Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Steamed Chicken & Chestnuts


Pete & I made this once before, by which I mean, Pete made it while I had a beer or something. It was always one of my favorite dishes that Dad used to cook for his insane chinese Thanksgiving feasts, but of course he used turkey for that. I wish there was a way to make this a little more photogenic, but it really isn't a visually exciting food. Oh well. Makes up for it by being delicious. I think I got in trouble for eating all the chestnuts out of the dish when I was little. This is a small recipe, unlike the banquet-sized version Dad used to make.

1 cup sticky rice, like sushi rice or thai sweet rice. Arborio rice for risotto would probably work too.

1 lb boneless chicken
3 T white wine if you have it, or a small splash of rice or cider vinegar
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 T sesame oil
4 T light soy sauce
a dash of pepper
a little salt

12 fresh chestnuts

If the chicken is fresh, cut it into 1-2" pieces, and mix with the marinade ingredients. Let it sit for a good half hour.

If your chicken is frozen, put it in a covered container with all the marinade ingredients in the fridge until it thaws out. Stir it from time to time, it may take several days. Then cut it into bits. In either case, save the marinade.

Meanwhile, in a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the rice until it is opaque and slightly golden. Keep the pan moving or the rice will cook unevenly. Let it cool enough to handle, then grind it into a coarse powder. A little coffee mill is good for this, but a small food processor works pretty well too. Set the rice powder aside.

Use a very sharp knife to score a hole in each chestnut, then boil them for about 10 minutes. Peel off the tough shell, and the inner skin. It's ok to break the nuts into a couple pieces. Roll each chicken nugget in the crushed rice, then arrange the chestnuts and chicken pieces in a bowl so that they're evenly distributed. Drizzle the reserved marinade over them. Cover the bowl with tinfoil, poke several holes in the foil, and steam the whole business for about an hour, or until the meat reaches 175 degrees.


1. Thighs are very good for this. They take a little more goofing around with than breasts or tenders, but they have much more flavor. Just be sure to trim the excess fat and tendon off, or it will be gristly.
2. If you want to turn the dish out of its cooking bowl in an attempt to make it look fancy, remember to oil the bowl well before filling it. I forgot to do that, and had to squish it back together for the picture.
3. Do use a meat thermometer. I have no idea how Dad knew when this stuff was done back then. I think he probably just cooked the hell out of it and assumed it was ok. 175 is actually hotter than it needs to just be cooked, but you have to leave it in somewhat longer than that for the texture to come out right.
4. Don't be tempted to leave the inner skins on the chestnuts. They have a texture like wet brown paper bags, and are amazingly bitter. If your nuts don't skin easily, make sure they are scored all the way through the shell, and boil them for another minute. Leave them in the hot water and fish them out one at a time as you peel them. The moisture encourages the skins to come off.
5. I forgot that I own a steamer. However, that means that you don't need one either. I got a large pot, put about 2 inches of water in the bottom, dropped in a little bowl, put the chicken dish on top of that, then put the lid on the pot. Simple.

Chestnuts are a weird thing- they are slightly mealy because of their high starch content, and for the same reason, they are slightly sweet once cooked. They have a subtle, floral aroma, and have an almost meaty taste which must explain why they go so well in meat dishes, especially with poultry. Chicken and turkey compliment the nuts without overpowering their unique flavor. Aside from the chestnuts, the other thing that makes this dish interesting is the toasted rice powder. If you were to dredge the chicken in plain flour, or even untoasted crushed rice, the texture would just be gloppy. Toasting the rice gives it a firm but tender mouth feel. The principle is the same as for making risotto, which is why I am assuming arborio rice would work fine for this.

Man I still love this stuff.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wait, what did you say?


When I said I wanted to make one of these, David thought I said I was going to bake a Stalin. So I laughed at him and said yeah, I'm gonna bake a tiny gingerbread dictator. "Five Year Plan", David says, in a silly Russian accent.

I thought it was funny.

Stollen is not bread, it's a yeast-risen cake. It tends to be quite dense, and it has candied fruit in it. I think it is related to panettone, which is another thing I may try to make someday. Right after the lefse.

For the dough:

2 1/2 tsp yeast
2/3 c warm milk
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter
3 cups bread flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of allspice
2 cups mixed dried or candied fruit, cut into little bits

You may also want:

6 oz marzipan

1 oz brandy or rum
1 T butter
lots of powdered sugar

You can proof the yeast in the milk, if you want, but I use instant yeast so I don't bother. I put all the ingredients for the dough except the dried fruit in my bread machine for 20 minutes. After 15 minutes, I put in the dried fruit so it didn't get ground to paste by the beaters.

If you don't use a bread machine, you can do the mixing by hand, just be aware that the dough is extremely sticky. Unlike normal bread dough, this will not form a neat, easily handled ball. It will have a texture more like Jiff peanut butter, but springier.

Let the dough sit until it has doubled in size. Once the dough has risen, gently deflate it a bit then flatten it out on a well oiled cookie sheet. Squish the marzipan into a shape that fits well on slightly less than half the dough, then fold the dough over and pinch it closed around the marzipan. Let it rise until it has nearly doubled in size, then pre-heat the oven to 375. Bake the stollen at 375 for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 300. Bake for another 30-40 minutes.

Remove the stollen from the oven, and pierce the crust thoroughly with a fork or other sharp pokey thing. Put the brandy and butter in a small container and microwave just long enough to melt the butter. Stir or shake to emuslify the mix, then brush over the stollen. Generously coat the loaf with powdered sugar, then cover loosely until cool.


1. I used a combination of candied orange peel, dried cranberries, raisins, and dates in mine. Some people use chopped nuts, too, and some recipes call for mace or cardamom. Feel free to flavor it the way you like it, it's your cake!
2. There is no reason you have to put marzipan in it, or cover it with brandy and sugar. But I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to. (Some people prefer to make a drizzle of icing out of confectioner's sugar, which does make it less messy.) If you do go for powdered sugar and hooch, be very generous with the sugar. Most of it will tamp down into the steam from the warm cake.
3. The loaf will not get very brown. Don't worry, it's not supposed to. Stollen should be moist, not crunchy.
4. It takes a very long time for this dough to rise. The high concentrations of fat and sugar in it inhibit the action of the yeast, so you do need to be patient. This recipe took me nearly 6 hours to make.
5. Ohmigod this is insanely delicious.

