Halfway through the year, let’s take a look at where I am with my list. Updates (and true confessions) after each point. Let me know in the comments what you think.

In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, I’ve been kicking an idea around about all the dishes I swear I’m going to cook—recipes I’m going to try.

If you’re reading this and thinking I can’t believe she’s intimidated to make (fill in the blank), know we all have culinary roadblocks.

When I was thinking about this, I came across a piece on the Taste website, “Everyone Should Have a Winter Cooking Goal.” The author’s goal is to work on one dish until she masters it and has explored all its variations.

My goals are a little different–some of these I’d like to master, some I’d like to have become a regular part of my cooking repertoire and others are rainy day/all day projects. I’m thinking that maybe there should be one a month, but at the moment, I’m 4 short. Any suggestions?

8 Things I’m Challenging Myself to Cook in 2019:

  1. Crêpes: One of those projects that I thought I could throw equipment at and be okay. This just needs practice and probably patience. For you crêpe makers out there, is it easier to start with regular (flour) ones before moving on to savory (buckwheat) ones? Update: Thanks to my friend Jan, mastered this one. Have done both plain and buckwheat, plain are easier and probably more versatile.
  2. Soupe de poisson: This is one of my favorite soups and a prelude to bouillabaisse. Making this is just a matter of deciding to do it and getting some good fish. Update: Still on my wish list. 
  3. Whole fish: I don’t know why this has always seemed so challenging to me and since they just published this in the NY Times, I’m not the only one. Could it be one of those things like roasting meats that’s super easy but looks like you can cook? Anyone got a favorite recipe to share? Update: In spite of saving simple whole fish recipes and checking out the contenders at Adam’s, I haven’t gotten here yet, but it’s coming.
  4. More fish: Where we are, it’s much easier to get great (farm raised) meat, than good fish, but I’m going to make finding a good source for fish and befriending a fishmonger a priority this year (and it will make #2 & 3 much easier). Update: got off to a good start with this and give myself extra points for doing a lot more salmon to see if I could con Frank into eating it. We loved several of the recipes.
  5. Cream of mushroom soup: (as good as the CIA and/or the late Campfire in GB) Like the soupe de poisson, this is more a matter of going shopping and facing the stove. Update: Like the soupe de poisson, didn’t happen and I’ve got no excuses.
  6. Cauliflower rice: Yes, I can be trendy, and we need to cut carbs/sugar in my house. Update: Since I wrote this I don’t think we’ve had any cauliflower. Hmmm…
  7. Grains: Freekeh, farro, oats, lentils, etc. Time to switch it up from rice and potatoes. And if I would do #8, probably faster cooking than an hour on the stove. Update: More room for improvement and that goes for #8 too. Accidental Locavore Insta-Pot
  8. Use my Insta-Pot: for more than yogurt and use the pressure cooker part of it. Shoot, I guess that means I have to find the instruction book and read it. Update: It still makes great yogurt…

And, I’m going to start using the “good” silver! Update: Polished it and used it the last time we had friends for dinner. Nice to use the good stuff, try it.

What would go on your list?




Cilantro Chutney

by Anne Maxfield on May 12, 2016

Accidental Locavore Cilantro ChutneyCilantro, love it or hate it? If you hate it, you can skip this post (or just read to the end for the quality of the writing).

One of the first recipes of many recipes the Accidental Locavore wanted to try from Made in India was chicken with a cilantro chutney. First up – the chutney. This makes about a pint jar:

  • 4 ounces cilantro (a medium-sized bunch – see photo)
  • 2 ounces peanuts, unsalted and unroasted
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 2-3 serrano chiles, roughly chopped (seed and use more or less depending on your heat tolerance)

Accidental Locavore 4 Ounces CilantroWash and coarsely chop the cilantro, stems and leaves. Since you’re using the stems, make sure the cilantro is well washed. Add to a blender or food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Pulse until the mixture has a smooth consistency, like a pesto. Add some water if necessary to help the mixture blend. Taste and add more of any of the ingredients to your taste. Store in a jar in the refrigerator until ready to use and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Fish in Banana LeafMy verdict: I didn’t have many peanuts so ended up with half peanuts and half pine nuts, but there was still a taste of peanuts. I’m sure you could probably use almost any nut. This was really good and went well with the chicken. With the leftovers, I continued my freezer cook-down and wrapped some cod in banana leaves for dinner, which looked cool and tasted great! The banana leaves are from my freezer but parchment paper or aluminum foil (as long as it’s not going in the microwave) would also be fine.

Accidental Locavore Made In IndiaIf you like Indian food, this is a great cookbook! I thank my friend Rob for introducing it to me. I’ve made several recipes from it, starting with the roasted cauliflower and have many more marked to try. So far, nothing is hard or complicated and my basmati rice is hugely improved! Look for more recipes from this great book.


