Friday, December 31, 2010

Winter Salad

This salad was originally going to be named something that cast all sorts of aspersions on people who don't have winter produce. I changed my mind because my evil laugh didn't carry over to text. Instead, we have a friendly, accessible title.

I love frisee (death to accents) but I have trouble finding recipes for it. (Yes, there is the salad where bacon fat replaces olive oil. It's January. We don't eat like that anymore.) I also love other winter fruits- and C eats mandarins like other people eat Cadbury cream eggs. Clearly, all of these things need to become a salad.

Tear one head of frisee into bite sized pieces and put in a medium sized bowl. Add seeds from 1 small pomegranate. Peel two small mandarin oranges and add the segments. Slice in one avocado.

Make a dressing from the juice of one Meyer lemon, a teaspoon of chopped shallot, 1/4 cup olive oil, and a little bit of salt. Dress the salad. Eat. Cackle.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Onigiri II

This time of year is confusing for me- it's split between January asceticism and Christmas indulgence. I have no idea what most people eat this time of year, other than throwing rum balls at each other. My parents- displaced Midwesterners in California- would pack us up for the annual four hour drive two hour hike to a place that might possibly have skatable ice. I don't think you'll let me get away with family recipes for instant cocoa and camp stove ramen.

C and I are working out of our apartment, like good little third wave employees. I have been shoveling a steady supply of onigiri into his maw. As such, I have tips and refinements on the original recipe.

I still use seasoned vinegar, even though it is not correct. I am adding an extra half teaspoon of salt for every 3/4 cup of uncooked rice. I'm also garnishing each rice ball with 1/4 sheet nori and a pinch of sesame seeds. I cannot figure out how to make adorable triangle shapes without a mold.

I've found two excellent fillings. One is sweet potato, steamed above the cooking rice and mashed with a little salt. The other is chopped and fried button mushrooms with a little soy sauce. Three mushrooms are perfect for five onigiri.

And yes, I fried them in bacon fat.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mushroom Wine Brandy Sauce.

Sorry, no crappy uncropped picture today- first, because this recipe is not pretty, and second because my camera is 254 miles away. This is a nearly perfect gravy substitute: it's excellent on mashed potatoes or the inevitable platter of roasted root vegetables that shows up this time of year. (If current trends hold, I will be posting the very dish I mock within a month.) It's also good on steamed vegetables.

Stem and dice two cups of mushrooms. Dice 1/2 onion. Saute until soft in 1 tbs oil. Add one cup of red wine, one cup of broth, and one half cup of brandy and simmer until reduced by half. Add 1 clove minced garlic, 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, and salt to taste. Serve over other foods. If you eat it straight, you will feel ill.

Simmering the likker makes the alcohol evaporate- you know that. You probably also know the brilliant cooking tip C's mother shared with me: "If you use good wine, the food will taste better." Forget using good brandy unless you already have some in the house. What else is brandy good for?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Then End of Beet Week. Beet and Orange Salad.

Man, someday you guys might catch on to my "put fresh vegetables on a plate and call it a salad" trick. Until that fateful day...

This is a recipe where roasted beets would be best- roasting caramelizes things within the beets and makes them taste like something my ancestors ate for five thousand years. Beets can be baked whole in a 350 degree oven for about an hour to an hour and a half. One can use boiled beets. One probably will, if one is not baking ridiculous Christmas foods.

Take two cooked beets, peel them, and slice them. Section two oranges- or just cut them into rounds and remove the peel. The membranes may be bitter, but so is life. Keep the juice from slicing for the dressing.

Arrange the beets and oranges on a plate. Drizzle olive oil about. Squeeze half a lemon over the plates- and then sprinkle on the orange juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bad Idea Fridays: Mochi

Today is my birthday. This proffered Bad Idea Friday post from the incomparable A (or ---, as her friends call her) is a perfect birthday gift- I don't have to destroy the kitchen or post today, suckers. Hurrah for guest posts.