Do you remember the first time you ever encountered fruitcake? That rather horrid, soggy, mortar-like confection that never gets eaten but always turns up at christmas?  Wasn't that a great disappointment?  It always had those shiny red and green bits of candied fruit, and smelled alluringly boozy, and tasted like car exhaust and rubbing alcohol. I kept trying to eat it for years, hoping that one day, I would find a fruitcake that tasted as good as it looked.

My search has ended. This cake is tender and rich, delicately sweet, meltingly chewy. There is just enough fruit to make each bite a little different from the last. It has an alluringly boozy aroma all right, cuz dammnit, I put actual booze on my fruitcake. The coating of sugar compacts into a thin, ever so slightly crunchy crust that dissolves almost instantly in your mouth. Glucose euphoria.

Not a Real Pizza


It's round, made of dough, and has cheese melted on it to glue down the other toppings. But I think that this is still not a real pizza, which must have tomato sauce on it. And mozzarella cheese. Everything else is negotiable. But this still looks pretty appealing. I found the recipe in the paper, and it does have many of my favorite things: blue cheese, nuts, fruit. Bread.

8 oz crumbled blue cheese
a dash of cream*
1 apple
a handful of arugula
pinch of minced fresh rosemary
salt & pepper

half a recipe of pizza dough

Pre-heat the oven as hot as it will get without being on broil.

Smash most of the cheese with the cream until you have a thick lumpy sauce. Keep a few crumbs for the top of the pie. Stretch out the dough and spread the sauce on it, slice the apple and arrange a layer over the sauce. Throw on a handful of arugula, the nuts, the rosemary, and the remaining bits of blue cheese. Dash on a tiny bit of salt, and a good amount of pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes.


1. *I didn't have cream, so I mixed a couple tablespoons of dry milk with about 3 tablespoons of water. It was just fine. You could use actual milk too, I guess.
2. The picture shows that I constructed my pie backwards, i.e. with the apples on top of the arugula. It was ok, but I like it when the leaves get crispy and slightly black around the edges, so I would rather have put them on the top.
3. My walnuts were raw and frozen when they went in the oven, which probably helped to keep them from burning up. Burnt arugula is ok with me, burnt nuts are not.
4. The original recipe did not call for arugula, but I think it adds something. The original also called for pre-cooking the crust a bit, which appears unnecessary and fiddly.

It may not be real pizza, but it is real tasty. The apple juices cook out and mix with the cheese to make a sweet-salty topping, the nuts are crunchy and buttery, the rosemary adds a little sharpness to balance the richness of the cheese. It's pretty good for lunch the next day, but straight out of the oven, when it's still hot, crunchy, and chewy, it is amazing.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Birthday Noodles


We had noodles for birthdays when we were little. (There were also crab legs. Different story.) I never thought about it until I was school age, and then it seemed kinda weird. Noodles fell out of favor for a number of years. Eventually nostalgia takes over, and I begin hankering after noodles again. This is a very Chinese-y thing to eat.

Chinese spaghetti sauce:

2 bunches finely chopped green onions
3 large cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 T minced fresh ginger
2 T sesame oil
1/2 cup Master Brand black bean sauce
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup light soy sauce
1 T dark soy sauce

Put the oil, onions, garlic and ginger in a saucepan and saute on medium until the onions are translucent & wilty. Add everything else and stir for about 5 minutes, or until it is pretty thick and the oil starts to break out of the rest of the sauce.

Serve over noodles. Remember to put a fair amount of the noodle boiling water in the bowl. Greens are not traditional, but they taste good and look fancy.

A couple things:

1. I'm usually not particular about what brand  of something I use, but so far, Master Brand bean sauce (sometimes labeled Comrade Brand) is the only brand of bean sauce I've found that tastes like it should. Accept no substitutes.
2. Aren't all those ingredients just different versions of fermented soybeans? Couldn't you use fewer packaged ingredients or something? Probably...but this is easiest. Actually they all do something different. Master sauce is for texture and pungency. Hoisin adds sweetness. Light soy sauce adjusts the thickness of the sauce without diluting it, and dark soy sauce is a little smoky tasting. All of them have loads of fermented amine precursors or whatever it is that umami tastes like.
3. This really ought to have little bits of diced ham in it too, but I'm stingy and I didn't have any of that on hand. You can add 1/2 cup tiny ham cubes to the pan and brown them in a dab of oil before putting in the onions & garlic if you want. Then it will be pretty much exactly like we used to have it when I was a kid.
4. These are buckwheat soba. If you want to be traditional, you can get plain white chinese noodles in most grocery stores. Spaghetti is fine too. Dad used to make the birthday noodles, of course, but that's a whole 'nother thing.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Potato Candy


If your Mom is an old lady from the southeastern states, you have probably eaten this stuff around christmas. It is mouthwringingly sweet, and has a very peculiar texture which is at once chalky and creamy, kind of like fondant. It has peanut butter in it.Yes, it is made with a potato. There are lots of recipes online for it, but I still have no idea what the origin of the recipe could be. It's one of those things where you think about it and go 'Seriously? Who does that?'

1 baked russet potato
2 lbs powdered sugar, more or less
1 tsp vanilla
peanut butter

Peel and mash the potato. Add the vanilla and half the sugar. Mix until smooth, then gradually add more sugar until you have a stiff, rather sticky dough.

Roll the dough out between sheets of waxed paper until it is 1/8" thick, then spread a thin layer of peanut butter on it. Roll the dough up into a rope, then cut it into slices.

That's really it, but there is some stuff that is useful to know:

1. You can microwave the potato, but I think it would be better to actually bake it.
2. That's because you want to have the mashed potato be fairly dry, and also the baking will make a more pronounced potato flavor. It is Potato Candy, after all.
3. Even so, the first few cups of sugar will melt into a soup right away. That's normal. Just keep adding more.
4. Making a drier dough will make it less sticky, but it will be harder to roll out that way.
5. As you roll it out, peel the paper off the dough and rotate it frequently. It will come out smoother that way.
6. Roll slowly and gently. Violent treatment will cause the dough to resist handling.

One of the most interesting characteristics of this stuff is the handling property of the dough whereby it behaves like a solid and breaks into chunks if you cut or twist it, but it will ooze slowly through your fingers if you squeeze it gently. If you've ever played with cornstarch and water, or sand on a beach, the principle is the same. There is some cornstarch in powdered sugar, but that isn't what's making it behave that way.

