Farewell (for now?) September 19, 2012 2 Comments
I know this blog is just my tiny (super tiny) part of the internet so announcing things like “I’m leaving” seem kind of silly. Bu, i’ve decided to take an indefinite hiatus from my recipe blog. Writing a post here is at least a way for me to have a one person goodbye party.
The long story short is I started this recipe blog as a simple way of learning to cook after I graduated college. I’m still not so far from those days but things feel different, I’m still not the best baker but I think I’ve learned how to make a killer baguette and create up a pretty interesting meal based on my pantry. This blog made me love Mark Bittman, spices, off the beaten path grocery stores, and cooking my own beans. I’m super happy in my days of post-collegiate unemployment I started writing this blog not only because it gave me a literal activity to fill my recession generation angst but it made me think about food in a new way. I still think about food differently each day! So thank you, silly pet project blog, I will always have a special fondness for you.
The truth is there are other pet projects filling my life now instead like learning new things, writing on everything not just recipes, traveling as much as I can on a shoestring, reading more, walking more, spending time doing nothing, spending time doing a million things, hatching plans to sew elaborate projects I will never finish, and dreaming of the dogs of the future I will own in the fake-me future. And in the process I wake up and go to work everyday just like everyone else. So this blog somehow moved from the “fun! a project!” side of my life into the “blargh, an obligation” side. I don’t want to keep a food blog because I feel like I have to most of all it won’t be any fun to read. If I ever feel it moving back into the fun side, I might just started again.
Tandoori Style Chicken Drumsticks with Spinach in Yogurt August 19, 2012 No Comments
I made a deal with myself about food blogging. It goes like this: I will not blog everything I make just because I can and I will not recommend anything I create based on the sole reason that I made it. A blogger code of ethics if you will. This deal means that the recipes I write about will hopefully come from real recommendation, not just so that I can provide filler content to keep my blog a truckin’. I’ll be honest, it gets hard sometimes when I’m not posting like a mad woman. I feel a like I’m neglecting something, or dare I say, a bad blogger? Good thing I try not to take this food blogging so seriously these days.
This does mean that the everyday dishes aren’t often written about simply because they turn out as good things to eat, either fast or meditative in preparation, just another part of my daily life. But when a regular everyday recipe sticks with me, making rounds week in and week out, I start jotting down the adjustments and notes in my low-tech mole skin notebook, knowing then that I feel inspired to write. Tandoori style chicken drumsticks are exactly that kind of everyday recipe turned noteworthy by the perfection of repetition. The recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen recipe. I’ve made DIY versions of tandoori style chicken with a free-styled yogurt marinade many times before. Yet what struck me as genius about this recipe was the instruction to only add the yogurt prior to cooking, cutting down time, but keeping the flavor intact. This small step improved the tang and juiciness of the chicken. The technique of browning the chicken parts under broiler for the last bit of cooking added that much needed char reminiscent of real tandoori cooked chicken.
These moist and deeply flavored tandoori-style chicken drumsticks were simply spot on, a new recipe to keep trying. So far I’ve used adjustments for both a whole chicken, deboned and cut into parts, as well as for whatever chicken parts I might have on hand. Since I’m still (slowly but surely) knocking off recipes in my pursuit of cooking all 102 Mark Bittman Essential recipes from How to Cook Everything in my personal challenge, I’m calling this a check for roasted chicken parts in olive oil or butter since it’s essentially the same idea.
To compliment the indian-inspired dish I adapted another Bittman recipe. I made a simple spinach in yogurt based off of Bittman’s Cold Cooked Greens, Greek Style. It’s a perfect no-fuss greens recipe for the late summer since it can be served warm of cool. This dish also adds the right layering for tandoori chicken and basmati rice on your plate. The pairing was perfect.
Tandoori Style Chicken Drumsticks
from America’s Test Kitchen
2 tablespoons minced ginger
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons garam masala
1 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 cup of plain yogurt
1 red onion, cut into wedges
3 to 4 pounds chicken parts
2 teaspoons of salt
1. Heat the canola oil over medium in skillet. Add garlic/ginger saute until lightly brown, about 1 minute until fragrant. Add cumin, chilli powder, and garam masala. Stir spices for 30 seconds, remove from heat and split spice mixture into 2 bowls.
