Weeknight Lemon Zuchini Pasta

Can't you smell the lemon and garlic?

Two things I love about this dish: It’s easy and it tastes like summer. If you’re looking for something to do with your squash and zuchini (or you know you will be) this is a great dish to incorporate them. Most people know about simple lemon pasta with basil and lemon zest. This recipe just puts a twist on it.

You’ll need: lemons, garlic, spaghetti or penne, good parmesean cheese (don’t buy the sawdust in a shaker), pepper, and two zuchinis at least.

Zuchini w/ lemon zest and pepper

 Zest 1-2 lemons and reserve the zest. Mince 1-2 cloves of garlic. Saute peeled, sliced and halved zuchini with the garlic in some olive oil and lemon juice. When you add the zuchini to the pan, put the pasta in the water to cook. Saute until the zuchini is warm and starting to turn that mushy color on the edges, about 4-5 minutes. Add lemon zest and fresh cracked  pepper and toss. Maybe add some more lemon juice. Now grate the Parmesean (cause you bought the good stuff).

Toss pasta and zuchini with parmesean

Toss the zuchini saute with the pasta so that the pasta is coated with all the lemony-garlicky-peppery goodness. Then add as much parmesean as you like and toss some more so the cheese starts to melt. Add a little more pepper.  Eat standing in the kitchen because it is deliciously fresh. Enjoy the fruits of your 20 minutes of labor.

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Crepes and Valentimes

Dragons on Valentine's Day

In the words of the Teen Girl Squad from Homestar Runner, “Valentimes is serious times!” (If you are not a complete nerd or if you hate random internet videos, please disregard.) And indeed, it can be. But I think most romantic gestures are best made by creating a memory or sharing an experience, and thus taking off some of the pressure to come up with amazing gifts. J and I can’t even manage to celebrate Valentine’s on the right day, we both had a day off and decided that today was the day to exchange cards and have brunch. And, oh, what a nice brunch!

Stack of crepes

I love crepes but haven’t made them for myself before this year. I tried The Joy of Cooking recipe but it was too greasy with a half a stick of butter. Then I tried Mark Bittman, but the batter was too think and didn’t come out of the pan easily. I finally just played with it and have come up with a good recipe for me and my kitchen equipment. If you have a special crepe pan and spatual, then by all means, use your special crepe recipe. Crepes are awesome because the possibilities for filling them are endless, and they’re relatively small so you can try three or four.  We usually try lemon curd, jam, honey, powdered sugar, nutella, bananas, strawberries, cinnamon, and peanut butter before it’s all done!

Peanut butter on crepes

To make my crepes, melt 2 tbls butter and cool to room temp, beat three eggs in a separate bowl, mix 1 cup of flour, pinch of salt, and 1 tbls sugar in a mixing bowl. Combine eggs, butter, and 1.5 cups whole milk with the dry ingredients and blend with a hand mixer until smooth. If time allows, let sit in the fridge for a few hours. Heat an 8 inch non-stick skillet on medium heat and pour an 1/8 a cup of stirred-up batter into the pan. Lift the pan off the stove and swirl batter until it cover the bottom and stops swirling easily. Put pan back on burner and turn crepe when top is dry. You will need to loosen the edges with a spatula before turning. You will mess up your first one or two crepes, but you will get the hang of it.

Peanut butter, bananas, cinammon, and powdered sugar

Bittman's diagram on filling and folding crepes

I like to have crepes with mimosas and maybe bacon or sausage (might as well get all your fat consumption into one meal, right?) lemon curd is heavenly if you like something tart, and bananas with nutella are divine. Make this for your favorite person– lover, friend, roommate– soon, and Happy Valentine’s day.

Mimosas do not require expensive champagne, people

 

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Bittman: Winter Squash Curry

Healthy and colorful!I loved this dinner. This is perfect for a cold winter’s night when you are feeling starved for flavor and color. As I said yesterday, this week’s menu was entirely inspired by Mark Bittman’s amazingly ginormous cookbook, How to Cook Everything. Tonight’s meal comes from Bittman’s extensive vegetable preparation chapter. I have extolled the benefits and awesomeness of squash on this blog before, but I’m always looking for a new way to use it.