When you first put the sugar in the mashed potato, the tiny sugar particles rapidly dissolve in the moisture from the potato. Eventually, the small amount of water present will no longer be able to dissolve any more sugar, and the sugar particles will remain intact, suspended in liquid, just like raw cornstarch (which is insoluble) in water. There is some kind of fancy physics explanation for why particles suspended in liquid behave that way, but I don't know what it is. I think it has to do with surface tension, but I could be totally wrong, so don't rely on me about that.

I only make this stuff about once every 4 or 5 years because I have to have forgotten that my sweet tooth is not powerful enough for me to want to eat more than 3 pieces of it. I did have one more incentive this time though: I bought a vintage potato press. It's totally neato. You fill the removable can with cooked potato, crank the handle down, and it instantly extrudes a whole recipe worth of perfectly mashed potato. I doubt it will see much use for potato candy in the future, but I do want to try making lefse. If I get up the nerve, I'll tell you about it.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Spiced Pear Cobbler


This is based on the curried pears that Cynthia's mom makes. The curried pears alone are a great side dish to go with ham or turkey at Thanksgiving, but I don't cook either of those things at my house. Pigs and turkeys are not grown in one-or-2- person sizes. I have cooked game hens like lilliputian turkeys, but that's a whole 'nother thing. Curried pears. Delicious no matter what.


2 or 3 pounds firm ripe pears, mixed varieties if possible
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 lemon
about 1 teaspoon curry powder of your choice
1" cinnamon stick
2 or 3 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon turmeric if you want them more brightly colored
tiny pinch salt

Peel and core the pears. Put them in a saucepan with enough water to cover them, add all the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the pears are tender.

Now decide if you are going to make a cobbler today, or several days from now. If the latter, take the lemons, cinnamon, and cloves out of the pan and refrigerate the pears until you want them. Otherwise, use the following:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 stick butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup oatmeal
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

Use a pastry cutter to bash these things together until the mix is well combined and there aren't any lumps of butter bigger than small peas.

Preheat the oven to 350. Put the pears and the cooking liquid in a casserole dish. Remove the cinnamon and cloves, and the lemons if you haven't already. Dump the dry ingredients on top and poke it down around the pears until it has an unevenly batter-like appearance with a few dry spots on top. Bake until brown and crusty on top.


1. If your pears are cold because you have left your pears in the fridge for 4 or 5 days due to disorganized behavior, like I have, it will take over an hour to bake. If your pears are still warm, it will take rather less time.
2. Leaving the pears in the fridge for days will also make a more homogeneously flavored pear. If you want the pears to have more of a fresh-fruit taste, bake your cobbler immediately.
3. You can use canned pears. I did, the first time I made this, and it was just as tasty. The pears were a little softer maybe, but that was it. Just skip the sugar if you used canned.
4. You will need ice cream.
5. I'm not sure asian pears would be a good idea for this. But that could just be because I don't really like them much. I think they're boring.

For this and the apple pie recipe, I suggest using multiple varieties of apple or pear, because different kinds of fruits have different cooking characteristics. Some varieties will dissolve into mush very quickly, and others hold their shape well. Pears also have those crunchy bits in them, known as stone cells. Some kinds have fewer of these stone cells, or more or less acid in the fruit. Using several types of pears makes a more interesting flavor.

Another thing that's important is that you don't over mix the dry topping with  the pears. If you leave it somewhat uneven, the flour will absorb the liquid as it bakes, creating buttery, poundcakey regions around the chunks of pear and little pockets of sweet curry sauce. Man I wish I had some ice cream right now.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kouign Aman


I've been holding onto this set of recipes I clipped out of the paper for over a year now, because they look so delicious, and never had the guts to try it. The instructions are super complicated, and the pictures are all fancy. The article has this sidebar that says stuff like, 'Don't skip the 3 different resting times!' and 'Make sure the dough is cool, but not too cold!' and 'Don't worry if the first 7nty billion times you try it don't turn out right!' Either I have very low standards, or it isn't nearly as complex as the recipe says.

Use 1/2 recipe of the ubiquitous pizza dough. It's fine, or even better, if it has been sitting in the fridge for rather longer than you like to think about.

Let the dough sit on the counter for about an hour, lightly flour the rolling surface, and roll the dough into a mostly rectangular shape about 11" x 14". Take a stick of butter out of the fridge, and cut about 3 tablespoons worth of very thin shavings off it, and sprinkle them on 2/3 of the dough. Sprinkle a couple pinches of sugar over it.

Fold the un-buttered part of the dough over half the buttered part, then fold it again so all the butter is inside. Roll the dough out until it's about 8 x 12 inches, very lightly sprinkle it with flour and sugar, and fold it in 3 parts again.

Roll it out until it's about 5 x 10 inches, and fold it in 3 parts again. Pinch the sides of the folds together tightly, pat it into a ball, and put it on a pie plate. It'll be about the size of a baseball, but flatter. Sprinkle the outside generously with sugar, and put a bowl over it while you pre-heat the oven to 450. Once the oven is hot, cut 3 slashes in an asterisk shape about 1/3 the way through the dough, and sprinkle with sugar again to cover all the exposed insides of the cuts. Sprinkle a tiny pinch of salt on it. Bake for about 35 minutes.


1. I suspect that leaving the dough until it is way over fermented helps it retain its layered structure. It also tastes more interesting.
2. If you aren't sure, be more generous with the butter. The butter is the main thing that keeps the dough from merging back into one big lump.
3. Use salted butter. And go heavy on the sugar on the outside.
4. If you have time, sure, you can let the dough rest between foldings. It will undoubtedly help create layering, but it's ok if you don't.
5. It will be sitting in a pool of melted butter by the time it's done. That's normal.
6. Eat it hot! It is not nearly as good cold, although it is ok if you toast it again later.

That's kinda it. The first time I tried it, my dough was about 10 days old, and it rose a lot less in the oven. On the other hand, the layers were more distinct. The second time, it was more bready, but still quite tasty. I think I squashed the dough a little too hard, and it merged the layers back together. But so what? I gather that these things were invented as a way to use up scraps of dough, so I think that having the process be somewhat approximate stays true to the original intent of just preventing waste. The name is some weird french dialect; it means Queen Anne. The shape of the bread is supposed to resemble a little crown.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Apple Pie



 I went to the apple festival at Portland Nursery the other weekend and bought 23 pounds of apples. I made a pie for my birthday. I have never been a big fan of apple pie. I prefer almost any kind of pie better than apple, to tell the truth. But, apples are what I have, and since I don't own a mixer that would enable me to make my favorite apple walnut cake, a pie it was.

