Archive for the ‘experiments’ Category

24
Oct

Sigara böreği

   Posted by: Livia

The last day I was in Istanbul, my host let me help her make Sigara böreği. Here’s my attempt to document what we did so I can remember for the future.

Filling

3 bunches of fresh spinach (with large leaves) from the farmers market were washed thoroughly in several changes of water. She had 2 salad spinners going at once.

In a skillet, 1 minced medium/large white onion was softened in a generous glug of olive oil. Once it was soft, she peeled and shredded in 2 smaller potatoes (all that she had on hand, perhaps more would have been used if she had it) (large holes on a box grater). Stir stir stir. Cook Cook Cook.

And then the cleaned and roughly chopped spinach went in. And we cooked it until is was a soft and homogeneous mixture.

Season with black pepper and salt.

Then the heat was turned off, and it was set aside to prepare the wrappers.

Wrapping

Was not made with phyllo dough! She hod bought freshly made circles of thin dough from the local market. Yufka! Which I just found at a market in this city, which is why I am now thinking about making them on my own.

So she spread out this 2″ round of dough in a single layer on the counter (and kept the rest covered lest it dry out).

And she mixed together yogurt, eggs, and olive oil until it had a soupy texture (and she added ingredients as needed to get the right consistency).

Spread a thin-ish layer of the egg mixture over the yukfa. Fold the yukfa in half, so you now have a semi-circle. Slice the semicircle into 6-8 (I forget which) long triangle wedges.

Assembly

Spoon 1-2 Tablespoons of the spinach filling on the wide part of the triangle. Tuck in the corners and roll the dough around the filling. If it seems dry, feel free to add more of the egg mixture to seal, but it shouldn’t be wet either.

Lay your finished cigars on a lined baking sheet. They can now sit overnight in the refrigerator (I don’t remember if this is just okay or preferred).

When ready, bake at 425F for 15-20 minutes.

Things that are missing from this recipe
She also had white cheese (like feta) that went into this dish. Was it mixed into the spinach once it had cooled? Or was it in the egg mixture? I don’t remember.

Were there any herbs in the spinach mixture? A bit of parsley wouldn’t hurt.

Other similar recipes online
http://www.deliciousistanbul.com/blog/2011/03/15/sigara-borek/
http://www.deliciousistanbul.com/blog/2012/02/14/swiss-chard-pastirma-borek-recipe/
http://ozlemsturkishtable.com/2013/03/a-favorite-turkish-treat-sigara-boregi-crispy-cheese-and-herb-filled-pastry-rolls-a-delightful-find-in-istanbul-karakoy-lokantasi/
http://www.turkishcookbook.com/2006/08/cigarette-borek.php
http://userealbutter.com/2008/09/14/sigara-boregi-recipe/
http://www.anediblemosaic.com/?p=3740

vegan -> http://www.messyvegetariancook.com/2010/05/19/vegan-spinach-borek/

ETA: Okay – so I’ve made it now and can answer all the questions I had before!

First – this is not a crispy version. This dough looks terrifyingly designed to be crispy. I was sure that everything was ruined because I only had storebought Yufka instead of getting a fresh batch from a local market. Everything turned out fine.

Second – Yes, add the cheese to the filling once it has cooled. I ended up using a mixture of peccorino romano and sheep milk beyaz peynir. Whatever brined white cheese should be tasty. Also, I was worried about the saltiness of my cheese, so I was moderate about the salt in the filling. But, really, it could have used more salt.

Third – resting time is important! The first batch I cooked was the last batch I made, and it ended up releasing a puddle of oil that made the rolls soggy. I was resigned to finding them tasty anyway. But the second batch, which had been sitting long enough for the dough to fully hydrate and the tops (brushed with more of the egg/yogurt/oil mixture) to get a little tacky, didn’t lose any liquid and came out fairly similar to the ones I’d had in Istanbul. And the tops turned lovely golden and brown.

Cooking time – 425F for 20 minutes.

Okay, so you’re going to have to forgive me on this one – I’m trying to take pictures of my food, and photography isn’t one of my interests. However, of all the people I invited to eat my beans, I didn’t manage to invite anyone else who wanted to take pictures, either, so it was all up to me and the camera in my phone.

That said, I can cook – and cook I did. I wasn’t expecting a particularly good success rate. In fact, I did run out and buy bagels just in case everything failed – that’s how little confidence I had. This was way out of my comfort zone, and yet I ended up liking everything!

So I cook with beans regularly – why was this out of my comfort zone? Well, for one – one of the dish was a baking project, and I’m still not fully pleased with my breadmaking skills and don’t consider myself a competent baker yet. And for another – when I make beans for just me, I really enjoy cooking them to mush, but for this I wanted to much more precisely control the textures of the beans and have a wide range of firmnesses… and if I were going to be playing with it, they might all end up crunchy after 3 hours cooking and what would I do? Oh, my!

So my two main weapons for playing with texture were baking soda (basic) and citric acid (acidic). Well, okay, I had many options for acidifying, but alkalizing has fewer options.

Marx Foods is a lovely company, and so far they’re the only people to ever offer me free things to experiment with, and some of my favorite experiments have come from working with exotic samples they have given to me. This time, they gave me three kinds of beans: Marrow, Mayacoba, and Azuki.

And I made at least one dish for each bean.

Azuki beans – intrinsically sweet, source of red bean paste (on language)

my opinion – I didn’t find them all that sweet… just not so savory that sweet things wouldn’t work with them. But I did end up adding sugar to both dishes.

I separated the 700g of red beans into two sets of 350g each, and I cooked one with baking soda to make paste, and the other batch with an added 1/4 tsp of citric acid as soon as they started to soften so that I could work with whole beans. With both batches, I ended up using less than the whole quantity (noted in the recipes)

Dish 1 –
Azuki Bean, Lemon, and Coconut Bread Pudding

(dairy free)

ingredients:
1 lemon peel (after having been used for something else)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

350g 150g azuki beans
50g coconut sugar
1/4 tsp citric acid

1 loaf challah, day old
1 cup large flake unsweetened dried coconut, loosely filled
1/2 cup golden raisins
8 10 eggs
3/4 cup coconut sugar
(2) 15oz can coconut milk

Two days before:

Take the peel of 1 lemon (organic, since you’re using the peel) and boil it in plain water. After the peel is soft and the water has a yellow tinge (the longer you boil it, the less bitter – I aim for about an hour), drain. Boil (low boil, not rolling, because this is hot sugar!) it again in equal parts sugar and water. Again, for as long as you have patience – at least half an hour. This time, when you remove the peel, reserve the syrup as well.

Put red beans on to soak. (I put them in an empty quart yogurt container, add plenty of water, and let sit about 24 hours)

The evening ahead:

Drain red beans and simmer in plenty of water until they just start to soften. Add sugar and cook for another 10 minutes. Bite a bean and see if it has a pleasing texture. When the texture is firm but not crunchy, add the citric acid. Stir. And then drain the beans.

Oil large casserole dish and tear the challah loaf into chunky pieces so that they fill the casserole dish. Add drained beans, coconut, and raisins. Slice off the pith from the lemon peel, and cut the candied peel into thin slivers – add as many of these slivers as you like, I used half a lemon’s worth.

Beat together the eggs, sugar, and coconut milk (I did this in a couple batches so that I could use a bowl with a spout – having a container that pours well is more important than efficiency here). Pour the mixture over the bread and fillings. Cover and refrigerate overnight – to make your life easier in the morning when you’re hungry, and so that it has a creamier texture because everything has longer to soak the liquids in.

