Category Archives: usa

beans and bok choy

After a weekend of meaty meat, I was ready for some basics on Monday. There was a head of bok choy in the fridge left over from Chinese New Year celebrations, so I found a basic recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and then went flipping through for something to accompany it. I stumbled across Bean Croquettes and latched on to it – I love croquettes, but they’re usually so much effort to make. This was full of protein and promised to be quick and painless.

cooking bean croquettes

The croquettes were relatively painless, though picking parsley leaves always makes me a little stir crazy. I had to mash the beans by hand, as we had just a little food processor that was pureeing the beans at the bottom and leaving the ones at the top. After that, things were fine, with the croquettes frying up nicely. I used a relatively fine-grained corn meal, as that’s what was around, and it worked out fine.

My favourite part was making chimichurri to accompany the croquettes. This was the one flavouring (other than salt) that could be found in Argentine restaurants and I enjoyed it, though I think it went better with these croquettes than a lot of things they had it with. I put in an excessive amount of garlic (FIVE cloves), which no one at the table minded, though it was good we didn’t have to go out that night. It’s a great sauce, though.

The bok choy was merely OK, in my opinion. I cooked it according to instructions, but I found the stems to be a little too soft for my liking – I had been hoping for a bit more crunch to remain. Maybe that’s not desirable with bok choy? I’m not sure. The others enjoyed it, though, and it was gone at the end of dinner. It’s hard to argue with that.

Overall, a decent meal of disparate parts. It definitely green enough to fit my needs this evening.

dinner is served

Quick-cooked Bok Choy

1 head bok choy, about 1.5 lbs
3 T peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
Salt & freshly ground pepper

1. Cut the leaves from the stems of the bok choy. Trim the stems as necessary, then cut them into roughly 1-inch pieces; rinse everything well. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the stems and cook, stirring occasionally, until they just lose their crunch, about 3 minutes. Add the greens and about 1/2 cup water or vegetable stock.

2. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and the stems become very tender, about 10 minutes more; add a little more water if necessary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Bean Croquettes

2 c cooked or canned white or other beans, drained by with a few tablespoons of bean-cooking liquid reserved
1/2 c minced onion
1/4 c minced parsley leaves
1 egg, slightly beaten
Salt & freshly ground pepper
About 1/2 c coarse cornmeal or bread crumbs
Oil for frying

1. If you want to serve the croquettes hot, preheat the oven to 200*F. Mash the beans by putting them through a food mill or into a blender or food processor. Use a little bean-cooking liquid (or other liquid, such as water or stock) if the beans are too dry to mash. Do not puree; you want a few bean chunks in this mixture.

2. Combine the beans with the onion, parsley, and egg and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add cornmeal or bread crumbs by the tablespoon until you’ve made a batter that is barely stiff enough to handle. You should be able to shape it with your hands without its sticking, but it should be quite fragile or the cakes will be dry.

3. Cover the bottom of a large, deep skillet with about 1/8 inch of oil; turn the heat to medium. Shape the bean mixture into patties 2 to 3 inches across or into 1.5×3-inch longs and when the oil is hot, put them in the skillet. Don’t crowd them; you may have to work in batches.

4. Cook the croquettes until nicely browned on all sides, adjusting the heat so that they brown evenly without burning before turning, 7 or 8 minutes total. Keep warm in the over until ready to serve for up to 30 minutes, or serve at room temperature.

Chimichurri

2 c parsley leaves (thin stems are OK), rinsed and dried
salt
3 cloves garlic (more if you like it really garlicky)
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil, or more
3 T vinegar
at least 1 T hot red pepper flakes

1. Combine the parsley with a pinch of salt, the garlic, and about half the oil in a food processor or blender. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary, and adding the rest of the oil gradually.

