Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday night is Can't Think of a Clever Pun Night

I used a can of coconut milk and Thai chili paste to make Thai pumpkin soup!

Roasting the pumpkin first softens it so that you can puree it until it's smooth. And of course, topping with the toasted seeds is a must. I also had a massive salad of past-its-prime lettuce that barely clung to life in the fridge while I was absent. Sadly, the arugula went brown and had to be thrown out; I was really looking forward to having arugula after a long hiatus thereof.

I really want to make bread, but I've got all these potatoes at the moment, so baking may have to wait. Unless chocolate chocolate chip cookies are a possibility... hmm... be back later.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Martin 'n' Lewis/Amos 'n' Andy

Pulp Fiction is a fantastic movie, but it introduces a tragically false dichotomy. Why choose between chocolate and vanilla when both are easily available in one baked good?

I was gifted the amazing cookbook in that first picture as an early Chanukah* present and knew that the cookies pictured on the front cover had to be my first stop. The actual recipe calls for white chocolate chips in the chocolate dough half, though; I dislike white chocolate, so I substituted chopped macadamia nuts to excellent effect.

These might have to happen again once I'm back in Manhattan.

*Listen up, yids and goyim: I don't want to see any of this Hannuka/Hanukka/Hannukah business. Chanukah is where it's at. Chanuka is fine if you're grammatically and orthographically virtuous otherwise.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A vegetarian Thanksgiving

Eschewing the concept of a "typical" Thanksgiving--turkey and gravy and what have you--makes constructing a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal much easier. This year's theme was French food. We have:

1. Vichyssoise (thank you, Andy)

2. Roasted vegetable salade niçoise (without the tuna)

3. Roasted asparagus with homemade tarragon mayonnaise (not pictured)

4. Shirred eggs (also not pictured)

5. Rustic boule

6. French apple tart (baked in an American-style pie pan; just call it fusion)

Thank you to Andy's mom for taking the photos while I was running around like a Tofurkey with its head cut off pulling everything together, and thanks be given to all blog readers!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The wrong Murakami

Four bookstores and one library later, and I don't have a copy of The Worm and the Ring, but I do have a copy of In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami, which I have already begun to read. Haruki is winning the Murakami contest so far.

Now, caveat emptor: I picked up a Groupon for this organic produce delivery service called Urban Organic that would give me great-quality produce for next week at a very good price. Unfortunately, the service did not call (as promised) to arrange a delivery time, instead deciding seemingly randomly to deliver the food today. This is unfortunate, as I am leaving for Pittsburgh in the morning and will not be able to reap the benefits of the freshest of the items. I resolved to use some of the greens tonight and have been thoroughly enjoying the walnuts in the box (although, since in the absence of a nutcracker I'm cracking them by squeezing two together, I don't know what I'm going to do when I have only one left).

Upon passing Murray's Cheese Shop and seeing that they had a pre-Thanksgiving sale, I picked up a bit of gorgonzola and then got a pomegranate and persimmon from my favorite fruit stand on the way home. I roasted the last couple cloves of garlic I had and made a warm garlic/Persian yogurt spice/red wine vinaigrette with olive oil and just a touch of sesame oil to give it a little extra nuttiness. I tossed organic romaine with the warm vinaigrette (to wilt it just a little), then topped it with the cheese, fruit, and some chopped walnut. This is a vibrant, intriguing salad for the most steadfast anti-saladarian.

I intend to name this concoction after the college friend who taught me how to seed pomegranates the right (read: Persian) way.

And then a friend of mine fed me queso azul de Valderon. Everything this article says is true. I feel like I've been kicked in the face by rotting leaves, but in a good way. A really good way. Yow.

The Apotheosis of Cookie

All I can say is: Egads!

Take peanut butter.

Add browned butter.

Add grated fresh ginger.

Make cookies.

There. Bow down before the lord your new eminently edible god.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Risotto

Did you know...that arborio rice is not necessary for a risotto?

My contents of the fridge comprised: leeks, beets, a carrot, and a half-pound of green beans, and a couple nubbins of cheese. After consulting How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and the Internet, I decided that a. the photos of beet risottos looked like piles of ground-up viscera and b. a barley risotto would be just fine, thank you very much.