1) Purchase a small box of glutinous rice flour on a whim.
2) Decide that you have too many clean dishes in your house
3) Read rice flour box for a recipe because you are Irish and only recently mastered cooking brown rice in a rice maker.
4) Note that the only recipes on box are for chocolate mochi (all out of cocoa) and white sauce (I can make roux with cheap flour).
5) Google.
6) Opt for a stove top recipe due to a distressing lack of microwave safe containers
7) Combine 1 part rice flour, 1 part sugar, and 2 parts water, heat without boiling until quite thick. (I may have erred here.)
8) Place mochi in a very well oiled pan to cool. (13x9 would be better than 8x8.)
9) Wait several hours for mochi to set. When it does not, place in 250F oven for two hours. (When in doubt, bake, there is no recipe anywhere which advises this because...)
10) Remove mochi from oven. Notice a distressing texture on surface, somewhat like the patchwork of dessicated moss and pond scum from the bottom of a dry reservoir.
11) Leave mochi out all night, partly in disgust, partly to cool
12) Cut gummy blocks the next morning. Dust one with flour. Find it inedible and decide to dust the rest with confectioner's sugar. (bad idea because...)
13) Hydroscopic properties of the sugar cause mochi to become [more] digusting, sticky, sweaty globs of novel-textured bland starch.
14) Relegate to the back of the fridge for a week, then compost. Perhaps soil bacteria and saprophytic fungi will relish this pure energy source.

I'm fairly certain rabbits are better confectioners than I am.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beet Week Continues: Vinegar Pickled Beets

I think that is an oak leaf in the background. This time of year, our sunroom gets treated like a large walk in fridge with chairs. The rest of the year, the sunroom gets treated like a lovely bit of outside with shade and screens. Even C approves of this sort of outside. That is how leaves end up on our tables.

Boil a bunch of beets- using the instructions in the last post. (Here a "bunch" is about a pound of beets.) Peel and slice the beets and place in a bowl. Warm 1/2 cup apple cider or wine vinegar in a small pan. Add 1/2 cup water, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp salt, and any spices you might feel are necessary. I think less is more in this case- but I am not always right. Stir.

Pour the vinegar mixture over the beets. Let sit for at least an hour- and up to a week. Or, if you have a room that doubles as cold storage for food, throw them out when they start to get fuzzy. One pound of pickled beets is a lot of beets, after all. You'd better hope for secret beet lovers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Beet and Avocado Salad

Beets and avocados are friends.

My parents will not eat this dish. They have reasons, but for the sake of narrative flow I decree that they think of avocados as part of their cool California adulthood and beets as part of their homey Midwestern childhoods. I think of it as a way to integrate the two; most often when I've done something like trying to make tuna noodle casserole- with only a few modifications- and failing. (No tuna, whole wheat penne, vegetable broth instead of cream of mushroom soup. I don't know why I thought it would work.)

If such a rationalization doesn't make you feel all self-actualizing, you can sooth your palate with the dish's Cuban ancestry. Serves two.

Halve two beets, just cover with water, and simmer until tender. (20 minutes) It's awfully pretty when one of the beets is golden.

Mix 1/2 tsp chopped shallot, 1 pinch sugar, 1/4 cup olive oil, and the juice of 1 lemon. (Or the juice of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon. Or the juice of a Seville lemon please tell me where you found Seville lemons thank you. I suppose you could substitute garlic if you don't have shallots.) Add salt and pepper to taste, and muddle the shallot within the dressing.

Cool the cooked beets and peel. If they are a little overcooked, the skins will slip right off. Otherwise, a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler is necessary. (Beets have onion-shaped layers that are tightly stuck together. Excessive cooking makes it possible to slide these layers off easily. Proper cooking has no such advantage.)

Slice the peeled beets. Arrange slices on two plates. Slice a perfect avocado into nice thick pieces. Add to the plates. Mix the dressing and dress the salads- add more salt if necessary.

I might follow through on beet week- I have two more recipes in the hopper, and y'all need to get your beet water from somewhere.

Tom Robbins has a four page rant on how we should emulate beet pigments- but I'll abbreviate if for you: beets will retain their color even in your biological waste products. Do not be alarmed. Art like "Another Brick in the Wall" would be unnecessary if we all ate more beets.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bad Idea Fridays: Red Velvet Cake

What a wreck.

I made Red Velvet Cake for my brother's birthday. It tasted like propylene glycol. (Wikipedia says Propylene glycol has no flavor. I accidentally got a face full when we were draining a cooling system, and I beg to differ.) I used the Cook's recipe, I followed it to the letter, I had my mother taste the result and confirm that it was the same cake her grandmother used to make and still I was horribly horribly disappointed. Still, I'm sure there are people out there- people who haven't had a traumatic encounter with food dye solvents- and they might enjoy the traditional cake.

