30 April 2008

More ugly delicious food: chili enchiladas

So the multiuse chili in the freezer was an exceptionally good idea. We came home from NYC fairly exhausted, but of course had to run out immediately for prescriptions and perishable foodstuffs. "Perishable foodstuffs" included tortillas, cheddar cheese, and green onion, all for purposes of immediate chili enchiladas.


enough leftover chili for a pan of enchiladas (maybe 3 cups)
at least 8 tortillas
cheddar/other appropriate cheese
green onions
whatever else sounds good in your enchiladas, such as rice or beans

First, preheat the oven to 350F. Defrost/warm up leftover chili in a wide frying pan. If it's especially chunky, you may want to purée it. Ours was already puréed from before. Thin it with a little water if it's too thick, or if you don't think you'll have enough sauce for a pan of enchiladas.

While chili is defrosting, grate or thinly slice a bunch of cheese. Also chop up several green onions. Our green onions were particularly awesome and thin and tiny and fresh. Spring greens!

Get out a reasonable casserole dish; ladle several scoops of chili into it; spread everything around to cover the bottom. Make sure all of your ingredients are close at hand. Now start making enchiladas. First, put a tortilla face down into the chili pan, holding it by one edge. Leave it for a few seconds to warm and coat with sauce. Then take it out of the pan and lay it sauce side up in your hand. Fill with cheese and green onion and whatever else you want. The fillings can be kind of scanty and still produce a delicious result, so don't worry if you're running out of stuff. Then roll up the tortilla and put it into the casserole dish. Repeat until you've filled up the entire dish with totally delicious enchiladas.

You should still have a little sauce left over after this business. Pour it all over the rolled tortillas. If there is more cheese, strew it over the pan as well.

Bake for about a half hour, or until cheese is browned and everything is clearly hot through.

Eat. Go to bed. Sleep heavily. Bring the leftovers to work tomorrow.

28 April 2008


First, our flight was cancelled. Fortunately, we were still at home when we heard about this. John immediately got on the phone and got us a new flight. This meant we suddenly had an extra four hours in which to do things like loll about, find some plane snacks, and eat breakfast.


I made cabbage and red pepper pancakes, essentially these. Sometime I need to make a batch of these with zucchini, red pepper, and corn. Also one with roasted tomatoes and feta and maybe some mint. Yes. They were an excellent idea for pre-plane sustenance.

Plane snacks:
- apples
- almonds and cashews
- the end of a bag of good trail mix with dried apricots.

I'm going to write about restaurants, since we ate at plenty of them, and it was kind of a bitch to find them even though we were basically living in the exact center of foodtown.

- Bread and Olive: I went here the first day, after coffee in Bryant Park and a couple hours in the that library with the lions. That one. I was actually pretty annoyed by the NYPL, since the only things accessible to humans are a couple reading rooms. No explorable stacks! You have to request all books from a librarian! It was way more a museum than a functional resource center. I made a long list of sources to find elsewhere. It was basically me tantalizing myself with the card catalog. Granted, that was pretty good, but still.

Ok. I wanted to find some decent lunch, so I went and asked a librarian about wifi access. She had no idea what I was talking about. Nice librarianship there. I had to spell it out as WIRELESS INTERNET ACCESS. Oh, there isn't any of that up here in the main gigantic reading room! I went down to periodicals, where there was any of that, and went through pages of NYC restaurant business before finding said Bread and Olive.

I felt better once I got there and ordered a falafel sandwich for $1.75 less than they cost in downtown Palo Alto. The salad selection looked pretty awesome too. The fassoulia, lima beans in some vinaigrette-looking dressing, had beans the size of a silver dollar. If I lived there, I would be all over that for lunch.

- Home on 8th: This is a Chinese place with both a meat and a vegetarian fake meat menu. We don't generally do a lot of specific fake meat (besides chik patties), just straight up beans, tempeh, and tofu. So the idea of soy in particular fake meat form was kind of foreign, yet appealing. We went for dinner. Iced green tea: exceptionally good. Cold sesame peanut noodles and ginger soup: also superlative. We could've subsisted on just those, had they not been small appetizer sizes. So good! Then we got our entrées: fried eggplant and fake squid; cashew fake chicken. They were ok. It was disappointing just because of the the completely perfect appetizers. Also it is apparently not the best idea to order fake squid if you're not especially into real squid. Lesson learned.

