28 November 2008

Thanksgiving dinner

Ok! So that menu didn't happen exactly as planned. I think it was probably good overall, though, since the changes essentially reduced the total amount of food.

Actual thanksgiving dinner:

- Several kinds of red wine
- Havarti with dill, goat cheese, crackers
- Black bean sweet potato soup, take two
- Sauteed kale with garlic
- More or less classic stuffing with shallot
- Apple pie

Yeah, that's plenty for two people. We ate all of it except a serving of soup (now in the freezer) and half the pie. Then I woke up at 6:30 this morning, couldn't get back to sleep, and went down the street to get a whole wheat bagel with basil cream cheese. Apparently my body really wanted all the food, which is good, because the food was awesome.

Red wine is self-explanatory. I went to the Trader Joe's wine store at Union Square on Wednesday. There was a line halfway down the block, so I got in and waited. Fortunately, the wait was pretty short. Everyone was clearly into grabbing things and getting out as instantly as possible. I got: Old Moon 2006 Zinfandel, Gascon 2007 Mendoza Malbec, Ripasso Tenimenti Conti Neri 2006 Valpolicella, and Reserve de l'Estey 2005 Bordeaux Medoc. We actually had the zin Wednesday night, but you know. These were all pretty passable for wines under $10.

Cheese and crackers are even more self-explanatory. We ate them. I made the mistake of getting an assorted box of crackers, which turned out to include digestive biscuits, but that was ok. They would be good with brie, or cheese and fruit pairs, but not the cheese we had. So when we ran out of crackers, we just ate the cheese.

Black bean sweet potato soup.

This one was a little different from my previous attempt, and turned out much, much better.

soaked and/or cooked black beans
vegetable broth
sweet potato
olive oil
bay leaf
cayenne pepper
salt, pepper

Stick your soaked black beans and a bay leaf in a pot and boil them in a couple cups of water or broth for at least an hour, or until tender. If your beans are already cooked, bring them to a boil in all broth. Let them simmer, adding cupfuls of broth as the water evaporates, while you roast the sweet potato.

Peel a sweet potato or two roughly equal in volume to your beans. I had a gargantuan potato, so I only used half of it. Cut your potato into big slices about half an inch thick, then toss to coat in some olive oil. Spread the slices on a baking sheet in one layer, season with salt, pepper, and cayenne, and stick a crushed clove of garlic on each slice. Roast them at 350F for about a half hour, or until they're golden brown around the edges and soft in the middle.

Slide your roasted potatoes into the soup pot, then simmer it some more while you cook everything else. After simmering at least 15 minutes, fish out the bay leaves, pull the pan off the heat, and puree the soup with a stick blender. You could also roughly break up the sweet potato with a big spoon if you want a chunky soup.

Now you can stick the lid on the pot, stick it over low heat, and wait until you're ready to serve. The nice thing about this soup is that it can pretty much stay on the back of the stove forever.

Eat with lots of greens.

Sauteed kale with garlic

olive oil

This is super easy and takes very little time, so make it right before you want to eat. Warm a largish splash of olive oil in a saute pan while you crush, peel, and chop a handful of garlic. Cook the garlic slowly in the olive oil. This way the garlic will caramelize and the oil will get good and garlicky at the same time.

In the meantime, cut out the tough stems of a handful of kale leaves. I had flatleaf purple kale, but any kind should be fine. Chop your deveined kale into big rough pieces.

Add the kale to the pan, stir to distribute the oil, and cook on medium for about five to seven minutes. When the kale turns bright green and wilts, it's ready.

Serve bowls of soup, then garnish them with big whacks of kale.

Stuffing with shallot

butter/olive oil
vegetable broth
sage, thyme
salt, pepper

This one is also super easy, as well as open to improvisation. I assembled it first of everything, minus the broth, then let it sit on the counter while we made everything else. Eventually we baked it with the pie.

Ok. Melt some butter or warm some oil in a saute pan. Peel and finely mince a couple shallots, then soften them in the butter. Peel and finely chop some carrot roughly equal in volume to the shallot, add it to the pan, and continue to soften. Other vegetables to use: onion instead of/in combination with shallot, celery with the carrot. Mirepoix is clearly the classic choice for stuffing, but I somehow managed not to get any onions or celery. Fortunately, the shallot and carrot were totally delicious.

