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)

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.

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)

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

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.


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

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.

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)

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!

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

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

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.

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.

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



Invitation – Beans for Breakfast

   Posted by: Livia   in Challenges, Marx Foods

Okay, I have rashly entered a food contest. Because I had just had a kale-ifferous breakfast and was swept up in the joys of savory breakfasts. And I had been eating just that morning I saw the contest that I wanted to explore other savory breakfast options.

But now I am going to need help with the eating and photographing (not necessarily in that order) the results.

The challenge is to create original recipes using Beans for Breakfast.

Official Marx Foods logo for the Beans for Breakfast Challenge

How does brunch on March 24th sound to you?

(The entry is due March 25th)

I have three kinds of beans: Marrow, Mayacoba, and Azuki.

And I’m thinking of making 4-6 recipes (1 or 2 for each type of bean). PLZ HALP ME EAT THEM!!

cartoon kitteh holding a knife and fork, ready to nom!

Okay, here’s the final – all polished up – version of what was served at the Cooking with Cat Ladies dinner to benefit City Kitties.

General Condiments



  • Coconut Chutney Butternut Squash Soup (to improve on the first version, I swapped 2 cans of full fat coconut milk for 1 can of full fat, 1 lowfat, and a quart of vegetable stock. I also ended up adding several kabocha squash (which I’d roasted to make peeling easier for the winter squash vindaloo but found that made them too soft and went back to try that one starting from raw) and the proportions were about 2 butternut : 1 kabocha by volume. I did not add any chutney or garlic. Huh… and no brown sugar. Oh, and there was lime juice because I’m on a kick where lime juice makes everything better. But other than that, it was exactly the same. And I debated between blending it smooth and leaving it chunky and decided that while smooth might feel more ‘professional’ that I really did prefer it chunky)


  • Vegetable Biryani (link to sauce base) (Only changes I made were using brown basmati rice instead of white and omitting the saffron… and I think I’d completely run out of ginger by the assembly of the dish but the sauce base had ginger since I’d made that the night before)
  • Winter Squash Vindaloo (made with Kabocha and a packet of vindaloo mix from Parampara – which turned out to be a very pleasing mix that made a paste from whole spices)
  • Chana Masala
  • Parippu (I used the recipe from The Food of India by Priya Wickramasinghe, but the recipe I’m linking is almost verbatim as you’ll see if you compare with the recipe I wrote out in the last post – followed faithfully except for the lack of curry leaves)
  • Did I mention the Baked Achari Baingan?
  • Hazelnut Tamarind Rice

Salad – Another year when people were too stuffed for a salad course. I count that as a win.


  • Vegan Carrot Cake (to which my father said, when I took him leftovers, “That’s not carrot cake; I don’t like carrot cake.”) (So this was an amazingly resilient recipe in which many things went wrong but I never doubted it would be delicious. The batter was delicious. I used a 9″ round cake pan, instead of a 9″ square one and didn’t think of increasing the cooking time until the middle fell out in unmolding even though the toothpick had come out clean. Well, only some of the middles (so they ended up a bit concave). And I didn’t unmold until after they’d cooled a bit, so I ended up cooking them for another 10 minutes after they’d quit cooking… and yet they were still moist and compliant. So changes I made on account of ingredient supply – I used 3/2 cups of all purpose and 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour; 1/4 cup of almond oil and 1/2 cup of olive oil; and I used pecans instead of walnuts. And then I had already made candied blood orange slices, and I had found some pretty Tangelos and candied them, too, and was a little worried since they ended up pretty bitter despite the sugar coating. But I took them to friends to sample, and they all approved me using them. So to tie in the citrus, I made a lime syrup to drizzle on the cakes before making an artistic citrus slice arrangement on top. Hopefully, someone will send me pictures.)
  • Nutty Buttered Applesauce (and for the person with celiacs, I just whipped out a selection of my home canned applesauces (huh – which I’ve never blogged about.), and felt all swank offering to just whip up something easy. We went with the one with chai-themed seasonings. Put that in a ramekin, put some broken pecans on top, and a pat of butter to melt in – and that went in the over for as long as it took me to get everything else out and coffee started.)

