30 May 2008

More corn

Speaking of corn, how about standing over the hot stove for 45 minutes making corn risotto?

Risotto is actually really easy: it just requires time standing around stirring. That's ok; the best hanging out happens in the kitchen anyway. Now you just have an excuse to be in there. I mean, an excuse besides "that's where the gin lives."

Corn risotto

corn
a yellow onion
arborio rice/other ok short grain rice
dry vermouth
hot broth
butter/olive oil
grating cheese if you want it
salt, pepper, fresh parsley

First: broth. You need at least two or three cups, depending on evaporation and etc. If you have it, put it in a pot and bring it to a low simmer. If you don't have it, make some: throw whatever vegetable scraps you have on hand into a pot of water, bring it to a boil, and simmer it while you're starting the rest of the risotto. For vegetables, use at least the top and skin of your onion, a couple cloves of crushed garlic, and at least one mushroom. Besides those, most things are fair game. Potato peels, a cherry tomato, four green beans, a broken scallion: whatever. Just don't use crucifers: cabbage, broccoli, or brussels sprouts. On long cooking, those make everything REEK.

Ok. So melt some butter or heat some olive oil in a deep pot. Chop up your onion and let it melt down slowly in the oil. If you feel like garlic, you might want to add a minced clove or two as well. It's not really necessary, though. When the onion is translucent, add a cup of raw rice and a big couple glugs of vermouth (or wine if you feel like it) to the pan. This should make the texture in the pot a nice sloshy solid. Turn up the heat to medium and start stirring. I like making risotto with a wooden spoon.

Stir.

When the rice looks translucent around the outside, but has a noticeable white core, add a half cup or so of your simmering broth. Stir some more. The rice will absorb the broth, cooking gradually. When things start to look dry and sticky, add more broth and do it again. Repeat this three or four times, so the rice turns more and more solid. At some point in here, prep your corn: slice fresh kernels off the cob or defrost frozen ones in hot water. On the fourthish broth round, add your corn as well. Then continue with your broth addenda until the rice is fully cooked.

Take your pan off the heat. If you want cheese, grate a bunch of it and add it directly to the pan. Stir to get everything adequately melted and mixed. Also add a little pinch of salt, a whole lot of black pepper, and as much chopped parsley as you like. Since risotto is totally sticky and dense and starchy, I like a lot of parsley.

Now put it in a bowl and eat it!

Leftover risotto wants to be risotto cakes so badly!

Risotto cakes

Heat a decent nonstick pan. Drop spoonfuls of leftover risotto onto the pan. Let them color on the first side for five minutes or so before flipping. Then brown the second side. Then eat them. Risotto cakes generally have an issue sticking together adequately; you can either experiment with adding beaten egg and etc, or just decide not to care. I personally don't care as long as I get a lot of nice chewy crusty bits. Crusty bits!

28 May 2008

Even more: raw corn and tomato salad

Oh hey it's summer! It's past memorial day, so that means summer! Summer! It's SUMMER.

In conjunction, since I'm constantly hungry, I've been trying to figure out more food to bring to work. As more and more good vegetables have emerged, this has meant more and more salad. So when the full table of fresh corn finally appeared, I knew exactly what to do with it: eat it immediately, without even cooking it.

Since this salad is raw, it takes approximately three minutes to prepare in full. The only item of even slight annoyance is corn's proclivity to go careening all over the kitchen floor.

Raw corn and tomato salad

two ears fresh corn
a bunch of good grape tomatoes, maybe two handfuls
olive oil, salt, pepper

Shuck your corn and remove as much cornsilk as possible. My corn was white, but get whatever kind looks best. Use a big, heavy knife to carefully cut long swathes of kernels off the cob. If you're concerned about stability and knife slippage, snap the ears in half first. Cut all the kernels off, remove any more cornsilk that may have come to light, and stick the kernels in a bowl.

