Posts Tagged ‘allia’

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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Okay, so if you’ll remember from the last soup, I had leftover the liquid drained from a can of tomatoes.

Well, at that enchilada dinner, one of the participants made a pot of rice (with a seasoning packet) and heated up some kidney beans. Her rice came out perfectly, and I took home what leftovers there were.

And reheated them. All classy-like. But I’m telling you about it anyway because I’m proud of having essentially made dinner for free.

Leftover Beans & Rice

First, I wanted to soften the beans a bit more, so I put them in a small pot with just enough tomato liquid to cover, and cooked that for five or so minutes.

And then I went to look around for other flavors to jazz things up.

Oh, yeah, I have a jar of pipian, so I melted about half a teaspoon into the liquid.

And I have some Lime Cilantro salad dressing, which is more like a pesto than a salad dressing, from a local restaurant – so I added a dollop of that, too.

And then I added the rice.

And as everything came to temperature, I crumbled some dried oregano in it as well.

End result – delicious and filling dinner

I also still had about a third of the roasted butternut squash lingering in my fridge. What was I going to do?

So, again, I went poking for inspiration in the other bits and bobs in there. Aha! I had a small container of coconut chutney from take out dosas a friend had brought to my house. I can play with those flavors.

Coconut Chutney Butternut Squash Soup

I diced a yellow onion fairly small, and I cooked it in coconut milk (6.5oz).

I added some asafoetida and a fairly large amount of garam masala – somewhere around a rounded teaspoon. Oh, and 3 cloves of roasted garlic because it was there.

Once everything was aromatic, I added the butternut squash. I also put a Tablespoon of mustard seeds in a dry skillet to heat.

And about a quarter cup of finely shredded, unsweetened coconut.

Like the previous soup, this one also needed some kick, so I added some cayenne pepper. And some black pepper. And a little bit of cilantro. And adding about a teaspoon of brown sugar really made it sing.

Then I thinned the soup out with some vegetable stock.

Once the mustard seeds started to pop, stirred them into the soup as well.

Done! Rich, tasty, and a bit out of the ordinary.

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Would this soup be made in Mexico? I have no idea. No people or cookbooks provided any support for this claim. But its seasonings and flavor went well with the enchiladas my friends made.

So there I was at my farmers’ market this weekend near the end of the market – and one of the farmers had a box of butternut squash seconds for $1/lb. The tops were going mushy. And I asked the guy how many he thought I could get for $5… and walked away with 6 decent sized squash.

I scrubbed the outsides, trimmed the tops as necessary, split them in half lengthwise with my big knife, scooped out the seeds, and set them to roasting cut side down. It took 2 half sheet pans to roast them all.

Once they were tender, I let them cool a little, and then I peeled them and put the flesh all together in a container in the fridge – purpose to come soon.

Then this week I had 1 friend request vegetarian soups and another invite me over for enchilada dinner. Woo!

Mexican Butternut Squash Soup

Start off with about 4-5 cups of roasted butternut squash and a roasted head of garlic.

I began building the soup with a roux base, so I poured… oh, about 2 Tablespoons… olive oil into my soup pot and heated that up.

Since I wasn’t sure whether I would want to blend the soup smooth, I diced the (1 medium) onion fairly small. Toss that in and cook until translucent.

Once the onions were soft, I sprinkled flour on top until the onions were coated with flour, but none was still dry in the pan (about 2 Tablespoons – if it’s too dry, add more oil)

Then I opened up a jar of vegetable stock and added until everything went smooth and liquid (it took about 1 cup, but I’d been expecting to use more stock).

I added the roasted squash (2/3 of my total… somewhere around 4-6 cups) and I poured in the liquid the squash had released overnight in the fridge.

Cook that a bit until everything is hot and the squash is starting to break down. Meanwhile – drain a 24oz can of diced tomatoes (and reserve the liquid to use either if the soup becomes too dry during cooking or to use in making rice later in the week) and grind 1 tsp cumin, 2 tsp coriander, and 2 tsp ground oregano (or use ground herbs and spices).

And dices tomatoes to the squash. Stir. Break up the squash more every time you stir.

