Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I started this blog to try my hand at a little food writing - which I'm finding isn't coming all that naturally. I have a slightly disheveled style to cooking (as I rarely follow recipes, and tend to measure things in handfuls), which translates into non-sensical rambling when I try to write it out.
But, I'm finding that it's helpful to read a ton of other blogs -- I've recently started reading Amateur Gourmet, The Recipe Girl, The Pioneer Woman and A Tiger in the Kitchen, in addition to some great friend blogs.
I also just like to keep a record of this time -- stumbling through recipes and new techniques, building up my repetoire, and of course, stocking my first "real" kitchen.
So, here's a quick list of things that stick out in my mind from cooking in 2009:
* pâte-à-choux became a game changer for me. The New York Times did a major post on how easy it is to make in summer 2008, but it took me until last year to really start using it. I started easy, with some cream puffs last winter, and ended the year with some beautiful cheese gougeres.
* Soups and stews were new territory, when I branched out beyond the world of chili. I came up with a great chicken tortilla soup (after moving from Washington and missing Eddington's for lunch!), tried seafood stew to go over quinoa, and am really excited to try this Potato Leek soup in 2010. I'm debating whether or not an immersion blender is a worthwhile purchase.
* Pitas (and bread in general) became almost a hobby during the stay in Washington. From my grandmother's Irish Soda Bread, to my old standby (half-wheat artisan loaf) to green onion flatbread, Thanksgiving rolls, and of course, pitas. I'm still amazed at how easy it is to make bread from scratch -- even if you don't have a stand-mixer with a dough hook, or even a loaf pan.
* Ethnic grocery stores really changed the way I shop and cook -- for the better. Rather than relying on pasta (because it's 10 for $10), I was able to get a lot more creative with fresh meat and produce, since I wasn't over-paying for it at the "traditional" market. I'm excited to be even closer to an H-Mart in our new apartment!
Dreaming? of a great year for cooking - 2010. A new kitchen, a knife technique class (amazing xmas gift!) and I'm also taking part in a 10-week shape up hosted by The Recipe Girl.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Instead, two things came of the weekend: delicious onion flatbread and homemade pasta sauce.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I used her recipe exactly, but my candy thermometer appears to have lied to me. Hers turned out soft and chewy, from what I can tell. But mine came out a bit like those old fashioned Sugar Daddy candies (which my mother always swore would crack your teeth in two).
Tonight, pitas were up again. Jake and I stopped for some late night shwarma the other night and ended up with far too much hummus.
The best solution, of course, being to bake lots and lots of pitas! These were fried up in skillets over medium heat (rather than the faux-grilling method used in the past). The resulting pita has a harder bottom (nice though, not unlike a large cracker) and still a soft top.
Friday, November 27, 2009
But since I now live in Washington, a (usually) 4-hr drive up the coast back to NJ, I came up here for Thanksgiving and had the big holiday with my mom's family for the first time in, probably 15 or so years.
Last night we did a bunch of the prep work, made my aunt's soup, and started a bunch of the side dishes. Lots of fun, but I also learned that I am allergic to potato peels (I usually only make the skin-on red potatoes) -- as my palms swelled up to double their size, itched, burned and were bright red after we peeled the 10 lbs!!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
This is a REALLY good recipe for using up the rest of the bottle of buttermilk (my two other recipes require less than 1 c), and it really shines through in the flavor. This bread has an amazing flavor and is very dense.
I'm not entirely certain what "makes" Soda bread soda bread -- probably the fact that it's leavened with baking soda, rather than yeast. We also noted, at work, it's incredibly density -- either good for surviving those Irish famines or soaking up the large quantities of beer on St. Pat's (one of my favorite holidays).
Nan's Irish Soda Bread:
4 c white flour
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp baking powder
1/4 stick butter broken into tiny pieces
optional: 1 c soaked raisins (I never use these -- always had to pick them out as a kid)
1 2/3 c buttermilk
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
Mix the first 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix the wet ingredients separately and add slowly to the flour mixture. Knead gently and shape into a large round loaf.
