Archive for the ‘friendly’ Category

Next up in project clean out my parents’ freezer: pork loin

Back when I was buying cheap meat, a pork loin was one of the best bargains out there – almost all lean meat, no bones, and could be found on sale as cheaply as $1.88/lb

Being just one person, I’d cut a whole loin into three roasts and freeze them. Even then, it’s quite a lot of meat. And it has a tendency toward being dry and flavorless.

The cooking method I learned from my mother was to pick the roast with the thickest outer layer of fat as possible, embed some garlic cloves in the meat and threat some rosemary sprigs between the fat and the meat, coat the outside in garlic salt, and roast it in a slow oven. This produced a lovely, and usually juicy, meal. But the leftovers still tended to be dry.

So ever since I discovered carnitas, I’ve taken to braising this cut. And that means I can even trim off the fat layer.

Braised Pork w/ tomatoes and orange peel

Put the following things into a pot:

  • Pork roast, trimmed of exterior fat and freezer burn (cause I live a classy life)
  • 1 quart of (homemade, home-canned nyah nyah nyah) stock
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (okay, so this was storebought, but it was a great sale)
  • thinly sliced orange peel – now this one requires some explanation because I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this, but last year I started keeping my citrus peels in water. That simple: eat fruit, put clean peel into a container, fill container with water all the way up to the top so there’s minimal oxidization, refrigerate. I should probably worry about bacteria, but the citrus is fairly resiliant on its own and the peels never developed an off smell. If you change the water every couple of weeks, then the peels are less bitter with each successive change of water, and the pith softens so it can be easily scraped away. Seriously – this is amazing. Why isn’t everyone doing this? Right, so I had these from last winter and they still smelled fine, and I knew I’d be cooking the stuff for hours, so I sliced it into little orangey ribbons and delicious flavor.

And then cook it for a few hours. I went to OutFest with it on low, and then turned the heat up for a few hours once I came home and could supervise it.

I considered it done once the meat was falling apart and almost all of the liquid had been cooked out (as much as I felt confident cooking out without burning it to the bottom of the pan)

So now I had a tasty meat base, so what was I going to do with it so I didn’t get tired of it?

Well, I made half a cup of white rice, and I froze some lunch portions with the rice and about half of the braised pork.

And I had a we smidgeon of rice left, so I took another wee smidgeon (1/4 cup) of pork and made quesadillas

Braised Pork Quesadillas (pork is braised, not the quesadilla)

They key to a good quesadilla (and a good filled crepe) is to not put too much in. If it’s still flat, then you’re I’m going to enjoy it more.

So throw a tortilla in a heated skillet. Once the tortilla is warm, flip it over and start working very quickly (that is – have a mis en place).

Add the thinnest layer of cheese you can.

Pick a half of the tortilla. Cover it with a little leftover (but warm) rice that has been tossed with lime cilantro dressing, a little of the braised pork (drain the liquid away and have a mostly dry filling), and some shredded kale (some sharp onions would have also been good here).

Fold the bare (i.e. with just cheese) half of the tortilla over the filling and make a nice even sandwich. Press flat. And flip it over to brown the outside of the tortilla and wilt the kale. Peek under to see when you have a few burnt spots on the underside of the quesadilla. Decide whether you want the (now) top crisped up anymore (if so, flip and cook a little more). Then serve. Have sour cream on the side.

And I still had about half of the braised pork left. So I made a stew-type dish.

Pork and Chickpea Stew

Add a little oil to the bottom of a pot and sweat an onion, diced. Once the onion is translucent, add a drained can of chickpeas (or soak them overnight and cook them a bit longer than is called for in this recipe… since this here cooking is mostly just getting everything warm enough for the flavors to intermingle).

Now my braised pork was pretty intensely flavored, but if it hadn’t been, I would start adding seasonings here – some cumin seeds, maybe a stick of cinnamon, marjoram, and maybe some raisins would have been an interesting choice. But I didn’t do that.

I did, however, have a baked sweet potato in my fridge, and that seemed like a good addition, so I pulled it out, peeled it, sliced it a couple times against the grain, and mixed it in with the chickpeas.

