Friday, January 29, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I was really excited when I read her post, because it sums up so many of the things that make cooking from scratch much easier and simpler. There's an ebb and flow to what you're doing, and you need to be fairly nimble and flexible, but beyond that you need to find specific things that work for you. There are a lot of pantry "must-have" lists out there, and for a long time (especially when I wasn't cooking without recipes but wanted to start) I tried to follow their guidelines.
After spending a lot of time cooking - much of it from scratch, often without a real recipe - I've decided that those lists have it exactly backwards. The writer's "go-to" kitchen staples probably aren't yours, and even if they might some day be things you'd use, they're not worth stocking if you don't know what to do with them right now.
I think it makes a lot more sense to cook a lot and get a feel for the types of things you use on a regular basis. When you can think of one or two things like that, by all means stock up!
Or better yet, focus on playing with those ingredients: maybe you do a lot of cooking with beans. You could buy a lot of canned beans when you see them on sale, or you could buy some dried ones and cook up a big batch one weekend. Divide them into "can-sized" portions, if that's how most of the recipes you currently use are written (1 2/3 C cooked beans (from scratch) = 1 can beans), and freeze. Maybe get those beans from your local farmer's market ("fresh" dried beans are really worth the effort to find, if that's possible for you), or maybe you buy some cheap ones from the supermarket. Either way, do that a few times with different beans and you have the backbone of your cooking - and you'll be well on your way to a vibrant kitchen ecosystem of your own.
Monday, January 25, 2010
First, a quick note about the rice - kalijira, a tiny and aromatic rice, is from Bangladesh, which currently has banned rice exports. While good for the people of Bangladesh (... I hope!), since it will theoretically make rice more affordable there, it is sad for me. I love kalijira rice probably more than is reasonable, and it's very very difficult to get in the U.S. right now. We still have a small amount, and while I *could* just eat it unadorned (truly, it is a wonderfully tasty rice), I made some for dinner tonight.
The chicken was adapted from a Cook's Illustrated recipe. Their method is fairly involved; below is my version:
Spicy Basil Chicken
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
In a food processor, process half the basil, plus the garlic and chiles until finely chopped, but not a paste (10 or so pulses). Mix together just a Tbsp of the basil mixture, half the fish sauce, and the soy sauce and vinegar; set aside.
- 2 C fresh basil leaves (tightly packed), divided
- 3 peeled garlic cloves, cut in half
- 6 red thai chiles, stemmed and cut in half (if you want to make the dish less spicy - and it is pretty hot - seed them, too)
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce, divided
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken (either breasts or thighs), cut into medium pieces
- 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (between 3/4 & 1 C total)
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and add the basil mixture from the food processor (you don't need to clean it out, or even scrape it very thoroughly). Add the shallots, too. Sprinkle with the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are starting to brown (about 10 minutes).
Process the chicken and the remaining fish sauce (1 Tbsp) in the processor until the meat is in small pieces, but not a paste (about 8 pulses). Once the shallots are browned a bit, add the chicken and cook until most of the pink is gone, breaking up the pieces with a spatula (3-4 minutes). Add the basil, fish sauce, etc. mixture to the pan and cook until the chicken is no longer pink, stirring as needed (1-2 minutes). Stir in the remaining basil and cook until the basil is just wilted (about 1 minute).serves about 3 (just add a bit more chicken if you have a 4th person)
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Heidi's post about her ribollita recipe touches on the "kitchen ecosystem." I'm comforted to see other people who have an ecosystem similar to mine, and it was especially useful here, as the ribollita ended up being essentially a "pantry meal" for me.
The only changes I made to her recipe were to use chicken stock in place of the water (although some day I aspire to have a pressure canner and have lots of homemade stock in the actual pantry, it instead came from the freezer) and to amp up the umami with a parmesan rind, 2 Tbsp of tomato paste, and a sprinkle of fish sauce.
We took it to a pot-luck game night at a friend's house, and it seemed to be a hit. It didn't quite do it for me. I thought it still was somewhat bland even after my additions; I probably won't make it again.
I also made a loaf of the rye bread from the new Artisan Bread in Five Minutes book. Yum!
