Friday, December 19, 2014

Ring...ring...ring...

Hi there.

You've reached the blog of Jessica Suss. I'm sorry I'm not here to post right now, but I will be out of the country until after the New Year. Please leave a message after the post. If this is an emergency, please close out this window and dial your nearest Sur Le Table.

Happy holidays and stay hungry!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Faux Sho


If you know anything about me, you know that I'm not about the faux unless it's fur. I don't wear knockoff designers and nothing makes my lip curl like fake Armani Code perfume. I'm sorry, but it smells like a baby prostitute. And typically that fake Gucci bag looks just that--fake. I'd much rather have my no-name bag that I paid a reasonable price for and that won't fall apart after three months than a questionable representation of the greatest the fashion world has to offer.

Because let's not kid ourselves, everybody can tell.


Sometimes, however, you just have to go faux. Fur is a notable example because unless you live in Saskatchewan, Russia or the North Pole, it's just not cold enough to warrant wearing a dead animal. Yes, I'm judging your chinchilla coat. I would throw red paint on you too, you heartless wench. My future chinchilla George Costanza and I hate your guts.

Another slightly less politically-charged reason to go faux is if you can't digest spaghetti Alfredo but are having a terrible craving for it.

Wait, what?

Oh yes indeed--faux spaghetti Alfredo is on the menu tonight and it is goddamn delicious with about a third of the calories. Plus spinach!

Since normal Alfredo uses a ton of butter and heavy cream, I can't eat it unless I want to be miserable for anywhere between the next four and 24 hours. This alternative, "faux" spaghetti Alfredo nicely captures the richness of the sauce with its combo of cheeses while not sacrificing too much in the flavor department. It's not an exact replica but I would say it's pretty close. And because it's not so fattening, you can eat more of it! Isn't that how the whole healthy eating thing works?

The recipe is incredibly easy but does involve blending to make the sauce smooth so be prepared for that. Whisking will not cut it.

Feel free to adjust seasonings as you see fit. This recipe would work equally well with fresh garlic as garlic powder (maybe even better) and you can nix the crushed reds for a more traditional flavor. I just put them in everything. You can also use whole grain spaghetti if you hate both yourself and food.

Ingredients:
1/2 lb. spaghetti, cooked al dente
1/4 c. reduced fat cottage cheese
1/2 c. plain nonfat yogurt
3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. fresh parmesan cheese, finely grated plus more for serving
1/2 tsp. each kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder
1/4 tsp. crushed reds
2-3 c. raw spinach, rinsed and drained

1. Combine cottage cheese, yogurt, milk and parmesan in a medium pot. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly until it reaches a simmer. Add spices and whisk again to combine.


2. Remove from heat and blend carefully until very smooth. Return to pot and add cooked spaghetti, mixing to combine over low heat.


3. Add the raw spinach to the pot. Stir and cover for about two minutes, or until spinach is wilted. Serve with extra grated parmesan.



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Spice Up Your Life

As many of my friends know, I love a good latte.

Pumpkin spice, vanilla, plain old skim milk. My go-to Starbucks order in the winter is, 9 times out of 10, a grande skim latte with an extra shot of espresso. I have tried many of the seasonal varieties as well, with varying results. I found the eggnog latte to be palatable, but overly sweet towards the bottom. The gingerbread latte tasted like a plate of burned Christmas cookies. The toffee nut latte was absurdly delicious but definitely not worth all those calories.

Back in Alicante, I experimented with making my own pumpkin spice lattes with incredible results. I recently bought too much pumpkin for the filling of my Friendsgiving 2.0 (coming soon, I promise!) pie and decided to reserve some for later pumpkin spice lattes.

However when I slit open the vacuum-sealed package today, I was greeted with an unpleasant smell and some very squishy pumpkin. Ever the optimist, I rinsed the pumpkin and steamed it briefly in the hopes that it would perk up. It didn't. It tasted like an acidic dishrag.

Into the trash it went.

But I really, really wanted a pretty latte to perk up my afternoon. Unfortunately they don't have things like molasses or flavor extracts here so both homemade gingerbread and almond toffee were out. What I did have was a cabinet of spices at my disposal and some very good quality coffee, so I decided to experiment.