And then I added the braised pork.

Cooked it for a couple minutes until the smells mixed, and then I dished it up into containers to freeze for lunches.

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.

24
May

Fish Pie

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , , , ,

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I hardly ever cook fish. It’s not easy here to find a good fishmonger, and then you have a narrow window for getting your fish home still happily fresh. It can’t hang out in your fridge until you have inspiration – it’s a make it right away kind of thing.

And I grew up with a father who did not enjoy the smell of fish, especially as it cooks. So I have little knowledge or practice.

But I have acquired sketchy frozen fish, and I hate wasting food. How sketchy you ask? Well, I’ve been cleaning out my parents deep freeze of things at the very bottom that are too old for them to consider worth eating. And this was in a box labeled with a neighbor’s name, so we were clearly storing it for her – especially since we don’t cook fish. And this neighbor has been dead for about seven years. On the other hand, the freezer has been a very reliable freezer without power outages or temperature variations.

The fish is Oreo Dory – which, wow!, so not sustainable. But it’s a little late to lecture my former neighbor on her purchasing habits, now.

So what do you do with seven year old frozen fish? Apparently, you make pie!

I looked through several recipes, and I ended up combining traditional recipes (with roux) and modern ones with more vegetables. But I had milk nearing its life expectancy, so I knew I needed the roux base to help me use up ingredients.

Fish Pie

In one pot, pour a little less than a quart of milk and add a pound of frozen fish. Also season with a bay leaf and a clove or two. Bring it to just barely simmering for five minutes and then remove from heat and strain the fish from the milk and into a casserole dish. If you added a bay leaf and/or cloves, remember to make sure you remove as many as you added.

In another pot, clean and quarter (and peel, if you so choose) some potatoes (I did three baking-sized ones, but it could have used another potato or two) and boil them in salted water until easy to pierce with a fork.

In a third pot deep skillet, sautee a minced or finely diced onion in lipids of your choice (I used a teaspoon of butter). Now you’re going to make a roux from untoasted flour. You might need to add more fat for the right consistency. Then add the hot, fishy milk to the roux – stirring assiduously – so you get a nice, medium-thick white sauce. Mine was actually much thinner than I wanted, so the trick for adding more flour when your roux is insufficient is to spoon the flour into a small sieve and tap dustings of flour into your simmering liquid (stirring assiduously) until it’s just thinner than you want. Remember that once your gravy has boiled (which it will do as you’re baking) and cooled, it will be even thicker.

I shredded three carrots, the flesh of a mild red pepper, and the zest of one lemon and added them to the fishy bechamel, too.

By now, your potatoes should be soft. Drain them and mash them with butter and milk until you have fluffy mashed potatoes.

Take a moment to salt everything! Salt the bechamel; it needs it. Salt the mashed potatoes; they need it. Maybe even sprinkle a little more salt on the fish in the casserole dish. Oh, and black pepper. Everything needs black pepper, too.

I also added some ground summer savory and a dash of ground thyme to the sauce.

Right, so there’s a casserole dish of fish fillets. Break them up into chunks.

And then sprinkle them with some (white, if you have it) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Pour the sauce over the fish, and swish everything together.

Top with mashed potatoes. Some people sprinkle more cheese on the top of the mashed potatoes, but I didn’t.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until bubbling. After 20 minutes, my potatoes still didn’t have any color, so I turned on the broiler for another three and a half minutes.

It was surprisingly pleasing.

1) My house did not smell strongly of fish during the cooking process!!! Now were there any lingering cooking odors this morning

2) The fishy milk sauce, which just sounds disgusting, was exactly like chowder. I should have guessed, except that I always think there are extra fresh ingredients and a bit of magic in good chowders.

It was a lot like soup in a casserole dish. On looking back at the recipes, a lot of them called for half as much milk as I used (though how that will fully cover the fish as it’s poaching, I don’t know). And they call for a thick layer of mashed potatoes, whereas I barely had enough to cover.

