Cornflake Buttermilk Chicken

OK, so the whole “I don’t cook meat very often” thing might be looking like a bit of a lie right now. The thing is, about a week ago, I ate some amazing chicken at Indie Mart. Chicken is probably my least-favorite meat to eat, so for me to describe it as “amazing” is really saying something. My friend speculated it had been marinated in buttermilk, and I had some buttermilk in the fridge, and that was all I needed to hear.

Cornflake Buttermilk Chicken

I thawed some of my Trader Joe’s frozen chicken in the fridge, then marinated it for about 8 hours in some buttermilk, green onions, garlic, and lemon juice. Dragged it through some crushed-up cornflakes and parmesan, baked for 40 minutes, and boom: amazing chicken. (OK, not as amazing as the Indie Mart chicken, but that was fried, and I can’t compete with that.)

I’ll be making this again this week. It was that good. (You know what else is good? Cornflakes straight from the box. I should probably stop that, if I want to have enough for this chicken.)

Cornflake Buttermilk Chicken
(Adapted from The Neelys)

Chicken breasts or tenders (I used four tenders, for two total servings)
2 green onions, chopped finely (white and green parts)
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 cups buttermilk
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 to 1 1/2 cups crushed cornflakes
1-2 tablespoons fresh or dried thyme
salt and pepper
other spices to taste (I added a little garlic powder)

1. In a large bowl, pour in enough buttermilk to cover your chicken (I used 2 cups of buttermilk in a relatively shallow bowl, and it was plenty). Add the crushed garlic, green onions, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.

2. Place the chicken in the bowl, cover, and marinate in the fridge. (Anywhere from 3-12 hours should work.)

3. Preheat the oven to 400.

4. Mix together the crushed cornflakes, parmesan, and thyme, and add any additional spices to taste.

5. Remove each piece of chicken from the buttermilk mixture and drag it through the cornflake mixture, pressing if necessary to make sure it sticks. Place the chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment and sprinkle any leftover cornflake mixture over the top.

6. Bake for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

My leftovers reheated extremely well in the toaster oven, though they were a little drier on the second day (but still so much less dry than most chicken I’ve eaten in my life).


Spicy Soba Noodles with Sausage

I had never made soba noodles for myself until last summer, when I got inspired by one of Theodora’s soba noodle bowls and picked up some pre-cooked, cold noodles from the store. So easy, so fast, so tasty — and yet, they didn’t enter my regular rotation.

The other day, though, I was wandering my lovely local market and suddenly remembered those cold buckwheat noodles — what a simple, easy dinner they’d made on a night when I barely wanted to turn on the stove. I couldn’t find the pre-cooked ones, but I picked up a bag of uncooked noodles and figured I’d be able to handle making them cold on my own.

soba noodles

The inspiration for everything else was a pasta salad I used to make back in college — salami, cheese, red onion — but spicier and fresher. I spent a long time choosing the sausage, but once I picked andouille, everything else followed.

The one (minor) fail was the garlic oil I attempted to use as dressing. I went into this meal expecting to top the noodles with chili-infused olive oil, but apparently we ate it all — used it all? Do you really “eat” olive oil? — and so I tried to fake some garlic oil by cooking a few whole cloves of garlic in a few tablespoons of oil over low heat while I prepped the rest of the dish. It turned out OK but not very garlicky, and if I were to do this again, I’d make a vinegar-based dressing instead; the oil weighed things down a bit too much. The flavors meshed well, though, and only got better after a day in the fridge, so if you’re looking for a simple meal with serious leftover potential, this might be the ticket.

Spicy Soba Noodles with Sausage
Soba noodles, dry or cooked and cold; I prepared 4 servings
Red bell pepper, cut into chunks
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
Sausage of your choice; I used two Aidells links
Red pepper flakes
Chili powder
Salt and pepper
Olive oil/vinegar/your choice of dressing

1. Prepare the soba noodles according to the instructions on the package; once they’re done, drain in a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water to cool them down.

2. Cut the sausage into coins and grill or saute them until cooked/heated through. (You can cut the coins smaller once grilled; I ended up quartering mine.)