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Do You Eat Vegan? Why I Can’t

by Anne Maxfield on March 21, 2016

Accidental Locavore PETA Vegan MagRecently, my mother gave me a copy of the Peta Vegan Starter Kit, a magazine to get you started on a vegan diet. Now, the Accidental Locavore loves cheese and meat, so the chances of me going vegan are slim to none. It’s a free country and if you choose to eat vegan, that’s your choice (like supporting certain loud-mouth politicians), but don’t expect me to.

Accidental Locavore PETA Vegan ChickenMy biggest problem with it, and something that is conveniently overlooked, is the reliance on processed foods. By page 3, Peta is promoting faux chicken and beef, along with vegan margarine (when was the last time anyone even used margarine?). It reminded me of one of the most shocking episodes of the Oprah show I ever saw.

She had convinced her staff to go vegan for a week. To illustrate the point, Kathy Freston, an author of vegan cookbooks, went to a staffer’s house, cleared out everything non-vegan and went shopping at Whole Foods with the staffer. There they piled a shopping cart full of food, but the cart wasn’t full of vegetables and fruit. Instead, Kathy eagerly pointed out the tofu Italian sausages, tapioca mozzarella, fishless fish sticks, etc. It looked like every single thing in the cart was processed food.

Accidental Locavore Vegan PhotosWhy would you give up simple food—meat, fish, vegetables to eat a “Cheerful Log” Vegan Ham Loaf with a list of ingredients that includes: Vegan chunk (non-GMO) soy protein, soy fiber, wheat protein), non-GMO sunflower oil, tapioca starch, vegetable protein (sweet pea, carrot) , vegan seasoning (licorice, kelp) red yeast, sugar, trehalose*, soy sauce (non GMO) sea salt?

At least the soy is non-GMO, although since the Cheerful Log is made in Taiwan, you might be skeptical about that claim. Although tofu is considered to be good for you, 94% of soy beans in the US are GMO, so not as good for you as we might believe.

Accidental Locavore Vegan IdeasAnd being vegan takes a lot of time. A lot of time. It’s hard to find truly vegan food and then, if you care, probably harder to find food that tastes good. While I have had a couple of dishes where tempe and tofu star, for every one of those, I’ve endured glop that resembles chipboard (probably vegan) more than a Black Angus burger. What about you, could you do it?Accidental Locavore Noshis Burger

*also known as mycose or tremalose, is a natural alpha-linked disaccharide formed by an α,α-1,1-glucoside bond between two α-glucose units. Whatever that means.



Moroccan Fish With Onions and Olives

by Anne Maxfield on May 1, 2014

Accidental Locavore Moroccan FishThe Accidental Locavore came across this recipe in a recent NY Times article and thought it looked interesting. Cod was on sale so I got a hunk of it and went to work. This was adapted to feed two. You’ll want to give it some time to marinate, so plan accordingly. Some couscous or rice would be a nice accompaniment to the fish.

  • 3/4 pound cod, grouper, halibut or snapper, cut into two serving-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, well washed and dried
  • 1 garlic clove, run through a garlic press
  • 1 small serrano chile, very finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground, plus 1/2 teaspoon whole seeds
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 small onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup green or black olives, with pits

Accidental Locavore Sauted OnionsSeason fish fillets lightly with salt and pepper and set aside. Reserve a few cilantro sprigs for garnish, then roughly chop leaves and tender stems and put in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, the garlic, the chile, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, the paprika, 1/4 cup olive oil and the lime juice. Stir mixture together.

Put the fish in a Ziploc bag or storage container with a lid. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the cilantro sauce for serving, and pour the rest of the sauce over fish fillets, making sure they’re well coated. Marinate at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate and marinate overnight.

Meanwhile, put butter and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions and season generously with salt and pepper. Add remaining ground cumin and ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, the turmeric and the cayenne. Stir to coat. When onions begin to soften, turn heat to medium. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until onions are soft and begin to brown. Stir in preserved lemon and olives. Cool to room temperature. (The onions may be cooked in advance.)

Accidental Locavore Baking FishHeat oven to 400 degrees. Put onions in a low baking dish and spread to a 1-inch thickness. Arrange marinated fish fillets over onions in a single layer. Bake on top rack until fish is just done, 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, smear a little reserved cilantro sauce over each fillet, and give each guest a large spoonful of the onions. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: really good but could be tweaked to be great! A little salty, so would rinse off the preserved lemon, or use less of it. Ditto the olives (I don’t know if the pits add anything to the flavor of the dish, but I used a handful of mixed, pitted olives). Since somehow my pantry was lacking in cumin seeds and I was lazy, I used a teaspoon of ground cumin and the same amount of ground coriander. Spices like that are always more flavorful if you do take the time to toast and grind them, but if you’re feeling lazy, don’t let that stop you from trying this dish. If you’re feeling sticker shock on limes, lemons would be fine in this dish. What was really good and would make a good base for a number of things, were the onions. I used cod for the fish, and it had the body and taste to stand up to the spices. Might have wanted a little more heat from the serrano, but there were enough other strong flavors that maybe it’s not necessary. I served it with some spinach, but couscous or rice might have soaked up some of the sauce (and salt).