Onion, Ginger, Bell Pepper

Winter squash curry is a cheat, I’m sure. Unlike real curries where you grind your own spices and put a lot of effort into hours of cooking, here, you just add curry powder and coconut milk to some veggies and simmer for 20 minutes. Of course, the effort comes in when you sweat bullets attempting to butcher a four pound butternut squash. Things can get, ahem, dicey. Really, if you cohabitate with someone who is confident with a butcher’s knife, let them do this for you. Nothing is more nerve wracking than getting a 8 inch blade stuck in something resembling a football. You have no traction to get the knife out. Say goodbye to your fingers.

Curry before extra veggies

But besides that, this is a super easy dinner! Heat up a deep non-stick pan with about 2 tbs of “neutral” oil, like grapeseed oil. Saute a diced onion in the oil until soft. Add in a tablespoon of freshly chopped ginger and a tablespoon of curry powder. Once everything is an even curry-yellow, pour a can of coconut milk and about 1.5 lbs of cubed butternut squash into the pan. (We added about a teaspoon of chili paste here– it was good!) Salt and pepper the mixture.Get the sauce simmering, then cover and turn the heat low. After 10 minutes, stir in red bell pepper and snap peas (pineapple would be excellent here, too). Cover and simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve over rice with some cilantro. Bittman also suggests adding maybe a tablespoon (not too much!) of peanut butter with the coconut milk and squash– it gives some depth to the curry.

Bell pepper makes everything better

I’m going to add this to my squash preparation repertoire, it was a great weeknight meal and one I won’t get bored with soon– you can always add something new to curry. What are you eating to make those wintry nights better?

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Bittman: Spicy Braised Beef with Lime

Beef with cilantro

This week I am making recipes out of Mark Bittman’s encyclopedic masterpiece How to Cook  Everything. I flipped through the book over the weekend, went shopping without a list this afternoon, and then referred back to Bittman for those recipes that inspired me in the first place.

I chose this meal as one of the options from “Beef Stew, Eight Ways.”  It’s fairly basic: brown up to 2 lbs of cubed beef in 2 tbs peanut oil, remove beef from pan, pour 1.5 cups chicken or beef stock into pan and scrape browned bits from the bottom. When broth comes to a boil add in 1-2 hot chilis, 1 tbs of diced garlic, and at least one lime’s worth of zest and put the meat back in. Simmer covered and undisturbed for 30-45 minutes until beef is tender. Serve over brown rice with tons of lime juice and some cilantro.

Spices for braising: chilis, lime rind, and garlic

This is a good, simple meal with a lot of flavor and heat. I wish the sauce had more depth but even the addition of ginger and lemongrass didn’t add much. I used chicken broth this time and will probably use beef broth next. In any case, Bittman’s recipes are almost always reliable and tasty and this is no exception. Enjoy!

Beef with Rice

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The Best Lemon Ice Box Pie

This post could have a number of subtitles, such as, Lemon Ice Box Pie: The Difference between Evaporated and Sweetened Condensed Milk, or Lemon Ice Box Pie: Why Liz Isn’t a Baker, Lemon Ice Box Pie: The Failure and Triumph, or Lemon Ice Box Pie: I’m Going to Make this Damn Pie if It Takes Till Midnight… you get the idea. But I am happy I spent time working on this recipe yesterday because not only did I learn some lessons, but I did end up making a fantastic dessert perfect for citrus season! I know, it’s cold outside, you’re on a diet, why would you want this in your life? But I promise you this tastes just like summertime and isn’t terribly difficult to make– if you are able to read ingredient lists. Learn from my trials and tribulations, please.

Chases away winter blues

So before I tell you the saga of my search on the internet and inability to read directions, I’m going to just give you the recipe with instructions.

1. Zest 3-4 lemons depending on size and how much you like lemon. Don’t do more than 4.

2. Juice the lemons for 1/2-3/4 a cup fresh lemon juice, depending on lemony preferences.

3. Separate 4 eggs– you’re going to use the yolks.

4. Beat with an EGGBEATER the lemon zest and yolks. About a minute or two.

4. Combine one 14oz. can SWEETENED CONDENSED milk– it should look like sticky white syrup–and lemon juice. Beat these together with the yolks and zest another minute or two until mixture is well-combined and a little frothy.

