by Borderstan.com June 27, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

From Namita Koppa. Email her at namita[AT]borderstan.com.

"Chocolate"

Chocolate, anyone? (Namita Koppa)

I don’t know what the weather gods were thinking, but apparently as soon as the summer solstice descended upon Borders tan, the temperature climbed up too. It is HOT out there, guys! While beer is flowing here and here and here, sometimes it’s nice to sit down with something slightly more G-rated.

Like an ice cream sundae.

What better topping for an ice cream sundae than chocolate syrup?

What if I told you that the chocolate syrup you buy in the grocery store takes you 15 minutes to make in your own home?

Check this for your next summertime party:

Chocolate Syrup

(minus artificial sweeteners and preservatives)

Ingredients

  • ¾ Cup Water
  • 1½ Cup Sugar (adjust to taste!)
  • ¾ Cup Cocoa
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Corn Syrup or Maple Syrup

Directions

  1. Over medium heat, whisk all of these ingredients together until well-blended, smooth, and shiny.
  2. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving over ice cream, stirred with milk, in coffee, or with a spoon of your favorite nut butter!
  3. Other variations include making the chocolate sauce with less sugar and mixing it with a bit of Sriracha. Serve over poultry or even as a simple substitute for mole sauce.

Enjoy!

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by Borderstan.com June 14, 2013 at 11:00 am 0

"Cookies"

Chocolate Mint Cookies. (Michelle Bradbury

From Michelle Bradbury.

The Girl Scouts are gone. They still exist, obviously, they just no longer hang out outside the grocery store on weekends and my thin mint supply has run dry. Thin mints might be the perfect cookie: I want them year round, no matter what. In the winter they go nicely with a cup of hot cocoa, peppermint hot cocoa style. In the summer they are the perfect frozen treat. In between they are whatever I am in the mood for that day. Perfection.

So, every year around this time, I find myself feeling rather sad because, inevitably, I have run out of thin mints and I want my frozen, minty, chocolately, crispy treat.

But this year, I found Ming. Ming makes cupcakes, but also cookies, and right on top of his cookie list: “Homemade Thin Mints.” So, I think mint and chocolate sounds perfect just about now.

Chocolate Mint Wafers

Check out Ming‘s original.

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cups cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp mint extract (I could only find peppermint which worked perfectly!)

Chocolate Topping

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp mint extract

Directions

Cookies

  1. Mix flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda in a bowl and set aside.
  2. In stand mixer or with electronic beaters, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar until fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth (about 1 minute). Add liquids (milk, vanilla, and mint extract) and beat about a minute until everything is incorporated.
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients. I do this in about three batches, and beat until mixture starts to form dough and gets pebble-y.
  4. Take dough and form into a ball, then roll into a log about an inch to an inch-and-a-half wide (about the width of a thin mint). Wrap the log in wax paper and move to fridge for at least 2 hours. (I would assume you could leave this overnight, but I wouldn’t leave much more because I don’t know if the log will start to pull apart or dry out.)
  5. Slice log into thin rounds and bake on cookie sheets with parchment paper for 10-12 minutes. They will puff up slightly, but don’t really expand.
  6. Set aside to cool completely, they should get crispy as they cool.

Topping

  1. In a double boiler (or a pot in which you can set a heat-safe bowl), bring water to a simmer and melt chocolate, stirring regularly; add in mint.
  2. Coat tops of cookies (they must be completely cool because if they are still warm they will crumble into the chocolate) with chocolate by dipping or frosting with a knife or small spatula.
  3. Set aside for chocolate to set. Possibly in the freezer so your thin mint is cold and delicious when you go to try the first one!

Have any other Girl Scout Cookies you are jonesing for? Let me know, I make no promises, but I will give it a shot!

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by Borderstan.com May 31, 2013 at 1:00 pm 0

"cookie"

Bring these cookies to your next cookout. (Rachel Nania)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com.