The next morning:

Cook in a slow oven. (In this case, the cooking temperature and time were determined by another dish, but on it’s own I would guess that it would do well at 325F for 45minutes, but definitely check to make sure it’s cooked through)

Heat up a quarter cup of the reserved lemon syrup, and pour overtop the pudding.

Verdict:
I ended up with the beans a little harder than what I had pictured when I devised the dish, but it really worked well that way – they were almost like nuts. But my guest who abhors nuts in bread pudding (or almost anything sweet), still loved the dish. The beans and the coconut really play well together, and I’m thinking of taking the beans I ended up not using and simmer them with coconut milk to have with sweet sticky rice. I’ve adjusted the recipe also to include more liquid because mine ended up near the dry side, but I was limited by my coconut milk and didn’t want to switch to adding dairy to the amazingly dairy free bread pudding.

How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 6 out of 10
I found things with similar names on some restaurant menus (Ozumo’s execution in very different; Bamboo Sushi’s is also a bread pudding and has a citrus note, but the execution is darker and it does not have coconut), but I did not find any recipes or blog posts with a similar recipe. The closest I came there was a rice pudding.



Dish 2 – Azuki Bean Paste Cinnamon Rolls
(note: dough is only slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour’s guaranteed recipe)


ingredients:
(dough)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
198 to 255g lukewarm water
361g all-purpose flour
85g unsalted butter, at room temperature
35g vanilla sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
30g dry milk
21g oat flour
20 cardamom seeds, ground

(filling – enough for 2 batches of the dough above)
350g azuki beans, having soaked overnight
42g coconut sugar
1-2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp korintje cinnamon

2 tsp milk
oil for pans

(icing)
3oz cream cheese
1/3 cup powdered (vanilla) sugar
milk to thin for consistency

The evening ahead:

Make the dough – proof the yeast, mix everything together in a mixer with a dough hook for, “about 7 minutes at second speed, and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl, perhaps sticking a bit at the bottom,” put in a greased container to rise in the refrigerator overnight. (more complete directions here)

Make the paste:

Only use about an equal quantity of water to beans because you aren’t going to be pouring any off – add more as needed. Simmer. beans and water until soft.

Oh, what, they aren’t getting soft? Add 1 tsp of baking soda and stir that in. There’s no reason not to add the first teaspoon right at the beginning, but you get a fun foaming action if you wait until the beans have started to cook.

If they still take a while to soften, add up to another teaspoon of baking soda, but increase slowly.

Often with sweet things you add a pinch of salt for balance – do not do that here because baking soda has a salty taste of its own.

Once the beans are soft, add the sugar to taste. I like the coconut sugar because it’s not as sweet as regular sugar, and it has a bit of a toasty dark undertone. I was aiming for the low end of sweetness, so you might want more sugar.

Add the cinnamon. If you are using a milder cinnamon, feel free to increase the amount to taste.

Note that I don’t have any mushing directions. I found that just stirring broke down the beans to the point where there was a lumpy paste, and I liked the additional texture enough that I didn’t see a benefit to breaking it down further.

Refrigerate overnight.

That morning:

Roll out the dough to 16″ x 12″ (possibly just those dimensions because it fits well on the KAF cookie mat or because everything happens in half sheet pan measures – I was rolling it on the mat to measure). If the dough starts to resist and pull back in, cover it in plastic and come back in a few minutes to keep going.

Brush dough lightly with milk.

Spread a thin layer of the bean paste on top.

Roll dough the long way as tightly as will keep everything tight but not distort the dough too much. It will stretch some as you roll. Pinch the end to the roll to create a smooth seal (it seals especially well if you roll the seam to the bottom as you slice the cylinder).

Slice into 1″ pieces and set in your tins (I had 1 8″ round, which held 7, and 1 9″ square, which held 9). Cover and let rise for an hour.

Bake at 375F for about 20 minutes.

Whip together the cream cheese and powdered sugar, and then drizzle in the milk until it’s loose and runny. Drizzle lightly on top of the hot rolls.

Serve!

Verdict:
Wow! These came out perfect. And they were never frustrating, even though I’d been told that this sweet roll dough could be hard to work with. And I was going to put all of the credit on the King Arthur Flour recipe, but no – I have also gained skills, too! The giving up and letting the dough rest when it starts to fight back is definitely a new skill. There was no frustration rolling it out at all. And I now want to use my mixer for my bread doughs instead of all of this kneading by hand craftsmanship. Though the reason I went with mechanical help was that in the reviews and comments on the King Arthur site there were a couple people who had troubles, and the answer was almost always insufficient kneading time.

To prep for this recipe, I also checked Cooks Illustrated‘s techniques for making the dough. And while the dough wasn’t so useful there, they spent a lot of time discussing the problems of filling leaking and burning. And you know what – I think bean paste cinnamon rolls might be superior to cinnamon sugar ones. One – it stays where you put it and doesn’t leak. Two – instead of using the sugar for texture and quantity of filling as well as sweetness, you don’t have nearly as much flexibility with the sweetness level of the roll and they often end up too sweet.

How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 2 out of 10
This was hard to search as there are many permutations of rolls and buns, which might include or just be on the same page as cinnamon, using azuki beans or red bean paste. So it’s hard to be sure I wasn’t missing a lot. That said, I didn’t find many exact matches, which is actually a shame since I think it’s a superior result. The first match I found that was close was a cinnamon roll that used the beans in the dough, instead of the filling, but then I found someone with the exact same idea (in fact, that search was where I got the idea to include cardamom in the dough), only she did not enjoy the results as much as I did – partly because she processed her red bean paste more than I.

Mayacoba beansdescribed as mild beans that are thin skinned and also good at keeping their shape in cooking.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with these! You know those kale and white bean soups that are so delicious? Imagine that – as a quiche!

Dish 3 – Kale and Mayacoba Bean Quiche

ingredients:
400g Mayacoba (Canary) beans, soaked overnight
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon dried oregano

1 Pie crust (sorry, I used up all my baking mojo on the rolls – this was purchased)
egg white

1/3 lb pancetta, in 3 thick slices, then diced (bought at Milk & Honey Market)
1 medium purple onion, diced
3 large curly kale leaves, cut off the stem and sliced into thin shreds

4 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp spicy mustard (obtained mine at the Philly Food Swap

Put the beans and herbs together in a pot with plenty of water and simmer for an hour – but keep a close eye on them. We want them completely soft, but not at all mushy or broken down. And, yes, these beans were amazing for that – the skin might break, but the beans kept their shapes nicely. When they’re cooked to your satisfaction, drain them and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Pick out the rosemary stem and the bay leaf.

Cook the diced pancetta all the way until at least half of it is looking crispy. Pull out the pieces and drain on paper towels.

Take 2 Tablespoons of the pancetta fat, and cook the diced onion down in that over medium high heat. Once the onion is soft and starting to brown at the edges, add the kale. Just dump it over top, and then start turning it as the bottom wilts. Stop cooking it when the kale is a bright, vibrant green, soft all through, and glistening with an even coating of fat. (note: pancetta fat can be exceptionally salty, so wait until you can taste the kale before deciding whether to add more salt to accommodate the beans.

If you’re going to make the pie crust, do so. Lay the pie crust into the pan and ease it into the base. Prick all over with a fork and then brush with some egg white. (in the land of not being wasteful, I just go ahead and crack the first egg for the filling and aim the brush for whites – thus having one fewer dish to wash). Bake for 10 minutes at 350F

So now you have ready to go in: beans, cooked pancetta cubes, and a kale/onion mixture.

Take your pre-cooked pie crust and layer those fillings in. (I considered also adding a hard cheese, but that idea was abandoned when I saw how rich my other ingredients were already going to be). If you can, end with the kale on the top, but that doesn’t matter much.