Sift the ground spices into the soup (because whole coriander is ornery in a mortar & pestle YMMV). Add salt and pepper. I added some ground savory, too. If the color isn’t pleasing, you could go for some paprika, but I was pleased with things without.

I added about half of the cloves from the roasted garlic.

Stir, mash, stir.

This soup really came together quickly – about 20 minutes – so I also added the juice of half a lime to encourage it to stay the pretty color it had hit. And I was pleased with the amount the squash had broken down (mostly smooth, with some chunks, no pieces larger than half a teaspoon), so I left it chunky.

What this soup was really missing was spice, but that was a deliberate choice based on its audience, so I took a chipotle hot sauce with me instead.

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

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

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

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

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

So I invited some friends…

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

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

Appetizers

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

chopped liver with little matzoh crackers

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

Seder

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

First Course

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

Second Course

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

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

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

Main Course

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

Meat

Mark Bittman’s Braised Lamb with Horseradish and Parsley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lemon Thyme Chicken

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dairy

Kale and Feta Matzoh Pie

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

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

The next day, I assembled the lasagnas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greens and Quinoa Pie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parve / Vegan dishes

Asparagus

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

Dandelion Greens

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

Carrot Casserole

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

Savory Red Pepper and Onion Matzo Brei (not vegan)

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

Dessert

Coconut Macaroons

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

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

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

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

Walnut-Date Torte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was okay and definitely decent on the first day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I’ve started a plan for soup –

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

Simple, right?

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

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

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

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

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

Beef Black Bean Soup

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

in large saucepan

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

in large skillet

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

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Cooking fish is a milestone for me in the land of cooking.

I grew up with a father who did not like fish, not even the smell of it in the house. And since I’ve moved out on my own, I’ve mostly stuck with cheaper meat options (with a goal price point of $2/lb or less – though, yes, I’ve been reconsidering my ethics lately). Also, Philadelphia is not known for its seafood, so I don’t know of a reliable fish monger near me.

But I just happened to be out today in the vicinity of a reputable source of seafood – Ippolito’s – so I stepped in and professed my cluelessness. I did ask for something a little more challenging that a salmon steak, so I ended up selecting a beautiful 18″-ish striped bass. And since I don’t have fish-worth knives at home, I did ask them to filet it for me, but to also include the head, tail, and bones for stock.

Turns out that I only ended up with the meat. I’m a little disappointed, but I suppose that any day I call ahead and go there asking for a bag of random fish scraps, I’ll be able to get them for fairly cheaply… and I wasn’t going back today because it took a lot of looking to find a decent parking spot that wasn’t on a snow emergency route.

So after I did the dishes and cleared a workspace, the first thing I did was open up my packet and fondle my meat. Erm… I mean notice that there weren’t any miscellaneous bits. And then I pulled out only three tiny bones that the store missed. And, yes, my eyes had been right – the flesh felt smooth and supple and there was no fish smell even this close.

So, being an amateur, the first thing I did was to cut the filets down so that one was 4 ounces and the other 3.5 ounces. I did that by trimming off the thinner flaps on the side and down by the tail so that the filets would have a more even thickness. I have no idea whether that is acceptable in formal fish circles or not, but it seemed logical to me.

I then had about 2.5 ounces of very fresh fish to play with.

Ceviche

So I diced the fish finely, slightly less than 1cm x 1cm x .5cm, and I did not bother with removing the skin except in a couple spots where it wasn’t cutting easily.

I added half a jalapeno, minced. And then I added about 2 tablespoons of finely minced red onion. I stirred that about and tasted it.

Oh, right, I was missing the acid – that’s key to ceviche. So I pulled out a lemon and a lime and ending up that I wanted to use the lime. The juice of a whole lime seemed a bit too much after I added it. Hmmm…

I also minced up some fresh flat-leaf parsley (I love the small salad spinner I got for my birthday!). And I added some salt, pepper, and a chunk of gingerj.

Now I think I’ve covered all of the basics of ceviche, but it still wasn’t tasting any good, even after marinating for half an hour. So I started looking around my kitchen – ah, yes, the persimmons.

I diced up one, and even with their odd skin/flesh texture, the persimmon was the perfect answer. Well, I suspect any particularly strong fruit. But instantly (well, with even more salt, too) the flavors came together and the ceviche was tasty.