My pie turned out so well that I started wondering why I thought I don't like apple pie. I do like apple pie, if it is good pie: the problem is that the world is full of middling-to-bleh apple pies. Store bought pie is almost invariably tough in the crust, which is a major strike against it. They are also horribly sweet, which is strike two. The coup de gras is usually the fact that the 'apples' in said pies are not generally recognizable as such. They are an evil combination of mushy and fibrous. There is neither taste nor aroma to indicate appleness. There is goo, and not in a good way.

This is a better pie.

Use this crust recipe. You can use part whole wheat if you like the texture, or all white if you prefer. I did all white to keep it simple.


2 lbs mixed apples. I got several kinds, I don't remember what, but they were mostly firm and tart.
about 1/2 cup sugar
a pinch each of freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon
2 cloves, ground
a dab of butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Begin to peel, core and chop the apples. As you are chopping them up, drop them into a medium-hot saucepan with the the butter. Keep adding apples as you peel, and stir in the sugar about halfway through the apples. Add the spices. Stir just enough to prevent the apples from browning very much. When you get to the end of the apples, some of them will be coming apart and some of them will be barely cooked. This is a good thing. Stir in the vanilla. Cover the pan and remove from heat while you roll out the bottom crust and arrange it in a 9" pan. Pour in the filling, top it with the other half of the pastry, and bake at 350 for about an hour or until the crust is as brown as you like it, that is, until you loose your patience and have to eat your pie right NOW.


1. Apples are about the perfect pie fruit, apparently.
2. This is because they have a large amount of pectin in them.
3. Which is important, because pectin has the curious property of gelling up when cooked with both sugar and acid.
4. That means that it's important to put at least a little sugar in the filling as you cook it, especially if the apples are tart. Not enough sugar means the pectin won't thicken properly.
5. It also means that you should cook the apples first, because if you just put the raw apples in the crust, the pastry will burn before the apples are cooked on the inside, and the apples have to cook in order to activate the pectin.

What is pectin anyway? The Wikipedia page has way more technical stuff than I want to know, but the gist of it seems to be that pectin is a kind of dietary fiber found in fruits. People use it for a lot of things, most notably in making jam, because soft fruits like berries contain little pectin and will therefore make a very thin, soupy jam without adding some in.

My pie didn't last very long. It was tart and crispy edged when it was hot out of the oven, and it was sweeter and melty crusted for breakfast and lunch the next day. There was no goo. The apples cooked into a pleasant combination of firm fruity bits and sauce, with just enough spice to snazz it up.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chestnuts, or, Dude, you are so Asian


I found a chestnut tree! The kind that makes nuts you can eat! The other day I spent an hour stomping nut jackets in the  gutter outside somebody I don't know's house! It didn't seem like nearly such a dodgy behavior at the time; I think my roots were showing. My crazy chinese roots, that is. In my defense, urban foraging is a very Portland thing to do. At least scrounging a bagful of fallen chestnuts on a shiny October morning is not like scrubbing around in the grass on your hands and knees looking for ginko nuts that smell like poo in the dark and the rain.

Plus, everybody knows that chestnuts are a thing you eat, providing that you get the kind that are edible. So how do you tell the difference? Wikipedia of course! But really, it's easy to tell. The edible kind is on the left. They have zebra stripes that go from top to bottom, and a little fuzzy tassel on the end. The tassel can get broken off, so the important part is the stripes.

wood grain = wouldn't eat that

Stripes = sounds tasty to me.

The ones that you can't eat are on the right. See how they have this subtle wood grain pattern? Also, no tassel. Not even a place where the tassel would be. Smooth as a baby's butt. Those are the kind called horse chestnuts. The jackets also look quite different. Horse chestnuts look like the head of a mace, with just a few big points on them. Sweet chestnuts look like a little green hedgehog. They have a dense covering of amazingly prickly spines, which is why you stomp them gently to get the nuts out. Wear stout shoes, and be careful not to bounce one up onto your ankle. Gloves would be a good idea too.

AKA 'conkers'
imagine if that fell on you.

Chestnuts are unusually low in fat and high in water and starch for nuts, making them vulnerable to dehydration and mildew. Unless you are going to eat them right away, you should freeze them. I put them in ziploc bags.  Later, I'll investigate some recipes.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Go with the mojo

Ce n'est pas une jupe

Sometimes, I don't feel like making anything. Those are the times when my house gets cleaned. This has not been one of those moments. My house is now slightly destroyed, but today I made some drawer dividers to keep my skivvies organized and a blue fleece top which reminds me of cookie monster, and yesterday I made these pants. I'm not just having a Magritte moment, they really are a pair of shorts.

Here's to you, Mr. Akin
See? Neat, huh? I found the instructions over at this neat lady's blog, and thought they would be really useful. They are super comfy once they're on, but I only had a 4"  zipper rather than a 6" one that would be a more appropriate length, so they are a little hard to get in and out of.

But that's ok! They are navy blue, so maybe I can get away with wearing them to my stupid job, and they look good with knee socks, which I realized I have way too many of when I organized my drawers, and they have pockets.

Also, I did not buy one thing to make all this stuff. Hooray for using up the stash!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's a Sweater


With a long floppy cowl neck. I started knitting again last month, and it has sort of taken over my life. I have become a Chick Who Knits On The Bus. People including a very old lady coming from the airport, a lady who spoke very little english, and a buffed up dude with a bunch of neck tattoos ask to see what I'm doing. They were all quite polite. I just don't know how I feel about suddenly having become a person who looks like they could be approached by strangers. Maybe if I knit in smaller gauges, the effort will make me scowl more. But maybe not. I tend to stare off into a middle distance while I knit.

In any case, I think I'll just resign myself. I spend up to an hour and a half on public transit per day, and whereas before, this was all wasted time, suddenly the bus ride is bonus crafty time. I now have a very nice sweater, and a pair of experimental knee socks that are too itchy to wear.

More socks are forthcoming. I'm sure the popularity of sock knitting has a lot to do with the fact that even the most ambitious sock project stays at a convenient size for schlepping around. As a side note, the yarn for the last two projects came from goodwill. The stuff for the sweater is very high quality, and was a joy to work with. It's all squishy and bouncy, and has a satiny kind of finish. I shudder to think what it would have cost if I'd bought it new. The socks are another story. The yarn seemed like it was all right to begin with, but once it was made up, it was just terribly uncomfortable.

The lesson is that high quality yarn is the only way to go if you actually want to use the things you make. It is particularly annoying to spend all that time and effort making something and then have it turn out to be intolerable once you put it on. Maybe some children of my acquaintance will want a pair of christmas stockings.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Oh Banana Bread!


