Half A Salad with a Full Garden

Last summer I was getting all fancy with the gardening and the fresh stuff and piles and piles of lettuce to show for all my hard work. Thanks to my appaent inability to withold memories I went and planted flowers and herbs on top of where the end of last year’s crop went to seed. So what happened? Rogue lettuce. EVERYWHERE. It was growing out of the drainpipe hole at the end of the garden bed. It was springing up from between the cracks in the sidewalk. It was sort of grow up and through a rock?? And that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that even with all that crazy ninja lettuce popping up everywhere and messing up my carefully planned out herb garden I’ve gotten about 10 good leaves from the lot of them.

On the bright side (in the back where we get more sun) I’ve had so many tomatoes that the only thing I could think of after a while was to cut them in hlf and throw them in the oven so I could at least have something that still tasted like tomato and would turn to black goo on the countertop. I really hate it when tomatoes go bad. It’s super gross.

But all those poor tomatoes I just didn’t rescue in time aside, I was left with only half a salad since I was strangely without any other ingredients to help make any salad I made be more than just chopped tomatoes with salt. It takes a special tomato to be delicious without some sort of additional lubricant with taste.

Here is a picture of tomatoes.

Here is a picture of tomatoes.

But between work and more work and my entire fammily deserting me for the island homelands I have had very little to eat except vegetables for the last month. It all happened because my dear mother finished her radiation treatments (yay!) and it ended with a really really big last minute party where I tried to grill outside. Thinking I’d try something new for a big crowd I attempted making burgers. Like real burgers. The kind with meat cooked on an open flame. Well over charcoal.

For those of you who don’t know: I was raised vegetarian. At some point the family became pescatarian but even fish is a rare occurence at Chez Tobing. I have left behind those meatless way for almost a decade now but even today I don’t cook meat. So me deciding to try cooking burgers for a party was probably the worst idea. They didn’t turn out awful. Just not great. The black bean burgers I mixed up, however, turned out amazing and I’ve even made this receipe since. I usually make my own aioli with vegenaise, fresh crushed garlic, lime, and sriracha. I had also posted the burger recipe last year in “Keeping it Veggie“:

Black Bean Burgers with a Smoky Red Pepper Spread

Black Bean Burgers with a Smoky Red Pepper Spread

But alongside the semi-successful burger project I grilled about 5 billion pounds of fresh stuff: Eggplane, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, OKRA!, bell peppers, asparagus, baby bell peppers, portabello mushrooms, sweet potatoes, corn… You put the grilled veggies on a toasted bun with the aioli and a still cripsy-on-the-outside black bean burger (or a marinated and grilled portabellow mushroom if you prefer) and that makes for a good party! In the future, though, I think I’ll leave the regular burgers to a professional. The afterparty of this whole affair was me sitting on the sofa eating nothing but roasted vegetable sandwiches for the next week while watching “Chuck” and drinking the remains of my homemade “Make Your Own Juice Bar”. My favorite was the sparkling  Persian Lime with an extra shot of sweetness from the ginger simple syrup.

In honor of the vegetables (and “fruit”. That’s right, I’m looking at you tomatoes!) that kept me alive while living alone for the last month I’m dedicating the next series of posts with all the wonderful ways to eat them!

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burgers (from SkinnyTaste)

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burgers

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Why Watching Gastroporn Before Bed is a BAD Idea

Laundry, done. Room, clean enough. Plants, not dead (yet). Parents, all tucked into bed….

It’s almost my bed time and I’m ready for bed but not quite there yet. And that’s why I head down the rabbit hole. This image flashes across my computer screen:

Pan-Seared Butternut Squash with Balsamic & Parmigiano Shards

Pan-Seared Butternut Squash with Balsamic & Parmigiano Shards (Links to original recipe on The Kitchn)

Gastroporn… never a god idea if you’re almost ready for bed and you want to go to bed in the near future. Because it starts with the Pan-Seared Butternut Squash and leads to the struggle not to pull out your credit card to buy this book:

"Modernist Cuisine At Home"

“Modernist Cuisine At Home”

To imagining the ability to trot into town and find a cozy place next to a fire with good friends having a Raclette Party. Then you’re thinking about Raclette and you start looking up videos…

And then it’s several hours later and it’s like you’ve just come out the other end of a black hole. So you slam your laptop shut and scramble into bed to calm down with a good erotica novel. You know, to take your mind off the fact that you just realized you haven’t eaten since breakfast.

Good night Foodie Nation!

GastroPorn Menu: June.2013

GastroPorn Menu: June.2013

It’s getting warm and slightly uncomfortable weather wise but things are also growing in the garden and we’re planning to get an umbrella for our back yard so we can actually enjoy our outdoor furniture. Now if only my back yard looked a little something like this:

Santorini-blue-and-white-paradise

This month’s menu is inspired by a little Mediterranean Island sun. Meant to be enjoyed outside with with lots of loud friends and family.

Goat Cheese with Olives, Lemon, and Thyme

“Goat Cheese with Olives, Lemon, and Thyme” From Leite’s Culinaria

Beefsteak Tomato Salad

“Beefsteak Tomato Salad” from Martha Stewart

Eggplant Salad with Chickpeas and Feta

“Eggplant Salad with Chickpeas and Feta” from Martha Stewart

Mini Spiced Chicken Burgers with Mint Greek Yogurt

“Mini Spiced Chicken Burgers with Mint Greek Yogurt” from Applemint

Zucchini Patty Sandwiches

“Zucchini Patty Sandwiches” from Whole Living

Lamb

“Lamb” from Joseph De Leo Photography

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Honey-Lime Dip

“Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Honey-Lime Dip” from Our Best Bites

Lime, Yoghurt and Olive Oil Cake

“Lime, Yoghurt and Olive Oil Cake” from Simple Provisions

Honey-Ricotta Turnovers

“Honey-Ricotta Turnovers” from Martha Stewart

Attention! Attention!