Thoroughly scramble your eggs and beat in the dairy (yes, you can use half and half, instead) and the mustard. Pour the eggs over the filling, and then stir them together a bit (which will break up your layers – no worries.

Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes.

Verdict:
Yum! OMG Yum! This was exactly what I’d hoped. Everyone loved it. You really can’t go wrong with quiche. It didn’t even seem heavy at all, even with the full measure of beans. I’ve even frozen some pieces to reheat as breakfasts over the next few weeks. I tried microwaving one this morning, and it even reheats well. ♥


How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 8 out of 10
I have no idea why I didn’t find anyone else making this recipe – it’s delightful. Possibly because there are just so many white bean options that I didn’t search the right one. Here are the ones vaguely in the same family of delicious: white bean quiche with fennel and corn; spinach olive bean quiche; parsnip and kale quiche avec bacon; spinach and white bean quiche; vegan cannellini bean & kale quiche)

Erm… so I ran out of original ideas, and this next one is from a recipe. That said, it’s a recipe from ancient Rome that’s very different from a lot of food going on these days.

Dish 4 – Conchiclam Commodiana (Dried Beans in Commodus’ Style)

Conchicla Commodiana: pisam coques. cum despumaverit, teres piper, ligusticum, anethum, cepam siccam, suffundis liquamen, vino et liquamine temperabis. mittis in caccabum ut combibat. deinde ova IV solves, in sextarium pisae mittis, agitas, mittis in cumanam, ad ignem ponis, ut ducat, et inferes. (Apicius book 5, section 4, number 4) (I mostly used this site’s redaction, except for where I corrected their translation or substituted based on what I had available – and I didn’t look up the measurement equivalences… so only a little bit, but I did use it as a source)

ingredients:
400g Mayacoba (Canary) beans, soaked overnight
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp dill seeds (anethum is dill, not anise)
1 tsp epazote (because I wanted more green herbs, and it might be helpful with beans)
1 tsp fat or oil
1 small-medium yellow onion, finely diced (dried in recipe)
half a dozen healthy sprigs of parsley, leaves and stems divided, both chopped finely
1 tsp Phu Quoc fish sauce
2 Tbsp red wine
4 extra large eggs

Boil the beans, skimming off the froth.

With a mortar and pestle, grind the pepper, dill seed, and epazote.

In a skillet, fry the onion and parsley stems in a little oil (I used a teaspoon of the pancetta fat from the previous dish). Add the cooked beans, ground herbs, and fresh parsley – stir that together. Add the fish sauce and the wine, and it should be easy to stir, but not liquidy.

Take the beans off the fire and let cool.

Beat together the 4 eggs, and then stir into the cooled bean mixture.

Put it in the oven and cook very slowly. You could use a water bath, but I was already using the pan I usually use for that with the bread pudding, so instead I slowly raised the oven heat – letting it settle a bit at 180F, 220F, 275F, 325F, and 350F. And I think it was almost 2 hours before it looked cooked through.

Surprisingly, it was a souffle! I made ancient Roman bean souffle!

Verdict:
Fascinating. The (other) classicist among us said that it tasted like spring time – with the bright dill, green herbs, and earthy loamy beans. It was simultaneously heavy and light. It wasn’t a dinner dish, and I’m not sure it’s a breakfast dish. This was solidly in the land of brunch food.

How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 2 out of 10
You won’t find it anywhere else, but I certainly didn’t make it up.

Ohhh… this next one might be my favorite. This is the only one that could actually be a workday breakfast.

Marrow beans – described as having a creamy texture with either a meaty or a bacon-y flavor.

Okay, so this past year I finally started to enjoy congee or jook – by making it at home. I was inspired by both Tea and Cookies and David Lebovitz to make it at home with rich and flavorful little tidbits.

And I thought to myself – why not cook a very thin bean soup full of tastiness like you do with rice? I was so confident of this recipe, that I used the whole measure instead of dividing it into two potential recipes.

So I have no idea how incredibly inappropriate the name of this dish is – probably a bit, since it’s not rice – but I also have no better word to describe to you what is going on in this dish.

Marrow Bean Jook

ingredients:
1 tsp bacon fat (or pancetta fat, or any oil, really)
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 inches of ginger, cut into thin 1″ matchsticks
750g marrow beans, soaked overnight

duck stock

1 cup dried chanterelle mushrooms, steeped in hot water for half an hour

3 scallions, sliced into thin rounds
2 garlic cloves, sliced into thin rounds
2 mild peppers, sliced into thin rounds with no seeds

Stock:
Right, so I made special duck stock for this dish. I picked up a container of duck heads and feet from Siu Kee Duck House in Chinatown, and I cooked it overnight at 200F with my allium ends and carrot peelings, seasoned with 2 dried chilies (one of the few remaining things from the first sampler of free things Marx Foods sent me), black peppercorns, 3 whole cloves, 1 star anise, some fennel fronds, and a sprig of rosemary.

Jook:
In a bit of fat, cook down the onions. When they are creamy, add the garlic and ginger. After a minute, add the drained beans. Stir a few times, and then in goes the stock. Don’t worry if the stock is gelled solid, it will melt as it gets warm.

And then cook it for hours as you make everything else.

After the first hour, take the rehydrated mushrooms and cut them into centimeter pieces. And go ahead and add both the mushrooms and their water to the jook – it’ll only make it tastier.

Stir it every 15-30 minutes to encourage it to break down. I found that the marrow beans did not need any baking soda to turn smooth.

Near when it was time to serve, I took the three condiments above (scallions, garlic, and hot pepper) and toasted them separately in a barely-oiled skillet and put them out for toppings.

Also, go ahead and taste the soup. Mine was plenty salty, but if it had not been, I would have added a teaspoon of fish sauce.

Would also be excellent with a poached egg on top – but this particular meal had used plenty of eggs already.


Verdict:
YUM! Totally breakfast-y. Rich flavors, mellow intensity. Felt like a big hug.

How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 7 out of 10
There’s millions of years of history of thin bean soups. Gruel, porridge, pottage, pulse – there’s really very little possibility this is a unique innovation. But as far as I can tell, it’s the only one on the internet.

Here’s a small selection of other things vaguely like it that I found while searching: lima bean potato gruel (wow – least exciting name for food ever); mung bean millet gruel; Pat jook (made with azuki beans, so that wouldn’t have been original); fruited green bean congee; congee with mung bean; 1889 bean porridge; Tutu – dutch Antilles bean porridge; mung bean porridge in coconut milk; Molly Katzen’s Bean Porridge; Ful

So it is the time of birthdays among my friends.

One weekend there was a joint birthday party for three of my friends, and one of them received three beautiful blocks of cookware grade Himalayan salt from a boyfriend.

if google+ displays the pictures, this is an assembly of all three blocks, two small and one large

(Oh, yes, there is a possibility of photos on this post! That’s because my friend took pictures and posted them to Google+. Is there aren’t photos, blame google for not displaying them. Wooo!)

The next weekend, for my birthday, we cooked on salt.

salt block on a big, sexy gas range

So I’d spent all of the past year pondering the Charcutepalooza challenges, participating in one, and looking all over the D’Artagnan catalogue to use the challenge’s discount code. And all year, no purchases from them. I sigh over the missed discount.

But that meant that when it was time to grill meat, I was ready. What’s more, I was grilling meat with someone who only eats fowl or swine for meat. But that was perfect since the one thing I’d really been pining after in the D’Artagnan catalogue was the wild boar.