Cut tomatoes into whatever size pieces you find most appealing. I cut mine in half, then sliced up the halves, so the proportions more or less matched the corn. Add tomatoes to your bowl.

Add a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, mix it up, and you're done. Stick it in your bag and take it to work.

Clearly you could do all kinds of things to this salad:
- Use a disproportionately high amount of either corn or tomato.
- Add a bunch of chopped parsley, basil, or other deserving herb.
- Cut the corn out and use green beans or snow peas instead.
- Instead of dressing with olive oil, make an actual full tangy vinaigrette.
- Add some chopped mozzarella/etc to give it some more substance.

This business could definitely benefit from an entire pitcher of iced tea.

27 May 2008

Egg mess #2

Or: why to have leftover caprese in your refrigerator.

Saturday we went to a barbecue at Joann's house. I managed not to get my camera out for the entire time. We had chicken and beeves and potato salad and pasta salad and caprese salad and skewered vegetables and corn on the cob and cherries and shortcake and chocolate cake and cookies and watermelon. Then we were all very full. There was a cubic foot of food left over, so much that we got to take an entire bag home. This meant that for the entire rest of long holiday weekend, all we really needed to do for food was open the refrigerator. It was great.

So one of our packets was Joann's version of insalata caprese, made with actual fresh mozz and whole grape tomatoes and food processor pesto with lots of raw garlic and pine nuts and olive oil. This was particularly advantageous since it meant I could make a second version of my egg and salad concoction from last weekend. Since we also had all kinds of spinach lying around, I decided to add some of that.

This business can run the gamut from "eggs with vegetables" to "vegetables with a little egg for body". I used roughly equal proportions, with four eggs to 2/3 bunch of spinach and maybe a cup and a half of mixed tomatoes and mozz, for the first option. This turned out astonishingly rich: really good, but rich. So that made it difficult to eat more than about one egg's worth of business. I would either halve the eggs for two people, or double the vegetables for four. That makes this greens and eggs: a big mess of vegetables with just enough egg clinging on to make them substantial.

Greens and eggs

butter/etc
two eggs
fresh spinach
leftover caprese salad, separated
salt, pepper

Start by melting some butter in a good nonstick egg-oriented pan. While it's softening, separate a good handful or so of tomatoes from your caprese. Cut them in half (if you have cherry or grape tomatoes) or little dice (if you have big chunks). Or you can just use a plain unsaladated tomato.

Stick the tomatoes and some salad pesto into the butter and cook slowly to reduce. This will take a while, maybe ten minutes or so. While they're cooking, wash, destem, and chop most of a bunch of spinach. Crack and beat eggs in a small pitcher or cup. Also chop up some of the pieces of mozzarella out of the salad. You don't need an overabundance of cheese here: use maybe a third of a cup.

When tomatoes have mostly reduced, pour in the eggs, add the spinach, and start stirring. Cook slowly as the eggs gradually firm up. At about the five minute mark, add your cheese. Keep cooking and stirring until the cheese is melted and the visible egg is done to your satisfaction. Depending on pan heat and etc., this could take up to ten more minutes. Be patient. That should really just be the theme for eggs in general.

23 May 2008

One pot salad

I am lazy. I also like eating food. Quandary! I guess I can just throw food in a pot until delicious. Hey look, it's delicious!

This particular salade ni├žoise variation came of having an extra half bunch of dill hanging around. If you don't have dill, parsley will work fine, or you can experiment with other herbs and spices. Something like toasted cumin would probably be pretty good in the dressing.

Salad in a pot

three or four boiling potatoes
a lot of green beans
2 eggs
fresh dill
vinaigrette: olive oil, wine vinegar, salt, pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Chop the potatoes into pleasing chunks, then add them to the pot. Simmer until cooked through. The timing will depend on how big your chunks are; a half hour should probably do it.

