Posts Tagged ‘cheese’

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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15
Dec

Homemade ricotta experiments

   Posted by: Livia    in experiments, Food, friendly, gluten free, Recipe

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

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

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

Then I read up on various instructions.

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

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

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

Ricotta

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

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

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

Beautiful separate occurred, and I drained promptly.

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

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

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

Salt and sugar still went in around 165F.

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

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

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

I’m baffled.

Both had the same yield: roughly half a pint.

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

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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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I bought and made so much food this weekend.

First, there was the farmers’ market out by my parents’, which I had to go to because I’d bought very promising looking butter there last weekend, but found it had gone off, when I tried it as soon as I got home. So I took it back in hopes of swapping for fresher butter, but they hadn’t made any this past week – so I swapped for two butternut squash, instead. And I bought a 4 pound sweet roasting squash on impulse.

And then I bought stuff for the Roman cooking workshop. And some broccoli rabe that looked gorgeous. And what’s a couple (or 7) beets for a buck?

So then I met up with my parents so we could try breakfast at an “authentic British pub”. And, yes, they had sourced the right kind of bacon and there was both black and white pudding. And beans from a can. But the eggs were standard tasteless American eggs and there was no grilled tomato… and the tea was only halfway in between the two countries’. I may sound a little down on it, but that’s less because of the quality of the food and more because the entire breakfast run had only one waitress, so the food wasn’t quite as hot as it could have been.

And then my parents wanted to go to a large, indoor farmers’ market. And there was a gorgeous, large, pristine, beautiful head of cauliflower. Locally picked. And some huge white mushrooms picked locally the day before. And we split 3 dozen eggs (I only took one of them) from happy, pasture raised chickens (with flavor!).

And then… just to tempt me further, they wanted to stop and show me their new fancy supermarket, which was very much like a small, off-brand whole foods. I bought an environment-friendly dish soap so that I can finally declare the Dr. Bronner’s experiment a failure. And then I binged on comforting grains – two kinds of oatmeal and some barley. Also, for you doubters of the corporate benefits of social media – I totally impulse bought an unnecessary jar of salsa because I enjoy following the guy’s twitter feed.

Then I went home.

I had completely run out of frozen leftovers for lunch, so last week I had made some desperate bulk quantities of dinner food:

  • leftover pasta salad suddenly turned into dinners
  • mexican-ish rice with chicken and beans
  • macaroni with (homemade) pesto, chicken, and zucchini

You don’t want recipes for those, do you?

This week – There was the Roman Cooking workshop.

We made a pork loin roast boiled in salt water and bay leaves (now I’ve heard of brining, but there was no mention of roasting this meat or any cooking method other than boiling. So I left it in until it started to shred, but I pulled it out then because it was already quite salty. It makes an okay sandwich with mayonnaise (almost tasting like canned chicken). But this morning I started a pot of red beans on the stove, and I used the pork with no additional salt for the beans.

And then we make the barley stew with pork – it turned out almost like risotto, and despite only having two people come to the workshop, there were no leftovers. I might need to make it again soon.

The mushrooms were very tasty (as almost always) and made a great companion to the barley.

Because it wasn’t entirely clear whether the cabbage was to be made with fresh cilantro or dried coriander seeds, I did each half differently – there was a preference for the coriander, but neither one was really exciting, and I do have a lot of leftovers for those. I’ll need to think of a way to repurpose it into something that will freeze.

The fried carrots in wine and fish sauce smelled like ass – fishy ass – while cooking, but ended up tasty enough that I didn’t get to try the finish product.

And then I was pretty much done, especially with only having two people over. SO I handed over the book, and let them select the last recipe. And sweet egg cakes were chosen. Well, it was 4 eggs to 1/2 a pint of milk (with an ounce of oil) to be cooked in a shallow pan (I don’t have the recipe in front of me for the specifics, but it was distinctly not supposed to be custard because that was the recipe above). Because the mixture was so thin and I happened to have a brand new nonstick skillet, I suggested that we could pour many thin layers and treat them as crepes. While not a single one was removed as a flat sheet, we kind of had to bundle it together into a central pile to move it successfully. Oh, and then it’s dressed with honey and black pepper before serving – and it is some tasty! Well chosen!