And since I wanted the most forgiving cut possible, I went with the wild boar tenderloin. And then just to hedge my bets, I also selected a chicken sausage.

the styrofoam shipping container with the wild boar and chicken sausage all propped up and looking eager to be cooked

We started with the wild boar, and we sliced it into three thicknesses – thin (about 2-3mm), medium (4-6mm) , and thick (10-15mm).

one intact tenderloin, and below it the one we were slicing into the thicknesses

We started with the thin ones – and they were delightful. All salty on the outside, but with the salt taste very distinctly on the outside. The people who rarely eat red meat thought it tasted like steak. I thought the wild boar had a delightful funk of liver. But there wasn’t any flavor I’d call gamey. And they just melted on the tongue delightfully. Sadly, thought, the block had not yet reached a temperature to give the meat a good sear.

meat. cooking on salt. it's kind of beige in the picture.

The middle thickness was not as pleasing. It ended up being a bit chewy. But then once it cooled, it developed a graininess that made it tender again.

By the thickest ones, we were getting a lovely caramelization while still retaining the juicy center. Also, we threw some asparagus on the salt, too.
just what the text says

Of everything we made, the asparagus was the most delicious! The outside could blister while the inside still hadn’t lost its crisp. The saltiness was perfect, and it needed no other seasoning.

Oh, right – other seasoning. We also tried some thick boar slices rubbed in Penzey’s Galena Street rub. Meh. Not only did the rub already contain salt (so not necessary with this cooking method – imparts mild saltiness, my ass (luckily, I love salt)), but also the pepper and paprika powders were not happy with the high heat and turned a little bitter. Don’t get me wrong – I still ate the meat and loved it, just not as much as the plain slices.

You can also see that we’re building up meat residue on the salt block. If we’d cooked much longer, it could have grown a bit off putting. Here’s what it looked like scraping the salt down after we’d finished with the boar.

Ewww meat crud

And then we moved on to chicken sausages, sliced mushrooms, and slices of onions (a brilliant last minute addition). Slicing the sausages into rounds proved to be a mistake because that was just too salty. But grilling intact ones was delicious. Even more delicious was wrapping them in dinner rolls and adding mushrooms and onions and a bit of mustard and calling it a hot dog.

foreground: sausage sandwich. My friend has also added ketchup, but I'm trying not to judge her for that. background: chicken sausages and mushroom slices grilling on the salt block

The mushroom slices were more exciting that expected. We didn’t cook them to a point where the were releasing a lot of liquid, but the outside got firm while the inside puffed a bit, and it was like biting into a tiny mushroom pillow.

And the onions were beautiful grilled onion slices, pulling up the meat juices from the previous grillings.

And then there were birthday cupcakes. (Using Nigella Lawson’s Victoria Sponge Cake recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess, topped with King Arthur Flour’s lemon pastry filling whisked with whipped cream). Not only a good dessert, but they also made a good breakfast the next day.

a while cooking rack full of cupcakes, with one special chosen one bearing a lit birthday candle

I have some wonderful friends.

10
Oct

Unusual Black Bean Dips

   Posted by: Livia Tags:

Wooo! Let me tell you something amazing!

So my sister got me a food processor for a house warming gift. And this is the magic key to making bean dips. I had no idea.

But now there is so much freedom!

Last weekend I had people over to craft, and I made up a platter of sandwich fixings. But I forgot to make something vegan (I mean, there was bread and lettuce and tomato and all, but nothing of bulk to hold it together). I’d meant to buy some hummus – as you do – but I’d forgotten and checked it off my shopping list in error.

And the person came up to me and softly asked, “Erm… food?” Or words to that effect.

And I could just go to my cabinet and pick a random can of beans and turn it into random dip.

Random Dip, I tell you!

First option: Chipotle Black Bean Dip

Step 1 – drain the beans, rinse thoroughly (otherwise it can get too salty), and dump into the processor.

And then I said unto myself – we need a saturated fat alternative to lard, and I have this here awesome coconut fat. So I added about a tablespoon of that. And some olive oil, because why not?

Oh, and you’re closing the food processor and turning it on in between each addition and then tasting to see what else would be good – I don’t think you can over-process bean dip.

And then some fajita seasoning. But the beans are a strong flavor, so also some powdered oregano and thyme and maybe some cinnamon, too, for fun.

Oh, yeah, and there were a few cloves of the roasted garlic I had in the fridge. Raw would have been fun, too.

And, yet, still not spicy – and rather thick.

So I squeezed a lime into it and added about half a teaspoon of chipotle sauce (maybe more?).

And it was amazing. The non-vegans were all over that, too! I enjoyed it on potato bread with microgreens.

So then a few months later, there was a need for dip again… and a guest had started a bottle of red and turned out to be the only one drinking wine that night, so I decided a swig of red wine wouldn’t go amiss, and I shaped the dip around that flavor.

Red Wine and Ginger Black Bean Dip

Drain, rinse, and add the beans to the food processor. And a slug of red wine!

Oh, yeah, coconut fat would be even more appropriate in this combination.

And then peel and grate about an inch of ginger into the bowl of the processor (and then brush it off the middle part because that gets awkward).

Grind some black pepper. Squeeze some lime. sprinkle just a little cinnamon and thyme.

And a teaspoon of dijon mustard rounds it out nicely.

There’s a charcuterie challenge, #charcutepalooza, going on in the food blog community, and it has been a lovely source of inspiration. So I figured by the end of April that I’d toss my hat into the ring, too. (See – my name is even on the list) I want to be a cool kid!

Only I’m not so good with deadlines, you see.

And while I loved the premise for the May challenge (grinding), and I loved the detailed directions (seriously, those directions are clear, thorough, and a work of art), and I even had a couple pounds of extra lamb fat I’d cut out of the shoulder roasts for Passover – despite all that, May 15th came and went with no meat having been ground.

I’d ordered the Kitchenaid grinding and sausage stuffing attachments, but I’d ordered them in my pseudonym and was unable to convince the post office to actually give them to me. After a month of trying to retrieve them, they went back to the suppliers and I hadn’t the fortitude to try again (they were just sitting there three blocks away – totally out of reach). And I hadn’t made it back down to South Street to acquire more meat. And it ended up being a month of fairly tight finances (did I mention my sink exploded in April?).

But then! May 28th came, and meat was ground. But not the meat painstakingly explained in the directions. No, a totally different meat. No so good with directions, either. I’m sure you haven’t noticed, though.

See – my friend, Lulu, has plans to attend Pennsic (as do I). And we are interested in trying this baking bread in a dutch oven with a camp fire (and coals) thing. I have high hopes.

So she just bought her dutch oven, and we decided that the very first thing she should cook in it should be a pound of bacon, rapidly followed by a batch of biscuits! My friend Geeksdoitbetter offered up potatoes for home fries. And I said, “Erm… well, I’ve got this breafast sausage recipe, and they say it can work in a food processor… what do you have in the land of meat?” Turned out to be chicken. The game is on!



Chicken Breakfast Sausage

Snag 1 package (1.75lbs) of skinless, boneless chicken thighs from your friend’s freezer… (would that one could get the skin and fat without the bones, but I wasn’t purchasing the meat, so I wasn’t going to be picky).

Thaw over about 30 hours in the refrigerator – it should still be a bit crinkly with ice crystals around the edges, but cutting is no problem.

Cut it up into a dice. The instructions said 1 inch cubes, but I felt it worth being more cautious and went with a half inch dice.

Then I put it into a gallon freezer bag, smoothed it out into a thin flat layer, and popped it into the freezer and went to work.

La la la – end of work

Into a sturdy food processor, I added half of the chicken meat (having wiggled the bag a bit and separated the cubes), many generous shakes (not weighed, could have been more generous) of rubbed sage, some thyme, fresh ground black pepper, powdered garlic, table salt, and about a quarter cup of minced fresh parsley.