Monday, March 5
set coconut milk for truffle ganache to steep (lime&coconut, Orchid Oolong tea)

empty dishwasher
reheat coconut milk
make ganache for truffles
coat candied tangelo slices in sugar and leave to dry longer
set yogurt to drain

clean downstairs bathroom
sweep front room
open tables and start setting up chairs

onion, ravioli, meatballs, asparagus with pasta sauce

Tuesday, March 6

butternut squash
1 lb of carrots
red bell peppers
chocolate chips
low fat coconut milk
whole milk (not ultra pasteurized)
soda water
vindaloo seasoning
2 packages of pita bread

empty compost into compost bin

last of the kale, tomato,

shape lime & coconut truffles
second sugar coat for tangelo slices and put up for storage – consider candying lime or lemon next
Make 1 cup of brown basmati rice
Make tzatziki
Roast butternut squash and bell peppers
Make raita (started)
Make black bean dip
Make matbucha

vacuum LiLi’s room


Wednesday, March 7th
coat truffles
Make paneer
wash dishes


unload dishes
Make Chana Masala
Make Biryani Sauce Base
First attempt vegan naan vs dairy naan
Make 1 cup brown basmati rice
thaw frozen spinach in a container

dinner: product test the chana masala

Thursday, March 8th
Gah! 7am yoga?
early day at work

get supplemental dishware from friend?

8pm play?
Make 2nd batch of chana masala
Make Spicy white bean dip
Slice and oil pita bread
set 1 pt lentils to soak
Drain thawed spinach (and reserve liquid)

Friday, March 9th
Bake dessert – either carrot cake or Lemon or Lime Cake (which would be better topped with candied tangelo and blood orange slices?)
Peel winter squash, cube, and marinate in vindaloo seasoning
buy, chop, and prep vegetables for the vegetable biryani (cauliflower?, string beans?, bell pepper, zucchini? – also more string beans and a bag of potatoes. Oh, and the lettuce for salads.)
Make naan dough
Make chapati / roti dough
Make first iteration of

lentil dish – Parippu

225g masoor dal (red lentils)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped
50g creamed coconut, mixed with 250ml water (or 250 ml coconut milk)
2 green chillies, chopped
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander

2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 onion, very finely chopped
10 curry leaves

Put the lentils in a heavy-based saucepan with 500ml water. Add the roughly chopped onion, tomato, creamed coconut or coconut milk, green chilli, turmeric, ground cumin and coriander, and bring to a boil. Simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the lentils are cooked to a soft mush (masoor dal does not hold its shape when it cooks). This will take about 25 minutes. If all the water has evaporated before the lentils are cooked, add 125 ml boiling water.

For the final seasoning (tarka), heat the oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds, cover and allow the seeds to pop. Add the finely chopped onion and curry leaves and fry over low heat until the onion is golden brown. Pour the seasoned onions into the simmering lentils. Season with salt to taste, and cook for another 5 minutes.

– source The Food of India by Priya Wickramasinghe

Peel and boil potatoes


Make pita chips!

soak more lentils
soak hazelnuts

Saturday, March 10th
remove dough from refrigerator and bring to room temperature
Put white wine in the refrigerator

make salad dressing
toast nuts for salad

Cut up crudite

put vegetable biryani in a dutch oven and cook it.
Make soup (rosted butternut squash or carrots – coconut chutney esque)
Make more lentils

Take a break and buy fresh herbs: cilantro, parsley, methi, and curry leaves (if you can find them). Also buy some pre-made breads so you can quit worrying. They’ll freeze. Anything else pretty for crudite?

knead doughs

Assemble all components of saag paneer – cook and puree spinach, brown paneer

Puree soup smooth

When you panic about there being too little food – make some string beans with mustard seed and some methi potatoes

Roll out bread.

35 minutes til – Make tamarind rice with hazelnuts, pine nuts, and mustard seeds

20 minutes til – Put chips, dips, and crudite on the table; put as many condiments as you can wrangle on the table; pull white wines from the refrigerator; open a bottle of red;
Clear any surfaces possible in the kitchen; start oven preheating to 500F for bread optimism; Make plain basmati (burner 1); cook the Squash vindaloo! (burner 2) (soup = burner 3)

10 minutes til – (assemble saag in a pan ready to go on the stove)

Start: remove rice from burner, set squash to simmer, start cooking the saag paneer. Act social; offer beverages; (have place to stash coats!!); tell people to go visit your foster cat

Start + 10 minutes: Assemble the tarka for the soup; first batch of bread?