2. Combine half of lemon and lime juice in one bowl of the spice mixture and add 2 teaspoons of salt. In the other bowl add the yogurt to the spice mixture plus the other half of lemon/lime juice.
3. Score the chicken. Rub the first mixture— lemon/lime, spice, and salt—into the chicken. Let marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge.
4. Heat the oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the spice rubbed chicken and red onion chinks with the yogur/spice mixture. Arrange on baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes, or until the internal temp is around 125 (not fully cooked that is).
5. Remove the baking sheet, heat the broiler, and brown chicken for 8 to 15 minutes, or until the internal temp is 165.
Cooked Greens with Yogurt
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything
1 pound of spinach
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cup of plain yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
1. Boil water and cook the greens for just a few minutes. Drain.
2. Chop the greens on a cutting board.
3. In a bowl combine the chopped + cooked greens, the olive oil, lemon juice, plain yogurt, and salt/pepper. Taste and adjust.
4. Can be served warmed up again (in a skillet), at room temperature, or cold.
Bon Me serves Vietnamese inspired bahn mi sandwiches and rice and noodle bowls out of a food truck in and around Boston. I simply can’t get enough of their ode to one of my favorite Vietnamese fast foods, the bahn mi sandwich of pickled veggies, meat, and crispy french baguette. Though I came for the bahn mi, I am now equally smitten with their noodle bowls that feature the same bright and flavorful goodies that they stuff into the crusty baguette sandwiches. The whole menu takes advantage of great Vietnamese flavors and the easy option to mix and match to your own taste. Vegetarians and meat-lovers alike can find something to satisfy, too. They also stock spicy and sweet teas and lemonade that are not to be missed.
In honor of my love of Bon Me, I’ve reconstructed a version of the soba noodle bowl for the home cook. Don’t get me wrong, I will never stop craving the tried and true original served from the friendly folks in the roving blue and yellow Bon Me trucks. I take this recipe as symbol of my love of Bon Me, a reminder of how the food around me also changes how I eat and cook at home.
For my version of the noodle bowls I roasted tofu in chinese five spice as the main ingredient. I’ve found that roasting tofu gives just the right chewy texture with crispy edges to otherwise rubbery tofu. For the final meal, I tossed the tofu chunks with soba noodles, greens, quick pickled veggies, shredded carrots, shredded red cabbage, and a Hoisin dressing. Of course I drenched it all in sriracha, the most important ingredient.
So please do visit Bon Me around the city as well as get inspired to try a version of their Vietnamese inspired noodle bowls at home. Find their locations and my recipe below.
various locations around Boston/Cambridge
$/budget/meat eater and vegetarian friendly
(locations from www.bonmetruck.com)
Yellow: Belvidere 11:30-3
Blue: Dewey on the Greenway 11-3, Cleveland Circle 4:30-8
Yellow: Belvidere 11:30-3
Blue: Rings Fountain 11:30-2:30 (every other week, starting 6/26), Cleveland Circle 4:30-8
Yellow: Belvidere 11:30-3, Boston University East 3:30-7
Blue: Dewey on the Greenway 11-3
Blue: City Hall Plaza 11-3, JP 4:30-8
Yellow: Milk St. 11-3
Blue: Dewey 11-6
Yellow: Peter’s Park in the South End 11:30-3, Clarendon Street 3-7
Blue: Greenway Open Market 11-5
Yellow: Clarendon Street 12-7
Blue: SOWA Open Market 10-4
Bon Me Inspired Tofu Soba Noodle Bowls
servings vary depending on how much you make, I give lose instructions on size but the idea is to create to taste.
a few bundles of soba noodles, cooked, drained, set aside.
