Lip Singe Challenge

I am not usually a fan of spicy foods, but I do make exceptions. One of them is green papaya salad, which I will order whenever I see it on a menu at a Thai restaurant. Green papaya salad is one of the reasons I keep coming back to the Lowell Folk Festival, although the last time we were there it was too spicy for me. Our friend Dan ended up eating it. He’s spent years in Southeast Asia and didn’t think it was spicy. He was less prepared for two straight hours of whining from Beatrix about a balloon, which somehow didn’t phase us! Amazing what you get used to.

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I haven’t posted a green papaya salad in large part because green papaya can be hard to come by, and I try to post things with accessible ingredients. But as luck would have it, there is a pounded green papaya salad recipe in Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook Cravings, which I borrowed from the library during my prep-athon last week, and she includes an adaptation that substitutes green beans for papaya. And I had just panic-bought two pounds of green beans on the same trip!

I’ve actually modified this recipe down to the lowest level of spicy. That also makes it a pantry recipe for me, because I have dried hot peppers from the Winter CSA; just use a pinch of red chili flakes if you don’t. You need an entire lime for this one, and you must eat it with rice to calm your face down. If fish sauce isn’t your thing, this recipe is not for you. But, boy, are you missing out. 

It works best if you have a mortar and pestle for the pounding, but if you don’t, Teigen suggests using a muddler. I ended up splitting the difference, using a pestle in a metal bowl once all the green beans were added in. 

I flippin’ love this recipe so much. Thank you, Chrissy Teigen. If you don’t have green beans or a green papaya, it’ll also work with shredded cucumber. 

Pounded Thai Green Bean Salad from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings

Ingredients 

1 lime, halved

1 dried red chile pepper

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons palm, raw or light brown sugar

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 pound green beans

3 tablespoons chopped unsalted roasted peanuts (optional)

Rice, for serving 

Special Equipment

Large mortar and pestle (or you can fake it; see recipe) 

Directions 

Cut one-half of the lime into small wedges and place in a large mortar along with the dried chile, garlic and sugar. Crush with the pestle until the chile is mashed and bruised but not totally pulverized and the sugar is dissolved. Add the tomatoes and pound a few times to bruise the tomates. (You can also accomplish this with a plain old bowl and a round-ended cocktail muddler. Or you can chop the garlic first and just mix and mash everything in a mixing bowl. Squeeze the juice from the remaining  lime half (about 1 tablespoon) into the mortar and stir in the fish sauce. 

Trim and cut the green beans into 2-inch lengths. You should have about 4 cups of beans. 

Add the green beans to the mortar and mash and toss lightly. Divide the salad among bowls. If desired, top with peanuts. Serve with rice. 

 

There’s a Horse… in the Hospital

“Are you reusing a tea bag?” Rich just asked me as I poured hot water into a mug. Indeed, I am. That’s a trick I picked up from my stepdad Max, one of many food hoarding behaviors I realized recently trace back to him. A lot of them stem from the fact that he, and my mom, were both children of Holocaust survivors. Max’s parents met and married in a displaced person camp. My mom was born on a farm in Provence, where her family was in hiding after fleeing Germany in the 30s. 

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Being raised by Children of Survivors means I’ve been practicing for unprecedented events like this my whole life. My pantry is fully stocked, and I panicked shopped three weeks ago, so my freezer downstairs and mini-fridge are in good shape. Rich was perplexed, and a bit annoyed, that I brought home extra toilet paper in February when he had just bought some, but I told him it was for later. 

Still, with all my extra-preparedness, I can’t help but worry for people who don’t have the economic ability to fill up a freezer in the basement, or even afford an extra package of toilet paper. All of us Parrs will be telecommuting from home for the foreseeable future, Lilli included, although Bea may never learn what letter comes after R at this rate.

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Bea’s purim costume from last weekend.

My hope is to get back to updating this site more frequently. But I will remind you right now that Cheap Beets already has a ton of pantry-friendly recipes. And of course I will keep posting meals on my Instagram feed, which has become my default way of getting food ideas out there.

The recipe I have for you today is one we’ve been making all winter. It’s a pantry recipe, meaning it doesn’t involve lots of fresh things, save for a chopped carrot, but chances are you have that in your fridge. I’m also guessing you have a big can of tomatoes, an onion, some bouillon or stock in the pantry, and a touch of sugar. 

