29 April 2007



Order many won ton soups from whichever Chinese place will deliver. Be sure to have someone else around so you can make up the minimum.


Put rice in pan. Put water and/or broth in pan. Cook. You are in fact not allowed to watch rice as it cooks, so this is an excellent plan. You are required to sit down, or even lie down.


Put cheese on bread. Put bread in toaster/regular oven. Cook.

Cheese sammiches benefit by the addition of mushrooms and/or tomatoes. You can also dip them in our next item:


Open can. Dump soup. Add water if necessary. Cook.


An excellent choice for those of us with stomach ailments.

Drink with:


7. TEA

Boil water. Pour over tea bag. Perhaps add honey. Steep.

Many varieties of tea are appropriate.


These will generally provide a nice neck for alternative sustenance.


Boil water. Pour over water, bourbon, honey. Drink as hot as humanly possible. In fact, drink everything as hot as humanly possible.



If necessary, slice and serve in milk. Cheerios optional.


Boil broth. Add hot chili sauce. Thus both types of heat are covered.


Burn black for stomach ailment. Otherwise, toast and butter. Do not jam.


Buy cups at the store. No sick person should ever make the effort to make pudding.


Here is excellent sustenance.

27 April 2007

grapes grapes real grapes

Here is one reason to live in California:


You notice how we could not keep from ravaging them on the walk home from the store.

You never get grapes like these in the north; instead, you get horrific hothouse globulets with thick bitter skins, all the exact uniform shade of green. You can shut your eyes and imagine you're eating cold balloons. These dudes, in contrast, are tiny: maybe a centimeter tall. They are sweet; they have thin, tender skins. Best of all, they have clearly been ripened outside, on a vine: their color varies throughout the bunch from pale green to yellow to blush to freckled, in accordance with the actual sun.

The sun is another thing we have in California. I am not exactly happy about it in a daily basis, but if it's going to give me grapes like this, I guess I can just acquire a collection of hats.

There is, of course, another way to have grapes:

I made mine extra fruity with delicious blue-blackberry juice. Maybe we should just call it "bruise juice". In any case, this combination was far, far better than you perhaps expect. Of course, maybe you drink fruit-based cocktails on a regular basis. In our case, we have mimosas quite enough to wish to expand on the field.

25 April 2007

Strong, burly pasta

This is a fine example of what to make for dinner when the one person in the house who vehemently hates mushrooms is stuck elsewhere until eleven at night. It is tasty; it is easy; it involves a lot of very strong, varied flavors and textures. I think it is the greatest. The end product feels robust with all the super-strong olive-eggplant-bell pepper flavors, and yet the procedure is standard: I do something of this type nearly every time I make pasta with tomatoes.

tomato puree
olive oil
black and/or green olives
red pepper
wine or dry vermouth
basil, oregano, cayenne
fresh parsley
grating cheese, if you feel like it

Start out by chopping several cloves of garlic into large chunks. I like garlic a lot, so I used maybe six or eight cloves just for me. Garrrrrlic. Heat some olive oil in your big pan; throw in the garlic to cook slowly. Add some spices here: dried basil and oregano, cayenne pepper. Stir and let cook while you chop all the other vegetables.

I made a bunch of quarter-moons of eggplant, big chunks of mushroom and red pepper, and rounds of olive. Olive types: you can use whatever type of olive you like best. I used a mix of kalamata and...uh, some small green ones. Their taste will be pretty dominant in the final dish, so you can use them sparingly: I think I used six or so olives for the whole thing. Proportions of all other vegetables are up to you. I used half a small eggplant, half a red pepper, and probably six or eight mushrooms. Mushrooms!

Add vegetables gradually, starting with eggplant, which takes the longest to cook. Once you have everything added in and softening well, throw in a glug of dry vermouth or whatever dry wine you may be drinking. Red wines are clearly excellent in this area, especially spicy reds like zinfandels. You need something dark and strong to stand up to the finished product. Let the alcohol cook off, then add your tomatoes and a little salt. Then let the whole shebang simmer together while you cook the pasta.

I like to use chunky pastas with holes for a chunky sauce like this: they catch lots of vegetable bits, so you get lots of different business in each bite. When said pasta is done, drain and toss it with the sauce. Then serve it, grate some cheese over if you want, and eat it.