Start +20 minutes: Serve soup; Second batch of bread

Start +30 minutes: Add paneer to saag; Is the bread plan doomed?

Start +35 minutes: Serve dinner (if bread is awesome, cook a few more rounds of it)

An hour later – offer a salad course and see if people blanch

Boil water and make tea; offer scotch
Serve dessert

1 load of dishes before bed

Sunday, March 11
load of dishes in the morning

Mail truffles to recipient?

2:30 – Latin translation group?


Chocolate Studies

   Posted by: Livia   in chocolate

So I have a friend who is serious about Chocolate, who for the last 15 years has been taking a week off to make chocolate things. Many things. Amazing things.

Since I started making truffles, the possibility of making desserts has seemed slightly less intimidating and I’ve started exploring baking.

This year, I took a couple days off work to help/apprentice with the chocolate making. Confectionery was the first half of the week, and I’m here for the baking portion.

Things I have learned so far:

  • I had an impression that both egg whites and cream were similarly fussy when whipped. I was wrong. They’re both fussy, but differently. Egg whites want a completely clean and dry bowl (no water or fat) and room temperature eggs. Cream is not so fussy about water or fat (since that’s what it’s made of anyway), but everything should be cool/cold.
  • lozenges of baking chocolate are not so awkward to use/store as I’d thought they’d be, so I’ll probably buy that form next time
  • Michel Cluizel processes their chocolate more than most and so they don’t use soy lecithin as an emulsifier
  • Using coconut fat in the vegan truffles as a brilliant idea because professionals pick coconut fat to create meltaway centers (from Chocolates & Confections by the CIA) – keyword: lauric fat
  • it’s no so hard to spot soft peaks of whipped cream
  • double boilers are for suckers. Melting chocolate in the microwave is where it’s at.
  • I should get some larger smooth glass bowls
  • the weird transfer of stuff between containers before folding in whipped stuff is not so much about temperatures (since they should probably both be cool) but about making the heavier stuff light enough to mix all fluffy-like
  • jelly-rolls – you can wait 5 min after making, roll them up, and then let them finish cooling rolled up.
  • you really should buy superfine sugar sometimes
  • it’s awesomely helpful to have cooling racks that fit inside your jelly roll pans
  • I’m not sure I could duplicate it, but I saw two gorgeous textbook perfect demonstrations of pouring ganache over cake to make a mirror-shiny coating. – proportions came from Cocolat by Alice Medrich
  • I used a disposable (brand = Wilton) pastry tube for the first time. To make white chocolate drizzles. Easier than expected. All pastry tips come in 2 sizes. There are universal screw couplers to keep them on the bag. Used a pastry bag again to frost cupcakes. Think that went well, too. Kept worrying my hands would be warm enough to melt the frosting.
  • I’d forgotten, but this household is where I picked up the knack of wrapping teabag tags around the mug handle to keep them from slipping into the cup when you pour hot water.
  • I had not forgotten, but this is also where I picked up the strong opinion that am important step toward sharing food accessibly is to just fucking label everything with the ingredients. It takes a little time and thought, but it’s not that hard.
  • bread pudding out of stale croissants!
  • If you have fresh croissants and a bowl of excellent mousse (Saturday is going to be yummy), you should scrape up that mousse with the croissant. I will be every bit as good as you think it will.
  • Cakes and cupcakes iced with cream cheese frosting should not be packed away in plastic right away. They need to sit out until the frosting has a slight crust, lest moisture condense and they become all melty and not pretty inside the container
  • there’s a(n avoidable) reason dried milk tastes nasty. Look for ones without lipase “a fat-degrading enzyme, resulting in a sort of controlled rancidity… done to increase the buttery flavor… to obtain the signature flavor profile the manufacturer seeks.” (Also from the CIA book)

I think I’ve separated about 3 dozen eggs. With only 1 broken yolk among them.

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Food swapping

   Posted by: Livia   in Events/Promotions, Philly Food Swap

Went to the 3rd Philly Food Swap this evening.

I traded some packets of my amazing pita chips, quarts of vegetable stock, and the last three half pints of uninspiring sour cherry sauce (that refused to be jam) from last season.