‘Tis the season for cookouts. And if you’re looking to bring something other than potato salad — while still trying to stick with the classics — you must try this recipe for the perfect chocolate chip cookies. They’re sweet, they’re gooey… and best of all, they’re salty.

So the next time you get invited to a barbecue or the beach, fill your cooler with a batch of these (and a beer of choice, of course).

Rachel’s Summer Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients 

  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 sticks butter
  • ¾ cup of granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 bag of bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks of good chocolate, broken into small pieces

Directions

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter completely.
  2. Mix the brown sugar and the granulated sugar in with the butter and stir for a minute until chunks are dissolved.
  3. Then (once cool, please do not add to hot butter), add in the eggs and vanilla and continue to stir. Set aside.
  4. In a separate dish, combine the flour, the baking soda, the sea salt and mix.
  5. Add the chocolate chips and coat them with the dry ingredients (this helps to keep them from completely melting in the baking process). Then, combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated.
  6. Spoon the dough out onto a baking sheet and bake the cookies at 375 for 10-12 minutes (just keep an eye on them and test frequently).

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by Borderstan.com May 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

From Namita Koppa. Email her at namita[AT]borderstan.com.

"Kiwi"

Get your Kiwi going. (Namita Koppa)

A month ago, I went on vacation with my extended family. Being the adventurous types, my relatives planned a two week jaunt across the Pacific to New Zealand, or Aotearoa in Māori.

It was the best holiday I’ve taken in a long, long time — beautiful scenery, adventure sports, glacial rivers an unbelievable crystal blue, and lots (and I mean LOTS) of furry sheep. Other than feeding a lamb, which rendered me emotionally unable to eat the famous New Zealand lamb for the remainder of the trip, I happily indulged in all kinds of goodies.

From my American POV, some of the food there was just kind of weird. An ice cream flavor called the hokey-pokey (you know you wanna sing)? Vegemite? Cookies called Afghans? A tropical fruit with slightly gushy insides called feijoa?

Some things there were downright party-in-my-mouth material. Green-lipped mussels, which our kind chef steamed to absolutely perfection. Avocados, similar to Haas but with a slightly different, equally as buttery flavor.

Wine, wine, and more wine which my family sampled every single evening. Kumara bread, made from the Kiwi version of the sweet potato. Divine dairy products courtesy of New Zealand’s most prosperous industry.

To avoid the disappointment of returning to a regular schedule, I’ve been making dishes at home that remind me of this trip. Inspired by both avocados and summertime, this has been a staple in my kitchen. Kia mākona!

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½- ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Use as a dip, spread, or sauce with pasta.

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by Borderstan.com May 24, 2013 at 11:00 am 0

From Chelsea Rinnig. Email her at chelsea[AT]borderstan.com.

"Scones"

Red Wine-Rhubarb, Yogurt-Ginger Scones. (Chelsea Rinnig)

The Lighter Side of Springtime Sweetness

I have to admit, I’ve never been much of a baker. Such practices requires patience and measurement and a whole other set of intuition and flavor profiles compared to cooking. By the third step in, I’ve tossed the measuring cups into the sink and poured half the bag of sugar into the bowl and substituted baking soda for baking powder.

Like I said, I’m not a great baker.

But this recipe is forgiving for non-bakers like me and the steps allow for more cooking and improvisation.  The ingredients are fun, fragrant and health-conscious, so much so that choosing which ones to include in the title was the greatest challenge!

Both balancing the flavors of spring in the rhubarb and lemon-sugar and lighter from the yogurt and oil substitutions, these scones are perfect served warm at your next backyard brunch.