- Astoria Beer Garden: here in the bar we mostly had beer (Spaten), shockingly enough, but I also got a big mild plate of chicken paprikash from the Czech restaurant downstairs. It was pretty solid. Heavy sauce with soft bread and chicken was exactly what I wanted with beer. It would've been even better had I gotten dumplings. Our friend Matthew had a similarly heavy and good plate of pork and sauerkraut. Neither of us could come close to finishing.

- Angelica Kitchen: Bethany told us repeatedly that we had to go here, so we did. Their green tea, hot this time, was also very good. I just want green tea all the time. Appetizers: soba noodles again; curried cashew spread with vegetables. I only got one or two bites of the soba, which was fine, since said cashew business was giving me many, many ideas about future cashew blender experiments. Also: daikon! We need to eat more daikon. Entrées: John got a hot spicy seitan concoction in a tortilla; I got one of the specials, polenta with quinoa baked in, with chili and lots of dark greens (mustard?). It was all pretty good. Chili with dark greens is clearly an excellent plan of which I had not thought before. There was also some broccoli, which was fine but didn't go with the business as well as the greens. I actually felt like it was there just to make the name of the entrée work ("Broccoliback Mountain"), which can't be a good idea. I feel like I would be more enthusiastic had I gotten a salad, or some of the pantry combinations: clearly, fresh and often raw vegetables are what they do best.

- Pizza 33: We had to have pizza after living in California, home of zero decent pizza at all. It's been torturous to live without it for three years. So we walked in at about 10:30, ordered a cheese pizza, waited ten minutes, and took it back to the hotel. Oh my gracious me. Real pizza. Ok, I grew up in Chicago, and as such have some serious ideas about pizza. New York pizza is not MY pizza, but it was still just about perfect in the hotel room at eleven at night.

Notice the hundreds of quality pictures I took! YES.

We did cook once! It was at Bethany and Danny's house. We had total day of all exercise (bikes in the morning; stair climbing; more bikes in the evening) and were all totally starving. So John and I took over the kitchen and made swift swift garlic broccoli rabé and pasta carbonara. These are both pretty standard.

Rabé: get some rabé or other dark greens that sound good. Wash them and cut them into appropriate pieces. I left them long and just trimmed the edges. Mince a couple cloves of garlic. Heat some olive oil in a sauté pan; add garlic and soften. Add your rabé, turning to get it coated with oil. Cook until soft enough to eat. I added some rice vinegar as well, but executed it poorly such that certain bits of rabé were soaked and bitter with it but others had none. We corrected it with a little soy while eating.

All of my pictures are horrendous, so I'm just going to roll with it:
Carbonara: I seem not to have written about this for at least a year, although it's extremely common while lazy at our house. First, mince up a bunch of garlic and take your eggs out of the refrigerator. Get some olive oil warmed up in a pan big enough to hold the amount of cooked pasta you want. Soften the garlic in it. Add any herbs you want, such as oregano, basil, parsley, etc. Fill a second pot with water and bring it to a boil; add pasta when appropriate. We had cappellini. When pasta is done, drain it and tip it into the garlic pan. Add a bunch of cracked black pepper and a couple pinches of salt, and take the pan off the heat. Now, moving quickly, crack and add a raw egg for each person eating. Stir immediately and thoroughly; the egg will cook into a sticky semi-sauce business and adhere to all the pasta.

If you want cheese, carbonara likes it; on the other hand, you're already eating a sauce made of egg, so you might not need any more richness. Fresh parsley is also a good idea.

Eat it all as hot as possible.

Last: Organic Nectars raw vegan gelato.

This was kind of an accident. Well. We clearly knew we were buying it; we just didn't realize it was vegan cashew cream.

So. This stuff is definitely expensive, even in half pint. I don't care, though, because it is also so good you cannot possibly believe it. We had it with the pizza on our last night in NYC, watching who knows what on TV and generally lazing about nicely. SO GOOD. Holy everything. We had chocolate hazelnut; the other flavors were exotic combinations like ginger/green tea. It totally wants you to eat it right now.

In conclusion, I believe I am ok with the food in New York. Love, Eileen.