In return, I got

  • 6oz homemade dried linguini in 3 flavors
  • homemade frozen spinach ravioli
  • (let’s just assume homemade for everything and be gleeful) pasta soup
  • spicy mustard
  • caramelized onion confit with balsamic vinegar, honey, brandy, and rosemary
  • cranberry chutney
  • blackberry infused vinegar
  • a pint of pickled peaches with a cinnamon stick
  • 2 frozen babka loaves to be baked at my leisure
  • a loaf of yogurt cake with orange zest
  • vegan spicy chocolate cookies that are nothing like the ones I know how to make
  • vegan chai cookies
  • orange ginger curd
  • chocolate covered potato chips that aren’t particularly good
  • chocolate dipped cookie dough balls, which are
  • candied walnuts, which I gave to my neighbors hanging out on their steps as I came home

I love food swapping!

But! Let me tell you!

It didn’t fully register at the time, but someone looked at my labels on the pita chips and said, “Oh! You’re Nocounterspace.”

As in recognizing, not just reading the label.

From someone who doesn’t know me at all.


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.

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Upcoming Event: Cooking with Cat Ladies

Cooking with Cat Ladies logo - cute cartoon grey/white cat with a pint nose holding an knife and fork and all ready to eat tasty food

After a long hiatus, one of City Kitties’ favorite fundraising events is back! Cooking with Cat Ladies is a delicious way to show your support for stray cats and kittens. This fine dining experience will be held the evening of Saturday, March 10th at a volunteer’s West Philadelphia home.

How It Works
I am preparing a mouth-watering menu for Cooking with Cat Ladies guests. A $50 ticket purchase reserves your seat at the table, where you will enjoy a five-course vegetarian feast and the company of other cat lovers and City Kitties volunteers. The menu is not yet set in stone, but it will be vegetarian with vegan and gluten-free options (see below).

Seats are limited, so don’t delay in purchasing your ticket! All proceeds benefit City Kitties. (And it goes without saying that this event is open to anyone — not just ladies as the title may imply!) NOTE: If you are unable to attend but would still like to support this event, you may purchase seats to the event and we will offer it to our dedicated foster homes to go as your guest. Just note your intention to donate your seat to a foster parent in the paypal notes section when you purchase the tickets.

rough menu (with recipes to follow)

tzatziki (dairy)
red wine and ginger black bean dip (vegan)
pita chips (vegan, gluten)
carrots and cauliflower (vegan)

Coconut Chutney Butternut Squash Soup (vegan)

vegetable biryani (vegan, gluten free)
hazelnut tamarind brown rice (vegan, gluten free)
Winter Squash Vindaloo (vegan, gluten free, spicy)
Chana Masala (vegan, gluten free, moderate spice)
Palak Paneer (dairy, vegetarian, gluten free, mild; possibility of home made paneer) or something else mild and vegan
assorted chutney (vegan) and raita (dairy)

Arugula and/or baby spinach
Nuts and cheeses
Lemon dressing

Dessert — to be announced

Go to the main event page for purchasing details

I love having greens for breakfast, and I’m glad any morning I have the time to cook and fresh greens in the fridge.

This was actually almost dinner, but I’d gotten everything cut up and then decided I was too tired to actually eat it – so everything was prepped and ready in the morning.

Oh, and I have a rant about poached eggs. You know how they’re pretty difficult for many cooks, with the whites all turning whispy and unruly? And you know how some authors are tempted to try to sell you gadgets that promise to make everything simpler? And other authors just whip up delicious poached egg dishes?

Well, that’s making things too hard and getting all of your dishes dirty. Just make food with a little liquid to it, crack the egg into the food, and then cover it so that the egg poaches in steam and/or the liquid in your dish. Not only is this easier, requires fewer dishes, and gorgeous, but also the end result is more delicious because your egg whites get to absorb the flavor of your dish.

I clean out and keep those takeaway containers made out of foil for this, but you can use any kind of bowl or lid (that is high enough not to touch the egg while it’s steaming), if you don’t compulsively reuse containers or if you’re worried about cooking with aluminum.

Kale for Breakfast with a Poached Egg on Top

I melted 2 teaspoons of butter into the bottom of my skillet and tossed in a sliced (young enough that it hadn’t developed a bulb) vidalia onion, a cubed red bell pepper, and the flesh (only) of 1 habanero pepper, having been sliced into tiny slivers.