Bake on an oiled cookie sheet, cut a 4" X on the top, and brush with beaten egg.
Bake 60-70 mins at 350 F
Serve with butter and enjoy!
Monday, November 23, 2009
I had some leftover pudding yesterday (and really needed to use the bowl for other things) so I threw the rest of the graham cracker crumbs into a container with the pudding and topped with the the leftover whipped cream (again, needed the container) and popped it back into the fridge.
HELLO chocolate pudding-graham-whip-yummy parfait of delight. Insanely easier to make. More graham crumbs than the crust meant an added crunch.
I'm in love with this alternative route to pudding-pie goodness.
Dreaming? of a world where whipped cream + chocolate pudding = 0 calories
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Last night, I gathered with some friends from a summer 08 internship in Minneapolis, and we had our own version of Thanksgiving. It was an entirely delicious ordeal, with enough food to feed all six of us twice and then some, and we're already planning for Christmas.
I volunteered to make a chocolate pudding pie - not fancy in the slightest, but one of my childhood favorites, brussel sprouts and garlic mashed potatoes.
*grease or spray a pie plate or cake tin
sprinkle about 3-4 TBS brown sugar over the dish and drizzle with balsamic vinegar to your tasting.
Roast at 325 F for 20-30 mins, checking around the 20 min mark. You want some parts to be crispy, but the largest pieces to be soft. In the last 5 mins, mix in about 1/3 c water
And finally, the mashed potatoes:
Monday, November 9, 2009
I've never really followed a chili recipe - I just kind of keep adding stuff to the pot until it all simmers together and is tasty.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
We found some leftover pasta with the tomato basil sauce, but not quite enough sauce to cover the pasta. I also *hate* reheating pasta already mixed with sauce in the microwave, so I tossed it into a frying pan with another jar of tomatoes, a generous splash of white wine (although I usually prefer reds for pasta sauce), and seasoned with garlic, the last of the basil from my editor, and salt and pepper. Very delicious.... did not taste AT ALL like leftovers, hooray!
Friday, November 6, 2009
He posts excerpts today from a Q&A he did with Time Out New York:
"Question: “What would you say is the most important skill to develop in the kitchen?
Answer: “The ability to go in there and start. I am the least impressive cook you will ever see. I am completely without knife skills, I screw things up all the time. When I’m in the kitchen I’m not obsessively trying to create the perfect dish; I’m trying to put dinner on the table. Comparing yourself to the people who cook on television is like comparing yourself to Andre Agassi. If you can drive you can cook.”"
I often bemoan my own distinct lack of plating skills and my lack of nice kitchen equipment. But the thing is -- I'm really more interested in how a dish tastes and how it was made. In my kitchen, soups, carbonara, and Korean barbeque are all served out of the same $1 plastic bowls from Target.
If you don't follow Bitten, you definitely should! Great food, and often great discussion on food and food philosphy.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Snickerdoodles.... yum. I used the Martha Stewart recipe linked from Bakerella. They're not as puffy as I would have liked, but still chewy and sugary and delicious.
Tomato pesto sauce:
1 large can diced tomatoes
2 TBS olive oil
1 tsp red chilli flakes
salt/pepper to taste
1/3 c white wine
1-2 C fresh basil leaves
1-2 crushed garlic cloves - to taste
2 TBS parmesan chees
Simmer tomatoes, spices, oil and wine and allow to reduce over med-high heat until most of the liquid is gone and tomatoes are soft. Mush them every few minutes with a large spoon.
Blend pesto ingredients and stir into the tomatoes, continue simmering until thickened.
Serve with a pasta good for chunky sauces like rotini or gemeli.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Armed with some advice from a query I posted to Serious Eats, we decided to attempt to recreate the crispy, potato-cheesy goodness.
We used the leftover garlic mashed potatoes from last week's steak dinner (they were too gluey to eat anyway!) and mashed in some shredded cheeses (we had some chedder, swiss and mozzerella in the fridge -- but it would appear that more authentic would have been farmers cheese), and fried onions chopped small.
