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. 

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. 

 

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.

Anytime Tofu

I just sat down to share my Rosh Hashana menu from last month, but then had second thoughts because that was 12 dishes, plus three desserts. I will say this about that meal: The unsaid goal of the meal I set for myself was to build up to such a crescendo that by the time dessert was served, the vegans would want to eat the all three cakes served. Mission accomplished.

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Making Chocolate Granola.

But I worry I would bore you with all the details. I will instead, in honor of the vegans who were willing to eat the honey, share this tofu dish which I now have to keep in a Google Doc because people keep asking me for the recipe. It started, as it does quite frequently, at a Tot Shabbat. A little boy enjoyed the tofu so much that he declared that tofu was now his favorite food in the world and demanded his mom track down the recipe. I tripled the recipe at Rosh Hashana and have been pleasing folks right and left, since.

It’s from Saladish, which I wrote about last time I found my way here, and I’m OK still talking about this cookbook because it is such a good one. I marinate my tofu in a gallon-size Ziploc bag for a good three days before roasting and serving it. It’s actually part of a salad that I’ve never completed because I’m so stuck on the tofu.  

20181008_104047.jpgI always skip the sambal oelek to make sure young mouths won’t find it too spicy. I also cut up my tofu before putting it in the marinade, although the recipe is written to soak it whole.

Tofu (From a recipe called “Vietnamese-Style Tofu Salad” from Saladish by Ilene Rosen)

Marinade

2 tablespoons mirin

2 tablespoons sambal oelek (skip this because I skipped it. Too spicy for little ones.)

3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

4 ½ teaspoons flavorless vegetable oil

1 tablespoons tamari

1 tablespoon honey

Directions

Marinate the tofu: Whisk all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. Transfer to a covered container or plastic storage bag. Add the tofu and turn it over several times so it is well coated. Cover or seal and refrigerate for at least 1 day, and up to 5 days – the longer the better – turned the tofu (or bag) occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Set the tofu on a sheet pan, reserving any excess marinade. Swipe the tofu around to grease the pan. Cut the tofu horizontally in half, then cut the still stacked halves into quarters. Cut the quarters in half to form triangles and spread them out on the pan. [Or, you can cut the tofu before marinating.]

Baste the tops with the reserved marinade and bake for 10 minutes. Then flip the tofu over and return the oven for another 10 minutes. Let cool, then serve.

Compote Season

Well then. Now that I’m done teaching Hebrew school for the year, I can get back to ye olde blog. But honestly though, March is such a let down in terms of food. Then it was Passover, which I meant to write about, because let me tell you, we ate like kings every day of the holiday. But then April was unusually cold, which meant that the asparagus was late this year. It’s always the first week of May, but it was closer to a week and a half in before stalks started popping in my front yard.

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Rhubarb was also late this year, but has now officially started taking over people’s yards. Someone had so much of the plant that they put out a call on my beloved local Buy Nothing Facebook page, where my finds so far have included a nightstand, a bathroom clock, curtains, pizza, children’s snow pants, and, today, four free duck eggs.

I picked about 2 pounds worth of the ruby and emerald stalks, and was going to make it into a rhubarb compote, then use that to make a rhubarb spoon cake in Rich’s cast-iron skillet. But I only had a quarter cup of flour in the house, so compote was all I made in the end.

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However, inspiration struck as I was chopping up the rhubarb, and I added about 2 cups of cleaned and quartered fresh strawberries (bought for and rejected by the girls). I think if I’d had some fresh ginger on hand it would have rocketed this compote out of the stratosphere. All that being said, this brand new compote recipe is divine, and I even got the girls to bed a half hour earlier than usual tonight  because I needed to share this with you that badly.

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The rhubarb compote and spoon bread recipe is from Erin French’s The Lost Kitchen, which I wrote about last summer, because her custard with freshly picked blueberries and basil, remains one of the tastiest and most elegant desserts I have ever served.

I’ve enjoyed this on Greek yogurt (full fat, please) as well as on local vanilla ice cream. Yes, both; don’t judge, it needed to happen. The compote now sitting in a glass jar in my fridge and will last about a week. I mean, the compote will be good for about a week. I don’t see this lasting past Friday.

