Monday, December 12, 2011

Wheat Berry Salad

Yes, I know, you've missed me and wondered what I've been up to that could possibly be so important as to tear me away from you.  Well, get over it.  I'm not telling (cough, napping).  All that matters is I'm back and I come bearing healthy, wintery, salady treats.  Exactly what you've been craving, I know!  I've had a hankering for wheat berries lately...they have a great nutty flavor and a satisfying crunch that makes me feel warm and toasty, even when served room temperature.  Not to mention that for you health conscious folks out there, they're a treasure trove of protein, fiber and iron.  To my shock and dismay, my enthused references to wheat berries -- since apparently in my deranged mind, they make for a great cocktail convo -- have met with a fair amount of confusion from some of my nearest and dearest.  So if you're someone who has never heard of them, or someone who has had an unpleasant encounter, I beg of you, do try again.

This recipe is really simple to execute and easily works as either a vegetarian main course or an inventive filler dish for a dinner party.  Wheat berries take about an hour to cook, which means you can do most of the prep while those babies are boilin' away...

Wheat berries, before and after

Winter Wheat Berry Salad
Roasted brussels sprouts, dried cranberries, zucchini, onion and feta cheese
Serves 4-6:
1 cup wheat berries
1 medium zucchini, julienned
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
12 brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
3 - 3.5 cups chicken stock (can be substituted with vegetable stock or water, depending on preference)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs chopped parsley
2.5 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2.5 tbs lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°

In a medium pot, combine wheat berries and 3 cups of stock.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover.  Simmer for 1 hour or until tender, possibly 50 minutes.  If more liquid is needed, add remaining half cup. Stir once or twice to ensure that grains aren't sticking to the bottom.  When ready, remove from heat and strain out extra liquid if necessary.  Run under cool water until room temperature.

While wheat berries are cooking, place brussels sprouts in a bowl. Drizzle the sprouts with olive oil (roughly 2 tsp), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and mix.  Spread the sprouts on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden and crispy on the outside.  When finished, remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.

In a sautee pan, heat 2 tsp olive oil.  Add onion and garlic and sautee until soft and translucent.  Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.

Once all the cooked ingredients have reached a neutral temperature, combine them in a large bowl and add julienned zucchini, cranberries and feta cheese.  Mix lemon juice and remaining olive oil and dress salad.*  Sprinkle with parsley to garnish. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve (stays delicious and beautiful for a couple of days).

*I personally like a lot of lemon juice and usually use closer to 3tbs.  I recommend starting with the juice of one lemon and tasting as you go to determine your preferred ratio.

Friday, December 2, 2011

baby steps

I have officially come to the realization that I am significantly less prepared for this whole undertaking than my perfectionism is allowing for.  Nevertheless, I refuse to lose momentum and so I. Shall. Persevere! In other words, for the time being, this blog will be a journalistic meta exposé of my harsh and fickle mistress, eat and cry, and the cruel dark world that she inhabits. 

Anyway, I spent most of my morning perusing food photography articles.  Among my favorites was Katherine Martinelli's list of take-aways from an ICP course, which offered some great technical tips in addition to a brief moment of elation at the thought of enrolling myself in said course, rapidly followed by soul crushing despair at a price tag somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 bucks.  Have I mentioned that I'm unemployed? Also useful are some suggestions offered up by Saveur that I recently received from a friend who interns for their website.  Their points are definitely useful when it comes to styling but I think I have a strong case of easier said than done resonating through my bones right now.  I'm particularly struggling with the available surfaces near my light source, also known as my bed, and the white balance and color saturation on my trusty but limited Pentax K100D, issues that are relatively hard to repair without photoshop and/or that negligible quality known as skill.  So right now I'm running everything through picasa, since free is about all I can afford right now, and hoping for a productive holiday season of gift-reaping.  

On that note, a few snippets from my holiday wish list (mom? dad? boyfriend? are you reading this?!):

- a photo-editing program of some kind! anything with options more specific than "auto" will do but I guess photoshop wouldn't kill me. 

- a set of elves to magically appear and clean my apartment so that my tripod and lens hood both reemerge from whatever sites of refuge they've taken up against the tsunami of laundry that is creeping in slow motion across my bedroom floor

- colorful fabrics, vintage dishes and oxidized flatware to use in my shots

Here are some pictures of oranges that I took. On my bed. I'm working on a recipe for candied orange peels, hence the scoop of guts in the bowl.  Any suggestions for improvement (or cries of encouragement) greatly welcomed! Also any thoughts on what to do with the mashed up contents of all 6 oranges that are NOT orange juice related.  I know, blasphemy, but I just don't love the stuff.

I want orangier oranges!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I have to admit that thus far my blogging attempts have been bringing me closer to tears of frustration than those of joy. I was all a-tingle with anticipation to get off to a strong start with a documentation of my dinner last night. My roommate and I whipped together a beautiful spread inspired by the charred corn tacos on smitten kitchen. I’d planned to cook something a little heartier (read bloody) for my first entry, but my roommate claims she’s going off the meat (again) and I thought I’d humor her attempt (vain though I intend to make it!). We played around with some recipes / our shared and undying love for all things citrusy, spicy, salty, and, you know, edible, and came out with black bean studded charred corn, a zesty tomatillo salsa, whole roasted scallions, and a radish and zucchini slaw…simple, fresh, delicious. Gordon would be so proud. We garnished with queso fresco and chopped cilantro for a really flavorful, if slightly sweet, vegetarian taco with a nice strong kick to it. And the scallions! Charred crispy goodness at one end and caramelized richness at the other in the most delightful way. All in all, a meal I’d have been happy to canonize in the hallowed digital files of eat and cry.
Alas, the amateur in me failed entirely to consider the horrors of food photography sans natural light. I’m hardly new to photography — I’m the child of a professional who gifted me with a love for the art at an early age — but I mostly work in black and white analog and I don’t get nearly enough practice with my digital SLR. I highly doubt that I’ll wind up posting any of my shots from last night…a quick glance at my kitchen photos below will give you a good sense of my available lighting. So here I am, discovering, at what seems a rather late point in the game, that food blogging is actually a day job. And, in my case, a day job that will involve transporting everything I cook into my bedroom in order to let it bask in the kind rays of sunlight.
All that to say that actual food and pictures are *hopefully* coming soon!

how my photo fail made me feel...

kitchen woes

So this is what I’m working with. Behold my tiny bushwick kitchen and liquor “cabinet.”  As you can see, I have rather limited counter space (and even more tragically, no windows, so please excuse the lighting). Until my roommate and I built the kitchen island, most of our prep and assembly work happened on our coffee table or, during more ambitious undertakings, on the floor. It adds a nice earthy note to the flavor profile, right?!