At some point during the simmer, chop up several stalks' worth of dill and make a vinaigrette. (I really need to write an entry only on salad dressing sometime.) Also top and tail green beans, then cut them into short chunks. This would be really fast if only green beans weren't curly. I had two big fistfuls of beans.

When the potatoes are getting close to done, add a couple eggs to the pot. Let them cook for ten minutes, then fish them out and put them in cold water. Dump all the green beans into the pot. Let things keep simmering for three or four more minutes before you take the pan off the heat and drain it.

Stick the cooked vegetables into a big bowl, pour the vinaigrette over, and mix. Make sure to do this while things are still hot, so they'll better absorb the dressing.

Whack the eggs all over with the back of a spoon, peel them, and chop them up. Add them to the bowl. Add the dill to the bowl too. Then mix everything well and thoroughly up. If it's become apparent that things are too dry, add some more olive oil. I poured some over the leftovers, so my lunch the next day was nice and olivey.

Eat it! This business is perfect for big stuffed pitas with slightly crunchy bread and some water-filled lettuce. I had a bowl plain and Then a sandwich for good measure. Dinner!

21 May 2008

Not lemon ice

We were going to make sorbet at the end of night of salad explosion, but got both distracted and full. Also Kim had brought chocolate cream puffs, which kind of obviated any need for dessert. Cream puffs! I vaguely remember making popovers as a kid, but that's about it for my sweet pastry experience.

This meant we could have the sorbet for lunch the next day. Ok then.

I originally wanted to make plain lemon sorbet, since we had seven lemons lying around. Then we noticed that we had lots of strawberries left even after night of copious eating. Somehow the proportions got switched, so instead of lemon ice with a little strawberry, we made strawberry ice with a little lemon.

Lemon strawberry sorbet

juice of four lemons (a cup)
pint and a half of strawberries
half a cup or so of weak sugar syrup

Sugar syrup needs to be done in advance. Heat up about a cup of water; add several tablespoons of sugar. Cook slowly until sugar is dissolved and liquid is a little reduced. Then put it in the refrigerator to cool for a couple hours.

Juice lemons. Don't use bottled lemon juice here, since it tastes awful. Fresh lemon juice is the only way to go. To get more juice out of your lemons, leave them lying around in the sun for a while first. Strain out the seeds and pulp, then put juice into a blender. You may want to zest some of your lemon halves and add that too. I was feeling lazy and didn't.

Cut the tops off all your strawberries, then add them to the blender. Add the cool syrup too. Blend until everything is totally pureed. Then pour the business into your ice cream machine and freeze it.

Now you can eat it plain, with some crushed mint, or in a glass of white wine.


Variations:
- Use any combination of citrus and berry that sounds good to you: lemon raspberry, lemon blueberry, cherry lime.
- Double the amount of juice and make all-citrus sorbet. Use a much sweeter sugar syrup if you're using lemon yet still want a sweet result.
- Mix berries with a cup of water to make all-berry sorbet.
- Leave half the berries roughly chopped for chunky sorbet.
- Add a few shredded mint leaves to make it ultra-refreshing.
- Add a few shredded basil leaves to make it ultra-confusing. Actually, strawberry and basil is supposed to be good. I just haven't done it. You might want to use water instead of juice as well.
- Instead of the sugar syrup, add a cup of plain yogurt with a couple spoonfuls of sugar stirred into it: tangy creamy sorbet. I also need to try this and see what might or might not happen with lemon juice and curdling. That's the thing, though: the nature of cooking is in experimentation. Do it!

19 May 2008

Saturday salad festival

Kim came over to cook and hang out. I used this as an excuse to buy and consume all the vegetables in the world, largely in the form of salad.

Salad 1: Cucumber yogurt

cucumber
red onion
fresh dill
plain yogurt/soy
salt, pepper
(bread and goat cheese)

I think this is the first time I've used an English cucumber instead of my normal Persian ones. Don't use the huge engorged waxy hothouse ones: they're gross and coated in far too much wax.

