Saturday, December 26, 2009


Tabi, originally uploaded by Chinkypin.
Socks with toes! Finally! Next time , I'll make them smaller to account for the surprising amount of stretch that even a firmly woven fabric will have when worn on the feet. Also, I will do them properly, with a lining.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oh my god! I made English Muffins!

There are days when I feel like I have totally lost my mojo. And usually it means that I just have to go to bed and say the hell with it. But sometimes I can't do that, and sometimes, I am rewarded. For no good reason, I decided that I needed to make english muffins. I thought it would get me out of my funk, and boy was I right. I don't have enough superlatives for these little guys.

Rather than write out the recipe, I'll just post the link, which is from food network, and tell you what else I think is useful.

1. Follow the recipe. Duh, right? Well, this is me, remember. But I really did this time!
2. Read the comments. 
3. I did the folded bits of tinfoil thing. No cardboard, just enough foil to stay moderately rigid. Make the rings about 4 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch tall.
4. The recipe says heat the griddle to 300. That means medium-low on a stove top.
5. I used my trusty cast-iron skillet. If I hadn't run out of staples to make rings, I could have fit 3 rings in it. Remember to leave room for flipping them over.
6. After the recipe says to stir in the last 1/2 teaspoon of salt, let the batter rest again for about 5 minutes or the first couple muffins will be significantly heavier than the rest of the batch.
7. If you are only making them 2 at a time as I did, you will need to stir the batter back down a couple times or the muffins at the end will be predominately composed of holes.
8. Do sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on the pan and the tops of the raw muffins.
9. Do take the time to brush the crumbs out of the skillet and re-grease the rings between each batch.
10. A scant 1/3 cup of batter is about right for each muffin. This will make around 8-10 muffins, depending on how thick you like them.

And to those of you who said "What? Muffins! But those are put in bags and left in grocery stores by the Muffin Fairy!" I say: Be the Muffin Fairy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Solstice!

 Hooray! The darkest day of the year has passed, and it is time to celebrate by putting a pomelo skin on your head. Or a grapefruit. I didn't think I was ever gonna eat a whole pomelo by myself- they're the size of a volleyball. Does anybody but me remember dad wearing one of these distinctive chapeaux to go practice tai chi one time in the summer? Worn at a rakish angle, perhaps?

This, re-posted from facebook, (thanks, Ms. T)  has nothing to do with anything, but it is high-larious! May you snort with laughter in the new year. Also, don't be fooled: the internets are very small. This is the guy who trained me at trader joe's.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Odds an' Ends

Because I have no car, and it is winter, I am more than usually averse to shlepping myself to and from the grocery store. I hate dragging my ass home with a load of heavy soggy bags at the end of a day. This leaves me with some strange combinatons sometimes. The good ones end up here, the other stuff I pretend never happened.

Delicata Squash with Tofu and Spinach Stuffing
(served with some other stuff to make it interesting, like.)

On the right there is the cous-wa again, that's old hat. The raddiccio is mostly for color, although the bitter crunchyness goes well with the rest of the stuff.

The tofu stuffing came about because I have these enthusiasms for an ingredient, and have to go and get some to see what its like. The peedan was one I actually knew what to do with; those blessed tomatillos were another story... This time it was bacon salt.  Somebody (Dawn) mentioned it and I thought, wow, bacony goodness without having to cook any bacon! Yep, I am that lazy.

Well, I found one thing to do with it: I put it in my do chang. But then what? Attempt to make fake bacon out of tofu, obviously. Not a success, obviously. But I did get a curiously satisfying marinated tofu good for sandwiches. Then I ran out of bread, and besides, I was bored of sandwiches. Some time ago, Cynthia gave me a dinky little squash, and there was pretty much nothing else left in the kitchen when I got home today. This gave me a reason to have the oven on for an extra hour, which is a good thing around the solstice.

1 block super-firm tofu
bacon salt
nutritional yeast
olive oil
some ground toasted flax seeds
bear with me.

Cut the tofu into strips about 1 inch wide and at most 1/2 inch thick. Coat them generously with a mix of the dry ingredients. You can go moderately heavy with the bacon salt, it seems to be mostly composed of garlic powder and paprika. Put it in a tupperware thing and add a slosh of olive oil and shake it around to get the oil distributed. Then leave it in the fridge until you feel guilty about not eating it, which was about 5 days for me. Maybe longer. Then decide that you might as well combine it with that other thing you feel guilty about not eating, and locate your squash.

Mine was a particularly small squash, definitely a one-person size. To fill it, I used:

2 strips marinated tofu
2/3 cups frozen chopped spinach
a toasted heel of bread, torn up very small
salt and pepper

To assemble the squash, cut the squash in half to form 2 little cups, and scoop out the seeds. Put the tofu and spinach in a bowl and microwave it just until it's all hot, then smash up the tofu with a fork. Stir in the bread bits, taste for salt and pepper, and if it is very dry add a spoon of water. Mine had all the leftover olive oil from the bottom of the tofu batch, so it was pretty moist. Cram the stuffing into the squash cups, put them in a pan with a little water in the bottom to keep them from utterly drying out, and bake them for about an hour. The time will vary depending on how big your squash is, and if it's very large, you may want to cover it for the first half of the baking or it will burn on the outside before it gets done through.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Eating Like an American

...or Dude! What is going on here?!?

It's a rhetorical question, yah, got it.

Here's what got me going: a $50 gift certificate to any of the Darden SV Inc. restaurants nationwide. Which, really, is a damn generous company holiday gift. It really is. And I know why they did it too- there aren't that many things that you can give the same thing to 300-some-odd people and have it be even vaguely appropriate. So, restaurant gift cards= free food an booze= cool.

Ok, so what restaurants are those? In Portland, those would be Red Lobster, and Olive Garden. Neither of which actually have locations in Portland. Well, I lie, there's an Olive Garden in Mall 205. And from where I live, it's just as far to Vancouver to get to Red Lobster, but probably more of a pain in the neck.

But that's totally irrellevant! In the process of locating a venue for spending my lucre, of course I looked at the menus on the websites, and of course I opened the link to the...dun-dun...nutrition facts.

They still use 2000 calories per day as a benchmark for calculating a person's nutritional
needs. I probably do all right on about that, maybe less, say about 1800 on a slothful Saturday. I'm 35, I'm female and not built on heroic lines. I don't work out, but on the other hand, I spend a lot of time riding Shank's Mare. Super fit I am not. Where am I going with this...

Oh, the Nutrition Facts! Yay for hyperlinks. How often do people eat at restaurants? Hopefully, not often. When I was 22, I could eat an entree of chicken alfredo without batting an eye. Or maybe some Calamari?
How many grams of saturated fat are you supposed to stay under in a day? We haven't even got to the desserts yet, I think that would just get depressing. I love dessert, it's supposed to be chock full of saturated fats.