a few cups of shredded red cabbage
a few cups of shredded carrots
Quick Pickled Salad (recipe below)
Chinese Five Spice Roasted Tofu ( recipe below)
Ginger-Hoisin Marinade (recipe below)
a handful of greens like: arugula, spring mix, anything you like
a handful of cilantro springs, roughly chopped
2 sliced scallions
sriracha to taste
Quick Pickled Salad:
1 cup cucumber slices
1 cup radish slices
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
the juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon mirin
salt and pepper to taste
1. Toss everything together. If possible, refridgerate for an hour or so to let the flavors mingle!
Chinese Five Spice Roasted Tofu:
1 package of firm tofu
1 tablespoon of chinese five spice power
1-2 tablespoons of a neutral oil, like canola
salt and pepper to taste
1. Press tofu for an hour with paper towels and a heavy plate.
2. Cut into cubes. Toss with spice and oil.
3. In a preheated oven to 400 degrees, roast for 25-30 minutes. Check/toss often until tofu cubes are crispy and brown.
Ginger Hoisin Marinade:
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced ginger
a tsp sesame oil
1. Whisk together.
1. To make one serving, toss a cup or so of soba noodles with desire amount of shredded cabbage and carrots.
2. Add around a 1/4 cup of pickled vegetables and a 1/2 cup of roasted tofu chunks.
3. Toss with a tablespoon or so of dressing. Add to taste greens, sliced scallions and sriracha.
4. Serve and enjoy!
Peanut Butter Brownies May 21, 2012 No Comments
I’ve come to the conclusion that baking is by far harder than cooking. When I’m cooking it’s easier to improvise as I go, tasting, tweaking, coming up with new twists on standard things without really feeling pressure. The minute I start baking I lose all self-assurance. I might not really be a failure when I’m baking–I’m following the recipe, cookies come out of the oven as planned–it’s more that the end result is sometimes just not what I want or rather not what I imagined. This might explain why I just don’t bake that often besides some utilitarian bran muffins when the healthy-food mood strikes.
A few nights ago I started thinking about brownies, specifically how the formative brownies of my youth (ha!) I had no idea how to bake. See, my paternal grandmother always had brownies in the freezer. I usually ate one after every meal or in between meals when she wasn’t looking. These brownies had nuts (walnuts?) in the layer of brownie beneath a dense layer of chocolate fudge unlike the cake-like box mixes of my youth. Duncan Hines brownies have their place, I’m no hater. But my grandmother kept a constantly filled stash of cold as ice fudge brownies in the freezer. I miss those everyday.
We were never close. I didn’t see her, as so many people do, as an inspiration for cooking. We butted heads. She could be tyrant at times. I was mostly just young, afraid of her sternness, her lack of respect for me putting ketchup on everything. She was one tough lady, though, doing things like sewing her underwear out of curtains (I tell no lies). In retrospect, a part of me wishes it had been different between us because I bet she was a fun, adventurous, and great cook in her own right. I think she must have been a great cook because sometimes I catch myself remembering meals spent with her, the kind I was sure I had forgotten.
So I went searching then for a dense, chewy brownie just like for my next recipe in the Mark Bittman 102 Essentials challenge. Of course, Bittman has considered that not all brownies are created equal before too. I believe he would have liked my grandma’s freezer brownies because they were not under-baked chocolate cake. Bittman’s recipe has no chemical leavening, a revelation to me. It’s just melted chocolate, butter, sugar. eggs, and a little bit of flour to do the impressing.
Of course, I inserted my own tastes into the nostalgia. I added roasted and salted peanuts as I’m always in craving a meeting of sweet and salty. I swirled peanut butter into the prepared batter, right before baking. As the brownies baked I mixed up a peanut butter chocolate ganache to spread on top to achieve the dense fudge layer. Then I froze those bad boys for hours. I have brownies for days.
So while I won’t be a weekly baker anytime soon, I’m glad I know a little more about making a brownie of my youth.
Peanut Butter Brownies
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.
Makes 12 brownies
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 stick of butter, more for greasing pan
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
- Line a 8 inch square pan with tin foil. Grease. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a sauce pan start to melt chocolate and butter until just melted. Remove from heat and slowly stir until all the chocolate is melted.
- Stir in sugar. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the vanilla extract then the flour. Mix until flour is incorporate. Fold in the roasted, salted peanuts.
- Pour into prepared pan. Using a fork swirl in the peanut butter. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until set.
- To make the ganache: bring the heavy cream just until a boil. Pour over the chocolate and peanut butter in another bowl. Let stand for 3 minutes. Mix until chocolate is melted.
