Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Poetry is fun!

A Poem* in Honor of my 12-inch Calphalon Non Stick Skillet

Dear 12-inch Skillet, how I love you
You are big enough for fake bacon plus an egg or two.
You are easy to clean and make cooking a cinch
I can fry onions with less oil and salt - just a pinch!
I tend to make you my go-to pan
Like for dinner last, tonight's, or beans in a can.
Plus pastas, stir fries**, Mexican fiestas galore
Tonight's Shakshooka will prove not to be a bore.
Oh Calphalon pan, it's you I adore!

*Note: I so don't care about meter
** Yes, I have a wok, but it's hard to get to. Actually, I have 2 woks, but this is easier!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On Why Using a Cookbook is Important

Maybe it's the fact that's I'm reading a great book or maybe it's the fact I'm moderately fed up with people in general, but I really dislike people who think they are better cooks than you (me?) because they don't use a cookbook. Or recipe. Ever.

Now, I'm not saying I'm Julia Child (but I am so excited about Julie and Julia!) or my heroine Lidia Bastianich or even Mark Bittman, but I can hold my own. I'm a pretty good baker. I can use a knife (thanks Sur la Table and friends/family who gave us visa gift cards for our wedding). I can make a mean tomato sauce. I can even flip an omelet in a pan (well, once I did it!). But I also know the value of a good recipe and cookbook.

I've heard from several people before "Oh, I never look at cookbooks. I looooove coming up with recipes on my own." Well, bully for you. You see, the value of a recipe is fantastic. Now, I seldom measure (my mother-in-law's comment about measuring is only when baking). I can eye ball a teaspoon, 1/4 of a cup, a dash, etc. And I often under salt and over garlic and put in 2 times as much hot pepper than a recipe often calls for. But that's the beauty of a cookbook. The author won't come to your house, wielding a 8 inch perfectly honed chef's knife (although thanks to The Pedant, our knives are perfectly honed as well!) threatening to stab you in the stomach if you don't use exactly 1/8 teaspoon cumin. No. That's preposterous. Cooking is really about feel and senses to when things are done (except rice. I learned this last night. I am terrible at cooking rice. It's because I'm impatient - thanks Mom - and cook everything too high. So our brown basmati rice burned. It did actually give the dish a nice, er, crunch.) but recipes and cookbooks are invaluable. I use them as a jumping off point. In my slow cooker recipes I add in more spices than the author calls for. I substitute regularly. I omit. I add. But I use the cookbooks all the time. Why? Because I'm not a trained chef. Because I can't tell the difference between cayenne, ancho and chipotle chili powder (well, I can because they do in fact have different flavors, but I just don't care - see the difference?).

I think I was thinking about this theory while reading the book and eating lunch of 3 different things that all came from cookbooks or recipes.

1) Roasted Eggplant and Mushroom Soup. My mom found this recipe in a freebie magazine when they were in the Berkshires one summer. It's a very simple and healthy soup. My addition - I use about 1-2 tablespoons of EVOO instead of like 1/2 a cup.

2) Sri Lankain Yellow Curry with Hard Cooked Eggs. This comes from our favorite curry book. It was a simple recipe (but I did burn the rice we made) and really good. Did it matter I didn't have fungeek? No. Did it matter I added in the cinnamon stick after the onions because I forgot? No. Would I have been able to come up with this recipe all by myself? Hell no. That's why Ragahvan Iyer wrote the dammed book. And Thank God he did. So tasty.

3) Minty Kidney Beans with Potatoes. Also from the curry book. Also really good. I used fat free Greek Yogurt and fat free half-and half (does any one else find this an oxymoron?) instead of full fat yogurt and heavy cream (to prevent curdling). Did it matter. Well, actually yes, because the yogurt curdled a bit. But it is still super tasty.

So that's my rant. Also, cookbooks are fun. They have pretty pictures. And tasty recipes. I'd buy more if we had more space for them/wasn't a cheapskate. But, I was thinking about it. Most cookbooks cost between $15 and $30. And produce an endless number of meals (because each time they are slightly different). Eating out all the time costs waaaay more. I know what I may do with my amazon gift card...Hooray for Lidia!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Changing Habits

Since this is (half) my blog, I get to pick my posts and topics. Now I SO don't want to turn into a "diet blogger" because really, no one wants to hear about that, I do enjoy the fact that I have successfully lost some weight in the past 3 years and have been eating better. And more interestingly. Not that I didn't before, but I definitely have changed eating habits and exercising habits (which, when I exercise, I can eat more sweets, so I'm all for it) for the better.

I was at a Weight Watcher's meeting last night and the leader mentioned briefly how your taste buds change when you loose weight. Well, not necessarily change, but are different. He talked about fried chicken. How he eats it and is disappointed. And I have a similar situation. Not with fried chicken, but (sadly!) with Chinese Food.

It started in April. I was home for a wedding and had been really craving good, New York Chinese food. The greasy, saucy kind. The fried chips with duck sauce, the dumplings, the cold noodles with sesame sauce, moo sho with lots of hoison, the works. The only thing I didn't get was General Tso's Tofu (or mock chicken) mostly because the don't have it at the restaurant we went to. But I can taste it in my mouth. There is one really good take out place that does the tofu and it's amazing. Sweet, spicy, fried, saucy, amazing. The problem: after I had the dinner I'd been waiting for, I wasn't happy. I was overly full for one thing and for another, it just wasn't as comforting anymore. A few weeks later, The Pedant and I ordered in lots of Chinese food one night (it was after an argument and both of us didn't really feel like cooking or going out so we ordered a bit too much) and again - same thing. Too greasy! Too fried! Not what I wanted. I was a little bummed. Maybe my taste buds have changed. Or I can't handle the amount of food I used to and therefore am eating too much without realizing. I'm not sure. I still crave Chinese food (I will get my Gen. Tso's one day as a treat dammit!!) but no longer want to go out of my way for it. It might also have to do with proximity. In college and grad school, I would order from a local place a few times a month and it was always just good enough. Here, I can't replicate that meal (there are apparently no scallion pancakes in DC?!) and when I have Chinese food infrequently I build it up in my mind for being amazing. And it's not. It never was, but it was always good.

Man, now I want some Gen. Tso's. TP - want to not make another curry from our favorite curry book and order in?! Probably not, but worth a shot.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Things I Learned Recently

Evidently, there's a new conveyor-belt sushi place in DC. If I hadn't just got downsized, I'd go, especially since it is a fusion place and our last fusion experience worked out really well.

Also, Rhagavan Iyer has a pretty awesome curry cookbook. His curries with pasta have all been tasty, although we have to work from eating all the cashews pre-recipe.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dinner for One

The Pedant had a previous engagement last night so I was on my own for dinner. And I made something amazing. (I did realize when alone I almost always make a small variation on the same dish, which I kind of already knew, but was reminded how I eat when alone while listening to last week's The Splendid Table at the gym this morning.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper interviewed the authors of a new book about people eating alone.) Regardless, this was a clear winner. And tasted so good while watching Gilmore Girls from Netflix after a nice swim.

I cooked up a little over a serving of whole wheat capellini. While boiling the water, I sauteed half a red onion in a little (too much...what can I say, I love EVOO and let my hand slip when cooking for me too often...) olive oil with some salt. I then added in a huge handful of spinach and a lot of powdered garlic and let that cook down. As Lidia Bastianich always tells me to do, I added in a lot of the pasta cooking liquid to thicken the sauce. I put it all in a bowl and sprinkled some fresh parmesan on top. Then I fried up an egg until it was just perfect - the white was on the crispy side and the yolk was runny and warm and delicious. It coated the pasta perfectly and made it creamy and fatty and amazing. The cheese got a little melty and the dish was to die for. So good.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chicken Salad Success!

I had a bunch of roast chicken that my mom gave me after dinner Friday. I had a bunch of kosher-for-Passover mayo that wasn't getting any more shelf stable in the back of my fridge.

So I made chicken salad. I also added one whole onion and a whole mess o' pepper.

The salad came out great, so I distributed it onto a number of Pepperidge Farm® Deli Flats for future lunch consumption. Deli Flats are not only pareve, as mentioned before, but are quite good as not-a-lot-of-bread which still tastes like bread. I got the 7 Grain, because they're more fiber and less fat than the Whole Wheat. Go figure.

Summery Dinner

Dinner last night was divine. We made a delectable summery feast and ate it while watching a great movie peripherally about food (highly recommended!). Both were from and both were very, very good.

The salad was a Beet Salad with Plums and Goat Cheese. We had both plums and a (giant!) beet from our amazing CSA and wanted a way to use both without being left with a cake for 2 people (which means I would eat 4 people's servings). The Pedant found this salad on line while doing some searching and it was perfect. We did amend it - as you see it serves 10 (!!) and has many more steps than I cared for (really, I'm going to put it on a platter and dirty up 2 or more bowl if I don't have to?! Plus, I had hazelnut oil not walnut oil and it worked out just fine, thank you.) but it worked out. The only tiny hitch is that we purchased a Camembert goat cheese that I don't like and didn't crumble on top very well. TP put some in his salad and loved it. I was a bit bummed because I do love me some goat cheese but I didn't really need the calories anyway. The salad turned out really well in the end. The dressing was tasty, the beets and plums and onions contrasted really well together and I can see how it would present itself very nicely on a large platter with a color contrast.

Our main dish was the Tuscan Beans in Summery Tomato Ragu that I found from their daily RSS recipes. And it was really great. It was a great dish to make over the weekend since it took some time (between soaking and cooking the beans - which I probably should have cooked 10 minutes longer) and baking it in the oven for a good half an hour but it was worth it. The sauce was very flavorful and it was just delicious. We followed their suggestion and bought a great multi grain bread to soak up the sauce which really tied the dish together. Pair it with a rose wine and a Skinny Cow Mint sandwich for desert and we were set.

So psyched for my leftovers lunch today!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wedding Food

Yes, yes, I SWORE I'd post more but then I went to NY for nearly a week for the Sister-in-law's wedding, which took up all my time. Plus, we hadn't been eating terribly exciting food. The wedding was lovely and they did have onion rings and curly fries. Amazing. Plus, the Thursday before the wedding I had like 3 mini canollis. Even if they were kosher parve, they were still surprisingly good.