While the vegetables are softening, cube up several pieces of bread. I used four or five pieces of our regular seedy wheat bread, and it worked fine, so probably anything you have will be ok. The bread is supposed to be day-old or dry, but whatever. Mine wasn't.

In a baking dish, mix the cooked vegetables, the bread, and a large seasoning of sage and thyme. These two are key to make the stuffing taste stuffingy, so be generous and season until the pan smells right. Add salt and pepper if you want. I think I didn't add any, actually.

When you're ready to bake, add vegetable broth halfway up the side of the pan. Bake at 350F until the liquid is all absorbed and the stuffing is hot through.

Seriously, I am going to have to make way more stuffing in the future. It was a more than worthwhile endeavor. We ate the entire pan, and I for one wanted more.

Apple pie.

You can berate me for not making pumpkin pie later.

I totally used the exact crust recipe and technique from Smitten Kitchen the other day. The only thing I changed was to use whole wheat flour. I also didn't bother to let the dough chill after I'd made it, but went straight to rolling and pieing.

I'm going to say this was one of the easiest and best pie crusts I've ever made. I'm not sure why, since the great majority of crusts I've made have been from slight variation on this recipe, but still. Visible butter! Two sticks of visible butter!

It may have helped that the butter was actually frozen to start with.


Ok, technically this was an apple and pear and also asian pear pie, but it was mostly apples so I'm calling it apple.

five or six apples
two little pears
one asian pear
lemon juice

Peel, core, and slice up all your fruit. You want enough fruit to make a big mound in the pie dish, so add more if you need more.

Put the fruit in a bowl with a couple tablespoons of sugar, several big shakes of cinnamon, and the juice of a lemon. Mix it all up, then pile it into your unbaked pie crust. Dot chunks of butter all over the top of the fruit.

Top with your second crust. Crimp the edges together as prettily as possible. My edges were Not pretty, but whatever. Cut a bunch of slits in the top crust, then pop the business into the oven.

Bake at 350F until the crust is browned. Let it cool on the stove while you're eating dinner. Then cut it up and eat it.

Eat another piece later.

Be full.

26 November 2008


Tuesday we had an office thanksgiving potluck. I can't remember the last time I went to a potluck without being constrained to only bring something that would both 1. fit in my backpack and 2. not spill while I biked the five miles in. So what did I do? I brought something that would both 1. fit in my backpack and 2. not spill while I rode the train the three or four miles in. Yes.

Spinach salad with walnuts and dried cranberries

dried cranberries

Wash and dry a lot of spinach, trim out any massive stems, and cut the leaves into realistic salad-sized pieces. Stick them in a salad bowl.

Chop some walnuts, maybe 1/3 cup, into rough chunks. Stick them in a frying pan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until they're toasted. This should take about five minutes. Then take them out of the pan and let them cool.

Mix the cooled walnuts and another 1/3 cup of dried cranberries with the spinach. You could use other dried fruit, like cherries or chopped apricots, in place of the cranberries. Or you could use fresh apple or pear pieces. It's all good.

Dress sparingly with a mild vinaigrette, which you can bring to the office in its own little container. When someone at your office asks why you're using your hands to mix your salad, you can say, "actually, it's best to toss salad with your hands so as not to bruise the leaves." Then, when they're laughing, you can add, "and the olive oil is really good for your skin!"

Then you can eat it with a huge spread of office potluck, including grocery store rotisserie chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, and extremely damp, dense brownies.

24 November 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

How do people eat this proportion of meat to everything else?

How can a person possibly plate themselves FOUR pieces of turkey, one of which is a gargantuan leg, vs a tablespoon of cranberry sauce and two of stuffing?

Why is this being presented by a major food magazine as the correct way to celebrate?

Seriously, we aren't having turkey for thanksgiving. We rarely do, since we rarely see relatives on thanksgiving, and what's the point of making even a big breast of turkey for one vegetarian and one omnivore who only eats meat maybe once a week? I'm not going to eat leftover turkey sandwiches afterward. Maybe I'll make some kind of grain salad and black bean or squash soup and garlic sauteed winter greens to stick in the middle of our bowls. Maybe we'll bake a baguette and eat cheese and olives and pears. There won't be any meat at all, let alone a gargantuan misproportion of turkey.