- Pour ganache over brownies. Stick in freezer for a few hours. Keep frozen. Just trust me.
My Favorite Bread Baking Books April 27, 2012 1 Comment
I seriously love baking bread because I get it wrong, all the time. Of course, I also bake bread for the instant gratification of breaking open a warm crusty loaf. My (finally) success in sourdough rekindled the love of bread.
All this bread appreciation got me thinking about how I came to bread baking and why I keep going; the love of bread cookbooks. Sure, the internet is a glorious place int terms of culinary instruction but I have yet to be able to find a resource the way my trusty bread baking library serves me. So in honor of my love of bread and here is my humble bread baker’s library. I believe these selected books provide a great starting point with a wide range of skills and technique covered. I often find myself comparing book-to-book when free-forming a dough or changing a recipe; it’s great to have a strong base of knowledge at your finger tip when tackling bread.
These books are not really introductory, rather, they are the type of bread cookbook that gets you hooked on the craft. Both utilize slow rises and limited kneading which is easy for a beginner to understand but complex enough for someone looking to get more flavor and crumb structure out of their loaves to enjoy. I find the the no-knead approach is the easiest way to introduce bread making because the results are so great, you can’t stop from wanting to bake more.
My Bread, by Jim Lahey: This book is for anyone who has tried the Bittman/Lahey No Knead Bread from the NY Times. The recipes all riff of that same technique of a wet dough plus a slow rise. The walnut/currant recipes is simple but a testament to what slight changes and additions can do to a great no-knead boule.
Kneadlessly Simple, by Nancy Bagget: Nancy Baggett covers almost everything from a no-knead pot boule to no-knead cinnamon swirl bread. Her instructions are thorough. The bread always works.
Artisan Bread Everyday, by Peter Reinhardt: While this Reinhardt book is also based mostly no-knead techniques I have set it apart from the first category because I find Reinhardt’s bread to be more complex. With Reinhardt you will do some kneading, explore complex shapes, hearth baking, and even developing sourdough. No book has improved my bread baking more than this book. Even when I adventure into harder challenges I keep coming back here to replicate tips and techniques.
Intermediate and Beyond:
I place these three books together because they offer traditional techniques, superior explanation of the science behind bread making, and fairly involved formulas for breads. These are not meant for the instant gratification bread baker but I find their complexity of skill/instruction has helped me branch out into artisan quality breads, especially sourdough, while really beginning to understand the science of bread.
Bread Bakers Apprentice, by Peter Reinhardt: What more can be said about Peter Reinhardt than he is a bread baking master? Here you’ll get everything, from baking shaping, preferments, to formulas.
Bread, by Jeffrey Hammelman: This book is a master class is bread baking. That is all. Please run out and purchase it.
Tartine, by Chad Roberston: Tartine is all the rage these days. What I love so much about this book is the desire to teach bread baking not as a route memorization but a skill that is honed by feel and touch. I also love the description of cultivating a wild yeast starter in the beginning; he really instills that capturing yeast is less precise than we think, it’s just water + flour + time.
Local Breads, by Daniel Leader: After visiting Paris in 2011 and trying Eric Kayser’s bread I became instantly fascinated with sourdoughs or pain au levain. Daniel Leader does a great job of relating the process of achieving master European breads.
Have a favorite bread book you think I’m missing? Please do share!
eat it (Boston): Clover Food Lab April 18, 2012 2 Comments
I’ve decided to start reviewing local eats in and around the Boston area. The blog will not become dedicated to reviews though; I’m still interested in cooking, thinking, and writing about food in a recipe sharing kind of way. And no, I will not be reviewing anything that is given to me free. It’s just not my style (not to mention why would someone give me anything for free?)
What lead me to writing reviews here is that I’ve been thinking about how the way I like to cook and think about food is so influenced by all the changing, contradictory tastes of Boston: I’m talking the traditional white fish, old-school New England meets the complicated new Boston of yuppies, hipsters, food trucks, immigrants, and cooks with grand schemes of saving the world (to name a few.) Not to mention it’s just plain fun to recommend the things I seriously enjoy.
