Friday, October 14, 2011

Bad Idea Friday: Zambian Squash

I got this recipe over at Miser Mom, which is so awesome you guys, why aren't you reading it right now? I read the list of ingredients, and then tilted my head as if changing my perspective would make the unlikely ingredients make sense together. Then I demanded clarification. Then I made it- that's what bad idea Fridays are for.

Take one winter squash, halve it, remove the seeds, and bake it in a medium oven until soft, about 45 minutes. (Whenever I'm baking, I start loading the oven down with sweet potatoes and squash and baked beans. Sometimes there's no room for the baked goods.)

Yes, you can use frozen winter squash. Just heat it up a little first.

Let the squash cool a little and scoop out the flesh. If necessary, cut into bite-sized chunks.

Add one cup of fresh salsa, salsa cruda, or chopped tomatoes and onions. Stir.

Thin 1/2 cup peanut butter with a couple of tablespoons of water. Add to squash mixture. Stir.

Peanut butter, winter squash, and salsa- it's a little weird, right? We thoughtfully nibbled at it for some time, trying to figure out if we liked it. Then we realized we'd eaten the entire bowl. It's... good? The flavor combination is unexpected, but pleasant?

Look, it takes five minutes. Make it yourself.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bad Idea Friday: Homemade Udon

Every time my father-in-law gets to dictate a menu, he requests homemade ravioli stuffed with osso bucco. He dictates a menu fairly frequently, and I am still at the stage in the daughter-in-law relationship where I sometimes do trial runs of dishes before feeding them to my in-laws. (I'm not totally cowed, I am proud.)

Long story short, fresh egg pasta from scratch is excellent, but it's also a terrible pain to make.

So let's take out all of that irritating protein and fat, and make pasta with flour and water! How could this go wrong?

We invited Gyozilla over for dinner, because he's pretty understanding about catastrophic cooking failures and terribly late meals. We made plans for a takeout based fallback.

Recipe from lafujimama. They probably also have better pictures and instructions.

Mix 4 cups white flour with one tablespoon salt. Add 1 cup water and mix into a shaggy ball. Knead for 3-5 minutes. (If you were making egg noodles, you'd just keep kneading and kneading- for about 10 minutes. If you want to skip the next step- you shouldn't, it's brilliant- just keep kneading for 10-15 minutes. After everything is a smooth shiny ball, just keep kneading and kneading for eternity.)

Put ball of dough into a heavy duty ziploc and seal. Wrap in dishtowel or grocery bags, and stand on it. Squoosh that dough out into the far reaches of the bag. Open the bag, roll the dough into a ball, and repeat- do a total of 4 times.

Oh goodness, you guys, this is delightful! All of us enjoyed squashing dough with our feet, and believe you me, it's like six times more fun than kneading for eternity.

Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes. (You see how they say 3-4 hours in the other place? They weren't hungry. Half an hour is fine.) This is a great time to prepare the things that will be served with the udon. We made wonderful tamago, chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, steamed some sweet potatoes and chicken, pulled some kimchi out of the fridge, and made a peanut sauce.

Now, take out your pasta maker. (Of course you have a pasta maker. It justifies its shelf space each and every Christmas, saint's day, Fathers' day, and C's dad's birthday. If you don't, I'm sure you have a recently married friend who has like five.*) Dust the dough with flour and roll it through the thickest setting. Slice into thick noodles. Boil in ample water until translucent and firm- bite through a noodle to make sure it's cooked in the center. Serve- either in broth, or with all sorts of exciting vegetables and sauces.

*Fine, you don't have a pasta maker. Get a inch thick dowel, about 2-3 feet long. Roll out the dough until it's about 1/8 inch thick, you poor unlucky sod, and then follow the rest of the instructions.

So, how does this stack up as a bad idea? For a recipe where you throw something on the ground and stomp on it, it's pretty good. The udon is not ground shaking. It's pretty good- better than store-bought udon, but not by the order of magnitude that homemade ravioli is better than store-bought ravioli. The dough is much easier to work with. It's worth a try, especially if you don't live two blocks from an excellent noodle house.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bad Idea Fridays - Rice cooker banana bread.

This is a guest posting from Mike- we've been chatting about rice cooker cuisine. He decided to take it to the next level.

Why rice cooker banana bread? Well, I like banana bread, and my current living arrangements have a communal kitchen, so we buy bananas in bulk - often resulting in extra bananas. I imagine you're probably more curious about the rice-cooker bit, though.

The reason is simple enough - I'm living in Japan, and western normal ovens are a rarity in kitchens here. I'd read of rice cookers being repurposed for non-rice dishes, however, and went looking to see if this extended to banana bread. Happily enough, it did.

The recipe I used is from here.

I've made banana bread a few times before, and this recipe is pretty standard; no complications there. Well, that would be the case except for the whole `in Japan' bit. Baking soda and baking powder are not common here (or I don't know the kanji for them). Fortunately, I know of a western-style supermarket that has them. Unfortunately, it's only halfway across Tokyo.

A friend wanted to visit the supermarket though, which was enough additional reason to go. Of course, at this point, the 'bad idea' has already began creeping in, as I've spent a couple hours and several times the worth of the bananas in other ingredients.

Still, part of it is for the challenge, so I proceed to the next step. After assembling all the ingredients (and having to purchase a measuring cup & spoons, and then look up conversions from imperial to metric), actually making the dough is simple enough. The ingredients combine fine, and the end result is within normal parameters. By this time, it's the middle of the evening, perhaps around 8:00. Now for the actual rice cooker part.

I added a thin layer of grease, dropped the dough in the cooker, turned it on and wandered off - no problem. I check back after an appropriate time later - not cooked. No worries, the recipe warned it might take another cycle. Reset the rice cooker, wander off again. When I came back, it's still warm dough. Rinse and repeat several times, until I finally had to go to bed, dough still uncooked.

After leaving it sitting in the fridge all day, the next evening I gave up on the rice cooker. Half a dozen cooking attempts had turned the dough it into bread pudding, from its original state, but it wasn't safe to eat. With nothing to lose, I took a last attempt and put it on tin foil in the toaster oven. After turning it on every fifteen minutes for an hour, it was finally done. Blacked, yes, but edible. After all it went through, I took what I could get.

I'm still not sure if the rice cooker wasn't strong enough, or if the electronics were too sophisticated, and calibrated for rice. What I do know is that I'll be getting a proper oven before I'll be using up any more extra bananas in bread.