Red Wine-Rhubarb, Yogurt-Ginger Scones

Adapted from Joy the Baker’s Grapefruit, Honey and Yogurt Scones

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons date honey  (regular honey works fine, too)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil (original recipe calls for 6 tbsp. butter)
  • 4 thin stalks rhubarb, chopped into about a cup (pictured)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt – I used local full fat yogurt from Clear Spring Creamery
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 1 inch grated ginger
  • 1 lemon to zest

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Directions

  1. Combine dry ingredients: whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Set aside.
  2. Pour red wine in a large saucepan set to medium heat. Reduce for 8 minutes.
  3. Zest your lemon entirely and press zest into the brown sugar with the back of a spoon. Add two tablespoons of the lemon-sugar to the dry ingredients, and stir in another tablespoon to the red wine.
  4. Return to the red wine. Add ginger and rhubarb until coated in wine and lower heat to a simmer for additional 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until the rhubarb has softened to form compote. Remove from heat and cool briefly.
  5. Cut olive oil into the dry mixture using a table knife. The mixture should form tiny pebbles and, subsequently, a course grain. Add the honey of your choice, yogurt and rhubarb reduction compote.  Stir using a fork, or if you’re like me, your hands. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface and shape into a circle. Cut into six triangles and top with remaining lemon-sugar.
  6. Bake on a lined baking sheet for 15 minutes. Or, make ahead and refrigerate the dough overnight. You can pop it into the oven right before your brunch guests arrive and serve warm–plain or with fresh strawberry jam.

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by Borderstan.com May 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

From Namita Koppa. Email her at namita[AT]borderstan.com.

"Burger"

Get ready for Memorial Day with Namita’s Veggie Burger. (Namita Koppa)

I recently received a gift from my Mom. Upon hearing about it, my best friend said, “Oh… she LOVES you.” He’s right, but that’s beside the point.

Wrapped in love and nestled in sheaths of paper stuffing were two timely gifts: a 10 lb. bag of basmati rice and a new George Foreman Grill.

I nearly cried. You see, I had lost a prior model of George a few years ago to old age. With it, the opportunity to grill in my tiny studio apartment died too. Now, though, we’re back in action!!

Naturally, I’ve been grilling everything: carrots, lettuce, cheese sandwiches, bananas, mushrooms, tomatoes, and whatever else the grill will hold. With Memorial Day weekend coming up, I’ve been thinking a lot about burgers and BBQs, preferably near a pool and 80° sunshine.

Making veggie burgers can be complex and messy. Unlike meat burgers, the veggie burger requires careful proportions of ingredients; it can go from too dry to too wet in no time whatsoever. In the past, I’ve tried to make them at home, only to realize that 1) they will never be as delicious as my mother’s and 2) adding lots of flavors and ingredients doesn’t help. At base, these burgers only require a few ingredients: beans or lentils, rice or couscous, shredded vegetables, and a little bit of spice. Just KISS — Keep It Simple, Stupid.

The night George II arrived, I made these bean burgers using the meager contents of my kitchen. They are simple and easy to make. I hope you enjoy, play around with the recipe if you like, and come up with some delicious veggie burger recipes of your own!

Lima Bean-Carrot-Rice Burgers

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 2 cups cooked lima beans
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup cooked wild rice or brown rice or white rice
  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • Pinch chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Sauté cumin seeds, onion, chili powder, and carrot in olive oil on medium heat. When the onion is translucent and carrots have softened, add lima beans and water. Stir the mixture once. Allow the water to evaporate and remove from heat.
  2. Using a fork, mash half the mixture (not an exact science! You just want about half the lima beans to be mashed). Stir in rice, salt, and pepper.
  3. Using your hands, shape the mixture into 6 to 8 burgers. Place in a tray and refrigerate for at least an hour. To cook, allow burgers to sit at room temperature for five minutes. Grill or pan-fry in 1 tsp. oil.
  4. Serve in hamburger buns or lettuce wraps. Delicious topped with a little sour cream and hot sauce.

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by Borderstan.com April 12, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

From Chelsea Rinnig. Email her at chelsea[AT]borderstan.com.

Spring is here. (Chelsea Rinnig)

Spring greens are here. (Chelsea Rinnig)

The thawing of winter means the coming of a new crop of fresh spring produce… well, eventually.