The first review had to be Clover Food Lab because it was the first food truck I tried, back before they’d expanded into a brick and mortar Harvard Square restaurant and before the city’s food truck initiative brought more Clover trucks to the street. When I first tried Clover they were just starting to cause a lot of buzz as a popular lunch spot in the M.I.T. area that did healthy-ish fast food. Since I was working in the suburbs at the time it meant I could never make it to the area before they closed up though. But one Friday, when I’d skipped out of work early, I made it my only goal of the day to race home in my twelve year old Ford Taurus (a car of glory) to get to there. When I finally got to the truck, sandwiched in between the modern architecture of Cambridge’s Kendall Square area, I was a giddy fan girl effusively telling the staff how long I’d been waiting to try it all. I ordered what has become my staple: a chickpea fritter sandwich, rosemary fries, and a homemade soda/Italian soda.
I probably ate it on a bench, or on the curb, in a fit of messy one-handed hunger but I know I was delighted because I’ve been going back ever since. Not soon after that first bite the food truck buzz starting getting louder and louder in Boston; I was clearly late to the party but glad I made it all. Then Clover opened in Harvard Square into a modern, light-filled, futuristic fast food restaurant that features no register, ordering by iPhone, all white decor, and plants growing up the back wall.
Clover is a wonderfully strange place that is full of contradictions: it’s a hugely popular but totally meat-free, it was started by a socially-minded entrepreneurial M.I.T. grad but also fueled by an experienced chef, it’s an expanding chain but it’s dedicated to sustainability (everything is composted in the restaurants). Clover has also been called ambivalent to praise from the local media and yet it’s using social media to its fullest. Clover’s menu is a work in-progress, never overly polished or inaccessible but also based on a wide range of world cuisine that brings a healthy version of fast food to the masses (of Boston and Cambridge that is.) All these contradictions make it one of the most interesting, popular food spots in the changing Boston culinary scene.
My love of the Clover chickpea fritter has not waned. I do branch out often–my second favorite is the chickpea fritter plate which is like a deconstructed version of the sandwich, or the soy BLT, or the seasonal salads/sides like this one fabulous salad of roasted carrots/pistachios/mint–but I’m still just in love with idea of a bright and creative version of a falafel packed with sweet pickled vegetables, a cucumber-tomato salad, with hummus AND tahini. You must have both present to achieve that level of chickpea fritter perfection. Don’t be afraid to ask for more tahini, either.
Bottom line? Get the chickpea fritter in any incarnation for the first time (and the 40th time too), do not pass up the rosemary fries which are freshly made and tossed with sprigs of rosemary that I eat one by one even after the fries are gone. If you are in the Harvard Square location try the local beers on tap which are usually 3 or 4 dollars. Oh and Friday is Whoopie pie friday! Not to be missed, trust me.
Clover Food Lab
various locations around Boston/Cambridge
(locations from http://www.cloverfoodlab.com/ )
7 Holyoke St., Cambridge (Near Harvard Square T stop)
7 Days, 7am – Midnight (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
20 Carleton St., Cambridge (Near Kendall T stop)
Weekdays 8am – 8pm (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
Summer St. & Atlantic Ave, Boston (Near South Station T stop)
Weekdays 7:30am – 5pm (breakfast, lunch)
Clover BUB (NEW HOURS)
BU Bridge, Westbound side of Commonwealth Ave (St. Paul T stop)
Wednesdays and Thursdays 8am-7pm, Friday, 8am – 3pm.
BU East (in front of Morse Auditorium)
Mondays and Tuesdays, 8am – 3pm
Longwood Medical Area, on Blackfan St. near Merck
Weekdays, 8am – 7pm (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
1075 Cambridge St., just outside of Inman Square
7 days, 7am – 9pm
SoWa Market, 460 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA
Sundays, 8am – 4pm
City Hall Plaza
Beacon St and Chestnut Hill Ave
Fridays and Saturdays 4pm-9pm
Oven Baked Chicken Nuggets & Carrot Fries March 25, 2012 1 Comment
When I shop for at the grocery store for chicken I feel a pang of guilt. The liberal evangelist in my head is telling me to put down that store brand chicken. I’m talking the 1.99 a pound stuff, the holy grail of eating cheaply. I’ll do the dance of picking up an organic package then a store brand package, oscillating between my options. To be honest I rarely do buy the organic chicken. Why? The price on that store-brand chicken gets me every time; it’s just that much lower.
