I was very lucky back in January to catch a twitter exchange between @HeleneDujardin (of Tartlette and http://www.helenedujardin.com/) and @glutenfreegirl (of Gluten Free Girl about Tamarind Rice.

The recipe comprised only two tweets:

recipe for 3 cups dry rice: 3tb oil, sautee 1/2 c raw peanuts, 1/4 unsalted cashews, 1 tb black mustard seeds, (cont)
2:12 PM – 19 Jan 11

1 tb cumin seeds, 3/4 tsp asafetida powder. When mustard seeds splatter, add 1 cup tamarind pulp, add to cooked rice mix
2:14 PM – 19 Jan 11

Now let me link you to a more detailed version of a Tamarind Rice recipe.

So back in January I favorited these two tweets.

And then in February I ended up with a lot of leftover basmati and looking for a way to package it into lunches I could freeze.

Only I had neither peanuts nor cashews.

But I did have pine nuts and hazelnuts. Okay, so whatever. I can try that. And I did – and I’ve kept making this weird version ever since.

Hazelnut Tamarind Rice

Soak a little less than a cup of hazelnuts overnight.

Put a teaspoon or so of oil in a pan and a palmful of mustard seeds. If you remember, add a teaspoon of asafoetida, but I often forget. Turn the heat to medium high, and if you are particularly clever you might cover it with a splatter shield or a clean aluminum takeout container.

Drain the liquid from the hazelnuts.

As soon as the first mustard seed pops, but before many do, add a bunch of pine nuts (depends on how many you have and how much leftover rice you are trying to use up – let’s say 1/3 cup for now).

Oh, and you can add a bunch of whole cumin seeds, too!

After just half a minute, start stirring the pan intermittently because your pine nuts are toasting and your mustard seeds are popping.

As soon as the pine nuts are almost fully toasted, add the drained hazelnuts. Hey! Water-laden things in hot oil! This will hiss and spit very satisfyingly. Don’t stand too close without a shirt on.

As soon as you get a whiff of things getting really toasty – that is, catching it right before your nuts burn – dump in your leftover rice.

Stir it about, heat the rice thoroughly and evenly mix in the nuts and seeds.

Take a jar of tamarind chutney, and pour some in, stir, pour some in, stir – until you like the color and it tastes good.

Done!

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I have an unusual abundance of free time this weekend and an abundance of food. Want to come over and help with that?

There’s a sexy french triple cream cows’ milk cheese and some crackers.

And I’m going to make duck soup.

My duck soup all starts with a good duck stock. And my duck stock starts with going out to dinner with my parents. See – my father loves Peking Duck. So a couple weeks ago, we went to Yang Ming and got one of the prettiest ducks I’ve ever seen. And, as usual, we asked for the carcass to take home.

Duck Soup

Duck Stock
Into a pot, add the frozen cooked duck carcass.

Add onion peels (from purple onions, if possible) and leek ends. Add the skins from a roasted garlic head. Add carrot peels and herb stems. (All the stuff I keep in a bag in my freezer for stock until I’m ready) If you have ginger peels, add them.

Add a couple dried hot red peppers* (rinsing the dust off). Add some cloves and maybe a star anise. Add a tablespoon or two of peppercorns (or fewer if you crush them first, but this is how I go through pepper fast enough to keep my supply fresh). If you have it, add some thyme, savory, rosemary, or anything in that family of herbs. Add a bay leaf or two. Add parsley.

One of the best things, which I rarely have, is parsley root with its leaves.

Add water up to cover, but not much over that.

And cook. You may choose to boil or simmer.

Then strain the stock.

Duck Soup
You know what I didn’t add to the stock? Salt. Because now that you’re tasting it you can add some (and how much will vary on your tastes and how salty the cooked duck skin ended up being) – and it’s going to need a generous quantity of salt and/or soy sauce (or gluten free tamari).

Then I like adding greens. Chinese spinach is good. I’ve pickled my own mustard greens for this (or you can buy them in a package pickled, but rinse them if you go this route). Kale is delicious.

You can add mushrooms, but I prefer them either cooked before adding or from dried. Fresh boiled mushrooms aren’t tasty to me.

You can adjust the seasoning – more ginger? a splash of vinegar?

Add noodles – I like the buckwheat soba noodles for this soup, but it’s flexible and gluten free noodles are also tasty.