Get a good big cucumber or two small ones, cut off stem and blossom ends, halve lengthwise, and slice into half moons. If you have a particularly seedy cucumber, you might want to scoop the seeds out of each half before cutting. This shouldn't be too much of an issue with a decent cucumber, though.

Finely dice a quarter of a red onion.

Take half a bunch of dill, strip the leaves off the stems, and chop it up. It's always interesting to try to figure out the difference between dill leaf and dill stem, so just use your best judgment.

Dump all ingredients into a big bowl. Add a couple big spoonfuls of yogurt, several grinds of black pepper and a couple pinches of salt. Stir it all together, make sure the proportions are pleasing to you, and you're done.

We ate this business with sourdough bread and goat cheese. At one point I ended up making a sandwich out of goat cheese and salad; that worked too.

Other things with which you could eat said salad:
- a big egg salad sandwich with the rest of the dill and chopped radishes
- a hot piece of plain white fish with lots of lemon
- a soup in the tomato or roasted red pepper area, hot or chilled, and garlic croutons
- a white bean puree with olive oil on good bread

Things to drink with salad:
- white wine
- awesome juices
- lots of ice water
- lots of iced tea
- Pimm's cups with the rest of the cucumber
- a pink gin with lemon twist

Variations for the actual salad:
- use a vinaigrette instead of yogurt for dressing
- use other herbs, like parsley, instead of the dill
- use other green vegetables: chopped pea pods, chopped green beans, actual shelled peas, etc.
- use other onion: green onion, shallot

Salad 2: Caprese

good tomato
basil
mozzarella
vinaigrette

To make this salad good, you only need good tomatoes.

Cut good tomatoes into pleasing chunks. We had these awesome oversized grape tomatoes with pointy tips. Destem and cut or tear up a bunch of basil. Tearing is prettier but also more fussy. Cube mozzarella.

Make a vinaigrette: use a rough 6:1 ratio of olive oil to white wine vinegar/other good vinegar. I don't think you actually need any heavy stuff here, but if you are really into the aged balsamico, go for a few drops. Salt and pepper are the only other things you really need to add, but I like parsley, so I generally chop it up and add it too. Whisk everything together with a fork and you're done.

Put salad equipment into a big bowl, stir it up, and serve.

We had this with the season's first good pomodoro, plus more white wine.

Season's first pomodoro

more of the good tomatoes
garlic
olive oil
vermicelli
grating cheese
salt, pepper

I had actually gotten two kinds of tomatoes: the aforementioned oversized grapes and some yellow cherries. So we decided to roast a big panful with garlic and olive oil, then toss it with pasta.

Ahem. Pierce each tomato with a fork, then stick them on a cookie sheet with sides. If you have bigger tomatoes, cut them into halves or quarters. Peel and crush a bunch of cloves of garlic; add them to the cookie sheet. Add some olive oil, toss with your hands, and throw the pan into a low oven. I think we were roasting at about 325F, for slow happy sweetness plus not dying while standing around in the hot kitchen. Roast for a half hour or 45 minutes, checking occasionally to see how things are doing. Start pasta sometime in here. When your tomatoes are done, they should look like this:

John wanted to cook these down a little further with some vermouth, so he stuck them into a pan, added vermouth, and did exactly that. You can clearly just toss them with cooked pasta plus salt and pepper immediately if you want, though.

Add grating cheese if you want. Eat with pasta.


In the morning there was a lot of leftover salad.

Scrambled egg and salad

two eggs
butter
leftover caprese

Warm butter in a nonstick pan on medium-low heat. Beat together two eggs in a measuring cup/other device. I use a cream pitcher, since we never have cream but for some reason have TWO cream pitchers. Add eggs to the pan; add a couple big spoonfuls of leftover salad to the pan. Now start stirring. Stir it up slowly for the entire duration of slow cooking. Scrambled eggs are only good if you stir them nearly continuously. It doesn't have to be 100% continuous, but often. Over heat this low, it should take about ten minutes for your eggs to cook, your tomatoes to warm and juice up, and your cheese to melt thoroughly into the egg.

