31 March 2008

Surviving the airport

Since I've been sick and not really cooking anything:

This bag of trail mix came directly out of our freezer about about eleven the night before we flew to Phoenix. Ok, not the bag itself, but everything else.

The key to decent trail mix is decent ingredients. If you start out with, say, pretzels coated in garlic salt, you end up with a big bag of garlic salt. So instead, use fruit and nuts that you actually want to eat.

Good trail mix

(in any combination)
dried cranberries
also golden raisins
good quality roasted peanuts
probably a couple dried apricots
pistachios, if you can be bothered to shell them
whatever else sounds good (such as dark chocolate)

Put things in a bag in whatever proportion you like/have. Put into your carryon. Then, when you're walking around the airport trying to decide whether you can stomach a whopper junior (answer: apparently, yes), you can instead (or in addition) pull out the fruit and nut.

If I'd had actual time, I might have poked around and come up with some kind of honey concoction to stick the business together into fruit and nut bars. Now That would be a good thing to stash in the freezer for this type of occasion.

Now I am going to go drink a mugful of delivery spinach tofu soup. Then I will be all better. Yes.

28 March 2008

Sore throat

Today I came home sick, slept for the entire afternoon, got the last of my gradschool rejections, and had a banana split.

I can't remember ever having had a serious classic banana split: one whole banana cut lengthwise, with a scoop each of strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate ice cream lined up, chocolate sauced, whipped creamed and maraschino cherried. For one thing, there's no way I could eat that volume of ice cream. Usually I can keep a pint alive for a week. I can't remember the last time we had an actual brick of ice cream around; we were probably still in Michigan.

In this case I was feeling feeble and sore and tired. A bunch of cold dairy was clearly the answer. For ice cream, I had cherry garcia, which was a good choice. It made up for the lack of maraschinos and chocolate sauce nicely.

(We do actually have a jar of maraschinos, but they're for old fashioneds. Besides, they're practically day-glo. I wanted real food.)

Extremely minimal banana split

a banana
ice cream

Peel the banana and cut it in half. Cut each half lengthwise. Stick them into a bowl. Add ice cream. Eat.


Old fashioneds

an orange
a maraschino cherry

Get out a substantially weighted rocks glass. Add a pinch of sugar and several shakes of bitters. Cut a slice of orange, then cut it in half. Put one of the halves on top of the sugar and bitters. Muddle with the handle of a wooden spoon, or with an actual muddler if you have such a thing. Fill the cup with ice, a cherry, and the other half of the orange slice. Fill with bourbon, stir, and drink slowly over a long period of time.

Don't have one of these if you're sick, though. Instead, you might want a

Hot toddy

bourbon or whiskey
lemon juice from an actual lemon
hot water

Put on the teapot. While your water is coming to a boil, cut a lemon in half and squeeze some juice into a mug. A teaspoon or so is good. Add a spoonful of honey and at least a shot of bourbon. When the water is hot, fill up the mug with it. Stir and drink as hot as possible. Then go immediately to sleep.)

26 March 2008

Alternate fagioli with copious awesome

Today at the store the first heirloom tomatoes were in! I know we live in California, but what the hell?

So this weekend we got on planes and went to hang out with friends in Arizona. The whole fairly spontaneous weekend out of California and far away from work was an excellent idea. We drank and ate and talked and boated around the lake chasing the ducks.

One of the places we ate was Romeo's Euro Cafe. Since all the entrees are apparently way too big for one person, we split everything. I ended up with half an order of Transylvania chicken, which of course was covered in blood and topped off by a bat wing. No, actually it was roast chicken, red pepper, garlic, and eggplant in a little bit of broth with the best white beans I've ever had. O white beans. That's the ode version of "O".

When I came home, I was (among other things) totally starving and a little dehydrated from the afternoon turned evening of planes and airport. We also appeared to have eaten all our viable food immediately before the trip. I was nearly ready to bust out the emergency tuna casserole when I opened the freezer and found a bag of previously cooked white beans. I could do fagioli! I had half a can of whole plum tomatoes, too, and seriously wanted them. Plus I still had a lot of the previous day's chicken and bean taste in mind. I could do interesting new fagioli!

This is a really deceptive bowl of pasta. For one, it doesn't look like there are any beans. It looks like a frivolous bowl of tomato cream sauce, but it's actually really dense and heavy and filling. It's so good. You should eat it.