And then after they left on Sunday, I made two more dinners that I could pack up for lunches:

  • Smitten Kitchen’s pasta with Cauliflower, walnuts, and feta – for which I did substitute regular pasta for whole wheat because I have boxes sitting around that I’m using up before I buy more pasta – and I’m not 100% sure that either the walnuts or the feta will take well to freezing, but the recipe was too tempting to pass up. I did taste a small portion that was didn’t fit evenly into the containers, and it was amazing fresh. I’d almost forgotten the few drops of lemon juice and vinegar (apple cider), but they really brought the flavors together.

    ETA: when she says this reheats well as leftovers, she wasn’t kidding. I was seriously dubious about freezing this one on account of both the nuts and the feta – but thawing it before microwaving has produced consistently tasty leftovers

  • gobhi bharta – inspired by the recipe in my favorite Indian cookbook, but then I took a left turn with the seasonings when I saw an opportunity to use up more of my mother’s extraneous Penzey’s spice mixes – so I used Rogan Josh seasoning with sumac instead or pomegranate powder to tartness and some extra hot pepper. The recipe also called for mustard seeds, so I toasted them in a little bit of my mustard oil I keep meaning to experiment with more. For all of that, it still wasn’t particularly strongly flavored, and it might have been a mistake to put up with rice, but I’d started making it when I started cooking, and I didn’t want to have to think up another use for it.

And then this morning I made one more: pasta with stuff

First, I cooked down a diced purple onion, 2 large mushrooms having been diced, and a bunch of (homemade) turkey meatballs I have in my freezer. Once everything was softer and the meatballs were browner, I splashed some sweet red wine in the pan.

As soon as the pan was dry again, I added 2 small-medium zucchini and some cauliflower (all diced small). Cook cook cook. As soon as it started to soften, I poured in 1/3 cup pasta sauce from a jar. Stir, cook, cook. And then I added macaroni (the pasta box in front, not my first choice of shape) and another 1/3 cup of sauce. And then I took it up into containers. Would be good with cheese.

Oh, and I also did laundry this morning.

And then I pondered whether I wanted to make another set of lunches or whether I wanted to start turning over dirt for restructuring the flower bed out back. And I decided to take a nap, instead.

Now I want soup, and tea, and hot chocolate. And another nap.

I think I’m going to use the remaining stock to make risotto to use up all the surplus mushrooms, so I need to also put on more stock so I can make soup with some of these winter squashes.

I also need to make the brussel sprout and beef stir fry before the brussel sprouts go off.

And I need to figure out something to do with the beautiful broccoli rabe before it starts to taste like nail varnish remover, like the last few bunches I bought did because I didn’t use them right away.

Anyone want to come over for random dinners at 10pm this week?

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I took a vacation day last Tuesday to wander around the Italian Market with a friend.

We both had quests and places we wanted to hit and thing we wanted to find, but also we wanted to wander around when it was less crowded than it gets on Saturdays.

First we popped into Spice Corner, where I picked up some aleppo pepper (so I’ll have it ready the next time I make DiBruno Brothers – I bought a bottle of balsamic and split a venture in a spanikopita with my friend. It was sadly a little disappointing – there was a huge block of spinach topped with a few layers of phyllo, which did not retain any crispiness after being microwaved. So tasty in a spinach side dish kind of way, but not a favorite spanikopita. But the people were very friendly.

Then I went down a few doors to the cheese side of DiBruno Brothers, but my friend refused to enter because of the intense funky smell of cheese. Mmmm funky cheese. So I wiggled through the crowd all the way to the back where there was decent room to stand. And they had a beautiful cheese there whose name I did not write down – it was a gooey soft-wind cheese with (I think ) chanterelles or something like that – and it was only available for a month or so, and it was delicious. I would have bought one, but they were only selling whole cheeses, and while I am ambitious, I am still only one person. So I asked them to bring me something kind of like that one only available in smaller quantities – and I ended up with Tomme Welsche.

Tomme Welsche
milk: goat (sic) [really cow]
country: Alsace, France

An aged cow’s milk Tomme that receives constant washing with Marc de Gewurztraminer throughout its maturation

And then to round things out, I sampled and then bought a gouda-type goat cheese that was luminous and just this amazingly clear taste with little crunches of some kind of crystal in there (but not really salt crystals…).

Midnight Moon
milk: goat
country: California, US

An aged goat cheese in the Gouda style from Cypress Grove Farms, known for their Humbolt Fog. Dense and creamy with a peppery goat finish and sweet flavor

It is delicious. Oh, and then I bought more balsamic vinegar as I was heading toward the door – it’s not my fault: I’d been running low and the stuff is delicious on almost everything.