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Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote

Adapted from Erin French’s The Lost Kitchen

Ingredients

3 cups chopped rhubarb (1-inch pieces)

⅔ cup sugar

Zest of one lemon

Juice of one half lemon

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 cups cleaned and quartered fresh strawberries

Directions

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the rhubarb, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Bring to a summer over medium heat, stirring constantly until the rhubarb becomes tender and sauce-like, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cleaned strawberries and cook for about 4 more minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. This will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Kissed with Garlic

I’m not sure if more people go to the Middle East in Cambridge’s Central Square for the food or the live music, but for me, the draw to the night club and restaurant was always the whipped garlic. They serve it in a miniscule bowl, smaller than a saucer, with triangles of pita, served in a small wicker basket, on the side for dipping.

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I think the owners are Egyptian – they also make a terrific fool – but it took me years to learn that the zippy sauce I craved was actually Lebanese. It’s called toum and if you go into, literally, any Lebanese falafel and shwarma shop it will be an option next to the tahini sauce as they build your dish. Toum was once described to me as a “very strong kiss of garlic,” by another Lebanese restauranteur.

And even though I have spent hours of my life thinking about this sauce, it wasn’t until this winter as I stockpiled garlic from my Winter CSA that it ever occurred to me that I could skip the lines and make my very own jar of toum. I should add the reason I had so much garlic on hand is because I was sent an Israeli product, Dorot, which packages frozen cubes of garlic, ginger and a few other herbs, and has simplified my life so much. Making a soup and want some garlic? Putting together a curry and you want a ton of ginger and garlic? Toss in some frozen Dorot cubes. They are a life changer. But that means my garlic pile on the counter kept on growing and I barely touched it.

 

 

20180129_081217.jpgIt wasn’t until I got the February Bon Appetit that I finally made my way to the kitchen. I ended up using an amalgam of recipes, rather than the one in the magazine. The best advice I’ve read about making this sauce is to put your bottle of oil in the fridge while you prep the garlic, which takes time because you really want to remove any green stems as that will cause your dip to be bitter. Trust me, I’ve had bitter toum and it really was awful; definitely take the time to clean your garlic thoroughly. The recipes also warn that this is an emulsion, so go s-l-o-w-l-y when adding the chilled oil. It’s best done in a food processor.

This made a canning jam jar of the sauce, and I put it on everything while it lasted in the fridge. It’s great on roasted potatoes — and roasted sweet potatoes. I spread it on Friday night challah, dolloped it in red lentil and potato stew, and even used it as a dressing on salad greens.

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Although the recipe calls for 4 cups of oil, I think mine hit the right consistency, like a thin mayonnaise, before I poured in 2 cups. They say it lasts up to 4 weeks in the fridge, but trust me when I say you’ll use it up long before then. 

Toum (Lebanese Garlic Sauce)

Put your bottle of oil into the fridge as you gather the rest of your ingredients and prep the garlic

Ingredients

Up to 4 cups grapeseed, avocado or extra virgin olive oil

½ cup of peeled garlic cloves

Juice of 1 lemon, divided

½ cup of ice water, divided

Kosher salt

Directions

Before you begin, place your oil in the freezer or refrigerator so that it is chilled, but still liquid. While the oil chills, remove the ends from your garlic cloves, split them in half and remove any green layers from inside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine garlic cloves, a hefty pinch of salt, juice of half a lemon, and 1/4 cup of the ice cold water.

Process until smooth, then stop and scrape the sides of the food processor with a spatula.

Turn the food processor back on and drizzle the chilled oil through the top as SLOWLY as possible, one cup at a time.

Scrape down the sides of the food processor as necessary. Be sure that your processor does not get too hot, as this can cause your sauce to separate.

Juice the second half of the lemon, and add the rest of the ice water.

 

Add oil until you’ve reached the texture you desire. The final result should resemble a thin mayonnaise. Store toum in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four weeks, although it will be long gone before then.  

 

Apply to everything.