Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cheese Overload!

We have made and eaten some pretty awesome foods this week.

Last night I made tomato cobbler from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian; like any cobbler, it's chopped up fruity stuff with a batter topping. Unlike fruit cobblers, the tomato is mixed with salt, pepper, and cornstarch, then covered with a flour and cornmeal batter. It was pretty good, but not as good as I'd hoped; probably because I didn't add enough cornstarch and so the tomatoes didn't sufficiently gel.

I hate cornstarch. Every time I open the box up, the silken powder gets everywhere. It sticks to my hands, won't measure easily, and doesn't wipe up or wash off without work. So I try to avoid it as much as possible.

This morning I made scones again, and again with chocolate chips. The recipe from Quaker Oats is wrong about adding raisins (or chocolate chips) halfway through the process; if you do that, the raisins or chips will end up mostly on the edge of the scones, and will become burnt into bitter carbon. The rest of the scones turned out fine, though.

Dinner tonight was fondue, from our Barnes & Noble fondue cookbook. It was easy - chop an onion, sauté in a hunk o' butter, add flour and sour cream, then stir in gruyere and cheddar until gooey deliciousness achieved. It was so awesomely cheesy tasty, and none of us should have eaten as much as we did, even using broccoli and cauliflower florets as a nod to balanced nutrition.

Also a frequent dunk into the cheese goodness was Cook's Illustrated's "Almost No-Knead Bread" recipe, which is sadly no longer online for free. It's a variant of Bittman's loaf, with a little tweaking for a higher rise and tangier inside. And it worked, despite all my attempts to ruin it with inaccuracy (I'm not sure I added enough flour), shortcut-taking (we didn't let it cool for two hours because we were too hungry), and my complete inability to knead. The crust is crunchy, the inside soft and tangy, and it tastes like something you get at a restaurant. Next time, we're making it with whole wheat flour.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Weekend Roundup

Although things have been busy recently, and they only will get busier soon. I am going back to school part-time and still working full time, so many of my meals will consist of really delicious sandwiches eaten between classes (good thing I'm married to a guy who likes to bake his own bread!). Nonetheless, The Pedant and I will focus our energy on cooking on the weekends.

This past weekend my parents were in town, so we didn't do lots of cooking. There was, of course, lots of eating: NY Bagels (SO GOOD!), really great Greek food, a movie about food (plus I dreamt of french onion soup Saturday night), ice cream, Chinese food and more ice cream. We also walked a lot and caught up.

Also, I have fallen in love with cantaloupes from my farmer's market. Yes, we're members of a CSA, but I like eating cantaloupes because I need the potassium. And the farmer's market cantaloupes are very sweet and very good.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Your Source For Mockery Judaic

This post is only somewhat food-related.

Last night, we got a copy of the Jewish Source catalog. We receive this catalog because a thoughtful relative gave us a gift from it for our wedding, a gift that bears a resemblance to a certain Nazi-vaporizing artifact, so much so that, despite its attractiveness and clear utility, we fear to use it with our eyes open. Although the Nazi-vaporizing effect of this item may be that we now get the catalog every month, which is filled with all sorts of amusing items that we will never, ever buy.

So, taking a page from Chris Sims's Invincible Super Blog and its mockery of a comic industry trade publication, I will proceed to lampoon the most amusing items from the Jewish Source:
There are some useful and attractive things in the Jewish Source catalog. But they're far outnumbered by stuff like the above.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

In a preGood Italian Food!

Last night, The Pedant and I cooked a really great dish from Lidia's Italy. It was really, very good. And not too complicated! The dish was Pasta alla Norma, a Sicilian specialty. We did modify things a bit but it still turned out to be amazing.

The recipe called for about a pound of eggplant fried in a cup of oil. We probably had well over a pound - maybe closer to 2 pounds - and we so didn't fry. (Sorry Lidia. I love you and your shows, but frying is just too hard for me and my waistline!) We sauteed in about 1/4 of a cup (a thin layer - but next time, maybe even a thinner layer) and it was good. Then we set a pound of whole wheat penne to boil (apparently, we couldn't find whole wheat ziti at the Teet) and made a simple sauce with canned crushed tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. After adding in the pasta to let it finish cooking in the sauce, we added some fresh basil (from my mini-garden, i.e., 2 small pots on the balcony with basil, parsley and chives from our CSA), about 1 cup of ricotta salata (which, I really have to say is an amazing cheese - I really love it and need to find many more ways to use it!) and then layer on the eggplant and 1 more cup of ricotta salata. And it was amazing!

TP and I had a lovely evening eating (too much, but so worth it!) Pasta alla Norma and watching Cranford - a mini series recommended by my cousins and very entertaining.

We also made another Lidia dish for dinner Tuesday, but this time from Lidia's Family Table: Cauliflower and egg salad. We liked the recipe so much we actually copied it from the TV show before we got the book (although this was the first time we made it). Very simple, very good: steamed cauliflower, hard boiled eggs, EVOO, white wine vinegar. Toss, enjoy. And we did.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuna With Mammal Hearts FTW

The tuna fish, olive oil, and pickled pepper sandwich I wrote about earlier was tasted today, after some time in storage. The taste has, if anything, improved. Food win.