Here is the actual plan:

- crackers, havarti with dill, goat cheese
- a huge sweet potato cooked somehow, but I'm not sure how yet
- purple farmer's market kale sauteed with garlic
- spinach salad with roasted kabocha squash, pecans, maybe dried cranberries
- spicy black bean and butternut squash soup, or some variation
- a pie of some sort, pref. apple, possibly apple/pear if we don't eat the pears with cheese
- a variety of red wine
- Bulleit bourbon

We'll see how much of that actually happens.

I also want to do something with the tiny squeaky head of savoy cabbage I got for a dollar at the farmer's market, but I'm not sure what to do. It may end up sitting around until Friday being sufficiently squeaky and cute to earn its room and board.

21 November 2008

Farmer's market dinner

Last weekend I went to the farmer's market and it was good.

You might say something like "Eileen, you were just living in California. How can the New York farmer's market compare to that?" Well. For one thing, the apples here are real, edible apples. You don't get decent apples in California. You do get boatloads of heirloom tomatoes, really cheap, tiny avocados, and all kinds of berries deep into non-berry season, but you don't get apples. For that matter, you don't get the good, frost-driven versions of any northern fruit or vegetable. It's a question of personal preference: are you warm-blooded or cold? I myself am cold-blooded, something the general population of California was at a complete loss to understand.

So I went to the farmer's market and got butternut squash and potatoes and mushrooms and tiny individual stalks of broccoli and beets and little onions and is that APPLE CIDER?

Ha ha! I haven't had real apple cider in four years. The best California can do is Martinelli's. Granted, Martinelli's is pretty good, but it's not real cider mill cider that you drink outside with an apple turnover and a long, twisted, crystal-sugared doughnut, or that you mull on the stove and serve in big mugs with nutmeg and cream.

I took all my booty home and proceeded to eat it.

Scalloped potatoes

potatoes (mine were redskin)
salt, pepper

Scalloped potatoes, aka dauphinoise, are the easiest thing ever.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Slice your potatoes into lots of thin slices. Some people, such as Nigel Slater, king of meat, will want you to peel the potatoes first. You can if you want; I just scrub mine. You can avoid rings of skin by cutting the potato in half before slicing.

Smash and peel a couple of cloves of garlic for every 3 or so potatoes, then slice them into almond-sliver slices.

Get out a reasonable casserole dish for your amount of potatoes. I was just making a little pan for me, so I used a pie plate. Pour a little cream (or milk; you can use milk) into the bottom of the pan and use a spatula or spoon to spread it around. Make sure there's some liquid over the entire surface. You could also butter the pan; it just needs some dairy or oil to keep the potatoes from sticking.

Put a single layer of potatoes into the pan. Tuck some bits of garlic into the cracks. Grind some pepper over the layer, add a splash of cream, then add another layer. Repeat until you are out of potatoes, finishing with a lot of cream or milk and a similar lot of pepper. You want the potatoes to be just barely covered by liquid. If you don't have enough cream, you can do what I did and add a splash or two of water to bring the liquid level halfway up the side of the pan. It's totally fine.

Add a couple bits of butter over the top of the pan and stick it into the oven. Give it 15 minutes before you check and turn it. I usually tilt the pan to get a little of the liquid onto the top layer at this point. Stick the pan back in the oven and give it another ten minutes before you check it again. You can tell it's done by the golden-brown crispy top.

Eat with

Awesome farmer's market broccoli.

nothing else unless you want some butter or salt

Oh man, this broccoli was so good. Tiny little individual blue-purple sprigs! Not a tough stalk in sight! I didn't even have to trim the leaves.

Bring a couple inches of water to boil in a saucepan with a lid. When it's boiling, you can either steam the broccoli over it or in it. My steamer insert doesn't fit the pan I used, so I just chucked my broccoli pieces into the pan. The water came about halfway up them. It was perfectly adequate for steaming.

Clap on the pan lid and steam for about three minutes. This is going to depend on the toughness of your broccoli, so give it a taste if you need to.

When the broccoli is brilliant emerald green, whip it out of the pan and run it under cold water to stop the cooking. Then put it on a plate, salt or butter it if you feel like it (I didn't), and serve it with the scalloped potatoes.

Eat it and feel better.

19 November 2008

Black bean sweet potato soup

It's fall and I have a freezer! That means STOCKPILE.

I wanted to make a gigantic pot of soup: some to eat now, some to eat for lunch tomorrow, and some to freeze. This meant I used Lots of every ingredient: two medium onions, three or four potatoes, not enough beans (I used a can; 3 cups would've been better). The most important thing is to get the ratio of beans to sweet potato roughly even, with a little smaller proportion of onion. You can make this soup in any quantity; just make sure your pot is big enough.