When it comes to organic chicken it’s not as cut and dry as the perfect version of me in my head would like it to be. Organic chicken “must come from animals that have never received antibiotics or growth hormones.” which is not often so easy to come by. That is, some higher priced chicken is called “natural” or “vegetarian” in an attempt to woo customers into paying more without actually being organic. The science behind whether organics are demonstrably better for your health is undecided. A 2006 study even concluded their is not a significant difference between organic and non-organic foodstuffs. That’s not to say new evidence won’t come out to contradict this study in the future. Or that we shouldn’t purchase organics if we’d like to. The sale of organics is going very strong, so people are clearly finding their own balance with the issue that includes more organics in their life. My point is that organic chicken isn’t an island, organics can’t be a sole issue. Local, sustainable, seasonable, and so on complicates the debate further because now we are involving people, places, and money alongside those chickens.
In the thick of my organic chicken spiritual dilemma I came across a short video of Mark Bittman talking about his philosophies on food. I was particularly smitten with the title of: Eat a Carrot First, Ask if it’s Organic Later. I take the catchy phrase to mean: let’s have everyone eat and eat better first while figuring out the messy politics of food as we go.
So that’s exactly what I did: I made a healthier version of fast food favorites with oven baked Mark McNuggets and Roasted Carrot fries, the first a direct recipe and the later an improvisation on roasted vegetables. Both are part of the Mark Bittman’s 102 Essentials Challenge I’m holding for myself where I cook my through the 102 essentials at the back of How To Cook Everything. More importantly, both recipes put taste, health and budget first.
Oven baked nuggets are insanely easy. They are enjoyable in a little kid kind of way, the ultimate finger food to be eaten as a grown adult in front of the television. The healthy part comes from the whole grain bread crumbs and the baking, not frying. Easy mixed dipping sauces include mayo + sriracha or honey + dijon mustard making things a bit fancier. The real star, though, are the carrot fries. These little sticks roast up perfectly becoming reminiscent of sweet potato fries rather than your standard veggie. The sugary sweetness of the carrots are enhanced by the roasting while the darkened edges give them some caramelized bite. Salt and dipping sauces make the carrots fries completely addicting. I will admit I stood over the baking sheet finishing each last carrot fry. I have no shame.
Oven Baked Chicken Nuggets
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken parts, like tenders, pounded and cut into equal parts
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups bread crumbs
salt and pepper
1/4- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
optional: tablespoon grated Parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Create a chicken nugget making line: raw chicken in a bowl, flour in another bowl, the 2 beaten eggs in another, and the bread crumbs + salt/pepper + chili powder + Parmesan in the last.
3. Dredge chicken in flour then egg. Roll in bread crumbs. Place on baking sheet.
4. Cook until ready which will vary of your chicken parts and their thickness, anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Remember to check the internal temperature of chicken so it 160-165 °F
Oven Baked Carrot Fries
2 lb of peeled carrots cut into match sticks of your liking.
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
optional: spices like ancho power, chili powder, or even curry powder would work well
1. Preheat the oven to 400 °F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Toss carrot sticks with olive oil + salt/pepper + optional spices.
3. Roast tossing once or twice for 20 minutes until edges have browned.
Cooking the Bittman Essentials: Salmon Baked in Foil, White Bean Puree, & Simple Salad March 13, 2012 1 Comment
Cooking my way through Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Top 102 essentials list (at the back of book or included in his awesome app) is one of my goals for 2012. The challenge is simple: I will cook Bittman’s 102 essentials over the next few months and I will blog about how I combined the recipes. Perhaps the end result will be more complex dishes based on the basics or perhaps it will just be simple meals that taste good. The goal is to just cook and cook well.
I decided on the challenge because I’m increasingly weary of too much fancy food these days but I still find it pleasurable to cook and eat everyday. Cooking Bittman’s essentials is a perfect way to celebrate the deliciousness of everyday food without a lot of fuss. Basically, I’m enrolling myself in the cooking school of Mark Bittman.
