Posts Tagged ‘greens’

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

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

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

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

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

Kale for Breakfast with a Poached Egg on Top

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

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

I got my egg ready.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then eat!

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

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

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

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

Curried Collard Greens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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9
Nov

Ghost Chili Breakfast

   Posted by: Livia    in breakfast, Challenges, course, experiments, Food, Marx Foods

So I have these insanely hot peppers to test (see previous entry for full disclaimer about free peppers), and I don’t actually have any friends who will eat spicy foods with me. They sometimes have difficulties with black pepper.

I solved that by putting out a call on the internet to find local people who were excited by spicy food. And this morning I got to meet a lovely person with a delightfully high heat tolerance (who happened also to know two of my pre-existing friends).

We met for breakfast.

Fried eggs were just as tasty on the second go through.

The sweet potatoes were amazing! They didn’t get as caramelized as I expected, and the heat ended up being surprisingly mild. I think I might try candying the sweet potatoes, instead of glazing, just to see what happens.

The butters got approval (as did my homemade bread), and she preferred the honey butter on general principles of texture.

And then I started to improvise.

I picked some of the (bountiful and thriving) chard from my garden and prepared my Kenyan greens recipe, but with some hot pepper sliced in… and that was too hot. Unpleasantly so, without adding anything to the flavor. But once I picked the pieces of pepper out, it was pretty tasty – so perhaps just adding a chunk of pepper while cooking and then removing it.

And then I had the lovely stems left, so I made some fried rise with an onion, chard stems, diced carrot, leftover brown rice, finely sliced ghost chili, and a few drops of oyster sauce for moisture. It received approval from my guest, and I added some roast pork leftovers to it as I packed it up and froze it into lunch portions.

And I sent her home with the spicy truffles, so I haven’t heard back yet. The filling was right on the edge of okay for me, so I’m hoping they end up better once they have another layer of chocolate. I only had time to coat three of them, though, so my taste has to wait until tonight. I did learn an unrelated lesson about truffles, though – using a lower milk fat dairy option for the ganache center (the store was out of heavy cream) really makes a noticeable and unpleasant difference to the texture. I won’t be doing that again.

Note: Marx Foods did provide the ghost chilies to experiment with for free. They did not, however, influence my impressions of the product.

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This was only my second time making Thanksgiving, so the food is still shiny, new, and exciting to me.

So I went with a very simple recipe for the turkey because my parents went wild and paid for a turkey, instead of earning a free one through buying groceries. And they splurged for a free range, sexy turkey. So I just chucked some onion, garlic, and herbs inside and rubbed the outside with an herbed garlic butter. After the first half of cooking, I basted with a mixture of the turkey’s juices, orange juice, and soy sauce. Easy, simple, and it turned out juicy and reliable. There was a surprising amount of white meat for a free range bird, but apparently it was an especially breasty breed of bird – but the white meat wasn’t anymore flavourful for the wandering around. But I do think you could tell a difference with the dark meat – with a richer and more complex taste. And a cruelty free holiday!

And my mother scandalized me by not letting me come up with a recipe for dressing – but, instead, she bought Stove Top’s cornbread dressing. And to doctor it, she stirred in sliced scallions right at the end. Yeah. But I have to admit, even if it was sleazy, it was still very tasty and we finished all of it.

She was also going to have our only vegetable be microwaved frozen sugar snap peas (because my father can’t have Vitamin K), but I insisted on a second vegetable (mostly because I still had an abundant amount of Swiss Chard in the garden to use up before first frost). So I melted two teaspoons of bacon fat. Once that warmed up, I tossed in three cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Once that started to brown, I tossed in the Swiss chard (washed, leaves cut off the spines, and then sliced across into 3/4″ ribbons, still damp). I had meant to add red pepper flakes after, but I ended up getting distracted getting the meal on the table, so there weren’t any – and the dish was delicious without them. Not healthy, mind you, but delicious. My friend, who is a chef, was absolutely right – swiss chard must always go with bacon.

And then there is the dish of which I am the most proud. The sweet potato casserole. Everyone makes this dish, and there are hundreds of recipes for this on the internet – but the first five pages on google didn’t come up with the recipe I was looking for. All of the called for butter. Many of the called for heavy cream. I really liked the recipe that called for orange juice and zest, and then I was amused to notice that the orange juice was never used in any of the versions claiming to be lower fat. Also, while I remember from my youth great debates over whether one would add diced apples or crushed pineapple to the casserole, not a single recipe called for any fruit. So I ended up kind of making my own way to a healthy version of this side dish for my diabetic father.

Sweet Potato Casserole – topped with marshmallows

First off, I made made it in individual ramekins, instead of a large dish, so there would be portion control. I don’t know if it’s necessary, but just for the ease, I did lightly butter the dishes.

Roast and peel 2 medium sweet potatoes.

Core, peel, and dice finely half of a smaller apple.

Stir them together in a bowl with the juice of one orange and the zest of half of the orange.

Since my parents have on hand the sugar/splenda blend, I used that. It runs twice as sweet as a comparable measure of sugar. Start with an eighth of a cup and taste, adding up to a quarter of a cup.