And then I went to join my friend in yet another spice store: Grassia’s Spice Company. This place was pretty much empty, but there were a few people who came in while we were browsing and they picked up what they wanted and bought them so quickly that it might have been doing a good business without filling the place. Instead of selling mostly plain spices, this place specialized in spice blends. But I had already picked up spices and had recently ordered stuff from Penzey’s, so no need for anything else.

There was a little more wandering. Both of us had quests that we sought to fulfill at Fante’s. She wanted to acquire the best icing tool ever, whereas I had a relatively simple quest in mind – just getting a couple extra quarter cup measuring cups because I use that size most often and it’d be nice to be able to let the dishes accumulate a little, even after using a measuring cup (yeah, like you always do dishes right away). And yet neither of us earned any experience points. I did leave with another magnetic hook for the back of my range hood so that I’ll have somewhere to hand the measuring cups once I find them, but no luck on the cups themselves.

So after Fante’s, we went to Fosters Urban Homeware (which I remembered by conflating the address from Fork You with a store I saw somewhere in center city – but I called up my mother and asked her to search for me, just like an iPhone, only with added familial bonding). Anyway, no luck there. And a later search turns up a branch of Kitchen Kapers on 17th between Walnut and Locust – I was probably thinking of that one.

So then we tried the restaurant supply store at 5th & Bainbridge, and while they came the closest to providing what I wanted, we both still left empty-handed. Who knew single measuring cups were so hard to find?

So back when we were by Foster’s, we decided to eat some lunch. We’d both heard of (but not eaten at) a local restaurant called Fork, so when we passed their prepared foods spinoff, Fork: etc., it seemed like a fun place to try. I picked out some salmon salad – I though it had peas in it, but they were capers, and yet amazingly I still liked the salad. It did, however, taste extra fishy because of the briny berries. And then I tried all three of their soups: eggplant barley, mexican chicken, and seafood gumbo. The Mexican chicken was the winner, so I got a bowl of that. While the other two soups were tasty (and did not stint on the salt), they both tasted of seafood so I could not later identify for my friend which little paper cup had seafood gumbo and which one had eggplant barley. And I picked up a loaf of sesame sourdough to eat those with. The bread was dense and not very sour, but it was tasty white bread with sesame seeds all over it, so it was close to (only denser than) the semolina bread I had been hoping to find at DiBruno Brothers. And then I bought some wafers of Eclat chocolate to bring me up over the credit card minimum. Mmmm!

~*~

So now let me tell you what I ended up doing with the rest of the loaf of sesame sourdough bread. It turns out that it makes an amazing baked cheese sandwich with the Tomme Welsche cheese. I sliced it a little less than a centimeter thick and then in half, add two thin-ish slices of the cheese and drizzle with buckwheat honey. Then pop into the oven until the cheese is gooey. This was so good that I kept going until I used up the last of the cheese.

And then the last couple slices of bread were buttered and toasted (in the oven because you can’t do things in that order with a toaster – besides, I don’t have the counter space for a toaster) and then topped with blueberry jelly.

~*~

So now I have searched online for 1/4 cup measuring cups, and the only one I found not only looks cheaply made, but also is out of stock.

Seriously?

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New Fruits
Persimmon – I picked up an Hachiya Persimmon at my produce truck (and the sweet guy just gave it to me for free. My mother, having grown up in an area with persimmon trees, had always warned me off of them: “If they aren’t just dead ripe, then they are the sourest things in the world. And it’s almost impossible to catch them between being ripe enough and rotten.”

But this was a beautiful, evenly shaped and unblemished specimen, and it called to me. So I bought it and left it to sit around for a week or two. And then one day, I came back from D&D to find that my kitchen smelled sweet and luscious. So I went over and squished the persimmon, and found it sufficiently squishy. (My research since then suggests that I would have been safer to wait until it was visibly squishy, not just to touch) So I promptly called up my mother and food co-conspirator for advice on eating the thing (Do I peel it? Do I need a specific angle of approach to avoid the seeds? Will it be disappointing on its own – should I make something to go with it?)… and both of them were out.

My mother called back and let me know that all of the seeds would be up at the top, tucked up under the stem, so you could just go on and bit the thing.

MMmmm! It was sweet! And luscious. And dribbling down my chin. It tasted a bit of pears and apricots, and had just a slightly too mushy texture.

Also, I discovered that I didn’t like the skin and proceeded to pick the skin off the next area right before I ate it. The skin is thin (like a pear or tomato, but just a bit firmer so there’s a crisp pop as you bite through… kind of like a cooked sausage casing) but papery, and I could flake it off rather easily, if messily.