Pasta is clearly not hard.

23 April 2007

Spring tonic

Last week was the week from hell. All I wanted to do for the entire weekend was lie in bed and read various trashy things. I also needed delicious vegetable refreshment, however. I set out to devise some.

I had actually been wanting a soup like this for a while. It is spring, even if spring in California can generally be described as "what it's like the entire year". If only the rainy season were actually rainy. Anyway, the idea of fresh vegetables and herbs and broth sounded perfect. I even initially wanted a cold soup; that changed, however, when I tasted my result.

Ideally, this would have ended up in serious awesome very thin soup/juice form. However, the lack of half-decent puréeing equipment put a stop to that. We don't have a blender; we don't have a full-sized food processor. All we have is a tiny 2-cup food processor that only chops things to a fine, muddy dice. It did that job pretty well, but I would really have preferred a serious carrot-juice puree spectacular. There is nothing like a full shooter of vegetable action.

Spring tonic soup

butter or olive oil
fresh dill and parsley
veg broth
dry vermouth
yogurt/sour cream/vegan versions

Get out your big sauté pan and warm it up.

Chop up several carrots and a shallot or two as finely as you like. The shape and size doesn't really matter here, especially if you have a better puréeing solution than we do. Smaller pieces cook faster, however.

Put some butter or olive oil in the pan, melt/warm it, and add your carrots and shallots. Let them cook slowly, stirring every once in a while, until nice and soft. Add a splash of dry vermouth and let it cook off at some point in the proceedings.

In the meantime, do two things. First, clean a handful each of fresh dill and parsley, rip the leaves off their stems, and chop finely. I really wanted an overload of dill here, so I just kept adding more until I got thoroughly sick of picking the bits off the stems. Now you know what to do with the rest of that bunch of dill from the nicoise the other day.

Second, make vegetable broth. Stick your shallot scraps, carrot peels, and herb stems in a pot of water with any other vegetable odds and ends you have lying around, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Then just cook until you need to use it. You can use pretty much anything for stock besides beets and cabbage: the former is red; the latter is cruciferous. I do the stock cache thing and stick all my extra veg bits into a freezer container, so I can dump them into hot water whenever necessary. It is also clearly fine to just chop up whatever you have, though. Plus, herb stems! Dill!

When the carrots and shallot are sufficiently soft, add some vegetable broth and purée until smooth. A hand-held immersion blender would be ideal here. I had to work in something like four annoying little batches. Try not to do this.

Add broth to achieve your preferred texture. Add all your chopped herbs. Stir it up and taste it. Is it delicious? Do you need some salt or pepper? Add them, stir, and taste again.

Serve in little bowls, ones you can drink from, if possible. I definitely wanted to drink mine. I also wanted some plain yogurt on top, clearly. You might want some sour cream, or some vegan substitute business, or some buttermilk. That had been my initial idea for said soup, but such a thing isn't exactly a staple at our house, while yogurt is.

Drink hot or cold. Either is delicious. I think I ended up liking it hot best, however. The cold required a far smoother and more clearly juicy texture. Oh man. I have to try it again, after acquiring better technology. Damn you, technology! Why do you always win?

20 April 2007

Salade decomposée

The proper, traditional Salade Niçoise is a salade composée. Mine is not so composée. In fact, I often pare it back to the barest of essentials, transforming it into a hot potato salad.

boiling potatoes
green beans
an egg for each person
tuna, if so desired

Start by bringing a pot of water to the boil with a little salt.

Do not peel your potatoes; skin is awesome. Scrub them, however, and chop them into bite-sized chunks. I like redskin or yukon gold potatoes. Tiny new potatoes or fingerlings are also clearly delicious.

When the water is boiling, add the potatoes. Turn the heat back to low, cover, and let simmer until the potatoes are done. The time will depend on the size of chunks; start checking them in twenty minutes or a half hour.

In the meantime, top and tail green beans and chop into inch-long pieces.