So why does the menu at Olive garden bug me? Well, for one thing, all the portions are in these feasting-for-a-special-occasion sizes, and for another, because everything on it looks the same. It's all the same cream sauce, all the same noodles, all the same piece of chicken meat, all the same piece of cow parts. Don't even get me started on the fact that vegetables are only mentioned in a roundabout way. Red Lobster too. You can have broccoli or asparagus. Asparagus only sometimes, and broccoli you have to ask for especially. I like my broccoli, but that it? Mountains of food, all the same. You could close your eyes and point 3 or 4 different times and get exactly the same meal, but with some rather irrational price differences. They have taken the natural human joy of feasting and turned it into a process for maximizing calories per dollar. All the things that make food more than just consumption have been jettisoned, and the only index of value is how much stuff you get. Evidently, lots of people agree with them. You don't get chain restaurants by having complex criteria for what you want to serve. You get hot cart pods.

So, am I gonna use my gift certificate? Yeah, sure.There was a short period a few years back when I ate at restaurants regularly. I gained weight, duh. But the thing that in retrospect seems particularly sad to me is how boring it was. I could have spent less time, eaten better, and enjoyed myself more if I had been cooking. It would have cost less too, by a long shot. But there was the convenience of a predictable restaurant. Sometimes it is nice just to have someone else clear up the stupid dishes. Sometimes I do want a cocktail, and not being the kind of gal who keeps a full bar (or even an empty one) at home, a drink at a restaurant is always kinda nice. It's the middle of the winter, and going somewhere warm, that is not my house, where I can have my peck and booze and neither I nor my friends have to clear away the debris after dinner, is pleasant. The food will not be special, but since my employer has already paid for it, it would be silly not to use the certificate.

Here's the thing though: eating at a restaurant should be a treat. It should be indulgent, and you should be able to get things you don't get at home, and they should be tasty and interesting, and sometimes even remarkable, to eat. And dangit, there should be dessert. And on special occasions, sure, maybe that dessert could have enough calories in it to last you a whole day. But the quantity, and the calories, and the fat or sodium or whatever should be secondary. Eat things than make you go 'Hm. I'll be darned.' Eat things that make you feel giddy with excitement. Eat things made by people you love, eat in the company of people who care about you. Feed your friends things they won't cook for themselves, things that are crunchy, or spicy, or bitter, or fishy, or just anything interesting. It's December, the weather is crap, and if ever there is a time of year when we need food to be more than just calories, this is it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Absolutely nothing to do with food

Unless you count the popcorn and hot chocolate consumed at zoolights. But I don't think I do, because that's not food. Not really. I mean, there's plenty of things that are delicious and that we eat, but that aren't food. Twinkies. Asparagus. But that's beside the point.

I had a great time at zoolights a while back, and only just now got around to posting the pictures on my flickr photostream. Lots of pictures. I even put descriptions on some of them, so you should go over there, and check 'em out. Silly fun.

A joyous Christmakwanzaakha to you all.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

More about pastry tools

I've made more pies this year than at any time before in my life. Maybe more than the previous lifetime total. It's the crust. I have a new favorite tool:

it's a really fancy pastry cutter. It's made out of a solid piece of really heavy stainless steel, and the handle is stuck onto the blade with these big screws and rubber gaskets. It cost me a whole $1.99 at Goodwill.

I have another one, the usual sort. Wooden handle, a bunch of curvey wire loops. Also $1.99 at Goodwill. It's perfectly adequate, I recommend one for occasional or desultory pastry-makers, because it beats the heck out of a fork. I almost passed up my fancy one, because I had one of the regular kind already, but I picked it up and went oooOOo...

The handle doesn't swivel, for one thing, so when you're bashing away at a pile of hard butter and flour, the blades never flip out sideways. And the blades are rigid. They don't spread apart, leaving unevenly large chunks of fat. And the solid parts of the blade above the cutters make a nice ergonomic grippy place for your thumb to go.

Since I got this thing last month or so, it has chewed through 2 big batches of chocolate shortbread cookies, and 2 pie crusts with incredible ease. I love it. Now all I need is a french rolling pin. My current one got called out yesterday morning.

"Was your rolling pin part of a broom handle?"  uh, mm-hm. I think Dad made it...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mushroom and Potato Pie

Giant Gallete v.2! The other day Pete called me up and said "Do you want any chanterelles? I traded a set of snow tires for 2 pounds of chanterelles and some money."  Hm. Why, yes, some mushrooms of questionable provenance would be very nice. So here is what I made. Incidentally, this is an easily veganizable recipe, just use an appropriate pastry recipe.

1 recipe of savory pastry, enough for a double crust.

3 medium-small yellow potatoes.
1 medium yellow onion
2 sprigs rosemary, or other woody herbs, like thyme or something
1 lb chanterelles (or other interesting mushrooms)
olive oil, salt and pepper

First, decide if you are going to make this from start to finish, or begin on one day and finish some other time. I did the latter, because I was tired the day I brought the mushrooms home, so that is how my directions will go.

Cut the butter and salt into the flour for the crust and put it in a sealed container in the fridge.

Slice the taters and boil in salted water until they are about 3/4 done, drain and refrigerate.

Clean the mushrooms and slice them into rather big pieces. This is really only to allow them to lay flat in the skillet. Slice the onion quite thinly. Get your skillet pretty hot, add a bit of olive oil and scoot it around with a rosemary sprig. Leave the sprig in the pan and sprinkle a bit of salt in the pan. Put a single sparse layer of shrooms in the pan and let them sear, use tongs to flip them over once and sear the other sides. Repeat until all the mushrooms are done. Set the cooked mushrooms aside and throw out the herb sprigs or you will have a bunch of twigs in your pie...forgot to do that part, myself.

When you get through the whole batch, hopefully the mushroom juices won't have burnt all black and disgusting, and you can just add a good slosh of oil, some salt and the onions. If you have significant blackening rather than a nice brown glaze, rinse the hot pan out first, then put in your oil and onions. Add about 1/2 cup of water to the onions and cover them up. As the water boils out, stir a couple times until the onions are evenly caramelized, then put them with the mushrooms. Dash a bit of water in the pan to get the last bits of yummy out of it, pour that in with the shrooms  and onions, and refrigerate until you want to actually bake and eat your pie.

Let the pastry mix set out for about 20 minutes. If it's too cold, it'll be a pain in the ass. Preheat the oven to 425. I like to heat a large pizza pan in the oven too. A stone would be nice, if you have one, but you don't need anything fancy.

Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a skillet and lay the potato slices in it. Add a half cup of water and a sprinkle of salt if the pots still taste bland. Cover, let the potatoes develop a nice brown crust. Rough 'em up with a spatula so that more potato surface is exposed to the pan and the slices are a bit smashed. Top with the mushroom and onion mix and let it brown again. Remove from heat, stir to combine.

Meanwhile, add the liquid to the pasty ingredients and mix it up. Roll the dough into a circle almost 18 inches across. I like to use a pastry cloth, for reasons I've mentioned before. Flop the crust onto a sheet of tinfoil, dump the filling in the middle and press it down into a nice compact heap and fold up the edges of the pasty.  Brush with egg or milk, bake on the preheated pan or stone for 1/2 hour or until it's a bit brown.

My conclusion:

Cheese. Gruyere, brie, something mild and nutty. Mushrooms and potatoes are subtle, but they would benefit from a little moisture. Especially after a couple days in the fridge.