Quince – I was first introduced to quinces several years ago by a wise and clever woman in Boston who shares my interest in ancient cuisine. She presented me with a quince, and I think I ended up forgetting it at my sister’s untasted. But I have thought fondly and longingly of them ever since.

And then I saw them at the Headhouse farmers’ market, so I bought 2 (at a dollar each!).

Now you know above where I said the persimmons perfumed the house? I’m not sure that was 100% true. Because I realized later that I had also brought home the quinces that afternoon, and quinces are famed for giving off an amazing floral scent while the sit on the counter and ripen. But after I ate the persimmon, the smell continued but changed a bit, so I think both were making happy smells together, and I’m sticking by that claim.

When I bought the quinces, they were consistently green, but the sweet smell finally guilted me into cooking the quinces (tannins make them tart when raw, but simmering them in sugar and water makes them amazing and pink/red).

First, I washed the outsides thoroughly, removing all of the fluff on the skin. I quartered them and cut the seeds and tough bits out. Even though everyone says you should peel them, I didn’t. I dumped the quarters into a glass loaf pan (2 quinces ended up being slightly more than 1 layer deep), and I poured over top: the rest of the simple syrup I had hanging out in my fridge, 1.5 knifefuls of the honey that had crystallized in my pantry, 3 generous teaspoons of vanilla sugar, and a bunch of water. I have no idea what the proportions were.

Then I popped it into the 350F oven in which I was also roasting a delicata squash and a rutabega. Once those were finished, I lowered the heat to 200F and draped the pan with tinfoil. And then an episode or two of Primeval later, I got bored and brought the heat back up to 350F. And then I decided I didn’t need for it to simmer all night long until it became bright red.

So I washed out a jar with hot water (yeah, I know, not sterilized, but at least the glass wouldn’t shatter with temperature shock) and took up the quinces and poured the sauce over. It was almost like canning; the lid even popped sealed and everything. Actually, I’m not sure I should have kept so much air out – I think the color darkens even more with exposure to oxygen, but at 2am, it seemed like the best way to keep the quinces happy.

see also: David Lebovitz – Rosy Poached Quinces; Zucchini & Chocolate – Vanilla Poached Quince

~*~

New Tuber
Jerusalem Artichoke – you can read the wikipeadia article I linked there for all the fun facts about jerusalem artichokes. I was drawn to them because several of the food blogs I’ve been reading through recently have raved about them. (huh, I was sure I’d have more links there.)

So I saw them at the the market, and I picked the prettiest one (yes, just one). I figured I’d make a simple 1-person soup to get to know the tuber, but I ended up seduced by risotto.

Now, I love to cook hovering by the stove and tinkering with things, and I tend to pass up recipes that involve leaving food alone for extended periods of time because I like to pick at things. So I will tell you that risotto is not that hard.

Sunchoke Risotto

I had some homemade vegetable stock (though, oddly enough, not my home), and I didn’t think it had any parsnips in it, so I took the opportunity while heating up the stock to chuck in some large cubes of parsley root (more on the difference later). But, yes, always get your liquids up to temperature for stock, if you can (by which I mean, if you are saving on dishes by not pouring a finishing splash of cream into a separate container first, there it no need to get your container of cream warm. Just suck it up and keep cooking.)

So I started off with a mixture of butter and olive oil because both tastes seemed like they would go well with the corner of jerusalem artichoke I nibbled raw and the way the flavor is described when warm (all nutty and earthy). Into that, I threw the white of a small leek (sliced, cleaned, and drained). I did not use the green part because I was aiming for an earthier dish, and I probably would have opted for onions or shallots if I hadn’t had a leek in my fridge.

Once the leek softened, I added 2 cloves of garlic (minced), my 1 jerusalem artichoke (washed, rough spots peeled off so that it was sort of striped with peel, halved lengthwise, and then sliced thinly), and some arborio rice (3/4 of a cup, maybe less).

Once the sunchoke softened and the rice was a little toasty, I ladled in a little vegetable stock. Cooked and stirred until it started looking a bit dry… then more stock. Repeat as necessary.

When the rice was almost cooked, I started to consider seasoning. 1/2 teaspoon salt (you might prefer less salt than I). A decent grinding of pepper. A shake of powdered thyme. And a small pinch of chipotle. And a few grinds of nutmeg.

I finished it off with 2 half & half creamers (so about an ounce total) and a generous grating of Prima Donna cheese I had acquired through a random offer for bartering. Grate and stir, grate and stir. And then grate a little more for the top.