I call this creation Whatever's In The Fridge Risotto, To Be Made While Listening To Lectures On Your iPod So That You Are Ostensibly Studying As You Stir And Eaten With Beet Chips. Pithy, I think.

One more day until this exam is over, after which I can bake something delicious and visit the library/a used bookstore. And considering that today I found out there's a bookstore called Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books in the West Village, this should be a great trip indeed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

So many "dal" puns, so little time

Hello, curried lentils. It's been awhile.

Which is too bad, because you are so good to eat, particularly with slow-roasted sweet potatoes and sesame- and garlic-roasted green beans.

Internet denizens: Thanksgiving break this year will involve me reading (at least) three books by authors whose work I have never read. No Calvino or Coover, Gaddis or Garcia Marquez, Baxter or Bolano, no, sir! Right now the top three candidates are Muriel Spark, Edward Dahlberg, and Karen Blixen. Any other ideas?

For you ladies and gentlemen in the five boroughs: I would like to do a little pre-Thanksgiving, post-exam baking. Right now, I'm thinking either browned butter peanut butter cookies with fresh grated ginger or dark chocolate brownies. You stand to benefit from either of these. Opinions?

Saturday, November 20, 2010


The title of this post is brought to you by Tuesday's exam and tonight's Carnegie Hall sojourn. Thank you, concerts, for helping culinary pursuits delay my inevitable re-review of the wound healing process.

Whenever my sister and I are in the same place, she begs me to make apple hand pies, which are these miniature quasi-turnovers that I've been baking ever since my mother got me Old Faithful, also known as Good Housekeeping: Baking, back in 2000. That recipe and several literary encounters got me interested in pasties. No, you lech, not those pasties. I'm talking about the savory pastry that originated in British mining towns (thus giving them the occasional moniker of Cornish pasties) and has a similar morphology to the hand pies.

Common fillings for pasties include steak, ham, turnips, potatoes, onions, and cheese. I'm sure such a concoction is delicious if you've been shoveling coal for five hours, but I usually like my meals a little lighter. After all, which of these miners would you rather look like?

(real miner)

(GE's hilarious take on coal miners)

And so I bring you a pasty that is not Cornish, but Corn-ish.

Leek and apple Corn-ish pasties

1 cup flour
1 stick very cold butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 tsp salt (or 3/4 tsp if you like a slightly saltier crust)
ice water

Salt, pepper, thyme, all to taste (sage instead of thyme would probably be good, too)
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp soy sauce (sounds weird, but it imitates the flavor of gravy pretty well in this context)
olive oil
lemon juice
leeks (I used one large bunch)
1 apple (I used Granny Smith, but let's not be too strict on this one)
1 to 1 1/2 cups cheddar

Using a food processor, pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers, mix the flour, salt, and butter until the butter is in approximately lima bean-sized chunks*. Add ice water one tablespoon at a time until the dough just holds together; three tablespoons should do it. Gently press the dough into a ball, then wrap it in plastic and refrigerate it for an hour (although more never hurt, and you can always make it the day before and leave it in there overnight).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 F. Halve the leeks lengthwise and slice them into not-quite-matchsticks. Cook them in about a tablespoon of olive oil until they're soft and season to taste. Peel (if you want), core, and thinly slice the apple; cut the slices into little triangles and toss the slices with a little bit of lemon juice.

Now, roll out the dough on a well-floured surface until it's about 1/8 inch thick. Use a mug or large biscuit cutter to cut out rounds of dough (I got three medium-sized pasties out of this). Put some leeks in the middle of each round and top with a few apple slices and some cheese. Fold the round over to form a little purse-shaped pastry and crimp the edges. Cut two slits in the top to let out some of the steam that will build up during baking, brush with olive oil (or melted butter or egg wash), and sprinkle on a little more cheddar. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool for 5 minutes, then serve them while they're hot.

*Yes, Mark Bittman, it's usually pea-sized chunks, but a recent consultation of alternative culinary sources led me to change my opinion on this one.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Questionably creative

Fun food-related anecdote of the day: I advised an elderly Puerto Rican lady on how to use leeks at the NYU Med farmers market today. She saw me purchasing a bunch and asked if they would be good in soup. We discussed vichyssoise.

