Sunday, February 23, 2014

What's the dill?

I don't know about the rest of the country, but it was damn beautiful in College Park these past few days. The weather has been absurdly springy--crocuses popping up, blue skies, temps above 50 degrees, the whole deal.

When the weather gets really pretty like this it makes me want to eat similarly springy foods. Ones that are bright and citrusy and won't put you into a carb coma. For me, this means seafood. One of the great things about going to school on the East Coast is that I get way better fish out here than I possibly could in Chicago. It's just a matter of logistics. Thusly, my body composition is roughly 60 percent seafood for eight months out of the year. I don't hate it.

Salmon is probably my favorite fish to eat, partially because it's so versatile and partially because it's very difficult to screw up. Tommy is also a big fan and when I visited him last weekend for Valentine's Day/C.R.A.S.H-B's (a massive indoor rowing race held annually in Boston) I decided to make salmon for him.

Since it was our first Valentine's Day together, we wanted to make it special and go to a nice restaurant. Only thing was, when we tried to find a reservation in January, everything was booked until 10 pm and your only dining option was a $100-plus pre fixe menu. So we said to hell with that, and I offered to cook us a nice dinner.

Tommy went off to afternoon practice and I went to Whole Foods to get the salmon. I got a gorgeous piece and the fishmonger very kindly removed almost all of the pin bones for me. Upon returning to the apartment, I realized Tommy had forgotten to give me his keys. I sat outside his door with a pound of salmon and a bottle of champagne in my bag for about five minutes, trying to decide what to do. My only choice was to schlep all the way over to the boathouse, a 20-minute walk from the apartment.

But I had no choice. So I went to the boathouse and as I was getting the keys who should walk out of the locker room but one of the coaches, and he looked none too happy to see me. I got out of there pretty fast.

Luckily it was cold so the salmon didn't suffer any after sitting in my Longchamp for 40 minutes while getting smashed by bottle of champagne. And dinner turned out perfectly.

This recipe is super duper easy and only requires three ingredients besides salt, pepper and olive oil. It also looks really pretty which is an added bonus. It's a perfect dinner for this mild weather, until the second polar vortex hits anyway...

1 lb salmon (not steaks)
2-3 lemons
1/8 c. olive oil plus 1 tbs.
5-6 tbs. dill, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Oil the bottom of a baking dish with the 1 tbs. of olive oil. Line the bottom with the lemons, thinly sliced.

2. Mix together the dill, remaining olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Place the salmon, skin-side down, on the lemons. Spread the dill-oil mixture on top, covering the flesh evenly.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filet.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bean there, done that

So happy to be eating my cooking again, obviously.
So my boyfriend Tommy was in College Park this weekend for the first time since our sophomore year of college. This unhappy statistic is due in part to the fact that he is a college athlete and therefore blinks/breathes when his coaches say so and also to that ridiculous snowstorm that the Northeast got last year around this time.

Naturally, I wanted to pull out all the stops when he came. So I brought him to the best place in College Park: R.J Bentley's Filling Station. This vomit-soaked bar is my Siren song and I am eternally doomed to every Friday dash myself against the rocks of their $2 rails. Tommy really dug it so obviously I picked a good one.

But when it comes to dining, CP is absurdly low on options. My grandmother, god bless her, suggested I make cornish game hen. I didn't have the heart to tell her that UMD is conveniently located in the ghetto when I got in so I think she believes it looks more like Georgetown. Anyway, the only game hens around here are few, far between and deep in hiding. So I asked Tommy what he'd like. He said jambalaya but I am not a huge fan so I nixed that in favor of my own wishes (girlfriend of the year right here folks) and decided to make chili.

I friggin LOVE chili. Oh my god. I know it's not the sexiest food and it kind of looks like barf but oh my god. OH MY GOD.

White, three bean, beef? With cheese, sour cream, chopped onions, green onions? Mild, medium, spicy, I just shit lava? Yes. All of them. Now. My mecca looks something like a chili cookoff without all the types of people that usually frequent those events. Maybe one attended by the casts of The Royal Tenenbaums and Crazy, Stupid Love. I would way rather see Ryan Gosling go to town on a pot of white chili with ham chunks than a fat dude with mustard stains on his George Strait t-shirt. Okay sorry that was mean but seriously, who would you pick?

Ryan. Duh.

Now you be laboring under the misconception that chili is very time consuming to make and involves a lot of stewing and simmering. Some kinds are like that, but many are not. The three-bean chili I like to make does not involve very much simmering. It actually has very few steps (but kind of a lot of ingredients--do your best). Of course you can leave it on the stove while you eat dinner on a very low heat to let the flavors deepen but it's not necessary.

This recipe also calls for ground turkey instead of beef because Tommy gets upset about the cow farts. It's so cute how much he loves the environment. Anyway, feel free to substitute ground beef and any other sorts of meat you may have laying around. If you have spicy Italian sausage, that's a surprisingly tasty addition. This also makes a good amount of leftovers and freezes exceptionally well so you'll have some hearty dinners on hand for the long stretch of winter we still have ahead of us.

Side note: I have started to wonder if I will ever feel my toes again. My mom sent this picture of our courtyard today:

Illinois: where we shovel snow to make room for more snow.

Three-Bean Turkey Chili

1 can black beans
1 can red beans
1 can pink beans
1 can crushed tomatoes in juice
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 lb. ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs. oregano
1 tsp. crushed reds (or to taste if that's too spicy)
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Shredded sharp cheddar and sour cream for serving (Pro tip: fat free greek yogurt tastes almost exactly the same and is way healthier. Tommy couldn't even tell the difference)

1. In a large stock pot, combine all of the beans, tomatoes and paste and spices over medium heat. Stir to combine.

2. While the beans are heating,
brown the turkey with the onion and garlic.

3. When the turkey is browned, add to the beans and stir again to combine. Let simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Serve with sour cream and cheddar.

Hello, gorgeous.