Of course, since the essentials are, well, essential, it’s easier than you think to knock off a few in one meal. The inaugural meal of the Mark Bittman Essentials Challenge (new official title, of course!) was salmon baked in a foil (1), white bean puree (2), and a simple green salad (3.)
Fish baked in foil sounds like a 1950′s space age invention but you must overlook any assumed kitcsh because the end result is so moist. White bean puree, something I’d never really taken the time to get velvety and smooth before, is deceptively good not to mention a fantastic base for just about anything. I had some later in the week with a poached egg. I even used it as a base on pizza. Simple greens, are well, what I eat all the time. But it was fun to have a recipe just say: Combine Greens. Eat. Finally, a recipe I know by heart all of the time!
Alas, the whole meal was too good to stage better photographs for the blog before we ate. It didn’t last long, after all. Brian made the fish. I whipped up the beans. We ate quickly and ravenously. When we finished though we both surprised by just how awesome the essentials can be.
Fish Baked in Foil with White Bean Puree and Simple Green Salad
1. Salmon Baked in Foil:
4 6 ounce thick salmon fillets
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1. Place oven safe baking pan in oven and heat to 400.
2. Lay out 4 tin foil sheets about 18 inches long.
3. Rub the fish fillets with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
4. Place a filet in center of tin foil sheet. Add some garlic. Fold foil over the fish and crimp edges. Repeat for all fillets.
5. Bake on preheated baking pan for 15 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes before removing the fish. Sprinkle with lemon wedges.
2. White Bean Puree:
3 cups cooked white beans (canned or canned)
1 clover of garlic, mashed
1/2-1 cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and fresh pepper
lemon juice to taste
parsley sprigs to garnish if you are feeling fancy
1. Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend the beans, garlic, and water until almost smooth.
3. Drizzle in the olive oil slowly while blending until the right velvety smooth texture if achieved.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper and lemon juice.
5. If serving warm as a base for a meal, heat up in a pan over medium heat or microwave until warm. You can use it cold as a dip and spread.
3. Simple Greens
6 cups of washed, torn assorted greens
a dressing of choice ( I used lemon juice/olive oil/salt/pepper)
1. Top greens with dressing. Eat.
Reflections on a Journey to the Center of a Sourdough Loaf February 26, 2012 5 Comments
Finally creating a sourdough boule (above!) based on my own wild yeast mother starter is a big milestone in my food obsessed life. In fact, I’ve been trying to take a culture to a starter to a risen sourdough loaf for at least two years now. It’s been a long time coming. My past attempts failed due to a combination of impatience and (surprisingly enough) too much orthodoxy to a single recipe.
The former was easy to change: I simply put “Create Sourdough Bread” on my 26-to-do-before-26 list (yes, I am a dork like that) so I knew I’d have to tackle it for real this year. I changed the later by viewing bread baking less as a recipe to be followed and more of a process that involves simple parts (flour,water,yeast.salt) and an intricate science. I began to read The Fresh Loaf forums religiously, figuring out what I did wrong and right with my past attempts before starting anew. I bought several new bread cookbooks too–Tartine and Local Breads– to get my research on.
I started this new attempt with a technique for creating a starter from Local Breads. Everything was great up until about the seventh day when I noticed that although the culture was alive (bubbling and looking frothy, hello wild yeast!) it was not doubling in size. I started panicking. I started thinking I should give up. Instead, I departed from the recipe and did some googling/bread book comparison. Then I magically diagnosed the problem on my own: my yeast needed to be fed more. See, up until that point I was maintaining it at a 100% hydration without throwing any of it away. Basically the yeast kept growing and working it’s magic but it was being underfed. I threw most of it out, fed it some more according to later instructions in Local breads, and it worked! It doubled in size within 12 hours. I fed it more and more, to improve the flavor and have it double in size in 8 hours, then stuck it in the fridge until it would be time to bake a real loaf. I also decided to change it from a liquid to a stiff starter, all by tinkering, not by following a single uniform recipe.