And it was horrifying to first turn on! It shook the counter as if it were a clothes washer with an unbalanced load. It was loud. And it clearly wasn’t right.

But I persisted. And I also walked away for a little bit to chat with friends. And then fairly soon, maybe 20 minutes later, it turned perfect. Still mostly frozen, and yet thawed enough to be easy to cut. The blades with through the meat, and it was perfect! Pop it open and make sure the bottom circulates with the top, grind again, and it’s looking like sausage!

Now I was worried about the lack of additional fat, so at the last minute I pulled out of the freezer my container of schmaltz. And I scooped small chunks into the food processor until I’d added between 1/8 and 1/4 cup. Process some more until they are broken up into rice-sized pieces.

And then I shaped and cooked up a test patty. And once that received acclaim, I made and cooked the rest – some of them were even made into biscuit sandwiches (which is really the best fate a sausage patty can hope for).

The second batch ended up with even more parsley… and there’s a delicate balance between freshness and some green, and your entire patty taking on a green tinge. Just saying. Also, I seemed to have been less generous with the spices the second time around and should not have been.

My friends loved them. Ecstatic. I thought they were a little bland.

But the three of us ate almost the entire package of meat, leaving over bacon, even though there were also potatoes and biscuits and filling things. I have a standing request to make them again.

Growing up, Passover was one of 2.5 Jewish holidays my family would celebrate.

My uncle, while he was alive, was a strong presence leading the seder with charisma and a mischievous delight in tradition. After his death, my aunt was more thoughtful and pursued discussion and commentary. Passover was the time of year I spoke most openly about Judaism at my public school, taking in butter, matzoh, and salt, and sharing with my classmates. In college I learned even more about it during that one year I was dating someone more observant than I (and she has since gone on to become a rabbi). The first time I got drunk was at Passover, and I’ll still argue passionately in favor of the richness of the cheap, sweet, syrupy Passover wines of my youth (and have so argued on this blog).

It’s a holiday that has a strong emphasis on food. On problematic food. On being rushed and hurried and fleeing servitude so that bread could not rise. It’s a holiday of learning rules through food and exploring the Jewish way of reasoning from text to law through centuries of debate and logic. It’s about learning logical discourse and boolean algebra through food. And unlike my approach to gluten free cooking (bread? Whatever – let’s eat rice! And all sorts of things are fun without wheat!), this holiday requires that you deal with the matzoh. It’s not enough to eat leavened bread, but it is also required encouraged that you partake of the food that is problematic. And that leads to creativity and weirdness and often some rather dry and tasteless food.

But you know me, and creativity and weirdness are favorites of mine. I love this holiday, but I’ve never cooked for it before. I love this holiday, but I’ve never hosted it before. But now I have a house.

And I had a friend who pinged me and mentioned that she really, really liked matzoh and could there be acquiring of it? And I took that question and replied, “Well, I guess I could host Passover.”

So I invited some friends…

And had 21 RSVPs. Including my parents, jews and non-jews, the proudly child free and three children, people who keep kosher and people who only vaguely know that ham and cheese sandwiches are problematic, vegetarians and people who refuse to eat vegetables, and also the neighbor who has taken to asking for food from me (and her boyfriend).

From them, there were the following contributions: My mother made her signature chopped liver and brought a fruit bowl; Lulu brought coconut macaroons; Redwizz brought his secret family recipe charoset; another friend offered stuffed mushrooms and spinach kugel (but they ended up canceling); and my boss kindly dropped off her leftovers from the first night’s seder she hosted. All the rest was up to me. I did end up at the last minute get some amazing help from Geeksdoitbetter and Carrie, and the seder would not have gone nearly as well without their (especially Geeksdoitbetter’s) help.

Appetizers

mystery dip
So my boss’s husband makes a vegan mushroom/artichoke mousse mold thing to offer vegetarians instead of gefilte fish. I plan to get his recipe. But also included with their leftovers were little matzoh sticks, so I knew there had to be dip! This was my mother’s job. It was rapidly determined that either cream cheese or sour cream would be likely to overwhelm the delicate flavor of the mousse, so it was thinned with mayonnaise. Then, because it was dip, the flavor needed to be boosted a bit, so she added oregano, hot pepper, black pepper, and salt. The result was pretty tasty but not perfect.

chopped liver with little matzoh crackers

(not included were the pitted dates I split up the side and stuffed walnut quarters into. I was going to toss them in the over with honey, salt, and pepper, according to an ancient roman recipe, until just warm enough to be soft and pliable. Instead, a few were nibbled just stuffed.)

Seder

Charoset Okay, so my family’s recipe is hand cut apples with crumbled walnuts, cinnamon, and red wine. Redwizz’s family recipe is apples, dates, orange juice, almonds, and cinnamon, mixed in a food processor until it looks like mortar. Oddly, they don’t taste all that different, and his is easier to eat on matzoh (as well as being acceptable to those who do not imbibe).

First Course

I gave the diners a choice among potatoes (roasted leftovers from my boss – and surprisingly tasty), hard boiled eggs (using these directions from Coconut and Lime with great results), and gefilte fish from a can.

Second Course

Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls and/or Noodles – I make stock all the time. I make flavorful stock! And I had a bag of vegetable ends in desperate need of a round of stock making. What is more, when I was out in the Italian Market questing for chicken fat (which can not be found there!), I happened to be in line behind someone buying a quantity of chicken wings and asking for the tips to be thrown away, so I managed to acquire them for free. But I was using a larger pot than I’m used to, and even though I increased the amount of vegetables and spices accordingly, it still tasted like water after hours of cooking. Like water! So I ended up getting a (small) whole chicken just for the stock. And then it had flavor! But that was surprisingly stressful.

The matzoh balls were also a little scary. I was sure I could do it, but I kept being sure I could do it later and procrastinating it farther and farther off. Until Carrie showed up and offered to help, and I managed to talk her into making them even though she’d never seen nor tasted them before. I gave her all of the directions I’d accumulated from my grandmother (who made amazing ones) – use the recipe on the matzoh meal box and don’t handle them much) and set her to it. And they turned out a little dense, but they floated and were tasty

The noodles were storebought and standard. I’m glad I didn’t make them too far ahead because by the time the meal was over and we went to clean the pot they had turned into a gelatinous mess.

Main Course

I decided to go with both dairy and meat options (just nothing mixed) and let people choose their own adventures. I had also planned several parve/vegan dishes, but those (accidentally, I swear) ended up being the ones cut from the menu once it was clear there was plenty food.

Meat

Mark Bittman’s Braised Lamb with Horseradish and Parsley

I love that this dish incorporates food mentioned as historically relevant in the service, and I love that it’s braised – eliminating the holiday’s tendency toward dry meats. The lamb shoulder was sourced from Esposito’s, and they were willing to remove the bone and package it separately for me. They also had special seder plate lamb bone sections, but since I was already buying a lamb bone, I just went with the shoulder piece. I bought three shoulders – two in the 3 pound range and 1 in the 5 pound range. And there was a lot of painstaking trimming of fat from that cut that I’m not sure was necessary, but the end product was succulent and beautiful.

Right, so the first step was taking all of the bones, roasting them, and them adding them to a pot with some vegetables to make stock (and then cleaning them and roasting the three prettiest for the seder plate).

Then I took the huge dutch oven my mother bought me as a housewarming present (my first one of my own! At the time I wasn’t sure I’d use one that big, but I’ve already used it a lot) and browned the lamb cubes in batches, sprinkling with salt and pepper. Even with the olive oil, the lamb still stuck a bit – and I suspect it might have released if I’d waited for a proper sear, but I could not resist stirring the meat a good bit.