Black bean sweet potato soup

cooked black beans
sweet potato
regular boiling potato if needed
olive oil
yellow onion
jalapeno pepper
cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, bay leaf
avocado garnish

Warm some olive oil in the bottom of a big soup pot. Dice up an onion or two and toss it in. Finely mince a jalapeno and toss that in too. Add several good shakes of cumin and a little cayenne pepper, mix it up, and let it all soften.

Peel and dice at least one sweet potato. We only had one, so we had to make up the difference with some plain redskin potatoes. Clearly, two sweet potatoes would be a better idea and get you a more intense soup, so if you have them, use them. I wanted more sweet potatoes!

When the onion business is soft and translucent, tip in the sweet potato and a bay leaf or two. Then fill the pot about halfway with water. HALFWAY. We were using a 3 quart pan, and managed to get the water level within an inch of the top. Go us! The subsequent boil and simmer were eventful.

Yeah. If you're making a bigger batch of soup, use a bigger pot.

So bring your pot to a boil, lower the heat, clap on the lid (unless you need to evaporate off some of the extra water and splatter every surface in the kitchen with soup in process. Go us!), and simmer until the potatoes are soft. This should take maybe a half hour or 45 minutes.

At this point you have some puree-oriented choices. You can leave the business chunky, add your black beans, heat though, and eat. You can puree the soup, then add your black beans, heat through, and eat. Or you can add your black beans, heat through, puree, and eat. In any of these cases, make sure the pot of soup is off the heat while you puree! This won't be an issue is you're using a stand blender, but for the stick blender: be aware.

John wanted a puree with chunks of black bean, so we went for option 2.

Put it in a bowl and eat it!

On the first occasion, I had the soup plain and it was good.

On the second occasion, I also had a ripe avocado. So I diced up some avocado and strewed it over my soup. This was an excellent idea, and let me use the rest of the avocado for a boatload of guacamole besides. The avocado gives you some of the same effects as dairy garnish (i.e. sour cream or drained yogurt, which would also work here): a smooth, cool, fatty component to take out some of the spice and sting.

I used the avocado trick to dice my avocado. Do you know the avocado trick? Probably, since it's been over the blogs.

First, cut the avocado in half lengthwise. To get out the pit, whack your knife blade into it, then twist. The pit will come loose and remain stuck to the blade. Pry it off and chuck it, or start an avocado tree if you want.

Now use your knife to cut a grid into the avocado flesh without breaking the skin. You'll end up with a bunch of diced avocado still organized nicely. Push your thumb into the back of the skin, effectively turning the business inside out, to pop out the pieces of avocado.

Voila: avocado trick.

Eat it eat it!

17 November 2008

Multiple cream pasta

The other day I bought half a pint of cream.

Then I had to use up half a pint of cream. It's not gone yet. I may have to make some scalloped potatoes just so we can eat it before it goes off. Isn't that what always happens with cream? I can't even get through a pint of straight milk, which I even drink, without it dying on me.

I suppose I should think of this as good, since I'm clearly not relying much on dairy products. Instead it's just irritating to feel wasteful. So then I end up eating three things with heavy cream within four days. I think we're going to need to start inviting people over for dinner more often.

In the meantime, I had these two highly inventive and totally different dinners.

Pasta with red cream sauce

olive oil
red onion
crushed tomato
asiago cheese
basil, oregano, salt, pepper
fresh parsley

Soften chopped shallot and red onion in olive oil. This combination will make for a pretty sweet sauce; you can sub garlic or etc if you have or want it. Season with some basil and oregano. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper at an appropriate point and simmer together until clearly tasty. Really, it's standard red sauce. Easy.

Use a chunky pasta. Cook it while the sauce is simmering. Drain it.

When things are cooked, dump the drained pasta into your tomato business. Pour a little cream over the business, then grate any cheese you might want on top. Mix. Serve with a bunch of chopped fresh parsley and a big green salad.

Pasta with white cream sauce

olive oil
lots of garlic
salt, pepper
fresh parsley

Chop up a bunch of garlic and soften it slowly in olive oil. Chop your mushrooms into big chunks and add them. Soften it all while your pasta is cooking.

When the pasta is done, drain it. Pour maybe a quarter or a third cup of cream into the garlic and mushrooms. Let it warm just until it bubbles, then turn off the heat and dump the drained pasta in. Mix it all up with a bunch of ground pepper and a tiny bit of salt.