This business reminded me really strongly of eggs florentine, which was interesting since there was no swiss cheese or spinach involved. Not that I ever eat eggs florentine. I guess the basil and mozzarella were close enough.

Eat it with a fork.

16 May 2008

Vegetables will help

It's so hot, I'm going to die. I'm also considering getting back on the bike and going back to the store to get lots of crunchy vegetables that can then sit in the refrigerator and become cold before we make them into salads. Unfortunately, this involves going back outside.

Last night we were pretty much floored by the heat, but eventually turned on the oven anyway.

It's too hot pasta

little pasta shells
garlic
olive oil
hot pepper
red onion
frozen peas
zucchini
lots of fresh parsley
salt, pepper
grating cheese if you want it

Skin six or eight cloves of garlic and chop them into big chunks. Skin a quarter of a red onion and chop it up too. Finely mince a jalapeno or other hot pepper. Put these both in a sauté pan with several glugs of olive oil. Cook slowly. After ten minutes or so of slow softening, add a chopped zucchini and however many frozen peas you have. Salt and pepper the business, being sparing with salt and copious with pepper. Then chop up lots of parsley and set it aside. "Lots" in my case was the leaves of five or six branches. More would be good.

At some point, put on some pasta water, salt it, and bring it to a boil. Add pasta; simmer until done; drain. Clearly, other shapes than shells will work too. The shells are really nice with peas, though, since they can then turn out to be nice surprises.

When things are done, take all the business off the heat. Tip the pasta into the pan of oil and garlic business. Throw all the parsley on top. Wash a couple of dishes, letting the pan of food sit, so you won't have to do All of them at the end. Then stir everything together and put into bowls. If you want cheese, grate it. Then eat.

This business would be good with as many herbs as you can possibly find and also fresh spinach. It wants a frozen white wine too. We had frozen beer.

For lunch leftovers: instead of grating cheese, I cubed up a bunch of mozzarella and tossed it on top of the pasta. It was definitely delicious.

Now I actually don't feel hungry. I feel hungry every day, but I'm not hungry. It could be the heat, but it could also be the pasta.

14 May 2008

What looks like a mess, but a delicious mess?

The answer is: lentil millet quinoa burgers. Or, you know, most of the things I make.

These were accidentally millet And quinoa burgers because I forgot that I'd mixed them up in the same jar and never gotten back to separating them grain by grain. Gracious me, how could such a thing occur? So I thought I was making just lentil and millet burgers until I opened the pot of grain and saw all the little curly businesses curling about.

This also means that I didn't rinse the quinoa, since I wasn't aware I was using it. This did not appear to make a difference. I imagine that's because I was amalgamating the grain so entirely with lentil and spice and etc. If you make quinoa to eat by itself, the result is probably as bitter as you continually hear.

Lentil millet quinoa burgers of delicious doom

cup of dried lentils
cup of mixed quinoa/millet
water
a yellow onion
olive oil
a hot pepper (serrano)
paprika, cayenne, oregano, basil, marjoram, sage, thyme
fresh parsley
salt and pepper

I started by soaking my lentils for a couple hours, but you don't really need to if you don't mind longer cooking time. Cover them in at least twice their amount of water, more if unsoaked. Bring to a boil; cover; simmer until tender. I used green lentils, but whatever should be fine. Keep in mind that red lentils will disintegrate, though, and add appropriate water accordingly.

At the same time, cover a cup of grain in twice its amount of water. Bring to a boil; cover; simmer until tender. Since I mixed things accidentally, I have no idea what proportions I used of quinoa to millet. You could clearly sub in any proportion you want.