And then right before serving – thinly slice fresh garlic and a fresh hot pepper (I aim for the kind that’s about a foot long, 3/4 inch diameter, and bright red or green), and toast them until just brown. Sprinkle the tops of each bowl right after portioning.

*I am still working on the dried red peppers I recieved as a free sample from Marx Foods. They’re only dusty because I’ve strung them on thread and have them hanging in my kitchen where they’re pretty and reminding me to keep using them.

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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.

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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.

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Here’s a rough list of dishes that look interesting, which I still haven’t tried:

III.iv.1 – Gustum de Cucurbitis

Cucurbitis coctas expressas in patinam compones. Adicies in mortarium piper, cuminum, silfi modice, [id est laseris radicem], rutae modicum, liquamine et aceto temperabis, mitted defritum modicum ut coloretur, ius exinanies in patinam. Cum ferbuerint iterum ac tertio, depones et piper minutum asparges.

Tastings of Marrow

Cook marrows, drain off the water, and arrange in a shallow pan. Put in the mortar pepper, cumin, a little asafoetida, a little rue, and blend with liquamen and vinegar. Add a little defrutum to give color, and pour this sauce into the pan. When it has come to the boil three times, take off the fire and sprinkle ground pepper over it.

~*~

III.xi.2 – Aliter betas elixas

Ex sinapi, oleo modico et aceto bene interuntur.

Boiled beets redux

They are good served with a dressing of mustard, a little oil, and vinegar.

~*~

III.xxi.2 – Aliter caroetas

sale, oleo puro et aceto

Carrots, another way

with salt, pure oil, and vinegar

~*~

V.ii.2 – Lenticulam de castaneis

Accipies caccabum novum, et castaneas purgatas diligenter mittis. Adicies aquam et nitrum modice, facies ut coquatur. Cum coquitur, mittis in mortario peper, cumium, semen coriandri, mentam, rutum, laseris radicem, puleium, fricabis. Suffundis acetum, mel, liquamen, aceto temperabis, et super castasead coctas refundis. Adicies oleum, facies ut ferveat. Cum bene ferbuerit, tudiclabis [ut in mortario teres]. Gustas: si quid deest, addes. Cum in boletar miseris, addes oleum viride.

V.ii.3 – Aliter Lenticulam

Coquis. Cum despumaverit, porrum et coriandrum viride supermittis. coriandri semen, puleium, laseris radicem, semen mentae et rutae, suffundis acetum, adicies mel, liquamine, aceto, defrito temperabis, adicies oleum, agitabis. Si quid opus fuerit, mittis. Amulo obligas, insuper oleum viride mittis, piper aspargis at inferes.

Lentils with Chestnuts
(note: this dish will only be made if there are at least three people able to help with shelling the chestnuts) (Also, it was referenced in an episode of Highlander… and I’ve had trufax in person conversations with the writer for the show who added that bit about what the ending consistency and texture should be.)

Take a new saucepan and put in the carefully cleaned chestnuts. Add water and a little cooking-soda. Put on the fire to cook. When cooked, put in the mortar pepper, cumin, coriander seed, mint, rue, asafoetida root, and pennyroyal; pound. Moisten with vinegar, add honey and liquamen, blend with vinegar, and pour over the boiled chestnuts. Add oil, bring to the boil. When it is boiling well, stir. Taste: if something is missing, add it. When you have put it in the serving dish, add best oil.

Lentils

Boil [the lentils]; when you have skimmed off the froth, put in leeks and green coriander. Pound coriander seed, pennyroyal, asafoetida root, mint, and rue, moisten with vinegar, add honey, blend with liquamen, vinegar, and defrutum. Pour over the lentils, add oil, stir. [Taste]: if something is wanting, add it. Thicken with flour, pour on best oil, sprinkle with pepper, and serve

[Combine these two dishes for Lentils AND Chestnuts]

~*~

V.vi.3 – Aliter fabaciae

ex sinapi trito, melle, nucleis, ruta, cumino et aceto inferuntur.

Green beans

[Boiled], served with ground mustard, honey, pine-kernels, rue, cumin, and vinegar.

~*~

VII.xv.3 – Aliter fungi farnei

Elixi ex sale, oleo, mero, coriandro conciso inferuntur.

Three Fungi, Another method (we’ll use regular mushrooms)

Sautee with salt, oil, wine, and chopped coriander.