Asparagus, cherry tomatoes, strawberries and melons are on their way, but not quite ready to be picked and sold at the market. A longer than anticipated winter delayed much of the growing process, and so we will have to wait until June for rhubarb.

However, manipulation of the greens and fruits available can certainly brighten up and lighten your dishes while sticking to the concept of local. A recent New York Times article also demonstrated examples of spring flavors, but with innovations in farming such as greenhouses, one does not have to, as the article suggested, “cheat” by buying artichokes from California.

For example, many of the available greens, such as arugula, can make for a beautiful pesto when blended or processed with pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and top any baked white fish or pasta for a light Spring dinner. Apples in fresh lettuce with walnuts, celery, gold raisins and Dijon dressing serve as a healthy modified Waldorf salad. And the recipe below makes Spring wraps perfect for your next lunch picnic in Meridian Hill Park or at the Cherry Blossoms.

Now, who’s bringing the white wine?

Collard Wraps with Carrots, Cucumber and Lentils

Ingredients

  • One bunch of rather large Collards or Swiss Chard
  • One bunch carrots
  • Cucumber
  • One chopped white or red onion
  • 2 cups dry red lentils
  • Lemon Juice
  • 2 tbsp. Tahini
  • 1 tbsp. EVOO
  • Sunflower seeds (optional)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3 cups water
  • Warm water and vinegar in a pan

Directions

  1. Rinse and sort lentils. Toast chopped onion and dry lentils in the bottom of a medium sized saucepan on medium-high heat for one minute, stirring a couple times.
  2. Add water and white wine, cover and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Slice the stem and extra stalk from the leaves of the Collards or Swiss Chard. While the lentils simmer, soak green leaves in a shallow pan of warm water and vinegar for approximately 10 minutes. Chop carrots and cucumber into sticks.
  4. Whisk the lemon juice, tahini, and EVOO together for an optional dressing, or process with half of your carrots and the sunflower seeds.
  5. Once the lentils have cooked and cooled, assemble wraps using two leaves layered in opposite directions (be careful not to overstuff). Depending on the size of your leaves, slice in half and/or wrap in aluminum foil. The soaking should help maintain the shape of your wrap without breaking.

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by Borderstan.com January 10, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

From Jane Alonso. Her passion for food and spirits leads her on frequent excursions into Borderstan’s land of bars and restaurants. Email her at jane[AT]borderstan.com. 

"Chicken Soup"

Easy Chicken Soup. (Luis Gomez Photos)

One of my New Year’s resolutions in 2013 is to eat more homemade meals and drink a bit (notice, I said “a bit!) less – and trust me, that is hard for someone like me who lives in the city and whose professional life involves lots of business meals at restaurants. Not to mention my obsession with scotch and speakeasies – sigh!

But since we are only a few weeks into January, it is too soon to give up on those resolutions quite yet…so I am spending some time reacquainting myself with my kitchen and remembering that, indeed, I DO love to cook. In that spirit, I thought I might share one of my easy go-to recipes: quick and easy chicken soup.

This is a recipe I “created” through trial and error, and like all recipes, it steals liberally from others that came before it. When I initially learned to make chicken soup, I followed my grandmother’s instructions to a tee – but found the process of cooking a stock from scratch to be too time consuming for everyday life (though I still make homemade stock sometimes on a cold weekend when I have time). You can concoct a pretty decent chicken soup by using a good quality box broth (I like Pacific brand) along with a mirepoix base (a mirepoix is combination of sautéed onions, carrots, and celery).

Another short cut – canned chicken. I know, I know… I hear you scowling as you read this. But dear reader, I tell you that a good quality canned chicken (I like to use Valley Fresh 100% natural chicken breast in water) is just fine to use in a chicken soup that you are making for an everyday meal. It is easy to use, stores for months, and tastes good in a soup.

