November 16, 2004

Small-Time Cooks 11-16-04

This week was exhausting. Mark was busy planning the Thanksgiving menu at the restaurant, and I was busy at work. By the end of the week, we both just wanted to collapse in front of a good movie, but my TV was in the shop. Instead, we invited a friend over and made something simple. The food was good—but after a long week, the wine was even better.

Vegetable Panini

1 large round loaf

3-4 zucchini

1 large onion

2 cups crimini or Portobello mushrooms

1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips

fresh arugula

chopped fresh basil or fresh pesto

sliced Gruyére cheese

freshly ground black pepper

Cut the top off the bread. Take a knife into the bread, pointing the knife toward the center of the loaf. Cut in a circle, keeping the knife at the same angle, and just pull the top off. Scoop out the bread in the loaf with your fingers, leaving just a thin shell of bread inside the crust. Do the same for the top and set aside.

Caramelize the onion. Slice it into thin strips and separate. Melt about 2 Tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium- high heat and toss in the onion. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes, then lower the heat to medium. Continue to stir every so often. Wash the zucchini and slice into thin strips. Cover with some olive oil and pepper, and lay out on a baking sheet. Next to them, lay out the strips of bell pepper. Put about 5 inches underneath the broiler and cook for about 4 minutes per side, and remove from the oven. Lower the oven heat to 300. Once the onions are done (this should take about 25 minutes total), use the same pan to sauté the mushrooms. Now it's time to make the panini.

On the bottom of the loaf, lay down the broiled zucchini in a layer. On top, layer the bell pepper. Next, put down the caramelized onions. Lay the sliced Gruyére on top, and then the mushrooms. You can sprinkle on the basil here if you like. Finally, top with the arugula. Spread the pesto on the top of the loaf that you cut off, and put the top back on. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts. Slice into wedges and serve. It's good with sweet hot mustard!

Simple Quesadillas

flour tortillas

cheese (Chihuahua is the best)


salsa, sour cream, guacamole

This is an easy 5-minute meal, or you can make it into something much more elaborate. Choose whatever filling you like the best; spinach and mushrooms are good, but mushroom and chicken with green onions is another alternative. (If you wanted to go kerr-azy, you could do something like chicken, bacon, mushrooms, spicy roasted potatoes, green onions, red onions, tomatoes, roasted corn, and olives.) Melt some butter in a pan over medium heat and lay down the tortilla. Sprinkle over some grated cheese, and put the filling on half of the tortilla. Once the cheese melts, fold the tortilla over and flip once after a couple of minutes. The tortilla should be golden, not burned. Serve up with salsa, sour cream and guacamole on the side.

Authors' Note: We would like to acknowledge the Holy Blackstone Emperor Kalman for his leadership through these tumultuous times. The aid that Ian has provided to the Small Time Crooks, as both a spiritual and culinary leader, is paramount.