3. Rinse the pasta pot with cold water so it’s nice and cool, and dump the noodles back in. Add the cooked sausage, bell pepper, and green onions, and toss well. If you’re using any sort of dressing, add that now too.

4. Season to taste; I ended up using a lot of red pepper flakes and just a dash of chili powder, and I could have used more of both.

5. Eat for days. If you have time to pop this in the fridge before you serve, even better; I liked it best at its coldest.

Three Bitty Burgers

I’m not a vegetarian, but over the years, I’ve found myself cooking less and less meat. I don’t love the process, I don’t love worrying so much about safety, and frankly, I don’t love how boring some meat-focused meals can feel. (I’m the girl who orders four side dishes and no meat at the steakhouse.) But ground beef has always been a bit of an exception. I like burgers, I like chili, and I like that I can tell when the meat is done without a lot of stress.

After making cabbage rolls, I found myself with 1/3 of a pound of ground beef left over — perfect for a night when I was cooking only for myself. I hit on the idea of sliders pretty early, figuring I’d drag out all the spices and toppings I could think of and play things by ear.

Three bitty burgers

I ended up with these three bitty burgers: one classic-with-a-twist, one Mediterranean-inspired, and one savory-spicy.

Here’s the breakdown:

Classic with a Twist
In the patty
Ground beef
Garlic powder
Red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

On the bun
Stone-ground mustard
Homemade pickled onions

In the patty
Ground beef
Feta cheese
Greek seasoning
Salt and pepper

On the bun
Trader Joe’s artichoke and red pepper spread

In the patty
Ground beef
Penzey’s Smoky 4s, aka my crack
Sweet-hot mustard
Salt and pepper

On the bun
Smoked gouda
Champagne mustard (…yeah, I have a lot of mustard)
Baby spinach
Sun-dried tomatoes

I had the highest hopes for the Mediterranean, and the feta in the patty worked well, but I liked the classic one the best. It tasted juiciest, which surprised me considering it was up against a burger that was about half mustard, and pickled onions just make everything more delicious.

Each served on 1/3 of a Dutch Crunch sandwich roll with oven-baked potato wedges, a side of sauteed spinach, and a few of the pickles I made the other week and don’t love (I think the problem was the cloves in the pickling spice; should’ve gone straight-up dill).

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Last week’s CSA box included a gorgeous Savoy cabbage, and for whatever reason, I immediately became obsessed with stuffing it. Why? Couldn’t tell you. I’d never cooked stuffed cabbage; in fact, I’m not sure I’d ever even eaten it. But every time I opened my fridge and saw the huge, beautiful cabbage in there, I kept thinking, “I want to put beef in you.”

Beautiful Cabbage

That, friends, is how mistakes get made. And eaten.

I had a couple of technique guides in Smitten Kitchen and Bittman, which is how I learned that the rice goes into the rolls uncooked and that you blanch the cabbage first to make it pliable. Cool. Good. Got it. Except … how do you get this:

Cabbage roll filling

to stay inside a tiny, floppy cabbage leaf?

You don’t. Or, um, I don’t. Bittman recommended trimming the vein out of the cabbage, then trimming each half even more so it was a rectangle. Yeah, a rectangle the size of my middle finger, which is what I wanted to give this whole project about halfway through. I could get about a fingernail’s worth of filling in that teeny little piece of cabbage, and even that went squirting out the seam when I tried to ever-so-gently burrito-roll it up. Eventually, I gave up on slicing and went with one whole cabbage leaf per roll, vein and all, figuring a tough cabbage roll would still be better than no cabbage roll at all.

Somehow, it all worked out once the rolls got into the sauce. It’s true what the recipes say: they really do steam themselves into little packets of deliciousness. We had some extra filling that we tossed, unwrapped, into the sauce at the same time as the rolls, and it turned out to be a delicious addition — shocking to me because I can’t cook rice decently under normal circumstances, much less in a pot of bubbling ad-hoc tomato sauce. And the cabbage vein thing wasn’t really an issue; I mean, it’s not like we were eating tree trunks or something.

cabbage rolls

A pretty decent first attempt, at least. (Though maybe a larger cabbage next time?)