Why are you so delicious? Why is it so hard not to eat you with a spoon right out of the oven?

Why banana 'bread'? It isn't even legitimately bread, it's CAKE, damnit. And why is it so hard to get a loaf of banana bread out of a non-stick pan? I am champing with impatience to eat this thing right now, and it's too hot, and it won't come unstuck, and all I can do is put a picture on the internet so that at least everyone else can share my suffering.

3/4 c sugar
5 T softened butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 c very ripe bananas (that was 3 medium sized ones for me)
1/2 c greek yogurt
1tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c chopped toasted walnuts

 Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Put all the moist ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whip the bajeebus out of them. Add the sugar and salt, whip again. Sift in the flour and soda, mix until smooth, mix in the nuts, then pour into a loaf pan. Bake for 1 hr 20 min. Seriously, it's that easy.

But there are some things that are useful to know:

1. Start with the eggs and bananas at room temperature. Makes the bread poofier. If your eggs and or bananas are cold, stick them in a bowl of hot tap water for about 10 minutes.

2. No, you don't have to put in the nuts. But if you do, it is important to toast them first, they have much more flavor that way,.

3. Learn from my mistake and line the pan with waxed paper. Oil the pan, put in the paper, oil and flour the paper, then pour in the batter.The paper keeps the bread from touching the pan. No touching = no sticking.  Oiling the pan keeps the paper from scooting around. Oiling & flouring the paper makes it possible to get the paper off the bread when you want to eat it.

4. There is a handful of crumb topping on it. Take roughly equal parts of flour, sugar(either brown or white), oatmeal and butter. Ok, be a little generous with the butter. Add a teaspoon of baking powder for every 3 cups of crisp. Smash everything into pea-sized morsels, then freeze it until you want to use it.

The original recipe I found on the Betty Crocker website called for nearly twice as much butter and sugar, and uses buttermilk instead of yogurt. I never have buttermilk, but yogurt is pretty much the same. As I've written it above, this bread is not as heavy and gummy as many recipes I've tried, and the banana favor isn't overwhelmed by sugar. Yes, I gave up waiting for the thing to come un-glued from its pan. At least I used a knife to cut out a piece, not a spoon.Well, two pieces. For now.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mushroom & Spinach Pockets with Walnuts


I was going to make a pizza, but then I discovered that both my cheese & my sauce had grown hoary-bearded with age. I came up with this because several of the key ingredients are things I keep in the freezer, and are consequently unlikely to spoil. I was thinking of Pete's Kalezones*, but since I had no kale, I added nuts for texture.

1 recipe of the pizza dough I use for everything

8 oz mushrooms, chopped
8 oz chopped frozen spinach
1 large onion, diced
1 or 2 garlic cloves, crushed
a tomato (Optional. It was in the fridge, and I wanted it gone.)
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
1 teaspoon each of minced fresh rosemary & oregano
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
salt & pepper
oil for frying

Pre-heat the oven to 450.

If your dough is in the fridge, get it out and let it start warming up.

Put a little oil in a heavy bottomed 3 or 4 quart saucepan. Saute the onions, garlic, herbs, and mushrooms until they are fairly dry and are starting to brown. Add the spinach and tomato, continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid from the spinach is pretty much gone. Remove from the heat and let cool enough to stir in the nuts & cheese without melting the cheese. Salt & pepper to taste.

Cut the dough into 8 pieces, roll them out, and fold a scoop of filling into each one. Seal with a fork, and slash a hole in the top so they don't blow up in the oven.

Bake for about 23 minutes.


1. Parmesan is pretty salty. Definitely you will want to hold off on the salt until after the cheese is in the filling to see if you want more.

2. On the other hand, it needs a good amount of pepper. Go ahead and put that in any time, actually.

3. Who the hell ever just has one tablespoon of tomato paste lying around? Not me. I divide up a can into blobs and freeze them. Then I can just pull one out of the tupperware when I want it.

4. Incidentally, I also keep walnuts in the freezer. Keeps the %*$$! meal moths at bay.

5. Don't knead the dough before using it. Just cut it up and flatten it out, or it will be too rubbery to deal with.

I got these done at about 10 pm last night, but they sure are good for breakfast. The dough is pretty chewy, and holds up well to the slightly chunky texture of the filling. They would probably taste good with hazelnuts too, but if you do that, I'd recommend toasting the nuts first.

* I thought I'd written a post about Pete's recipe for kale & cheese calzones, but now I can't find it. The procedure is roughly the same as this, but the filling is composed of kale and onions, with plenty of ricotta and some mozzarella, I think. What on earth happened to that recipe?...


Friday, August 24, 2012

Secret Ingredient Gazpacho


1 can whole tomatoes in juice
about 3lb fresh tomatoes
1/2 medium onion
1 clove fresh garlic
1 large green jalapeno pepper, seeds & ribs removed
1 whole red pepper
2 cucumbers
1/2 yellow pepper
1/2 green pepper
1/2 tsp roasted garlic chips
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
juice of 1 lime
juice of 1 lemon

2 tsp minced fresh tarragon
2 tsp minced fresh mint
1 T minced fresh thyme
3 T minced fresh parsley
1 tsp black pepper

some salt

1 T Secret Ingredient!*

This makes around a gallon of soup. In a blender, puree all the tomatoes, the onion, the jalapeno, the garlic, one of the cukes, and 1/2 of the red bell pepper, along with the spices & juice.

Mince the herbs by hand or they will turn onto green mush and discolor the soup. Dice the remaining cucumber and bell peppers, and stir everything together.

* This is where the secret ingredient comes in.

Add only about 2/3 the amount of salt you want, and then add either 1 tablespoon of thai fish sauce or 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce. If you use soy, it has to say it's dark soy sauce, or it won't be the right kind.

Since both dark soy and fish sauce are basically liquid salt, why not just use salt? Because even though tomatoes, garlic & onions taste delicious together, they do not have that special, mouth filling, savory taste unless they are cooked. By definition, gazpacho is not cooked. Even cheating a bit with a can of tomatoes doesn't quite do it. Therefore, you need something rotten, or at least, powerfully fermented. Either sauce will perfectly round out the flavor of the soup.

The difference between soy & fish is subtle; personally I like the soy better, except for the fact that it does change the color of the soup slightly. Fish sauce keeps the appearance of the gazpacho the same, but I think it's a little less fruity or something. It's your call. If you can't decide, you can do what I did and add about 1 drop of either secret ingredient to individual servings to perform a taste test before flavoring the whole batch.