Interesting new pasta fagioli

chunky pasta
olive oil
boiled white beans (frozen or not)
lots of garlic
plum tomatoes
a couple green olives
broth of some kind (strong, good)
dry vermouth
salt, pepper, marjoram, thyme, oregano, basil
fresh parsley
good grating cheese if you want it (toasted pine nuts otherwise)

If you need to get anything out of the freezer (broth, beans), do it now. Let it sit on the counter and defrost at least a little before you have to add it.

Start the fagioli by crushing, peeling, and roughly chopping a bunch of garlic. I used six big cloves for just me, I think. Garlic is great and you should use it. Put them and a big slug of olive oil in a big pan over lowish medium heat. Stir occasionally as they get all soft and melty.

Get some tomatoes. I had Italian plum tomatoes from a can of whole skinned. This was perfect. Chop up about four (skinning if necessary/if you feel like it) and add them to the pan with as much juice as you can scrape off the cutting board. Stir, turn the heat a bit higher, and cook to reduce the tomatoes. Chop up a couple olives, if you have and like olives, and add them as well. Salt, pepper, and otherwise spice the business to taste. I used pretty scant amounts of everything, since my tomatoes smelled really good and I wanted to taste them more than the spices.

Somewhere in here, put the pasta on.

When tomatoes are reasonably reduced (i.e. you are too impatient to wait for them any longer, in about ten minutes), add maybe a cup of broth and about two cups of beans. You can still add these if they're frozen: the heat from the pan will warm them up fairly quickly. As things get more liquid, you can turn the heat up a little further. As the beans defrost, you can start roughly mashing them with the back of your spoon, then stirring them up from the bottom of the pan. Keep doing this until the beans are at your preferred texture: I like a medium-smooth paste.

Simmer, stirring some more, until the business is a little more soupy than you prefer. Add a slug of dry vermouth, stir to distribute, and cook maybe another three to five minutes. In the meantime, chop up a handful of fresh parsley. Taste the fagioli, correct any seasonings, and you're ready to assemble.

Drain the pasta and tip it into the beans. Add the parsley. If you want to add grating cheese (or pine nuts), add it. Stir. Now get as much of the business as possible into a big bowl, add any garnishy cheese or parsley you might want, and eat it.

I managed to eat this for three meals in a row, hot and cold, and still want more of it. You should make it. It's really good.

Maybe have some white wine.

24 March 2008

Making popcorn awesome

First, throw out your microwave. Throw out all your packages of gross yet expensive microwave popcorn with all the repulsive fake butter flavoring that reeks up your kitchen for weeks. Go to the store and find a bag of plain stovetop corn. It should cost less than two dollars, unless it's some sort of horrendous economy size. Buy it.

If you don't have any plain tasteless vegetable oil, buy some of that too. You only need a little. We use soy oil for popcorn.

Go home.

Get out a saucepan with a lid. It should be at least two quarts. Bigger is fine; smaller will cause popcorn overflow. Put it on the stove.

Proportions for popping corn on the stovetop: most brands of popcorn will tell you to use 1/4 cup oil and 1/3 cup popcorn. We usually use less oil, aiming for just enough to cover the bottom of the pan: maybe a couple tablespoons total. Then we eyeball the popcorn later, covering the bottom of the pan with it as well. If you feel more comfortable with straight 1/4 and 1/3 proportion, go ahead and do that.

Put the pan over medium high heat. Add oil and three kernels of popcorn. Cover the pan and shake it around occasionally while you wait for it to get hot.

When the pan is hot enough, the test kernels inside it will pop. Listen out for them. When all three have popped, add the rest of the popcorn. Immediately clamp the lid back on the pan, put it back on the burner, and start shaking it constantly. Shake and shake and shake.

After a minute or two, your new kernels will start to pop. Listen to them. The noise will start slowly, build up to a massive crescendo, then taper off. When you're not hearing pops more than once every few seconds, you can be pretty sure your popcorn is done.

Ok. What do you want on your popcorn?

Nearly everyone wants salt and butter/acceptable vegan margarine. So. Pour the popcorn out of the pan and into a big bowl. Add a chunk of butter/whatever to the pan. It will hiss and start melting immediately. Swirl it around the pan until liquid. Then you can either pour the butter over the popcorn or pour maybe half the popcorn back into the pan to absorb it. I generally put the popcorn back into the pan, stir it, dump it back into the serving bowl, salt it quickly, and stir some more. If there's butter left in the pan, I do it again. This allows for maximum butter and salt absorption, while keeping the popcorn pretty hot.