Anyway, as I've mentioned, anyone afraid of baking bread should give Jim Lahey's no-knead recipe a shot; it's practically foolproof. While his basic loaf has often graced my kitchen, this was the first time I tried his whole wheat variation, including a half-cup of steel-cut oats and a tablespoon of vinegar. Steel-cut oats are delicious to eat--they're the cut-up oat kernel, or groat--but rarely does one get the opportunity to bake with them. There were some adjustments to be made to the recipe, though: I don't have flaxseeds, so I just didn't include them, and I don't have white vinegar, so I used red wine vinegar instead.

Most crucially, I realized that I didn't have time to finish the baking before I returned to class, so I briefly cranked up the heat and then gritted my teeth, turned off the oven, and hoped. The oven must have stayed hot enough for a sufficiently long period of time, because the bread was moist and chewy and lovely. But the crust was, unsurprisingly, not browned. Thus, I have declined to include a photo of the sort of dirty beige result. I assure you, however, that this is a great way to get sourdough flavor without all the bother of using a starter.

Here is my variation on the recipe, with due credit to Lahey for his genius:

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour (I suspect all-purpose would be just fine)
1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp yeast
1 tbsp vinegar
1 1/2 cup warm water

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the water and vinegar and mix using your hands or a spatula or a wooden spoon until you get a moist, shaggy mass. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 12 to 18 hours (mine sat for 16 in a very warm place and got a nice, strong sour flavor to it).

Place the dough on a sheet of lightly floured parchment paper or aluminum foil and knead it, just 10 or 15 times. Shape it into a ball*, cover it loosely with more foil or plastic wrap, and let it rise for 2 hours.

With a half-hour to go before the rise is done, put a Dutch oven or pot on the lowest oven rack and preheat the oven to 475. When the dough is ready to go, lightly flour the top and slash it with a sharp knife or razor blade. Gently lift the parchment paper or towel and put the dough in the pot. Turn the heat to 425 and bake for 30 minutes with the Dutch oven/pot covered and then 20 to 30 with the Dutch oven/pot uncovered, until the loaf is a rich brown color. Let it cool for at least 30 minutes before you slice into it (this is key to allowing the bread to finish cooking!).

*To shape the dough, pull the edges toward the center and then flip it seam-side down. Sometimes I don't do this so neatly, but it always looks delicious anyway. Don't trouble yourself if you're not too chuffed about playing with the dough more than necessary.

Oh, I made slow-cooked red beans and the last of the Morningstar sausage, as well as the last of my head of broccoli, to go with this. Yeah, that's right. Kidney beans as a side dish to bread. What of it?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Which fruit uses bribes to rise higher in the Catholic Church?

Ans: Persimmon Magus.

(Persimmons and pomegranates are possibly the best fall/winter fruits out there. Okay, fine, along with winesaps.)

I added a sausage and a Parmesan crisp to last night's pasta in order to jazz up Leftover Night a bit. Parmesan crisps are easy and, with a little care, quite elegant. Step 1: grate about 1/4 cup of Parmesan in a thin layer on an unheated, nonstick pan.

My layer could have been thinner, but whatever. Now, turn the stovetop to medium. Soon, your crisp will look like this.

Keep cooking it until it's golden brown and, well, crispy. Let it cool for 30 seconds or so to harden, or if you have deft hands (or, like me, don't mind scorching the tips of your fingers), roll it into a tube.

This would have been prettier if I'd put a little effort into it. As it were, I simply dumped a Tupperware of pasta into a bowl, microwaved it, and jammed the crisp on top. I could see stuffing a rolled-up crisp with a potato or other vegetable puree, or putting a dollop on a flat crisp, as a simple (if filling) appetizer.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One girl, two carbs

I am aware that putting squash on pasta is nutritionally laughable. But last night's insomnia germinated the idea for a Parmesan acorn squash sauce with (vegetarian) sausage, and who am I to deny my midnight ramblings their actualization?