I like to eat mine with avocado and a dab of yogurt, because why leave well enough alone?

Saturday, August 18, 2012



This thing is also called a German pancake, but it is more fun to say "Honey, do you want to eat a Dutch Baby for breakfast tomorrow?"

The recipe for the pancake is exactly the same as the one found here, (except that I always use salted butter) but there are a couple things I think are useful to know, namely that

1. It does make a big difference to use eggs & milk at room temperature. They poof much less when cold.

2. Make sure the oven is fully pre-heated, then make up the batter. It is too easy to get impatient and ravenous and put the batter in the oven before it's hot enough.

3. Freshly grated nutmeg & cinnamon.

4. Heat the skillet on the stove top, not in the oven. Otherwise you will get it smoking hot and the butter will scorch and it will not taste good.

5. NO PEEKING! If you open the oven even once, the thing will go all flat and never recover, but it will taste good anyway.

This recipe, cooked in a 10" frying pan is exactly the right amount of breakfast for 2 modestly sized, moderately hungry adults. I skipped the orange sugar recommended in the original recipe, and went with jam and greek yogurt on one piece and maple syrup and super-dark chocolate on the other. Break the chocolate into bites and poke them into the hot pancake to get melty before slopping on the syrup.

In the middle of the winter, I'm going to break down and cook one of these in bacon drippings.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I made a skirt


It is a perfectly normal skirt. There are some things I like about it. I made it very quickly, like in less than a week. That's unusual for a thing I draft a pattern for. It only took about 2/3 of a yard of scrap fabric. It's sorta stylish at the moment.

On the other hand I think it just looks a little stupid. The pleats in the front are very popular right now, and I have never thought they were a good idea. I was right, they are not. They bulge out at the wrong places when you walk. And it is far too short. That's what I get for trying to use up my stash fabrics. 2/3 of a yard is just 2/3 of a yard no matter how you cut it. What I wanted was a practical skirt that I would be able to ride my bike in. Instead I have this trendy little number I feel rather ambivalent about. I don't know if I would want to wear it to the office, and I'm not much of a miniskirt girl the rest of the time.

The most practical thing about this skirt is that I put pockets in the side seams. I think the front pleats are silly, but they do make it possible to keep stuff in the pockets. In the pictures, I'm carrying my wallet & my phone and they don't make the front of the skirt have curious square knobs over my hips.

Over all I am satisfied with it, because instead of abandoning it in disgust when I realized it was not going to turn out as I had envisioned, I finished it up anyway, on the principle that it is better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wheeeeee Vacation!

But I want to show you some things I made recently before I go kiting off.

Item: octopus shaped dress.

Items: a gaggle of tiny aliens.

First day of vacation breakfast: Fried-egg salads & baguettes for 2.

There are more pictures of these gadgets on my flickr stream.

Later today: Beer Festival!

Friday, July 13, 2012



I came home today and there was a bag left at my door in my building, which made me alarmed, because it's a locked building, and I don't know anybody who should be leaving things propped in lumpy bags at my door, but then I saw the tag.

I have received a present from the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation!! It was a present I had asked for, but I had stopped expecting it because they sent me their mailer about 2 months ago. There was a questionnaire about what I do to get around town, and the leaflet said that if I mailed back the envelope with my preferences checked off they would send me some free loot. So I asked for all the stuff I thought sounded neat. The envelope was postage paid, so why not? Then I forgot about it after a while.

But but but! They actually did send it after all, and there are lots of nifty things in the nice blue bag, including a little digital pedometer that I just dropped off the balcony. Excuse me while I go root around in the grass.

(Imagine a time lapse.)

But what else is in there? A calendar, slightly tardy. (It's for this year.) A bunch of pamphlets about all things bicycle, TriMet, & pedestrian related, 2 different Portland street maps (the one specifically for bikes is especially good but the one of NE has more detail), a book of cupons for eastside neighborhoods (lots of free coffee!), a shopping list notepad/refrigerator magnet (idiotic, but still neato), pamphlets explaining Oregon bicycle laws, helmet laws, and pedestrian laws, a flyer with a list of community gardens and pools, 
a shiny reflective pants-leg band (shiny), and a Portland bike map bandanna! Yes, an actual bandanna, that is printed with a useable map of the bike lanes in Portland. I love this dorky town.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Home made Gnocchi

3/4 cup flour
1 medium sized russet potato
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh herbs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Poke a few holes in the potato, then microwave it for about 5 minutes, or until it's quite soft. While the potato is still hot, break it open and scoop the insides out. Let the  potato cool enough to handle, then press it through a wire sieve. Toss the potato crumbs with the rest of the ingredients, then gently knead everything together. You don't need to work it very much, just until the dough comes together into a reasonably smooth ball. Squeeze or roll the dough out into a rope about 1/2 inch thick and twist off little balls. Set the balls aside until you have a large pot of salted water boiling. Dump in the gnocchi and wait for the water to return to boiling. Reduce the heat to a medium simmer, then wait until the gnocchi flip themselves over and they feel slightly bouncy against a spoon, about 3-5 minutes. Drain and serve immediately with your favorite sauce, they are nowhere near as good the next day.

Some thoughts:

1. Pressing the potato through the sieve is really pretty brilliant. What happens is that the cooked potato cells get separated into uniformly small particles without the starches inside them being turned into a heavy glob of paste, which in turn allows the potato to combine very evenly with the dry ingredients. The recipe I read suggested it and I thought well, I might as well give it a shot. Good call.

2. Add more herbs and maybe a little more salt? Depends on how you like them, and what you're serving them with. You can serve them in broth, like mini matzo balls, in which case go lighter on the seasonings. If you're doing a sauce with more flavor, you might want to punch them up a bit or they will get lost.

3. Gnocchi are dumplings, so think about what texture you like your dumplings to have. Lighter, fluffier? This recipe will do it. Firmer, chewier? Leave out the baking powder and chill them slightly before cooking.

4. In any case, don't over-boil them. Gooshy is not the same thing as tender.

5. Traditionally, you're supposed to roll each gnocchi under the tines of a fork to create ridges for the sauce to stick in. Pain in the ass. By twisting off the dough bits, the twisted surfaces of each one will remain slightly shaggy, which amounts to the same thing with less fuss.

6. Don't be tempted to make them much bigger. If you make them too big, you will have to cook them until the outsides fall apart before the centers are done. The potato dough has subtle and delicious qualities, but the drawback is that it does not have as much structural integrity as an all-flour dumpling, or one with egg as a binder.