25 April 2008


So here's what I wish I'd had in hand every minute of every day for the entire duration of being in New York:

JUICE. It is hot and I want some!

Apparently Naked has come out with this new blue-capped juice series. It is clearly a rollout for summer, shall we say. This watermelon one had some serious lime and mint overtones, excellent for hot thirstings. Then the other day I had a peach mangosteen one that was so good I had a couple champagne glasses of it alone instead of in a mimosa. So.

Not to say these aren't excellent mixers, because they are. If I liked vodka at all, I would definitely be making plans for frigid vodka-juice concoctions. They would possibly involve freezing said juice into ice cubes, putting them in the blender with some vodka, and hitting the button.

You know what else they could be good for? Salad dressings. Say you were making a cucumber feta salad: watermelon wants to get in on that. Then you might boil the peach one down into a syrup and pour over ice cream, or on pound cake.

In conclusion, JUICE.

(We also cooked and ate in New York! However, my camera cord is at home, and we are not.)

23 April 2008

Biscuit numphing

Or: how to make delicious biscuits even though you have no butter or acceptable solid substitute.

Use olive oil.
I've been using this baking powder biscuit formula ever since Clabber Girl decided to take their recipe off their cans. Apparently I'm still annoyed at that even after several years. Anyway. It works well. The biscuits are tasty. We can eat a whole double batch in one sitting.

So last saturday I was trying to figure out what to eat. I couldn't buy food, since we were flying out on monday. This is clearly the best time to bake something like biscuits: fresh, soft, delicious, small enough to eat in entirety before you get on the plane, and good for using up milk. It would also have been good for using butter, had we had any (or, uh, been at all concerned about spoilage, which is not generally true of butter).

For a minute I was put out. No biscuits!

Then it occurred to me that I did have a huge bottle of olive oil.

I didn't make any other changes to the recipe. Summary: Preheat the oven to 400F. Put a cup of white flour, a cup of wheat flour, 4 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl. You could use any combination of flours you want, probably; I've definitely made these all wheat before. Make sure the baking powder is all actually powdery; break up clumps in the canister with the back of the measuring spoon. Mix all the dry business together gently. Then add 1/4 cup of olive oil and 3/4 cup milk. Stir it all roughly together for several strokes, until it looks like this:

Now is the time to knead. I just leave the dough in the bowl for kneading, since I am lazy and it's not like you have to make it fit a pie pan. Gather the dough chunks together and flatten with the heel of your hand, sticking the dough to whatever flour is left on the bottom of the bowl. Turn and do it again. Repeat two or three times more, until the dough sticks together and starts looking like this:

At this point you Could put the dough onto a floured board, roll it out, and cut it with biscuit cutters. I decided to tear off biscuit-sized pieces, flatten them a little, and bake them like that. I got 20 small biscuits from this amount of dough.

I was kind of concerned here about flake. All you ever hear about biscuit baking is that only cold cold butter will do!! for making flaky biscuits. However, you will notice that there is indeed a layered structure to the unbuttered dough. I don't have any pictures of this part, since I had dough all over my hands, but try it yourself. Each piece ripped in a definite grain. I tried not to shape the chunks of dough any more than I had to, in order to maintain it. Just make sure your biscuits will actually stick together, and no more.

Then put all the biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Whip them out of the oven as soon as they are sufficiently golden brown.

Check out the successful layers!

Check out the tea and jam!

Eat biscuits with plenty of jam or honey or cheese. Eat them as hot as possible.

I made these totally plain for eating with anything at any time. You could make them flavored, though! Sage biscuits: add lots of chopped sage. Spicy cheesy biscuits: add grated cheese and cayenne. Spinach biscuits: add some blanched, dried, and chopped spinach. Pesto biscuits! Eat all the biscuits!

21 April 2008

Secret roasty saucy chili

Clearly you could spend the rest of your life making all different kinds of chili. Chili chili chili.

Here is one kind:

Chili with roasty business

First, ROAST:
olive or flavorless oil w/ cayenne
a butternut squash
most of a head of garlic

Infuse the oil with cayenne: put some oil and some cayenne in a little frying pan and swirl it around over low heat. You don't want to cook them, just to warm them up together. (If you're feeling lazy, it would probably be fine not to even bother with this, and just use oil and cayenne to season the roast straight.)