Also, make the dressing.

olive oil
white wine vinegar
chopped herbs of choice
salt, pepper, maybe some mustard

Put a 6:1 ratio of olive oil and white wine vinegar in a measuring cup or container of some type suitable for whisking. Wash and chop some (a lot) of whatever fresh herbs you have on hand; I had dill and parsley. Add some salt and pepper, and mustard if you like mustardy dressings. Whisk with a fork until it's correct and unctuous.

I made mine in the salad bowl, which I would not recommend. You want to pour it over the hot vegetables later; make it in a pouring device.

Are the potatoes getting soft? Do you think they'll be done in ten minutes or less? Good; add the egg, put the lid back on, and cook for another ten minutes or so. At maybe seven or eight minutes, add the green beans. When the beans are done, in 2-3 minutes, you are all ready.

Remove your egg to some cold water. Drain your vegetables. Put them in a bowl and pour the dressing over them. You want the vegetables as hot as possible at this point, so they absorb the dressing well. Mix to get dressing on everything.

Whack your cooled egg all over with a spoon, peel it, and chop it into appropriate chunks. Add it to the salad. Splash some extra dressing on top, if you want.

Extra herbs can go over the top of each serving, with a couple grinds of salt and pepper. Add some tuna from a can, flaked, if you want. If you have real tuna on hand, you could even sear it and serve little filets over the salad. I am not that fancy, or at least I wasn't tonight. Anyway, I like fully cooked fish.

In this case, however, I had no fish and was yet well satisfied.

17 April 2007


Yesterday I had a terrible, exhausting afternoon. This of course means that I desperately wanted all the food in the land, particularly all the instant food in the land, and in fact detoured on the way home to spend a half hour wandering around the store looking at said food. For instance, I stood around in the freezer aisle thinking about frozen burritos, while at home I had a full pot of ALREADY BOILED, READY black beans sitting in the refrigerator just waiting to become way better burritos.

I have no idea how my common sense won that argument, but it did. Instead of frozen burritos, I went home with a filet of red snapper and some olives.

Then, for some reason, it was time to engage in yet more work and 1. make refried beans 2. sear snapper for 3. FISH TACOS.

This batch of refried beans went by standard procedure. Saute chopped onion, garlic, jalapeno and poblano in oil with lots of cumin; add half-drained pan of black beans, mashed roughly with spoon; bring saute pan to a simmer; cook until things are the correct texture, adding water if necessary. I hardly drained off any bean liquid, so I didn't have to add any water. In fact, I had to cook off a lot of water before the beans weren't totally sloppy and liquid. That was ok, though. Refrieds can cook for a long time; they only get better.

While things were cooking down, I did all the other prep. I also read a bunch of Narbonic and had a martini that was really just an excuse to eat five olives soaked in gin. Then I felt better.

Prep: whatever you like for tacos, plus fish business.

For tacos: I whacked and chopped a lime, shredded some totally inauthentic mozzarella cheese, stuck some tortillas in the oven to warm, and slivered up some cabbage. I also took the salsa out of the refrigerator: shockingly difficult!

For fish: I stuck a couple handfuls of flour in a wide pan and seasoned it with cumin, salt, pepper, and a little cayenne.

When the refrieds were the right texture, i.e. pretty thick and full of bean chunks, I started on the fish. Fish is only good when totally searing hot, as you clearly know, so it was important to have everything else absolutely ready to go.

Seared snapper

snapper filet
seasoned flour

First, set a frying pan over hot heat. While it's getting good and hot, try and remove any obvious pinbones from the fish. If you can't, whatever; you can pick them out after it's cooked. Then roll your fish in the seasoned flour, getting a faint powdery coating on all surfaces.

Is the pan hot? Do the drop of water test, if you feel like it (the drop should sizzle away instantly), or hold your hand over the pan to see.

Drop a chunk of butter in the pan. It should hiss. Quickly tilt the pan and get melted butter on every available surface. As soon as all the butter is melted, put in your fish. It should hiss as well. Squirt some lime juice over the fish and give it maybe 3 to 5 minutes. Cooking time here depends on the thickness of your fish; I would say that as soon as it turns opaque around the edges, it's time to flip. Cook on the other side just until fish is all opaque and flakeable with appropriate spatula. Then immediately get it out of the pan, break it into nice chunks (removing bones if necessary), and build some tacos.

Fish tacos!