5. Set aside 20 minutes to 30 minutes in order to let the lemon juice work it’s magic and make everything more goopy.

6. Make a Graham Cracker crust in the meantime. You can get one pre-made or buy a box of pre-crumbled crackers or do it by hand. Make sure to bake the crust about 7-8 minutes at 350.

7. Turn oven to 325. Pour filling into pie crust. Bake 17-18 minutes. After baking the pie filling should look like jelly–a bit wiggly. Cool on a rack while moving things around in your freezer. Put pie in FREEZER (not fridge) minimum 4 hours.

8. To serve: Fill sink 2 inches with hot water. Put a butter knife in a mug of hot water. Lower pie pan into hot water for 30 second to a minute. Slice pie pieces with hot knife. Enjoy!

Pretty Pie

I had a fantastic piece of Lemon Ice Box Pie at Cafe Des Amis in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana over Christmas break. It was the perfect refreshment after a long drive.  It was silky and both sweet and tart which I LOVE in a dessert. I had been fantasizing about this dessert and now that Holidays are over and I had (have) a little time on my hands I wanted to make it. But here’s why I worked on a pie for about 5 hours yesterday: 1. I didn’t understand that evaporated milk and condensed milk are entirely different entities (clearly my problem) and 2. the internet failed me. Yes! This blog post on Kitchen Table is monumental because the internet will not help you make this pie. Emeril wants you to use cream cheese, Eagle Brand wants you to use lemonade powder, someone on Food.com wants you to used a can of condensed lemonade and this guy wants you to use a springform pan and 8 egg yolks! Seriously!

This is What Failure Pie Looks Like

Happy Egg Yolks

I tried the overwhelming springform recipe to start, and that’s where I made things a gajillion times worse by going to the crappy Wal-Mart by my house with no condensed milk and assumed evaporated milk was the same. I also didn’t realize that a springform pan is larger than a pie pan, so my filling overflowed and I created a massive toxic spill in my oven. Sigh. On the other hand, I had never separated eggs before in my life and got great joy out of tipping them from shell to shell and watching them plop into the mixing bowl. So cute!

Separating eggs-- fun!

Antique Juicer

I also had the opportunity to use my new antique juicer that I purchased in Louisiana– my dad used to use a juicer like this when we were kids and I was determined to find one. This is a great little tool for juicing lemons as long as you strain the liquid. Plus, it looks so pretty! I had to call a friend in despair when pie #1 didn’t come out. She referred to her The New Best Recipe cookbook which gave excellent instructions for the similarly made Key Lime Pie with a caveat: “This recipe just doesn’t work.” They’re are the authors who suggest only 4 egg yolks and allowing the mixture to sit 30 minutes before baking. But Best Recipe doesn’t put their pie in the freezer like I did, and I think it makes a difference for how the pie sets up and hold up. In any case, I’m sure you all have a had a cooking or baking disaster– I just hope they eventually turned out this well! I hope you’ll try this recipe with good results!

Lemon Love

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Hidden Treats in Honolulu

My best friend is currently living in Honolulu on Oahu. She’s living in Chinatown, miles away from the tourist traps and chains stores of Waikiki. As you see in the previous post, she lives near the marketplace and a million wonderful places to eat. We ate a LOT while I was visiting, but not every meal made it onto the camera. But what did was interesting and fun, so without further delay, here are four great meals from my trip. (Also, shout out to Indigo, I couldn’t get pics but it is the BEST. Forget Waikiki, really.)

Dim Sum Lunch

Happy Garden Dim Sum- Chinatown

After walking all of Chinatown and visiting ‘Iolani Palace we needed a big lunch. Happy Garden is just a hole in the wall with barely 10 tables and a crowd outside. we probably waited 20 minutes and then were offered a table to share with two other people. The restaurant was hot, noisy, bustling. We were seated, given tea, and then had to wrestle our way back up to the front to select premade Dim Sum from the window (we could also order and wait, but we were too hungry.)