Peel a butternut squash with a vegetable peeler. Cut off the top and bottom, seed with a spoon, and cut the flesh into little pieces. Throw all the bits into a pan appropriate for roasting. (You could also use other kinds of squash, or a couple sweet potatoes: all delicious.) Then tackle the garlic: smash the cloves with the flat of a knife, peel them, tear them up a bit if you think they're too big, and throw them into the pan.

Pour the infused oil (or just some oil and some cayenne) over the squash and garlic. Mix. Bake at 400F, stirring every once in a while, for about a half hour, until squash is cooked through and starting to come up with dark crispy bits.

This would be delicious just as is. I would eat it. Maybe I would put it on top of some mashed potatoes, add some chopped toasted pecans, and/or crispy sage, and have multiple textures to contend with!

Ok ok. In this circumstance we used the roasty business in chili.

onion, carrot and celery
olive oil/other acceptable oil
green pepper, or other colors if you feel like it
a hot pepper or two
chili powder, paprika, cumin, marjoram, salt, pepper
roasty squash and garlic business
tomato puree/sauce of some type
cooked black beans
cooked red beans
veg broth
a bay leaf
a deep pot
an afternoon.


Get out your big pot. Peel and chop an onion, a couple carrots, and a couple stalks of celery. Well, don't peel the celery, but destring it if you want. Actually, we didn't have any celery at all, but I would have used it had we had it! YES. Anyway. Dice everything up finely and throw it in the pot with some oil. Put it over medium heat and soften it all up with your first batch of spices: lots of chili powder and cumin, some paprika, and only a little marjoram. MIREPOIX.

While mirepoix is going, chop up a hot pepper or two, a green pepper, and a couple of tomatillos. Add them and soften them too. In general, subscribe to a "chop it; chuck it in" policy.

When all the vegetables are reasonably softened, it's time for liquid. Broth: add several cups, either liquid or frozen. If frozen, get some vegetables on top of the frozen chunk so it defrosts more quickly. You could also use water if you don't have any broth. Tomato stuff: add a full big can (or less if your pot isn't that big). Salt reasonably; pepper; bay leaf. At this point my pot was about half full.

Being the business to a simmer. Now add beans (with broth if you've just cooked the beans and have lots of bean broth). I used a whole pot of red beans with broth plus a half-batch chunk of frozen preboiled black beans. Also add several shakes of tvp. Also add the done roasty squash and garlic.

Add some water to get the whole business liquidy enough to cook down a while. Correct the seasonings with more chili powder and cumin, plus whatever else tastes necessary. If you want to add any cooking alcohol at this time, I suggest tequila.

Bring the business back to a simmer, lower the heat, put on the lid, and leave it for at least an hour. Leave it for more than an hour. Leave it for as long as you can stand it. When you are starving and everything smells perfect, make some toast and go for it.

I had my first bowl of chili in the traditional rustic chunky way, but John wanted to try puréeing it. So we busted out the stick blender and puréed it. The result: not exactly what my brain interprets as chili, but still very very good. Essentially, it became a super-savory deep chili-tomato sauce. So you can clearly eat it as is, with your copious toast as mentioned. I would probably make a bunch of croutons for it in the future. But! We can clearly do all kinds of things with a chili sauce business of this type:

- Use it as sauce for a pan of cheese-green onion enchiladas.
- Pour it over some hot split biscuits for biscuits and chili, with some chard or other solid greens.
- Make a corn bread, corn fritters, or a corn pudding or souffle, and use it as sauce for that.
- Or bake with chunks of cornbread and cheese into a swirly bread pudding thing.
- Mix it with a spoonful of sour cream and eat it with lots of chips or vegetables.
- Whip it into some mashed potatoes for half-soporific half-spicy late sleepy dinner.
- Make a batch of savory silver-dollar pancakes with lots of chopped greens, smear with chili, and eat.
- Make the most severe chili cheese fries and/or dog of your career.

Invite other people over to eat chili with you, or put leftovers into every piece of tupperware you own and fill up the freezer. We chose the second option. When we come home from New York in a week, there will be a freezer full of chili waiting for us.

Oh yeah, we're going to New York!

