Lunch

Inquiring Minds: The Bay Leaf Enigma

Posted in Dinner, Food, Informational, Inquiring Minds, Lunch, Main Dish, Meat, Poultry, Starch, Vegan, Vegetarian on May 5th, 2011 by Audrey – 2 Comments

Join me, friends, as I christen a new addition to Can Do Kitchen. Henceforth, I will be penning occasional informational posts, dubbed the Inquiring Minds feature, in which curious cooks put forth a question, and I provide an answer to the best of my ability, complete with resources and the occasional link.

In today’s inaugural post we reflect on bay leaves. An inquisitive CDK reader asks: “What is the purpose of bay leaves? Don’t really smell, can’t actually eat them, yet they’re in everything…” Here are my answers, as well as a few handy links. read more »

Homemade Yogurt and a Cultural Experience

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Lunch, Recipe, Travel, Vegetarian on April 7th, 2011 by Audrey – 7 Comments

It was a rough winter here in the northeastern US of A. We had snow up to our brains, cold blasting out our ears, and ice-encrusted souls. In the city, we fought for parking spots with pickaxes and guardian garbage cans, and the good people of rural New England chuckled around their woodstoves as they watched coverage of our sorry marooned souls. By and by, April arrived, but spring in these parts, as many-a gentle reader may know, is similarly no bloody joke. My compatriots in the North Country are still chinking frost and snow off their windshields in the morning, and recently endured days of post-April Fool’s Day snow. Jack Frost, does your cruelty know no limits? Here in Boston, the snowbanks have disappeared and the green blades of crocuses are poking timidly through the rotted autumn leaves. Soon we’ll be blessed with mud and biting insects. Ah, sweet poetry of spring.

And yet, there is good to be reaped from this cursed season, this ellipsis of winter. One of the magical products of northeastern springtime: the much-hallowed maple syrup. When the days get warm and the nights stay chilly, the sugar maples start sending the sap up through their tree veins, and enterprising folk hammer their taps into maple trunks, collect this sweet tree water, and transform it into liquid gold. Despite spending my childhood in New England, I had never actually taken part in this process, so DG and I jumped at an invitation from our friends in northern Vermont, Julie and Ben, to join their family for a weekend, take part in the gathering, and learn how the magic happens. They promised a genuine old-school Vermont maple-sugaring experience, complete with bucket-hauling, draft horses, a sugar shack, and meals cooked on a woodstove — with one caveat. read more »

Kitchen Sink Quinoa Salad

Posted in Dinner, Food, Lunch, Recipe, Salad, Side Dish, Starch, Vegan, Vegetarian on May 18th, 2010 by Audrey – 6 Comments

Image of Kitchen Sink Quinoa SaladLet’s face it, we’re all spoiled by grab-and-go convenience foods. When the hunger beast rears its angry head, we walk into the kitchen, stare blankly into the brimming refrigerator, and, seeing only ingredients, conclude that there’s nothing to eat. Au contraire, my friends! There is just nothing ready to eat. I know what you’re thinking. “What am I supposed to do? Gnaw on a leaf of Swiss chard?” Well, yes and no. See, when we’re faced with a barrage of ingredients, its often hard to envision what the end product is, so our brain overloads with either the excess or absence of options, and we give up and either go hungry, eat something convenient and pre-made, or go buy something prepared. However, with some practice, we can start to see those items filling the corners of our fridges and pantries as vibrant parts of a delicious whole. The best place to start is to find some foundation on which to build a dish, and then go from there.

Today’s blank canvas is quinoa (KEEN-wah), a magical little grain in a tiny snail-shaped dot. (Actually, it’s technically a seed because it’s not from a grass, but rather from a plant closely related to beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds. Really, tumbleweeds! Just another reason to love quinoa. However, we treat it as a grain in cooking.) For those of you unfamiliar with quinoa or previously tentative about trying it, welcome to a new taste sensation. It has a nutty flavor and toothsome mouth-feel, and can be used a lot like rice or small pasta (think orzo or couscous), but it’s incredibly good for you (high in protein and gluten free) and simple to prepare. You can find it in packages near the rice and pasta in your market, or in the bulk section, which is the more economical option. I buy it in bulk and store it in a big glass jar. The easiest way to prepare it is to boil it in water or broth (2 parts liquid, 1 part quinoa) until the water is absorbed (about 12-14 minutes), fluff and serve. Instant side dish. From there you can get more sophisticated and make pilafs, salads, stuffings, etc. It’s also really tasty added to soup or hot breakfast cereal. (Fun fact: quinoa is currently being considered a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights because of all its nifty convenient and nutritious characteristics. Space grain! Definitely ups its cool factor.) read more »

‘Tis the Season: Dijon Vinaigrette

Posted in Dinner, Food, Lunch, Recipe, Salad, Side Dish, Vegetarian, Veggies on May 14th, 2010 by Audrey – 2 Comments

LettuceSpring has officially sprung out here in the Pacific Northwest, and our farmers markets, gardens, grocery stores, and crisper drawers are overflowing with the new bounty that the seemingly endless months of drizzle bestow on us once the sun decides to stay out for a few moments strung together. Among the first to pop out of our rich soil are the leafy, multicolored baby salad greens that I’ve started to crave on a daily basis. Another side effect of the grey winter is that, come spring, all the citizenry burst forth into the outdoors in droves, and people can be found strolling, draped on stoops, lolling in grassy parks, and zipping around town on bikes.

Last weekend, my fun friends hosted their annual Bike Maintenance Day BBQ, for which they invite any and all to come over, throw something tasty on the grill, contribute a communal dish, and make use of the hosts’ tools, stands, and expertise to tune up their bicycles for the coming months of riding. As anyone who knows me can attest, after Christmas and my birthday, this is my favorite day of the year, and definitely my bike’s numero uno holiday.

This year, I was a little torn on what to contribute as a communal dish. I found myself wandering aimlessly through the produce section of Whole Foods pondering what would be tasty, fresh, and portable enough to toss in my bike’s pannier and pedal over to the Q, when, out of the piles of dwindling citrus and greenhouse tomatoes, a pile of tiny mixed lettuces sang to me like an angel choir from the heavens, and inspiration struck. I found the biggest container of greens they had – only $6! – gave a little fist-pump, and humped it home to my kitchen, where I whipped up a batch of my favorite Dijon Vinaigrette in a spare jar. Container of greens and jar of dressing tossed in my sack, along with some sausages for the grill, I biked forth, knowing I had a hit item to share. Sure enough, the big bowl of dressed greens on the picnic table kept dwindling, and I kept filling it up. There’s nothing like a bowl of zesty freshness to perk up some grilled food. read more »