Thursday, September 30, 2010

Time for some okra!!

I needed to use the okra before it went bad, but it was tough finding a recipe that wasn't for FRIED okra!  I appreciate that frying is the traditional way to make okra, but I am trying to be somewhat healthy.  So I was pretty excited when I found a recipe online for barbecued okra.  I was planning to put the link in here, but I am having some computer difficulties tonight so I don't have the link handy, but I will try to add it in if I can get those issues resolved.  There are no pictures tonight due to those issues either :-(

The barbecued okra recipe is basically a list of spices, including cayenne pepper.  All of the spices were mixed together, then I washed the okra and cut off the stems, tossed the okra in olive oil, then coated them with the spices.  I have some metal non-stick skewers so I put the okra on the skewers.  I decided to have a nice steak with the okra, so I prepared the steak next - a really lovely filet mignon.  I am a big fan of really good steak, and I like to taste the meat, so I only season my steak with sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, and some fresh minced garlic.  I set the okra and steak aside for a few minutes for the next task.

I decided to make the recipe that came with my CSA bag this week - basil, garlic & honey vinaigrette dressing.  This only took a few minutes, and was really good compared to the bottled salad dressing I normally use.  I prepared the dressing and then started up the grill.  I put the steak on for just a couple of minutes to sear on one side, then flipped it over and put the okra on.  I turned the okra after about 3 minutes and also flipped the steak.  I like my steak pretty rare so they both cooked for the same amount of time.  While they were grilling I prepared my salad.  I picked up some spinach leaves to add to my salad greens, so I mixed about 40% spinach, 40% green leaf lettuce and 20% arugula.  The arugula from Desert Roots Farm is good but it was a bit too strong for me last time when I mixed it 50/50 with the green leaf!  Tonight was a much better mix.  I added some chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, topped it off with dried cranberries and sliced almonds, then of course the vinaigrette I had just prepared.  That was just enough time for the rest of my dinner to be finished on the grill, and to pour a glass of Cabernet.

I hope I can add some pictures when my computer gets fixed because it sure looked lovely!  The okra was somewhat crispy on the outside and moist but not slimy on the inside.  And the coating was just enough spice for me (I might decrease the cayenne pepper next time, I'm not too good with spicy stuff!)  There was enough steak and okra for 2 meals for me, so I'll be eating leftovers tomorrow.  I think this was a pretty healthy dinner, since okra has a lot of good nutritional value, which I didn't ruin by breading and frying it.  A little bit of steak is good for you now and then, and of course salad is great.  I would definitely recommend grilling okra!

I still have eggplant and black-eyed peas to prepare over the next few days before it goes bad.  I have a couple of recipes in mind, but please let me know if you have suggestions!

10/1 update: here's a pic of the steak and okra after it was barbecued:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lunch time! Caprese salad

When I saw all that yummy basil last night, all I could think about was caprese salad.  It is one of my favorite things to order in a restaurant, but I have never made it at home.  So I bought a hunk of mozzarella, and had a super yummy lunch today!  If you haven't had a caprese salad before, it's pretty simple: thick slices of fresh tomato topped with a thick slice of fresh mozzarella, with basil leaves (whole or chopped) on top, then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil (you need to pay for the good stuff), and a few drops of balsamic vinegar if you're into that.  The balsamic is not traditional for a caprese but I love the taste of it so any excuse to add it to something works for me.  Here's what it looked like:

The basil was sooo good so I added a bunch.  I also had some leftover potatoes and feta au gratin :-)  It tasted just as good leftover!

Something I forgot to mention yesterday - my veggie bag included a "recipe of the week" for basil, garlic & honey vinaigrette dressing.  I might try it tomorrow.  Basil can go bad pretty quickly so I need to use it up soon.  These veggies all last for different lengths of time so it's important to look that up.  They also require different storage techniques so I look that up too.  Some things should go in the fridge but some should not.  I don't know what I would do without Google!  Also, the Desert Roots Farm website (oddly enough - has lots of recipes and tips about their veggies, and I'm sure other CSAs do that as well.