We're going RIGHT NOW.

18 April 2008

Eating meat.

When I was at the store trying to decide what to have for dinner, I realized that I haven't bought actual beef in something like a year. Every time I want red meat, I go for veal. Veal! The dead baby of meat! Or sometimes lamb. It's very strange. I probably grew up without ever eating veal, or lamb for that matter (except one particular case, sometime around age five, of paschal lamb with bright freaking green mint jelly. Why not use actual mint? Why not make an actual savory lamb preparation instead of roasting all the juice out of it? Come on.). Maybe that has something to do with me wanting it now.

My meat-eating habits are uncommon for omnivores anyway. I mean, even though I have ham in the title of this, I can't remember the last time I ate it. I do remember the last time I had bacon: last October, on my birthday. I might also have had one batch of pork meatballs between now and then, but that's it for pork in the last 6 months. Oh, and won ton soup. I almost never buy raw chicken, since it makes me ill to cook it, and never buy beef. Instead I cook occasional (read: once a month) fish and even more occasional (every 3-4 months) veal/lamb. Most of the meat I eat comes from restaurants.

We have plenty of beans, rice, tempeh, and tofu, though.

It's interesting. I don't exactly feel a need to go vegetarian; most of the time, I kind of AM vegetarian. I probably eat meat once a week. I just don't feel like I have to set my diet in stone. Like, some vegetarians eat mostly vegan food, but have cheese every once in a while; my eating habits are more of a lifestyle trend than a rigid rule.

That said, here's some veal.

I ran out to get some terrible pinot grigio while John cooked. When I got back from the two block round trip, everything was practically done. There's one virtue of a thin meat cut: instant dinner.

Veal with mushroom and shallot

a veal cutlet 1/2 inch thick
brown mushrooms
a shallot
dry vermouth
salt, pepper
parsley if you have it/think of it
a green salad with vinaigrette

Throw a chunk of butter into a medium hot frying pan. You can use olive oil instead, but nothing else.

Peel and finely chop a shallot. Throw it into the butter and soften it.

Chunk a bunch of brown mushrooms. Add them to the pan and soften them too. Add a big glug of vermouth, stir it up, and let everything get saucy together.

Get out your meat. If it's not as thin as you'd like it, pound it with a meat mallet. Thinness is key here. Pounding also encourages tenderness, but this is veal we're talking about; how tender does it have to be?

When shallots are soft and mushrooms are about 3/4 done (i.e. still barely white on the cut sides), pull everything to one side of the pan. There should be a good gloss of butter and vermouth left in the rest of the pan. Increase the heat a bit, then throw your veal (or other thinly pounded meat; whatever will work) into the empty side of the pan. Season the top side with salt and pepper, and let it cook for about three minutes. Turn, salt and pepper the other side, and sear another three minutes.

The searing time depends on thickness. You can either trust the redness of the meat juices (ours were still pink when we took things off) or the softness of the meat. I hear that rare meats should feel like your chin, medium like the tip of your nose, and well done like your forehead. Feel it with your finger. It's fine!

When everything is done, flip the meat onto a plate and the mushrooms and shallots on top of it (to keep it hot). Deglaze: immediately pour another glug of vermouth into the pan. As it sizzles, use a spatula/whatever to scrape all the delicious business off the bottom of the pan. After a minute, throw the sauce over the mushroom and veal. Add some chopped parsley if you feel like it.

Now eat it instantly. Meat is only good hot. Have a green salad with vinaigrette. This can be romaine (which I had) or spinach or mesclun mix or whatever. The important thing is having some raw green vinegary thing to balance out the rich meat and mushrooms. If you alternate bites, you get some palate-cleansing effect. Then, when you've come to the end of the cooked food but still have lots of delicious buttery business all over your plate, you can dump what's left of your bowl of salad onto it, swish it around to pick up as much sauce as possible, and eat it.

Bread also works, but salad! Salad!

16 April 2008

Yet another case of "the worst looking food tastes the best" syndrome

I had initially been planning to make eggplant rolls filled with pilafy red pepper-garlic-pine nut rice, with tomato sauce poured over all and baked. This would have been a much prettier dinner, but it ultimately turned out to be too fussy and not fast enough for me. Instead I mixed my tomato sauce with rice and lots of toasted pine nuts, then layered it with thin eggplant slices and cheese. The ingredients are exactly the same; the taste is probably nearly the same. The presentation is a HUGE MESS. That's ok! Messy food wins!