What I came up with was delicious: a combination of warming, wintery spices and strong-verging-on-espresso coffee topped with fluffy mountains of whipped cream.

Take that, pumpkin spice. You've got competition.

I know it seems like there's almost too much seasoning in the milk but remember that the coffee is very strong and you don't want the flavors of the spices to be masked. Of course if you like your coffee weaker, add less spice.

But if you like weak coffee then I don't know if I want to be friends with you. Dunkin' Donuts drinkers, I'm looking at you. That shit is vile.

Now without further ado, I give you....winter-spiced lattes.

PS: aside from coffee-brewing time, these take about 5 minutes to put together. That's less time than you would have to wait at your local coffee joint. And you don't have to change out of your pajamas.

Ingredients
2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. strong, freshly brewed coffee
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 tbs. vanilla extract
Whipped cream and another pinch of cinnamon to finish, if desired (you're a monster if you don't want whipped cream on this latte, just saying)

1. In a medium saucepan, combine milk and vanilla extract. Whisk well to combine.


2. Add spices and scald milk (heat until it's too hot to comfortably dip a finger in).


3. Combine coffee and milk mixture in two mugs. Top with whipped cream and extra cinnamon.




Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Doctor is In

Hello all you miserable people.

Are you clutching your stomachs in pain?

Breaking wind like New York cabdrivers: shamelessly and with abandon?

How's your digestive system doing today?

Are you still laboring under the delusion that you could digest that third plate of turkey and mashed potatoes with half a cup of gravy?

Or are you appreciating the cool tile of the bathroom floor as it ingrains itself permanently into your cheek?

Do your jaws ache from chewing?

Does your heart ache from that hideous Bears loss to the Lions (or is that just me)?

Does the thought of having to eat leftovers today cause a not-altogether-enjoyable tingle to run up your spine?

Has anyone noticed my not-so-subtle tribute to Pete Wells' legendary dismantling of Guy Fieri's abortion of a restaurant in New York City?

Would you like to know where I'm going with this?

To offset Thursday's gluttony and then Friday's leftovers orgy, I present to you a quick and simple detox soup with carrots and ginger, a natural digestive aid.

It's inexpensive, incredibly healthy and doesn't require a $400 juicer or an idiotic cleanse.

By the way--juicing is not good for you. Juicing takes all the fiber and most of the nutrients out of whatever you are eating. If you want to lose weight, eat more vegetables and protein and fewer refined carbohydrates. There is no miracle cure for weight loss, and your body naturally rids itself of ingested toxins with the help of your liver (REMEMBER THAT VITAL ORGAN?). So stop throwing money away on overpriced "superjuices" when you could eat a salad (no croutons, no cheese, homemade vinaigrette) and go for a 30-minute walk with better results. Okay, rant over.

Anyway, Doctor Suss says eat a nice bowl of this bright and spicy carrot-ginger detox soup, go for a light workout, get a solid 8 hours of sleep tonight and call me in the morning.

This recipe was lightly adapted from POPSugar Fitness and makes about 6 larger servings.

NOTE: Tommy wasn't a huge fan of the thyme in the yogurt topping and said he would leave it out. I personally didn't mind it but the flavor combination was certainly interesting. Your call.

Ingredients
2 tbs. EVOO
1 c. chopped white onion
2 tbs. minced garlic
4 tbs. minced peeled ginger (or to taste--I like mine spicy)
2 lbs. carrots, peeled and chopped into coins
1 medium russet potato, peeled and chopped
6 c. low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/3 c. plain low-fat Greek yogurt
1 tsp. honey
1/4 c. pine nuts, toasted
1 tsp. finely minced thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Heat EVOO over medium-high heat in a heavy pot or Dutch oven and add the onion. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and 1/2 tsp. of salt and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes or until the onion just starts to brown and caramelize.


2. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Do not burn the garlic! Add the chicken stock, carrots and potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook until the carrots and potatoes are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.






3. While the soup is simmering, combine the greek yogurt, thyme and honey. Whisk to combine and set aside.



4. When the soup has finished simmering, CAREFULLY puree with an immersion blender or in small batches in a regular blender until very smooth.