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Large-ish leaves from one large-ish cabbage
2/3 lb. ground beef
3/4 c. rice (I used white; brown presumably takes longer, or I guess you could cook it first)
One medium onion, chopped
One carrot, shredded
A couple of turnips or a parsnip, shredded
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz. crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon chili powder (my crushed tomatoes were “fire-roasted,” so I ran with a spicy theme)
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
olive oil

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the cabbage leaves in the water a few at a time for about 45 seconds each, then drain and rinse with cold water.

2. Saute half the chopped onion, the carrot, the turnip/parsnip, and the garlic in some olive oil until softened.

3. In a large bowl, combine the uncooked ground beef and uncooked rice, mixing and breaking up any clumps with a wooden spoon. Stir in the veggies and season with salt, pepper, and chili powder.

4. In a large, deep saucepan or Dutch oven — I re-used the same pot that I’d cooked onion and carrots in — saute the other half of the chopped onion. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and simmer.

5. While the sauce simmers, prep the cabbage rolls by any means necessary. For me, it was best to leave the vein in the cabbage, plop a couple of tablespoons of filling in the center, and roll the leaf like a burrito. If you have larger cabbage leaves, you might be able to cut out the vein at least partially. Do what works. It’ll be OK.

6. Place the rolls, seam-down, in the simmering sauce. Add any extra filling to the sauce, if desired.

7. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 30-45 minutes. If the sauce gets too thick, you can add a bit of water to it. If you’re smart, as I wasn’t, you’ll also occasionally stir the sauce so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your pan.

Couscous with Apricot Vinaigrette and Almonds

A while back, Sabrina and I were talking about when a recipe is really and truly yours. She pegged it at the moment when you can make substitutions, when you can change it freely without fearing that you won’t be making the right thing.

I think it’s when you make something and forget it was ever a “recipe” at all.

Couscous with Apricot Vinaigrette and Almonds

That’s this meal for me. I’ve been making it for practically as long as I’ve been cooking (e.g. not just heating up a Smart Ones and pretending I’d made dinner). The original version came from Real Simple, apparently in June 2006, and I know I have the ripped-from-the-magazine copy somewhere in my unwieldy collection, but I can’t remember the last time I looked at it. I just go.

This is a meal I could handle making when I was 24. It takes less than 10 minutes. It’s not winning any nutritional trophies, but it’s not the worst, either. It makes delicious leftovers and only seems to get better with a day or two in the fridge. It can be eaten hot or cold. And though I’ll go months between making it, I seem to always have the ingredients for it in the house.

Five years on, this one is definitely mine.

Couscous with Apricot Vinaigrette and Almonds
(Adapted from Real Simple)

1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 cup water
2 green onions, thinly sliced
a little less than 1/4 c. rice vinegar
1/4 c. apricot preserves
1 tablespoon olive oil + more for dressing
1 tablespoon butter
a couple handfuls of slivered/sliced almonds

1. Stir the water, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and butter together in a saucepan and bring to a boil

2. Dump in the couscous, stir until moist, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes.

3. Whisk together the apricot preserves, rice vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil (to taste). I usually use a pyrex measure for this and microwave it briefly to help the preserves get soft.

4. Fluff the couscous with a fork. Stir in the green onions and almonds.

5. Pour the dressing on top of everything and stir until coated. Add more salt and pepper if desired.

Makes 3-4 servings.

Beet Chips

I have cookbooks and overflowing file folders and pinboards and bookmarks of recipes. Choosing what to make for dinner can involve a lengthy trek through Google Reader tags and a few magazines just looking for inspiration.

But every so often, something cuts through the fog and screams, “Make this now.” And beet chips were one of those things.

Beet Chips

Frankly, I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before; I like beets, and I like chips, and the “sweets and beets” mix is one of the only Terra Chip mixes that actually gets me to consider shelling out the money. But it took this recipe from my CSA to make me run to the fridge, pull out my mandoline for the second time ever*, and start slicing.