For spices, I added cinnamon, sweet paprika, black pepper, and a few drops of vanilla extract.

Then I stirred in 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder and 2 egg whites. Beat that thoroughly through the mixture.

Fill the ramekins, making sure to leave about 3/4″ from the top because not only do you need room for the marshmallows, but also you the casserole will rise as it bakes.

Then I popped the ramekins into the 325F oven with the turkey for 45 minutes. I pulled them out and let them cool (they did puff up like souffles, but the settled down and still had a light, fluffy texture).

Once the casserole is no longer piping hot, cover with the big marshmallows (size totally matters). And, yes, I used normal, storebought marshmallows instead of trying to find a healthy way around that part.

After the turkey comes out of the oven, throw the ramekins back in and switch it to broil. By the time everything else is on the table, the marshmallows should be perfectly browned and puffy.

Also there was gravy. Mmmm…

After the fourth basting, I sucked up about a cup of the drippings and set them aside long enough for the fat to separate out.

Toast some flour until is it as dark as you want it. My mother went with a nice almond color.

Then spoon the fat from the drippings and add it to the flour. If that is not enough to make a smooth pasty, add some butter.

Once that was smooth and ready to have liquid added, my mother poured in the drippings slowly enough that they’d boil and incorporate smoothly.

After the whole cup had been added, I warmed up another cup of vegetable broth, and she added that until she reached the consistency she wanted.

Then she added a little kitchen bouquet (I don’t know – it’s tradition. But you could also toast the flour more in the beginning). Even though there was soy sauce in the basting liquid, after tasting the gravy still needed a little more salt, too. She has a mixture of white pepper, thyme, and rosemary that she grinds herself – a pinch of that. And a teaspoon and a half of Manischewitz wine for richness.

And then after dinner, we had an apple pie I bought at my farmers’ market and the fior di latte and almond gelato I bought from Capogiro.

And now I am back home and making turkey stock from the carcass. Good times.

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24
Nov

Thanksgiving menu planning and family dynamics

   Posted by: Livia    in Uncategorized

The past several years, my parents have gone to my sister’s for Thanksgiving. And she and her husband have made traditional Thanksgiving food (roast turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing from a package, gravy, and steamed broccoli).

This year, however, they shall be going to her in-laws because she’ll be too preggers to fly for Christmas.

So I get to make Thanksgiving for the second time ever. Really – just my second time cooking this mean, so I am not bored of the routine in the slightest.

So I called me mother to menu plan…

For the turkey… well, I was going to take a five or more year old free turkey from our deep freeze and turn it into something amazing through magic and impressiveness. My father, trusting neither my skill with freezer-burned meats nor the turkey in question, insisted on getting a fresh turkey. Apparently, it’s a very nice one, so I’ll go with a much simpler recipe than I had originally thought.

Actually, apparently, my mother isn’t waiting for me to think of a recipe at all. She bought a packet of turkey roasting herbs and the onion for it already. What herbs are these? Thyme, rosemary, and other things I still mostly have growing outside my apartment ready for final harvesting.

And for the vegetable, I am putting my foot down. All my father will eat for a green vegetable is either sugar snap peas or baby peas. Frozen. From green giant. And I declared that not enough vitamin content to count as worth my father’s time, so we’re having a green vegetable he won’t eat – namely, the last harvest of the swiss chard in my garden. So there.

My mother has already bought the sweet potatoes… because of my parents’ health issues, I’ll be making the traditional sweet potato casserole in individual-sized ramekins.

And then I was pondering the savoury starch option. Maybe mashed potatoes from scratch. Maybe I’ll make dressing from scratch. BUT my mother informs me she has already bought a (bag?) of Stove Top’s cornbread stuffing. Mer. So I’ll at least doctor it up a bit for fun and profit.

So all that’s left for fun is dessert. And I’m bad at desserts. I’m thinking of trying to make the old family recipe pecan pie. Unfortunately, I told my mother that, so I am betting that when I get there I will find either: a) a storebought Mrs. Smith’s pie or b) 2 brand new bottles of Caro, light and dark – even though I found half a dozen such bottles the last time I cleaned out their pantry, and I’m sure I left them one of each, kept one of each, and threw out several others.

It’s odd, because I’m pretty sure my mother understands how much fun I have with cooking and planning food. And I thought she trusted me to make fancy stuff still withing the limit of what my father’s bland tastes are willing to eat.

ETA: Oh, right – so one of the points of this whining. There’s still a random frozen turkey at my parents’ that they are never going to eat. And I have this plan for ethical meat consumption that goes: I’m going to eat all of the meat my parents have wastefully bought and then buried in their freezer. But turkeys are huge. Does anyone (well after Thanksgiving, because the turkey will keep) want to help me eat this turkey experiment? Or are you all afraid of the freezer taste, too?

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I may have gone a bit overboard at my produce truck and the farmers’ market and berry picking.

