What’s in the Bag Archives

What’s In The Bag: Anchovy Paste-Off

EVENT: Cooking From Christina’s Bag MAIN INGREDIENTS: Chives, Eggplant, Anchovy Paste, Artichoke Hearts CARA’S ADDITIONS: Fettucine, Pine Nuts, Raisins, Saffron, Fennel PHOEBE’S ADDITIONS: Striped Bass, Parsley, Capers, Lemon, Red Onion (leftover) MENU: Sicilian Pasta (C); Eggplant Bruschetta (C); Striped Bass with Salsa Verde and Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables (P)

Voila! Our final set of recipes from your shopping bags. What Christina brought to the table seemed so different from what we usually have in our bags, cabinets, and fridges—and yet so enticing—we both decided to have a go at it. Likewise, what we made was quite different from one another, and yet they both turned out so surprisingly well. As we wrote this draft, our mouths wound up watering at each other’s mutually enticing fare.
From our kitchens, where we’re grateful for your shopping originality, to yours,

Cara and Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS

**Recipes**

Sicilian Pasta
Serves 4

This pasta may look unassuming, but its flavors—from earthy saffron to briny anchovies to fragrant pinenuts and sweet raisins—combine to make such a statement in every bite. Definitely one to try! Serve with a simple summer salad.
Ingredients
1 tablespoon chives
1 tablespoon anchovy paste, or 2 anchovies, finely minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon raisins, plumped for 20 minutes in hot water
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced, with a bit of the green part chopped finely and thrown in pinch of saffron
3/4 pound pasta, preferably fresh and preferably fettucine Combine all ingredients. Let them marinate for four hours, or longer in the refrigerator. Cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and immediately toss with the marinade. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.

Artichoke-Eggplant Salad

Serves 4

This might seem like a cop-out—simply mixing two of the ingredients and throwing them on a piece of toast—if it weren’t for my recorded new obsession with marinated grilled eggplant. You can either verify that for yourself by making this dish, or just believe that I put this together because it was delicious—not just easy.

Ingredients
1 large eggplant, sliced
1/2 jar marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 baguette, in thin slices

Bake lightly oiled slices of eggplant in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Toast the baguette slices briefly. Chop the artichokes. Mix with eggplant strips. Let rest for an hour. Spoon mixture onto baguette pieces, and enjoy.

Striped Bass with Salsa Verde and Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables
Makes 2 Servings

True, I have yet to try Cara’s marinated grilled eggplant. But until she makes me a portion, instead of just inundating my inbox with oh-so appetizing pictures, I will remain a believer that roasting is the best way to create the perfect mouthful of eggplant. More so, baking the vegetables at a very high heat in the oven can transform a soggy, dull piece of artichoke into a fresh, crispy marvel. I toss them piping hot with a simple salsa verde–chives, parsley, anchovy paste, lemon juice and capers–and pile them high over a simple filet of bass. You can use any leftover herbs for the salsa, and any sturdy fish as the center-piece. But what really makes these simple Mediterranean flavors come together is the anchovy paste which, without Christina’s inspiration, I would have not dared add to my shopping bag.
Ingredients
3-4 Japanese eggplant (1 small regular), cut into
½ inch rounds
½ red onion, quartered and sliced
1 6oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp capers
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 tsp anchovy paste
2 tbsp lemon juice (about ½ lemon)
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt
¾ lb striped bass filet, skin-on olive oil
Preheat the oven to 445°F. In a large rimmed baking dish, combine the eggplant, onion, and artichoke hearts with a glug of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Toss until fully coated, and then shake the pan to make sure the vegetables lie flat and have the maximum possible surface area exposed. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. With a spatula, redistribute the vegetables so they brown on the opposite side, and return to the oven for another 10-20 minutes, until the vegetables are dark brown and caramelized. In the meantime, make the salsa verde: Combine the capers, herbs, anchovy paste, lemon juice, oil and salt in a small bowl and whisk until fully incorporated. Coat a large skillet with olive oil and set it over high heat. Pat the fish fillet dry and when the pan starts to smoke, set it flesh-side down in the hot oil. Cook until the fish flesh has turned opaque half way through, then flip the fish and cook skin-side down. Cook time depends on the thickness of the fish. If you have a very thick filet, finish in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes, or return the flame to low and cover the pan for a few minutes. Set fish fillet on a platter or between two plates. Drizzle the top with a spoonful of salsa verde. When the vegetables have finished roasting, toss them together with the remaining salsa. Top the fish with the vegetable mixture and garnish with some chopped chives.