Eat it with another bunch of fresh parsley and another big green salad.

Maybe I just haven't been eating enough salad.

14 November 2008

Yes tomato dill soup!

I had originally made tomato dill soup, by which I mean "Shaker soup" from the 12 Months of Monastery Soups cookbook, something like ten years ago. You know you live in a cold climate when you buy a book like that. Soup! This particular one has a tomato base with lots of dried dill and sour cream: totally good and thorough and rich. Apparently the Shaker community had lots of 1. vegetables and 2. cows.

Of course now I barely ever eat sour cream. I didn't buy it the entire four years we lived in California, and only ate it on veggie plates at Taqueria Los Charros; I bought and drained plain yogurt to use in naan and on hot lentil soup instead.

In this instance I just wanted a soup of all vegetable. I also had a big bunch of fresh dill.

Tomato dill soup

crushed tomatoes or puree
a shallot
olive oil
vegetable broth
salt, pepper
a little dried oregano and basil
a bay leaf
lots of fresh dill, or dried

Super easy.

Dice up a shallot and soften it in olive oil at the bottom of a soup pot. You can add red onion or garlic too, or substitute them if you need to. Add a little oregano and basil, or other dried green herbs that sound good. Thyme and marjoram both work well with tomato. Make sure to use only a Little; we're just going for a basic green background to set off the dill.

While the shallot softens, make some vegetable broth with your shallot trimmings and whatever other vegetables or trimmings you have around. I used a lot of spinach and parsley stems, plus a couple green onions. Just throw them in a pot of water and simmer it for a while. You can also use broth out of the freezer, or a cube or can if you want. Or you can put plain water in the soup later; it will be less intensely flavored, but will still work.

Add your tomato to the softened shallot. I used about half a 24-oz can of crushed tomatoes with basil. Mix it up.

When the broth has colored, add several cups of it to the tomato and shallot. You can keep it cooking down and evaporating on the other burner, then adding more intensely flavored broth occasionally, if you feel like it. Stir up the soup pot, bring it to a simmer, and let it cook for at least ten or fifteen minutes. Keep the lid on if your soup is a good texture; leave it off for evaporation if your soup is too liquid. Salt and pepper at an appropriate point. If you happen to only have dried dill, let it simmer for the ten minutes too.

While the soup is simmering, strip about a quarter of a bunch of fresh dill stems and chop the leaves. You may be tempted to add the dill stems to your broth; don't. If you cook dill stems, they will give the resulting soup a definite whiff of dill pickle brine. You do Not want that. Throw them into the compost pile instead.

When the soup is done, take it off the heat and let it stand for a few minutes to cool slightly. Make some toast while you're waiting. Then mix the dill into the soup.

I have no idea where our normal ladle is. Therefore: GRAVYLADLE.

Serve the soup. If you have any extra dill, and you're feeling fancy, throw a pinch on top of each bowl. Woo! You could also garnish with a cream product, if you have such a desire. In that case, put the dill on top of everything. High contrast!

Eat with green tea and toast.

You should really dip your toast into the soup. I had wheat, but any decent high-grain bread should work fine.

This kind of food requires a rainy day, or at least an overcast one, and a nice grey view out the window while you eat and have another cup of green tea and read a book.

12 November 2008

Ol' reliable: seared tempeh salad

We are finally really eating like ourselves again. I feel much better.

This is a salad with seared marinated tempeh. Flatly, it is my favorite way to eat tempeh. Yes, tempeh bacon is wonderful and makes excellent sandwiches. I like tempeh BLTs, but I really like my salad.

(Actually, it's our friend Ryan's salad.)

Ol' reliable

soy sauce
olive oil
white wine vinegar
hot sauce
salad greens
green onion

First, marinate the tempeh.

For marinade: get a big bowl and in it mix roughly equal amounts of soy sauce and olive oil. Add a slightly lesser amount of vinegar. I had white wine vinegar but red wine, rice wine, or apple cider should work fine. Then add hot sauce to taste. I only have a dinky little bottle of 79 cent hot sauce right now, so I used that instead of the usual sriracha. Crush and mince a couple cloves of garlic, then add them to the marinade. Whisk everything together with a fork.