While the taste was smooth and pleasing (like chowder), there probably is no way to make seven years frozen fish not have the texture of seven years frozen fish – i.e. rubbery and a bit chewy

Bake Sales are a challenge for me, as I’m new to baking. I’ve been calling myself new and baking for a couple years now, and it’s going to continue for a few years more because it’s still feels like a risky adventure every time.

I came to this recipe over the winter, when my friend Smittywing made a double batch for the Death Bi Chocolate bake sale. It was quick to put together and the ingredients were rather straightforward.

Having lost the recipe, I googled around and found several people with the recipe, and Post Punk Kitchen even attributed it to having come from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, so I’m mentioning that.

I am, however, changing almost half of the ingredients… slightly. And I’ve changed the name.

Ever since Chocolat, I have been aware of the adding of chili to chocolate and calling it exotic, and frequently also calling it Mexican. Also, I’m lucky enough that one of my local supermarkets has a good selection of Mexican and Central American food items. And, really, Mexican chocolate comprises a wide variety of spices and blends, and it’s also more about the processing of the original chocolate, as far as I understand. And I’d rather have my cultural appropriation from long dead people… I don’t know, actually. I just know that I wasn’t comfortable re-using the title this time. Your mileage may vary. (here, have David Lebovitz’s write up of Mexican Hot Chocolate)

Spice Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles

Preheat oven to 350F

Dump into the bowl of the mixer: 1 cup almond oil (being sure to use the 1/2 cup measure twice), 1/2 cup sorghum syrup (which now pours smoothly out of the greased measuring cup), 2 cups sugar, 6 Tablespoons unsweetened unflavored soy milk, 5 teaspoons spiced rum, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon kojinte cinnamon*, 1 teaspoon aleppo powder*.

Start the mixer going slowly, and then incorporate as you go: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda.

Voila! Dough! (Okay, so it’s still a good idea to stir a little by hand and scrape the sides to make sure the edges and bottom are fully mixed). The end result is very stiff.

Mix together come cinnamon sugar in a small dish. I didn’t measure. If you do, the proportions in the recipe were: 1/3 cup sugar | 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Now I was going to present these in snack sized bags… and I thought they’d be lovely to dip into coffee… so I made thick, stumpy cylinder shapes. Don’t do this. Once they are flattened and baked, they look distinctly unappetizing. But they were very tasty, fit into the baggies, and would have been good dipped into a wide variety of beverages. You should make them round! The recipe suggests walnut-sized, rolled in sugar, and then flattened a bit. Mine did not spread much, so what you see is pretty much what you get.

On the other hand, what you feel is not what you get. It says to bake each batch for 10-12 minutes. And I ended up putting the first batch in for another 5 minutes because a quick poke test had them feeling exactly the same as when they went in. Apparently that’s perfectly normal for snickerdoodles, and they ended up being delightfully cookie-like when cooled, even though they seemed like they were still doughy fresh from the oven.

*I’ve bumped the spices up higher in the order, because my dough didn’t end up evenly mixed and some cookies were definitely spicier than others. (also those flavor varieties are chosen simply because they were what I had on hand, not because they’re better than any other cinnamon or hot pepper powder)

Also a note if you are making them for a bake sale, too – obviously, you don’t want to put them inside a bag until after they have fully cooled. Otherwise, the steam will condense on the inside of the bag and turn your cookies soggy and your sugary coating to slimy syrup. Luckily, I had 14 little labels and ingredients lists to write up while these not-so-pretties cooled.

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.

7
Apr

Curried Collard Greens and Rice

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , ,

Yet another delicious meal made out of scraps and leftovers in my fridge.

It all started with a text message to geeksdoitbetter asking: given that I have leftover rice and leftover raita in my fridge, how many more ingredients do you think I’d need to add before I could call it food?

Her reply was that all I’d need to do would be heat it up and add curry.

On further inspection, I noticed I also had some collard greens in need of attention, so a slightly more respectable meal was born.

Curried Collard Greens

Wash and cut up your greens (I went for roughly one inch square pieces).

Heat a teaspoon or two of oil in a pan. Add a Tablespoon of mustard seeds, and drape the pan with foil or a spatter guard because they goal is to have them pop.