Don't burn your mouth.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Proper Macaroni and Cheese

I have never understood the gourmet-izing of mac and cheese because this is how it was always made in my house when we were kids.

1 heaping cup of macaroni. It's closer to a cup and a half. It must be the elbow kind- any other sort is pasta, but it isn't macaroni.

1 heaping tablespoon all purpose flour. Mom had a particular serving spoon that was used to measure the correct amount.
about 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
about a half pound of medium or sharp cheddar, grated.
a heaping tablespoon of yellow mustard. French's was the brand of choice.
a good shake of dried oregano
salt & pepper to taste

Boil the macaroni and set it aside in your baking dish. Preheat the oven to 350.

To be perfectly honest, I am still not super good at the next part. I think I am too impatient, and usually put the cheese in too soon, or heat the sauce too fast. Alton Brown has covered this territory in an excellent episode of Good Eats. If like me, you find that your sauce has a slight tendency to break, and (unlike me) are motivated enough to find out why it does that, I recommend looking it up.

Put the butter and flour in a small saucepan on medium heat and fry the flour until it gets a little bit brown and smells toasty. Take it off the heat, add the milk and stir vigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Turn the stove down to medium-low, and heat the sauce gently, stirring constantly. When the sauce starts to thicken, add the cheese in about 3 batches, letting it melt between each addition. Once all the cheese is in, add the rest of the ingredients, stir to combine and pour over the macaroni. Top with a little extra grated cheese. I usually put a little green-can parmesan on mine, but this is not part of the official, Chin-child approved recipe. Bake for up to an hour, until it is as crispy topped as you want it.

Apparently, this is regarded as 'fancy' mac and cheese in some circles. The frying butter and flour thing. After a childhood of watching this done as a matter of course, both for this purpose and for making gravy for biscuits, it still seems prissy and nouveau-annoying to call it 'making a roux'. But so it is, I just never knew it. I think I was in my late teens or early twenties when it finally sank in that most people think macaroni and cheese from scratch is made with american processed cheese food. I'm sure the mac and cheese in the school hot lunch contained a large amount of it, and to this day I find it difficult to stomach macaroni prepared in such a way. The odor is quite distinctive.

American cheese was not known in our house. I realize that its characteristics are ideal for melting and staying liquid once melted, but its really gross. It does not taste like cheese. It does not taste like much of anything. It smells a little like feet, and not in a good way. Not like real cheese, which can have an intense pungency before I will be put off by it.  Yes, I do like a grilled cheese sandwich with it sometimes; but I maintain that it is not, in fact, cheese, and that real macaroni and cheese has nothing to say to it. But American cheese does explain why some people will pay 9 dollars or some foolish thing for a plate of mac and cheese at a restaurant. If all you ever had was Kraft Dinner or, as a step up, macaroni with american cheese further desecrated by the addition of such foreign objects as popcorn shrimp, peas, or hot dogs, macaroni and cheese actually made from scratch, with real ingredients, might be something special.

My recipe has changed a bit over the years. I like to use several sorts of cheese at once, if I have them. A combination of swiss and cheddar with something softer, like munster, makes a good batch. Parmesan and sometimes buttered breadcrumbs on top.  However, it is always to be served with peas and corn as a side dish.When I can first remember, Mom would make a clear gravy of sorts by leaving a little water in the peas and corn and boiling in a little cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Later we dispensed with this, having decided that peas and corn are actually pretty tasty by themselves. There must have been other things we ate with it, ham probably, because Dad had a fixation on those giant bone-in picnic hams.

At any rate, the other thing in the picture is my generic mix of roasted veggies. This time it was a fennel bulb and a celery root bought at the last farmer's market of the year, along with some odds and ends lying around the fridge: a few baby carrots, a large russet potato and a leftover onion half. Chop, toss with salt, pepper, rosemary, marjoram and lots of olive oil, bake at 375 until slightly browned. Stir a couple times or they'll cook unevenly. Try to keep the fennel at the bottom of the pile, it'll stay more tender that way.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Netarts Rolls

Jej said these are basically a Fannie Farmer recipe, but I don't know Ms. Farmer from a stump, so I say they are Netarts Rolls on account of having eaten them at the beach. They are best straight out of the oven of course, but the high fat content makes them keep very well.

This recipe is a bit more freewheeling than my other bread recipes. I said before that I am not a good baker. This is so. As evidenced by the recipes I use, I have worked out a couple formulae that I stick to pretty rigidly, because I don't know what will happen if I deviate even a little bit. Unlike the rest of my cooking which is usually a 'bit of this, some of whatever" approach, baking has an aura of mystique for me. It's intimidating.

But! I arrived at the beach and Jej had these rolls in the oven. I asked for the recipe and she said something like this:

You take about a half cup of water and a few tablespoons of sugar and about a quarter cup of flour and mix it up with a couple teaspoons of yeast and wait for it to get foamy, then take about a quarter cup of oil and a quarter cup of melted butter and another cup of flour and a cup of water and a pinch of salt and mix it in and wait for it to poof up again, then you mix in more flour until you get a really soft dough. Then you pull off bits and roll them on oil, you put them in the pan and wait until they're poofy, then you bake 'em at like, 375.


You know, it really was pretty much that simple. Some pointers though-

1. The middle part, the add-flour-butter-and-oil part, you should end up with a gooshy mix that is rather thicker than batter, but still too loose and sticky to be 'dough'.
2. When mixing up the last stage into dough, use only one hand to knead it with. It is supposed to remain super soft and will stick all over you.
3. Because it is so gooey, when you are tearing off lumps to form rolls, get your hands quite oily first.
4. The dough will forgive you. Don't bother trying to make perfectly round balls of dough, they'll magically fix themselves with no effort at all on your part.
5. The baking took about half an hour in the format you see here. I bet if they were more spread out, it would go faster.

I think I'll put them in a bigger pan next time, and make each roll a bit smaller though. That's a regular 9" pie pan they're in.

Eat with butter and honey. Yes I know they're already dripping with fat; food is for joy, not mere survival.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pete's Sausage Dressing

According to an old redneck I used to hang out with (bless him) it is properly called 'stuffing' only when it is served out of the cavity of an animal. Turkey or whatever. If it is cooked and served as a side dish, it is 'dressing'.

2 mild italian sausage links
1 large onion, diced
3 or 4 celery ribs, diced
fresh sage, parsley, rosemary, minced
salt & pepper
a bit of olive oil

about 1/2 recipe of leftover cornbead

Smash up the sausage links and fry them in a large heavy pan. Discard the casings if you like, they're sorta rubbery. When the sausage is mostly done, add the onions. Depending on how fatty the sausage is, you may need to add a drop or two of olive oil. Stir a bit, and when the onions are starting to go transparent, add the herbs and celery, stir, cover.

At this point, I cut the cornbread into rather thick slices and toasted them in a mostly dry skillet. You could skip this step, but I like the toasty bits from re-frying the bread. Turn the bread slices to brown both sides if you do this.

Once the celery is tender, add the cornbread to the pot and smash it up with a spoon or something.