Do you want anything else?

I want:

- hard grating cheese like parmesan or romano
- paprika or cayenne for hot hot popcorn

You can add spices with the butter and salt, but things like cheese will melt. Add them in the bowl. Use the finest grater you have, so the cheese will get all feathery and stick to the popcorn well.

Other things: this is really the main way I like popcorn. Have it with some icy soda for movie theatre action, or with apple juice for Little House on the Prairie night. I don't know why I associate the apple juice with Little House on the Prairie, since technically they only did popcorn and milk, but whatever. Apple juice and popcorn go together like That.

20 March 2008

Poor and vegan?

Make these:

Chickpea cabbage pancakes

chickpea flour
green onion
salt, pepper
other spices: ginger, coriander, cayenne

Pancakes are one of the few bakey things I make without measuring of any kind. I didn't measure at all while making these, just corrected proportions until I got something that looked like batter. You just want a rough 2:1 ratio with water and flour. It's all fine.

So. Start with maybe half a cup of chickpea flour and a cup of water. Put them in a bowl and mix them together with a fork. If you want thicker batter, add more flour. If you want thinner batter, add more water. If you want more batter, just add more of each. Easy!

Chop up some cabbage as finely as you can stand. I used green cabbage, but red or savoy or whatever would work fine. Chop up a green onion or two as well. You want more vegetables than batter; I used half a cabbage. Add them to the bowl, along with salt, pepper, and some spices, and mix everything up. You should end up with something that looks more like a big bowl of vegetables in batter than a batter with bits of vegetables.

Get a frying pan good and hot. Test it with a drop of water: if it sizzles and evaporates, it's time to start frying.

Drop big spoonfuls of batter into the pan. Give them three or four minutes. Look at the tops: when you start to see bubbles rising and popping, and when the edges start to turn dark and form a skin, check the bottoms for brownness and flip them over. Give them another two or three minutes to brown the other side.

You can keep the finished pancakes warm in the oven, or you can eat them with one hand while standing over the oven making the rest.

These dudes are good and filling by themselves, but really want something on top of them. I used plain yogurt; soy yogurt or sour cream would also be good. John used refried beans. Thick lentil soup would be ideal.

19 March 2008

Salvage is ok

This dinner was actually a few days before the whole cauliflower cheese business. It was what started me thinking about cream sauce in the first place. I killed two different attempts in a row, one through burnt roux and one through boiled and broken sauce. After that I said FUCK IT loudly and proceeded to just use plain melty goat cheese in no sort of sauce whatever.


I also made broccolini and tofu. That part went very well. It would easily have stood on its own, and did in John's anti-dairy case. It's like the dairy case, but not! Uh. Yes.

You could clearly use several other green vegetables instead of broccolini: green beans, asparagus, bok choy, chard, or other sturdy chopped greens. It's hard to think of a vegetable that wouldn't work.


Super easy broccolini with tofu

nigari tofu
olive oil
soy sauce/other preferred

First, cut the tofu into nice little squares or triangles. Sear them on both sides in a hot frying pan.

While tofu is cooking, wash broccolini. I used an entire bunch. Chop up several cloves of garlic. Garlic is delicious.

When tofu is done, tip it out of the pan and turn the heat to medium. Add some olive oil, swirl it around, and tip in garlic. Cook to soften for several minutes. Then add the washed broccolini. Stir to get garlicky oil on everything. Then put the lid on the pan, turn the heat down a little more, and let it steam in its own water.

Check things after five minutes or so. Is the broccolini bright green? Does it look tasty? Add the tofu and a slug of soy (or any other sauce that sounds good to you: oyster or hoisin?), stir, and put the lid back on. Let cook another two or three minutes, or until the vegetables reach the texture you like best.

Serve with rice, or

Failure pasta

hot cooked pasta
creamy goat cheese
lots of pepper
maybe some olive oil

Boil and drain pasta. Mix immediately with chunks of broken goat cheese. Stir vigorously to melt the cheese. Pepper. Maybe add olive oil if you want some. Eat.

This one has a lot more issues with standing on its own. I would at least do some steamed spinach.