If you have tomato paste, all the better – once I open my small can of it, I put the rest of it into a Ziploc bag in the freezer so I can break off tablespoons at a time for little flavor boosts with soups and sauces. 

Bea’s a big fan of this soup, and loves slurping it alongside her grilled cheeses

Now back to my tea.

Tomato Soup

Ingredients 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 large onion, sliced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 28 oz, can of tomatoes (chopped, diced, pureed – it doesn’t really matter for this one)

2 to 3 cups stock (or water or water with bouillon) 

2 teaspoons brown sugar (use white if that’s all you have) 

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Pour the oil into a large, deep pot over medium heat. When hot, add the tomato paste and let it cook for a minute, then add the onion and carrot. Sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring until the onion begins to soften, about 7 minutes. 

Add the canned tomato and cook, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes break up, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the stock or water, stir, then bring to a boil. Adjust the heat and simmer long enough for the flavors to mingle, about 10 minutes.  

When the soup is done, puree it carefully in a blender or with an immersion blender. 

Serve hot, preferably with a grilled cheese sandwich. 

When I dip you dip we dip

The new year has come and gone, and so has Chanukah and Christmas, two holidays that filled our house with guests and lots of gifts for the girls. We had our bathroom floor replaced before the break, and now we, and the contractors know, that the pipes are in the wall, rather than the floor. Live and learn. 

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We hosted a latke bash for the last night of Chanukah, and served latkes made with veggies from our winter CSA: sweet potato, potato, and celery root and carrot. We also used potatoes Lilli planted with her kindergarten at the farm at her school last year. They weeded and composted, and cared for the potatoes since last April. 

We served the latkes with your choice of sour cream or apple sauce. For those wanting to guild the lily, you could also have creme fraiche, chives and caviar I found in my pantry when we were cleaning up from the aforementioned bathroom floor incident.

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I also made a gluten-free mac and cheese, with local milk, cheese and butter. (At Sylvie’s suggestion, I used corn starch in the roux; it was very easy to work with.) We had a big Greek salad, and this spinach and artichoke dip. 

I’ve been serving this dip for years, and it’s always a hit. Apologies for not sharing it sooner. The combo of fresh spinach and garlic, chopped artichoke hearts, cream cheese, cheese, a touch of mayo, and more cheese on top, is a winner, regardless of the gathering. 

It has about a pound of fresh spinach in it. That may seem like a lot, but as we say in this house, spinach is a lie. Plus, when you realize how much dairy the recipe calls for, the spinach seems to shrink even more than it has already. 

I tend to make this and bake it hours before serving, and then pop it into a hot oven for a brown crust on top right before serving. 

Amazingly, we had some left over from the party, and this weekend Rich put it in the waffle iron with batter for breakfast. Proof that you really can waffle anything!
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Spinach and Artichoke Dip 

Ingredients

1 lb. fresh spinach, cleaned

2 cloves garlic, slivered

1 can, chopped artichoke hearts

⅓ cup mayonnaise 

1 package cream cheese, softened

2 cups shredded cheese (think mozzarella or provolone)

1.5 cups shredded parmesan 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F

In a very large pot, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add garlic, and a pinch of kosher salt. Add the spinach, in batches if you have to. Cook it down – add a little water to help it cook down. This should take about seven minutes.

While the spinach cooks, chop your artichoke hearts and cut up the cream cheese. 

Once the spinach has shrunk, add the artichoke hearts and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients, except for the parmesan. Stir until everything is combined and soft. 

Pour mixture into a lasagna pan and bake in the 350F oven for 20 minutes. 

Before serving, raise the temperature of the oven to 400, sprinkle the parmesan on top, and bake until golden and bubbly. 

Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips, or cut up vegetables. Up to you, really. 

Snack-O-Lantern

Rich and the girls went on a corn maze adventure last Sunday, and somehow brought home EIGHT pumpkins at the end of the day. Two were painted by the girls, and we’re halfway through carving the two big ones into jack-o-lanterns:

But the small sugar pumpkin, whose stem Lilli accidentally broke off, was roasted immediately and is now pumpkin pudding. I suggest you do the same with your sugar pumpkins. 

To rescue the broken pumpkin, we cut it in half lengthwise and removed the seeds and stringy guts with an ice cream scoop. Then we roasted the pumpkin, cut-side down and brushed with olive oil in a 400F oven, for about 50 minutes.

