Sunday, August 12, 2012


It's time to play Refrigerator Surprise, everybody's favorite game show where you must make a healthy dinner solely out of ingredients scrounged from your fridge or pantry - no grocery shopping trips allowed!   Ali from Green and Lean, come on down!  You're the next contestant on Refrigerator Surprise!

Wooie!  I'm so good at this game.  Sure, it's been a full week since I was last at the Farmer's Market and I know food is a bit scarce, but let's see what we've got to work with here.

Ok, the top shelf is pretty much just cocktail mixers, a half bunch of cilantro (in a mason jar, covered by a bag), and a half gallon of whole milk intended for a batch of yogurt.  Second shelf contains a salad spinner of somewhat wilty leaf lettuce, refrigerator pickles, ground flaxseeds, three jars of assorted Trader Joe's nut butters, and a whole bunch of other condiments.  Bottom shelf is 2 beers and 4 mini cans of pineapple juice (more cocktail mixers).  Well, this is a bit more bare than I expected, but I'm up for the challenge.  What's in the refrigerator door?

Wow.  Pretty bare here, too.  Eggs, butter, anchovy paste, several mustards, and lots more condiments.  Maybe this won't be quite as easy as I thought.  Oh, wait!  The crisper drawers!  I ALWAYS have lots of great fruits or cheese or veggies there!  Hallelujah, I'm saved and will win this contest after all!

Oh crap.  I'm so screwed.  I can't make a fabulous quick and healthy meal out of a tiny $1 farmer's market head of cabbage, half an onion, and some old carrots.

Or can I?

I can!  I'll make okonomiyaki (say it out loud, it's so fun! oko-nomi-yaki), a Japanese pancake/frittata/pizza (depending on which website you believe) made mostly of cabbage.  My aunt Barb has lived near Osaka, Japan for many years, teaching at the US military base.  She once told me about how delicious okonomiyaki is.  Then shortly after, I read about it on Heavy Table.  I used 101 Cookbooks' recipe today because it doesn't call for specialty ingredients like dashi or bonito, which I don't have, and I'd be disqualified from Refrigerator Surprise if I tried to make a quick run to United Noodles for them.

First I shredded up the cabbage, carrots, and onion in my food processor, then tossed in some flour and salt.  And hey, since the only herb I've got in the fridge is cilantro, I chopped that up and added it, too.  I carefully stirred in 3 beaten eggs until everything was coated.  The texture of the batter was kind of like making a veggie burger patty.  Sticky, and not too runny.

In my skillet, I heated a mere tablespoon of olive oil and pressed my batter into the pan.  I was worried about it sticking, but I kept using my spatula to push down the sides of the okonomiyaki and that seemed to help.

When the bottom was nicely browned and started smelling good and toasty, I slid the entire thing onto a plate, used another plate to flip it over, and slid it back into the pan with a touch more olive oil.

While side two was cooking up, I mixed together a tiny spoonful of mayo with a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a squeeze of sriracha, influenced by this recipe.  I also found some sliced almonds in the freezer so I toasted them up in a separate skillet.

Now that side two was browned up all over, I used a spatula to slide my okonomiyaki onto a large cutting board, slice off a big piece, slather it with a thin layer of spicy mayo, and top with toasted almonds and some chives snipped from the backyard container.

DING DING DING!  **Bells and whistles**  JACKPOT WINNER!!!!  The cabbage transforms into something sweet but still crunchy.  The crispy brown crust tricks you into thinking you're eating something deep fried and decadent.  The cilantro was a bright hit of freshness.  The spicy mayo added a touch of richness and sweetness and the almonds were the perfect garnish.

Join me next time on Refrigerator Surprise when I make a 4 course Italian feast with only sprouted garlic, almond butter, boxed wine, and a bag of frozen peas.

Okonomiyaki, adapted from 101 Cookbooks and Love and Lemons
Serves 2

1 small head cabbage (about 2 or 3 cups), shredded
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 large onion, shredded
handful chopped fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley, etc), optional
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
3 small eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp mayo
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
hot sauce to taste (sriracha recommended)
toasted sliced almonds to garnish
chopped chives or scallions to garnish

In a large bowl, toss your shredded veggies and herbs with flour and salt.  Mix in beaten eggs until all veggies are coated.

In a medium skillet, heat a tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Press cabbage mix into pan and use spatula to push down sides and press flat.  Cook for about 4-5 minutes or until bottom is nicely browned.

Slide onto plate.  Use another plate to flip over.  Add a touch more oil to hot pan and slide flipped okonomiyaki back into pan to cook second side.  Use spatula again to keep pressing it flat.  Cook another 4-5 minutes or until side 2 is browned as well.

Remove from pan and slice into triangles. Spread a thin layer of mayo mixed with worcestershire and sriracha on top and garnish with toasted almonds and chives.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Pickled Red Onions
TWO YEARS AGO:  Grilled Balsamic Veggie Sandwich
THREE YEARS AGO:  Quick Zucchini Saute

Monday, August 6, 2012

Colin's Garlic Citrus Shrimp

So I know this guy.  He's one of those guys who is interesting and knows stuff.  Stuff other people have to look up or make up.  He knows it.  I know he's not bullshitting either, because I'm the snot who keeps asking questions to see if he really knows what he's talking about.  He does.  The most interesting man in the world from those Dos Equis commercials has nothing on this guy.

This guy has an absolutely ridiculous variety of different interests and talents.  He knows graphic design and has created websites.  He edits and creates awesome videos.  He is an entertaining and witty writer.  He loves athletics, became an avid cyclist, and competed in marathons and Ironman triathlons.  He is a musical dictionary and introduced me to the Jayhawks and an awesome Ben Folds cover of a rap song (although he has questionable taste in hard core death metal junk, too).  He is an accomplished craft beer connoisseur.  He knows the meanings of every dirty word and will explain them to you upon request.  He loves four-letter words and has a mastery of profanity few could ever hope to achieve.