17 March 2008

Not exactly cauliflower cheese

Most of the people I know hate, hate, hate cooked (read: boiled) cauliflower. I think even my mother hates it, which is saying something. Boiled cauliflower is just boring. Nothing picks it up: not buttering, salting, or even thoroughly spicing with cayenne. Altering it doesn't work very well either: mashed cauliflower doesn't taste like mashed potato, but like itself, only mushier and more watery. Even cauliflower pureed into a soup doesn't work that well: it's ok, but nothing spectacular. So lots of people finally resort to disguising their bland little florets under a thick coat of sauce: cauliflower cheese.

Cauliflower cheese is Okay. I certainly like a good cheese sauce, but the business under the sauce remains just as limp and watery as any boiled cauliflower.

Solution: roasting. So, you could just roast your cauliflower and serve it in cheese sauce. It would be crisp and savory and good under the rich sauce, but why not do more? Why not make it your whole dinner?

For this version, you make three components, then combine them. That makes it sound like a difficult undertaking, which is not the case. Each piece is very easy on its own, and you don't even have to pay much attention to two of the three. Plus, everything can be totally done in fifteen or twenty minutes if you arrange it right.

Very different cauliflower cheese

olive oil
green beans
salt, pepper

General plan: roast cauliflower, boil pasta water, make sauce, combine.

For the cauliflower, do exactly what we've done for all previous roasty cauliflower business. Preheat the oven to 450F. Chop at least half a head of cauliflower into small florets. Stick them in a baking dish, add a little olive oil, and mix to coat. Sprinkle with salt, make sure the florets are in one layer, and throw the whole thing in the oven. Check and stir intermittently as you make the sauce.

Pasta: probably something like penne or orecchiette would be best for a creamy cheese sauce like this. I had vermicelli, which was a little odd for thick cream sauce, but tasted good anyway. Fill a big pan with water, salt, cover, and bring to a boil.

Sauce: while the water is starting to heat, make a cream sauce. Start with a roux: melt a chunk of butter, maybe a tablespoon or so, over medium heat. When it's melted and bubbling, add a palmful of flour. White flour is easiest, but wheat works too. Get out the whisk and beat it all together, then cook, continually whisking for about five minutes. You have to cook the roux for at least a few minutes, or the cheese sauce will end up tasting like flour. Don't do it!

After the five minutes, add milk. I used half a pint for two servings in this case. Any type of milk is fine (well, probably not buttermilk) but higher fatted milks will make a faster, thicker sauce. You can also use cream if you have any lying around, and/or want to be completely decadent and end up glutted later. Beat continually with the whisk until the sauce starts to thicken.

Here's what it'll look like when thickened:

When sometime around here you notice that the pasta water is boiling, dump in the pasta and let it cook for ten minutes or however long it needs. At the midway point, drop in some chopped green beans, or maybe peas if you want. Drain at the appropriate time.

Meanwhile, grate cheese into the sauce. For classic cauliflower cheese you want cheddar, and lots of it. This would be really good with a sharp grating cheese like parmesan, though, especially if you added peas. Anyway, add as much cheese as you want, whisking continually to incorporate. The sauce will gradually get thicker and thicker; if it ever gets too thick, you can beat in some water. Add a little salt and a lot of fresh black pepper. Cheese sauce demands as much pepper as you can throw at it.

At this point the sauce is done, and hopefully the pasta and etc as well. How about the cauliflower? Is it golden brown and delicious? Ok then.

My preferred assembly: dump the drained pasta and beans into the sauce. Stir to coat completely. Serve onto plates and top with lots of cauliflower bits. You could also mix the roasted cauliflower with the pasta and etc, and pour the sauce over all: this would come a lot closer to the classic cauliflower cheese. In either case, dust with good salt and more black pepper, then eat.


- gruyere sauce with a little nutmeg, peas, and some bacon or prosciutto.
- gruyere sauce with roasted slivered almonds.
- smoked gouda sauce with ham, or just by itself.
- parmesan or asiago sauce with red pepper and garlic (roasted with the cauliflower).
- rice instead of pasta, with lots of soupy sauce, for the most sleep-inducing food ever.
- or mashed potatoes instead of rice: no, THIS one is the most sleep-inducing idea ever. Forget any greens and just whip the sauce and cauliflower into a big plate of mashed potatoes.
- seasoning the cauliflower before roasting: a good whack of cayenne can turn them into super spice bombs to find accidentally in the (cheddar, parmesan) cheese.
- or marinating the cauli in white wine or vermouth for an hour beforehand, for super savory bombs (in parmesan or gruyere) instead.