No dinner tonight, it's happy hour night, but I'm still trying to decide what to make tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First day - potatoes and feta au gratin with okra

Today I picked up my first "basket" of veggies - yay!!  Here's what I got:
a bag of arugula
3 red potatoes
2 eggplants
2 onions
2 heads of garlic
a bag of sweet basil
4 anaheim chilies (mild)
a bunch of green black-eyed peas
and a big bag of okra

Since I'm eating all of the veggies by myself, I did a half share, which is really more like a 2/3 share.  So if you were to do a full share (or family sized), expect to get at least 50% more than this.

After staring at this lovely bunch of fresh veggies, I realized I needed to get moving on what to make for dinner tonight.  I did not have any meat in the fridge, and I didn't feel like heading back out to the grocery store, so I wanted to make sure I got some protein.  Good news!  Potatoes are full of nutrition, including protein!  Cheese is another good source of protein, and also happens to be one of my favorite foods, and I had a container of feta in the fridge.  So I got on IM with Nate (he's in China on business) to get some input from him on what I could make.  His suggestion - potatoes au gratin with feta, and add some okra into the sauce.  Yum!  I googled potatoes au gratin with feta and read a few ideas, then got to work in the kitchen.

If you've ever made potatoes au gratin, you know it can take quite awhile to cook.  Since I was getting started a bit late, I "cheated" by boiling the potatoes for a few minutes to start the cooking.  I think this is called par-boiling.  Be careful not to boil them for too long, you aren't making mashed potatoes!  Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and made the sauce.  I melted some butter in a saucepan, then sauted some onions and garlic until the onions were soft.  I wanted to add some herbs, so I looked in the fridge and found some fresh cilantro - hmmm ok, I tried that.  I also added some dried thyme and basil... I definitely want to plant an herb garden so I have more fresh herbs!  Then I poured in some milk (about a cup?) and turned the heat up a bit, and added some sliced okra, 2 pieces.  Once it started boiling, I simmered it for a bit, probably about 10 minutes, stirring quite often, while it thickened up.  While it was thickening, I sliced the potatoes.  The key here is to make thin slices - next time I'll slice them thinner!  Once the sauce was thick, I added salt and pepper and then stirred in some feta cheese.  I don't know how much, it was whatever looked good!

I used a square glass baking dish and sprayed it pretty well with Pam.  Then I started with a layer of the sauce, then potatoes, then sauce, potatoes and finally sauce.  The potatoes should be in a single layer.  I definitely did not make enough sauce!  But I wasn't about to go back and make more so I went with it.  I added a bunch more feta on top, especially on the potatoes that did not get covered with the sauce, and covered the whole thing with fresh cracked pepper.

It cooked for about 35 minutes, making the house smell amazing (is there anything better than the smell of roasted garlic and melted cheese??) and came out looking pretty good!
It tasted great too!  The okra really added to it and was soooo yummy!  While this was cooking, I was getting pretty hungry, so I made a quick salad - green leaf lettuce I had in the fridge, arugula, a couple basil leaves, chopped tomatoes and sliced almonds with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  I've had arugula in bagged salads quite a bit, but I wasn't prepared for the difference in this fresh arugula!  It had so much more taste! 

I was very satisfied after this whole meal - success!

So Day 1 is complete.  If you have any suggestions of what I can make with the remaining items I got this week, please share!  I'm excited to try the eggplant, I've never cooked that before.  And a little nervous about the anaheim chilies, but I am hoping they are truly mild as they are labeled.

Thanks for reading, and happy eating!

Friday, September 24, 2010

New blog

Ok, I have never blogged before, so cut me a little slack if I'm not doing it "right"!

Next week I am going to begin receiving baskets of vegetables from the Desert Roots Farms CSA - community supported agriculture - program. A CSA program is a great way to get lots of yummy food from local farms. It means you can support local agriculture, support the environment, and help yourself to eat healthy!

I have been interested in participating in a CSA program for awhile now, but was intimidated by the amount and types of vegetables I'd be receiving. After seeing what my boyfriend got through his CSA program, and seeing what types of meals he made out of it, I decided to go for it. I know some other people who are as intimidated as I was, so I decided to start this blog to discuss what kinds of foods I get each week and what I make with them. Note that I am NOT much of a cook, and tend to do things the simple (and lazy) way, but I want to learn how to cook better and therefore EAT better. Because if there's one thing I love to do, it's EAT!

Stay tuned for my next post when I pick up my first basket of goodies next Tuesday 9/28. Until then, happy eating!!