2. Add the vinegar, then a little more oil or some water if you prefer a thinner mixture. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve. Do not refrigerate, but will stay fine on the counter for a few days.

unripe chestnut

Who knew? Not me. Definitely not ready for roasting on an open fire. Interesting, though.

deep dish pizza, chicago style

Our travels in trying to obtain a background check for Chris in Argentina took us to Chicago recently, and as we were only there for a day, I insisted on having some Chicago deep dish pizza. After finding this MetaFilter thread and finding that everyone had their own favourite, we settled on a restaurant called Lou Manetti’s., especially as our host’s friend’s son liked it.

The restaurant was much quieter than we had thought it would be at lunch, though it was slightly south of the downtown. It was a little bigger than you might expect from a neighbourhood pizzeria and definitely felt like the chain that it was part of. One glance at the menu and we knew we wanted the house special – tomatoes, cheese, and spinach. The crust wasn’t as thick as I remembered it (I had been to Chicago a dozen years ago and had tried it then), but Chris was quite happy with it. She prefers the New York-style thin crust, so that’s saying something. It had a nice crunch to it, anyway, and the pizza was quite tasty and filling, so we still walked out satisfied. The service was fast, personal, and friendly, which ran in opposition to one of the biggest complaints on the MF thread. It’s entirely possible that it was because we were there on a Wednesday afternoon in winter as opposed to a weekend in summer, but I’m not complaining.

Conclusions? I personally think that it doesn’t really matter where you get your deep dish (unless you’re a real pizza connoisseur) in this city. Chicago takes pride in its product and wherever you get deep dish in Chicago, it’s worth a try while visiting.

vegetable stroganoff

Welcome back! I guess you should be saying that to me, after all the time I’ve been gone. I kind of left off when we hit Bulgaria – so much food! so little time! – and never got back to it. I’ll try to, once I’m settled – we ate some great food there.

I’m hoping to use this to keep track of and share some of the great recipes we hope to make part of our repetoire, be they from cookbooks or creations of the mind. We inherited a copy of the Moosewood Cookbook circa 1977 from Chris’s mom, with hand-drawn illustrations and hand-lettered recipes. I thought it was from a restaurant, as I’ve seen a few books by them, and it is – a vegetarian restaurant in Ithica, NY that is apparently quite well known.

As we haven’t been eating the best lately (Christmas, New Year, travel, birthdays), we decided to hunker down and make some good stuff from this book. And that leads us to today’s dinner, Vegetable Stroganoff. I loved Beef Stroganoff as a kid and was really looking forward to making and eating this tonight. Note: Just cause it has vegetables, doesn’t mean it’s the best thing in the word for you – 3 cups of sour cream does not a lean waistline make. Still, this recipe was really, really good and is staying in our good books.

Vegetable Stroganoff
makes 6 servings, takes about 1 hour to prepare

1. The sauce
3 c sour cream
1.5 c yogurt
3 Tbs dry, red wine
1 c chopped onion
1/2 lb chopped mushrooms
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dill weed
dash of tamari sauce (didn’t have any, we used regular soy sauce)
paprika
black pepper

2 Tbs butter

Sauté onions and mushrooms in butter until onions are soft. Combine all ingredients in the top of a double boiler and heat gently about 30 minutes.

2. While the sauce simmers, steam 6 cups chopped, fresh vegetables. Highly recommended: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, peppers, cabbage, zucchini, cherry tomatoes. (I did the first five and it was quite good.)

3. Cook 4 cups raw egg noodles in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain and butter.

Assemble the Stroganoff on a platter and garnish with freshly-minced scallions.

Note: Be very generous with the black pepper. While eating it, I added a little more and it made it just right for me. Next time, I’d probably add a few grinds right before the sauce finished cooking, as that might help take the edge off for anyone who finds the fresh-ground pepper just a little too zippy. But I’ll still add more to mine.