Serve with squash. Pete usually does his mashed, like potatoes, but I like mine like this:

1 butternut squash
salt, pepper, olive oil

I use butternuts because they are very easy to peel with a potato peeler, and they have a very small amount of guts as compared to other kinds of squash. So, peel one, scoop out the guts, and cube the squash. Toss with a good amount of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Bake on a sheet for as much as an hour at 375. The time varies from 1/2 hour up, depends on how big your cubes are and how large your squash was.

I think goat cheese would be very nice with this.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Trotter Chili

I made this because I had a pig's foot lying around. I guess you don't have to use a pigs foot, the shank-end of a hock would probably do just as well. The thing is, a fresh pig foot costs about 75 cents at Fubonn, and unless you're somebody's crazy chinese dad, you don't actually eat it anyway. (Bleah.) It's just to add gelatin and fat to the chili. It would probably be better to use fresh garlic, onions and bell peppers, but I was pretty sleepy when I made this, so I went the lazypants route and used dry ingredients.

1 pig foot

2 cans toms- I used the ones at fred meyer that say 'chili ready'
1 can black beans
1 T red mole- I used Dona Maria brand, it's ok for this, but it's kinda sweet.
1 T cocoa mix, the best quality you can find, or a heaping teaspoon of baking cocoa
1/2 t each, more or less, oregano, marjoram, paprika, cumin, coarsely ground coriander
dash of onion powder
a bay leaf

Put the pig foot in a 3 qt pot with a half gallon or so of water and bring it to a boil. Pour off the water & put in a fresh batch. This step is probably unnecessary, but I admit to a little squeamishness. Add 1/2 tsp salt to the pot and set it on a medium boil for an hour or two, or until the foot starts to fall apart. The salt is important, it reacts with the proteins in the pig's foot and makes them softer, faster. My piggy toes were frozen to start with, they took a long time.

Once the pig's foot is falling apart, throw all the other ingredients into the pot and simmer until it cooks down enough that you like the texture. Stir it from time to time or it will burn, it may take as much as another hour.

You could serve it with the cornbread from the last recipe, but I actually prefer corn chips with my chili, the crunch is nice. Pick out the bone and skin fragments, there isn't anything really worth eating on a trotter.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I might make cornbread more often

Sometimes, authenticity is a big crock of dookie. Mom, if this makes you turn up your nose, so be it, but I've never made any "real cornbread" and now I doubt I ever will, because

1. Pete gave me a copy of The Food of a Younger Land which dwells with some emphasis on authentic cornbreads, in several forms, all of which sound perfectly appalling and

2. Cynthia's family recipe makes delicious cornbread.

Unlike the recipes in The Food of a Younger Land, which almost invariably call for lard or drippings of some kind, reject the addition of flour or sugar as heresy, and, depending on the age and poverty of the recipe's author, call for being cooked in hot ashes, on a used barrel stave, or the end of a farm implement with a grudging concession to cast iron skillets, the recipe for cornbread I now prefer is as follows:

1 c cornmeal- I used Bob's Red Mill medium grind, because every other brand came in huge packages.
1 c all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl, whip in

2 eggs
1/4 c oil
1 c milk or 1 c water + 3/4 c dry milk. I did the latter, although I added the dry milk with the other dry ingredients.

Beat smooth, pour into a greased 8x8 pan and bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes.

Pete recommends using an electric mixer to blend some air into the batter. I used a whisk, which was a bit of effort, and made a slightly coarser pore structure in the finished product due to the fact that the airbubbles were somewhat larger than ones made by a mixer. Also, since I don't have a small baking pan, you can see that I used my trusty enamelled skillet, which I pre-heated in the oven to make up for the fact that it's pretty heavy.

I do have a plain cast iron skillet. But just now I've about got it seasoned up the way I like, and I want to be able to fry my egg in it tomorrow morning before work.

1/4/11 - On a second try of this recipe, I think I must have recorded the amounts wrong or something. The batter came out too runny, so I added another handful each of flour and meal, and baked it somewhat longer than the recipe says. I think the liquid should be reduced by 1/4 cup.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tofu Quickie

I like this method of fixing tofu because it doesn't require frying. Not that I don't like fried things, lord knows I do. It's just that when the weather keeps me from opening all the windows, anything that gets fried in my open floorplan apartment hangs around in the air for days. The kitchen vent fan is just for ambience.

Also, this dish requires exactly 2 cooking implements- one spoon for scooping & stirring (and eating), one covered casserole to cook and store leftovers in, plus a microwave. Awesome.

1 lb firm tofu
1/2 bag frozen chopped spinach
assorted condiments to taste. I usually use a mix of:

black bean sauce (master or comrade brands are my faves, but dragonfly is good too.)
oyster sauce- definitely Dragonfly brand. Read the ingredients.
trader joe's pad thai sauce.
sesame oil
sriracha- just a dab usually, more if I have a cold

and sometimes I use fish sauce too.

Drain the tofu and roughly chunk it up into the casserole. Throw on some good sized scoops of your chosen seasonings. Go easy on the fishsauce if you're using that, it's basically just stinky liquid salt. Top with the spinach, cover and microwave 3 or 4 minutes at a time until the spinach is as done as you want it to be. Poke the ingredients around gently between sessions in the microwave to get the flavors well mixed. Taste as you go along. Tofu is powerfully bland. If it's not sweet enough, add a dab of oyster sauce, if it's not salty enough, add bean sauce or fish sauce. If it's too salty, oh well, you're gonna eat it on rice anyway, it'll be fine.

I wish I had a bottle of sake with this...

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I started making my own bread because I am a cheapskate, and I picked up a really fancy bread machine at Goodwill for 40 bucks. I thought well, hell, I eat about a loaf of bread a week, sometimes more than that. At $3.oo a loaf or so, x 52 weeks a year on average, shit that's a ton of money! I had some pretty sorry results to begin with.  Gummy, crumbly wheat bread, sodden heavy white bread. The dough that over expanded and mushroomed out over the top of the pan. The dough I forgot to put yeast in.

But I got past that and now I have 2 recipes that I like an awful lot. This one is the simple one.

250 g. H2O
28 g butter or margarine
22 g dry milk
7 g salt
50 g honey
300 g white bread flour
90 g whole wheat flour
90 g old fashioned oatmeal
7 g instant yeast

The thing is, I don't feel like I really know how to make bread. I put the stuff in the machine, it makes the dough. That's the hard part, usually. I don't like to knead dough because my wrist hurts, and it makes a big mess. Mostly I don't like the mess; my apartment is small, and has carpet. So, the machine does the real work, then it beeps at me when it's time to put the dough in a bread pan. Yes, I know, I could leave the stuff in there and the machine would bake it for me too, but I like the regular loaf pan shape better, and besides, the dough beaters leave these annoying craters in the bottom of the loaf if you do that. Makes it hard to get a neat sandwich out of the middle of the loaf. So I put it in a regular pan, I let it poof up until it's about 1 inch higher than my pan, then I put it in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes. Then I turn the oven off and leave it in there without opening the oven for about 10 more minutes. I take it out, whack the pan (lightly) on my bread board to pop the loaf out and that's it. Let it cool on a rack to keep the outside crispy.

Now I'm a bread snob. The last time I bought a loaf of bread was during the heat wave in august or whenever, and I thought wow, I should have just got bagels or english muffins or something, cuz this stuff sucks!