In my haste to make food after yoga, I neglected to a. add the sausage, b. fully roast the acorn squash, and c. puree the sauce, instead just mashing it with my fork. All three of those detracted from the dish. But I have to tell you, pair slightly lumpy squash/sage/salt/pepper/paprika/Parmesan/white wine/tiny bit of olive oil/ tiny bit of milk/wish-I-could-summon-the-gumption-to-add-a-chunk-of-butter sauce with pasta and some broccoli sauteed with garlic, and you're in business.

Also true to form, I absentmindedly made a massive amount. If there is a dinner post on this blog tomorrow, it will involve some sort of baked good, because there is plenty left to feed me for lunch and dinner.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Acorn squash are hard to peel

Attempting to make an acorn squash stew: bad choice.

Tomorrow's attempt to just caramelize slices of the squash: better choice.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cheesus freak

Thanks to my long weekend away, I've got a modest amount of produce left--which, unless I redeem a Groupon for Urban Organic, I have to make last until next Wednesday--and I could have made something interesting tonight.

But all I wanted was grilled cheese with a pile of vegetables.

Really, what I wanted was to make the whole-wheat version of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, but that requires fourteen to eighteen hours of forethought that I did not have. So I just went with a simple whole wheat loaf, which works better for sandwiches anyhow.

As is evident in the upper left of the first photo, I managed to scorch one side of the sandwich while I went to fetch my camera. Just call it chipotle grilled cheese. The tomatoey stuff is some leftover sauce from Thursday's dinner, and the green stuff is the aforementioned pile of vegetables.

I have only one disappointment, and that is that unlike Finn in Glee, I did not produce an icon of Jesus in my grilled cheese.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I was so excited when I got my yeast, and plus Mom had just gotten me a kitchen scale so I could actually measure ingredients by weight! Sadly, I managed to make a serious error with the very first thing I made with both: challah. I rose it once while in class, let it rise again while I ran some errands, and came back, only to realize that I had forgotten to braid it before the second rise. So I let it rise a third time, hoping that it would be okay.

I took a bite. Chewed. Evaluated. Beery taste... present, to the mildest of degrees, but overridden by sweetness. Not the best challah I've made (okay, so this was my second attempt, but it came in second place), but it retained most of its moisture, and now that I've got a pound of yeast and a pound to sell, there's plenty of opportunity to try again.

Dinner was not just challah (although that would have been completely copacetic, in my opinion). The challah did, however, form the base component of a savory French toast topped with a mushroom, kale, and squash blend simmered in tomatoes and spiced with thyme.

Oh, and cookies! Browned butter chocolate chip, to be precise and enjoyed by those of you who come to HFT this Saturday (distribution controlled by last post's aforementioned friend).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And quiet flows the udon...

Normally, I'm not a fan of fusion food. In my experience, it's usually gimmicky and more expensive than it's worth (n.b.: Elephant Walk in Waltham is an exception.). I'm sure there's great fusion elsewhere, but I haven't had it yet. But I was craving red curry today, and I was craving udon, and I thought, "Hell, Japanese Thai food can't be too bad."

And it wasn't.

In other news, I'm eking (god, there's no good way to spell that word)my way through Nazi Literature in the Americas. A friend of mine commented in what I interpreted as joyous outrage that Bolaño is not being fair, is almost deceitful to write so convincingly about a group of fictional writers, complete with index and references. I don't know about deceit, but I am jealous of Bolaño. Can you imagine how incredibly rich his inner mental life must be to imagine a book like this (much less 2666)? I wish my imagination were that vivid!

And last but not least, I'm baking cookies to exchange for grave rubbings of the headstones of exciting people like Zoltan Kodaly. Does anyone have an equally exciting cookie recipe to share? If not, I'm going with my favorite, thoroughly quotidian, absolutely delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Baking gospel

I suppose it's time to confront the fact that it's canned tomatoes for a good long while now. A perusal of the Union Square Greenmarket this weekend uncovered only some shabby heirlooms amongst the robust root vegetables. Thus did I disconsolately eat a squash, green bean, and black bean chili made with canned tomato.

Not that it wasn't good. But it should have been better. There are too many desolate, potato-oriented months to go before tomato season returns.