I don't measure these, since their amounts depend pretty heavily on the amount of tempeh you have. Maybe start with 1/4 cup soy and oil and go from there. It's not that big a deal, honestly, since you can always add in more liquid. I definitely added more halfway through the marinating process, when it became clear that my tempeh had drunk up all the initial liquid like a raging alcoholic.

You can also add anything else you think might be good in a marinade. Fresh chopped ginger is an excellent idea. Ryan always added fresh rosemary, too, which is pretty great. You can't just walk up the street and pick rosemary off the neighbor's hedge in Brooklyn, though. Of course the north has its own distinct foraging opportunities.

Cut your tempeh into pieces maybe 1 inch square, put them into the marinade, and stir it up to get some liquid contact on each piece. I had some exciting new tempeh with flax seeds embedded in it, which was awesome. It's fine if the marinade doesn't cover all your tempeh; in fact, I think it's better, since you won't have to pour anything down the drain later. Just remember to stir things up every twenty minutes or so: that way the marinade can soak in on all sides.

I left my tempeh to marinate for about two hours, but less (or more) is ok. I think you'd be good all the way back to about 45 minutes.

When you're ready to cook, warm a saute pan big enough to fit your tempeh in one layer. Add some olive oil, tip in the tempeh, and sear, shaking and flipping fairly often, until the tempeh is lovely and brown and fragrant and the garlic has turned into chewy caramelized bits. I only had a tiny bit of marinade left, so I added it to the pan. If you have a lot left, you might want to strain and refrigerate it to reuse later.

While things are searing, wash and chop your salad vegetables. I used spinach and frisee for the greens, plus chopped baby carrots, mushrooms, and a tiny bit of green onion. I think this combination works well, especially when you combine sweet carrots with bitter inner leaves of frisee. Almost anything you want in a salad should be fine, though. Radishes, for instance: ++. If you want a particularly springy salad, do radishes, chopped snow peas, lots of sprouts and sunflower seeds. If you want a fally salad, roast some squash or beets and pumpkin seeds and add those. Whatever you have will work.

Arrange the salad business on plates, top with the finished tempeh, and eat.

I had red grapefruit juice.

One of the best things about a dinner like this is that when you eat as much as you want, you feel good.

10 November 2008

Spicy mashy sweet potato

Or: one item we will be having for orphans' thanksgiving this year.

Sweet potatoes are generally softer than white potatoes, so they don't need addenda to create the right texture. My addenda are all for taste.

Strangely enough, the taste in question is not "pure sugar". Those horrible marshmallow-covered things! Ugh! I mean, I do like an occasional sweet potato pie, but as a dessert, not a vegetable. "Occasional" here means "I think I last had one when I worked at the Produce Station in Ann Arbor six or seven years ago". One of the local farmer's marketeers had gotten us to carry her homemade hand pies. Those things were so good.

I guess I have to make a sweet potato pie sometime soon. In the meantime, I spiced my sweet potatoes with garlic and ginger and whipped them into a pile of spicy orange deliciousness.

Mashed sweet potato with garlic and ginger

sweet potato/yam
olive oil
fresh ginger
salt, pepper

Put a pot of water on the back burner and bring it to a boil. While it's coming up, peel your sweet potatoes and dice them into bits. I used one big sweet potato for a gargantuan 1-person dinner serving. In the future I think I'd make more, just for leftovers: how awesome would garlic-ginger sweet potato cakes be?

When the water comes to a boil, add your potatoes, lid the pot, and simmer until they're soft. I think mine took about twenty minutes. Dicing, incidentally, makes the potato bits cook faster; big chunks of potato will take a lot longer. Thank you, physics!

While the potatoes are boiling, smash and mince a bunch of garlic. Peel a hunk of ginger with the edge of a spoon , then mince it up too. I used six or seven cloves of garlic and a thumb-sized chunk of ginger. You can use more or less depending on spice tolerance and etc.

Warm several glugs of olive oil in a saute pan. I think you could also get away with using some peanut oil here, if you want a peanut element. Or maybe toasted sesame oil. Anyway. Throw your garlic and ginger into the pan and soften them on medium heat.

When the potatoes are done and the garlic-ginger mix is golden brown and smells so good you have to restrain yourself from a headlong dive into the pan, it's time to mash. Drain the potatoes, dump them into the saute pan, salt and pepper the business, and mash everything together. You can also add a little more oil after you take everything off the heat, especially if you want a specific bit of raw olive/etc oil flavor.

That's it. Eat it.