Here's my complicated recipe, it's the loaf in the picture.

350 g H2O
7 g salt
30 g brown sugar
30 g molasses-don't use the extra dark kind! it's gross.
15 g dry milk optional
30 g butter

Put the above ingredients into the bowl of your bread machine. Layer on the following, in this order:

240 g white bread flour
220 g whole wheat flour
10 g wheat guten
15 g sesame seeds-I use a mix of toasted black & white
12 g poppy seed
40 g cracked wheat
40 g steel cut oats
15 g ground toasted flax seeds
7 g instant yeast

Make the bread the same as above, but add 10 minutes to the baking time, it's a much larger loaf. If you want to make it prettier, take a sharp knife and gently slash the top of the loaf before baking.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cookie Lesson

Two lessons, in fact.

1: It pays to follow directions
2: It pays to improvise

I had a jones for chocolate cookies. I got me a goodlookin recipe:

2 cups confectioner's sugar 
3/4 cups dutch process cocoa
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups butter (!)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

Sift all the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Cut in softened butter until evenly combined. A few little lumps are ok. Mix eggs & vanilla and add to dry ingredients. Mix until it forms a mostly smooth ball.

Bake cookies for 8 minutes at 350.

I followed it. Wow, huh? And then the dough turned out way too gooey for rolled cookies, which is what it was supposed to be. Well, I knew that might happen, the recipe reviews said it might, but what to do next? I didn't want to sit around waiting for it to harden up in the fridge, which was the suggested fix.

But I do have a totally neato vintage cookie press. Ha-HAH! It worked beautifully. Better than I had ever gotten the darn thing to work before, in fact.

So, who wants to have a tea party?

Monday, October 19, 2009

mmmm Margarine

The first time I had a proper PBJ was when I was in maybe 3rd grade. I was at Tom & Pat Petit's house, and Pat offered me one. I remember thinking it was a funny idea. We had peanut butter at my house, and bread, but jam was something that existed as a by-product of Dad's whacked-out fruit flavored cordial recipes. As such, it didn't go with anything really, and I sure as hell didn't like to mess up my peanut butter with it. I had rather just have raisins, that was normal, right, raisin sandwich? Uh-huh. I think dad even tried to make grape jelly once, with the concord grape leviathan that was hulking around the back yard, it was awful stuff. The jelly, I mean; it was cloudy and bitter, but I could be remembering something else. The vine was pretty cool.

The point is, I was taken aback at the idea of putting jelly (grape flavored!) on peanut butter. But Pat gave me one anyway, and it was amazing. Smucker's grape jelly. Jif. White bread. And the secret ingredient: a thick layer of margarine. To this day I remember eating that sandwich, and feeling like I'd gotten away with something. Now, I am truly grateful for all the weird shit my parents made me eat as a child (except turnips, I still have a grudge about that one). I really don't like white wonder-style bread, it's pretty nasty. And I love real butter! Wow, if I had to give up real butter I might die of misery. Jif? Hate it. Ate it too regularly in highschool.

But somehow, the salty, artificial, butter-esque, movie-theater-popcorn taste of margarine has retained its magic, and I go through phases when I hanker after a slice of bread topped with a thick, sloppy layer of margarine and strawberry jam. Add a big mug of tea, and fuzzy pajamas; sometimes comfort is simple.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Paean to Eggs

I eat lots of eggs. They are magical, I am convinced. They go in sweets and in main dishes, they enable the existence of cake, and custard, and pudding, and quiche. And breakfast wouldn't be breakfast without them. Pancakes, waffles, omelettes, french toast, scrambled eggs, plain and fancy, eggs Benedict, over-easy, poached or fried. Eggs at easter. Eggs go in every kind of traditional cooking that I know of. Egg-drop soup. Pickled eggs, millions of kinds. Well maybe not millions, my hyperbole is getting away with me.

I know I've had plenty of entries about breakfast, but I do worship at the temple of the first meal of the day. There was my brussels sprout scramble recently, there was the spinach stew with poached eggs a while back, a generic breakfast entry in august, and then, because breakfast at breakfast time is not enough, there was breakfast for dinner, and then pesto on pancakes for regular breakfast. Eggs are a good start for everything.

So here are a few pictures to share my love of all things egg, and in particular, Breakfast.

Fried eggs on toast. Can't beat it. Lotsa butter on home made bread, salt, pepper. Don't ask me why the picture keeps loading up sideways. It's really bugging me.

Breakfast BLT. The traditional, plus a fried egg.


And the one I'm most fond of, breakfast by the seat of the pants. I forgot to eat my PBJ one afternoon; I thought it had a reproachful look the next morning. Kinda like "Hey dummy. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle."

PBJ French toast.

1 stale PBJ

1 egg
1/4 cup vanilla soy milk
1 tsp brown sugar
teensy pinch salt
dash of vanilla
pinch of pumkin pie spice

Mix all the batter ingredients well and soak the PBJ until it's good and soggy. Fry at medium low until it had developed a golden color, flop, continue to cook until it had poofed up slightly in the center. If you like it pretty moist and custardy,(I do) take it out immediately. If you gotta have it done through, turn off the heat and leave it in the pan a minute longer. I ate mine with extra jam, a pear, and a scoop of yogurt.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Panade with Fall Veggies

Panade: a big poufy bread-thing. A savory bread pudding. A method for using up leftovers. The basic recipe calls for

1) bread so stale it's gone hard- I used about 1/3 loaf of homemade
2) broth

That's basically it. You soak the bread cubes in the broth and then bake it until it has developed a crust. It's better than you would think, especially if you add in a bunch of other things most people have kicking around their kitchens. Here's what I had today-

a tomato
leftover brussels sprouts
a dying bunch of basil
2 onions
a quarter of a red pepper
the heel of a bit of gouda and some bits of some italian other thing, very similar
a rather dessicated clove of garlic
2 eggs
olive oil
pepper & salt

Take a heavy, stove-to-oven safe pot and put some olive oil & a dash of salt in it. Slice the onions thin and caramelize over medium. When the onions are just starting to develop color, add the diced bell pepper and crush in the garlic. Once the onions are very soft and golden, remove from heat and toss in the cubed bread, chopped tomato, brussels sprouts and basil (or whatever you have) and stir to combine evenly. Then add the cheese gratings, if you're using any. I put the cheese in separately at the end to avoid having the cheese melt instantly and cause uneven clumps while I was trying to stir it up. Then whip 2 eggs and about 1 2/3 cups of broth in a bowl, and pour the mix over the bread and veggies. Put the pot back over medium heat to start the cooking process. Don't stir any more, or it will mush up. Just poke the bread bits down as they soak up the broth. When you are starting to see steam rise off it, put it in the oven at 375 for about an hour. Cover it if you don't want a lot of browning, leave the cover off if you do.

This picture has nothing to do with the above recipe. I just think romesco cauliflower is totally neato looking. Thank you, Mr. Fibonacci.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Brussels sprouts for breakfast indeed!

This weekend I got some brussels sprouts at market and made up a mess of my favorite sprouts and squash dish. It made more than I anticipated, and in order not to get bored of it, I came up with this.