(*My problem with mandolines isn’t that I cut myself; it’s that I use the protector like the knife-paranoid person I am and then I only get through half my veggie; the rest ends up kind of smushed and gross and stuck to the protector.)

I’m not entirely sure why you soak the beets in simple syrup first; it does make them sweeter (and makes their ridges pop out in a really crazy, vein-y way), but I’m not sure it’s wholly necessary; it seemed like I drained off the vast majority of the liquid. I sliced on the thinnest setting my mandoline could actually handle — not the first click, which just chipped off oddly shaped chunks, but the one just beyond that — and I’d recommend that you do the same, as the thinner these are, the more they become like actual crunchy chips. The chewy ones aren’t bad, either, but the crunchy ones are satisfying in that snacky way.

As for the sour cream dip, I made up my own — and I’ve dipped literally every possible vegetable in my apartment in it since then. I wouldn’t call it a recipe, because it’s really just sour cream with herbs stirred in, but it’s delicious nonetheless.

Beet Chips with Herbed Sour Cream
(Adapted from Eatwell Farm)

Two medium beets
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Sour cream
Salt and pepper
Other herbs to taste

1. Peel the beets and slice them as finely as you possibly can
2. Bring the water and sugar to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved
3. Add beet slices and remove the pan from heat; let stand for 15 minutes
5. Pre-heat the oven to 225
4. Drain the beets in a colander; let stand for 15 minutes
5. Spread the beets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for an hour or until the beets are dry (I went just about an hour)
6. Transfer the beets to a rack to cool; the chips will crisp more as they cool, but I found that the most chip-like ones of mine were already crisp as I was taking them off the baking sheet
7. While the chips are cooling, stir together the sour cream, chopped dill, a bit of salt and pepper, and whatever other herbs catch your eye. Dip away!

Zucchini and Turnip Pie with Potato Crust

Every other Wednesday, I pick up my CSA box from a neighbor’s house, and it’s probably my favorite 15 minutes of the day — unloading all the gorgeous, fresh produce, poring over the newsletter the farm includes with flavor notes and cooking suggestions. (Now, thanks to my friend Marissa, I’m even trying to draw my vegetables). This week, the most exciting things I unloaded were some giant, rock-like Purple Viking potatoes and the season’s first zucchini. I know that a few weeks from now, I’ll be whining and moaning and wondering why my zucchini is multiplying like so many bunnies, but for now, it’s a delight.

My first thought was to re-make a particular tart from last summer, but it turns out I’d completely misremembered how to do it — I thought it had a cornmeal crust when in fact it had no crust at all, and the layers of potato and zucchini, while certainly delicious, were pretty much the only compelling things about the recipe. But my furious googling for that recipe turned up many others that gave me new inspiration.

Shredded Potatoes

I smushed a bunch of ideas together and ended up with a quiche-like filling poured into a crispy potato crust, which — why on earth have I not made a crust out of potato before? So easy: shred potatoes, add egg, bake, eat something that tastes suspiciously like french fries. I’m guessing the filling could be any vegetables you wanted; the turnips were a last-second addition when I realized I might finally have a use for a few that had been in my fridge far too long. (I actually should have picked up more today, but I left them in the CSA swap box and took extra basil home instead.)

My biggest surprise was that I used less of everything than I planned — one potato instead of two (granted, it was a hefty potato); only one zucchini; even less cheese. Full disclosure: Pete came home in time to finish up the seasoning, so I can’t claim much part of that, but I will say that what he added was totally delicious and not at all what I would have done. That’s part of the learning, right?

Zucchini Pie in Potato Crust

One last thing: If you have an awesome grater like I do, then by all means, shred everything. (Sometimes I grate things just for fun, this thing is that awesome.) If you don’t, slicing/chopping would be just fine for everything but the potato crust.