For awhile, there was one certain four-letter word I was convinced was his favorite.  E-P-I-C.  It's not a curse word, but it does have four letters.  He has described so many things with this adjective:  epic tv shows, epic movies, epic songs, epic songwriters, epic beers, epic food, epic parties, certain epic parts of certain epic people's anatomy...  I never see or hear the word EPIC without thinking about this guy.

Where I am most jealous of this guy's brilliance is in the kitchen and at the grill.  I've been the fortunate recipient of countless meals from his kitchen and back yard.  He has taught me how to use my old Weber (the one I use now actually used to belong to him and his wife, they gifted it to me when they upgraded) with confidence.  He has instilled within me the belief that Coastal Seafoods is the only place to get fish in Minneapolis, and like a true culinary disciple I go nowhere else.

This guy invented the recipe for and taught me how to make this awesome garlic citrus shrimp, which I've always called Colin's Shrimp.  It's the most delicious thing anyone has ever cooked for me and I begged for the recipe years ago.  Although Colin doesn't follow recipes, he explained how he made it and I've tried to recreate it.  Of course my version never tastes as good as his, but this is a close approximation.

I make Colin's Shrimp for my family every year up at the lake and they LOVE it.  I've made it for many other friends and dining companions and it's always a hit.  After heating the grill, it takes a mere 15 minutes to make from start to finish and all you really need to make it a complete meal is a nice loaf of crusty baguette to soak up the garlicky/winey/citrus juice (although adding a salad is always a good idea).

For all of the above reasons and a million more, I am enraged that Colin is forced to endure ALS.  It's a disease I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy.  It hasn't stopped Colin from knowing stuff and being pretty much my most interesting man in the world.  Merriam-Webster dictionary describes epic thusly:  "extending beyond the usual or ordinary."  Well, that pretty much describes Colin in a nutshell.  You, sir, are truly epic.

Colin's Garlic Citrus Shrimp
Serves 3-4 people

1.5 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 lime, cut into wedges

Heat your outdoor grill or large skillet to medium.  If cooking on a grill, put butter, oil, and garlic in a disposable pan (or make a tray out of tinfoil) over the grates.  Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute to melt butter and start to cook garlic gently.  Do not burn garlic.

Add wine (careful with alcohol around an open flame) and cook for a couple minutes to reduce and cook off the alcohol taste.

Add shrimp and a hefty pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes, or until shrimp loses its transparency and starts to curl up. Shrimp is done when all pink, but be careful to not overcook or it will be tough and rubbery.

Remove shrimp from heat and squeeze lemon and lime wedges over shrimp.  Serve immediately with fresh bread to soak up juice.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Zucchini Chevre Tartine
TWO YEARS AGO:  Veggie Hummus Wrap
THREE YEARS AGO:  Mustard Dill Fish

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Grilled Portobello Salad

The dog days of summer are here, folks.  I love it.  So much.  Even if it means I don't cook much in July and August.  It's fine by me because with fresh farmer's market bounty, every meal makes itself.  With three years of blog archives, I've settled on my favorite summer recipes and have fallen into a delicious daily food routine.

Breakfast is yoatmeal, with raspberries, or nectarines, or blueberries, or whatever looks ripe and sweet that week.  Lunch is usually gazpacho, with cheese or avocado and bread.  For an afternoon snack, I have some juicy watermelon.  Dinner is some type of salad:  this one, this one, and this one have tickled my fancy lately. Some people may find this rotating menu boring.  Not me, not right now.  The tomatoes are sweet and fresh, the lettuce is crisp and crunchy, the fruit tastes like candy.  Every meal is a celebration of fresh local produce.

The only problem with this routine is keeping my Green and Lean readers entertained.  I console myself by thinking (hoping) that you're way too busy enjoying your summer to be reading blogs anyways.

I was planning on making some sandwiches with these portobello mushrooms, but suddenly became reluctant to deviate from my routine so I turned them into a supper salad instead.  To be honest, I've just eaten too much amazing walnut buckwheat bread from Sun Street in the past week so I decided a salad was a better option than more bread!  

At the end of each week, I frantically need to use up all of last week's produce so that I can go to the market and re-stock with fresh stuff.  So, I decided I needed to grill up my zucchini, grape tomatoes, and red onion for my salad also.  I had a package of criminis (same as portobellos, just smaller) so I used them as well.  It would be criminal to not top this combo with some local goat cheese.  The leftover marinade is turned into the salad dressing so nothing is wasted.  Serve with a glass of chilled white wine.  Perfect!

Grilled Portobello Salad
Serves 2

2 portobello mushrooms
1 package crimini or button mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 cup grape tomatoes (optional)
1/2 red onion, large dice (optional)
2 zucchini, large dice (optional)
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil, plus 1-2 Tbsp additional
salt and pepper
goat cheese
1 tsp dijon mustard

In a large bowl, ziploc bag, or tupperware, marinate your mushrooms and other veggies in 3 Tbsp each balsamic vinegar and olive oil, then add salt and pepper.  Let sit at room temperature for an hour or so.

Heat your grill to medium high and grill your marinated vegetables for about 4 minutes on each side.  Use a grill basket for the smaller veggies.  

Add a teaspoon of dijon mustard to your leftover marinade and whisk in another Tablespoon or more of olive oil until it emulsifies.

Layer grilled vegetables on a bed of lettuce, top with crumbled goat cheese, and drizzle with dressing.

TWO YEARS AGO:  Chili Lime Veggie Burritos