When I was on the last batch for browning and it was looking just about done, I added the slivered garlic and let that cook for a bit together. Then in went a glug of manischewitz concord grape (the recipe allows for white wine, but I love cooking with the manischewitz too much) and the lamb stock. And then the rest of the meat… which possibly should have gone in before the stock because I had to be very careful not to splash.

And I simmered the lamb for several hours and then didn’t add the peeled fresh horseradish (because I was scared and it was incredibly tasty without) until the last half hour of cooking, overnight, and the reheating on the day, but it didn’t end up changing the flavor much at all.

I almost forgot the parsley sauce, and few people used it – but I made it thick, with just a minimal amount of oil and vinegar (done by sight, so I have no measurements for you). It was delicious, and I’ve enjoyed using it up at leftovers – stirred into sour cream dip for chips and mixed in with egg salad)

Lemon Thyme Chicken

I feel a bit bad about this one. It has been so long since I’ve paid money for meat, that I’d planned to only spend money on ethical meat. And there I was at the farmers market staring at the $14/pound meat when this was already the most expensive meal I’d ever made and I’d been buying tables and chairs and a sink! And I walked away (after buying 4 dozen eggs) and bought cheap meat at the grocery store, where I bought enough thighs and breast meat to feed everyone for about $14. Next year I’ll do better.

Right, so step one was to peel and thickly slice an onion or two and to lay them in the bottom of the casserole dish (this adds moisture and keeps the meat from cooking to the dish, making cleanup easier).

Then I took a jar of pre-peeled garlic and shook enough into the dish to give more even coverage for the bottom – it doesn’t have to be perfect. And I tossed in about 10 oil-cured black olives to round out the flavor.

I arranged the chicken so that the thighs (with skin and fat) were around the outside and the breasts (skinless and cut into thigh-sized pieces, so three pieces per half) were filling in the center.

On top of that came freshly cut thyme (on the stem) and roughly-cut chunks of lemon. I usually make this dish with rosemary, so I used too little thyme to affect the chicken as much as I wanted, so in future I’d recommend really piling the stems on or/and also dusting with powdered thyme.

If you have more of the breast meat, you can also add a swig of wine and start the cooking process with aluminum foil over to keep it from drying. There were enough thighs (roughly half the meat) in this batch that no additional liquid was needed and it was fine uncovered. It went into the 350F oven right before we started reading, so let’s say it cooked for an hour and a half. I have, however, accidentally overcooked this dish by as much as an hour and had no ill effects or drying of the meat.

Dairy

Kale and Feta Matzoh Pie

This recipe was inspired by Gourmet’s Spinach and Matzoh Pie, but I was already supposed to have someone bringing spinach kugel and I love the more bitter greens. Really, this recipe was begging for some kale!

I bought three spring tops of curly kale from Landisdale Farm at the farmers market. The day before, I shredded the kale and cooked it down with a pinch of salt (so that I’d have more room in my refrigerator).

The next day, I assembled the lasagnas.

I mixed up a pound of fresh farmers cheese (from mexico, featured in my local supermarket… tasted like try, crumbly sour cream with a bit more culturing), 2 cups whole milk, 3 eggs, freshly ground nutmeg, and some salt and pepper, in a bowl with a fork. It was fine, even without the blender.

And I ended up with two casserole dishes almost exactly the size of a piece of matzoh, so I used one to soak the pieces in the 2 cups of the mixture while assembling in the other… and then just laid the rest of the pieces on top to assemble the second one. There didn’t seem to be any difference between the dish that had been oiled and the one that hadn’t when it came time to serve.

Then I finely diced an onion and reheated the cooked kale, squeezing out the moisture as I went. I also minced and threw in about a quarter cup of fresh dill.

Once the moisture was mostly evaporated, I stirred the kale into the remaining egg/dairy mixture and crumbled in a good half of the pound of feta I’d bought from my local halal.

Then I assembled: matzoh, filling, matzoh, filling, matzoh – matzoh, filling, matzoh, filling, matzoh. And I had just enough filling left to put a very thin layer on the top of both – perfection. And I crumbled almost all of the rest of the feta on top (let’s say 3 ounces per dish).

This was baked ahead and served only slightly warmed. It was delicious! I love the body of the kale in this, and I can’t image spinach being nearly as good.

It even freezes and reheats well! I love this dish! Such a success.

Greens and Quinoa Pie

This was my very first time tackling quinoa. I know that’s delinquent of me, but still. The grains were smaller than I expected, and there was no way they were going to be cooperative in a strainer for rinsing and draining – so I soaked them. Only then the toasting process was unfortunate, and I had to give up on that step. Perhaps toasting them dry and then soaking them next time.

So I cooked 3/4 of a cup of quinoa (because I’d eyeballed the amount and had no use for a quarter of a cup, so I went ahead and cooked it all) and set it aside until I was ready to deal with making the dish.

In my largest skillet, I cooked the romaine and some other lettuce-y head that was pale and spiky (but not frissee) and bitter enough to be related to chicory. Then I tossed them into a strainer in the sink and squeezed them occasionally as guests started trickling in and milling about the kitchen.

The last thing I did before settling people into the dining room to start the seder was to assemble the skillet of cooked onions, green onions, dill, cooked quinoa, and squeezed cut up lettuces.

Once we started taking turns reading the story of Passover, I sneaked back a couple times into the kitchen (and hid the afikomen) to get it cooked, the three eggs beaten and added, and the cheese – the remaining 2 ounces of feta and the last of the stichelton from my cheese tasting. And then I popped it into the 350F oven (in the skillet, not juggling the whole transfer to a pie plate) to finish cooking evenly.

It turned out pretty tasty, froze well, and received praise from the one guest who claimed to love quinoa. While filling and sturdy, I’m not sure it was exceptional enough to make next year.

Golden Gratin – Yam & Apricot Casserole (could have been vegan)

There is no good reason why this dish isn’t parve and vegan! No good reason! But for some reason the recipe is made for it to be meat, and there’s a tendency among the commenters to make it dairy, too. Having made it, I say that it would lose nothing from being vegan.

So you peel your orange-fleshed sweet potatoes or yams and cut them into chunks.

Then you make a base syrup out of apricot nectar (I was planning up substitute orange juice, but my coop just happened to have a bottle of apricot nectar across from the check out – and I just used the one bottle, which was less than 4 cups, but whatever)… and then the recipe calls for a cup of chicken broth. Why, recipe? Why? I happened to have a quart jar of oolong tea hanging out, so that was a perfect substitution. Other substitution options would be orange juice, white grape juice, water, or vegetable stock.

The recipe then called for 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted pareve margarine. I used 3 Tablespoons of butter because I don’t believe in margarine. Honestly? I could have skipped the butter entirely, and that might have improved the dish.

Then 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots. I had bought Turkish Apricots from nuttyguys.com on a Groupon without a purpose a while back, and they went into this. Geeksdoitbetter cut them into quarters (and she peeled the yams and washed the kale and did all kinds of things to make this dinner go).

So the apricots cook with the nectar and tea with some cinnamon and black pepper and then you add the yams and cover and cook until the yams are fork tender. At this point, I put them up until the next day.

I was careful to keep the chunks of sweet potato intact in the repackaging so they’d still be individual pieces the next day, and they were delicious.

On the next round, when I served the leftovers a few days later, I mashed them into a smooth yamy puree and topped them with a crumble topping of 1/4 cup rolled oats (not kosher for passover), 1/4 cup matzoh meal, 1/8 cup matzoh flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and as much olive oil and neccessary to get it the right amount of crumbly. Baked for 40 minutes, and it was de-light-ful. Well, it was a (potentially vegan, and it would have been fine) sweet potato casserole with a crumble topping – what’s not to love?

