Category Archives: spring

Socca

714d7163-69e7-4477-bfa8-965537149405As longtime readers of this blog know, I’m no stranger to making my own pizza. At least, I wasn’t before I became a parent. These days, however, I’m not only short on time, but recognize that eating a big slab of white bread with cheese is probably not the best idea if I’m trying to keep energy levels up. Socca, a sort of flatbread made with ground chickpeas, is not only pizza-like enough to sate a craving, it’s inexpensive, gluten-free, full of protein and, best of all, can be made quickly and easily in a single cast-iron pan. It can also be topped with anything you happen to have on hand. You don’t even need cheese! (This time I’ve used feta, but other times I’ve gone without and it’s been just as great.)

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Roasted strawberry, goat cheese & black pepper soufflé: $1.49/serving

Yep. More strawberries. Unfortunately, my stomach is now too big for me to bend over and pick them myself, so I have to rely on B., who not only works 12 hours some days, but is also saddled with the myriad other tasks I’m now unable to do. (Weeding, picking up dog poop, et al.) Needless to say, we’re still getting them, just not always before time and the sun have taken their toll. I admit this recipe is something of a work in progress; I’ve noted changes I’d still like to institute for next time, and tinkering at all levels is welcome…just let me know what you did and how it turned out. It should be served with salad and a lot of balsamic vinaigrette to pour over both the soufflé and greens.

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Rhubarb compote: 37 cents/cup

When I was a kid, my parents used to buy a lot of those wonderfully convenient little cups of Yoplait yogurt. (Of course, these days I would NEVER buy a 60-cent container of pre-sweetened, artificially flavored yogurt, but you’re all welcome to come back and laugh at me once I have kids.) My absolute favorite flavor of all time was strawberry rhubarb, and although Yoplait doesn’t appear to be making it anymore, I admit that part of my motivation in planting rhubarb once we got a garden was to be able to make my own version. We had our first rhubarb harvest in late spring, before we had strawberries, so my first attempt at re-creating the yogurt was rhubarb-only. It was still delicious, but it just wasn’t the same. Luckily, the Pacific Northwest has a second rhubarb harvest, in June, right at strawberry time, so you can imagine what I’ve been eating for breakfast this week. Anyway, this recipe is for the rhubarb component only, because it’s not only great by itself in yogurt if you don’t have strawberries, but it’s delicious on ice cream, biscuits, oatmeal…you get the idea.

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Chinese takeout-style sesame noodles: $1.30/serving

In my second attempt this week to prove that takeout-style Chinese food is easy enough to make at home, I present these noodles. I admit I’ve never actually had them myself as takeout, but they do exist as such, and certainly taste takeout-quality. The key to truly satisfying that Chinese-noodle craving is to cook the noodles just to the point where they’re still slightly chewy and springy but not yet soft. Something about that texture and the creaminess of the sweet-spicy peanut-sesame sauce really hits the spot. They’re also really quick and simple to make, pretty much eliminating your last excuse for wanting to eat out.

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Casarecce with fennel, chilies & bread crumbs: $1.46/serving

Chilies and fennel: Yet another success in my ongoing quest for inexpensive, unexpected, and healthy pasta meals. This is definitely on the lighter side, almost more of a salad, but the nuanced flavors and textures will hit just the right notes for those tired of the same old heavily sauced noodle dishes, and the servings are big enough to qualify as a main dish. Casarecce is by no means mandatory for this; I just liked the way it looked. Penne, ziti, or any other medium tubular pasta works just as well.

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Leek fritters: $1.06/serving

It’s hard to believe this restaurant-quality dish (in flavor, at least; let’s just quietly ignore my food-staging skills) only costs around $4 to make, but there you have it. They’re admittedly a lot like pancakes, so they work great for brunch or dinner. They can also be made with or without the tzatziki-like sauce, although I would not advise going without. If you’re lucky enough to still have overwintered leeks in your garden, this is definitely the time to use them.

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Asian noodle salad with peanuts & mint: 90 cents/serving

I wish I could lay claim to this so-simple-it’s-genius salad, but believe it or not, it’s all Martha. I admit it’s more of a late-summer meal, especially given the cucumber, but given my aforementioned mint problem, it might be switching seasons. A word of advice: If you’re going to have leftovers, only dress one serving at a time, as the acid in the lime juice can break down the noodles and turn them mushy as they sit.

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Caramelized pear & gorgonzola risotto: $2.47/serving

I never get tired of risotto. It’s the ultimate starchy comfort food, it’s cheap (provided you buy your arborio rice in bulk), and it can be made in infinite varieties. This particular recipe, adapted from Closet Cooking, is an old favorite. Something about the sweet pear, sharp cheese, and creamy rice really pushes some sort of primitive pleasure-reward button in my brain, and I’m ashamed to admit I once ate an entire pot of this all by myself. I was physically unable to stop myself, so I recommend having at least one or two other people around to assist.  (B. is not quite as fond of risotto as I am, but I caught him actually scraping individual grains of rice out of the bottom of the pot after we were done eating, so be forewarned I’m not kidding about how addictive it is.)

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Greek pasta salad with spinach and mint: $1.37/serving

Now that the weather has warmed up (although in Portland, “warmed up” means it’s no longer 32 degrees every night; more like a balmy 39), our garden mint has taken it upon itself to intrude on the personal space of nearly every plant in a 10-foot radius. I understand this is What Mint Does—and don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have anything green growing in the garden at all at this point—but it does create a dire need to use mint at least a couple times a week, to avoid wasting any of the prunings. I used to make mint chocolate chip ice cream at least once a week for this very purpose, but since our ice cream maker broke (has anyone else had this problem, with the Kitchen Aid bowls? After only two years it sprung a leak right where the dasher fits in, oozing an extremely toxic-looking electric-blue fluid), I’m having to get a little more creative.

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Chicken thigh pasta sauce: 95 cents/serving

I struggled with what to call this sauce. It’s not rich enough to be a Bolognese and not heavy enough to be a ragout, but it’s in the same ballpark. In fact, if anything, it’s a lighter combination of both, full of zingy lemon and fresh herbs; perfect for early spring when a heavy braise doesn’t quite feel right but you still want a satisfying, meaty pasta sauce. I like to grind my own chicken thighs (you can do this easily in a food processor), but you can just as easily substitute ground turkey or pre-ground chicken if you’re not on a budget. It’s also great in the summer when you can use fresh tomatoes.

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