The dough (as usual) started to get a bit melty in the poorly ventilated kitchen. And we ate them all before we got a chance to take the end result pictures, but we got a good one of filling them up:
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
My first attempt at polenta over the summer failed miserably... it was clumpy and didn't crisp up at all when I tried to bake it in the oven.
So, I saw a recipe on Serious Eats for broccoli raab and polenta, and decided to take Bittman's advice and attempt Polenta, Without Fear.
The greens turned out less than stellar, but the polenta was indeed creamy, salty, and delicious.
I also decided to pair the polenta/greens extravaganza with The Boy's Mother's special chicken and dumplings. I used cuts of boneless chicken breast (not having a whole roasting chicken on hand - nor the patience to roast the entire thing), and it turned out pretty good. Not having much fat, there wasn't a ton of drippings to toss the dumplings in, but there was plenty of chicken/onion infused melted butter. :-)
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
From Serious Eats via A Baked Creation
Then (this is an older post, but one I just discovered): Bakerella creates a Glee-style mash-up of two delicious desserts -- cupcake, meet snickerdoodle.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday I went on a major grocery run (including Giant and a smaller international market nearby). First - let me note how much I HATE shopping at Giant. Their produce generally looks like crap, if there's any in stock (eg: there were no leeks on Sunday, so I settled for sad, tiny looking green onions). It's SO busy that I refuse to use a shopping cart, and just fill up my reusable bags as I go throw the store. And the staff generally are insanely rude.
Pluses about international markets? The one in question, who's name I can't think of off-hand, is tiny, and cramped as well. And the staff may be rude, but I have no idea, since they mostly speak Spanish in the store. Once I asked for help, and the gal who helped me was great. Pricing? so much better. $1.60 for a package of 8-10 huge jalapeno peppers. Limes are 10 for $1. And the meat? I bought 1.75 lbs of chicken thighs for around $3. I also occasionally make the trek out to H Mart in Falls Church - a Korean grocery. Their produce is the best: big, plump green onions are four for $1, bell peppers are insanely cheap, and their greens always seem to hold up longer in the fridge.
Anyway, back to the cooking:
I started with the green onion and ham quiche. Perfect for breakfasts. Managed not to burn the crust quite so badly this time. Getting better every time!
From there, moved to the Indian butter chicken I've been wanting to try for a while. I consulted a number of recipes online and also bought a packet of pre-mixed sauce as a back up. I ended up making the scratch sauce (was missing a few traditional ingredients) and blending in the pre-mixed sauce for an overall result. Threw the chicken and sauce over basmati rice and made enough for 5 meals.
Garlic mashed potatoes for Sunday night dinner, to be paired with sirloin steak from the international mart.
While the potatoes were boiling I moved on to baking another round of pumpkin gingerbread -- which again, burnt after the first 45 minutes. My mom's recipe says bake at 350F for an hour, and yet twice, mine has burnt after 45 minutes at slightly less than 350... I think in the future I'll try it at 325 for an hour.
Lastly, while I was cleaning up after dinner, I braised arugula, spinach and broccoli raab to go with polenta later this week.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
The finished product (also our first attempt at making pitas):
I adapted this recipe from Serious Eats and mashed it with one from my favorite baking cookbook (which, due to its British tendencies titled the recipe "Pitta bread") and landed on this:
1 packet of yeast
1 tsp of sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
-- combine above in a non reactive bowl, place in a warm place (I heat a cookie sheet for a minute or two in the over, then set the bowl on the warm cookie sheet) until foamy and slightly increased in volume.
3 1/2 c white flour (probably should have used bread flour, but APP seemed to work just fine)
1 1/2 tsp salt
--sift together in a large bowl, make a well in the center
-- add 1/4 c olive oil and the yeast, combine well
-- turn out onto a well flour surface, knead 10 minutes, shape into a small mound, place in oiled bowl (not a plastic one), cover and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled and does not spring back when touched (about 20 mins)
Punch down, knead briefly, then split in to 12 even pieces. Shape into a small bowl, and roll out flat rounds, 1/2 inch thick (about 5 inches wide).