The recipe couldn’t be simpler; everything goes into a blender. The cookbook – The L.L. Bean Book of New New England Cookery, by Judith and Evan Jones – was inherited from Nana Parr. A friend commented on the photo of the pudding, noting how she also had inherited cookbooks and recipes. “It’s so special to pass on that love.”

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As for this recipe, I skipped the amaretto liqueur. I know a cup is a lot of honey. I personally made a point not to use the expensive kind I own for this recipe. I used golden raisins for my raisins. I find the pudding tastier a little warm, so I’ve been scooping myself servings, then heating it up in the microwave for about a minute before serving. This would be great with whipped cream, although we have been enjoying it with plain yogurt with a little maple syrup drizzled in. This is a pumpkin pudding that tastes like autumn without tasting anything like pumpkin spice. 

Put your kettle on for the water bath before you start making the pudding; it comes together that quickly.

Pumpkin Pudding from The L. L. Bean Book of New New England Cookery by Judith and Evan Jones 

Ingredients 

2 cups pumpkin puree 

4 eggs

½ cup water

1 cup honey

½ cup raisins

½ cup currants

4 Tablespoons flour 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F. Heat a kettle of water. 

Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix thoroughly. 

Pour the batter in a shallow, lightly buttered baking dish, and place the dish in a pan containing about 1 inch of hot water.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

Serves 6 to 8.

Magic Tofu

I did a quick glance through the past few posts that I managed to get up on this site, and I’m slightly embarrassed to realize they are all desserts. And what’s more, I came to tell you about our local and sustainable Rosh Hashana, with a recipe for a scrumptious carrot cake. 

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Lest you think we eat dessert all day long, I will instead share a recipe I’ve been meaning to post for months now. It’s actually a recipe that I’ve already shared, but with enough tweaks that it is a completely different beast. It’s now the best darn tofu I’ve had in my life. 

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Remember the special, special tofu that people flipped for last year? Well, I’ve made it better. And instead of a three-day marinade, this is now a less-than 20 minutes from start to finish recipe. First you’re going to blot dry your tofu, then cut it up, toss it with some corn starch, then fry it in a nonstick pan. Flip it, fry the other side, pour the sauce on top of your golden, crisped up tofu. Soon enough, you’ll be looking at the prettiest, glossiest tofu. And it tastes even better than it looks. 

There is one thing about this recipe that has stopped me from posting: It tastes best right out of the pan. I can’t figure out how to reheat the leftovers, so you’ll need enough people to eat all the tofu. Unless you want to stuff yourself, but please don’t do that!

The Best Tofu You’ve Had in Your Life, adapted from Saladish by Ilene Rosen

Ingredients 

1 (14 oz [400 g]) block extra-firm tofu 

2 to 3 Tablespoons (16 to 24 g) cornstarch

1 Tablespoon  (15 ml) oil, for pan

Sauce

2 Tablespoons mirin

3 Tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

4 ½ teaspoons flavorless vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon Tamari

1 Tablespoon honey 

Directions

Drain the tofu and squeeze it between your hands over the sink to get the excess water out. Slice it into cubes, or slabs. Sprinkle 1 heaping Tablespoon (about 8 to 12g) cornstarch into a large container, add the tofu in a single layer , then sprinkle another heaping tablespoon (8 to 12g) of cornstarch. If you can, cover the container and shake to coat the tofu with cornstarch.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu in a single layer and fry, flipping once when golden, until crispy on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. (While the tofu is frying, prepare the sauce.) Lower the heat to medium and pour in the sauce. Let the sauce simmer and thicken for a couple of minutes, flipping to tofu to coat it on both sides. 

Serve immediately. 

 

Carpe Diem

Let’s see, it’s been a month since we celebrated Lilli’s birthday party, and I have just a few weeks before Passover starts. Apologies for those expecting a gluten-free recipe for the holiday, but I’ve wanted to share these whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies for years on the blog. It’s 6:51 am, and it’s the weekend. Carpe Diem, my friends.

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This year Lilli made it clear she did not want a cake, but rather these cookies by Kim Boyce that made the rounds, let’s see, oh, nine years ago. We baked dozens and froze them two weeks before the party, along with these spectacular and very simple blondies. We also made these halva tahini brownies that were so simple, and so so delicious, that really, the only thing you should be doing right now is melting some chocolate into olive oil.