A big mess of dark greens would go well here.

Now I'm really hungry.

14 March 2008

Oh hey, it's food!

I went to work to discover Erik had brought in a bunch of piroshki for everyone. "I made about a hundred of these last night. Want one?" They had beef, cream cheese and mushroom filling stuffed inside premade biscuit dough. I ate two, one for breakfast and one for afternoon tea. Er, snack. They were good but gross in the way preservative-laden tube dough always is. You could almost pretend it was a gigantic family holiday dinner. Of course, then the dough would be made into biscuits.

John came home with a bottle of mediocre but drinkable chardonnay left over from his office party. Neither of us really like chardonnay; oh well. We put it in the freezer to get cold enough to deaden our taste buds.

Then our next door neighbors suddenly gave us a loaf of homemade molasses rye bread, serious dense dark stuff. I had it for breakfast with peanut butter and sliced banana and tea tea more tea.

Maybe if I go downstairs, there'll be a decorative fruit basket on the front porch!

12 March 2008

soup is good; good soup

This whole daylight savings thing is killing me. Today I actually BOUGHT COFFEE. Well, really I had a gift card I've been saving for horrible and/or extremely tired days, so I used that. Still. We have free (albeit bad) coffee at work, and I usually don't even drink that. Buying a cup of coffee? That is desperate.

The exhaustion doesn't seem to be keeping me from staying up late, however, or from starting to cook dinner at 8 pm after spending an hour mucking around the internet looking for a particular recipe for peanut soup I found once. Of course I couldn't find it again. I did find some other excellent ideas, though, and ended up improvising this business:

Tomato-peanut soup with roasty cauliflower

peanut oil
half a yellow onion
a shallot
coriander, turmeric, salt
tomato puree
veg broth
peanut butter
roasted peanuts

Chop up some onion and shallot. If you don't have shallots, you can use a whole onion. Or use a red onion. Or use two shallots. Whatever. Heat up a fairly wide pot, warm a little peanut oil, and throw in the onions. Add some coriander and a little turmeric, plus whatever other curry spices you like. Garam masala would be good. Cook on medium until the onions are limp and golden.

In the meantime, get out some tomatoes and start chopping them into rough chunks. I used four or five canned whole plum tomatoes, since it is definitely not tomato season. Add the tomatoes to the onions and cook until reduced. This can take a while; expect at least ten minutes. If you're impatient, cut the chunks smaller; they'll take less time then.

If you don't have vegetable broth, now is a good time to make some. Fill a pot with water, add your onion and shallot scrapings (plus whatever other stocky bits you might have in the freezer), and simmer covered. Also, prep the cauliflower for roasting: cut half a head (or however much) cauliflower into florets, toss with a little peanut or olive oil, and deposit in a baking dish. Set it aside, but preheat the oven to 450F.

When the tomatoes are reduced and the broth has achieved some color, add a few cups of hot broth to your main pan. Add some tomato puree as well. Salt the soup, stir it up, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about ten minutes. Then add a couple big spoonfuls of smooth peanut butter, plus whatever broth you might need to correct texture. Stir it all up and simmer another five minutes or so.

During the final simmer, stick the pan of cauliflower into the oven to roast. Check after about five minutes; if it's not getting golden brown yet, feel free to turn the heat up a little. It shouldn't take more than ten minutes to achieve this:

When everything is done, take your soup pot off the heat. If you want puréed soup, now is the time to do it. I used the immersion blender.

Put soup in bowls, add chopped peanuts and cauliflower pieces, and eat.

This soup would really like a big plate of hot naan on the side, and maybe a dark green. It made me think about collards and chard, neither of which we had. Well. Next time I can be ready.

10 March 2008


Here are some things I eat when I am only eating for myself. Snacks are the best kind of cooking for exactly that reason: you only have to satisfy one person, so you can cook exactly what you have a taste for. You can also make the business based solely on what your body wants physically: if you want toast, jam, and chocolate chips for dinner, you can have them. It's the same thing, really. See, look:

That jam is Sarabeth's orange apricot marmalade. You should get some if you see it, and if you have any affinity for oranges, apricots, or marmalade. Since I have a fairly unholy affinity for apricot in jam form and good marmalade of all kinds, I got some. Speaking of snacks, one midnight snack I had a lot in high school was yellow sheet cake (made at 11 pm from a cake mix) with apricot jam spread on top. My mom used to buy bushels of apricots from the farmstands outside Chicago and spend an entire weekend jamming them up. As a result, we had the homemade apricot jam to achieve this at all times. We didn't have the homemade marmalade, since we lived outside Chicago, but still. I could do that now with just the random oranges that lie around in the gutters here under the gigantically laden trees from which no one ever seems to pick.