7. What's that business about 'flip themselves over' mean? Well, as they cook, starches expand and become less dense, also, steam accumulates inside the part of the dumpling that is underwater. Eventually, enough of the dough will be affected by the heat to reverse the buoyancy of the dumpling mass, and the lighter, i.e. more cooked, part of the dough will roll upwards to the surface. Neato!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spiced Cream Cakes with Strawberries


Strawberry shortcake is the most photogenic food. It's all pink and white and fluffy, and there are these berries, and these poofs of cream, and there is this crunchy sugar top. It just looks yummy. It helps that it really is every bit as good to eat as it is to look at. I love strawberry shortcake, it was the ultimate dessert when I was a kid. This recipe was not brought on by a sense of boredom with the original, I just became enamored of the smell of indian spice mixes.Technically these are not shortcakes, 'shortcake' being an abbreviation of 'shortening cake', meaning a cake made with shortening. There isn't any shortening per se in these things, the recipe calls for a great deal of heavy cream instead, but everybody knows what you mean when you say Strawberry Shortcake: a rich, lightly sweetened, somewhat dense but tender cookie/biscuit thing with gobs of strawberries with some type of cream thing, usually either iced or whipped, if not both.

Masala Spices

Mix 1/2 teaspoon each of:
black pepper

and 1/4 teaspoon each of:
star anise or anise seed

Cream Cakes

2 teaspoons masala spice mix
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl, and put about a half cup of sugar in another. Set those aside.

In a small dry saucepan, toast the spices for a minute or two at medium-low heat. They will smoke a bit, but you don't want them to do more than change color very slightly. Dump them into a large mixing bowl and shake them around to stop the cooking, or they will get burnt.

Sift all the dry ingredients together into the mixing bowl. Gently stir in the cream, then knead lightly just until the dough comes together in a ball.  Divide the dough into 12 balls. Dip the top of each ball into the butter, then the sugar. Put the balls on a cookie sheet sugar side up. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Cool the cakes, then serve with your favorite decorations.


1.The original recipe (from Rustic Fruit Desserts) said to divide the dough into 8 pieces. I think making them smaller would be better. You can always eat 2 small cakes if you want them, but it is somehow much less satisfying to eat part of a larger cake, even if that is all you want.

2. Next time, I might make these in cupcake tins, with cupcake papers and stuff. Besides looking cute, it would keep the cakes more ball shaped. This would allow me to cook the outsides a little crunchier without drying out the insides too much.

3. I might also use a coarser sugar. More texture than regular old table sugar.

4. You have to use salted butter on the outsides! Otherwise they will just be bland.

5. The measurements given for the spice mix assume that the spices are already ground when you measure them. Spices bought ground up are fine, but I like to do my own. Nutmeg in particular is much  more flavorful if it's freshly ground.

These remind me of gingerbread, but are just slightly more exotic. Garam Masala is used in meat dishes usually, but it is largely composed of things western cooking uses for sweets, with the addition of black pepper and coriander which gives gives the flavor a hotter, earthier punch. I would eat these cakes with any berries, or poached pears or apples, or grilled peaches with walnuts and mascapone, or fresh figs, or greek yogurt, or nothing at all. It's all about the crunchy top. That part is really good.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Now THAT'S a strange thing...


I got this terribly poorly edited Indian cookbook, which had a picture of this gorgeous looking dessert in it. Probably the picture had something to do with my buying the damn book, I've had mixed experiences with it so far. I finally made this recipe, and it is even more bizarre than I had hoped.

There's a fairly normal layer of whipped cream on top, but the red stuff underneath is mighty strange. It's made with basil seeds. They aren't naturaly that color, that's just food coloring, which looks better than their natural cloudy brownish gray.

Put 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add 1 teaspoon of basil seeds, a drop of food coloring, and 1/2 teaspoon of orange extract. Remove from heat and admire the swelling of the seeds. Chill, and top with a bit of whipped cream.

Basil seed are really neat, because they have a large amount of water soluble fiber in their husks. That's the stuff that food nutrition labels call 'dietary fiber', I think. In any case, when you put them in water, they instantly start to expand by an order of magnitude. You can actually see them swelling up. The seeds start out black and shiny, and as soon as they hit the water they develop a pearly gray coating that expands and becomes more gelatinous and transparent over the next half hour or so. If you've ever seen chia seeds in the natural foods section of the grocery store, those will do exactly the same thing. You can buy Kombucha with chia floating around in it, it looks polkadotted. Or like a bottle of tiny frog eggs.

But what on earth do they taste like?!?

Not much, to tell the truth. If you chew the seeds, they have a very faintly grassy flavor. It's more about texture. If you like those tapioca things in bubble tea you might enjoy this, but you might not. If you bite tapioca, it's all jelly. These seeds have a little crunchy middle. It's quite distinctive. You notice this is a very small recipe- I don't think anybody will want to eat more than a few spoonfuls of it. It would make some really badass Halloween shots with a kick of tequila, but that's about the only reason I can think of to do it again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Skunk Works


I said I'd bring an experimental cake to family dinner. Pete said "skunk works dessert is fine by me." It had a familiar sound to it, but I still had to look it up, and then I was all tickled by the idea of Skunk Works Cake. No advanced physics knowledge is required, but the original recipe did ask for a pound of quark.

Skunk Works Lemon Yogurt Cake

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp lemon zest, minced
2 T sugar
7 T butter
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like aquarium gravel. Beat the egg well, and gently toss it in with the dry mix, then fold it all together until it forms a cohesive mass. Flatten it into a pancake about an inch thick, wrap it in wax paper and refrigerate it until you do the other parts.

3 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
7 T butter (yes! again!), softened
6 oz heavy cream
17 oz (500g) greek style yogurt
1 tsp lemon zest, 
1 1/2 T cornstarch
pinch of salt
3 egg whites

You need a springform pan for this.

Pre-heat the oven to 325

Whisk the yolks, vanilla, and sugar together until they become light colored and creamy looking. Whisk in the butter, then the cream. Mix in the yogurt, salt, cornstarch and lemon zest.

Roll out the crust, and lay it in the pan. Try to make sure the pastry goes all the way down into the corner where the sides meet the bottom.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then fold them into the batter. Fill the shell and bake for around an hour and a half.

Serve cool. Eat with strawberries, and your favorite people.