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But yes, these cookies. They are a fan favorite. The whole wheat makes for a deeper, nuttier taste. The butter remains cold so you don’t have to plan in advance to made them as you do with most cookie recipes that call for softened butter. I promised my friend Ben a care package, and I do plan on mailing some to him. We got up early the day of Lilli’s party and made the smaller sized ones into ice cream sandwiches because, well, Carpe Diem, my friends.

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We had about 50 people in total to the house that day. A mix of current kindergarten friends, friends from PreK, friends from my Hebrew school class that Lilli comes to every Sunday with me, and a few pals from around town. Parents were invited to drop off or stay. Most stayed once they saw the spread in the kitchen.

This year I served: Michael Solomonov’s hummus (we used the Instapot for the first time to (intentionally) overcook the chickpeas; caramelized onion dip;  butternut squash and chickpea salad (which was kind of eh); Brussels sprouts with leeks, parmesan and chestnuts; Vietnamese tofu; peanut butter noodles; farro with dried apricots, mushrooms and hazelnuts; marinated roasted red peppers served with fresh mozzarella and crusty bread. You know, the usual fare for a six-year-old’s party

There was also the usual chips, dip, Pirate’s Booty, Lilli’s stuffed dates, pizza, and crudite for nibblers.

The kids clearly had a blast playing dress-up, doing art projects, and for some of the boys, playing tag inside the house. There may have been a lightsaber that needed confiscation.

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We sang happy birthday and enjoyed the aforementioned desserts, along with a Panda chocolate chip cookie cake by Papa, and some melon. It was a great party. And I still have about a dozen cookies in the downstairs freezer, despite Rich’s best efforts to finish them.

Kim Boyce’s Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

Dry Mix

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

Wet Mix

8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

8 ounces chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Although you can butter the sheets instead, parchment is useful for these cookies because the large chunks of chocolate can stick to the pan.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.
  3. Add the butter and the sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  4. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter. Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then scrape the batter out onto a work surface, and use your hands to fully incorporate all the ingredients.
  5. Scoop mounds of dough about 3 tablespoons in size onto the baking sheet, leaving 3 inches between them, or about 6 to a sheet.
  6. Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly dark brown. Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment, to the counter to cool, and repeat with the remaining dough. These cookies are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day. They’ll keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

 

Cooking for a Crowd

I feel a little silly coming to this space to tell you about a recipe that took the internet by storm  (checks notes, squints eyes) TEN YEARS AGO. I’ve been making it for years without a peep on this blog, but this fall I learned it’s very easy to double, triple, and even sextuple the recipe. So now I’m here to share the gospel of chickpea and butternut squash salad with tahini dressing.

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A local friend who I met through this blog has developed a crew of kiddush makers for the Conservative synagogue in town. Our volunteer group gathers in the kitchen every few weeks when it’s our turn to get the meal on the table. I’ve been tapped to do the menu planning, and it’s been a learning process. I think December’s Chinese food themed luncheon, with lo mein, magic tofu, Asian slaw, and gingery roasted broccoli salad, all served on top of white rice, was the best one we’ve churned out so far.

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Catching you up on the girls: here’s Bea at her ballet recital from December.

But for one of our earlier meals this fall, I made this chickpea and butternut squash salad with a tahini dressing using six butternut squashes I had piling up in my kitchen from the end of the fall CSA. I made it again this week in my own kitchen with tahini I picked up from Buy Nothing Northampton. As you can see in the photo, Rich tossed his with arugula we had in the fridge for a little something extra.

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And here’s the birthday girl Lilli at school this past Friday!

I think this is technically supposed to be served warm, but since it travels well and makes great leftovers, I’m not too picky about the temp it’s served at.

Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients

For salad:

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (1 1/2 cups)

1/4 of a medium red onion, finely chopped

For tahini dressing:

1 medium garlic clove, finely minced with a pinch of salt

Juice from half a lemon

3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, olive oil, and a few pinches of salt. Toss the squash pieces until evenly coated. Roast them on a baking sheet for 25 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and cool.

Meanwhile, make the tahini dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and lemon juice. Add the tahini, and whisk to blend. Add the water and olive oil, whisk well, and taste for seasoning. You might need to add more water to thin it out.

To assemble the salad, combine the squash, chickpeas, and onion in a mixing bowl. Add the tahini dressing to taste, and toss carefully.