Anyway, Sarabeth's is an idea if you have neither bushels of apricots nor bags of oranges lying around. Since most apricot jam is really sweet and most marmalade is really sour, it's a nice combination. Also, the chunks of peel are half an inch wide.

It's also really expensive, at least off their site. I got mine at TJ Maxx instead. Now There is an underused food shopping experience.

On the other end of the spectrum:

This is one of the fastest and best ways I know to get a huge amount of nutrient and energy into your body at one fell swoop. It does really depend on you liking eggs, though, since both the salad components and dressing contain egg. That makes this sound kind of intimidating to make, but it's really not. It's more that the hardboiled yolk becomes dressing with a little vigorous mixing.

Egg and green bean vinaigrette

a couple eggs
fresh green beans
olive oil
white wine vinegar
salt, pepper

Put as many eggs as you want in a pot of cold water. I used two for just me this time, but one is fine; it depends on how hungry you are. Make sure the water covers the eggs. Put the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Simmer about 8 minutes for room temperature eggs, 9 or 10 for cold eggs.

While eggs are boiling, chop some green beans into inch-long pieces. You want a little higher proportion of beans to egg, so maybe a handful per egg is good.

When the eggs have been boiling five minutes, add the beans.

In the second stretch of boil, make vinaigrette. You can also use good bottled stuff, but why bother? For vinaigrette: put a large slug of olive oil and a small slug of vinegar in a bowl with some torn fresh parsley and salt and lots of pepper. You can add things like a dab of decent mustard or some minced red onion if you want. Whisk with a fork until emulsified, maybe a minute or so.

When the eggs are done, immediately pull the pan off the heat and dump out the hot water. Rinse the pan in cold water, inside and out, to stop the heat irradiating from the metal. Rinse the eggs and beans as well, to stop their cooking. Then pull the eggs out of the beans. Tip the beans into a colander, shake to drain well, and toss them with the vinaigrette. Put the eggs back in the pan, cover with cold water, and let sit a few minutes, until cool enough to touch. Then whack them all over with the back of a spoon, peel them, and cut them into big rough chunks.

Throw the eggs into the bean vinaigrette and mix vigorously. Smash up the chunks of yolk with your spoon in process. As you mix, the yolk will amalgamate with the vinaigrette and become part of the dressing.

Add extra salt and pepper if necessary, then eat. If you want to make this into a full dinner you can add some toast and maybe a banana. Or maybe that would be a full breakfast. Whichever.

07 March 2008

More frozen grapefruit business

So we still have at least half of the grapefruit sorbet business, which actually without the machine turned out more like a granita. I've been eating it a couple spoonfuls of a time, since it's too pungent for an entire bowl. What should I do with the rest of it? I should put it in a glass and pour a slug of gin on top of it! Everyone loves a frozen drink, especially in nice only semi-frigid March. Yes.

If you add salt, it's even a frozen salty dog. That might play havoc with the texture, though.

Gin & juice slush

grapefruit granita
a glass

Pack as much granita as possible into a glass. Seriously, tamp it down; the gin will change its freezing point and make it into a slushy liquid. Add an appropriate amount of gin for your size of glass. I had a tiny rocks glass, so I added maybe half a shot of gin. Stir it up and examine the texture, then add more gin or granita if necessary.


You can clearly use vodka for such a thing as well. You could also use a reasonable white wine that plays well with citrus, or even some plain orange juice. Any kind of granita or sorbet would be fine too. I would be pretty happy with nearly any combination I can think of; what about cherry granita with limeade?

05 March 2008

Red curry noodle delicious

Things are so busy it's unbelievable. I had to look on my camera to remember what I ate sufficiently to write about it. Apparently, I ate red curry noodles. I even ate them for lunch again today. Curry is delicious.

This kind of thing is an excellent idea for when you're in need of instant dinner, right now. Sear tofu, boil noodle, heat curry: bang.