1. I don't have an electric mixer. I do have an excellent wire whisk, which does a good job on all that fluffing that is necessary for good cake. I also now have a sore triceps. And a sore thing-that-attaches-your-scapula-to-your-ribs-in-the-back.
2. When rolling out that crust, don't worry if it splits into crazy shapes. Just get it evenly flat, then piece it back together in the pan.
3. My oven. Oh my stupid oven. I have no idea if the cooking time I've stated will be correct for you. Start by baking it for an hour, and if the batter still looks quite pale and has not poofed up at all in the middle of the pan, check back in 15 minute intervals. It's done when it has fully inflated and is looking just slightly darkened.
4. When you put it in the crust, the batter will only fill about about 2/3 of the pan. This is fine, the egg whites make it like a souffle; it will expand a lot.
5. Which means that you should make sure that the crust comes up all the way to the top of the pan.

So, it's basically just a cheesecake, right? Yup. I guess in Germany they make a very thick, over-condensed version of yogurt and call it quark. After reading about quark, I figured that I could use that batch of yogurt that I let get too strong in this recipe. 'Quarkkuchen' sounds like a pretty cool thing to eat, huh? But other than as a means of using up unsatisfactory yogurt, is it worth doing again? Yes indeedy.

I love the texture of baked cheesecake, but they are awfully rich. I like the relative lightness of no-bake cheesecake, but the texture is a bit gloppy and the high concentration of lemon juice usually used to set them makes the flavor pretty unsubtle. I wanted something in between, and I think this fits the bill. It seems to be related to the fallen souffle cake I made a long time ago, in that the inflation during cooking is not a feature to be desired in itself so much as it is a way to know if the thing is done or not- this cake deflates rapidly when it's out of the oven. The texture is very light, almost delicate, even when it has gotten completely cold. The lemony flavor is brought out by the tartness of the yogurt, but unlike in a no-bake cake, the lemon doesn't overpower everything else.

This recipe is the perfect size for dessert at family dinner, with a small slice leftover for me to eat for breakfast.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ooo OO! I made bagels!


Start with the pizza dough formula, and add a heaping tablespoon of dark brown sugar. Knead it well and let it rise at room temperature for about an hour and a half, until the air will whoosh out of it when you poke it. Don't knead it, just deflate it.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 and bring one or two large pans of water to a boil. Start squeezing the air out of the dough the way you would if you had hand washed a cashmere sweater: firmly, working in one direction, with no twisting. You'll feel the air popping out like bubble wrap. The dough will work out into a long rope, and when it's about 3/4" thick, wrap the end around your hand and pinch/tear the dough into a loop.

Set them on a floured surface for about 10 minutes, then slip them into the boiling water. Don't crowd too many in a pan, they should float freely. Boil them for about 3 or 4 minutes, gently flipping them over from time to time. Fish them out by sticking a chopstick through their holes, arrange them on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

You have no idea how exciting I find this. I am starting to feel like a real baker, not, you know, a person who shambles through recipes and then quietly eats the evidence later.

These are easy. They have to be, for me to get excited about them. There are several steps, but none of them are complicated. Here are some tips though:

1. Don't worry if the dough rings are lumpy. As they rise, they smooth out a lot. Dough does that.
2. Don't stretch the dough very much when making the rings, or the holes in the middles will close up. It's gotta have a hole to be a bagel.
3. Do put sprinkles on them. I used roasted garlic chips, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and salt. I wish I'd had some caraway seed, but that can happen next time. Slop some seeds and stuff on them just before they go in the oven, they're quite sticky when they come out of the water.
4. Traditionally, bagels are small. This recipe makes about 10 bagels.
5. I put a light shake of coarse cornmeal on the pan. This helps to prevent sticking.


I was so geeked out about these that I immediately jumped on my new bicycle and went to the store for some stinky fish, cream cheese and capers. Ok, so partly I was looking for a reason to ride my new bike, but whatever.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cheap Grub


Last year or so I was talking about how most green leafy vegetables come in strangely large units. Cabbage, napa, collards, that stuff. Kale seems to be the exception to the rule, at least lately. I go to Fred Meyer and they're asking a buck-fifty for like, 6 meager leaves. Pfffft! That's maybe a serving? Ridiculous. Back to Trader Joe's. A big bag of kale there is about $2, and it's ready to go in the pot when it gets home. This soup is unremarkable looking, but it's tasty as well as cheap, and you only need one big pot to cook it.

Kale and Sausage Soup with Lentils and Things

1 italian sausage link, mild or hot- about 1/4 lb
1 onion
1 clove garlic
6 or 8 mushrooms
2 tsp broth concentrate
2 T tomato paste
1/4 cup brown, black, or green lentils
water, of course
2 carrots
1/2 bag of kale
salt & pepper

Use a 4 or 5 quart sauce pan with a fairly heavy bottom. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in it, and put in the sausage to brown. Meanwhile, dice the onion & mushrooms. Add the onions and mushrooms to the pot and stir them around. As the onions brown, start cutting little bits off the sausage. This will make the sausage into unevenly sized lumps, from little tiny grains to maybe half-inch chunks. When the sausage is browned, crush in a clove of garlic. Fry the garlic just until it is barely browned then add about 6  cups of water, the tomato paste, broth concentrate, and the lentils. Stir until the tomato paste is dissolved, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover, and leave it alone for about 45 minutes. Peel and chop the carrots, then add them and the kale to the pot. You may need to add a little more water, due to evaporation. Cover the pot again and cook for another 45 minutes or so, until the kale is tender. It takes a long time. Taste for salt and pepper, serve with a dollop of greek yogurt if you feel indulgent.


1. Yes, this recipe takes at least a good 2 hours. It's soup. Proper soup often takes a long time to develop flavors.
2. You could just squeeze the guts out of the sausage link instead of dinking around with it in the pan. But I happened to want the extra texture from the bits of sausage casing. Kale is very assertive, it needs plenty of assertive, bumpy, things to go with it.
3. Kale also cooks down quite a lot. Let it wilt into the soup pretty well before adding any additional water during the second half of cooking, or you may get an inaccurate idea of how much water you need to put in.
4. This soup needs a good bit of salt. The long cooking time causes the vegetables to become quite sweet, and the tomato paste adds plenty of sugar also. If you don't salt it, it will be very disappointing.
5. Likewise, do not use sweet italian sausage. It usually has too much fennel, and will not give the peppery kick the soup needs.
6. Brown, green, and black lentils hold their shape well when they're boiled. If you just want to thicken the soup, use red lentils, which dissolve rapidly during cooking. I used green ones, incidentally.

You need some nice crusty rolls with this, I think.