While that sauteed, I washed 4 young curly kale leaves. I just shook them dry, leaving a decent amount of moisture still in the leaves as I cut the leaf off of the tough rib and then sliced the pile of leaves across into short ribbons.

I got my egg ready.

Once the cooking vegetables were decently wilted, I added the kale and stirred it all up just until the kale turned bright.

But on tasting it, I realized I needed a bit more saltiness, so I went back to my Roman kale recipe for methodology and tipped in 1 teaspoon each of fish sauce and sweet red wine.

A quick stir to distribute the liquids, and I piled the greens into a nest.

Cracking the egg into the center, I covered the egg nest of greens with another container.

And it took about as long to poach as it took me to toast a frozen bagel.

You can peek under the lid – you are looking for no visible liquid white and an amazing rosy blush to the top of the yolk (which you don’t get from regular poaching).

Then eat!

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I was very excited when I saw that the Lai family was opening up a new restaurant close to me. I was excited because it was named Grill Fish.

Now there were dreams and fantasies in my head about the coming restaurant. In my head, this would finally be a convenient local source of exquisitely fresh fish (which is rather rare to come by in Philadelphia). Possibly, it would even be affordable. But just the name – Grill Fish – evoked images of the freshest fish, being treated very minimally, grilled all luscious and healthy.

Honestly, there’s no way I was going to get my wish.

But City Paper reviewed their opening, and it sounded like things would possibly be pretty close to my dreams. So exciting!

So I went there this weekend. And I’ll say right now that the food was very good.

But my dreams were shattered. For one thing, the chalkboard with the fresh special of the day? Had not been changed in the five days since the review.

And I realized that I hadn’t read the menu closely enough, and while I thought that under each protein there was a list of 5 or 6 ways it could be prepared, instead they were all ingredients in one dish.

And the two dishes we ordered were fried, not grilled. And so, not showcasing the freshness of the fish.

Right, but how was what we ate? Excellent.

We started off with the Grilled Squid appetizer. And it was exactly what I wanted the rest of the restaurant to be. Tender, mild squid melted with no resistance – and there was a strong note of char from the superficial seared grill marks. The citrus sauce was excellent, and it was a delightful start.

I ordered the Tilapia, which came with a tomato sauce. My dining companion’s comment on the sauce was that this would make an excellent stew, and she was not wrong. Having the sauce over the fish, did soggy the bottom of the light breading, but the taste was excellent and the overall texture mixing crisp crumb coating with a thin layer of mild fish. As much as I enjoyed it, I loved the side of greens even more – but then, I’m a sucker for greens, and these were very tasty.

My dining companion ordered the fluke. Hers was presented with the sauce on the side, so she had a nice, crisp coating all the way through.

We skipped dessert – because I would have liked some of the Vietnamese desserts from their restaurant next door, and caked just seemed off. (and unpriced. If your desserts and daily fish aren’t going to have a price in the menu, then my opinion is that it should be on the board, too)

I should go back and order the whole grilled fish, but since it isn’t giving me the amazing freshness I wanted, then I’m not comfortable compromising on ecological impact (though I am willing to do so for amazingness near me that I can afford).

More about ecological impact.

Tilapia: From the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who publish seafood watch and provide seafood pocket guides:

Most tilapia [Glossary] consumed in the U.S. comes from China/Taiwan (frozen) or Central and South America (fresh). Less than 10 percent of tilapia consumed in the U.S. is farmed domestically.

And from the preparation, I’d guess this was frozen seafood… whose likeliest country practices are listed as avoid because of the high level of pollution and because their systems frequently lead to tilapia spreading to local ecosystems and becoming invasive.

Bronzino: is harder to find data on. It wasn’t listed on the websites for either the Monteray Bay Aquarium nor the Good Fish Guide of the Marine Conservation Society – and that was after I found the scientific name on the Food52 message boards, Dicentrarchus labrax. Having gained prominence starting in the 1990s, I had first heard of it as a fairly green fish. Apparently these fish are suited to wide-ranging aquaculture practices, and people have been trying to make them greener because standard practice isn’t all that good. As far as I can tell with 20 minutes on google…

To end on a happy note, I’ll leave you with a TED talk in which Dan Barber talks about falling in love with a fish. (note: I don’t necessarily agree with his objections to the counter-example’s feed)