5. Serve with a dollop of the greek yogurt and a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Soy Vey

There are many things I love about southern Spain. The people are incredibly friendly, the sky is as blue as Tide Liquid Detergent (which is not sponsoring this post but could if it wanted to hint hint I am sin blanco aka broke) and the produce is fantastically fresh and delicious.

One of the things I do not love about southern Spain however is the fact that 90% of restaurants seem to serve the same exact menu: meat, bread and cheese. Actually, if the bread were replaced with potatoes I might feel like I was back in the Midwest.

While I love a hearty meal of chorizo and tomate con ajo, a girl needs some variety in her culinary life. Specifically, some Asian variety. I am a Jewish girl which means Chinese food makes up 20% of my DNA, minimum. And the Chinese food offerings around here are...sad. And kind of gross. I just want some blisteringly spicy ma-po tofu with chunks of mushroom and ground pork swimming in chili sauce. Or a steaming bowl of winter melon soup, unidentified spices floating at the top. Or chunks of chicken dripping in homemade XO sauce on top of just-barely-cooked baby bok choy. Oh god. Somebody help me. Where's David Chang when you need him?

In any case, homemade fried rice just wasn't cutting it. So I decided to forge into the world of homemade Asian sauces. It's a little difficult out here because unlike in the States, basics like fish sauce and galangal (chili paste) are harder to come by and far more expensive. Luckily, homemade teriyaki sauce is crazy easy to make and only requires a few ingredients. You'll never buy the bottled stuff again.


I made a stir fry of carrots, chicken and broccoli but feel free to add other veggies too. Peas, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and bok choy would all stand up nicely to this spicy, savory sauce. You can also put it over tofu if meat isn't your thing. Mmmm, tofu. I blame two of my best friends who are half Korean for getting me wholly addicted to homemade Asian food. I could eat Korean food every day for the rest of my life and be happier than Al Gore at a Prius showroom.


Ingredients:
Makes about 4 servings

For the sauce:
4 tbs. ginger, finely minced
2/3 c. reduced sodium soy sauce
2/3 c. cold water
4 tsp. cornstarch or arrowroot powder (any thickening agent)
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. dark brown sugar, packed

For the stir fry:
2-3 lbs. chicken breast, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 head fresh broccoli, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
4-5 carrots, sliced
1/2 tsp. crushed red peppers
2 tbs. olive oil

1. In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, water, and ginger. Slowly whisk in the brown sugar and the honey, scraping the sides and the bottom of the bowl to ensure it combines smoothly. Once the honey and sugar are mostly dissolved, whisk in the cornstarch. Set aside.



2. In a large, heavy-bottomed sautee pan, cook the carrots and chicken in the olive oil over medium heat until the chicken is almost cooked through and the carrots are beginning to soften. You don't want to cook the carrots completely because they will get overcooked later on. Add the garlic and broccoli and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes.



3. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the teriyaki sauce and crushed reds. Stir for about 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Serve over rice or Asian-style noodles.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Big Bright Green Pleasure Tagine

Well hey there, how's it going?

Oh good, nice, good to hear.

Me? Oh, I'm fine. Finally.

After two weeks of feeling like death on a plate covered in bordelaise sauce, I finally went to the doctor.

Who, by the way, told me he was going out for breakfast before my turn, leaving me to wait in the hallway with a host of other people all wondering where this man was and why he wasn't doing his job.

Anyway, all I can say is, thank god for antibiotics. I finally feel basically normal again! My voice is no longer so raspy that I sound like Sling Blade! I can walk up a flight of stairs without hacking up a lung! I can breathe through my nose, unlike 98% of Packers fans (and yes, that is a verifiable fact; Packers fans are mouthbreathers)!

So to celebrate, I decided to give you guys a fast, healthy recipe that goes with this semi-theme I have of Sunday comfort food that A. doesn't take all day to make and B. doesn't leave you feeling bloated and sorry for yourself.

The Moroccans have a lot of things on lock, including but not limited to: mosaic artwork, culture and especially cuisine. The tagine (or tajine) is a sort of hat-looking earthenware dish from North Africa stuffed with all manner of delicious foods and left to cook over coals.