Sprouts & Squash

1 large stalk brussels sprouts
1 largeish butternut squash
olive oil
salt & pepper
pumpkin pie spice
honey or maple syrup

Peel & cube the squash, toss in olive oil and a liberal shake of salt & pepper and bake at 375 until tender. A few brown bits is good, but not required. When the squash is done, halve the sprouts and put them in a lidded pot with about 1/2 cup water and a couple tablespoons of butter, and a pinch of pie spice. Steam them until the sprouts are bright green & tender, stirring occasionally to make sure they cook evenly. When they're done, add the squash and a tablespoon or 2 of honey or syrup to taste. Very easy.

The stuff in the picture is an egg scramble with the squash as prepared above, with a little bit of leftover red bell pepper and some sheep milk gouda. Brown the pepper & sprouts in a bit of butter first, then throw in the eggs. When they're about done ( it'll only take a sec) remove from heat, top with cheese and cover until the cheese has melted. Sprinkle with a pinch of fresh rosemary if you like it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Yeah, so, I set the smoke alarm off...

Ever see a smoke alarm in a chinese person's kitchen? Me either. Authentic stir fry is dangerous. Not that this is all that authentic, but I wish I had pictures of the grease flash that caused the smoke alarm thing...

Beet Greens & Tofu in Spicy Oyster Sauce

1 large bunch of beet greens
1 onion
1 block firm tofu
oil for frying
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 T black bean garlic sauce
1/2 tsp crushed chili paste
1/3 c oyster sauce
a pinch or 2 of salt

I had been avoiding buying beets at market for a while because I couldn't think of what to do with the greens. I like them southern style, but that makes them up as kind of a side dish and even a small bunch of beets comes with a large mess of greens. Then they kick around in my fridge until they die. Hence, the chinkabilly stir-fry.

Wash the greens well, separate the stems from the leaves and chop each, keeping them separate.
Chop the onions & add to the pile of stems. Drain & cube the tofu. Big cubes is good. Mix the seasonings in a little bowl.

I guess a wok would be good, but I used my cast iron frying pan. Put a tablespoon or so of oil in the pan and over pretty high heat. The oil should be shimmering and smoking in the pan. Sprinkle a little bit of salt in the pan and put in the stems & onions. Fry uncovered, stirring enough to keep from burning them, for about 3-5 minutes, or until the vegetables have begun to caramelize. Pour them into a dish and reserve. Rinse the pan out, then repeat the process with the leaves, rinse again and put a slightly larger amount of oil in and get it good and hot before putting in the tofu. Wait until the bottoms of the tofu bits have developed a good crust before turning them over, brown on all sides before putting the vegetables back in the pan with the seasonings. Heat everything through, mixing well. Serve with rice. Fried noodles would be good too.

Now, here's the thing: you can use roughly this process with everything, but the 2 key steps are to get the pan hot and keep it that way, and to add a pinch of salt to the pan before the vegetables. Salting the pan draws the water out of the veggies, and the high temperature does 2 things: 1) it caramelizes any starches that come out of the vegetables really fast, so that you have both the fresh veggie taste and a hint of maillard compounds. 2) the heat causes some of the cooking oils to oxidize and polymerize which is what that magic "stir fry" taste is.

Of course, high heat also causes oil to vaporize. And throwing a bunch of wet tofu into a puddle of hot oil causes steam. Which creates a rapidly expanding cloud of tiny oil droplets mixed with the ideal ratio of oxygen packed in little water molecules to make for a very exciting wooHOO! moment when it hits a red-hot burner. As a child this was a regular, but always alarming occurrence at my house. Nowadays I just run around cursing and flapping a towel at the ceiling, I swear I'm gonna pull the battery out of that wretched thing.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tomatillo Tagine and Cous-Wa

An unexpected crop of tomatillos + a jar of preserved limes made during the enthusiasm of summer = north african with south american ingredients.

The Tagine part:

2 onions, sliced
6 tomatillos, chopped
1 clove crushed garlic
2 frozen chicken tenders, cut up
1 large russet potato, in 1 inch cubes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp coriander seed, ground
a generous shake each paprika and turmeric-it adds color
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
the fleshy part of 1/4 of a preserved lime plus about 1/4 tsp of the skin, minced very fine
hot pepper flakes optional
broth concentrate & water
kalamata olives or some olive mix you like.
olive oil for browning the onions

Brown the onions, tomatillos and garlic in a heavy saucepan. If it has a heatproof lid, you can do the traditional thing and finish the recipe in the oven, but I just did mine on the stovetop, so that's how my directions will go. When the onions are browned and the tomatillos are mush, add the chicken and the spices and lime. Cook until the chicken is almost done, then add the broth concentrate and potato, and add enough water to almost cover everything. Cook until the potatoes are done and you start to get some browning in the bottom of the pan. If it looks too watery, leave the lid off so it can cook down into a nice thick gravy. When you're about 5 minutes from done, add a handful of olives.

the Cous-Wa part:

And what is cous-wa? Another of Pete's recipes. His originally had basil and yellow peppers, I had no basil left, but tarragon and thyme make a good substitute.

1/2 c couscous
1/2 c quinoa
1/4 c diced bell pepper
1/4 c green beans -I used frozen
2 or 3 scallions, chopped
a dab of broth concentrate
olive oil
1 tsp mixed tarragon & thyme, minced finely
pine nuts-damn these are expensive these days! How long does it take to grow a frikkin' pine tree?!?!?

Brown the scallions and bell peppers in a bit of oil in a saucepan big enough to cook the grains in. When the onions are brown, add about 1 1/2 cups of water and a bit of broth concentrate. Bring to a boil, add the quinoa and cover. When the quinoa is almost done (it'll take about 10 minutes) check to make sure there's still about a half cup of liquid. Add a bit if necessary, put in the couscous & herbs, stir well and cover. Turn the heat off. The couscous will steam up in about 5 minutes and you can toss it up with a handful of pine nuts just before serving.

Garnish with mint for authenticity -hah- or parsley if that's what you got.

I am not a big fan of either couscous of quinoa by themselves. Too many dumbell college hippy recipes, I think. Curiously enough, combining the two made a very appealing dish. The quinoa makes up for the lack of textural character in the couscous, and the couscous ameliorates the peculiar musty flavor of the quinoa to a level that is piquant rather than obnoxious. Sometimes I remember that food like this has only been possible in the last 1/2 century, and then only for a very few of us. I feel lucky indeed.

Bacon Peach Galette with Arugula and Other Stuff

This is based on Josh & Annette's giant gallette which they brought to the picnic back in august. Here's Josh's original recipe; I became re-enamored of bacon after buying some to go in my bean milk the other week.

My recipe:
3 small onions, julienned
3 large peaches, cut into slices
4 or 5 pieces of bacon, I used Nieman Ranch dry-cured
1 T mixed rosemary & thyme, minced
pinch of salt
a handful of arugula
about 4 oz. of some type of nutty semi-hard cheese, cut into thin slices. I used a stinky old piece of abondance and a few chips of sheep's-milk gouda. Muenster, pepper jack, ossau-iraty, or some types of mellow blue cheese would also be good picks, as would some good parmesan.