Only downside: the oil turned the anadama bread a little greasy.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Bread Adventures

Tonight's dinner is avocado themed - because really, who dislikes avocado*? We will had a cold avocado chipotle bisque and avocado mango rolls, made with rice paper. Both are from recent Vegetarian Times. We've made the soup before and it was so tasty.

But, I had about 1/4 of an avocado left over from the prep for the rolls. I couldn't let it go to waste so I made a sandwich with it. I am quite excited about lunch in 90 minutes! It is:

Avocado slices, red pepper slices, tofu (not marinated, but I kind of like raw tofu), whole grain mustard and the Bittman brown bread The Pedant made yesterday. The only downside is it was falling out of the bread when I made it but I can handle it. It might be the sandwich I'm looking forward to the most since I was in Scandinavia.

*TP's cousin is sadly allergic. I know she dislikes avocado. But that's ok. More in the world for me!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Let Me Ruin Your Meal

Fun fact of the night: Ba-tampte pickled bell peppers, when just taken from the jar, look disturbingly like preserved mammalian hearts.

I made this discovery while working on my lunches for the week. Having created two breads, I needed to justify them by making sandwiches. The brown bread, which was pareve, was made into sandwiches with Empire turkey bologna and French's mustard with horseradish; the horseradish mustard helped compete with the strong flavors of the bread, which was made with (among other things) bran cereal and cocoa powder.

But I also made "Anadama" bread, which is dairy (as well as containing plenty o' molasses), and I needed a sandwich for that. Enter my eternal quest for the perfect tuna fish sandwich.

As regular readers of this blog know, I am always trying to make canned tuna into something better than a mayonnaise-y mass tasty only for tasting mostly like mayonnaise. I've had limited luck with mustard-based concoctions, so today I tried a base of olive oil, dehydrated onions, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper. I added to that tuna and chopped pickled red bell pepper, the latter for extra taste and texture.

It tasted pretty good right out of the bowl, but the important thing is for it to be palatable after a day or so in the fridge. My mustard tuna sandwiches were merely adequate to that task, and gave off a pungent vinegar/tuna odor which few others could stand. We'll see how these do.

Food Prep Day

I have ten minutes before I put the brown bread in the oven, so I might as well blog.

Today's been food preparation day here; I made scones from my mom's recipe (taken from the Quaker Oats cookbook) this morning (including my family's traditional chocolate chips), along with a bread from Bittman's magnum vegetarian opus that involved white flour, wheat flour, cornmeal, and molasses. It tastes great; so much so that it's already half gone. The Sherbs made our usual amped-up Fiber One muffins - we take Fiber One-branded "apple cinnamon" muffin mix, add apple bits and golden raisins, and enjoy it a lot more.

This evening's bread is a brown bread from Bittman; it smells good already, so I'm optimistic.

I'm also making a gigantic chickpea and mushroom soup from Lydia's Italy; the chickpeas still seem hard after an overnight soak and twenty minutes of boiling, but they're on boil for another two hours, so I will trust in Mme. Bastianich at current.

The soup itself is lunches and dinner later this week; dinner tonight is hot dogs. Hebrew National makes them low-fat.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Meat Without Flame

Chicken kabobs last night on the George Foreman outdoor grill. We used some Soy Vay wasabi teriyaki for marinade. Other ingredients included pineapple, onion, mushroom, and green bell pepper.

I'm still getting the hang of grilling on the Foreman outdoor grill; it doesn't have the same sensation as over a flame, and requires the cover for most of the cooking, so I feel like I have to guess how long it needs to be on before a turn. Regardless, it was tasty.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Next Time With Salt Fish!

New food lesson: when trying to make a meal in the time indicated on the recipe (7 minutes, not including pasta cooking time), use pre-pitted oil-cured olives.

Otherwise, one has ten minutes or more of olive-y frustration as one individually pits the olives. Okay, maybe it would be faster if I had some sort of pitting device. But no. I had only a Wusthof 8" chef's knife, a wooden cutting board from Ikea, and a resolution to ignore my mild sensory defensiveness no matter how dirty/greasy my hand became (in a nod to my obsessive need to wipe my hands after each olive, I dedicated my right hand to holding the knife, so at least one hand would feel clean).

But it was worth it. Following our heroine, Lydia Mattichio Bastianich (our house motto is WWLBD - "what would Lydia Bastianich do?"), we decided to make a recipe out of Lydia's Family Table. I made spaghetti in an orange and olive sauce. Oil-cured olive bits go into a pan with browned sliced garlic, then orange zest, orange juice, and toasted pine nuts are added (not to mention pasta water!). It is absolutely delicious.

Someday, when I'm not just cooking for the two of us, I'm making the breaded salt fish from Lydia's Italy.