~*~

VIII.viii.12 – Leporem [pipere] sicco sparsum

Et hunc praecondies sicut haedum Tarpeianum. Antequam coquatur, ornatus suitur. Piper, rutam, satureiam, cepam, thymum modicum, liquamine collues, postea in furnum [mittes], coques et impensa tali circumsparges: piperis semunciam, rutam, cepam, satureiam, dactylos iv, uvam passam ustam coloratum super vatillum, vinum, oleum, liquamen, caroenum, frequenter tangitur ut condituram suam omnem tollat, postea ex pipere sicco in disco sumitur.

Hare Sprinkled with Dry Pepper (using chicken)

Prepare the hare as for Tarpeian Kid (VIII.vi.9 – de-boned). Before cooking it truss and sew up. Moistenit with a mixture of pepper, rue, savory, onion, a little thyme, and liquamen, then pour it in the oven, cook, and pour all over the following mixture: 1/2 oz pepper, rue, onion, savory, 4 dates, raisins browned over a brazier, wine, oil, liquamen, and caroenum. Baste the hare with this mixture frequently, so that it absorbs the entire liquid. Then lift out and serve on a round dish with dry pepper.

Let me know if you are interested in attending. I’d like to have a minimum of 3 people, but because my kitchen is still fairly small there should not be more than 8.

Note: All translations by Barbara Flower and Elisabeth Rosenbaum

3
Oct

Manakeesh

   Posted by: Livia   in restaurant, Review

I’ve been remiss in writing, and I’ve been holding out on you. Some of the restaurants I visit most end up being the ones I never get around to reviewing.

But let me assure you that I was thrilled when a Lebanese bakery opened one block from my old apartment… right after I moved away. I’d been avidly watching the renovation of the abandoned building into something beautiful – with dark wood tables and colorful walls.

Manakeesh

Manakeesh = flatbreads with tasty stuff. Sometimes they are served flat, sometimes folded in half, and sometimes rolled. I haven’t yet figured out the pattern. But here are the ones I’ve tried so far:

  • Za’tar – Their za’tar blend is heavier on the thyme than the Penzey’s version. I highly recommend asking for a side of labneh and tearing off pieces of the bread and dipping it.
  • veggie – it kind of like ratatouille on a flat bread. I really want there to be one with loosely held together roasted vegetables, but it is not this one. Guaranteed to drip on your shirt at least once. Tasty, if you don’t have a pre-conceived craving.
  • spinach and cheese – Is taste for 3 minutes while the cheese is gooey. And then not tasty. And then – oddly – tasty once again when it is cold and you’re eating it for breakfast.
  • kishk – So one morning I was looking at the board and going, “Yeah, but what here is underappreciated that I should try?” And the owner pointed me toward this one. And, yes, it is delightful. It’s spicy and rich (and messy – I tried to eat it as street food while walking, but I quickly gave up and sat on a stoop to finish it). Not what I was expecting at all from the “cracked wheat and yogurt paste” description.
  • Kafta – a fine layer of ground beef and lamb folded around a surprise pickle. Well, the pickles were a surprise to me. And they went surprisingly well with the flavor, just a mild sharp note to balance the richness of the meat.
  • tawook – also a surprise pickle. Also working really well here. The chicken is incredibly tender and delightful.

Salads and Dishes

  • Baba Ghanouj – tasted as if it were generously mixed with tahini.
  • Fool – mixture of paste and identifiable beans, this is generously seasoned with lemon. Make sure they serve you the pita that comes with (for most of the others you have to order pita separately)
  • Tabbouleh – is excellent here! Lovely fresh parsley and very summery. Well, at least it has been through summer.

Sweets

  • Fried dough – skip the fried dough. It has hardly any taste, and it is coated with enough tough sugar to be able to withstand being out all day
  • Baklava – but a billion tasty varieties of attractive baklava. YAY!
  • Seriously, everything except the fried dough is delicious.
  • ma’moul – I love these! They are not so sweet, but they are stuffed (with dates, walnuts, or pistachio). This right here is a delicious breakfast.
  • “power bar” – nuts held together with syrup on top of an amazing short bread. This is incredibly filling and great with tea.

