at A Self-proclaimed Foodaholic, Swee opted out of making a heavy, decadent cake and got down with a basic Damp Lemon & Almond Cake. Simplicity looks pretty damn tasty! Ever since buying Supernatural Cooking, I’ve adored Heidi Swanson’s blog 101 Cookbooks, so I brought it back a ways and found an interesting recipe from June 2006—Whole Grain Mexican Wedding Cookies. She points out that similar cookies, bought at the bakery, sacrifice the flavors of good ingredients in order to cut costs, so if you are going to break your diet to have dessert, the best bet is to make it, using great ingredients and care! I found a sweet and pretty lil’ dish over at Dine & Dish. Kristen slushed up this Kool-Aid Slushie for her son, who had his tonsils out. So, even though it’s full of sugar, getting your tonsils out could be a great excuse! Err, or maybe we’ll just indulge in it to beat that summer heat! The guys over at Hedonia poached peaches in mint jelup. Bourbon, mint, peaches? Give me a hot summer night and a seat by the pool and I’m in heaven! The cute and classy Chez Pim blogged about another strictly adult-dessert, Prunes in Armagnac. She suggests serving with your favorite pound cake or chocolate dessert, or simply as a digestif. Finally, the Summer Berry Pudding from Deb at Smitten Kitchen certainly catches your eye. The deep red and purple of summer berries screams “eat me!” and lets me drift off into summer dreams! And last but not least, one of my favorite bloggers, Sassy from Sassy Radish took a break from custards and ice-creams in her new ice cream maker and made a fat-free frozen watermelon treat that makes my mouth water!

Okay, I think I’m on a sugar-high now for sure!

Lamb & Risotto (and a cute picture of my cat!)

Yesterday morning I got a nice surprise from the news website called Salon.com—Jim’s book was reviewed in a headline article! A very thoughtful article about drug-use in America, Jim’s review came after one on the history of crystal meth. The author had very positive praise about LDJ, despite how despairing and depressing the book actually is (don’t worry—he has a happy, well-fed life now!) So, it goes without saying, we had to celebrate.

Two recipes from the latest Bon Appetit caught my eye recently, but I’d been too busy to cook a good meal most nights. Jim’s article made the perfect excuse to drop everything for the night and cook, and Risottto with Leeks and Mushrooms and Gordon Ramsey’s Rack of Lamb made the menu.

I never fell in with the Gordon Ramsey-bonanza, but I must say I’m intrigued by his food. I mean, it’s got to be good for him to get away with being such a cad, right? And while I don’t see myself spending a bahgillion dollars eating at the London anytime soon, cooking one of his dishes is the next best thing.

The issue featured his Cheese and Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb, which touted such ingredients as fresh mint, thyme, and parsley, and lots of parmesan cheese. The lamb also called for English Mustard, and I didn’t know this meant Coleman’s until 5 minutes ago when I googled it (Bon Appetite, god damn you, explain yourself!) so I bought the hottest mustard I could find (wasn’t very hot) and added horseradish to the recipe. The result was delicious—tangy and pungent. The pungency, however, was nicely offset by the mint and parsley that was minced up with the breadcrumbs and cheese, making up the topping on the lamb. The cool flat taste of mint shined, my favorite element in the dish. I’m pretty excited to remake this recipe using Coleman’s, too.

The risotto though, I had my problems with. I thought the combination of lots of butter, white truffle oil, and leeks created a taste that was too full-bodied. When onion vegetables are cooked in fat, they tend to produce a strong, sulphuric taste—a taste I love, though not, I think, in combination with truffle oil. The white onion stood up to the butter and oil, holding some of it’s onion-pungency, and it was the best taste out of the dish. The leeks, however, became very sulphuric in combination with the truffle oil and butter, a taste that, to me, reminds me of battery acid. That said, no, I don’t drink battery acid often, but I do acutely remember being about 8 and putting a battery, about to go bad and burst, into my mouth (a dare of course) and then having this clinging, skin-on-your-tongue and, roof-of-the-mouth overwhelming taste in my mouth. But I guess, analyzing myself now, I’m probably the only nut out there (save for the other nuts who suck batteries) who wouldn’t like this flavor.

Jim, on the other hand, raved about the risotto, calling me insane for my disappointment. After all, I made this dinner as a celebration for him, right? (Yeah, right.)

 

 

Blog or Bust #2

Blog or Bust #2: “Healthy” Summer Desserts

Summer is the best time of year for a healthy dessert—you have an abundance of juicy fruits and there’s a need (and desire) to keep dishes light in the sweltering summer heat. I’ve seen a lot of blog events calling on ice-cream recipes, but since I don’t have an ice-cream maker, and since most ice-creams are bad for those tiny weenie bikinis, I’m calling on all summer desserts. They can be as simple as grilled peaches or as elaborate as your imagination can take you! And of course, ice-cream is allowed—but try and keep it as healthy as possible!