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Since Victor was the one who first introduced me to piroshki (as opposed to pierogies, which I grew up eating), it seems only fitting that he was the one to decide that we should make our own piroshki. Although Seattle has some kickin' piroshki options, we both miss St. Paul's funky-yet-awesome Russian Tea House, so this is something of a nostalgia thing for us, I guess.
Victor also was the one who ended up making them from start to finish. He combined two recipes to begin to approximate the Russian Tea House ones, which are somewhat doughy and beefy. The filling is from this recipe; the dough from this one (we were skeptical about the "sunshine sauce" and skipped it entirely).
They were delicious and made the house smell wonderful. Seattle's on track to have its warmest January ever recorded, so we didn't really need this hearty winter fare, but it was comforting nonetheless.
Monday: Chicken with Peach Chutney; roasted brussels sprouts; rutabaga & potato mash
Tuesday: cook's holiday
Wednesday: Strip Steak with garlic puree; stove-top beet slices; garlic bread; home-canned peaches in light syrup
Friday, January 22, 2010
We had a big bag of clementines that needed to get used up - I used to be able to eat a pound or so of them at a sitting, but apparently I am getting old, so now even one gives me heartburn. (... perhaps because I used to eat them in 1-pound increments).
Anyway, I decided to use my simmering time productively, and started cutting them into quarters. I'm trying to make fewer very sweet preserves this year, and I love pickles (really, anything vinegary), so when I was looking for a recipe for the Can Jam I had bookmarked this recipe for pickled oranges, too. Since I had surplus clementines, that turned into pickled clementines instead. I changed the spices somewhat, and decided to add a vanilla bean. It smells good, but since these pickles are supposed to mature for two months before you eat them, it'll be a while before I know whether this was a good experiment or not.
Pickled Clementine Quarters
adapted from Sensational Preserves
Wash clementines thoroughly and quarter them if they are small (mine were tiny) or cut into wedges if they are larger. Put them into an oven-safe pot and add water to cover. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the peels are tender.
- 2 lbs clementines (or so - enough to make about 8 C cut-up fruit)
- 2 1/4 C sugar
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 thumb-sized hunk ginger, peeled and chopped
- 5-in piece cinnamon stick
- 1 Tbsp allspice berries
- 1 whole star anise
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split
- 2 1/2 C white wine vinegar
Meanwhile, make the brine: heat the sugar with the spices and vinegar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat to a simmer; simmer for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 275F.
Drain the clementines, discarding the cooking liquid. Put the fruit back in your oven-safe pot and pour the brine over it. Cover and cook in the hot oven for an hour, until the peels are translucent. (NOTE: mine never got translucent - I hope it doesn't matter too much!)
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the oranges to your prepared jars (warm, clean, etc.). I really packed 'em in there, being careful to distribute the spices amongst the jars. Boil the vinegar on the stove for an additional 10 minutes (keep the jars with the fruit in the off but still-warm oven). Pour the brine over the fruit to cover. Rotate the jars to expel any air bubbles.
Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Store in a cool, dark, dry place for 2 months before eating.makes 3-4 pints
Also, since I was already zesting a lemon for the soup, I decided to juice it, plus half of a somewhat-elderly red grapefruit I had sitting around, and make a quick batch of grapefruit curd. It's delicious (who can resist any kind of citrus curd??), but not quite as grapefruity as I might have liked.
Microwave Grapefruit Curd
adapted from the Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving
Put the lemon juice and however much of the grapefruit juice it takes to make 1/2 C liquid total into a 4-C container. Add the sugar and butter and microwave on 100% power for ~2 minutes until the butter is melted. Whisk until the sugar dissolves.
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 grapefruit, juiced
- 1/4 C butter
- 3/4 C granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
SLOWLY add the hot buttery lemon mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly so that the egg doesn't begin to cook. After you've added all the hot liquid to the eggs, microwave for another 1-3 minutes on 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds. Keep going until the mixture has visibly thickened, but don't allow it to come to a boil. Pour into a clean, dry jar and enjoy! (Keeps for several weeks in the fridge, apparently, if you don't eat it first.)makes about 1 3/4 C curd
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Whoa. That? was a really heavy meal, and I'm now too tired to write it all up. The steak & beet recipes were both from The New Steak, which was ostensibly one of Victor's gifts from me this year. (Does it still count if I was also eager to get that cookbook?) They were good, though the very red and very juicy beets made our steaks look exceptionally bloody, which was a little disturbing.