Once the mustard seed start popping, add a teaspoon of cumin seeds and a generous sprinkle of asaphoetida.

After just a minute (or less) of toasting the spices, add the greens to your pan.

Sprinkle with a curry powder of your choice. I was hoping to make a dent in a jar of tandoori seasoning, but that ended up needing more fenugreek and turmeric to smell right.

Go ahead and throw the rice in, too, since this will add some moisture and heat to the leftovers (note: leftover rice can develop nasty food poisoning, so store/eat with care).

And then I added both leftover tamarind chutney (1-2 Tablespoons) and the leftover raita (1/2 pt container) and stirred them in until the collards had an even coating of a fairly dry sauce.

The end result wasn’t necessarily classy, but it was a decent and serviceably dinner. It ended up spicier than I was expecting, even.

I’ve been trying to be thrifty this week. I had to buy tables so I could invite people over for a Passover seder.

But I lucked out last Friday to find leftover crudite from some workplace event put out in the staff room. And I had empty lunch containers at the right time, too. I acquired cauliflower, broccoli, grape tomatoes, orange bell pepper, mushrooms, baby carrots, and a decorative yellow chile.

Breakfast Mushroom Sautee

So the mushrooms were something I wanted to eat for breakfast. So I made half a slice of bacon, removed it to drain and left the fat in the pan to cook the rest.

I turned the halves of mushrooms into slices and then sliced up the yellow pepper and an onion. They went in onions, then mushrooms, then pepper. As it was cooking, I cut in some fresh rosemary.

And then I just stirred it until the mushrooms released liquid and then browned a bit.

I spooned this over top a fried egg on toast, and it was enough to have covered 2 or 3 eggs, but I still had my spoon and just went ahead and ate it directly without company.

I didn’t know what to do with the cauliflower, until I remembered the remains of the Saint Agur I’d been thinking would melt into a nice pasta sauce. I also had a random jar of hot pepper garlic pasta sauce that my parents hadn’t gotten around to using, so had passed on to me. And I’m just going to take a moment to give this a review on its own. That jar is not pasta sauce. It might be the random oddly-sized scraps of garlic and hot pepper (red, decently thick fleshed), having been left over from making a pretty jar of pickled peppers, that you decided to put into a jar with some oil… but it is not sauce. It’s a bit harsh. I have a very sturdy constitution, and it was threatening me with heartburn. So it’s an ingredient… a way overpriced one… but it’s not what it claims to be. Luckily, I was just using it to perk up the cheesiness – unluckily, I hadn’t realized how much oil I’d be unable to avoid adding on top of the cheese. Should you try this, just cut up some garlic and hot peppers on your own.

Spicy Cauliflower Penne

Start the water boiling and just start the cauliflower cooking when you put in the pasta – this isn’t going to take much more than the 9-10 minutes the pasta cooks. I think this dish is well suited to a whole wheat or spelt pasta.

Cut up an onion, and got that started in a teaspoon of olive oil.

Then I went through the cauliflower and barely broke it down even more – into a fork-friendly size – and added any extra stem bits into the pan right away to give them more time to cook. Then I turned the heat higher than medium and added the cauliflower, looking to get it softer and a bit browned without actually making it limp.

When the vegetables are two minutes from the right consistency, turn down the heat and add the cheese in clumps. Stir them in to melt evenly. And here I added some of the hot pepper garlic ‘sauce’ and stirred that in – about 2 teaspoons or so, draining out as much of the oil as possible. It benefited from some black pepper ground on top, too.

Then I used a slotted spoon to shift the al dente penne to the cauliflower and stir it in so that it was coated with sauce and absorbed that for the last bit of its time and sucked in flavor, too.

And then I ate most of the broccoli dipped into hummus, but I had a few pieces left when I was trying to decide how to use up the rest of the vegetables. While looking in the fridge, I noticed I still had a partial can of red thai curry paste waiting for use. Perfect! It was only after I started cutting that I noticed just hot very orange this dish was going to be – at least there were a few broccoli pieces to add a little contrast. Actually, that shocking bit of contrast looked amazing on the plate.