Every single recipe I have ever read for Red Velvet Cakes briefly discusses the history of the cake. There's a lot of diddle-daddle about chemistry, a brief mention of Steel Magnolias, and a sneering reference to the wartime use of beets. Happily, I like beets. I am seriously considering making this week 'beet week'. Even more happily, my indestructible chocolate cake uses one cup of water as the fluid component. Beet cooking liquid is like water, except it stains everything it touches. Since the recipe has proven resilient when I muck around with the ingredients, halving the cocoa and doubling the vinegar shouldn't be fatal...

But what of the frosting? There must be a cream cheese based frosting- otherwise, there's no startling color contrast. I tripped off to the natural foods market to buy some vegan cream cheese. There a lovely woman told me that as a vegan, cream cheese was forever barred to me and that eating the vegan version would only make me crave the real stuff more. Plus, she said, it was gross. Better that I should make an icing of Crisco and powdered sugar.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir together 1 and 1/2 cups white flour, 3 tbs. cocoa powder, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 cup sugar in a 9 inch round baking pan. (I added 1/4 cup cocoa, because my hand usually shakes when measuring out 1/3 cup) If you are using a fluted Bundt pan, do the mixing in another bowl and grease the pan. Otherwise, the cake will be removed in chunks and will look like crap.

Fill a large measuring cup with 1 cup beet water, 1/3 cup oil, and one teaspoons almond extract. (To make beet water, get some beets. Wash them, cut them in half, put them into a pan, cover them with water, and simmer them for about half an hour. Reserve the beets. Use the water. On another note; I added the almond extract on a whim. It turned out to be the best part of this cake.)

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk vigorously until combined. Add four tablespoons cider vinegar and stir until combined.

Pop the cake into the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove, let cool, gently coax out of the pan, fail, end up removing cake in three large pieces. Try to talk yourself into making buttercream frosting with Crisco. Fail. I made a glaze with the juice of one lemon, 1/2 cup powered sugar, and one cup dessert wine, simmered together until I could claim the alcohol evaporated. I also added 1 tsp. grated ginger, so everyone who tasted the cake could say "Ginger. Interesting." (This is exactly what they said.)

The cake was red going into the oven, but it was only a little red coming out. It smelled exactly like beets going in, but when it was removed it smelled and tasted like cake. Since it was reddish, sourish, and tasted of almonds, everyone thought it was a cherry cake. I dub this quasi-failure "Cherry Blossom Cake" and promise to oil he pan next time. Also, fie to the people who disparage baking with beets.

I realized this morning that I could have used haupia as frosting. The color contrast would have been perfect.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Baked Sweet Potato with Lime and Cilantro II

I suggested my delectable super simple sweet potato recipe to my coworker several months ago, and she loved it. Last week, I discovered that I communicate badly- even when if comes to describing recipes. She's been lightly oiling a shallow pan, slicing a couple of sweet potatoes into rings, squeezing a couple of limes over them, and baking them at 350 degrees until done. Then she sprinkles them with salt and cilantro. I figured it's one extra pan to wash, but worth an attempt- so I tried it. It was about as good as the unsliced one the first day, but on the second day the pan sauce mutated into some sort of miraculous dressing- like those honey mustard dressings but good. Very very good. So try making sweet potatoes this way if you like sweet mustard dressings or elves wash your pots. Make lots.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Moros y Cristianos

I tripled this recipe, because I have poor judgement. Two days later it has all been eaten. So yes, it is very tasty. And while this recipe will comfortably serve two for dinner and then breakfast, why not double it?

Take one and one half cups dry turtle beans and pick them over. I have opinions about dry beans which will probably be explained on some dreary day. For now, remember that it is important that the beans be fresh, or they will never get soft. Also, do not add acid or salt until they are cooked or the skins will become tough. Simmer the beans in a heavy pot over low heat with 4 cups water for about an hour- until the beans are tender. (You could be slow roasting some pork with lime and orange and cumin in a low oven, in which case the beans will be happy to hang out there.)