Finally — my secret flavor weapon – tarragon!  Tarragon imparts a sweet herbal quality to the soup that will give it depth, leaving the impression that the stock was simmered for hours on your stove… when in fact, you threw the meal together in an hour.

This recipe has very little fat, lots of healthy veggies, fiber (if you use barley or certain types of rice) and the broth is proven to help you get over that nasty cold virus circulating in mid-winter.

Enjoy – I hope this recipe helps you ring in a healthier 2013!

Jane’s Quick and Easy Chicken Soup

  1. Saute diced onions, carrots, and celery in a large pot in oil (either canola or olive oil). There is no set guide for how much to use but try for a 3:2:1 ratio of onion, carrot, and celery – it doesn’t matter if you get the proportions wrong though – it’s soup and you can’t mess it up!  I use roughly one large onion, one medium size carrot, and one stalk of celery.
  2. You can add salt if (you like) to the veggies as they cook.
  3. Sweat the veggies until onions are translucent and carrots and celery are soft, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add a clove of diced garlic (can be from a jar or fresh) and sauté for another minute.
  5. Add a box of chicken broth (roughly four cups) and another 2-4 cups of water.
  6. Add chicken from a 10-12.5 ounce can (the 99% fat free white meat variety – such as Valley Fresh — works well).
  7. Add a cup of pearl barley (can substitute a half cup of rice or pasta or matzah balls).
  8. Add about a tablespoon of dried tarragon (can use fresh if you have it).
  9. Salt and pepper to taste. I prefer to use sea salt. Because it is a soup, you have to use a bit more salt than you would normally put on cooked food in order to get a good flavor.
  10. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30-45 minutes tailored to the ingredients you use (longer if you use barley – less time if you use pasta).

Enjoy!

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by Borderstan.com January 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

From Aparna Krishnamoorthy. Email her at aparna[AT]borderstan.com. Follow her on Twitter @aparnakris.

After a long month of lots of drinking, eating amazing food and traveling with friends around the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, I am ready for some rest, recreation and home cooked meals. We are all probably still heavy in resolution making mode. One of my “resolutions” is to eat more home cooked meals this year, which will be good for my waistline and my wallet. This may be an obvious and boring resolution, but necessary.

On the menu today is a hearty breakfast casserole with sausage, kale, red peppers and cheese.  This makes for a great start to the day, and even warms up decently for a grab-and-go breakfast if refrigerated.

Easy Breezy Breakfast Casserole

"Casserole"

Make Aparna’s Breakfast Casserole. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Ingredients (Makes about 8 servings)  

  • 4 links reduced-fat pre-cooked chicken-garlic sausage (or any sausage of your liking)
  • 2 tsp Olive oil
  • 4 cups (packed) sliced kale leaves
  • 2 red bell peppers – diced into ½ inch pieces
  • ½ cup green onions
  • 1 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • Seasoning – salt, pepper, oregano

Directions

  1. Cut the sausage into half lengthwise, and then into 1″ chunks. Heat 1 tsp. of olive oil in a pan and cook sausage till well browned.
  2. Put cooked sausage into a greased casserole pan about 9″ X 12″.
  3. Sauté kale in the same pan for about 3 minutes until it wilts.
  4. Layer the kale over the sausage, and add in the red pepper and green onions.
  5. Beat eggs with seasoning spices are well combined. Pour eggs over mixture in pan, and then stir gently with a fork so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed in the eggs.
  6. Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes, depending on how browned you want it.
  7. Egg casseroles makes for an ideal breakfast, brunch or even as a light dinner alongside a salad. It takes hardly any effort, you can serve a lot of people and you can use up almost any leftover vegetables!

What veggie/cheese/meat combo egg bake would you most like to eat?

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by Borderstan.com October 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,002 0

"hurricane"

Scramble – The perfect hurricane snack. (Rachel Nania)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com. 