Parve / Vegan dishes

Asparagus

The Soup Vixen helped me acquire half a flat of asparagus from the Italian Market. I was going to roast them right before serving… and that didn’t happen. So now I have a pickling and canning project. Woo!

Dandelion Greens

Come on – what says bitter greens and spring time so much as dandelions? These were (again last minute, so didn’t happen) going to be quick sauteed with olive oil and vast quantities of garlic.

Carrot Casserole

These were going to be cut into coins in the food processor and baked with a little liquid (probably vegetable stock) and some za’atar seasoning. This was the first recipe to be abandoned because I found the golden gratin, but I still bought the carrots

Savory Red Pepper and Onion Matzo Brei (not vegan)

Also would have been tasty, but was a dish that sounded best made last minute.

Dessert

Coconut Macaroons

My friend has a quest to find the perfect coconut macaroon recipe, so I made doe eyes at her for many of them for Passover. And it worked – she made 4 batches.

Only there was an error in the handing down of the familial coconut macaroon recipe, and this try called for 2 egg whites per package of coconut (instead of the 1 called for by the condensed milk people)… and that made the recipe harder for her than it should have been. Apparently the extra egg pools out into eggy feet around the base of each macaroon, and she had to tear them off individually. (also, her dishwasher broke mid macaroon making)

That said, the macaroons were soft and sinfully delicious and way better that the dusty, dry ones from the boss’s Passover leftovers. I brought the leftover macaroons to work, and there was so much praise!

My friend, however, is still looking for an even more perfect recipe. The condensed milk flavor was more noticeable than she wanted and there was the egg issue, but the ease of the recipe was a big plus.

Walnut-Date Torte

Whooo! So my stand mixer is also new so me, so this was my first time whipping egg whites. It was amazing. It was a miracle that I didn’t eat the sugar/whipped egg white mixture with a spoon. I can see meringues in my future. Pavlovas with summer fruit.

Right, so the walnut stuffed date appetizers (which didn’t happen) and the dates for this cake were prepped at the same time. I just took my measuring cup and every time the date was dry or not pretty or didn’t split easily, it was cut into bits (quarters the long way, and then 4-5 slices down the length). I ended up with slightly over a cup and a half from that method, which was exactly what the recipe called for. Then I added the half a cup of boiling water and let it sit to hydrate.

For the walnuts, I just learned that the way that entry is written explicitly means you measure the 1 1/2 cups of walnuts, then toast them, and then chop them. Done!

And then I got out the food processor my sister got me (which I absolutely did not steal from KitchenMage) as a housewarming to chop the walnuts with 1/4 cup light brown sugar until finely ground. Then the recipe calls for 2/3 cup matzoh meal, but I’d misread the recipe before shopping and also bought matzoh flour for just this recipe, so I was determined to use it! So in went 1/3 cup matzoh meal and 1/3 cup matzoh flour, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, and a pinch of salt.

Instead of orange zest, I just happened to have some orange peel soaking in water in my fridge awaiting accumulating enough to candy… so I minced up an eighth of a cup of blanched, soaking (so much milder than fresh) orange peel and added it to the dates. I really liked this change.

I beat the egg whites until the looked like they were thinking about peaks, and then I started slowly adding the remaining 1/2 cup white sugar. And the volume didn’t increase as much as I was expecting, so I might have beat slightly longer than requested, but they were holding stiff, glossy peaks and looking lovely when I did stop. They made that lovely crinkly sound when you fold into them.

But first – the 4 yolks get mixed into the dates and orange peel. First the dates were added to the egg whites and folded in, and then the nuts and flour were folded in. This was seriously one of the most delicious cake batters ever! (And I’m a devoted batter eater. I find the batter is almost always significantly tastier than the end product, and this was no exception).

I had enough batter for two medium (8″?) pie plates. It baked at 350F for 40 minutes until a toothpick came out clean (I didn’t notice the springing away from the edge of the pan phenomenon), and I served it in the pan.

It was okay and definitely decent on the first day.

By the second day, however, it was nice! You should definitely make this 1-3 days ahead. You know what was also nice? Drizzling it with cointreau! It’s in the good fruitcake family, and it does well being treated that way.

18
Jan

Beef Black Bean Soup as a Work In Progress

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , , ,

There’s a good chance I’ll be moving into a house! A real house! (with hardly more counterspace than my current apartment, which wouldn’t be nearly as charming without owning this URL – but there’s lots of room to add furniture, shelving, and counters)

As part of looking forward to moving all of my belongings, I have a goal of not buying any groceries all month. I’ve already caved with a packet of soba noodles, but they’re small and light and I was in Chinatown.

So I’m going through my mind and reviewing what’s in my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and pondering how they’d match together.

Okay, so I’ve been overeating because as soon as I come up with another plan for food, I have to do it right away, but still.

I’ve finished off three lingering containers of loose tea. Yay!

And I’ve started a plan for soup –

  • I have a bunch of leeks
  • I’ve pulled a random/unidentified cut of beef from the freezer to thaw
  • I have several large cans of black beans
  • I have an open jar of pipian sauce

Simple, right?

Only I was pondering this potential soup in my mouth, and I think it will not be pleasing to have chunks of meat in this soup.

My first thought, of course, was, “Oooo… if only I had bought a meat grinder for my recently acquired Kitchenaid.” (thanks, @geeksdo1tbetter) And, yeah, that would be lovely… but let’s be honest that it probably isn’t really something I want until I also own a dishwasher. And, either way, I don’t have one.

So the only other way I know to get a pleasing texture will be shredding the beef with slow braising. And, ~whine~ … I don’t want the soup to take that long.

But, on the plus side, it will help heat the house.

So here’s the rough draft of the soup plan:

Beef Black Bean Soup

In medium saucepan
  • beef
  • can of tomatoes
  • red wine
  • 1 tsp pipian (to get the flavor started in the meat, but I’m not sure about its pH and texture and all, so not too much)
  • -> braising

in large saucepan

  • whites of leeks
  • carrots
  • big can of black beans
  • quart of stock
  • -> cooked until beans are soft
  • -> add beef
  • -> add more pipian to taste

in large skillet

  • greens of leeks
  • 2 tsp oil
  • -> fried hard over high heat for greasy, salty, delicious garnish of joy
15
Dec

Homemade ricotta experiments

   Posted by: Livia Tags:

I came back from Italy with a new appreciation for ricotta — it was soft and pudding-like for breakfast with a hint of sweet; it was in rich discus cakes filled with ricotta and chunks of chocolate; it was served in a simple dish of freshly made fettuccine, ricotta, and black pepper, which was one of my favorite meals of the trip.

And I’d always read that ricotta was one of the easiest cheeses to make – no rennet required.

The very next farmers’ market, I set out to get some of the best milk possible. The farmers selling pasteurized milk were out, so I purchased a half gallon of local raw cow’s milk.

Then I read up on various instructions.

Especially useful was this comparison of various acids and draining times.

I settled on heating 4 cups of milk to 180F (on the high end of the 165-185F range, but reading a blog on food poisoning has made me nervous about raw milk) with 3 teaspoons of distilled white vinegar and a pinch each of salt and sugar.

Now here’s the interesting part – I made this recipe almost exactly the same twice and had very different results.

Ricotta

First Iteration
I mixed together the 4 cups of milk and 2 teaspoons of vinegar, slowly raised the temperature (electric range with dial on 4 of 12).

By 160F, I had pebble-sized curds, but it didn’t separate further. I waited until 180F, when an enzyme might or might not be an broken down, and then added the last teaspoon.