Oh, yes, I went berry picking. Food in Jars had a post about local Pick Your Own berry farms, and I was totally sold on the idea. So a friend and I went out to Rowand Farms (no website?) in Glassboro, NJ to acquire cherries and strawberries. I’ve only picked apples before, and cherries are definitely harder – but then moving on to strawberries was like leveling up once more because you really had to look hard to find the pretty ones… plus stooping, but we knew that going in.

Now I have to make plans for all of this food:

Produce
1 nectarine
4 tomatoes
2 bunches of small asparagus
handful of shelling peas
radishes
slightly less than 1lb lettuce
2lbs cherries
3lbs strawberries
3 lemons
5 limes
2 grapefruits
4 rhubarb stalks
turnips galore
1 yellow squash
1 red pepper
1 carrot
1 parsnip
3 rutabagas
1 celeriac root
7 oz kale
1lb spicy mustard greens

ready to be harvested from my garden
radicchio
swiss chard
nasturtium flowers

processed produce
tail end of a jar of salsa
vodka pasta sauce
1/4 cup rice with turmeric, clove, and sundried tomatoes
Thai sweet spicy garlic sauce
chipotle in adobo sauce
jarred crab apples
pineapple juice
orange juice
fermenting peaches

dairy
sour cream
cheddar cheese
1% milk

protein
beef fajita leftovers (about enough for 3-4 quesadillas)
3lb beef roast
4 eggs

So now I need a plan
Monday, June 8
breakfast: 2 quesadillas with leftover fajitas

~*~

roast: foil packets of root vegetables with various spice mixes and garlic; asparagus

dinner: salad w/ half the lettuce, shelling peas (try one to see if they are good popped out, or if they need to be blanched), roasted asparagus, radishes, and nasturtium flowers – dressing: something mild and sweet – white balsamic and apricot jelly?

prep beef: 1/3 slice into thin strips and marinate with pineapple juice, jalapeno, black bean sauce (for stir fry); 1/3 slice into thin strip and marinate with salsa, chipotle, and lime juice (for something involving tortillas); prep the thickest third for roasting (studded with garlic cloves and tuck in some rosemary) and wrap for freezing

Rhubarb – make candied rhubarb and rhubarb syrup for camping

dessert – strawberries and milk

Tuesday, June 9
breakfast – try Kenyan collard green recipe with kale (uses a tomato); eat some strawberries

9am – meet real estate agent to go see a house I can’t afford

~*~

dinner: stir fry marinated beef with asparagus, red pepper, jalapeno, ginger, radishes; also saute some of the spicy mustard greens with garlic to have one the side. Make rice.

strawberries – try making small batch strawberry jam w/ shredded fresh ginger and 1 ground black cardamom jam

salsa – try making salsas from strawberries and cherries

Wednesday, June 10
meet friend for coffee; take radishes and sexy butter.

do I still want breakfast? – rest of the spicy mustard greens made like roman kale

take any remaining berries in to work

~*~

dinner: (psst: you still haven’t eaten your theoretical packets of roasted root vegetables, the yellow squash, maybe a tomato or two, nor the Mexican-ish beef) That could be an interesting start to a cottage pie…

cream cheese – cut some of my fresh herbs to make a cream cheese spread

pack to go camping – take

  • candied rhubard
  • rhubarb syrup
  • limoncello
  • rum
  • scotch?
  • camping cups and dishware
  • herbed cream cheese
  • hot sauce (but not my salsas)
  • if I feel really ambitious I’ll make a batch of raita, but looking at this schedule – I doubt it
  • again if I’m feeling ambitious, perhaps some of this ginger syrup
  • fig newtons

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I am determinedly Not Sick.

And so I am eating a lot of soup.

Last night, there was another success from The Soup Bible by Debra Mayhew (which, incidentally, a review says all the recipes are culled from her Soup Encyclopedia, but since I still haven’t exhausted this version and I paid about $5 for it, I’m not looking to trade up just yet)

Italian Arugula and Potato Soup

Only, of course, I didn’t make it exactly according to the directions – partly because I just wanted to make 1 serving… and partly because I didn’t feel like calculating proportions.

So 1 big red-skinned potato, cut into 1 cm dice, gets dumped into my 2 quart saucepan (so it’s deeper than 1 layer and it’s harder to make too much soup) with a sprinkling of salt. Add homemade vegetable stock until just covered. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes.

Finely dice a carrot (3-4 baby carrots) and add to the potatoes and stock. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Tear arugula leaves and drop into the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes longer until the vegetables are tender.

Add 1/4 tspn cayenne pepper and salt & black pepper to taste. (At this point the recipe has you tearing stale ciabatta bread and adding that to thicken, but I managed to have little enough stock that the soup was already fairly thick.)

And then it has you toasting garlic slices to top the soup. That would have been better, but I didn’t want to wash an extra pan, so I pulled out the head of roasted garlic from the fridge and chucked a could cloves into the soup.

Ended up quite a success.

~*~

Now I have some black beans soaking and I’m looking at soup recipes for broccoli to try with broccoli rabe.

And I bought orange juice.

But really, not sick at all.

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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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