First and foremost, I hope everyone is staying safe out there. I know a lot of us see these days off from work as “free days” to drink during a Monday afternoon and (in my case) clean the entire house like it’s never been cleaned before. But this storm is causing lots of damage, so please take it seriously!

But if you are safe and a little stir crazy, chances are, you are also hungry. (I died a little inside when I heard Pete’s Pizza was closed on Monday… and my stomach definitely didn’t like that news.)

There is something about snow days (or hurricane days) that make me want to do nothing but live under a fleece blanket, drink hot chocolate and eat junk food… lots and lots of salty junk food. If you have the same cravings, I have just the thing for you.

This recipe has a bit of an odd name — it’s called “scramble.” But I promise you, the snack is much better than the name. This take on a homemade Chex Mix takes several hours to bake (on low) and needs to be stirred frequently, but the labor is definitely worth the final product. And please, don’t balk at the amount of butter; the recipe makes a lot and you will be eating it (with your friends and neighbors) for days. And the best part… it will keep when the food in your fridge goes bad due to power outages.

So now tell me, Borderstan – what’s your favorite hurricane day snack or meal?

Making a Scramble

Ingredients

  • 1 box of rice chex
  • 1 box Cheerios
  • 1 bag of thin pretzel sticks or squares
  • 1 lb of pecans
  • 1 lb (4 sticks) of butter
  • 1 tbsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
Directions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 225 degrees.
  2. Empty the dry ingredients (rice chex, Cheerios, pretzels and pecans) into a large roasting pan.
  3. Melt the butter in a microwaveable safe bowl. Add the garlic salt, the onion powder and the worcestershire sauce. Whisk it all together.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix it all together.
  5. Bake for 3-4 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
  6. Share with friends and enjoy!

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by Borderstan.com September 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,586 0

"sandwich"

A rustic avocado, arugula and fried egg open-face sandwich. (Rachel Nania)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com.

I am currently reading an incredibly hilarious (and painfully on-point) book, Don’t Get Too Comfortable, by the late David Rakoff. Throughout the 220 pages of essays and short stories, the author, who unfortunately died of cancer this past month, humorously explores topics of our boring – yet interesting – daily lives. Rakoff wittily digs at the smorgasbord of our culture’s most popular subject matters, like politics, money, food and pop-culture.

As someone who enjoys food – and writing about food – one chapter especially struck a chord with me. In this chapter, Rakoff discusses our culture’s newfound, highbrow obsession with the simplicity of pure foods; and he makes fun of himself and his food-writing colleagues at The New York Times for participating in this “realm of narcissism.”

Just as Rakoff admits to joining the masses of food purists (although thankfully and aggressively questions our culture’s need to ship ice cubes frozen from a river in the Scottish Highlands), I too, enjoy simple and pure flavors.

But as Rakoff states, “Simplicity, it seems, has always been wasted on those who simply cannot appreciate it.”

Today’s Food Culture

Food culture has become a hobby of the economically privileged, with special salt crystals selling for $36 a kilo, expensive truffles being infused into every dish (although I read that trend is finally over) and yes, even ice cubes being shipped from a far off lake so that our perfectly aged scotches will not suffer from those materials found in “regular water.”

These days you can even find fresh, organic milk bottled in “rustic” glass bottles that hints at nostalgia for the days when milk was delivered to your back door. Only unlike those days, these bottles run for close to $6 for a half-gallon. Ahh yes, expensive milk in a peasant-like bottle meant to validate some sense of authenticity to those who can afford it…

While the ironic trend of highly priced, yet simple and earthly food is frustrating, it does create a new space for exploring some no-frills dishes that, surprisingly, can be assembled for a cost similar to the ethos the dish seeks to emulate.

One example of such dishes is this “rustic” avocado, arugula and fried egg open-face sandwich. The ingredients used are simple, inexpensive and available at most grocery stores (not just specialty stores). And as an added bonus, it’s quick and easy to prepare. So here’s to some simplicity in life that we can all appreciate.