The garlic bread was just a way to use up some stale bread, and I wanted something sweet after we had dinner, but definitely only wanted something light and simple. The peaches (from August) were a little taste of summer.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Monday: Chicken with Peach Chutney; roasted brussels sprouts; rutabaga & potato mash
We have lots of left-overs. I learned something new today, too - while I was pondering the rutabaga, I looked in one of my British cookbooks. Turns out that our rutabagas are their "swedes." Good to know.
Chicken: pound skinless, boneless breasts into cutlets; sprinkle with salt & pepper; heat some oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and brown the breasts. Remove the chicken from the pan & deglaze with a little chicken stock. Add chutney and chicken; simmer until sauce is heated through.
Brussels sprouts: halve, toss with salt, pepper, and oil; roast, tightly covered with foil, in a 450F oven for 10 minutes; remove the foil and roast for another 10-20 minutes.
Root veggie mash: peel and cut into chunks; cover with water and cook at a hard simmer/low boil until tender; drain and mash with butter, salt, and pepper to taste.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Yep, it's that same kale we had last week, though on a very different menu. The tofu is from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen.
Slice the tofu into about 6 sections and blot well with paper towels. Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the tofu, sprinkle it with salt, and cook over medium-high heat until golden. Flip over and cook until the second side is also golden brown. Then, shake some soy sauce onto each piece and keep cooking until it evaporates, giving the tofu a nice glaze. Serve with the scallions and peppers.
- 1 carton firm tofu packed in water, drained
- 2 tsp olive oil or vegetable oil (or cooking spray if using non-stick skillet)
- sea salt
- several dashes tamari soy sauce
- slivered scallions and thin red & green bell pepper stripsserves 2-4
Mix everything together or blend in a food processor until smooth. Preheat the broiler and set the seared tofu sections on a piece of foil on a cookie sheet. Top each with a thick-ish smear of the miso sauce and broil until blistered (2-3 minutes).
- 1/3 C white (shiro) miso
- 2 Tbsp mirin
- 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
- 1 tsp roasted sesame oil
- small splash tamari soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
This jelly combines citrus with a generous dollop of ginger and is sweetened with honey instead of sugar, for the ultimate in sore throat/stuffy nose soothing. It's the perfect thing for your toast the morning you wake up and notice an odd scratchy feeling at the back of your throat. Or when you have the flu. Or a cold. Or just want a little citrusy pick-me-up.
I made this jelly as part of Tigress' Can Jam, an event that challenges food bloggers to can a specific seasonal ingredient once a month. One of my resolutions is to space out my canning projects so they don't make me mildly insane a few weekends a year, and the Can Jam is a great way to keep myself honest and inspired. The process of picking this recipe led me to a few other seasonal canning treats, too, so expect to see some pickled oranges here soon.
Since this was my first time making jelly, I picked a recipe that doesn't call for a jelly bag. (I think you don't need one because there isn't whole fruit to be separated out). I'm really happy with how it turned out - it's nicely balanced, so that you can taste the flavors of the ginger, lemon, and honey about equally. It is especially lovely on scones or English muffins.
If you wanted to really dote on someone when they were sick, you could bring them a few trashy magazines, some tissues, and a loaf of bread with this jam.
adapted from The Food Lover's Guide to Canning
Combine the juices and honey in a large pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the ginger, stir, and bring back to a boil. Once you've achieved a vigorous boil, stir in the pectin. Continue boiling for exactly one minute after the mixture has returned to a vigorous boil. Remove from heat immediately, stirring for a few minutes to keep the ginger pieces from sinking to the bottom. Ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 in headspace, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 5 minutes.
- 1/2 C fresh-squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 large lemons)
- 1/4 C fresh-squeezed lime juice (from about 2 medium limes)
- 2 C honey
- 1/4 C crystallized ginger, minced
- 3 oz liquid pectin3-4 half-pint jars
Update: I added a photo of the jelly; yes, I've just been eating it with a spoon!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Monday: Cook's Illustrated's Cacio e Pepe
Tuesday: cook's holiday
Wednesday: Pasta Fazool; Garlic Bread
Thursday: pureed acorn squash with caramelized onions; garlicky kale
Friday: Tomato and Onion Braised Chicken; fresh bread
This is my favorite braised chicken recipe. Once you get over having to brown the chicken for a long(ish) time, there's really not much to it, and it works equally well on the stove-top or in the oven. I made it on the stove this time, since I was baking the bread at 450F during part of its cooking time. (Overall, I prefer to make it in the oven, since it is easier to control the temperature in there.)