Carrot Red Thai Curry

Rice: 1/2 cup short grain rice; 1 cup water; pinch of salt; 1/2 tsp coconut cream – boil, reduce heat to low and cover for 20 minutes.

Curry – wait until there’s only 10 minutes (or less, but I have no patience) left on the rice before starting to cook.

6 ounce cans of coconut milk are the best thing for the single cook!

Shake the can until it sloshes (keeps the fat from sticking to the lid and sides) before opening, and then pour it into your pan to heat. Once the oil starts pooling at the top, add about a third of a pound of baby carrots, sliced in half.

Cook for a few minute before adding the curry paste – 2-3 teaspoons, stirring in and tasting between each addition.

Add the broccoli.

And then add a(n orange) bell pepper, cut into 1 x 4 cm strips).

Stir to coat and cook evenly. When the bell peppers just start to look no longer raw, take them off the heat and you’re ready to plate.

This made two portions.

I’d put the second portion in my freezer and gone out to the porch to eat, when one of my new neighbors came by and asked if I’d made enough for two since she was very hungry. I’d expected her to end up disappointed either because of the lack of protein or the spiciness level, but she came back full of compliments with my container empty.

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
22
Dec

Roman Barley Risotto

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , ,

I just wrote this up for a friend, so I might as well post it here while I’m at it. Having first tried this dish at one of my Roman Cooking Workshops, this has since become my favorite way to cook barley.

“Wash and crush barley which has been soaking since the previous day. Put on the fire. When it boils add sufficient oil, a small bouquet of dill, dry onion, savory, and leg of pork. Let all this cook with the barley for flavor. Add fresh coriander and salt pounded together, and bring to the boil. When it has boiled well remove the bouquet and transfer the barley to another saucepan, taking care that it does not stick to the pan and burn. Cream well, and strain into a pan over the leg of pork so that it is well covered. Pound pepper, lovage, a little dried pennyroyal, cumin, and dried seseli. Moisten with honey, vinegar, defrutum, and liquamen, and pour into the pan over the leg pork. Cook over a slow fire.” (Apicius IV, IV, 1)

But I did make some changed. For one, no matter how much I love that a leg of pork is an incidental ingredient in this barley recipe, I just don’t have those lying around. I do, however, have a steady supply in my freezer of cubes of leftover roasted pork shoulder (it’s a thing – my mother likes this particular roast, but they suck at eating leftovers).

Also, gruel just sounds like prison food, and I’ve yet to find a congee I like. So I made it with a slow addition of liquid so that it was tender and pleasing but not drippy.

Roman Barley Risotto

Soak barley overnight.

In a nonstick pan, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and sautee some onions and minced stems of parsley and cilantro (I got that trip from the DVD extras of Bend It Like Beckham).

Heat up some stock

When the onion is translucent, drain the barley and add it to the pan. Add some stock.

Bind together a bundle of fresh dill, drop it into the pan and sprinkle in some dried onion flakes, savoury (and/or thyme), and as much roast pork leftovers as looks tasty.

Let cook until the stock has been absorbed, and then add more stock.

Mince cilantro leaves and stir them together with 3/4 teaspoon salt (more or less – this dish can take a lot of salt), crushing and juicing the leaves. I found that the dish could absorb quite a lot of cilantro, so go wild. If you don’t like cilantro, substitute parsley – but the addition of green was a great choice.

Season the barley with the salt and cilantro, stir, taste. How’s the salt level? How’s the texture? Does it need to cook more? Feel free to have another addition of stock. Also, how’s the dill flavor? I might have been tempted to mince in some of the dill, too. If it’s strong enough, go ahead and discard the dill. Note the ingredient seseli in the original recipe – could totally be referring to dill fronds, carrot fronds, parsley, anise, caraway, or even fennel)

Grind cumin and black pepper and add to taste. I was generous with the pepper but more moderate with the cumin, so it would be a background note.

If you don’t have lovage, you can substitute celery or margoram (or skip).

And then once the barley is fully cooked and creamy, you’re finishing by mixing in honey, red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, maneschewitz wine (defrutum is young wine that has been boiled down to only 1/3 the volume of the original), and liquamen/fish sauce.