Lunch

We ended up with seafood dumplings, meatballs, sesame buns with bean paste, and soft pork buns. All were decently good, nothing outstanding. The novelty of this tiny restaurant where I could imagine Anthony Bourdain or another food/travel icon wandering in was enough for me. It was so cool and tiny and BUSY. Happy Garden may not get rave reviews but the place was packed with people lined up the entire time we were there. After wards, we wandered across the street for fresh fruit shakes with lychee, mango, pinapple, strawberry, and about 10 other options. This is the most charming part of Chinatown, the abundance and variety of food and places to eat.

Fresh, fresh, fresh salmon jalapeno roll

Doraku Sushi- Waikiki

We went to Waikiki for an early dinner on Sunday after kayaking in Kailua bay till 2pm. Kayaking  (we rented from the Twogood Kayaks company, check them out!) was amazing and amazingly difficult, so this beautiful dinner was a well-earned reward. Doraku is situated in the Royal Hawaiian Center, one of those monstrous indoor/outdoor malls with stores normal people can’t afford to walk into. But Doraku is fairly affordable while still looking like a millions dollars. We sat on the balcony and enjoyed the juxtaposition of palm trees and Christmas lights while waiting for dinner.

Sweet Maui Onion Salad with Salmon and Bonito flakes

Ahi Basil Tempura with Teriyaki sauce

The food was light and fresh, it felt so virtuous to eat fish and vegetables after a hard day of battling waves. It was so lovely to eat lazily and enjoy the evening atmosphere of the city. If I went back to Doraku (can’t wait till June 2011!) I’d order nothing but sushi. The roll A. ordered was amazing, the fish was so fresh it practically melted in your mouth. After dinner, we drank tea and chatted before joining the crowd gathering in the streets. It seems Waikiki has a few treasures tucked in amongst the Senor Frog’s and Pei Wei’s.

Inside Leonard's. Where are the Malasadas?

Leonard’s Bakery- Honolulu

First of all, you have to understand that Malasadas are these amazing fluffy doughnut-like rolls rolled in a variety of sugars and handed over to customers fresh. They are a Portuguese traditional food made on Shrove Tuesday. Malasadas are not small (A. was deceptive in her description of them) and they are not in the case. I’m telling you this so you don’t have to stand in line like me wondering where they are and what the heck they look like.

Malasada- breakfast of champions

Malasadas are really, really good. Different from a doughnut, something you won’t eat every day, and warm! Leonard’s is another place that looks like Guy Fieri is going to pull up outside any minute and start shooting and talking a blue streak. Make sure to get one with Haupia sugar, it’s tart!

Last dessert

Ottocake- Chinatown

If you love cheesecake, I have found your heaven. With 86 flavors available for order and at least 15 in the case at all times, Ottocake is fun and always different. The cheesecake is made by hand with real ingredients daily. As someone who had a cheesecake for her wedding cake, I can say I was impressed and want to go back again.

Inside Ottocake

Since A. is not fond of cheesecake, we ordered one slice of key lime flavored cheesecake. It was heavenly- not too heavy, tart, and rich. The only thing better than it was the homemade lemon ice box pie I tried while in Louisiana last week (will be making this soon). It was fun to sit and watch the baker mixing up a cake, although he didn’t really want to be bothered with questions. We sat and enjoyed our dessert and talked over all the fun we had during my visit. It was a sweet ending to a SWEET trip!

Key Lime Cheesecake

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Honolulu Chinatown Market

We woke up early in the morning in Honolulu’s Chinatown, around 7, and made our way down the misty city streets to a sensory feast. We woke in fog and found ourselves in brilliance:

Lychee fruit

Bright Citrus

An array of greens

We wandered into a food court where more and different kinds of breakfast were being served than I ever imagined:

Asian pastries

Filipino dishes with whole fried fish

And behind the food court was more market full of the freshest ingredients:

Crabs in tanks

And bright green frogs

Purple and white beans

And even still we wandered out and down the street, stall upon stall, feasting on it all:

Roasted ducks and other delights

The market was overwhelming in it’s variety and amount– so much gorgeous and interesting food to see and consider. I wish we had more time to cook some it. But I loved being there! Posting for reals tomorrow.

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