poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


CSA Update: 4/24/12

Just as I was getting excited about getting less greens and root vegetables and more spring veggies, we got another full box of greens, radishes, and herbs. Here’s what we got last week:

navel oranges
mixed lettuce
French breakfast or Easter egg radishes
stir-fry mix
yellow spring onions
green garlic

Perhaps a reflection of our waning enthusiasm, we’ve done a pretty poor job this time with using our CSA produce. That, combined with a hectic schedule prevented us from undertaking more time-consuming endeavors such as potato salad to make use of the dill.

It was not all a waste, however. TC’s mom and sister were a huge fan of the radishes, devouring them in less than 10 minutes, and his 18-month old nephew put away a good amount of the raisins. We also made a couple of new dishes, the first of which was a tomato, garlic, and potato frittata from the Gourmet cookbook. Frittata — never thought about it before, but it’s a cool word. Say it with me: FRIT-TA-TA.

Tomato, spring garlic, and potato frittata. This was one of the better looking servings.

Anyway, the only CSA ingredient we used for the frittata was the green garlic. Other ingredients included: eggs, parmesan cheese, basil, potatoes, grape tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper. This was my first frittata-making venture, and I was nervous about not using the right kind of pan. The recipe calls for finishing the frittata in the broiler, but I did not have a 10-inch ovenproof skillet. So instead, I tried my best to flip the thing in the pan. I was partially successful. Luckily, TC doesn’t really care as much about presentation as I do. We enjoyed our imperfect looking frittata with a good dose of hot sauce. Overall, I’d say it was pretty good, but we both agreed that it could’ve used more basil and also some minced jalapeno or Serrano peppers.

The other thing we made was roasted mahi mahi with fennel, olives, and orange from theKitchn. We were both exceedingly skeptical about this dish for different reasons. My concern was that I’ve never cooked fennel; TC’s worry was that he hates the taste of licorice. Luckily, the fennel was pretty easy to prepare (thanks to helpful youtube videos) and the licorice flavor was super mild. It was so mild, though, that the whole dish lacked any kind of flavor or spice. It didn’t help that I forgot to add the oregano. D’oh! I think this dish definitely has potential, but as it was, it was just so-so.

Roasted mahi mahi with a side of couscous.

Well, at least the CSA box helped us to accomplish one goal this week, which was to force us to try new things! What about you — anything new you’ve tried lately that was a great success or colossal failure?

p.s. If you can’t get enough of CSA goodies, check out this awesome link party organized by In Her Chucks where bloggers from around the country are posting about their CSA treats!

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Summer Salad

Greetings from Taipei! I’ve gotten over my jet lag and now I’m ready to blog away. Hopefully I won’t slip into gibberish or Chinglish (Chinese-English hybrid).

We were experiencing quite a heat wave last month in Berkeley, very unusual for August. The last thing I want to do when it’s hot outside is to stand over a flame and cook, so I decided to make a salad. I was inspired by a friend’s tip that the Berkeley Bowl was having a special deal on heirloom tomatoes — only $2.39/lb! The other ingredients included romaine lettuce (only 39 cents/head), avocado, heirloom tomatoes, hard boiled egg, and carrots, all organic and all California-grown.

Refreshing and colorful summer salad.

Refreshing and colorful summer salad.

After my failed avocado purchase recently, I was determined to succeed the second time around and I’m happy to report that I did. I also made my own vinaigrette, which I always do because it is SO easy. I make it up each time, but the basic recipe is to mix together balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and lemon juice (optional). Then, while whisking, slowly add extra virgin olive oil. Adjust to taste.

Even though this salad was really good, not to mention huge, I still needed some carbs to round out my meal. So I made a meat-free version of my simple pasta recipe, topping it with my new obsession: ricotta salata. So good!

Linguini with carrots and salata ricotta.

Linguini with carrots, onions, and salata ricotta.


Sunday Night Dinners: Celebration Edition

Lucky you — two posts in two days! I’m trying to catch up on blog material, since I’m leaving for Taiwan and Japan this week, and I KNOW there will be much to blog about from that trip!

I had the second of my Sunday Night Dinners a few weeks back. On the guest list: LC, who cooked dinner for me in order to appear on this blog; SP, who has hosted me many times especially at Stitch n Bitch; and JL, my good friend and film watching buddy. In addition to being a very fun group, there were special reasons to invite each of these friends. LC and SP are both moving far, far away soon, and JL was celebrating a birthday the following Tuesday.

For the menu, I decided to focus on the dessert since it was JL’s birthday. In addition, SP is vegetarian and JL doesn’t eat red meat or pork, so I went with two recipes from the Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook by the one and only Alice Waters. We started with olives and Manhattans — very civilized, no? For the first course, I made a pink grapefruit, avocado, and curly endive salad with citrus vinaigrette. It was delicious but would’ve been better had I chosen riper avocados. You’d think four years of living in California would confer some innate ability to buy avocados, but nope. Big shame!

Yummy salad!

Yummy salad!

For the main course, I made a simple roasted eggplant and tomato penne pasta. The key to this dish was the ricotta salata cheese that is crumbled on top of the pasta. Ricotta salata is an amazing and flavorful (and salty!) cheese that is solid, unlike its liquefied and more common cousin. It will beat Parmesan any day of the week, in terms of being a pasta topper. It is also, for the record, the only cheese made from sheeps’ milk that I have ever liked.

Penne with roasted eggplant, tomatoes, and ricotta salata.

Penne with roasted eggplant, tomatoes, and ricotta salata.

Now, for dessert! Back when LC cooked dinner for me, I had requested moelleux au chocolat, or molten chocolate cake. It is probably my favorite dessert of all time, which is saying a lot! He didn’t make it then, so I thought better late than never, right? And as I said earlier, it was JL’s birthday so I wanted to make dessert extra special.

You might recall that I’m not the best baker in the world, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the recipe (from The Gourmet Cookbook) was fairly easy.  Instead of the coffee créme anglaise that I was supposed to serve with the cake, I bought Häagen Dazs vanilla ice cream, which I thought would provide a refreshing cold contrast to the warm cake. Besides, LC said that the créme anglaise would have been too rich as an accompaniment. I’m so happy when there’s a good excuse to be lazy!

The cakes, straight out of the oven.

The cakes, straight out of the oven. Check out the chocolate oozing out the middle.

Happy Birthday friend!

Happy Birthday friend!

It was a very successful dinner party, in part due to the amount of alcohol we imbibed. Between the four of us, we managed to put away four Manhattan cocktails and three bottles of wine. Cheers!

Three empty bottles of wine. Manhattans not pictured.

Three empty bottles of wine. Manhattans not pictured.