Zucchini and Turnip Pie with Potato Crust
Ingredients – for the crust
2-ish cups potato, shredded
1/4 of a medium onion, shredded or finely chopped
1 egg
salt and pepper

Ingredients – for the filling
2-ish cups zucchini, shredded
the rest of the onion, shredded or finely chopped
1/2 cup of turnips, shredded
2 whole eggs
2 egg whites
a bit of shredded cheese
spices of your choice (we used: regular salt and pepper, shallot salt, and a bit of Chinese five-spice powder)

1. First, make the crust. Preheat the oven to 400. In a bowl, combine the shredded potato and onion and season with salt and pepper.

2. Beat the egg, pour it over the potato mixture, and stir.

3. Butter/oil the baking dish of your choice (mine was a 9″ glass pie plate) and press the potato mixture into the bottom and up the sides.

4. Bake the crust for 40 minutes. (One recipe I read said something about baking for 25 minutes, then brushing it with olive oil, then baking for the other 15 so that it would get crispier. I did that, but I’m not sure it added much except a dirty kitchen brush.)

5. While the crust is baking, shred up the rest of the vegetables. When the crust has about 10 minutes to go, start to saute them in a little butter/oil/saute magic liquid of your choosing. Season them as they’re getting soft.

6. In a large bowl, beat together the 2 eggs and 2 whites. Stir in the vegetables and add cheese, if you’d like, or any other seasonings.

7. Pour the filling mixture into the crust and pop it back into the oven until it looks set — probably about 20-25 minutes. (Mine was 20 on the dot.)

8. Let cool for about five minutes so it’s not a sloppy, eggy mess when you cut into it.

Arugula “Potesto” Pesto

Arugula Pesto Pizza

A few years back, when we lived in the neighborhood affectionately known as the Tenderknob, a friend of ours turned us on to Za Pizza. Or, I should say, turned us on to the Potesto pizza, because frankly I have no idea what any of Za’s other pizzas taste like. Why would I? Carbs topped with carbs, roasted garlic, and fresh pesto pretty much covered all my bases.

We moved out of Za’s delivery range three years ago, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that since then, we’ve been trying foolishly to recreate the Potesto for ourselves. We don’t do it consciously; it’s not an epic quest. It’s just that we’ll have pizza dough, and we’ll be wondering what to put on it, and inevitably someone will say, “how about some potatoes?” and someone else will say, “and we’ve got garlic…” and pretty soon, we’re making another knockoff Potesto.

This week, I was moving things around in the freezer and uncovered a forgotten ball of frozen pizza dough. And we had potatoes. Of course.

Unbaked Arugula Pesto Pizza

It’s appropriate that pizza would be one of the first posts on this blog, because if you want to talk about something I’ve eaten a lot of mistakes of, it’s homemade pizza. For people who really like pizza, we took our sweet time getting a pizza peel, and even with the peel, dinner can go from pizza to calzone with one false twitch of the wrist. Of course, this was the one time I actually got all of the pizza onto the stone instead of onto the floor or the bottom of the oven or some such. I could totally pretend that I’m some sort of home-oven-pizza genius. But I won’t, because that would be a lie.

No, the problem with this round was that I took on too much. I wanted to try slicing the potatoes with a mandoline for the first time, which — well, that’s a story for another time, but they came out super-thin, which was the whole point, and yet I still decided to toss them in the oven to pre-bake them a little. Bottom line, this was very nearly potato chip pizza. On top of that, I wanted to caramelize onions for the first time ever (yes, ever; re: not a cook), and I had no idea how long that would take, and so they also got a little crispy.

But it’s OK, because everything came right back to life thanks to this pesto (OK, the ball of mozzarella sliced on top of the pizza might have helped, too). As I learned, you really don’t need too much arugula to pull it off; I was using a fairly old bunch from our CSA, and once I thinned out all the yellowing leaves, I worried it wouldn’t be enough. (After blanching, rinsing, and squeezing, I had a ball about the size of my fist.) Lesson learned: it’s fine. And if it’s not fine, just add more olive oil.