Rinse 1 cup brown rice and add it to the softened beans with two more cups of water or stock. Return pot to heat. Chop one medium onion, one bell pepper (Red is better, but green is fine. Lord knows I can't afford red.) and two handfuls of cilantro. Saute these ingredients with a little oil until the onion is nicely browned. Add the mire poix to the beans and rice, and taste to see if the rice is done. Cook cautiously until the resulting pottage is something you want to eat.

Good with salsa fresca, or (gasp) a fried egg.

This is the tastiest thing I have ever eaten in the name of multiculturalism.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Avocado Salsa

The second salsa in as many days! It is as the legends foretold!

Take a perfectly ripe avocado. Slice it in half and remove the seed. Dice the flesh inside the peel and scoop it out with a spoon. Add the juice of 1/2 lime, a half handful of chopped cilantro, and one finely diced jalapeño, without the seeds. (Or with them, fine.) Señor C may be sad, but jalapeños are essential to this salsa. My father sometimes uses canned jalapeños- which allow for greater regulation of capsaicin content.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mango Salsa

Earlier, I indicated that there was a huge range of salsa besides tomato. I have *two* kinds of Solanaceae free salsa for you this coming week, to prove my wild-eyed allegations.

Take some mangoes. If you've got Tommy Atkins (what a problematic imperialist name for a fruit variety) mangoes, two will be sufficient. If you have Manila mangoes, four will be necessary. If you have another variety of mango, I will assume you are familiar enough with the first two varieties to draw your own conclusions. (I can also come to where you live and test these mangoes extensively.) Cutting mangoes is a bit difficult- there is a line of rough bilateral symmetry which indicates the location of the seed. One can remove large ovals of mango flesh from either side of this line- and then peel off the slightly toxic skin and dice the fruit into a bowl. The remaining flesh on the mango disc could be conscientiously sliced into the bowl, in theory. This has never actually happened. Instead, remove the last bits of skin, gnaw on the pit like the primate you are, floss your teeth, and get on with the rest of the salsa. (This involves repeating the process with at least one more mango. Other people might point out that you can share the mango pits, but you should point out that you are both making the salsa and holding a very sharp knife.)

Dice 1/4 medium onion very finely and add to the mango bowl. Dice 1/2 bell pepper(inessential), one handful cilantro, and one handful mint. (Mint is actually pretty important, but don't let the lack of mint combined with a surfeit of mangoes prevent making mango salsa.) Put these things in the bowl. Add the juice of 1.5 limes and a sprinkle of salt. Stir. If I'm making this for my Midwestern father, I chop in a couple of chiles. If I make this for my Chilean husband, I add a little more lime and mock him.

My entire family pretends that only I know this recipe so they will not have to chop all of these things. Now it is on the Internet, and they have no excuse.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Last At Least I Wasn't That Desperate: Saddest Kale Salad

Unlike some people, I take my commitment to kale seriously.

Sometimes one is halfway through the morning routine, dressed in slacker business casual, and the sun rises revealing a beautiful cloudless sky. One curses the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for its lies about definite precipitation. One now has about 15 minutes to remove the frost from the car windshield, possibly gas up the car, change into field clothing, and stuff 800 calories into a box before driving to the marina. It's days like these that engender the saddest kale salad.

Grab some kale. Pull it off of the stems and put it into tupperware until the tupperware is full. Add some vinegar and some oil. Close the tupperware. It's worth taking an extra second to make sure there's a fork in the lunchbox, because eating sad kale salad with fingers is not pleasant.

People will tell you that raw kale is inedible, but you'd be surprised at what seems edible when there's nothing else in your lunchbox but almonds.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

At Least I Wasn't That Desperate: Cider and Fizzy Water

I am not a big fan of adult beverages. I mean, I like R's mai tais, and about three sips of good champagne. Everything else I drink is so that I can hang with the cool kids. I am merely flotsam in the tides of peer pressure.

So there it is: sparkling cider for those of us who keep picking up sulphur tones in the Martinelli's.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

At Least I Wasn't That Desperate: Mashed Avocados on Toast

I told myself I'd post every single day in November. (I did it too, because I am reliable and trustworthy and not inherently flaky at all.) I built up a little backlog of photos for when my back was up against the wall. Although the situation was never dire enough for me to roll out the truly pathetic recipes, I see no reason not to burn through them now, while I think of things to do with persimmons and additional bad ideas.