Eggplant, rice and pine nut mess

half a big eggplant
jar of tomato puree
olive oil
red pepper
pine nuts
salt, pepper, marjoram, basil, oregano
dry vermouth
grating cheese or provolone/mozzarella, optional

First, make a cup of good rice. I used brown long grain; any kind should work fine. Let the rice cook while you're making the sauce.

Sauce: get out a saucy pan; warm some olive oil in it. Smash, peel, and chop a bunch of garlic cloves. I had about eight or ten. Add chopped garlic to the pan. Then dice half a red pepper, or however much pepper you have. Add it and cook it too. When everything is softened, and the garlic is barely golden, add a jar of tomato puree or other reasonable tomato business. You want a lot of sauce, since later it will come in contact with eggplant, the vacuum of the vegetable world. Salt and pepper; spice mildly with marjoram, basil, and oregano. If you have a parmesan rind lying around, you can add that too; the cooking will leach a little dairy out into the sauce.

Simmer until the rice is done. At the very end, taste for seasoning. Then add a slug of vermouth, stir, and let simmer another few minutes.

While sauce and rice are cooking, toast pine nuts. Use a lot, maybe 2/3 cup. I used an entire little package, which was a good choice; the pine nuts make this. It would be edible without them, but nowhere near as good. So. Use them. To toast nuts, put a little frying pan over medium-low heat. Add pine nuts. Toss occasionally until the nuts turn a little golden all over. Then take them immediately off the heat and out of the pan. Watch these carefully; nuts can burn in a second.

Then peel an eggplant and slice it into thin rounds, maybe 1/4 inch thick. I used about half an eggplant for a 12 inch casserole dish. If you have smaller eggplants, adjust accordingly. These thin slices would be really fast on a mandolin, if you have such a thing and feel like washing it afterward. I used a knife.

When everything is done, bust out a casserole dish. Ladle some sauce into the bottom and spread it around. Then lay some eggplant slices in the pan in a layer.

Toss fluffed rice and pine nuts into the rest of the sauce. Stir it all up. Add a layer of rice on top of the eggplant. If you want a layer of shredded cheese, add that. If I'd had spinach, I would totally have added a layer of that too. Then start again with eggplant. Keep layering until the casserole dish is full and you're out of ingredients; make the top layer one of sauce and rice, then cheese. I had the very end of a cheese rind, which the microplane miraculously made productive again.

Bake it all at 325F for about 45 minutes, or until eggplant is cooked through and cheese is nice and melty/crispy.

Eat it with red wine and a dark green salad.

And now, the variation that I would have done were I not feeling lazy:

Eggplant rice rolls

Cook the red pepper and a little garlic separately from the sauce. When the rice is done, fold them into it. Add pepper, a slug of olive oil, whichever spices sound good, and some cubed or shredded cheese if you feel like it.

Instead of cutting the eggplant into rounds, make long slices down its length. Put a spoonful of rice at the end of a strip of eggplant. Roll it up and lay it loose side down in a casserole dish. Repeat until out of everything.

Pour sauce over; top with shredded cheese if you list. Bake at 325F.

You win.

14 April 2008

So, uh

Here's what happens when we have access to a car for a suddenly hot weekend:

We like champagne.

We like champagne in champagne bowls. These are shallow little cocktail glasses on a stem. They're an excellent way to feel like you're drinking champagne with wild abandon, since they're so little you're constantly refilling them. Besides, they're way harder to knock over than top-heavy flutes. So it's great until, regardless of wieldiness, you break one of said bowls in the sink; champagne bowls are pretty hard to find new anywhere at this point. It's a good thing thrift stores always have the rejects from everyone's grandparents' china cabinets.

Once you have both champagne and appropriate vessels, put the champagne in the freezer. Don't forget it's there. Then, when everything is good and cold, make some of these.

Champagne cocktail #1

Put a big pinch of white sugar and several drops of bitters in a champagne glass. Twist and add a lemon peel. Fill with cold champagne and drink.