Here’s the details:

  • Post a healthy recipe on your blog (or email me a recipe if you don’t have a blog) before August 18th. Don’t worry if it’s not the healthiest thing ever—the most important aspect is that you won’t feel you’ll bust the scale when you eat it! We’re talking guilt-free deliciousness here!
  • Mention Blog or Bust in the post and add a link back here.
  • Email me the link to your post at clumsycook@gmail.com
  • Check back at August 18th to see your post!!

My First Bread: Wheatgerm Bread

I am a proud non-owner of a Kitchen-Aid Mixer.

Okay, not really. But I am a proud non-owner of a Kitchen-Aid Mixer who decided that she will attempt her first bread without said Mixer and now she feels very accomplished and skillful and has since gotten rid of that monkey on her back who kept whispering that she needed a Kitchen-Aid Mixer to feel complete as a cook.

See, I’ve yearned to bake my first bread for a while now. The thing was, I thought I needed a mixer, because all of the recipes for bread that I knew of called for (or just assumed you were using) one. I never brought it up with other bread-makers I know (Mom, Nana) so I had no idea how easy it is to make hand-made bread. And then three things happened:

1. I realized that I am not, and will not in the near future be, able to afford a Kitchen-Aid Mixer, and I do not, for the time-being, want to compromise with a lesser model.

2. I bought two cookbooks, The Cook’s Book, and The Art of Handmade Bread, which had recipes that didn’t involve mixers and a ton of instructional pictures.

3. I spoke with my mom, who laughed and told me bread is very easy to make.

So, here it is. And I am so freakin’ proud of myself. I’ve been slicing off pieces all week, and while I made this last Saturday, it is still springy and fresh tasting today. I know exactly what went into this bread, I know how healthy it is for me, and I know how long it has been on this earth. I didn’t pick this up off a dusty shelf. It doesn’t contain bleach or whatever makes white bread white. It’s mine. All mine.

And yours, too, if you want to make it:

Wheatgerm Bread

from The Art of Handmade Bread

Time: 30 minute prep, 2-6 hour rise, 45 min bake

  • 1½ oz. whole-wheat grain, with water to cover
  • ¾ cup toasted wheatgerm
  • 3½ cups whole-wheat bread flour
  • ¾ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1½ cups water at 68ºF
  • ¼ cup orange juice at 68ºF
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1¾ tsp fresh yeast, crumbled
  1. Place whole-wheat grains in a small saucepan, cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes, adding water as it evaporates. Remove from heat, add cold water to the pan to cool grains then drain through a fine-mesh seive.
  2. Put flour, salt, and toasted wheatgerm in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl mix the water, o.j., and honey, and stir in crumbled yeast and cooked grains from step 1. When yeast has dissolved, add liquid to dry ingredients and mix with your hands. Dough will be very sticky and you’ll have doughy hands, but don’t worry about that! When evenly combined, cover the bowl and leave for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, grease and flour a bread loaf baking pan. Then rub 1 tsp of corn or olive oil on your kneading work surface. Remove dough from bowl and knead for 10 to 20 seconds. Form into a ball, put back into bowl, cover, and leave for 5 minutes. Repeat kneading, cover, and leave for another 5 minutes. Repeat kneading again, cover, and leave for 10 minutes.
  4. After 10 minutes, pat the dough into a rectangular shape measuring roughly 10″ left toright and 8″ front to back. Roll the dough inward, starting at the end furthest away from you, rolling as tightly as you can. Tap the ends inward and drop into your greased pan.
  5. Cover with a cloth and place pan in a warm place (I used my laundry cabinet, above the washer). Check on it in about 1 and ½ hours. It took mine 6 hours, but when the dough rises ½ inch above the pan’s edges. use a sharp knife to cut several diagonal slashes in your dough and then bake in an oven preheated to 425ºF for about 45 minutes or until browned.

 

Sloppy Joe’s

I remember going ga-ga over Sloppy Joe’s when I was a kid. I was nuts for the sweet ground beef and soaking hamburger buns—especially lucky too, because I didn’t need to rely on the lunch-lady for my fix; my mom made them all the time.

But, alas, like so many old favorites we try as adults, these sloppy joes didn’t stand up to my memories of them. I could’ve guessed looking at the recipe—a whole cup of ketchup for 1 lb of meat?—but I was feeling so nostalgic for lil’ kid summers of swingsets and singing, that I whipped it up anyway. And, after I overcame my disappointment at not thinking these were the “Best. Food. I. Have. Ever. Tasted.” I realized they are actually quite appetizing. A bit too sweet, though it tastes delectable with a toasted and buttered bun and a slab of bacon (but then again, what wouldn’t?)

Sloppy Joe’s

adapted from Saveur Magazine Sept ’07 *

Active Time: 10 min Cooking Time: 25 min

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded & diced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp mustard
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • ¼ ground cloves
  1. Heat butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add ground beef and sauté until mostly browned.
  2. Add ketchup, mustard, vinegar, and cloves. Stir and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until sauce is rich and brown. Serve on toasted, buttered buns with bacon if you prefer (I insist!)

*adapted by omitting a Tbsp of sugar.