Rustic Avocado, Arugula and Fried Egg Open-Face Sandwich

Ingredients

A simple, no-frills solution to lunch. (Rachel Nania)

  • Rustic, crunchy bread – I used a fresh baguette
  • Arugula
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ of an Avocado
  • Course sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fresh lemon

Directions

  1. Cut the desired amount of bread from the loaf and slice in half and brush the two halves with some olive oil and toast in a warm oven until crispy and slightly browned.
  2. In the meantime, toss some fresh arugula with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some sea salt. Set aside.
  3. Cut and pit the avocado and drizzle the slices with olive oil and sea salt – set aside.
  4. Fry two eggs in a pan (however you like them best).
  5. Start to layer the sandwiches: On the crispy, open faced bread, layer the arugula, the avocado slices and then egg. Finish everything off with some fresh ground pepper, one last pinch of salt and one last drizzle of olive oil.

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by Borderstan.com August 27, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,313 0

"salt" "zucchini"

Salty chocolate zucchini cake. (Rachel Nania)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com. 

As someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth (yet, ironically, will never turn down dessert), I am constantly on the hunt for traditional dessert recipes that have a savory spin. Sweets like chili-infused dark chocolate or strawberries drizzled with a balsamic reduction are my idea of the perfect ending to a meal.

To achieve the “savory” factor, one trick I frequently use when baking is to make salt the star of the dish. Salt is really quite an amazing ingredient when it comes to making desserts; it works to bring out the sweetness of an ingredient (like chocolate), while simultaneously keeping a dish from being overly sweet.

One of my favorite “sweet breads” is zucchini bread. This time of year, my mom used to make several loafs at once, due to an abundance of zucchini in the garden. While I don’t have a garden, I do have a neighborhood farmer’s market — and with some fresh, local zucchini, I’ve taken my mom’s traditional zucchini bread recipe and added my own spin.

This salty chocolate zucchini cake is incredibly moist (thanks to the zucchini), sweet and, you guessed it, salty. The lack of an icing (common to most traditional cakes) keeps it from being too dessert-like, making it O.K. in my book to eat for breakfast, alongside a steaming latte.

Salty Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour, sifted
  • ½ cup of unsweetened cocoa, sifted
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • ½ cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp coarse sea salt (plus a little more for sprinkling on top)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups of shredded zucchini (about 2 large zucchini)
  • 1 tbsp of quality vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) of butter, melted
  • 12 oz package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease two round cake pans.
  2. In a food processor, shred fresh zucchini until you have enough for 2 cups (about two large zucchini).
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt. Mix together with a spoon and set aside.
  4. In a separate large bowl, mix together the following ingredients with a large spoon: the melted butter, the sugar, the brown sugar, the eggs and the vanilla.
  5. Combine the bowl of wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon. Spoon in the shredded zucchini and continue to mix the ingredients. Once the wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated, add the bag of chocolate chips and continue to incorporate.
  6. Divide the batter and pour into two round cake pans.
  7. Sprinkle the tops of the cakes with a pinch of sea salt.
  8. Bake the pans in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.
  9. Eat plain or serve warm with a scoop of ice cream!

Enjoy!

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by Borderstan.com August 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,174 0

"tomato"

It’s tomato season — here’s what you can make with your tomatoes. (Rachel Nania)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com. 

Happy tomato season! Yes, it’s that time of year again when there seems to be an abundance of tomatoes; in fact, they’re practically rolling off the farmers market stands and produce shelves.

And while nothing beats an “August special” (i.e., tomatoes on bread with salt and mayo), there are plenty of other things to do with the late summer fruit. Try canning your tomatoes, making a tomato jam (perfect on a grilled cheese sandwich) or even creating a fresh tomato sauce to go over pasta, fish or meat.