No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake

“No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake” From Cooking Channel (There are How-To pictures to go with the recipe)

As I’m sure most of you know (if you live in America), today is Mother’s Day. This means that I am not actually writing this post today but instead I am anticipating that I will be very busy making the Mother’s Day luncheon on my Gma’s back porch. And one of the featured items on this illustrious menu just happens to be this cheesecake! And a lovely Mummy’s Day it will be… unless it’s raining. Then we will have to make plan B arrangements.

On Throwing a Grazing Party and Staying Sexy

From Monica Eisenman

So, as some of you might have remembered, I had a party this weekend. And yes there were some road blocks in the plan (like the fact that it was supposed to be last week but we had to push it back a week because of a funeral) but since when are good parties supposed to be easy and peaceful? If someone in your family hasn’t yelled at you needlessly while helping you prepare crusts for mini quiches than your party is going to suck. Because stress breeds good food ON TIME.

The menu, inspired by this month’s Gastroporn Menu, was labeled as a “Tea Party” but with most of my parties turned into an extended grazing affair that was really more like three or four smaller parties all strung together throughout the afternoon and evening. I also made something new that I surprisingly enjoyed eating about an hour or two after all the guests had left because eating them in front of people just isn’t sexy and a hostess should always be sexy: Blue velvet Cupcakes.

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

“Blue Velvet Cupcakes” from Sprinkle Bakes

Now… I like making cupcakes. I don’t always like eating cupcakes but I do like making them. Why? Easy dispersal. Try giving away cake at the end of the party and tell me you didn’t wish you’d made cupcakes. And if you aren’t giving away cake at the end of a party then don’t complain to me about your expanding waistline. Take that cake to work and give it away. It will make you more friends and fewer pounds.

Note: Don’t use a tablespoon of blue dye for the cupcakes. That’s too much and cupcakes that turn tongues a funny color…not sexy.

But you know what is sexy? Eating chocolate mousse from a tiny cup with a mini spoon. The recipe I used  can be found in “The Great Disappointment (of 2012)” post. A friend gave me the recipe and I have no idea where it came from but probably the Internet.

Note: I also piped some fresh whipped cream (made with a little sugar and a splash of vanilla) on top and put my brother to work with a piece of 100% chocolate and a vegetable peeler to garnish the tops.

There were also things I really don’t have a recipe for but if you’ve played around in a kitchen long enough you’ll just know what to do. Like stuffed mushrooms and mini-quiches. Watching my caveman-neanderthal dad trying to press rounds of pie crust dough into a mini-muffin tin was absolutely priceless.

And, of course, there were the scones we always make (the recipe is in the “Tea Time, Nap Time, Fun Times” post from many moons ago) served with the remaining fresh cream from above and berries. I love me some berries. I brought the rest to work with me today along with the remaining 3 scones (to give away). Everybody is always asking for that recipe and it’s ridiculously easy so there is no reason NOT to try it. Unless you’ve got allergies, in which case I am so sorry.

Anyone who knows anything about me and my party style also knows that I like complicated. I like the idea of doing everything from scratch and if I had the ability to gather and make all the ingredients by hand on my mini plot of land out back I so would.

But beware of making things complicated to your guests. Try to make things they can just pass by, pick up with a couple fingers, and just put in their mouths (which is where your party food SHOULD be going). Otherwise they will pass by the stuff with a dip or the thing that goes on top of that other thing and go straight for that stuff that just ends up in their mouths.

Here’s a recipe that looks good:

tartelettes chèvre et confiture d'oignons

“Tartelettes Chèvre et Confiture D’oignons (Onion Tartelettes with Goat Cheese)” from Vaniglia

There’s often at least a couple people at a party known as “grazers”. These are the folks that don’t take a heaping plateful and then start denying food while patting their bellies. These are those smart party goers that pace themselves. A min-quiche here, a cupcake there, caprese salad on a stick? Why not! Oh and then maybe another deviled egg. So set things up nicely for these folks. They know what they’re about. And, as always, stay sexy, Foodie Nation!

 

Gastroporn Menu – April.2013 (“Delusions of Grandeur”)

Never let it be said that I didn’t know how to plan a party.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m planning my 25th birthday party (or rather my Silver Jubilee as I prefer to call it). Of course, I almost never get to have my birthday parties close to my actual birthday. Some people would take this a sign to just do something small or try again some other time. But not me. Nooooope. If I can’t have a party near my actual birthday I’m going to create a whole different holiday to make sure I get my party quota in.

My birthday is in March but I’ll be out of town all week. The weekend after that I’m working and the weekend after that… Works!

So this month (which is not my birth month) I’m using the Gastroporn Menu to help plan my Silver Jubilee Tea. I’m expecting around 30-35 guests but the number could be anywhere from 20-45 at this point. The menu is mostly finger foods and drinks (including tea of course). Since this is a very real and going-to-happen party menu I need to keep in mind that if items can be made ahead: Great!

I title this menu:

Delusions of Grandeur

Savory Nibbles:

  • Mini-Quiches
  • Tea Sandwiches
  • Vegetarian sliders
  • Crostini
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Baked brie w/Crackers

Sweet Bites:

  • Macarons
  • Scones with Devonshire cream and jam
  • Profiteroles
  • Cupcakes (Instead of a cake)

Tea & Coffee Bar