Chicken Legs Braised with Tomatoes, Onions & Garlic
adapted from The Art of Simple Food
- 4 chicken legs, seasoned with salt and fresh-ground black pepper (can do up to a day or two in advance)
- olive oil
- 2 onions, sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
- 1 bay leaf
- sprig rosemary
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 4 tomatoes, diced coarse, or 1 small (12 ounce) can organic whole tomatoes, diced (including juice)
- 1/2 C - 2 C chicken broth
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat and add sufficient olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Place the chicken legs into the pan skin side down and cook until crisp and brown, about 12 minutes. Turn and cook for another 4 minutes. (Watch out - there's likely to be a lot of splattering oil during this process!)
After it's browned, remove the chicken and add the onions, cooking until beginning to get translucent (5 min or so). Add the garlic, rosemary, and oregano and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and use their juice to deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom.
Arrange the chicken in the pan, skin side up, and pour in any juices that have collected. Pour in enough chicken broth to reach halfway up the chicken.
Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cover and cook at a bare simmer or in a 325° oven for 45 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Serve as-is, or shred the meat from the bone and mix into the vegetable mixture. (Shredding the meat first is nice if you'd like to serve the chicken over pasta instead of with bread.)serves 4
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Not much of a recipe today - I cut the squash in half, scooped out the seeds, and roasted it (with a little olive oil) at 400F for 35 minutes (until it was soft). While it was cooking, I cut up and caramelized an onion (slice thin and add to the pan, sprinkle with a little salt and sugar, and cook in some olive oil on medium heat, deglazing occasionally with a splash of water). Scoop out the squash flesh when it's soft, mash it up, add some butter and olive oil and the caramelized onions. Taste, and add salt, pepper, or sugar if needed.
Victor made the kale using this method.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I love beans, so I was excited when I started hearing about Rancho Gordo and their Heirloom Beans cookbook. I gave myself the gift of a whole bunch of cookbooks this year, and am just now starting to try out recipes from them.
There are a few farms that have dried beans at the farmer's market we go to (though not the heirloom varieties Rancho Gordo specializes in, sadly), so I substituted a non-heirloom but relatively fresh dried cannellini for the more exciting marrow beans called for in the recipe. I was amazed at how quickly the beans cooked up, and at how creamy they were. I'm planning on making similar substitutions as I try out the other recipes in the book (unless some enterprising local farmer wants to work with more heirloom bean varieties... hint, hint).
For the garlic bread, I pulled out my trusty copy of the Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen Cookbook (which I turn to every time I look at my other cookbooks and think "Help! I can't be the only person on earth who needs a recipe for this!"). They recommend slathering your bread with butter and chopped garlic, plus a little oregano (I also added some salt), wrapping tightly in foil, and baking at 375F for 15 minutes. I was feeling tired, and out of sorts, so I didn't really appreciate this meal quite the way I probably should have, but it was very good.
adapted from the Heirloom Beans cookbook
Saute the bacon in your soup pot over medium heat, until the fat is rendered, ~ 10 min. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Pour off most of the bacon fat and add the olive oil. Over medium heat, saute the onion, celery, garlic, and carrot until soft and fragrant, also about 10 min. Add broth, oregano, and beans. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Continued simmering until the beans are tender, about 45 min if using "fresh" beans and about twice that for the grocery store variety.
- 4 slices bacon, diced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 4 C chicken broth
- some oregano, fresh (or, if you don't have any, some dried - this is what I did...)
- 1/2 lb cannellini, marrow, or cellini beans, soaked and drained (they recommend just starting the soak the morning you'll be cooking, as fresh(er) dried beans only need about 4-6 hours soaking time)
- 1 14-oz can crushed tomatoes
- salt and fresh pepper to taste
- 1 C tiny pasta shells, tubes, or orzo
- 1/4 C chopped parsley
- fresh parmesan to grate over pasta for serving
When the beans are done, add the tomatoes. Taste, and add salt & pepper as needed. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente, adding water if necessary. Stir frequently, as the mixture should now be pretty thick and will burn if you let it.