I "brushed" mine with water, like the recipes called for, and then tried grilling and baking.
The baked ones went in at 500 F for 6 minutes.
The grilled ones were tougher, since I don't actually have a grill. I rigged up a wire rack (sprayed with butter spray) over the burner and "grilled" the pitas on medium high heat until they were bubbly on top and grilled on the bottom.
Overall, they were a success. The grilled ones were slightly better -- puffier, anyway, than the baked ones, but the baking allowed for 4 to be cooked at once.
Dreaming? Not really! Today's cooking turned out great, can't wait to make them again. Maybe next time we'd save some chickpeas and make falafel to stuff in the pita.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Dreaming? of having my wok on hand! This would have been much easier in the wok
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Unfortunately, my grand plans for beautifully baked loaves were foiled by my stupid oven, which fails to maintain a constant temperature. Ever.
So, the bottoms and edges were burnt (see below). Managed to shave off the burnt parts (lucky the serated bread knife is the only one of my 4-set that wasn't entirely ruined by careless college roommates) and create a slightly shortened, slightly bald looking bread (see below below).
Monday, October 5, 2009
Also tried out dumplings from The Boy's family chicken and dumplings recipe. Quick and easy: flour-egg-water recipe, and just plopped into a pot of boiling water. We ate them plain for a late-night snack, season with pepper and melted butter, but I have lots of ideas of things I can do with those at the last minute!
Dreaming? Of a Julia-Childs-style wall for my pots and pans
Friday, October 2, 2009
But where to start?
Dinner tonight: Korean tteok bogi and not-Korean pineapple fried rice. I have LOTS of green onions and need to get rid of them.
I discovered an interesting recipe for rainbow cake today, but am also craving a fall treat my mom used to make: pumpkin gingerbread. We'll see how quickly she can send me the recipe. The Boy is in the mood for classic chocolate chip cookies, and it was pay day this week, so it *might* be the weekend of new cookie sheets. We'll see.
Dreaming? of my wok, and wishing I were cooking in that tonight instead.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Dinner last night!
2 lowfat smoked kielbasa, pieces cut in half, cooked over high heat with a dab of oil and some cajun seasoning
1 15 oz. can of corn, cooked in the run off from the sausage, garlic salt, 1 1/2 seeded, diced jalapeno peppers, 2 small handfuls of chopped onion (about 1/2 a medium onion?), toward the end (as the corn is blistering) a splash of rice wine vinegar (you could probably sub in cider vinegar) and some cracked pepper.
I served mine with some crusty white bread and it was delicious! 2 sausages made plenty for leftovers the next day!
Dreaming? of my grill pan from my parents house (or a grill) to cook the sausauges.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
So, last night, I thought it would be kind of fun to make pizza. I had a half can of tomato sauce that wasn't really doing much in the fridge, so I figured I'd give it a try. I wanted to make homemade dough, but I get home so late, I didn't really have time to let the dough proof if we wanted to eat at a reasonable hour.
Lesson of the night: never ever buy Pillsbury pizza dough. Or, I guess, maybe try pre-cooking it midway, and then putting the toppings on?
The middle of the pizza (weighed down by the sauce, cheese and pepperoni) never really rose much, and in fact didn't quite finish cooking in the middle. (most of the "slices" went back into the over for a few more minutes of damage control cooking). It may have *something* to do with my ghetto-tastic cookie sheet, but... who knows. Someday, I'll have a pizza stone!
There probably would have been pictures... but honestly, I was too mortified by the results.
Dreaming? Of a pizza stone, and enough time to make dough from scratch.
Next up? Polish kielbasa were buy one get one. I'm pairing it with a corn-and-jalapeno relish and some crusty bread.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
She loves to cook and bake. But in the move across the country, she brought only the "necessities" for her kitchen, and is trying to make do in the meantime.