The actual bread recipe came from my tried and true copy of Artisan Breads Everyday. It is a purist (no commercial yeast) pain au levain. The flavor of the loaf was perfect, not too sour but not too mild. I was simply amazed it even rose let alone tasted wonderfully sour. Already I’m thinking of how I can improve the bread next time. The crumb could be more open and holey, but I’m happy with this first attempt. The scoring was perfect which I’m pretty thrilled about. The sourdough waits in a mason jar in the fridge for all the future loaves. For days after making this boule, I kept thinking over and over in my head “I made pain au levain, how cool is that?” It’s been a fun start in the world of wild yeast breads,
So, in the end, I decided that I am not going to write up a recipe for my culture and starter because the process itself is too involved and free-form to relate word for word. Instead, I give the important lessons I learned: start anywhere, with any recipe, by combining water (not tap, always bottled) and organic flours of some ratio . Then wait. If your recipe doesn’t work, research another. Diagnose. The simple truth is that a starter is water + flour. Nothing more.
(Though my recommendation for a recipe, if you are looking, can be found on Wild Yeast, a fantastic bread blog.)
Label Free Food: Roasted Spaghetti Squash in Peanut-Sesame Sauce February 13, 2012 No Comments
I could easily tell you roasted spaghetti squash tossed with peanut-sesame sauce is vegan, gluten free, healthy, low carb and so on. But I’ve come to realize labels, diets, and nutritional fads more can detract from the diversity of the way people eat and obscure the need for regular people to be eating real food, no matter the kind. What spaghetti squash in peanut-sesame sauce is, though, is delicious food. And delicious food is what I’m after.
The introduction to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian summarizes it best: people all over the world may practice or eat in manners that we in the United States label as vegetarian but these people never identify or label themselves as such. His point is that celebrating the diversity of food doesn’t mean we must to label the way we eat. Instead, it means we can be flexible in our palates, eat with moderation, and perhaps treat the environment better in the process. Of course how and what we eat is tricky business. Food, inequality and power are intrinsically linked far more than I can explain away with one spaghetti squash. Yet I like to consider the the way I eat even if I don’t have all the answers.
In light of Bittman’s thoughts, I’ve reworked my grocery shopping strategy to eat more real food and save money (yes it can be done!) I do so by mostly shopping on the outside of the store–produce, meat, dairy, deli–with purposeful trips down an aisle for staples like dried beans, canned tomatoes, coffee, pasta, oatmeal, etc. The goal of this new grocery store navigation is three-fold: One, the grocery store I shop at is out of this world crowded so this new plan simplifies the time I spend elbowing my way around the lady with the 12 boxes of macaroni. Two, it saves money. It costs me more when I linger by the jars of pesto, the bags of course ground almond meal, and the bulk sized marshmallows. (I’m not always perfect, I do buy marshmallows sometimes but you get the picture.) Third, this plan has increased the diversity of the vegetables I eat. We come home from the grocery store with a solid base of the good stuff but there is always something new in the rotation, just like spaghetti squash above.
And since I’m eternally searching for simple, comfort dishes incorporating Asian staples such I roasted the 4lb squash and shredded the flesh which becomes delightful tendrils once cooked with the intent of giving it an Asian-pantry spin. I added cubed tofu, carrots, red pepper, scallions all tossed with an adaptation of a simple Bittman peanut sesame sauce. Ta-da! A crunchy spaghetti squash take on sesame-peanut noodles, chock’ful of good things that all together could be labeled healthy-this or vegan-that but that are really just a personal attempt to eat more real food.
A few scoops became dinner. A few more scoops for lunch this week. Perhaps another scoop with a fried egg for dinner sometime?
Roasted Spaghetti Squash in Sesame-Peanut Sauce
4lb spaghetti squash
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 container of firm tofu, cubed
2 carrots, cut julienne style
1 red pepper, cut julienne style
4 scallions, white and green parts sliced thinly
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1 tablespoon mirin
1 grind of black pepper
1/2 – 1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sesame seeds for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds and outer tendrils, and drizzle with 1 teaspoon of canola oil on each half. Cook for 45 minutes or until soft.
2. Shred squash with a fork. Toss the spaghetti shreds with cubed tofu, carrots, red pepper, and scallions.
3. Mix peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, sriracha, ginger, mirin, and black pepper in small bowl. Slowly add up to a cup of warm warm, whisky vigorously, to create an even sauce.
4. Pour peanut-sesame sauce over squash. Garnish with sesame seeds. Serve warm or cold.