You know how to build tacos. Take warm tortilla and fill with beans, fish, cabbage, cheese, and salsa, plus more lime. Eat it as hot and awesome as possible. Make another and eat that one as well. Fish does not keep! You must have it all!

If I had been feeling less taco-y and more, say, Mediterranean, I would totally have ended up making this fish just as a seared fillet with salt and pepper, and topping it with a green olive, garlic, tomato, and white wine sauce. Lemon instead of lime. You clearly need something else to fill out that meal, though, unless you are inordinately fond of fish and make a ton of it. Hm. Gigantic salad?

15 April 2007

Bread issues

This weekend was difficult. I feel like I had a really stressful and not at all relaxing time. This is not entirely true, but it's coloring my mindset right now.

Eventually I made beer bread, which is to say quick bread that uses beer to rise. This was very easy.

Beer bread

baking powder
herbs/cheese addenda
bottle of beer

First, oil a loaf pan and preheat the oven to 375F.

In a fullsize bread bowl, mix together 3 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, maybe a teaspoon of sugar and HALF a teaspoon of salt. I say HALF A TEASPOON loudly for a reason. I followed the proportions I had, which listed one full teaspoon salt; the bread turned out unutterably salty. You use half a teaspoon.

Ok, so what do you want to add to the bread? I guess you can make it just white, but how boring is that? I grated some parmesan and chopped up a bunch of fresh dill and a little parsley, then added that to my dry mix. You could probably add anything you want. My friend Carrie once made a cheddar and jalapeno bread that was excellent. Olive oil and rosemary would be good too. Olives and rosemary would be very nice. Now I want olive bread. Great.

Add a bottle or can of freshly opened beer to the mix. It can't be a flat beer, or the bread won't rise. I used MGD, for complete tastelessness; you can experiment with big molassesy stouts and things. Mix the stuff up into thick batter with a big flat-paddled spoon or spatula. Just get everything wet. I ended up eventually using my hands to make sure all the dry bits came into sufficient contact with damp bits.

Put your batter into the pan, smooth it out a little, and stick it in the oven to bake for 45 minutes or so. It's done when all bread is done: it sounds hollow when you tap on it. You may want to use the toothpick trick as well, as this bread is heavy and dense and can therefore tend to be a little damp inside even when it sounds done.

Cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes; then take it out of the pan and cool some more. Slice it up, put some butter or cream cheese on it, and eat it.

Yeah, so my bread was SALTY. Eating it plain did not work. So I decided to make something to disguise its saltiness. What can do that?

This worked ok:

Braised mushrooms

olive oil
dry vermouth/white wine

Cut up some mushrooms and stick them in a baking dish. Mince a shallot finely and throw that in as well. Give it a couple good splashes of olive oil and vermouth, so there's maybe a centimeter of liquid in the pan. Mix to make sure everything is reasonably wet, then stick in the oven, now reduced to 350F. Let it cook for 15 minutes or so, then check and stir. The mushrooms will have reduced in volume quite a bit. Get them all under the braising liquid and cook for five or so minutes longer, until you decide they're done.

Then make
Instant savory bread pudding.

Rip up a piece or two of your ultra-salty bread and stick it in a bowl. When the mushrooms are done, pour them and their juices directly over the bread. Add some chopped parsley or something if you feel like it. Eat it, sopping up all the juice with the bits of bread.

I really, really wanted lots of red wine with this, but was not willing to go out and get it after a gargantuan morning shopping expedition.

Another thing you could do for bread pudding vegetables:

Big tomato braise

onion or garlic
olive oil
red wine

This is really only viable in summer, when there are good tomatoes, but I guess you can improv with decent canned whole ones too. Get some good tomatoes, peel them (or don't if you are lazy), and chop them into big chunks. Throw them in a baking dish with either roughly chopped onion or whole smashed cloves of garlic. Add olive oil and spicy red wine for braising liquid. The dry vermouth would work too, if you have no wine. You might want some basil or thyme or something in here too. Cook like the mushrooms, adjusting time for size of tomatoes et al; pour results over bread; eat.

13 April 2007

When out of food,

make drinks.

Gin and orange

orange/tangerine/etc juice
lemon slice

Combine over ice; drink.