It was delicious. Awesome, even. But I’m not sure I could distinguish which parts of the flavor came specifically from the jerusalem artichoke.

~*~

So – Parsley Root – I actually discovered parsley root before I figured out parsnips. There I was, in the suburbs, learning how to make stock for the first time. My mother thought I was nuts for wanting to go through all that work to make something that was just an ingredient, but she humored me and told me anyway that I needed some celery, carrots, and parsnips (and onions, garlic, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and pepper). So we went to the supermarket to buy fresh vegetables. And there were some lovely things that looked like parsnips but still had the parsley attached at the top, labeled parsley root. So I got those and thought it wonderfully convenient to grab one thing with two ingredients and had no idea they weren’t parnips.

Then I went to a different grocery store, and they had never heard of parsnips with parsley greens. So I went back to the original store and bought the parsley root again, this time noticing the different terminology (still not realizing that it wasn’t just a vocabulary issue). Finally, after years of being puzzled, I found websites that acknowledged it was a different thing.

The main thing is that parsnips are sweeter than parsley root, and they don’t come with the delightfully flavorful greens that taught me how to appreciate parsley, too.

Mashed Parsley Root

So there I was with stock to boil. In this case, vegetable stock.

So I peeled three parsley roots (and saved the peelings for a later stock) and cut it into large, easily fished out, chunks maybe 1″ square. And put them in the stock.

Some time later, when they could be easily pierced with a fork, I pulled them out (with a slotted spoon) into a bowl. I threw in a chunk (2 Tbsp) of butter, and I went after them with my potato masher. They were still quite resistant to the mashing, and it took a decent amount of persistence… but the result was a lovely dish that I would make again at the first excuse. Not a cohesive mash like potatoes, but a delightful texture nonetheless.

Luckily, I already knew that I wanted to package up the risotto for the next day because I was glad not to have to worry about making the mashed parsley root my dinner.

~*~

And then the dish I’ve been making a lot because the weather has been cold and wet and miserable and I have wanted simple food with rich, dark flavors. This dish might not be for everyone.

Meaty Pasta with Blue Cheese

So I acquired from my mother (in with a bunch of containers of frozen leftovers) a package of her lasagne filling – ground beef with tomatoes, garlic, and onion (and probably other things) cooked down until it is solid goodness.

So I boiled two ounces of pasta (penne).

With just 4 minutes left for cooking the pasta, I heated up 3 Tablespoons of the lasagna meat. Poured over it about a cup of pasta sauce from a jar.

One the sauce was hot, I drained the pasta, poured it over the sauce, and mixed it all together with a teaspoon or so of the pasta water. I kept cooking it until the pasta was finished cooking.

Then I tossed it into a bowl, crumbles blue cheese on top, and then mushed the cheese deeper into the pasta so it would melt a little around the edges.

In later versions, I added:

  • 1 big floret of cauliflower, cut into small pieces and started cooking at about the same time as the pasta so that it could soften sufficiently.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of homemade pesto, added at the same time as the beef
  • cloves of roasted garlic, added at the same time as the beef

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17
Nov

food list

   Posted by: Livia    in Food, lists, non-vegetarian, Recipe, soup, Uncategorized, vegetarian

I ended up acquiring an abundance of food over the weekend (leftovers from my mother, a tempting farmers’ market, and a delightful cheese exchange – oh, and amazing fruitcake in the mail), so roasting is postponed.

Well, at least the part where I crack open the butternut squash… I am still looking longingly at the uncaramelized garlic and onions and things. Soon.

But my larder has an abundance, so that calls for a list to make sure everything is properly savored.

Food I have
Produce
1 hachiya persimmon
2 quinces
6 large red potatoes
cherry tomatoes (from neighbor’s tomato plants)
2 red and 3 green tomatoes (from mother’s tomato plants)
mixed tomatoes (adopted from friend’s refrigerator)
1 green cauliflower
4 radishes
1 sunchoke / Jerusalem artichoke
3 carrots
carrot greens
arugula
2 small leeks
hot peppers galore
4 limes
small chinese cabbage
3 parsley roots
1 rutabega
ginger
kale

orange juice
vegetable stock
most of a can of coconut milk (full fat)

leftover cooked vegetables (from a restaurant)
creole seasoned creamy corn sauce (from a restaurant)

dairy
smoked aged local cheddar
Prima Donna
a blue cheese
store brand extra sharp cheddar
cream cheese
2% milk
plain yogurt

meat
filet mignon leftovers
chicken raft leftovers
and one of the leftover containers from my mother looked like she accidentally gave me some of her concentrated ground beef cooked down with onions and tomatoes for filling lasagna.