Beverages

  • Tea! There are two paths for tea appreciation here. TWO! (three if you count iced, but I don’t.) You can have traditional tea in an elegant pot (which will burn you, if you aren’t careful) poured into small glasses (which would burn you, but of course you are careful and place your fingertips around the rim above the pour line). It has a blend of teas and mint (with a mild mint taste that complements, rather than taking over). OR you can have non-traditional tea (for some reason they always look at me funny when I say that to order it). They stock Mighty Leaf, one of my favorite brands
  • coffee – they take their coffee seriously, and you can have traditional Turkish tea or a wide variety of sexy coffee beverages, but that is not my thing.
  • They do smoothies. Those are only okay – they come from a mix/

And they opened up outdoor seating! I love eating outside. During Ramadan they switched to evening hours and had specials each night. I didn’t get to take advantage of it this year, but next year I am totally stopping by after work (since I frequently work until 9pm).

So what has me thinking about them? This Saturday I was walking by, and they had a sign out advertising a new manakeesh – Cream Cheese! Have I mentioned my ongoing love affair with cream cheese? So I go in thinking it’s, you know, cream cheese on a flat bread, so I order it with some za’tar. But no, it has vegetables and olives and all kinds of stuff going on. (made for me!) So I order it with vegetables, but no olives – since I don’t like olives.

…and it comes with olives. But I liked it anyway! This one came rolled up, and it wanted to dribble out the end, but it was so sinfully good. Intensely favored, mellow and creamy, and just the right amount of filling.

So this sounds like the perfect place, right? Well, there are a couple things I don’t like. For one thing, if you were looking for the land of passive aggressive notes, this is the place for you. There are about 40 numbered signs pinned up (on the soda machine, by the trash, in the bathrooms, on the cash register, etc.) with helpful hints like, “Our customers are the best because they don’t use credit cards for checks under $10.”

And… well, actually that’s the main thing I don’t like.

The owner remembers your name (and will remember that you are capable of drinking quite a lot of tea), and the staff is delightful.

And some day I am going to remember the name of that orchid drink I fell in love with over the summer and ask the owner if he’d consider carrying it.

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.

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24
May

Fish Pie

   Posted by: Livia   in dinner/lunch, dubious, economics, Food, non-vegetarian, Recipe, soup

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

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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)

Aztec 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.

What you feel is also 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, even though they seemed like they were still doughy. But once cook, they settled into more recognizable cookies.

*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 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 back 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 pretties cooled.

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6
May

Quiche two ways, both dodgy and delicious

   Posted by: Livia   in dinner/lunch, Recipe

The past couple weeks, my friends and I have been having collaborative dinners.

Yesterday, it went like this:

NoCounterspace: if you want to have dinner at my house (dining out is fine), I have: more potatoes, more asparagus, bell peppers, onions, eggs, cooked zucchini of dubious virtue. I could make a frittata or possibly a pizza (never tried before, but I think I can buy pre-made dough at the coop sometimes).

geeksdoitbetter: i have roasted eggplant, mushrooms, onions wanna make a quiche?

NoCounterspace: There could be quiche!

geeksdoitbetter: shall we pitch the communal cooking idea @ Lulu?

And the pitch went like this:

Lulu –

Geeksdoitbetter has concocted a quiche dinner idea. It could be cooked your house, or at mine if you want some but not until 7pm.

ingredient options from me include:
more potatoes
more asparagus
bell peppers
onions
fresh or roasted garlic
cooked zucchini of dubious virtue (just means they need checking, not that they are necessarily bad)
raw yellow squash of dubious virtue
radishes

cheddar
rustic cheddar of eww
blue cheese
parmesan
homemade soft cheeses

ingredient options from Geeksdoitbetter include:
roasted eggplant
mushrooms

And we decided to make two quiches (for 4 people). One full of tasty things that Lulu’s husband (G) hates, and one full of things he could eat. G was included in the emails and could have been in on the decision making process if he’d answered them, so there’s no gender discrimination here.

So first on pie crust. I’m new to baking, yeah? I’ve never made pie crust. On the other hand, I really like the Pillsbury refrigerated crust that you just pull out and unroll. I think it tastes good and would be aiming to have any crust I made at home taste like that one. So why not buy that one? (note: I am considering changing this attitude now that I both own a food processor and have been introduced to Lulu’s pie crust, which is indeed better than Pillsbury’s – maybe over the next few months, but not this night)

I really wanted to use up some of my potatoes, so the first thing I did was to wash two handfuls (small red potatoes), cut out any bad parts, and throw them onto a baking sheet. I added 2 teaspoons of olive oil and put them on the low rack of the oven. Then I started the oven heating up to 350F, where I’d be baking the quiches.