However, do not despair: I have a thrilling tidbit of food-related information. After I discovered that no grocery store I frequent in New York carries jars of yeast, I turned to Amazon... where I purchased, from a reputable source and under the auspices of Amazon Prime, two pounds of yeast for $10.33. I plan to sell one of the pounds on Craigslist for $10 and thus, basically, get my yeast for free.

Now that's what I call the Good News.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

If it ain't broke

I have always loved McSweeney's Reviews of New Food.

That is part of the reason why, when there was no yeast to be found at the supermarket, I decided to justify my trip with the purchase of a $2.50 bag of Sweet & Tangy BBQ Kettle Corn. I had a kernel. I had a few more kernels to make sure I wasn't wrong. I decided that yes, it indeed tasted like the bastard child of aspartame-laden Styrofoam and these off-brand Chinese-manufacture barbecue-flavored chips that I had in Uganda once. I double-bagged the rest of the bag of popcorn so that I would not smell it and remember that it existed.

What would possess a company to mess with the glory that is kettle corn or the glory that is barbecue-flavored snack food?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Don't rain on my parade

You know, in theory I like rain. But I'd like it a whole lot more if I did not have a rift in one of my rainboots.

Of course, to staunch the flow of self-pity driven largely by the squelching sounds produced every time one steps with one's right foot, one uses bread soup. It helped that I conveniently had half a loaf of day-old bread lying around. I'm not sure from whence bread soup originates, but I've seen Tuscan, Portuguese, and North African variants. This one had the usual bread pureed into the broth--bear with me, the texture is more pleasant than it sounds like it would be--plus more vegetables than customarily included.

Said vegetables included this deformed mushroom:

I topped the final product with strips of bread crust and chunks of Parmesan.

Self-pity: banished.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The moon will be bread

For a variety of reasons, I haven't cooked for a few days (aside from tasty lunches of oatmeal with honey and pumpkin pie spice); as a result, I eschewed going to the medical school Diwali celebration with the rest of my white, Jewish classmates and instead delved into my most recent batch of delivery produce. The results were more than a little pleasant.

I didn't get much sleep last night, and as a result, I spent a portion of today's crepuscularity picking a new bread recipe to honor my re-self-initiation into daily cooking. It's one of those that pretends very hard it's proper French bread but doesn't require you to spend two days coddling it (plus the time and flour spent to feed your starter). There's no picture of the whole loaf because I always underestimate oven spring, and then the bread isn't long and thin like a proper baguette, but curved and thickened invariably only at one end and disturbingly phallic, too disturbingly for the general viewership.

Enter butternut squash topped with Parmesan, broiled pears, and roasted squash seeds tossed with marjoram for a little bit of texture. I paired the quasi-baguette and a warm kale pesto to go with it. I was unsure about the juxtaposition of kale and pears, particularly considering that one broils unripe pears; the vegetal qualities of the kale may or may not have amplified the vegetal qualities of unripe fruit. There were no problems at all. I shall cast modesty to the winds and say that the whole spread was great. In other, even more effusive news, kale pesto is delicious (and heavy on the garlic, which is how I roll). Really, really delicious.

And last but not least, a poem by one of my favorite authors (who also lent me the title of this post) that I read for the first time today:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Theme and variations

I'm discovering that the recipe for Andy's rosemary bread is coming in handy. First, I just made a lot of rosemary-and-garlic bread. Then, I tried using cumin seeds instead of rosemary. And finally, I used it to satisfy my craving for cinnamon bread when I had neither milk nor butter in the house.

Recipe: take one recipe rosemary bread. Replace 3/4 cup of bread flour with whole wheat. Omit the kneading in of rosemary and garlic, reduce the salt, and add about three tablespoons of sugar and some combination of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg, as well as citrus zest if that's your thing. Glaze with a 1:1 mixture of honey and water. Enjoy guiltily, pretending that since it has whole wheat flour and olive oil in it, you're doing yourself a favor. Admit grudgingly that it's so tasty you don't care if you're doing yourself a favor or not.

And now that I can terrify my friends and family with all the things herpes viruses can do to them... time to relax for an evening!