What’s In The Bag: Turkey Burgers with Beet Relish

EVENT: Cooking From Kate’s Bag
IN KATE’S BAG: Ground Turkey, Beets, Fresh Corn, Red Onion
MY ADDITIONS: Fresh Dill, Lemon Juice, Chives
MENU: Dill Turkey Burgers with Pickled Red Onion and Beet Relish; Sweet Corn with Chive Butter

In our second day of cooking from your bags, I opened Kate’s. Hers also contained a lot of summer stuff, but at the center was a new vehicle for serving it: ground turkey. I was glad, since I’ve always been more enthusiastic about making chicken or turkey burgers over the standard beef. Five or so years back, during summer no less, I remembered using fresh dill to add extra flavor to my turkey burger for a casual weekend night dinner, and my friend Jessy still raves about it to this day. Since beets go well with dill, I decided to use them as a condiment rather than a centerpiece, pairing them with quick pickled onions in a punchy relish.

Though the french fry is the obligatory compliment in a restaurant, when grilling burgers at home during summer, there always seems to be a corn cob to round out the meal. My mother and I usually drench ours in basil butter, but since I had some chives on hand, I used those.

From my kitchen, with a bag full of seasoned suggestions, to yours,

Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

**Recipes**


Dill Turkey Burgers with Pickled Red Onion and Beet Relish
Makes 2 (very large) burgers

Ingredients

For the burgers:

2 tbsp minced red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1lb light meat turkey

For the relish:

1 tbsp dill
1 tbsp pickled red onion (recipe to follow)
2 tbsp finely diced beets (see Red Flannel Hash Recipe for roasted beets)

In a skillet, sauté the onion and garlic in a little oil until fragrant and translucent, about two to three minutes. Remove all bits from the pan and transfer to a medium mixing bowl.

Toss together the onion mixture, dill, mayo, mustard, lemon juice, and salt. Add the turkey meat and with clean hands, mix it together with the other ingredients. Make sure not to over work the turkey. When the meat mixture is well incorporated, form it into two or three patties, depending on your desired burger size. If you have the time, chill in the refrigerator for twenty minutes or so. This can be done up to a day ahead.

Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the relish in a small bowl.

Heat a few tables of olive oil in the skillet—enough to coat the bottom—and get it nice and hot. Add the burgers (in batches if necessary) and cook on both sides until brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.

Serve immediately open faced, on a toasted bun, or with a mixed green salad and top with the relish and a pickled onion round or two. Dill mayonnaise or crème fraiche would be a nice compliment as well.


Pickled Red Onions

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt

Combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for two minutes, until the sugars have dissolved.

In a small bowl, pour the pickling liquid over the onion rounds. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove onions from liquid and pat dry. Transfer to a jar or Tupperware container, toss with a touch of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and store until time of serving. Hold onto the liquid for another use.

Sweet Corn with Chive Butter

Makes 2 servings (can easily add another ear or two of corn)

Ingredients
2 ears of corn
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp snipped chives
salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Blanche the corn for a few minutes, until the kernels turn a beautiful bright yellow (be careful not to overcook). Remove immediately to an ice bath or run the cobs under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside on a platter.

In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in the chives and pour over the corn. Sprinkle each with salt, and serve immediately.

What’s in the Bag: Summer Stuff

EVENT: Cooking from Sara’s Shopping Bag
VENUE: Cara’s Apartment, Park Slope
PARTY SIZE: 3
TYPE: Weekday Fare
MENU: Edamame Succotash, Sweet Tomato Grilled Cheese

Last week, in honor of our new banner, we asked you to list four items from your current shopping bag, real or hypothetical. Not surprisingly, in this late-summer abundance, many readers listed some combination of seasonal fruits and vegetables: zucchini, corn, tomatoes, eggplant, figs, peaches, and beets. Though we’re honoring one particular reader’s bag, as per the rules, we hope that all of you with fresh summer produce can find something to cook in the recipes that follow, below, tomorrow, and the day after that.

To all those who wrote in, thank you! We’re nerds, but there’s something so exciting, we found, about seeing what other people are buying and eating.

As for the process: we selected three shopping bags. I cooked from one, Phoebe from another, and then we both did our renditions of a third. We added some basic ingredients, most from our list of everyday items (oil, vinegar, onions, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper), but we kept your suggestions as the featured elements in every dish. Today we’ve featured Sara’s bag, and in the next few days we’ll post about the rest.