This was VERY well-received tonight. No talking at all while eating – good sign.

the soul of new york

Two food stops were on my list when we hit New York. The first was one that I’d indulged in before – the notorious pastrami on rye with a pickle on the side, the well-known specialty of the mythical New York Jewish deli. I’d had it the last time we were in New York and was hankering for another. I’ve also had Montreal Smoked Meat sandwiches in Montreal (at Schwartz’s, no less) and I do have to say, pastrami on rye may be good, but it’s no Schwartz’s. However, that is a little apple and orange talk, so let’s just concentrate what we’re eating – big, tasty sandwiches.

These were tasty, though not the best I’ve had. We researched recommendations and came up with 2nd Avenue Deli. The coleslaw was delicious, there were two kinds of pickles (and about a dozen of them total), and spicy mustard to accompany it all. We walked out stuff to the gills and happy to have had our New York pastrami.

The other food which blew me away was soul food. Being from Canada, I’d never tried this soul food thing. I was missing out. It’s about as far away from healthy as gasoline is from potable water, but man is it good. Our first experience was with Amy Ruth’s in Harlem, just down the street from our good friends, JB and PJ. They brought us here and I just about died. You sit down and cornbread appears in front of you. Boom. Sweet cornbread, hot, with butter waiting to be spread on it. And that’s just for when you’re deciding what to really eat.

Most dishes come with side dishes. Christine got fried chicken with macaroni and cheese and collard greens, JB got three side dishes – corn, mac and cheese, and collard greens, and PJ got…oh man, I don’t remember, though I remember her getting fried okra, because I ate some. I think collard greens were on her plate as well. They are good, those greens.

My order was chicken and waffles with gravy. You might not think that those two things go well together – I had never put them in juxtaposition before. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat one without thinking of the other again. And the gravy! And syrup! It all just mixes together to create this heavenly salty-sweet-waffly combination that made me moan with each bite. I didn’t want to finish and as soon as I was finished, I was dreaming about having it again. It was that good.

We tried Sylvia’s about a week later, which is also within walking distance of our friends’ place. It was good, but I have to say, Amy Ruth’s outdistanced Sylvia’s quite easily. In the end, however, I was just happy to engage in soul food eatin’ again. Even writing about it now, having just eaten some wonderful fajitas, I’m almost aching for chicken and waffles.

Soul food: Even atheists love it.

american candy and snacks

Across the border and into the good old U.S.A., home to thousands of different kinds of candy: Hershey, Mars, and, of course, Pez. We visited the Pez museum in Easton, Pennsylvania, where the collection of tiny dispensers and candy was dwarfed by the giant Crayola factory and museum next door. It cost a lot less to see and had much better story capacity. There was the Carrottop Pez (with large amounts of orange hair), the The-Shining-Jack-Nicholson Pez, and numerous other Pez (the official plural of Pez is Pez). Every kind of Pez you could buy anywhere was available in the shop, including chocolate Pez, which none of us had ever tried before. It wasn’t great. I rather fancied it to taste like a Tootsie Roll, to be honest. Still, visiting the home of a candy icon was pretty terrific.

Fast forward to New York, where you can get anything you want at almost any time. Candy, of course, must be included in that list of desires, and we were introduced to the wonders of Dylan’s Candy Bar by a friend who used to live only a few blocks away from it many years ago. Almost any candy you could desire – and not only American ones – can be found at your sticky fingertips.

You can indulge in your favourite boxes and bars at what I called the name-brand counter, fill up bag after bag of Jelly Bellies with every flavour they offer, peer at the signed candy bags left by visiting stars, seeing what the rich and famous snack on, or just go wild, grab a bulk bag, and suddenly find yourself at the checkout, paying $40 for a bag of sugar. It didn’t happen to us, but I’m sure others have paid for sweet rampages.

There’s also an adult section upstairs as well as a candy party room in which kids (or adults) can have sugar-fueled birthday parties and be served ice cream, milkshakes, and – you guessed it – candy! The aforementioned friend noted her desire to have one some day. I hope I’m invited.

Lastly, for snacks, one can’t visit New York and not have a pretzel. We had one right outside of Dylan’s.

They are also fun to play with.