1 recipe of pastry for a 2 crust pie, I used this one, but of course, I used butter rather than shortening.

Have your crust made up before you start the filling. I made mine the night before, which I think I will not do again if I'm not trying to save time. Refrigeration makes the dough harder to deal with. Just my opinion.

A word about the peaches. I had some sort of disappointing ones. If you get some with bitter skins, peel 'em first!

Preheat the oven to 400.

Cook the bacon until it's crispy, then pour off all but about 2 T of fat. Chop the bacon roughly and reserve.

Caramelize the onions in the fat on medium-high heat. Stir sometimes to prevent burning. Browning is good, burning no. A pinch of salt helps, also Josh suggested a pinch of sugar of you want to jazz up the caramelization process. I got pretty good results without the sugar, I imagine it depends on the onions somewhat.

When the onions are mostly transparent with lots of gooey brown stuff, throw in the herbs, bacon and peaches. You don't really want to cook the peaches so much as just get them hot through. When everything is thoroughly hot, check for salt, and remove from heat.

Roll the dough out into a circle about 14 " across. It really helps to roll it on a big sheet of parchment, that gives you something to handle it by when you're trying to get it on and off the baking tray. Or, as I did, use a pastry cloth for rolling, then flop it onto a bit of tinfoil. Pour half the filling onto the crust, lay on a handful of arugula, most of the cheese, the other half the filling, a few more sprigs of arugula and the rest of the cheese. Loosely fold up the crust and slop on an eggwash if you want it to look like the picture.

My pie took a good half hour to cook. I think Josh's times are because he uses a convection oven which will speed things up a lot. I might turn the heat up to 425 or 450 to get it browner at the end.

If you can stand to, let it get cool before serving, so the filling doesn't all just ooze out.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ready for Fall!

I got my hat, bring on the cold weather. Image quality of most of the pics is crap, but they still rank as my new, uncontested, favorite self portraits. They show my true dippy-ass nature. And my cool as hell new hat. More pictures on my flickr photostream.

And of course, the pattern.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Yup, Still Asian

I checked.

You can go to the trouble of making this yourself, or do what I do- go to trader joe's and buy a carton of the organic unsweetened soy milk. That's all it is.

I have many thoughts about this dish. Dad used to make "bean milk" from scratch when I was a kid, and sometimes tofu. I didn't like it. Soybeans have a strong earthy taste, and I only started to enjoy earthy flavors as an adult.

I think that in the late '70s and early '80s, there was no really good source of tofu and soymilk in Michigan, and dad always had a swath of mad scientist in his personality anyway so it suited him to make it himself from time to time. Family legend has it that dad was the guy who taught the first reliable hippy outfit in Ann Arbor how to make decent tofu to sell at the food co-op, but there is no evidence for this that I know of.

The procedure for making soymilk is to take your dry soybeans and soak them overnight to 24 hours in about a double volume of water. The beans puff up a lot, which you'll have noticed if you've ever cooked any other kind of dry bean. Then you put the raw beans in a blender with enough water to cover them in the pitcher and grind them as fine as possible. It takes a long time, is really noisy, and makes a mess. The finer the bean particles get, the better. Once the beans are all ground up, strain the slurry through a cloth bag (dad used an old t-shirt) and reserve the liquid; that's the soymilk. Throw away the mass of gunk left over. I don't know what the ideal proportion of water to bean is, alas. Also, I can't remember if you grind the beans in the soaking water, or throw it away and use fresh. Probably the latter.

You have to cook the soymilk before eating it of course. Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer and let it get some skins on it from condensation. The skins are a key part of the whole bean milk experience. To serve, put it in large bowls and throw in any of the usual chinese flavored things, according to taste: green onion, bacon bits (not chinese I know, but that's what was in it at my house) cilantro, spicy pickled radish, sesame oil, fresh grated ginger, szechuan pepper-salt, soysauce, hot chili pepper sauce or slices. Good for breakfast.

Supposedly, this should be served with chinese beignets. I never liked them, but I do appreciate their authentic chinesey-ness.

Also, you need to drink green tea with this. I always forget that I like green tea. Don't fool around with any bagged crap though. Get the real stuff. I've been hoarding some excellent green tea for a while, it has a sweet, floral, grassy taste to it. Very zen, makes me feel extra oriental, as if the bean milk wouldn't do it. Here's what real green tea should look like. Sorry, I have no brand names to give out, I have no idea what this is. It came out a mylar bag given to my sister by some of dad's minions before I moved to NYC. Which tells you that it keeps really well.

So, how do you get tofu out of bean milk? You need to curdle it, then strain and press the curds, again with your cloth bag/t-shirt aparatus. The way to curdle it is, you throw in some magnesium sulphate. Yeah, that's what I said. A very dilute solution, of course, but I swear that's what dad used. I told that to a guy I had a crush on in college, and he was repulsed. He said something like 'ohmigod! Thats the the stuff my mom puts on her feet!'

Hey, I'm asian. What do you want?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Vacation Is Too Short

I am reconciled to the tomatillos.

Avocado Tomatillo Soup

2 avocados
1/2 lb tomatillos, husked & rinsed
1 jalapeno
small bunch of scallions
1 t grated fresh ginger
1 t minced fresh parsley & mint
1 celery rib
1/2 large bell pepper. I used green.
2 cups stock
about 1/2 cup greek yogurt
some salt
some oil

Dice up the peppers, (both kinds), celery, tomatillos and scallions, including most of the green parts. Reserve a couple bits of scallion and bell pepper for garnish later, if you like.

Put the diced ingredients in a heavy pan with the oil, ginger, herbs, and a dash of salt, and fry at a moderately high heat until you get some browning in the pan. They'll cook down quite a lot.

Add the stock and boil, covered, until the tomatillos have dissolved. Takes about 20 minutes. Check for salt; if it's real bland add some more, but the stock concentrate I used was pretty salty, so I didn't need any.

Cool it somewhat, then puree the soup with the avocado and greek yogurt. I leave the bumps in everything, but if you wanted a finer texture, you could puree the soup and strain it before adding the avocado and yogurt.

Some things to know: I got this out of a vegetarian cookbook, which called for vegetable stock, and 4 cups of it too. I wanted a more substantial texture and intense flavor, so I cut down the liquid. It also said to chill the soup, but it's pretty tasty warm (I was hungry).

I garnished the soup with another dab of yogurt and some crushed chili paste. And I added a few chunks of avocado in at the end, I need my food to have texture.

I love having time to goof around.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm Asian, Part 2

I remember dad making some stuff like this, also liking an iteration of it while living in Taiwan. It's supposed to be a side dish, I think, but it makes a good snack.

Tofu, whatever style you like most for just eating, cubed

In a small bowl, mix the following, all minced pretty small-

thousand-year-old egg (peedan)
several types of hot pepper, both red and green
green onion, chives are what I had
enough soysauce, vinegar, and sesame oil to cover the other ingredients

muddle everything together and pour over the tofu.

also good in addition or as substitutes are: grated ginger, fresh crushed garlic, chili sauce or sriracha, oyster flavored sauce, char siu, finely minced yellow onion, asian style pickles...

you get the idea.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm Asian! What D'you Want!?!

