poached cod with tomato and saffron

poached cod with tomato and saffron

It's been rough times around the c&b household. I don't have a good track record with the month of January, and what do you know, January 2014 was the worst yet. I've been cooking, but relying on staples and quick fixes, and when I do make something potentially blog-worthy, I don't bother to photograph it.

This fish, though, is a reminder of a happier time, when I was making and photographing more meals than I could keep up with. I had intended on blogging this fancy-sounding remarkably easy cod dish nearly a month ago; then life drop-kicked me in the ass and I forgot all about it. Which is a bit of a travesty, since this is probably my favorite dinner I made in all of January. But better late than buried in my iPhoto archives forever, isn't that how the saying goes?

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butternut squash mac and cheese

squash mac and cheese

You know, before we get into full-on Christmas madness, let's take a break. Let's pause to enjoy a nice light bowl of–oh wait, I'm talking about mac and cheese today.

To be fair, there's an entire butternut squash in here, cleverly blended into the sauce to make it creamy without a ton of butter and heavy cream, which I guess technically makes this mac "lighter." Not that I care, honestly. I wanted mac and cheese and I happened to have several butternut squash for my CSA that needed to be used much sooner than later.

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fish tacos with cabbage slaw and avocado crema

fish tacos

It was one of those days. Before lunch even rolled around, I thought "I need fish tacos tonight." Now, I have made many a fish taco following recipes, and they've mostly been fairly, well, "meh," not delivering the punch of flavor I expect from my fish tacos. Bland fish tacos are basically despair in a tortilla.

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chicken with apples and fennel

chicken with apples and fennel

I know I've previously raved about one-pan dinners. This one? Hits all the reasons I love them: minimal work, lots of servings, and tons of flavor.

Cut up apples, fennel, and onions, and if you're ambitious, cut up the chicken too. The seasonings are ridiculously simple: salt, pepper, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar. The result is savory, sweet, and sour, made particularly delicious by gloriously crispy chicken skin.

Serve with some crusty bread and butter. Because you deserve it.

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roasted salmon and broccoli with chile-caper vinaigrette

roasted salmon and broccoli with caper-chili vinaigrette

Salmon and broccoli, all in one pan and spruced up with a spicy and salty vinaigrette? It's like you were reading my mind, Bon Appetit.

Tonight's dinner is also a great example of the way I usually eat. Yeah, some nights (aka the entire week before an exam) are "microwave some Trader Joe's frozen entree" nights, and when I have time I undertake more ambitious meals, but usually I need some source of protein and vegetables and if they are prepared together, all the better.

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stir-fried eggplant with thai basil-garlic sauce

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Eggplant drenched in stir-fry sauce is really hard to make look pretty in photos. I tried. No matter. It's delicious! As good as your local Thai takeout, really. Maybe better, depending on the quality of said local Thai place.

When I first started trying to make Thai flavors at home, I learned pretty quick that I'd better stock up on fish sauce. If you've never worked with fish sauce, just…don't take a whiff. The crushed souls of thousands of tiny fish are quite pungent. Anyway, this sauce uses a lot of fish sauce. And lime. Not making any claims to authenticity here (in the slightest) but the flavors are on point.

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Burgers with blue cheese and sherried Vidalia onions

burgers with blue cheese and sherried vidalia onions

I grew up in Chicago, so there's not a part of me left that can be surprised when the thermostat shoots right past 90 in July and the air feels like it sticks to you. I have learned many a coping mechanism, central air foremost among them. I can recommend popsicles, a dash through the neighbor's sprinkler, baring more skin than you cover, and doing all of your cooking outside on the grill.

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bacon tacos with spring greens and caramelized onions

I started up my CSA for vegetables a few weeks ago, and have been veritably drowning in spring greens since. Before my first CSA, I had not heard the term “Asian greens,” and now I can recite to you the names and general descriptions of several types of Asian greens. From the familiar bok choy to mizuna to several varieties of Chinese cabbage, I’ve seen it all. Continue reading

ramps carbonara

Finally.

Last spring, my quest for ramps was epic yet ultimately futile. Turns out you have to get to the farmer’s market when it opens at 7am, and I think the earliest I ever managed was 8am. 7am on a Saturday is a lot to ask, even for ramps. But this year my neighbor introduced me to a vegetable delivery service which supplies ramps, and I can finally be a proper foodie.

If you are unfamiliar with ramps, they are a seasonal craze that has admittedly gotten a bit out of control in recent years. They’re really a wild form of onion, and were once so abundant along Lake Michigan and the Chicago River that Chicago takes it name from a Native American word for ramps. They smell grassy and garlicky and tastes like a cross between onion and garlic, its sharp punch of flavor mellowed by a touch of sweetness. They are admittedly delicious, but what makes ramps the unicorn of the allium family is their short season (a brief few weeks) and their wild provenance. Continue reading

three cheese mac with broccoli

I really have no excuse for cooking and blogging instead of studying the renal system. This is me not caring. A girl’s gotta eat, you know, and my back-up plan of blogging for a living needs to be maintained.

I was going to make this for book club but then book club was cancelled¬†after I had read the book, so in retaliation (I could have been studying!) I decided to make it for myself and post it on the internet. So there.¬†Everyday Food called this “lighter” mac and cheese, which I guess is true if you go by Martha Stewart’s standards (her classic recipe calls for more than 6 cups of cheese). The trick is using neufchatel cheese (aka light cream cheese) for a really creamy sauce, and adding broccoli so you can reassure yourself that you ate your vegetables. Or as the magazine says, “Broccoli adds substance and vitamins.” Alrighty then. Continue reading