WHAT’S IN SARA’S BAG: Zucchini, Corn, Tomatoes, Peaches
WHAT I ADDED: Edamame, Baguette, Cheese

From my kitchen, where you bring the ingredients, to yours,

Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

**Recipes**

Edamame Succotash
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 zucchini, cut into a fine dice
3 ears of corn, kernels removed
3/4 cup frozen shelled edamame
fresh basil

Saute the shallot and garlic in olive oil over low heat. You want the onion to be translucent and not quite browned. Raise the heat to medium and add the diced zucchini. Stir fry for about 2 minutes, then add the corn kernels. Cook for five minutes, until they are soft and sweet, and then add edamame. Cook until hot through, adding 1/4 cup of water if the mixture starts sticking to the pan. Sprinkle in fresh basil, taste for salt, and serve hot or room temperature, or cold, as a salad.
Sweet Tomato Grilled Cheeses
Serves 4

I don’t know about you, but I quite enjoy my grilled cheese sandwiches dipped in ketchup. In this gourmet sandwich, a ketchup-like condiment—Sweet Tomato Jam, made out of peaches and tomatoes—is actually built into the sandwich, giving you the same taste sensation with so much added convenience.

Ingredients
1 baguette
4 ounces smoked cheese, like mozzarella or gouda, or whatever you like

For the sweet tomato jam:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow tomato, diced
1 peach, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/2 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
salt to taste
Heat the olive oil in a small pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the peaches, tomatoes, and torn basil, and raise the heat to medium high. Stir in the two kinds of sugar and the vinegar and bring to a boil. Once you see a few bubbles, give the mixture a stir, then let it simmer until thickened and jammy, about an hour. Remove from the heat and let cool. (These ingredients make about a scant cup of jam–enough for the four sandwiches. You can double or even triple the ingredients if you want to keep some in the fridge for garnishing other dishes.)
Cut the baguette in half, lengthwise, then cut it into four pieces. Slice the cheese and layer it on each piece. Spread one side of each baguette with tomato jam. Using a lightly oiled panini maker or frying pan, cook the sandwiches on both sides until the cheese is melted and the crust is crispy. Serve immediately.

What’s in the Bag: We Have A Banner!

where meals really come together: the shopping bag

Cara’s Shopping Bag: Summer Squash, Parmesan, Onion, Kohlrabi
Phoebe’s Shopping Bag: Tomato, Avocado, Cilantro, Cucumber

It’s been a long time coming, but finally, we have a banner. Quite frankly, we’ve been a little Goldilocks about the whole thing. Over the last six months we’ve tossed around many ideas and design iterations, some good, some bad, but in the end, not one until now, felt just right. For this beautiful, final version, we have to thank Tom (his website is TypeShapeColor) for being patient with our indecision, and offering the endless options and creativity that fueled it.

We would usually round out this post with some sort of tasty token of appreciation courtesy of Cara’s oven. But since it’s too hot to bake, we thought we’d try something a little different.

In the spirit of our new imagery, we got to thinking about the contents of our shopping bags—plastic, paper, or tote. In a lot of ways, our culinary livelihood as quarter-life cooks is defined and confined by the contents of those bags. Our recipes begin with what we buy, and then they evolve through an endless debate on how to use up fresh produce and supplement enough stock pantry items so that our weekly ingredients fit both within our bag and our budgets.

Resourceful strategies aside, what we choose for our bag is mainly a product of our individual tastes. Its contents say a lot about who we are as cooks, revealing many idiosyncrasies. Cara might come home with blueberries, veggie sausage, and kohlrabi, Phoebe with basil, Merguez, and cherry tomatoes. While you’ll never find meat in one, you just as rarely find fruit in the other. Our pantries and our fridges do sometimes contain similar ingredients, but it’s what we use to spice up those essentials that leads to two different, if equally delicious, approaches.

Yet sometimes, it’s a breath of fresh air to step into someone else’s kitchen and, in doing so, step away from the staples of our shopping bags and our pantries. Which is why we’ll be asking, oh so kindly, for a little assistance from all of you out there. Please open your shopping bags to us and share three or four fresh ingredients you will be working with this week. We will then, in turn, adopt some of your shopping bags (two each) to our kitchens, cooking your ingredients in our style. We’ll post the resulting recipes at the end of next week. Of course, we need to work through ours first, so please see our lists above and stay tuned for what’s been happening to them in our kitchens during these next few days.

There is no vegetable too obscure (hello, kohlrabi?) or animal part too gnarly, though if it’s meat at all, Cara is likely to take a pass. But, that said, we’d prefer not to be appalled or nauseated by what you’ve bought, so please, unless you would actually like to try tomatoes stuffed with gummy bears, be honest about your recent market finds—or any hypothetical combination you would like to pick up if only there existed the right recipe out there to guide you.

So, to recap:
•go shopping (or imagine what you’d have bought if you’d gone shopping)

•submit your list of four items in the comment section below—ones most exciting, unusual, or emblematic of your cravings

•we’ll choose two “bags” and each go at them, interpreting your ingredients with our tools

•stay tuned next week for the recipes we’ve created

Though we’ll be the ones in the kitchen, this time you supply the creativity. We so look forward to what you come home with.

From our kitchen, where it all begins with a bag, to yours,

Phoebe and Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS