Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ra ra ah ah ah/ pizza, ooh la la

I tried a new pizza dough today, one that used honey as a sweetener and a bit of white wine to moisten the dough. This was the chewiest, most subtle pizza dough I've ever made, and it's just become my exclusive pizza dough recipe (well, unless I'm going for a crunchy cornmeal dough again). I wish I could have baked it for longer, but I foolishly used kale as one of the toppings, foolishly because the kale was crispy and perfectly charred before the dough was perfectly charred. Still, we devoured the pizza, whose other toppings were mozzarella, basil, olive oil, garlic powder, and a sliced tomato; next time, I'll make two!

The recipe is as follows:
Whisk together 3/4 teaspoon yeast, 2 tablespoons white wine, 1/2 teaspoon honey, and 6 tablespoons warm water until the yeast is dissolved. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1.5 cups flour, and use your fingers to mix the dough until it comes together in a ball; sprinkle in a bit more water if the dough is impossible to mix, but it should be fine. Knead for about two minutes, and then let the dough rise in an oiled bowl until doubled, or 1.5 to 2 hours. Form into a ball and let rest for 15 minutes, then roll it out until it's quite thin on a floured or cornmealed surface. Add your toppings, unless you're using kale, in which case it's smarter to add the kale after it's already been in the oven for about two minutes. Bake on a preheated pizza stone or pan at the highest temperature your oven can muster for 5 to 10 minutes, and let it rest for a minute or two before you cut it.

Oh, and we still have about three quarters of a cake left. My plea continues.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Savory flan, and dear god someone eat this cake

I love my immersion blender so, so much. It does what food processors can't. For a long time, I thought that my inability to get the results I wanted out of a food processor was user error, but now I think that either I've been using below-par food processors or food processors just don't work well. Ever.

In any case, although I didn't boil the carrots quite long enough, they were less over-hard (jesus, that construction is awkward, and hey, two references to deities in one post!) than I thought they were; the food processor refused to admit that they were, in fact, mostly squishy. The puree was... well, puree enough to blend sufficiently with the eggs and milk, and the flan was nice and light. We ate it warm, but I can see it being good cold as well.

The recipe instructed me to serve it with a lemon vinaigrette-dressed clump of microgreens, but who the hell buys microgreens? Our head of lettuce has stayed fresh for over a week, and so I used the rest up tonight with that lemon vinaigrette, chopping it up. I love romaine and could probably eat a whole head of it, especially with a little chopped shallot mixed in.

Oh, and there's most of an enormous devil's food cake sitting on my dresser. It's moist and delicious and way too big for us to finish. Please visit and eat it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Garlic 'n' granita

No photos, once again, but only because tonight's dinner was distressingly monochrome. I made 44-clove garlic soup with a simple salad of lettuce and cucumbers with an espresso granita for dessert, but with modifications to both the soup and granita recipes.

As to the soup, I didn't particularly feel like putting heavy cream in it, so I decided to go vegan with the stuff. I used margarine instead of butter to cook the onions and thyme in, didn't add cream or milk, and omitted the Parmesan. The stock, obviously, was vegetarian. To tell you the truth, I don't think cheese would have added anything to the soup; pepper and thyme were more than enough to accent the amazing, amazing flavor combination of roasted and unroasted garlic, and such a strong cheese would probably have detracted from it. It's more healthful this way, too. Similarly, I added a squirt of lemon juice to the whole soup, whereas the recipe calls for a whole quarter lemon per bowl. I cannot overstate the deliciousness of what resulted. It's surprisingly subtle, given that the mellow, sweet roasted garlic modulates the harshness of the plain old simmered cloves, and it's just assertive enough, like one of those brassy heroines of an action flick who gives in to the burly male lead in the end anyway. Anyway, Andy and I will probably be exuding garlic from our pores for days to come, but it's worth it.

While I was stirring the coffee into the simple syrup prior to freezing the granita, I thought, "You know what I haven't had in a long time? Chocolate." So I heated the stuff up a bit and stirred in some ground chocolate to make mocha granita, which is doubtless superior to the chocolate-free variety.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Can doughnuts make up for my inconstancy?

I made molasses cookies yesterday! and also a really good quinoa salad with cumin lime vinaigrette, but I didn't photograph the salad or post about the molasses cookies. And tonight's dinner was just leftovers, so no fun there.

However, I did make doughnuts with star anise creme anglaise as a dipping sauce!

The doughnuts didn't rise nearly as much as I would have liked; they were supposed to double in size, but they didn't approach that. Nevertheless, they were reasonably fluffy, and quite delicious, particularly when dipped in the creme anglaise. I have eaten three, but they're small, so it's okay. In any case, my observation is that every time I actually follow directions and cover a rising bit of dough with a tea towel, the dough doesn't rise sufficiently. I think the weight of the tea towel is dragging the dough down, so from now on, it's plastic wrap or nothin'.

Andy came up with the brilliant idea to use the not-too-dirty oil in which I fried the doughnuts to make deep-fried hummus balls. Our first attempt fell apart a bit, so for the second try, I proposed that we roll the hummus in the flour and spices and then pop the ball in the freezer for a bit. Result:

It is so good. Fancy schmancy places in my soon-to-be-home city could charge like $5 a hummus ball. Look how much Andy is smiling at the prospect of eating one!

The only problem is that now he's plotting to deep-fry everything.

And, in conclusion and in apology, a link to one of my favorite poems about inconstancy: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=173139

Friday, June 25, 2010

Forgetfulness, thy name is woman

Completely forgot about this blog today! It's fine, though, because due to illness and desire to eat healthfully for once I didn't bake any sweets, and dinner was a simple Italian lentil and pasta soup with beet greens and homemade cheesy croutons (love that sourdough). Nothing too special, but damn tasty. Something interesting to come tomorrow, perhaps!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Salad days

Well, the bread came out quite well; the texture was better than perhaps any other bread I've made this summer. It wasn't as tangy as I'd have liked, which was odd considering its extremely long rise, but that sourdough taste is definitely there.

Dinner was extremely simple and prominently featured said bread. I put together a raw corn and golden beet salad (the above two ingredients, some olive oil and white wine vinegar, salt and pepper, chives, about a half-teaspoon of honey) and set it on a bed of romaine with a few slices of tomato, mozzarella, a couple dried figs, and a slice of the bread, drizzling it all with a bit more olive oil and white wine vinegar and adding a couple shakes of pepper just for good measure. As you can see from the pictures, the variety of colors in the fruits and vegetables made for a pretty plate.

And not a drop of soy sauce in sight!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why it is good to live in a super-hippie place.

I was walking along Magazine Street the other day, here in the People's Republic of Cambridge, and I saw a sign on a telephone pole advertising free sour cherries from the tree in someone's backyard, BYOC (bring your own container). I called the number provided to ask if we needed to make an appointment but got no response. Today, I brought a plastic bag with me on my walk toward Andy's lab today and knocked on the door... no answer. But the gate was propped open. So I went into the backyard, only to see a tree whose lower limbs had clearly already been stripped by prior fruit seekers. The tree's upper limbs, however, were replete with cherries.

So I climbed it. I wasn't sure whether it would be better to have someone come home and offer me a stepstool or ladder or to be left alone because jeez, how embarrassing to be caught in someone else's tree stuffing a plastic bag with sour cherries. Naturally, tonight the owner of the house called me back and left a message saying that I could come by even if she wasn't home, and she'd helpfully set out a ladder in the backyard so I could reach the cherries. Too late, lady.

In any case, I made a sort of pie filling using turbinado sugar, lemon, and thyme, as well as about a tablespoon of butter. I filled some corn muffins with it; it's a nice pairing. There's about half a cup of leftover quasi-jam. I guess I'll have to find something to do with it. On the up side, though, I finished off that sour cream!

Speaking of finishing off... in setting up sourdough bread today, I finished off the sourdough starter. That's right, since there was about a cup and a half of the stuff to begin with, doubling the sourdough recipe I settled on (I want to freeze some dough for later) emptied it out. R.I.P., starter. Hopefully, you were full of enough little beasties to make this bread successful. We'll see what happens after the all-night fridge rise. I had to add a significant amount of flour post-autolyse, which makes me nervous, so we'll see...

Dinner was a simple affair: bok choy and edamame "salad" with scallion rice. Tomorrow, I'll get off this Asian kick with something a little more New American.

In other news, I'm reading Too Loud a Solitude, and it's truly awesome. The only drawback is that it is too short.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Anyone else read the Strawberry Shortcake books when you were little?

I have never had a cookie as creamy as these strawberry shortcake cookies. The recipe has 2/3 cup heavy cream in it; I decided to make it both because the strawberries that are out these days are fantastic and because we still had (and continue to have) some heavy cream purchased for the caramel. The one caution is that these cookies spread more than the recipe writers would have you think; 1.5-inch scoops made massive, muffin top-like cookies. Now, I love muffin tops, and so I'm not going to complain, but these were definitely not "two-bite cookies," as advertised. They very much encapsulate the shortcake experience, though, and with much less work than shortcake entails.

Since you sugar (and lemon juice) the chopped berries and let them sit while mixing up the dough, which draws out the juices, the strawberry juice turns the dough light pink and flavors it oh-so-slightly. Good, flavorful berries are essential.

To go with the cookies (heh), I made japchae. I suppose it wasn't real japchae, considering that I couldn't find dangymen (Korean sweet potato noodles) at C-mart and just went with rice-based cellophane noodles, but the sauce was the same, and I guess that's what counts. C-mart did furnish some extraordinarily cheap shiitake mushrooms of pretty solid quality, as well as a big package of Chinese broccoli that I used instead of asparagus, because asparagus seemed out of place in this context. Its a very assertive vegetable, and I couldn't see it blending so well with the Korean sauce. Topping each bowl with some roughly chopped scallions and some toasted sesame seeds went nicely as well.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What the focaccia?

Oh man, racy bread puns!

Focaccia is a lot easier than it's always been cracked up to be. I love eating grapes with cheese, and I've seriously been craving fruit lately, so when I saw a near-overripe dollar bag of grapes in Chinatown's C-mart, I decided to purchase them and freeze them for topping a focaccia with grapes, feta, and rosemary.

We ended up going to a friend's parents' apartment for dinner, so I transported the bread during its second rise and baked it at their house, glazing it with olive oil once during baking and once right afterward. I decided to finish the bread under the broiler to char the grapes a bit and to give it a nice, deep brown color, and it worked perfectly. Their oven has the kind of even heat I've been missing! It had that textural cross between pillowy and chewy that I associate with focaccia (and most Italian breads, come to think of it), and I liked the rosemary/grape interaction. Fresh rosemary and more cheese would have made it even better.

If I were to do this again, I'd turn up the heat somewhat, probably from 425 to 450, and add one more olive oil glaze in the middle. Perhaps next time, I'll use just rosemary and garlic. It doesn't get much better than that.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Currying favor

We went out to Grasshopper, a local vegan restaurant, last night with a friend who was visiting to check out the house as a possible future residence, thus the lack of a post. I could say something about powering through Complications, another Atul Gawande not-exactly-tome, and how it conscientiously reminds us aspiring doctors that doctors do, in fact, effectively kill people in their careers, but that would be depressing, so I won't, because it's all about making you happy, Dear Reader.

Instead, I'll talk about the curry I made tonight!

I used canned tomato paste, an approximate 5:1 blend of canola to sesame oil, and coconut milk for the base of the curry. Three cloves of garlic, an inch or two of ginger, an onion, and a handful of raisins went into that, to be stir-fried until the onions were golden with the various spices that go into a masala curry. I spilled the salt, which worried me at first, but a squirt of lemon juice and some salt-free naan rectified the issue. I threw in some frozen peas and blanched a head of cauliflower, finishing its cooking in the sauce while I "baked" the naan.

For which it turns out you don't need a tandoori oven after all. As usual, I couldn't leave well enough alone and made a few substitutions, adding two cups of white and half a cup of whole wheat flour instead of all white and mixing together a bit of sour cream and heavy cream instead of using yogurt. I'm trying not to go buying ingredients willy-nilly when it's not clear that I'll use them up, and since I'd already gotten the previous two for the caramel sauce discussed in a previous post, it seemed prudent to use that rather than purchase further dairy products. I loved pan-frying the bread for its ease and rapidity, and the texture was exactly what I was looking for. Honestly, and not to brag here, the only difference between it and (my experience with) restaurant naan was the distinct lack of buttery crust, as I chose to fry it in only about a quarter-teaspoon of canola oil per naan. It's sort of terrifying to realize how restaurants' liberal use of butter really does account for much of the superiority of their food. The coconut milk made the curry reasonably rich, but it lacked that golden, palate coating eddy that liberal amounts of ghee would have brought to it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

This edition is brought to you by various songs mentioning the word "independence"

That's because today's edition features pizza made entirely from scratch.

Here's what it took:

1. Cheese: The procedure for this was relatively simple, at least in theory. I had a huge problem scraping all the compressed cheese off the cheesecloth, which meant, unfortunately, that I got slightly less cheese than I wanted. The bathroom door also attempted to lock me out, and THAT meant that I got to try my James Bond shoulder-the-door-open skills.

(Note: No doors were harmed in the making of this cheese.)

2. Tomato sauce: Okay, see this picture of a can of tomatoes?

Never buy that brand of canned tomatoes. They were disgustingly tinny, and I ended up having to buy a new can. Two roasted cloves of garlic, one bay leaf, liberal amounts of cilantro and ancho chili powder, some cumin, and a touch of honey and cinnamon and nutmeg later, and the Hunt's brand stuff wasn't so bad.

3. Crust: Here's where things really got batty. The crust (a Martha Stewart recipe) that supposedly made "two 7-inch rounds" barely, and I mean barely, hit one ten-inch round. Did the recipe mean seven inches in circumference rather than diameter? It's not that it wasn't good which it was. It's just that after an hour of rising, I expected this stuff to have grown a bit more. No matter; although the quantity wasn't large, what I got was a pleasant balance between crisp and chewy.

I also caramelized some onions and put those on top, along with a squash I didn't cut up last night. I topped it with a mostly-fried duck egg to finish in the oven, sprinkled on a bit of parsley and some sea salt, and bob's your uncle: Mexican duck egg pizza!

No leftovers for tomorrow, though. It vanished pretty quickly. Being able to mop up the egg yolk with the edges of the crust was probably my favorite aspect of this meal.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Books 'n' brownies

I found this recipe for caramel sauce and used it as an excuse to make brownies. Is that wrong? The sour cream tang was perfect, but I felt like I could do without the lemon, really; I also omitted the last tablespoon of sugar by accident, but it turned out just fine.

This followed a wonderfully simple recipe for raw zucchini and squash, very thinly shaved and tossed with a dressing of lemon juice, a little olive oil, dill, and a bit of onion and garlic (and salt and pepper, of course), then topped with some surprisingly good feta from Trader Joe's. The recipe also called for blanched almonds, but I omitted those; in retrospect, they would have provided for a more interesting texture. It didn't really matter, though, because we devoured the stuff. I used a vegetable peeler to shave off long, thin strips of vegetable (if anyone has an extra mandoline sitting around, feel free to send it over), so there wasn't any of that spongy quality that larger chunks of raw squash particularly can have, and there was no need to let anything marinate. I've never been a fan of raw zucchini and squash, but it's back on the menu with this dish.

(That is Andy's leg, in case you couldn't guess. We were so busy eating the food straight out of the bowl that I almost forgot to photograph it, and so I snapped something quickly, reasoning that my photography supplies suck enough that the quality couldn't really get any more rock-bottom. In other news, the face-stuffing would be gross if it involved something other than a dish of vegetables and not much else.)

And now, a note on books. The summer is affording me huge amounts of time to read as well as to cook. So far, I've reread The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, a childhood favorite, and Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman, and read for the first time:

  • Kant and the Platypus (very dense and very good)
  • Alias Grace (solid, if a bit prosaic; not so dense, and less polemical than some of Atwood's work)
  • Better (Athul Gawande has some good ideas)
  • Mr. Palomar (man, Italian fabulists, you're so awesome)
  • The Best American Science Writing, 2006 (occasionally gimmicky, but overall a pleasant diversion)
  • The Foundation Pit (without a doubt underread)
  • The Famished Road (I loved it, but I can see how it might not appeal to everyone)
Thanks to a gift card to Barnes and Noble, I purchased Too Loud a Solitude and The Crying of Lot 49 in addition to a couple of the books listed above. Either one of those (probably the former, since Andy's picked up the latter) or one of a couple Andrei Bely books I picked up at the local library are next. Any other suggestions? I've certainly got a "to read" list on my LibraryThing, but it can always get longer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Who's da man? Anadama...n

Used the sourdough starter for the first time today! I made anadama bread, a very lightly sweetened, traditionally New England loaf. It's not an everyday thing, if only because it requires the less-common-in-the-household ingredients of cornmeal, molasses, and starter, emphasis on the starter. The process itself, however, is pretty standard. The recipe yielded two batards, both of which had a firm, crunchy crust with a hearty, pliable inside. Perfect for... winter.

So it's only fitting, of course, that I paired this with a white bean and chard stew flavored with thyme and cinnamon. The irony might be elucidated if I tell you that today was the first in awhile that it hasn't been damp and unseasonably chilly. Remember when I delayed making that granita for the warm weather? Apparently, I took advantage of the warm weather to make warming food. Oops.

Something more seasonal is coming tomorrow, I promise.

In any case, no photos or anything tonight, because we got home late after attending a reading of Henry V from some big cheese Boston lawyers and judges and politicos, followed by a discussion from even bigger cheese politicos (including Andrew Card. Look him up.). I was excited for it, but it was a disappointment almost all around; a reading of the approximate quality of my ninth grade class's reading of Romeo and Juliet would only be worth sitting through if it were followed by accurate, in-depth, informed discussion, which it unfortunately was not. Historical errors, rhetorical fallacies, and sidestepped questions flew all around, and the "audience participation" part ended up being a mere three questions at the end, two of which were from absolute crazies. If I'd known beforehand that it was sponsored by The Federalist Society, I'd have been forewarned. At least the comfort food was in some way fitting, because I sure needed some comfort after hearing members of the de facto ruling class imply that it's okay to waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed because he's not an American citizen, so since legally we're not forbidden from doing it, there's nothing restricting us!

Something more cheerful is coming tomorrow, I promise.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rapscallion... pancakes, and post-prandial prandium

I have dubbed these rapscallion pancakes because they were moderately more finicky than I expected them to be. First of all, the recipe warned me that the batter would be thin... and it was. REALLY thin. The pancakes flowed so quickly, despite the fact that my pan was very hot, that the first couple ended up as thin layers of eggy, crepe-style pancakes that were difficult to flip because even my finely chopped carrot chunks were so thick that they couldn't be properly embedded in the pancake.

I tossed in some whole wheat flour, a bit more, in retrospect, than was prudent, but that yielded a more substantial, chewier pancake. Additionally, despite my cutting out a half-teaspoon of salt, they were still too heavy on the stuff. Next time--because they were good enough despite all this to merit a next time--I'll decrease the salt even more, add extra (but less extra) whole wheat flour, and maybe add onions or extra scallions. As far as the dipping sauce, I deviated by adding a touch of powdered garlic and some chopped fresh ginger to sit in it for awhile before dipping the pancakes in it. Is ginger addictive*? If so, I've got it bad.

And now, the St. Louis butter cake. We finished just around midnight, surprisingly early. It's probably due to the thin metal pan (rather than Pyrex or somewhat) that decreased the baking time to 30 from about 45 minutes, plus some well-managed time. We replaced the corn syrup in the topping with honey, crystals of which I assiduously dissolved for fear that the topping would get gritty. It imparted a very mild honey flavor, and since corn syrup is evil and what the hell else am I going to use it for, I think I'll just stick to replacing it with honey if I make this cake again.

Of course, as soon as we finish eating and I have a slice of the cake for dessert, one of our housemates walks in and offers us a surprise that he picked up at the grocery store: duck eggs! I excitedly took the package... and discovered that one of the four eggs was crushed in on one side. I sent Andy upstairs to fetch my lone ramekin ("What's a ramekin?!?"), cupping the egg in one hand as the white began to leak over my fingers (not an unpleasant sensation, actually) and putting the kettle on to boil some water. I then, still one-handed, buttered the ramekin, poured in the duck egg, set it in a pan half-full of boiled water, and popped it in the oven at 375. Result: shirred duck egg with toast, which I sprinkled with thyme and Tony Chachere's. After dinner. What would the hobbits call that one?

Andy, upon tasting some egg-drenched toast: "My god, it's like butter!" Like buttah, I tell you. Like buttah.

The only downside, aside from my unfortunate caloric intake today that I can only hope is balanced by the over two hours of walking I did, is that I burned the crap out of my hand my intelligently grabbing the inside of the oven to stabilize myself as I unfolded myself, ramekin in hand, from my squatting position in front of the oven.

*Yes, I did look up the definitions of addictive and addicting, just to check, before using that word.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Photo phail!

And yet again, I forget that I actually have a camera, so no photos for tonight.

As part of my developing quest to go to every farmer's market in Cambridge, we went to the Charles Square market this morning to pick up spinach, chard, and some other greens as I drooled over the still-too-expensive cherries. For dinner, I wilted that spinach and tossed it with a Thai dressing of peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sriracha, freshly chopped garlic and ginger, a little water and oil to thin it out, and a just a sprinkle of anise. Raw spinach can be a little tough, but cooked spinach can be downright slimy; basically warming it over is a nice in-between. I quasi-julienned (my knives suck, and I have no advanced equipment) some sweet potatoes and tossed those with powdered cumin and ginger, as well as more oil and sriracha and just a touch of sugar and salt, to roast and have with it. Nothing innovative, but always satisfying.

We're now starting a St. Louis butter cake as per the Smitten Kitchen recipe at 9 p.m. I'll let you know what time I go to bed.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sometimes I think too hard about food.

I'm typing this post as it is 8-0 Red Sox, 0 outs, at the bottom of the second. Perhaps the Phillies should ditch their grizzled pitcher?

Anyway, I totally forgot to photograph what I made tonight, which is a shame, because it looked great on the plate for a change: Southwestern-spiced lentil burgers on homemade hamburger buns with all the fixings and kale chips on the side. I'd highly recommend lentil burgers to all you omnivores or regretful vegetarians; they're pleasantly meaty in their own way.

Here's a picture that actually looks a whole lot like our dinner, except we didn't have what seems to be a thick layer of mayo and some weird mache lettuce going on:

I also have some very specific ideas about burger assembly that the burger-maker in the above photo violated. First of all, cheese should be toasted directly onto the top bun, and then the patty should be applied to the cheese. Lettuce goes directly on the bottom bun to provide a barrier between it and the tomato, whose juice could soak it through. Burger integrity field will then fail.

Anyone remember the Voyager episode in which everyone but Seven of Nine had to be put in stasis because of structural integrity field problems?

Anyway, yesterday I baked a version of these brown butter bars using strawberries and in a pie plate. That I did manage to photograph.

I baked them for nowhere close to 40 minutes; it might not even have been 30. There's about half a "pie" left, even after dessert tonight, too.

By the time I'm finishing this post, it's 0-10 at the bottom of the third (Phillies are pitching).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Let's get the party started (with apologies to Pink)

Here's the deal, kids. I set up my first-ever sourdough starter today. Starting in about five days, it will need to be fed approximately weekly, which entails removing a cup of it and replacing it with fresh flour and water. This means that I'll either have to make sourdough weekly (tragedy!), throw out a cup of starter weekly (tragedy, sans sarcasm), or give a friend a cup of starter every once in awhile. That's where you come in. Those of you in the Boston area, if you're interested in starter, hit me up throughout the summer; I predict that I'll be feeding this thing on Mondays.

Oh, yeah, food. It wasn't too interesting today: chopped salad involving balsamic vinegar and mint and strawberries, the rest of the pita toasted with cheese, some sunflower seeds. Sometimes just throwing leftover vegetables and bread and cheese together is the way to go, especially given that I've been having a rough week and mostly wanted to relax and just shove vegetables in my face when dinnertime rolled around.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Quinoak and roll

This summer is supposed to be a frugal one, which means that I probably shouldn't be buying quinoa (especially the only brand of quinoa they had at Shaw's, which was organic and pre-washed* and all that fancy stuff) at $5 for 7.5 servings. But the stuff is nutritious, versatile, and flavorful enough to justify its sudden trendiness, and I had a craving, so I decided to splurge and make a quinoa tabbouleh of sorts. I used about 2/3 cups of quinoa, cooled, most of a bunch of parsley, half a cucumber, a few carrots, some halved grape tomatoes, and about a quarter of an onion, sliced thin and soaked in ice water for about 20 minutes to get rid of as many unpleasant thiols as possible. I stirred in some red wine vinegar, olive oil, cumin, garlic salt, pepper, and yogurt mix (a blend that my friend Rachael gave me and that prominently features mint and a bunch of Persian spices of uncertain provenance). To go with it, I baked pita, which, despite the fact that it didn't puff as much as I'd have liked, Andy keeps assuring me turned out well. Next time, I'm going to let the dough be stickier and rise logner, and I'll probably roll it out rather than just stretch it with my hands. Here's a shot of an uncooked pita with the finished salad.

And now, dear reader, I need your advice. Andy's parents sent us a wonderful box o' goodies whose contents comprise some clothes for Andy, Trader Joe's fruit bars and tortellini, Smart Food brand cheesy popcorn**, a few other tasty sundries, and some dried black mission figs. Figs are wonderful both fresh and dried, and it would be nice to eat some of these straight and cook the rest. Topping a pizza with goat cheese or gorgonzola, arugula, and (usually) fresh figs is just so quotidian (okay, it's actually delicious, but it is rather typical). I don't want to just mush them up with some dairy and sugar and put them on a crust and be all, "Hey, tart!" So, dear reader, what should I cook with some of those dried figs?

*Quinoa grains are coated with saponins, bitter, varyingly toxic compounds (digoxin is a saponin, in fact) that must be rinsed off lest they ruin the dish.
**I love cheesy popcorn with an affection usually reserved for figures like Hero and Leander and consequently hope that the dichotomy between that affection and my affection for less processed food is charming rather than obnoxious.