I’ve made versions of this pesto a couple of times now; I think Michael Chiarello’s was my original base, but the vitamin C thing scared me off, so I merged it with a basil pesto recipe from our CSA and a little bit of “thaaaat looks right” and came up with something pretty tasty. Still room for improvement, though, so let me know if you’ve got any favorite arugula pesto tricks. Meanwhile, here’s what I’ve got so far:

Arugula Pesto
2-ish cups arugula leaves
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2-3 smashed garlic cloves, depending on how much you like garlic
a small fistful of pine nuts (1-2 Tablespoons? I have tiny hands)
olive oil — probably 1/4 to 1/2 cup, but I add it straight from the bottle
salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash the arugula and place in a sieve/mesh strainer/whatever you’ve got.

2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil.

3. Blanch the arugula in the boiling water for a few seconds. Then rinse it under cold water until it’s cool enough to handle. (This step may be totally unnecessary, but I trusted Chiarello at first and now it’s habit)

4. Squeeze as much water out of the arugula as possible. If you’re anything like me, you will be bummed by how little arugula you have left. It’s OK. You can always add more olive oil.

5. Dump the arugula in a food processor (or chop it first if you’d like; my food processor is pretty awful but can generally get through wet arugula, so I just go straight there). Add smashed garlic, parmesan, and pine nuts, and give it a whirl.

6. Add olive oil (I do it in a steady stream while the food processor is still chopping) until things start to look good and pesto-y.

7. Give it a taste. Add salt, pepper, more cheese, more olive oil, whatever you need.

I like this on pasta, but it’s also a fabulous base for a faux-testo Potesto pizza of your own creation.

Turkey Bolognese (and, Hello!)

I’m a baker. Type A. Precise. A cup of flour leveled neatly with a knife. A recipe, open in front of me, followed to the letter. A long internal debate over whether it’s OK to top off that cream that’s juuuuuust shy of two cups with a splash of milk.

I’m not a cook. I can cook, and I do cook, but I’m not a cook. The difference to me between the noun and the verb is that cooks have a feel for things. They know when a recipe needs a little of this, a little of that, more salt, a spice I never would have thought of.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t try, and recently, I’ve been trying more — helped along by my CSA delivery getting awesome for the summer, a general desire to stop eating out at restaurants all the time, and a penchant for taking on projects that are maybe just slightly above my actual kitchen abilities (like trying to pickle everything). I also got a new camera that finally takes decent pictures of food. Add it all up, and … we have a blog.

The other night, before I realized that I wanted to write about all of this, I actually made one of my first successful “a little of this, a little of that” recipes: a turkey bolognese sauce assembled from an assortment of things left in my fridge. I didn’t keep track of amounts, really, and I can’t promise I remember everything that went in, but that’s kind of the point of it, isn’t it? To add and add and mix and add until it tastes right?

More to come. For now, make some pasta and top it with this.

Totally Made-Up Turkey Bolognese Sauce
1/2 lb. ground turkey
a bunch of tomatoes, chopped (I used six small-ish tomatoes)
as much onion as you like, chopped (I used half of a really big one)
stock/broth/water (a cup should be plenty)
tomato paste (a tablespoon or so)
a bell pepper, carrots, celery – whatever other veggies you have around
splash of white wine
olive oil
your favorite Italian seasonings


1. In a large skillet, saute the chopped onion in some olive oil until it starts to soften. Toss in any other hard veggies you might have (carrots, celery, etc.)

2. Add the turkey, breaking up any chunks, and cook until it starts to brown

3. Toss in the tomatoes and stir; they’ll start releasing juices pretty fast. I also added my bell pepper along with the tomatoes.

4. This is where it gets very “just do what looks right”-ish. I added a bit of stock and a splash of wine and stirred till it all combined

5. Season as you’d like. I started with the tomato paste, stirred it in, and then grabbed whatever Penzeys bottles were nearby. I even tossed in a splash of sherry vinegar for some reason.

6. Turn the heat down and simmer for a while. I let it go for 30 minutes before checking on it, and most of the liquid had already evaporated, so you might want to go even lower with the heat or simmer for a shorter amount of time.

7. Eat! I boiled some pasta, added this sauce and some shredded gouda, topped it with bread crumbs, and popped it in the oven for a little while for more of a baked pasta feel, but I think it would be delicious on anything.

This made enough sauce for four generous servings of pasta.