Proportion variance can cause different titles to apply. I had an orange martini. John had a gin and juice, including the correct juice for that title: grapefruit.

We really need to go shopping.

11 April 2007

Chocolate reformation: repent and be saved

Generally we don't really do sweets (or, you know, judgment and flagellation), so this must be regarded as an exception. "You mean a delicious exception!" our friend Ryan says in my head. Ryan was also the one who originally turned the apt phrase, "too fudgetastic." All of these things are applicable to our cooking exploits of last night: candy.

Serious hardcore candymaking often inolves such terrifying things as bubbling molten sugar, potential burst thermometers, and globs of burnt taffy flying every which way from between your buttered fingers. So we weren't hardcore candymakers. Is that such a huge problem? No, it is not, and it's especially not when you're using this:

Yes. Chocolate.

I like chocolate. In this case, we'd gotten a big chunk of bulk Callebaut semisweet chocolate for the specific purpose of melting and dipping. It's the easiest type of candymaking there is: reforming previously made candy, preferably around some sort of delicious fruit. I guess cookies or shortbread could work if you're into that kind of thing, and I know that some of you are. I, however, am into fruit.

I am so into fruit that I went searching through the pantry to see what else I might use on this expedition. Lo, there was a huge jar of Michigan tart cherry preserve with whole cherries! Gracious! What could I possibly do with such a thing? Perhaps I could mix the cherries with some melted chocolate and layer it with regular chocolate, then cut into conveniently sized pieces! When we brought some of these over to the neighbors, they said, "oh my god, is that fudge?" No, it is not. It is possibly better.

Part 1:
Chocolate-dipped fruit


Melt your chocolate over a double boiler on very low heat. Just chop it up, stick it in the top pan, put some water in the bottom pan, and let it sit over the heat while you peel, separate, or chop any fruit you want to use. We used some segments of honey tangerine, seedless purple grapes, and a thinly sliced firm it's-not-summer-yet-don't-try-to-fool-yourself plum.

When the chocolate is clearly soft, give it a couple stirs to see if it's fully melted and distribute the heat. Is it smooth? If yes, you're ready. If not, give it a couple more minutes over the heat, then stir again.

When the chocolate is smooth, it's time. Take each piece of fruit and dip into the melted chocolate. It may take a couple passes to get your preferred amount of chocolate on there, especially if the interior of your fruit is wet (i.e. if you're using plums). Set each piece on a big piece of waxed paper, parchment, or plastic wrap, set over a cookie sheet or other large flat moveable surface. Repeat until all fruit is chocolated up, then stick the entire sheet into the freezer to set. Leave for at least five or ten minutes, then check for solidity. If the chocolate is cold, you're good to go: eat. Keep any leftovers in the refrigerator, in case of melting. Cold chocolate tastes the best to me anyway.

Part 2:
Chocolate cherry bars.

whole cherry preserve, stoned fresh cherries, or dried cherries.

Again, chop chocolate and melt in a double boiler. You see why it is so convenient to do both of these at the same time.

Prepare an appropriately sized pan for the cherry bar goodness. I used a pyrex pie plate with some heavy plastic spread over it, but wax paper or parchment are also clearly good. Try to use something with sides, in case of runny chocolate.

With a spatula, spread a medium-thin layer of plain chocolate over the bottom of the pan. Smooth it out to a relatively even thickness. Then put it in the freezer to set. This needs longer to set than the fruit, largely because the chocolate is all in one big mass; ten or fifteen minutes should do it.

In the meantime, melt some more chocolate (or if you had a whole lot melted already, use that). Add a bunch of cherries and mix it all together. You can use as much as you want; I just got the chocolate full of cherry preserve chunks and stirred to melt the jammy part. When the first layer is set, spread the cherry layer over it and put the pan back in the freezer to set again.

Melt another hunk of chocolate, plain; when the cherry layer is set, spread it over the top and put in the freezer to set again.

After the whole shebang is mostly set, but still soft enough for you to leave a fingerprint, cut up your bars. Otherwise you will end up with a huge, albeit delicious, hockey puck of cherry chocolate. Our bars were maybe an inch and a half square; make yours whatever size you like. Just keep in mind that these things are totally rich, such that you probably don't want to eat too much at once.