(salt and sugar added around the 165F point, when I was fiddling and eager for something to happen)

Beautiful separate occurred, and I drained promptly.

Results were just like ricotta cheese available in containers in stores and not the magical stuff of Italy. All in all a success, but worth playing with more.

Second Iteration
(made two days later, if age of the milk might be a factor)

This time, I heated the milk first without mixing in other ingredients. Same rate of heating.

Salt and sugar still went in around 165F.

All of the vinegar, however, was slowly poured at 180F. Again, all three teaspoons were needed before separation occurred.

Resulting texture, however, was much more in the squeaky cheese curd family. This is not ricotta, and I have no idea what’s different.

I turned down the heat as soon as it hit 180F, so it shouldn’t have spent significantly more time at temperature, and it didn’t go higher.

I’m baffled.

Both had the same yield: roughly half a pint.

OTOH, I am so making lasagne later this week and trying the ricotta for a middle layer and the second batch instead of mozzerella (or in addition to).

9
Nov

Ghost Chili Breakfast

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , , , , ,

So I have these insanely hot peppers to test (see previous entry for full disclaimer about free peppers), and I don’t actually have any friends who will eat spicy foods with me. They sometimes have difficulties with black pepper.

I solved that by putting out a call on the internet to find local people who were excited by spicy food. And this morning I got to meet a lovely person with a delightfully high heat tolerance (who happened also to know two of my pre-existing friends).

We met for breakfast.

Fried eggs were just as tasty on the second go through.

The sweet potatoes were amazing! They didn’t get as caramelized as I expected, and the heat ended up being surprisingly mild. I think I might try candying the sweet potatoes, instead of glazing, just to see what happens.

The butters got approval (as did my homemade bread), and she preferred the honey butter on general principles of texture.

And then I started to improvise.

I picked some of the (bountiful and thriving) chard from my garden and prepared my Kenyan greens recipe, but with some hot pepper sliced in… and that was too hot. Unpleasantly so, without adding anything to the flavor. But once I picked the pieces of pepper out, it was pretty tasty – so perhaps just adding a chunk of pepper while cooking and then removing it.

And then I had the lovely stems left, so I made some fried rise with an onion, chard stems, diced carrot, leftover brown rice, finely sliced ghost chili, and a few drops of oyster sauce for moisture. It received approval from my guest, and I added some roast pork leftovers to it as I packed it up and froze it into lunch portions.

And I sent her home with the spicy truffles, so I haven’t heard back yet. The filling was right on the edge of okay for me, so I’m hoping they end up better once they have another layer of chocolate. I only had time to coat three of them, though, so my taste has to wait until tonight. I did learn an unrelated lesson about truffles, though – using a lower milk fat dairy option for the ganache center (the store was out of heavy cream) really makes a noticeable and unpleasant difference to the texture. I won’t be doing that again.

Note: Marx Foods did provide the ghost chilies to experiment with for free. They did not, however, influence my impressions of the product.

So I was lucky enough to trip over Marx Foods and Justin Marx a bit ago. And he’s been generous about letting me try the products he sells.

So I tossed my name in to try out their fresh ghost chilies. Yes, these were free and given to me by a company.

And they are hella intimidating. I’ve never had peppers tingle my nose before, and these could do it while whole and untouched.

Right, so I haven’t talked about hot peppers much here. I’ve frequently grown jalapenos, serranos, and habaneros. I think the flesh of a couple jalapenos are pretty decent substitute for green bell peppers in many dishes. Serranos are perfect for tingling up a summer sandwich of garden fresh tomatoes, white bread, mayonnaise, and salt. I rarely ever use the habaneros because they don’t add much in the way of flavor while they’re adding heat. My father’s the one who wants to plant them, and it’s mainly so he can talk about how he grows these really hot peppers. The most machismo I’ve had about peppers was eating a whole fresh bird’s eye chili on a dare in college – it hurt a lot, but I managed to surreptitiously drink a can of cola and that did a great job of cutting the burn and giving me style points.

In addition that background, it’s also worth noting that I usually can’t be bothered to wear gloves, even with habaneros. I just have one dirty hand (which touches the peppers) and one clean hand (which only touches the knife) – and then I try to remember which was which as the day wears on (okay, fine – my right hand is always the one with the knife). For these, however, I went to the sex supplies and pulled out the gloves.

Right, so the first recipe was just a private experiment to see just how impossible it was to eat one.

Ghost Chili bagel and egg breakfast

step one – fry half a slice of bacon. Once crispy, remove the bacon to a towel to dry.

Cut flesh of the chili from the seeds and membranes. Slice very thinly. Toss the slices of chili into the hot bacon fat and stir them around until they start to brown.

Put sliced bagel in the oven to toast.

Scrape the toasty pepper slices into a single thickness gathering, and crack an egg over the peppers. Continue to fry the peppery egg as you enjoy.

Gather your plate of toasted bagel (with cream cheese), bacon, and fried egg. Place the egg on top of one bagel and salt generously – but don’t make a sandwich in case you want unadulterated bagel to soothe your mouth later. Also slice some cheese for buffering, too.

Nom

End result of the breakfast was actually not bad! I might do it again. My nose ran a little and there was a little sweat on my scalp, but it ended up being an entirely delicious breakfast.

Oh – one more bit of background, I recently went to visit my ex, who has since become a rabbi, and while there we made candied etrog peel. I suggested we save the boiling liquid, so I came home with two jars of etrog syrup and my bags having been searched by TSA.

Right, so etrog syrup.

First things I made was citrus candied chilies.

Candied Chilies

First, I cut the flesh of two chilies away from the seeds and membranes – hold by the stem, and aim shallow. I managed to get one pepper into two pieces and the other into three.

Next I boiled the etrog syrup – already so supersaturated that crystals had formed, so I didn’t add more sugar. If you are starting without syrup, add equal quantities of water and sugar of sufficient quantity that the pieces float about and you aren’t worried the liquid will boil away.

Once it came to a boil, I carefully transferred each piece of pepper and let them boil for about three to five minutes.

I placed the pieces on some waved paper to dry, and I poured the (now insanely spicy) syrup into a clean jar.

Once the peppers were drier, I dredged them in sugar and put them in a jar.

So what do I do with candied peppers? Well, so far I’ve tried truffles

Candied Ghost Chili Truffles

ganache center
6oz República del Cacao° 75% Los Rios
4oz light cream (should have been heavy cream, but the store was out)
2 grams candied ghost chili, minced finely

coating
70% Santander

But that just used up one of the five pieces, and the truffles are just on the slightly insane side of spicy, but tasty.

And I still have the etrog/pepper syrup. But I have a plan. Well, at least a plan for a little of it.

Chili-glazed Rosemary Roast Sweet Potatoes

Cut sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes, or larger chunks.

Roast them in oven, until just cooked through, with rosemary and ground allspice.

When cool enough to handle, toss the potatoes with the etrog/chili syrup and then put the potatoes back in the oven long enough to get some caramelization.

Finish with kosher salt for texture.

I tried roasting some of the peppers in the oven, but they are thin-skinned peppers and I chose some of the smaller ones, so I ended up with dried peppers, instead. From them, I made two seasoned butters.

2 Ghost Chili Seasoned Butters – sweet and savory

Sweet
4-5 Tablespoons of softened butter
pinch powdered ghost pepper (about a pinch’s worth, if from a jar)
3-4 Tablespoons of buckwheat honey
sprinkle of powdered mace

Savory
4-5 Tablespoons of softened butter
pinch powdered ghost pepper (about a pinch’s worth, if from a jar)
1/16th teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon paprika

And that still leaves me with quite a few peppers to work with!