Heirloom Tomato, Zucchini and Parmesan Panade

If you are looking for something a little more rustic and hearty, try this simple and delicious heirloom tomato, zucchini and Parmesan panade. A panade is a traditional Provencal casserole made of stale bread, any filler and a broth. It bakes slowly and becomes super moist on the inside and crispy on the top (usually due to a final layer of cheese).

Panade

Heirloom tomato, zucchini and Parmesan cheese panade. (Rachel Nania)

This version incorporates the season’s freshest produce with crusty bread and warm, salty Parmesan cheese. It’s easy to throw together and takes roughly an hour to bake in the oven — which is the perfect amount of time to grab a glass of wine and enjoy the final days of summer with friends.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 loaf of crunchy bread, sliced to fit and layer in a casserole dish – I used a Tuscan loaf
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup plus 4 tbsp of mushroom broth – I used the Pacific Organics brand
  • 
1/2 pound of shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a pan, over medium heat, sauté the onion with 2 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil until the onion softens and is slightly translucent.
  3. Add in the zucchini and the garlic and continue to sauté until the zucchini is cooked (roughly 7 to 10 minutes).
  4. Add in a pinch of sea salt to taste and 4 Tbsp of the mushroom broth. Continue to cook until the liquid cooks down, then remove the pan from heat.
  5. In a buttered casserole dish, put down a layer of the bread, overlapping and cutting the slices to fit the dish. Next, add a layer of heirloom tomatoes and then a layer of the zucchini and onion mixture. Top the vegetable layers off with a generous layer of Parmesan cheese. Continue to layer the ingredients in this order. (I was able to do two complete layers.)
  6. Once the final layer is complete, pour 1 cup of the mushroom broth over the casserole and push the ingredients down with a spatula.
  7. Cover the dish (with foil or a casserole cover) and bake for about an hour, until bubbly. After an hour, uncover the dish, add another layer of cheese, and continue to bake until the cheese and the top layer browns.
  8. Serve and eat!

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by Borderstan.com July 27, 2012 at 12:00 pm 1,214 1 Comment

From Chelsea Rinnig. Email her at chelsea[AT}borderstan.com

Eggplant stars in many vegetarian dishes, but it can satisfy everyone at the dinner table.

It is the vegetarian’s lifesaver.  A versatile vegetable and most frequently starring in the token meatless item on many menus (eggplant parmesan, bengan bharta, ratatouille, etc.).  More than that though, it’s fantastic for roasting and grilling; the starchy inner meat soaks up flavors like a sponge, and the outer skin tastes crispy and sweet when given a good char. One of my favorite sandwiches in the summer is grilled eggplant with arugula and heirloom tomatoes on fresh sourdough bread–a satisfying alternative to burgers and hotdogs at cookouts.

At the market, they come in a range of varieties like the longer Japanese eggplant or the lighter, zebra striped Sicilian eggplant.  Pick yours based on the size you prefer to handle chopping and inspect  the skin to make sure it is firm, shiny, and free of blemishes or cracks.  Color does not indicate any difference in flavor, but can be quite beautiful aesthetically.

By  happenstance, I commandeered Jamaican Allspice from my mother’s kitchen cabinet last time I went to visit her and found that it works wonderfully when paired with eggplant–the vegetable soaks up all the flavor and balances it with its own sweetness.  Let me know what you think!

"eggplant"

Jamaican Spiced Eggplant. (Chelsea Rinnig)

Jamaican Spiced Eggplant

Ingredients

  • One large eggplant or two small eggplants
  • One red onion
  • Garlic
  • Jamaican Allspice
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Half cup almonds
  • Quarter cup golden raisins
  • Feta cheese
  • Parsley to garnish

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Mince garlic, cube eggplant into one-inch pieces, and slice red onion into half moons.
  3. In a large baking dish, arrange almonds, golden raisins and cut vegetables and coat in olive oil and Jamaican Allspice.
  4. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until almonds are toasted and eggplant is browned.
  5. Garnish with parsley and feta cheese.

Serve as a side dish or over quinoa or couscous as a main course.

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