Eat. Note awesome chewy interior. Debate as to whether the bars are, in fact, "too fudgetastic." Give some to your neighbors when you realize you can only eat one or two at once.

As these both contain fruit, I'd definitely keep them in the refrigerator, and I wouldn't try to keep them too long. I kind of doubt that will be too much of a problem, however, as they are also delicious chocolate.

09 April 2007

Parsley and potato

Mmmm, parslies.

The parslies are growing so hard I can barely thin them out. They are very excited about entangling themselves firmly behind each others' leaves so as to shove themselves further and further toward the sun. Then I confuse them by turning the pot around, and they get even more tangledy trying to whip themselves back in the other direction. Then I have to untangle them all in order to thin out the old, the weak, and the infirm, and scatter the thinnings over a vast plate of homefries.

Homefries are way easier than hash browns, which I find odd, since it's more or less the same food in the end. Only the texture is different.


all your redskin potatoes
6 or 7 cloves of garlic
a shallot
olive oil and butter
salt, pepper, cayenne, parsley

Run your potatoes under cold water and scrub off any filth. Then, without peeling, chop them into cubes. I had a vast potato flotilla to contend with on this occasion.

While you're chopping, heat a pot of water to boiling. Dump in your cubed potatoes and parboil for five to ten minutes. In the meantime, peel and chop your garlic and shallot. When the potatoes have let off a huge froth of starch, take them off the heat and drain.

Warm up a large sauté pan, add some olive oil to coat, and add your potatoes, garlic, and shallot. Spice with cayenne, salt, and pepper, and ripped parsley, and stir to mix. Then let everything sit and cook over medium-high heat. Depending on how hot your pan is, it may take anywhere from five to fifteen minutes for the bottoms of your potatoes to start turning golden brown. I was cooking pretty slowly so as not to burn the garlic to death, so mine easily hit the upper limit.

Turn your homefries with a wide spatula, trying to keep them in large chunks. This may or may not work. You also may need to add more oil or butter as you flip each chunk. Cook another five minutes, over slightly higher heat, until the underside has crisped up and turned golden.

You are done. Get those homefries out onto plates and eat with potential extra salt, pepper, and ketchup. Have tea. Have a mimosa. Have some eggs. Good morning!

06 April 2007

Cabbage part two: the revenge

Now that you've made that delicious, easy, easy and delicious cabbage salad, what do you do with the rest of the cabbage? If you are me--I mean, if you are I--or, uh, I guess just if I am I--I make savory vegetable pancakes.

I first made these dudes from a long-ago entry over at The Hungry Tiger, my favorite among favorites of all the billion food sites I visit. If only there were more! more! content! However, certain redfox is clearly both writing her dissertation and teaching university classes (five miles from where I went to undergrad, no less. Arabica! Come back!), and so the slow updates of late are understandable. Still. I want more! Exclamation point!

So anyway. Essentially, what we're doing here is making a not at all sweet pancake batter with lots of vegetables in it, then frying the pancakes on a griddle or other appropriate pan. I also like to make little bowls of dipping business, one of which, shockingly, was also initially based off one of her entries. I now do things like this all the ding dang time. It has thus become very obvious to me that redfox has had a huge amount of influence on my cooking. I am pretty happy about that.

My variation on this particular dish includes whatever vegetables sound tasty, and switches the pancake batter to a more traditional formula, since for one thing I don't generally have any chickpea flour. Those would certainly make these more proteintacular, however. I was also considering making the pancakes oaty by adding in some rolled oats soaked in milk for a while. Feel free to switch it up however you like.

To start, make any dipping sauces you want, so as to let their flavors develop while you're cooking. My two sauces were really easy.

Yogurt-garlic sauce

As this sauce contains raw garlic, it's pretty pungent, yet totally awesome.

Take a big spoonful of plain yogurt and mix it with a minced, crushed clove of garlic. Add some pepper if you want. Mix it all up and put it in the fridge to wait.

Peanut-soy sauce

This one turned out way too salty for me, but there are things you could do to correct that. For one, use unsalted peanut butter. For another, don't go overboard on the soy.