Red curry noodle delicious

rice noodles (or you could just make rice)
firm nigari tofu
coconut milk
Thai red curry paste
a tasteless veg oil (or peanut oil)

First, cut a block of tofu into nice small squares or triangles. Sear them on both sides in a hot nonstick pan. You can use some oil to do this, but I didn't.

Tip the done tofu out of the pan to wait a bit. Instead, put in some oil and half an onion chopped however you like. I cut long thin strands. Cook on medium until the onion has started to soften.

In the meantime, put on the water for your noodles. Then chop up a head of broccoli. Other vegetables like green beans or peas or zucchini work fine here too. Add the bits to the pan and cook another five minutes, or until the broccoli turns bright green.

Then add a shaken can of coconut milk and a bunch of curry paste. I added two or three teaspoons at least, and it wasn't spicy enough for me. Bring the whole business to a simmer and let cook for another five or ten minutes. Taste, add your tofu and any more curry paste you want, and simmer a little more. When the tofu is hot and you're satisfied with the spiciness level, you're pretty much done.

While you're simmering the curry, watch the noodle water. When it boils, add rice noodles. They should be done in five minutes or so. Drain them and add them to the finished curry. Stir it all up and serve it in big bowls.


02 March 2008

All practical and stuff

Being practical is an excellent idea, but takes some advance preparation.

One practical thing I've been doing: freezing cooked beans. I have some serious issues with buying canned beans, and almost never do it. I get dried beans instead. This makes sense up until the point where I decide I want black bean burritos/pasta fagioli/white bean and roasted squash salad/hummus RIGHT NOW. Then I suddenly have to wait a full day to make and eat them, which is totally infuriating and mildly depressing all at once. Great!

Solution: soak and boil beans whenever you feel like it. When they're cooked, drain off their broth, throw them in a jar or bag, and stick them in the freezer. You can put the broth in the freezer too; use it for stock. Now you have both beans And stock just waiting for your impulse to strike. This isn't a new idea--I remember reading about it on at least not martha and angry chicken--but it's clearly a good one.

Another practical thing: work snacks. I don't know about you, but I am starving all day every day. At work there are M&Ms and jellybeans, so I eat the M&Ms and jellybeans and more M&Ms and more jellybeans and maybe have a little terrible coffee if there's a pot around and I feel like it. Then I go to the drugstore and look at all the junk hungrily and maybe buy some nuts or goldfish crackers. Then I feel sick and cranky.

Solution: bring something else to work. I have been doing yogurt, which is fine as long as I don't accidentally get any with repulsive fruit on the bottom. I had soy yogurt for the first time today. It tasted like blueberry chalk. I like lots of soy products, but this is not one of them. Anyway. So yogurt is a good idea, but it's kind of expensive and there are only about three flavors Without fruit on the bottom.

Next plan: oatcakes. I went through my big binder of internet recipes and found this tiny, simple deal. It required practically nothing, which was fortunate since we don't have eggs or milk right now, and the results were excellent.

I have no idea where this recipe came from, so if you do, feel free to yell.


1/2 cup butter
1 cup oats
1 cup whole wheat flour (or other flours, whatever)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
sprinkles of cold water

Mix the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Cut in the butter (cold butter; you can grate it in if it's frozen and you feel enterprising) until the mixture gets nice and pebbly. I ended up using my hands, just like for apple/etc crumble. Then add a spoonful or two of cold water and start stirring. The business should coagulate into thick dough that you can stick together into a ball. If this doesn't happen, add a little more water and try again.

The original recipe had you roll this stuff out and use biscuit cutters; I tore off bits and flattened them into cakes. It's much faster and requires less counter scrubbing. I got fifteen cakes about two inches in diameter from this amount of raw material.

Put the cakes on a cookie sheet and bake at 375F for 12 to 15 minutes. This time will depend on the thickness of your cakes. When they start to look golden and crispy, whip them out of the oven and let them cool as much as you can stand before stuffing the first one in your mouth.

The finished cakes are heavy and dense and pretty great. They dry out after a day or two, but that is ok; you can solve that with jams and etc. I ate nearly all of mine plain, but had one with lime curd. I would not recommend lime curd. Honey is what you want. Or honey butter: mix honey with butter until it becomes honey butter. Spread on things and eat them. Less citrusy jams like raspberry or apricot would work too.

For work consumption: put in bag and bring to work; eat whenever necessary. Have tea. Tea and cakes.

Third plan: VEGETABLES. Vegetables and hummus. Raw vegetables. Salad. Vegetables.