Once the pasta's cooked, add the bacon and the parsley. Stir, taste, and add more salt and/or pepper if needed. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld, then serve sprinkled with Parmesan and maybe a drizzle of olive oil.serves 4
Monday, January 11, 2010
More of a method than a recipe, Victor made this magically creamy pasta for dinner. We picked up a copy of Cook's Illustrated for airplane reading when we were in San Francisco last week, and this was one of the recipes we both wanted to make out of it:
Cacio e Pepe
Bring 2 quarts water to a boil (for the recipe to work, it's important to use more or less exactly this amount of water, so measure it before it goes on the stove). Add the salt and the pasta; cook until just al dente. Reserve 1 1/2 C cooking water (which should be very starchy) and drain the pasta.
- 1-2 tsp kosher salt
- about 2 C finely grated Pecorino Romano (~ 4 oz)
- 1 lb spaghetti
- 2 Tbsp half and half
- 2 tsp olive oil
- fresh black pepper, finely ground (about 1 1/2 tsp)
- about 1 C coarsely grated Pecorino Romano (~ 2 oz)
Whisk most of the reserved cooking liquid (1 C) into the finely grated cheese until smooth, then whisk in the half and half, oil, and pepper. Pour the sauce over the pasta, tossing to coat. Let the pasta rest for 2-3 minutes, tossing frequently, to allow the pasta to absorb some of the sauce while the sauce thickens. If you need to, add some of the rest of the reserved cooking liquid. Top with the coarsely grated cheese.serves 4
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 to 4 pears firm, ripe pears, depending on size (you’ll need 2 grated cups total, but I don’t recommend you grate them until you are about to use them, so they don’t brown)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Heat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.
Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and stir with a fork to mix everything well. If you’re using nuts, scoop out about 1/4 cup of the flour mixture and combine it in a small bowl with the chopped walnuts, stirring and tossing to coat the nuts with the flour.
Peel and core pears, then grate them. You’ll want two grated cups total; set them briefly aside. In a medium bowl, combine the butter or oil, applesauce, eggs, sugar, grated pear, nuts (if using), and vanilla, and stir to mix everything well. Scrape the pear mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moistened.
Quickly scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the bread is handsomely browned and firm on top and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack or folded kitchen towel for about 10 minutes. Then turn it out onto a plate or a wire rack to cool completely, top side up. Serve it as is, sprinkle it with confectioners sugar or drizzle it with a simple glaze made from whisking 3 tablespoons buttermilk, a dash of vanilla and 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar together.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Sunday: Eggs baked in cream with sauteed yellow foot chanterelles; whole-wheat bread
Today ended up being something of a prep day for the rest of the week: I made chicken stock, bread dough, and there's some pear bread in the oven right now.
Since I was already doing all this crazy cooking stuff, we had a simple dinner: a modified version of Luisa's Egg Baked in Cream. We picked up some mushrooms at the farmers' market today, and I sauteed about 3/4 lb yellow foot chanterelles with a diced yellow onion instead of just using leeks as in the original recipe:
Eggs Baked in Cream
Preheat oven to 400F. Heat the olive oil and butter in a hot skillet. Saute the onion until just starting to soften and turn translucent, about 2 minutes; add the thyme and mushrooms and continue cooking over medium-high heat until all the moisture has cooked out of the mushrooms and evaporated (about 15 minutes).
- small glug olive oil
- small pat butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 tsp or so dried thyme
- 3/4 lb mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
- 2 eggs
- 2 splashes half and half
Divide the mushroom mixture into two oven-safe ramekins. Crack an egg into each one (try to center the yolk in the ramekin so it'll cook more evenly). Pour a little half and half into each ramekin. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the eggs are done to your liking. (For this recipe, I like the yolks to be just barely set, which generally takes about 11 minutes.)serves 2
I also baked some whole-wheat bread. The folks at Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day have a new book out focusing on whole grains, and their mostly whole-wheat bread recipe is our new standard. (I am a total ABin5M groupie, so I pre-ordered the book, but the recipe is here if you don't want to rush right out and buy a copy.)