Take a big spoonful of peanut butter and mix it with a little soy sauce. Add some mirin or rice wine vinegar to taste. Tahini might also go well here. Dilute to your desired texture, mix, and let it wait.

Now make your pancakes.

Savory vegetable pancakes

hot pepper
sesame seeds
olive oil or other
eggs or fake eggs
milk or soymilk
baking powder
salt and pepper

Chop your vegetables pretty finely. Cabbage is a great one to use here because it remains relatively sturdy and crunchy, even when soaking in batter. I used about 1/3 of a cabbage, three huge, burly scallions, and one red jalapeno. You could clearly use all kinds of other vegetables here; I would go for carrot and radish first, then bell pepper, and maybe some corn. Whatever you like should be fine, as long as it doesn't require long, slow cooking.

Make your pancake batter. Pancakes are one of the very few baking-oriented foods for which I don't measure; you may want to look up a more exact set of proportions if you don't feel confident in being able to wing it. Here's what I did, and it turned out fine. I cracked a couple eggs into a bowl and beat them until smooth. Then I added four or so handfuls of flour, beating to mix well after each. I added a shake of baking powder (when's the last time anyone has ever said That?), several glugs of soymilk (as we had no Milk milk), and a hearty pinch or two of salt. Then I just fiddled until the batter looked like pancake batter. I added a handful or two more flour, and a few more glugs of milk. Probably I ended up with about 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup milk altogether. It was a pretty eggy batter, but that was fine with me, as pancakes in general are pretty eggy.

Add your vegetables to your batter and mix it up. The business should end up looking more or less like a big salad with really thick dressing; you want the vegetables to dominate. Add whatever spices sound good with your combination of vegetables, and mix well; I added lots of black pepper and a couple good shakes of cayenne. I also added a handful of sesame seeds, for taste and texture.

Now it's time to cook. Heat up a nonstick pan or griddle on medium-high. If you don't have nonstick, just use a regular pan with a little olive oil. When the pan is sufficiently hot, ladle out as many spoonfuls of batter as will fit without crowding. Add a sprinkle of sesame seeds to the top of each. Cook until golden brown, about three to five minutes, then flip to cook the other side. When both sides are cooked, remove, potentially drain on paper towels (if cooked in oil), salt if you want, and eat, with sauce of your choice, as immediately as possible. You certainly want to just stand over the stove and eat them as they come out of the pan.

This type of dinner requires plenty of beer so cold you can actually see it coagulating in the bottle.

04 April 2007

Phase one of carbonara experiment

Yeah, so while I was sitting around drinking merlot and waiting for my cabbage to macerate, John was making fullon dinner. It was a pretty normal sunday. We always end up hanging around in the kitchen making as much dinner as humanly possible, then eating similarly as much. Usually the dinner consists of whatever we've had an impulse for in the past few days. So we go to the store, pick out most of the ingredients we didn't have before (thus precluding us from cooking said impulses at the actual time of impulse) but forget at least one, come home, maybe run across the street to get some wine, especially if that's what we forgot, and start cooking.

In this case, John was kind of at loose ends. He's been trying to perfect his aglio e olio for a while; the end result has been perfect, delicious aglio e olio. So he needed a new way to build on that base. In conclusion, carbonara.

This was not precisely the classic carbonara. For one thing, we weren't exactly going to be using bacon, since half our population is vegetarian and the other half is not that into meat. For another, we had all these delicious onions lying around. So John switched some things up back and around the side, and came up with this variation.

Extra extra pasta carbonara

olive oil
yellow onion
hot pepper
fresh parsley
salt and pepper
grating cheese

First, caramelize the onion. Get a sauté pan warm over low-medium heat; chop your onions into half-moons. We used two whole yellow onions, which turned out to make the entirety of the pasta a bit too sweet. In the future, it would probably be one. Toss the onion in the pan with a generous amount of olive oil, stir to mix, and let cook slowly for much longer than you want to wait. Probably an hour or so is plenty; you want the onions to cook down into an extremely sweet, soft pile of golden mush. When they're verging on done, you can start the other prep.