While those two pots are cooking (or the next day, if you are like me and end up shoving your pots in the refrigerator after they're done), chop a yellow onion into fairly small pieces. Put them in a saute pan with some olive oil. Cook slowly, over lowish heat, until good and soft and melty. While they're cooking down, finely mince a hot pepper and add it to the pan. Also start adding dried herbs and spices. Since this mix is going to flavor your entire batch of burgers, be liberal. I used: lots of paprika, medium amounts of oregano, basil, and marjoram, and a little cayenne, sage, and thyme. Let these all cook and meld together for maybe a half hour.

When things are done, preheat the oven to about 325F. Drain lentils and dump them into the grains. Dump in the onion and spice business. If you have any fresh parsley around, chop up a bunch and add that too. Then salt and pepper to taste. I used two or three big pinches of salt, and about the same of pepper.

At this point your mix will look a lot like my picture up there: messy, a little red from the paprika, and sticky. It's time to make burgers.

If you happen to have such things as silpats lying around, you may want to bust them out. If not, be prepared to be careful while turning the burgers later: they're a little sticky and crumbly.

Ok. Get out some cookie sheets. Form burgers and stick them on the sheets in nice rows. You can use wet hands to form nice pretty burgers, or you can just whack down big ladlefuls onto the sheets, then flatten them a little with a spatula. Guess which one I did! Also, guess whether I own anything remotely resembling a silpat!

I got 16 burgers from this amount of ingredients. Hooray freezer food!

Stick burgers into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Then go check to see if they're solid enough to turn. If so, carefully turn them all over. Also rotate the sheets to different racks. Check again in ten minutes or so. The burgers are done when they're fully set and browned a little all over.

Eat them!

We made a batch of barbecue sauce with which to eat them, because barbecue sauce is easy and delicious and very flexible when you have things like molasses instead of brown sugar. Also it only takes five minutes, and you have homemade barbecue sauce! Oh my god! I do the barbecue sauce from the Joy of Cooking. In my edition it's on page 90; in the index it's listed under sauces.

Then, when you end up putting 12 of your 16 burgers in the freezer and eating them for dinner a week later, you can baste said burgers with barbecue sauce before sticking them in the oven. I highly approve of this method.

12 May 2008

Califruitopia

We've established by now that I can't STAND the constant food waste in California. This makes fruit season simultaneously exciting and horrific.

Exciting: there are tons of different fruits everywhere! No one cares if I pick the vast bounty of loquats hanging over their back fence (or in their apartment lot, where None of it ever gets eaten). They're barely aware the loquats are there, and what are loquats anyway? Horrific: if no one picks the vast bounty of loquats, they fall off the tree and rot on the sidewalk. Plus, trees are tall: it's hard to reach the vast majority of the fruit, so it falls off and rots on the sidewalk no matter what. If it were practical or socially acceptable to walk around with a stepladder picking other people's fruit, I would be hauling pints of high-hanging fruit around all day.

Here are some edibles I see growing just randomly around my neighborhood:
- lemons
- oranges
- grapefruit
- limes
- tangerines
- pommelos
- pomegranates
- grapes
- olives
- figs (3 types)
- rosemary
- sage
- plums
- loquats

These are loquats. I didn't know what they were until about two weeks ago, when I stumbled on Rabbit Food. I had definitely seen all kinds of the trees around, dripping with pounds of fruit, and had wondered what they could possibly be, but that was it.

What they are is freaking delicious. Why aren't these in the stores?

Oh, I know.

They have a membrane around the seeds. We live in America, Land of Convenience.

Fortunately, I don't care about convenience. Fruit getting under my thumbnail is ok too. So get in there and cut your loquat in half. You can peel the skin right off with your hands. The seed membranes are slightly slippery, but no big deal to remove. Then you get to eat your loquat. Rabbit Food said they tasted like a cross between an apricot and a cherry. Correct! Just thinking about the rarity and expense of both apricots and cherries, as opposed to this abundance of shrubby loquat trees, makes me mad.