I tasted Geeksdoitbetter’s roasted eggplant leftovers (eggplant, onions, some herb mix that included rosemary), and they were going to be delicious with the potatoes, so that was planned. If I hadn’t found anything to go with the potatoes, they would have made a good side dish, anyway.

Then I pulled a pound of bacon out of the freezer (because the pieces in the fridge had gone off). Open the package, cut the strips in half width-wise (because they fit in a round skillet better that way) and forcibly separated about half of the half strips (quarter of the pound) out to cook (and put an eighth of a pound into a half pint takeaway container in the refrigerator for easy use later). Put that in my little cast iron skillet and popped it into the oven next to the potatoes, with the slices still all frozen together.

Now for the pie crust. I selected my two 9″ pie plates, unrolled a crust into each of them, settled it into the shape, tucked the edges under and pressed them into place, and took a fork and pricked the shells thoroughly. Then I cracked two eggs into a bowl and brushed the crusts with just the egg white bits (but no need to get another dish dirty – and you can just scramble the eggs for the filling in this bowl). Pie crusts go into the 350F oven (which had reached temperature by now) for 15-20 minutes – they’ll be golden, but not brown.

I pulled the skillet with the bacon out of the oven and started cooking it on the stovetop where I could watch and micromanage. By now the pieces were easy to separate, so I moved everything apart.

Then I took a bunch of asparagus, trimmed the bottoms, sliced them into 1cm pieces, and pre-cooked them on the stove in 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Over fairly high heat (7-8 on a knob with numbers) they got a nice bit of roastiness in 8 minutes. I could have put them in the oven, too, but I wanted to be able to look them over.

From my freezer, I pulled out the tomatoes I had grown and Geeksdoitbetter had dehydrated 2 summers ago and sliced them into small pieces.

Right – so here’s the plan.

Quiche 1 (with things G does not like): Roasted eggplant and onions with roasted potatoes and goat cheese

Quiche 2: Asparagus, dried tomatoes, bacon, cheddar cheese

Pulled the first cooked crust out of the oven… and, well, it has sagged a bit and isn’t all that pretty. Luckily, that’s the opaque pie plate, too. So because Geeksdoitbetter is dating him, she decides that G gets to have the pretty quiche, and I load up the less pretty one with the eggplant and roasted potatoes. I pull out my 5 ounce log of chevre, and I manage to fit all of it in the quiche (in nice rustic chunks). The pie is pretty full!

I mix up 4 eggs (two of which have had some of their whites used on the crust already) and pour in about a cup and a half of whole milk – not all of the liquid fits in the pie plate… let’s say I only got 2/3 of the mixture in. Set that up to bake.

Take the other pie crust, which has stayed in place and is lovely. I dump in the asparagus and tomatoes. And it’s really not taking up nearly as much space. So I do quickly sautee a smallish onion (cut into quarters and them thin crescents) and drizzle about half a teaspoon of balsamic over them at the end. Add them in, too!

So we have asparagus, 2/3 of the cooked bacon (crumbled), onions, dried tomatoes, and 3 ounces of sharp yellow cheddar cheese, thinly sliced into short pieces. I added the rest of the egg mixture and then quickly scrambled two more eggs and a bit more milk.

They should probably bake about 40 minutes, but quiche is never done when I expect it to be. I suspect it’s because there’s such a range int he possible density of fillings and that I freehand my ratio of liquid dairy products (milk or cream or whatever) to egg.

But we had it cooking for about 25 minutes when 8pm hit. By then things were not sloshy and we could relocate to Lulu’s kitchen.

The asparagus one was not as pretty as desired. My last egg scrambling could have been more thorough and patches of egg white were visible. No problem! I’d already planned to top that one with the rest of the bacon, so I gave it a quick dusting of paprika and then crumbled the bacon on top.

We relocated, put the quiche’s back into an oven, and settled down for a pot of tea and chatting. And it had to heat up from scratch, so the heating times are complete bunk here.

But 25 minutes later, both quiches could pass the knife test. We pulled them out of the oven and ate them while hot. Because hot quiche is even more delicious than room temperature quiche.

And they did not suffer one bit for all of the dodginess in the preparation. The texture was smooth and the appearance was lovely… well, lovelier on the asparagus one because the eggplant one was clearly overstuffed and abundant, so still sexy but not as elegant.

Everyone went back for seconds, and they were still tempting once we were full. Quiche is amazing!

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