Champagne cocktail #2

Put a little good gin and several drops of bitters in a champagne glass. Twist and add a lemon peel. Fill with cold champagne and drink.

Champagne and juice

This can be done any which way. Champagne + orange juice = mimosa. Champagne + peach nectar = bellini. Champagne + apricot nectar or pomegranate juice or grapefruit juice or nearly anything else you can think of = tasty, and good for making a bottle last a long time while still feeling pretty extravagant.

Or, if you're feeling especially extravagant, have a

Kir royale,
which requires you to buy creme de cassis.

Pour a splash of creme de cassis into a champagne glass. Fill with cold champagne, garnish with a raspberry if you feel like it, and drink.

Apparently "champagne" is one of the words I can't type correctly unless paying complete attention.

09 April 2008

Another vegetarian meal that, uh, actually is brown gack

but brown gack is good!

Points in favor of this particular brown gack:

- extremely cheap, especially if you buy from the bulk bins.
- tasty in a mild and healthy manner that can stand alone or accept vast garnish.
- combines chewy grain with soft pulse for pleasing texture experience.
- excellent source of complete protein with which to shut up the relatives who say vegetarian food doesn't provide the necessary amino acids (??).
- can be made in vast bulk for feeding vast crowds/a week of lunches/to freeze.
- could clearly be made into lentil-rice kibbeh or burgers if you felt the need.
- requires little actual work.



green lentils
an onion
allspice/other spices
salt, pepper
olive oil

Simmer a cup of green lentils in two cups of water. When they are mostly done (which could be anywhere from 15 minutes, especially for presoaked lentils, to a half hour), add a cup of rice. Take a look at your water content and see if you need to add more of that as well. Since I'd been a little, uh, loose with measuring before (i.e. I didn't do it), I didn't need to add more water. You may need up to a cup.

Chop the onion in half. Dice one of the halves and slice the other into halfmoons. Slide the diced onion into the pan with a couple shakes of allspice. At this point you may want to add other spices. I did not want to, possibly because there's been way too much spice and heaviness in my diet lately. That and lunch that's just a piece of cheese and a rice cake. Anyway, the plain boiling lentils smelled exactly right to me.

Lid the pan and give it another fifteen minutes or so to cook. While this is going on, slowly caramelize the onion in a little olive oil.

When time is up, taste and make sure everything is actually done. If there's too much liquid left for your tastes, uncover the pan and boil it off. Salt and pepper all you want. Serve, add as many softened onions as you want, and eat.

This goes well with:
- lots of lemon squeezed over it. Maybe this is even an occasion for preserved lemons.
- plain yogurt/soy yogurt hacked over the top.
- some reasonable hot sauce if you're in a hot sauce mood.
- naan bread, pita, or other flatbreads.
- tomato and cucumber salad, with a really vinegary, lemony dressing, or even fattoush.
- or a raita with drained cucumber and thick yogurt.
- or, as I was suddenly craving at work lunch today, lots of good salsa.

None of these are things I have (except lemons). Boo! Fortunately, mujadarra is also good in a bowl by its own self.

07 April 2008

egg egg coffee egg

Yesterday was egg (and coffee) day. First we got up and took the train to Joanie's to eat lots and lots of brunch. It's a totally indulgent thing to do, since the place is only about two or three miles away, and it takes ONE train stop to get there. So really we should ride the bikes. On the other hand, sunday is day of ultimate laze. So. We went and had lots of egg and hashbrowns and a big bowl of fruit and several cups of coffee. FRUIT: grapes and melon and pineapple and strawberry and apples. I think I ate half the fruit before John looked up from buttering his toast.

I also had a three-egg tomato onion and cheese omelet. Normally there is no way I'd be able to finish such a thing. This time I ate the entire thing. Maybe it had something to do with never eating dinner on saturday. Hm.

Much later, when we remembered we needed to eat dinner at ten at night, John made a gigantic whack of super-filling pasta carbonara.

In conclusion, it was egg day.

Carbonara in this instance

red pepper and/or orange pepper
olive oil
romano cheese
salt, pepper

Crush, peel and chop garlic; sliver peppers into long strands. Warm olive oil in a heavy sauté pan. Cook garlic and peppers slowly, until they melt into a big puddle. In the meantime, boil water, salt it, and cook pasta. Also grate cheese and chop lots of fresh parsley.