So I spent the rest of the day googling recipes for striped bass, calling my mother for advice, and seriously pondering the fail-proof parchment method, which showed up in such a timely fashion on my twitter feed.

And then I sucked it up and reminded myself that I had managed to find exceptionally fresh fish, so I’d better just trust my ingredients.

Pan Seared Striped Bass

So I took out a good, thick skillet, and I heated it up fairly high (medium-high, actually, so not as hot as for steak) with a teaspoon of olive oil in the pan.

When hot, I took my nice, even-thickness 4 ounce filet, and lay it down (I put the skin down first). And then I didn’t let myself look at it or poke at it to monitor.

I just waited 3 minutes. And then I sprinkled salt and pepper on the up side, flipped it, and sprinkled the skin side, too.

Ever so slightly more than three more minutes later (I don’t know why I held off, but it seemed right), I served up onto a plate a perfect piece of fish with nice browning on both sides, easy flake, and just oozing juicy tenderness.

I’d say it was as good as the best fish I’ve had in a restaurant. Wow!

I still have one more filet, so I’ll see if I can duplicate my results and call it skill/intuition or if it was just beginner’s luck.

And how did I manage not to poke at the fish? By assembling a salad for the side. This was my second run with this basic salad frame, but the first one was too acidic, so I was more generous this time with the more oily ingredients.

Persimmon & Arugula Salad

Cold parts
2.5 ounces of arugula, washed – and spun!
2 persimmons, cut up and scattered artfully
a dozen dry roasted almonds (unsalted) roughly broken up with a knife
2 ounces of semi-soft mild flavored cheese

Dressing
1/2 tsp brown mustard
1/2 tsp tamarind sauce/chutney
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar

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Many of my food experiments are directly the result of instigation from my friend Meghan. And her latest blog post about eggplant sludge, though not attractively named, was also inspiring.

Luckily, another friend had recently gifted me with an eggplant from her organic produce delivery service, which was getting on in days and needed to be eaten quickly in a dish where appearances didn’t matter.

Eggplant and Pasta

In 1 teaspoon of olive oil, I sauteed 1 diced yellow onion and then 3 minced cloves of garlic.

Once the onions cooked to translucency, I peeled the eggplant and cut out any brown spots, and then I took my box grater and just grated it right into the pan.

In reference to my friend Meghan’s post, I’d been chatting with her about whether or not salting eggplants was useful, and there was googling. The end conclusion was that pre-salting doesn’t ‘draw out bitterness,’ but saltiness does counteract bitterness.

So I salted the hell out of this dish. Erm, buy which I mean that I took three chunks of fancy pink Himalayan salt and ground them down into regular powder and added that to the dish such that I was pleased with the saltiness and there was not noticeable bitterness.

I also cut small and added two dried peppers – one cayenne and one other one I dried, which memory tells me was a red jalapeno but could have been something else similar, too.

When it looked a little dry, I peeled and cut in the edible half of the tomato my friend had also given me for urgent consumption.

And then I cooked it until the eggplant was not only soft, but also releasing liquid, then seasoned with a generous amount of cinnamon and black pepper.

Shamelessly (well, mostly shamelessly), I then added about half a cup of jarred tomato sauce. (Yes, I’ve had bad jarred tomato sauce, and I see why you don’t like it. But Classico rarely has off flavors, has a wonderful product as a base for sauces, and I love the jars for reuse.)

Mixed in 4 ounces of cooked macaroni (selected because that box was in front of the queue, but it was a good pairing for the sauce), and that made two generous portions.

Because I’m back on the Weight Watchers wagon, I topped it with 2 thinly sliced scallions and about a teaspoon of freshly grated parmesan.

So please explain to me what to do with this fancy Himalayan Pink Salt.

The crystals are too large to sprinkle on top to finish.

And when you grind it down, it only looks pink next to other salt.

Is it mostly useful in a pretty, transparent grinder and then used as you would regular salt?

Or is there a way to take advantage of the pretty without having to buy purely decorative hardware?

note: This salt was given to me gratis for review by Marx Foods as a result of the entry I made for their free black garlic. There were many more things in the new sampler, too, so there will be several entries mentioning them in the near future.

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