Also, high five if you know the song that I pillaged to get this post's title. If you don't know, go educate yourself and download the entire Simon and Garfunkel discography and think about what you've done.

In any case, most people don't have an actual tagine or an open coal pit, a dutch oven or large pot will suffice.

This tagine recipe is vegan but I have also added chicken and it turns out fantastically well. I am not sure the flavors would go great with red meat but if you have camel on hand, go for it. I've heard it tastes like chicken anyway.

This recipe comes together pretty quickly once you're done chopping all the ingredients so I suggest you get a jump on that. Also feel free to adjust the spice levels; it's a very malleable dish. I serve it on couscous (the food so nice they named it twice) but Tommy prefers it on rice because he has issues with couscous for whatever reason. Or maybe he just has issues.

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed reds
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. chopped white onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 2/3 c. vegetable or chicken broth, divided
3 tbs. tomato paste
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1" cubes
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tbs. lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

1/2 c. chopped green olives
1/2 c. golden raisins
3 tbs. parsley, chopped.

1.  Heat a large pot or dutch oven and grease lightly with olive oil. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until starting to brown and stick to the pan. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.

2. Stir in 1/3 cup of the broth and continue to cook 4-5 minutes or until very tender. Stir in the spices and tomato paste, cook one minute more while stirring.





3. Add remaining broth, potato, chickpeas, olives, raisins, lemon juice and zest. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add zucchini and simmer covered for another 5 minutes until zucchini is tender but not mushy.


4. Stir in parsley and serve over couscous with another squeeze of lemon if you so desire.



NOTE: If you want to add chicken, increase the broth by 1 cup and the spices by half. Cube the chicken and add about 10 minutes into simmering.




Friday, October 17, 2014

I Googled Lentil Puns

And came up with jack squat for this post. And yes, I know that Googling "lentil puns" for title inspiration is a very low point in my life, blog and non-blog wise.

Buuut...lentils are great. Super healthy, high in protein, extremely cheap and easy to cook. They're pretty much every vegan or vegetarian's wet dream, and they can be yours too! Okay, maybe that's a stretch. Because cheeseburgers and chorizo exist.


The harsh truth is, however, the less meat you eat, the better it is for the environment. Tommy and I have been working pretty hard to go meatless for most of our meals (lunch excluded) and it's been an interesting experiment.

This is a fantastic meatless -- but filling -- meal. This is a slightly belated throwback Thursday because I made it at school (which is why you see my girl Jess Stein photographing my handiwork for a class project) and would happily make it again now were it not for the fact that Tmo refuses to eat mushrooms with the stubbornness of a 3-year old. 



Just because he won't eat it doesn't mean you shouldn't though. Feel free to cheat like I did and buy precooked lentils if you can find them. If not, buy green lentils (the other colors can get a bit mushy if cooked on the stovetop) and follow the instructions below. This recipe is adapted from www.deliciouseveryday.com

Cooking lentils on the stovetop:
1 c. green lentils
2 c. water
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Rinse lentils in a large strainer, carefully picking through to remove any shriveled ones or foreign objects.

2. Combine lentils and water in a large saucepan on the stove. Bring the water to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. You should only see a few small bubbles and some slight movement in the lentils. Cook, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes. Add water as needed to make sure the lentils are just barely covered.

3. Lentils are cooked as soon as they are tender and no longer crunchy. Older lentils may take longer to cook and shed their outer skins as they cook. Strain the lentils and remove any seasonings. Return the lentils to the pan and stir in salt. Taste and add additional salt as needed.


Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. cooked lentils
1 c. mixed mushrooms (button and portobello), sliced2. cloves garlic, minced1/4 tsp. crushed red peppers (or more to taste)1/4 tsp. sea salt1 tbs. EVOO1 tbs. lemon juice2 tbs. flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped1/2 to 3/4 c. arugula


1. Cook lentils according to directions above. Once cooked, put into a large bowl and set aside.


2. In a medium-sized saucepan, sautee the mushrooms in the olive oil until lightly golden brown.


Add the garlic and crushed reds and continue to cook until the garlic is fragrant and almost translucent.


3. Toss the lentils, mushrooms, salt and lemon juice together in the large bowl. 



Mix in parsley and arugula just before serving.