Monday, June 7, 2010

gah backlog

Okay, let's start with the four dozen or so cookies I baked for the NSC. Between the snickerdoodles and the chocolate chewy cookies, the chocolate was absolutely superior (despite the fact that a coach who sampled one of the snickerdoodles was all exclamatory about how "tender" they were, which I didn't know was a particularly positive quality for a cookie to have). It's not that cinnamon isn't delicious, but chocolate remains the most toothsome of dessert flavors. I lowered the sugar content on this recipe and increased the cocoa content; additionally, I prefer dough to chips, so I lowered the dough-to-chip ratio. If I make them again--well, let's face it, when I make them again--there will be no chips at all.

Oh, and as an aside... the tournament went splendidly. This was triply gratifying: I worked substantially on the set, it's delightful to see the immense knowledge those darn kids are accruing (insert link to photo of the Watkins pole here), and it was probably the last tournament in which I'll play a substantial part. In short: Quizbowl rocks.

Anyway, upon arriving home at about 2 a.m. Monday morning thanks to the vagaries of Dulles, I had no desire to post about that, which is why I've got a few more recipes to discuss. First, lemon meringue pie... with a photograph!**

See that cookbook? That cookbook contains my favorite pie crust recipe ever. Sure, I could go find one that uses lard and would probably be flakier, but I refuse to ingest lard (knowingly), and this one is easy, delicious, and perfectly serviceable. My one criticism is that a single recipe's worth of dough isn't quite enough for a single-crust pie, so it's a good idea to make 1.5 portions. The meringue and lemon filling were in sufficient quantity, though, even if the lemon filling was mysteriously runny (it wasn't like that the last time I made it from the same recipe). And the meringue was dry-eyed, thereby satisfying the most important criterion for a successful meringue pie.

The pie came after a meal of spinach and Swiss cheese crepes, with a bit of nutmeg and a splash of lemon juice thrown into the spinach filling. I also made hasselback potatoes (described in a question from this past weekend as "that most destabilizing of starches," a turn of phrase that I particularly enjoy), because carbohydrates are fun! The meal was tasty enough to eradicate the fact that the lock on our door mysteriously jammed and we had to pay an absurd amount of money to have it fixed and replaced, the latter of which it turns out the landlord would have preferred we not do. Sigh.

Also, despite the fact that I'm starting my tutoring "full-time" tomorrow, I'm committed to baking desserts at least twice a week and bread at least twice a week. Hold me to that. Perhaps tomorrow I'll try out some pita, or just get going with that sourdough starter I've been swearing to myself I'd prepare one of these days.

**These photographs are going to improve starting tomorrow, I swear it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Summertime, and the livin's... er... yeah.

Hello again! Summer cuisine got off to a start weeks ago with a lentil stew for the Justice, a test of three types of chocolate cookie in preparation for the upcoming NSC quizbowl tournament, three loaves of bread topped with a cool avocado-apple chutney at Northwestern while visiting my best friend pre-HSNCT... but I've only just now gotten around to actually blogging about it.

Tonight has been all about the busy. There's that pesky NSC to finish editing, and Andy and I still haven't fully moved in. Thus, the obvious thing to do is to add one more task and bake cinnamon raisin bread. The kind folks at Brandeis' tech services fixed my camera about three days before my lovely mother gave me a camera for graduation, so now I'm all about the poorly taken food pictures (in my defense, it's 3 a.m. and I have other things to do and can't be bothered setting up something pretty)! This bread is going to help the two of us power through the rest of unpacking and tournament editing (high school quizbowl chemistry canon: VERY TINY). It is just rich enough and coated with a fantastically thick layer of cinnamon sugar. I also greased the pan with butter rather than the recommended cooking spray, which makes it artery-cloggingly rich on the outside.

Here's a bonus shot, thanks to the guy who fixed the camera.

Not pictured is the beet mac 'n' cheese (made with fontina, spiced with a bit of tarragon; beet greens included) that Andy and I had for dinner; there was a rather limited farmers market off Central where I picked up the beets and cheese, as well as some chard for tomorrow's dinner. The color pink isn't my favorite, but it was kind of fun to watch the cheese sauce turn all rosy as I mixed in the beet chunks.