"If you want to be Chinese, you have to eat the nasty stuff."
So says Chow Yun Fat's character to the neophyte, in the movie The Corruptor. Well, in that case Mr. Chow, I got my bona-fides right here. The thing that divides the white from the yellow is not a line, it's a preserved duck egg. One of these stinky little green and brown babies and you'll have enough gosh-darned authentic chinese kung-fu to whoop the ass out of a whole reel full of John Woo villains. No hair on the chest though. Chinese guys don't do that. I guess we're more closely related to whales and manatees than everyone else.

Moving on.

Sushi rice rolls with some fishy seasoning mix I got at Fubonn, served with fresh young coconut and preserved duck egg, aka "peedan." I do wish I'd had some pickled ginger though.

Take a cup of sushi rice and rinse it well. Drain, add about 1 3/4 c. water back to the pot and cook as you would ordinary rice. When it's done, mix 2 T cider or rice vinegar with a dash of salt and a heaping teaspoon of brown sugar, then toss it gently into the rice using a fork so you don't make the rice grains just turn into mush. Let it cool enough to handle, and roll about a cup in a sheet of toasted nori. Slice the roll with a wet knife (keeps the blade from sticking) and dunk the ends of the rolls in the seasoning mix.

Here's what I used. It's crunchy, fishy, sweet and salty. I am having a hard time not eating it straight out of the can.

Thats about it. I had a hangover yesterday, so I got a young coconut at the grocery store- coconut water has lots of potassium in it. The texture of the coconut meat is kinda weird, a little fleshy or something, but it's got nothing on peedan. I think the ones I got were a bit dehydrated, the yolks should be runny.

But what do they taste like? Um...sulphur? Rubber? Like something somebody dared you to eat? They're chemically cooked in lye... And the package declares, not at all reassuringly, that they are "lead free"- Gosh, I hope so.

And one last reason to love the preserved duck egg: 110% of your daily cholesterol intake.

Um, yes. I know, it's not a John Woo movie. Stupid joke. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Late Summer

Well. This has been a year. I feel like I need to pause and catch my breath. I think my plants do too. Here's my nasturtiums, giving one last shot at blooming. I took the picture through the screen door, I like the texture it gave the image.
These are some of my last strawberries, the plant is looking a bit tired. I will never be a farmer, it's too much work. I couldn't even remember to fertilize things regularly. My tomato plant is still going, as are the putative ground cherries.
This is my late harvest. The little tomatoes are delicious, next year I'm not going to waste space growing these silly tomatillo things. You know why? Cause they taste nasty. I'm going to take a stab at making some green salsa with them, but I have rather dim hopes. I am pretty sure those are the last cukes, and the only eggplant I'm gonna get too. Damn that heat wave, it fried all the blooms off my plants at the height of the blooming season. Well, live and learn. There's still time this year to get in another crop of radishes, if I feel ambitious.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yogurt Cuke Soup

This is a very subtle dish. If the amounts of seasoning seem small, don't be worried. It's important to allow 2-4 hours of sitting time after you make it so that the flavors will have time to blend without loosing the freshness that is such a big part of the appeal.

1 qt yogurt- use greek style. Regular plain yogurt will be much more sour. Fage brand is hands-down the best, but Trader Joe does all right. I made my own using Fage as a starter, but there's no need to go to all that trouble.

1 lb persian, chinese, or pickling type cucumbers. The point is that they should be sweet with tender skins.

1 or 2 regular ol' cukes

1/2 tsp dill- I used dry, and it was just fine. If you use fresh, you may want more.
3 mint leaves, very finely minced
1/2 tsp freshly ground coriander seed

1 small clove garlic
the white part of 1 small green onion, minced a bit.
2 T olive oil- fancy is good here, I like the pepperyness
1 T fresh lemon juice

salt & pepper
toasted walnuts and more green onions for garnish

Put the yogurt in a large bowl with the mint, dill and coriander

Cut the persian cucumbers into little matchsticks and put them in the bowl with the yogurt.


Peel the regular cukes and remove the seeds. Chop into hunks and put them in a blender/processor with the garlic clove, onion, lemon and olive oil. Puree thouroughly. Whether you use one or 2 cukes will depend on how thick you want the soup to be. If you like it thinner, use 2. If you want it more like a dip, use one, and make it be a small one. Add to the yogurt. Salt and pepper to taste.

Top with nuts and green onion bits, if desired, and serve with bread or pita chips. The ones in the picture are sesame flavored.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'll be darned!

Back in May or June, I got antsy and went through the spice rack and took everything I had that was a seed and put it in some dirt. I got 2 crops of coriander, a handful of lentils, and this:

It's a fenugreek plant! That long spiky thing is the seed pod! I read somewhere that fenugreek was a legume, so I thought what the heck, I'll plant some. It doesn't look like any bean that I know of, but oh well. This was another thing that snuck up on me and produced a seed when I wasn't looking. It isn't anything like I would have pictured.

On the other hand, the szechuan peppers I planted were duds. They may have been irradiated or something, but just as likely they were too old. Next year I'm going to grow borage and poppies.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Quick! Bake something before it gets hot again!

Eggplant, specifically. I was inspired by a recipe I saw on Vegan Yum Yum. Now there's a real food blog. But needless to say, for me a day without cheese is a day of unhappiness. So my eggplant rolls are pretty conventional.

Here is them in the pan:

And here is whats in them:

2 medium eggplant
olive oil, salt and pepper
1 cup ricotta
1 cup chopped spinach- I used frozen and should have thawed & drained it. Oh well.
a handful of kalamata olives, chopped. They should be quite salty.
2 eggs
some fresh basil and thyme, minced
a cup or two of marinara sauce, whatever you got.
some grating cheese for the top

Slice the eggplant longwise into pieces about 1/3 inch thick, salt them on both sides and set them aside to sweat for a while. After about half an hour, press them in a clean dishtowel to remove the excess juice, brush them with olive oil and a little pepper and bake on racks at 400 degrees for about another 45 minutes. They should be soft and slightly browned in places, but still hold together well. Think Dr. Scholls gel shoe inserts.

While the eggplant cools, mix everything else but the marinara and grated cheese together. I didn't put any additional salt in the mix because of the olives.

Put a generous dollop of marinara in the bottom of a heavy dish. (My frying pan sees more use as a casserole and pie pan than as a skillet.) Roll a scoop of cheese mix up in each eggplant slice and wedge them into the pan so they don't flop open again, top them with more sauce and the grated cheese. Bake at 375 until the sauce is bubbling all over the pan. It took mine about an hour and a half, but the cheese mix was pretty cold to begin with.

Some things to note- I made my slices a bit thicker than I would if I were to do it again. On the other hand, it made the rolls have a very satisfyingly substantial texture. Custardy with a bit of chew. And do drain the spinach, it makes the cheese mix way too watery otherwise. Also, those "heels" from the outside of the eggplant, the ones with all skin on one side? Make sure you cut shallow cross hatches in the skin side before you bake 'em, otherwise the skin will be a big chunk of annoyingness when you go to eat it. It'll make them roll better too. And finally, if you like your cheese less brown, leave it off for the first half of the baking time.

Have bread and olive oil. Fat is good for you.