When things are done, take the garlic pan off the heat. Drain pasta and add it to the garlic. Add parsley and cheese. Then, with a spoon ready, crack one egg per person over the pan. Stir immediately and throughly. The egg will cook and coat the pasta in the heat of the pan.

Grate lots of pepper over the pan. Since this is both egg and pasta, two foods that have to be as scorching hot as possible, eat instantly.

04 April 2008

le weekend

IT IS THE WEEKEND! Or "le weekend", as they say.

Look what we had for dinner last night!

Tempeh stirfry

peanut oil/other oil good for hot hot heat
something with which to deglaze (dry vermouth)

The marinade (noun: marinade; verb: marinate) is really variable, so I'm just going to give basic instructions first, then come back to it.

Cut a block of tempeh into maybe half-inch thick squares. Stick it in marinade for an hour or so, turning as necessary to get all surfaces fully soaked. Marinade is the key! Leave it more than an hour if you have the time.

Get out vegetables and cut them up. Use whatever you want for stirfry. I had a head of broccoli, a zucchini, half a red pepper, a small sweet orange pepper, and some smashed garlic.

When tempeh has marinated long enough, warm a good sauté pan on medium-hot. Add some peanut oil and swirl it around. Then add in the tempeh. The pan should be hot enough that things sizzle. Cook to brown on one side, then turn.

While the tempeh browns, stick your vegetables in the leftover marinade to absorb as much as possible. When you turn the tempeh, throw all the vegetables on top. Turn the heat down to medium and cook, stirring every once in a while, for about ten more minutes, or until all your vegetables are cooked. Deglaze the pan with vermouth: i.e., pour in some vermouth and stir to get all the delicious brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Leave the pan on the heat another minute to cook off the alcohol.

Now you are done. Eat with lots of rice.

Ok, marinade.

Here's what I used:

olive oil
soy sauce
house of tsang "classic stir fry sauce"
rice wine vinegar
powdered ginger
sesame oil

I used roughly equal amounts of the first three, and less of the rest. Put as much of each as you want in a bowl/mixable dish and amalgamate with a fork. That's all.

You can do anything you want with this marinade. Rough guide: use equal parts soy sauce and olive oil, then add vinegar and possibly mirin to taste. Since I was using the tsang sauce, I used sesame oil as well. You could just use more olive oil. It's really flexible, depending on what you want and have.

Other options:
- use teriyaki (which is based on soy anyway) instead of soy sauce; use less mirin.
- add a lot of chili sauce for hot hot marinade.
- crush fresh garlic and/or ginger and add it.
- experiment with hoisin sauce for sweet marinade.
- use other oils, like peanut or sesame, instead of olive.
- don't use tempeh at all, but tofu, vegetables, meat, or whatever sounds good.

Also, look what I brought home from work today!

We had an open house, and guess what was left from the buffet? Yes. All the vegetables. They sat in the refrigerator all day. I was apparently the only one eating any at all, so I threw everything into a bag and brought it all home.

Vegetables! What will I do with them?

(Eat them.)

I also brought some of the flowers that would die anyway over the weekend.

There are some grape tomatoes hiding in the vegetable bag. I love grape tomatoes. John made me a really, really good dinner with some of them the other day, but we forgot to take pictures! It was tragic. I wanted to write about it! "Too bad I can NEVER MAKE IT FOR YOU AGAIN," says John. NOOOOOO!

02 April 2008

0% fried

Here's what brunch looks like while I'm recovering from sick:

I really wanted to make the spring tonic from last spring, especially since we now have an immersion blender that can actually puree this kind of thing. So I did. The only problem was lack of dill. Also lack of plain yogurt to shovel over the top. Neither of these were insurmountable.

Then I made toast and boiled a four minute egg. The egg went on toast with salt and pepper.

Then I ate it.

The reason we have parsley and no dill:

Last year I transplanted a potted parsley plant into the backyard, where it eventually bolted and seeded. Then I ripped the whole thing out of the ground, brought it inside and shook all the seeds out of it. I've tried to start parsley (and all the other herbs) in the backyard beds several times with no luck. So of course the two plants that actually grew were from accidental seeds that fell and landed in the cracks of the patio. Now they're each more than a foot across.