Grab several cloves of garlic, a hot pepper of some type (red jalapeño, as usual), and a handful of parsley leaves. This choice of pepper left me wanting more spice; I would certainly want two peppers next time. Mince the garlic and pepper finely; roughly chop the parsley. In a second pan, sauté the garlic and pepper in olive oil until soft. In yet another pan, boil water and cook your pasta, then drain. We used linguine, but whatever you have should be fine.

When everything is sufficiently cooked, you're ready for assembly. Mix the onions, pepper/garlic, and pasta in whichever sauté pan is biggest. Then, working quickly so everything remains sufficiently hot, crack a couple eggs over the pan. Stir to mix well, breaking up yolks and etc.; the egg will cook to form a thick sticky sauce in the heat of the pan. Add your parsley, salt, lots of black pepper, and any other herbs you think would be delicious. I think John put some basil in; that was certainly good. Add whatever grating cheese sounds good to you; we used romano, as usual.

Serve as hot and eat as instantly as possible. This stuff will not keep well, considering its sauce is just egg, so try to eat as much as possible too. Then trundle off to bed, warm and sated.

02 April 2007

Cabbage: delicious.

We don't exactly have heavy cabbage culture in the US. Why not? We do live in a country that prides itself on its meltingpotitudinous qualities, or at least that used to, since now the official policy seems to have, uh, Changed.

Ok ok! But the fact remains that many of our large immigrant populations came from cultures with plenty of cabbage in their daily diet. Let's just think about Poland, for instance. Actually, let's think about all of eastern Europe. Hardy cold-surviving yet vitamin-containing vegetables like cabbage were hugely important in these cultures, and it shows: sauerkraut, salads, cabbage rolls, pierogi, all the crazy Russian stuffed dumplings you can eat, with sour cream and pickled beets: oh yes. If you go the other direction, you can look at very similar developments in Asian cultures, albeit using different varietals of cabbage: hot and spicy cabbage salads with vinegar and pickled ginger, more cabbage rolls, serious crunch in the wok mix, and fermented productions such as kimchi.

So people from all these cultures came to the US, bringing their individual foods and preparations with them. We still know how to make them, or can easily find out. However, none of these productions became in any way culturally predominant. We have one popular cabbage dish: coleslaw. You know how terrible premade coleslaw can be, with its revolting glorified miracle whip and sugar dressing and wilted, limp shreds of leaf. Ugh. Why not buy a whole, heavy cabbage and make something like this?

This cabbage salad is extremely easy; it only requires you to have some patience, and not very much of that. The salt is key. Salt will draw out the cabbage's moisture and simultaneously season it excellently well. Really, it turns out to be a very simple cabbage pickle.

Self-dressing cabbage salad

1/2 cabbage
handful of carrots

Slice the cabbage into fine, fine strips. Cut a couple times perpendicular across the pile to make for rough matchstick action.

Put the cabbage in a bowl or plastic bag, and add several good shakes of salt. I used maybe half a teaspoon of crushed sea salt. Mix with your hands to get the salt evenly distributed. Then let it sit. Have some wine and watch someone else make you the rest of dinner.

Chop or shred your carrots. I sliced mine on the mandoline, because we were all "hey I remember we have this kitchen toy!" It is quite difficult to slice baby carrots on the mandoline without things flying everywhere, though. In the future I would use whole, full-sized carrots, and just grate them coarsely.

Give your cabbage a good squeeze every once in a while. Is it starting to wilt and exuding a little liquid? Good. That salty cabbage brine is the self-dressing. Add the carrot, mix, and squeeze the whole business some more. You could just as easily add the carrots earlier, but I wanted them to retain some sharp raw quality. I left it to sit for five more minutes, for maybe a half hour of waiting total.

When the cabbage is turning translucent around the edges, you're ready. Grind some pepper over the salad, toss, and eat.

That was it. Eat it.

You could add all kinds of vegetables to this salad. The cabbage makes it sharp and peppery, in the way that greens are peppery; if you wanted more pepper snap you could add finely cut daikon or regular radish. The carrot makes it sweet; you could add some finely slivered bell pepper to add to the sweetness. You could make it oniony by finely chopping some green onion, shallot, or red onion. You could add a squeeze of lemon or a few drops of vinegar to make it extra pungent. You could sliver and toast some almonds and scatter them over the top. Cabbage is delicious.