Clearly you could spice sweet potatoes with a number of other items if you are not into garlic and ginger. On the other hand, how could you possibly not be into garlic and ginger?

- Cayenne and honey, with or without butter: toast cayenne in a pan, then add honey, let it get liquid, and mash it into your potatoes. Butter or oil will give you some barrier against burning your mouth off.
- A ton of fresh chopped uncooked parsley.
- Maybe something in the fennel/star anise category. I think I would do this one with big slices roasted together, though. Oh: a TART.
- Apples and onions, like I wrote about before. You could whack them whole on top of the sweet potatoes, or puree the whole business together.
- For that matter, pear and toasted walnut or pecan, shallot optional: tiny crispy bits on top of the soft potato.
- Or dried cranberries or cherries, soaked in water and then just steamed hot. I would do toasted pecans here too. There's my sweet potato pie.

07 November 2008

Pasta fagioli for new apartment

So. On November 1st, we finally got all our things delivered. WE HAVE A FUNCTIONING APARTMENT. We have pans! Knives that can actually cut things! Cupboards in which to place food and other objects!

Here is our first serious cooked dinner in our NEW APARTMENT.

You may notice that this is nearly exactly the same as various other fagiolis I have made, or even the cranberry beans I made a couple weeks ago. To you I say: it is still delicious, and also who cares. Who cares? It was what we wanted to celebrate being in our new apartment where we live. Also, beans and pasta are awesome.

Pasta fagioli with red pepper.

olive oil
jalapeno/other hot pepper
red pepper
I used a can of white beans but you can use soaked/boiled ones
ditalini/other smallish or tubey pasta
vermouth/wine/cooking alcohol of some type
salt, pepper
fresh parsley

Start some water boiling for the pasta! Put salt and a glob of olive oil in it! Bring it to a boil whilst doing everything else!


Warm some olive oil in a frying pan, then add as much minced smashed garlic as you want. I used something like eight or ten cloves, because I think garlic is awesome and also because we don't have a spice cabinet yet. Garlic!!

Also mince a hot pepper, or as much of it as you can stand, and add it to the garlic and oil. Chop up a red pepper and add it too. Cook everything slowly so it gets soft and caramelized.

Give it about ten minutes before you add your white beans. I had no presoaked/etc beans, due to immediate post-moving status, so I used a drained can of white beans instead. Add your white beans, plus a cup or so of water, and bring the business to a simmer. You can simmer this for as long as the pasta takes to cook. Cook the pasta.

Stir up the bean mix. Keep adding water as needed if your beans get too dry during cooking.

When the pasta has been boiling for at least five minutes, add a splash of any cooking alcohol you want to the bean mix, stir it, and let it cook off. We only had Jameson's, so that's what I used. I know. No one should use Jameson's for cooking, only for sipping. It made some really good fagioli, though. Oh man.

While everything is on the stove, rip as many parsley leaves as you can stand off their stems. Chop them up and have them ready.

When everything is done, drain the pasta and take the beans and etc off the heat. You want the beans to be at least a little liquid, but it'll depend on your preferences. Add a bunch of chopped parsley to your beans and mix them up. I put about 2/3 of mine in to get pureed, then added the rest for garnish.

I like fagioli with pureed beans, so I attack everything with my stick blender. You can do that, or you can roughly mash the beans with the back of a spoon or fork. Then add your drained pasta, salt and pepper, mix it all up, and eat.

Lots of pepper is really good with these. We had ours with spinach salad, i.e. washed, chopped raw spinach with no dressing, eaten from a bowl with our fingers. Oh man, nutrients! We've been living off restaurant food and halfass fake kitchen concoctions! FOOD.

05 November 2008


It seems a little sacrelicious to talk about ANYTHING but election results today, but I just have to also say: WE HAVE A KITCHEN.

What's that thing over there?


SO many reasons never to move back to gas-line-breaking earthquake country. Well, only a couple, really. 1. earthquakes 2. no gas stoves.

Oh, my precious gas stove. My pots and pans. MY KNIVES.

I think very few people who don't cook understand about knives. It has been torment to use the crappy temp housing knives for the past month and a week.

My things. My ability to cook.

Also my precious, precious civil liberties.

Last night we ate a full bag of smartfood popcorn waiting for the results. We blew the champagne cork into the ceiling at eleven. We had a phenomenal amount of jumping around in the street, high-fiving strangers driving past, screaming and crying and screaming and eventually singing the national anthem at the top of our lungs at one in the morning.