chicken stock

red beans made with pork

Meals to make with that
I’ll make some carolina rice and freeze up the beans in lunch-sized portions

And then I want to make a bunch of small batches of soup –

  • I bought the carrots for the carrot greens so I could see what they were like in my standard asian pork, greens, and noodles soup ETA: Done. Ummm… not as exciting as I’d hoped. It just tasted like its component parts and the greens never melted into the soup flavor. I have a leftover portion, so maybe they’ll end up better.
  • While this recipe for Jerusalem artichoke soup with lemon and saffron sounds exciting, I think I’d rather try my first introduction to this tuber more simply… I’m a little worried, though, that most recipes seem to call for 3 parts potatoes to 2 parts jerusalem artichoke. Do you think that’s because the flavor is too strong (probably not, since they can be eaten raw) or because of the expense? I’ll let you know how it goes. ETA: Oooo – or I could turn it into risotto!
  • Carrot Ginger Coconut Milk Soup (inspired by Orangette’s travels, possibly with this recipe as a starting point)

I still want to roast the cauliflower. I think that would tumble well with some of the tomatoes.

And I have a hankering for pasta. Possibly tossed with blue cheese and toasted pine nuts. But that’s not an efficient use of ingredients. I might have to use some of the blue cheese with the roasted cauliflower to make sure I get to it while it’s still tasty… hmmm.. or the cheese and cauliflower could add to the list of soups.

These Poached Quines will finally give me a use for my vanilla sugar.

I’ll probably make a colcannon type think with the parsley root and the kale. Or maybe the rutabega.

And as soon as I finish gobbling up the rocket with nibbles of the local smoked cheddar cheese, I’ll start making kale, tomato, and poached egg breakfasts.

So there are ideas maximizing the combinations, but now I have to figure out a schedule and get to it in time.

Which means I need to head home and make myself some dinner.

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28
Oct

More miscellany – betrayed by greens

   Posted by: Livia    in dubious, Food, non-vegetarian, Recipe

What happens when broccoli rabe goes off
Broccoli rabe, rapini, whatever you want to call it – it’s pretty tasty. And I picked up a bunch the last time I was at the farmers’ market.

So I’ve had broccoli rabe go off once before, and you could tell because the stems got hollow and squishy.

Well, this one was pushing its lifespan, so I checked that and it was fine… possibly because these had been well trimmed by the woman selling them. I also smelled them because I remembered that there had been a cleaning solution kind of smell to the leaves, and I did not detect anything off.

So I went ahead with preparing a delicious meal.

First, I browned a slice of bacon until is was very crispy.

In a pot of water, I boiled a link of turkey sausage I pulled out of the freezer.

When the sausage was cooked through, I pulled it out of the water and pulled off the casing as soon as it was cool enough to handle. Then I sliced the sausage into 1/2″ thick rounds, and put it in the bacon fat to brown.

I also added an onion (cut in half and then sliced), some sliced garlic, and two jalepeno peppers (cut off the seeds and then sliced). Oh, and some sliced bell pepper, too.

Then into the pot of water, I dumped 2 ounces of rotini pasta and brought it back to a boil.

About 3 minutes before the pasta would be ready, I added the stems from the roughly cut up broccoli rabe.

About 1 minute before the pasta would be ready, I added the leaves and buds.

Splash some of the pasta water over the leaves to help them wilt and to add a little more liquid to the dish.

Drain the pasta and then dump the noodles in with the sausage and veggies.

I cut up and added some fresh herbs: fennel sprig and basil (and there might have been a leaf of sage or two)

I put up one portion for freezing, and I poured the rest into a bowl and sprinkled with cheddar from the farmers’ market.

And then two bites in, I got this overwhelming taste of ammonia. URGH!

This would have been a great dish, if the broccoli rabe hadn’t gone off.

Let this be a lesson: eat your greens, and eat them promptly!

I least I had already nibbled on the bacon while making the dish.

~*~

So there’s pretty much 1 recipe for green tomatoes (fried, fried with cheese and tomato sauce, fried in pie, totally fried), but there are a ton of recipes for tomatillos. And, to me, they taste pretty similar.

Can you think of any reason why I shouldn’t try tomatillo recipes with my green tomatoes?

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