Dear California: PICK AND EAT YOUR FRUIT!! If I were you, I'd be up to my elbows in lemon marmalade. I'm just saying.

09 May 2008

If only I owned a gravy boat.

Use three for giant vat chili (besides just heating it and eating it again): chili mash.

This is the most starchy, dense, soporific thing ever, so be sure you want the starchy, dense, soporified results before eating. For instance, if you have just gotten home from work at 8 pm after a day of frantic runnings around, and all you want to do is sit on the couch and read trashy magazines, this business is an excellent idea. It's especially good because nearly all you have to do is boil water.

Chili mash

leftover chili
several boiling potatoes
any mash addenda you like

Put some water in a pot, salt it if you feel the need, and bring it to a boil. If you want to eliminate potato peels in your mash, peel your potatoes. It's fine if you don't, though. I peeled mine. Cut the potatoes into medium chunks so they'll cook faster. When the water comes to a boil, add the cut potatoes. To do this without splashing boiling water and scalding yourself, actually place each potato a little into the water before letting it go. This will break the surface tension and eliminate splashes. Science! Boil for about a half hour, or until potatoes are fully soft all the way through.

While potatoes are boiling, warm up your chili. The proportions here are totally up to you. I wanted roughly equal amounts of chili and potato, so I warmed up maybe a cup and a half of chili. Just stick it in a pan on medium and stir it occasionally.

When the potatoes are done, drain them and mash them with a fork. At this point you can add any potato addenda you want fully mixed in. Items to consider:

- sour cream/plain yogurt/soy equiv
- milk/soy milk
- butter/earth balance
- cheese of some type
- chopped green onion or chives
- any other greens that sound good, cooked or raw

Or you can add what I did: NOTHING. Also consider amounts and how they'll affect texture, especially after you add the chili. If you want to avoid super-mushy mash, add fewer suspensions and liquids.

Now consider the chili. Do you want to use it as a pleasing sauce or as a fully mixed part of the mash? For pleasing sauce, serve potatoes into bowl, make a well in them, and top with chili. It's totally like thanksgiving with the gravy boat! You could even serve it in a gravy boat if you felt the need for kitsch. I kind of want to do that now. For component in mash, add chili to potatoes and mix fully, then serve. If you want to use any addenda as garnishes, now is the time. Or, again, you can do what I did: add NOTHING. It will still be spicy and delicious.

Eat satedly until fully sated.

The next day, if you feel a need for potato pancakes, congratulations! You have the perfect leftovers.

Chili tatocakes

Mix chili with potatoes if you haven't already. Whack big spoonfuls onto a hot frying pan; flatten with a spatula. Cook to delicious crustiness on one side, then flip. Cook to even more delicious crustiness on the other side. Now put on plate, add any yogurt or etc. you feel necessary, and eat. Now go to work.

Breakfast power!

07 May 2008

Baky baky pasta

Or: evidence that you can have baked pasta even though all the pasta in the house is vermicelli. It will still work! Things will just be slipperier to serve.

This pasta was really, really, really good. The day after we made it, John asked me repeatedly why I liked it so much. Er. I kind of have no idea. It had lots of vegetables in it, and I like vegetables? That's certainly why I put all the vegetables in it. So it's either that or the whole head of slowly cooked, perfect whole cloves of garlic. Yeah. That must be it.

Makes tons for days of garlicky lunches!

Baky pasta bake

some vermicelli
tomato puree/something
lots of garlic, I think more than a head
a shallot
olive oil
a hot pepper
a zucchini
a bag of brown mushrooms
most of a bunch of spinach
salt, pepper, oregano, basil
probably dry vermouth although I can't remember it
mozzarella/other cheese if you feel like it

Cook pasta at an appropriate point! Drain when done! Set aside!! YES.

Get some olive oil into a pan. Mince and add a shallot. Smash, peel, and add a whole bunch of garlic. Cook the garlic slowly, so it gets all soft and sweet and happy. Chop and add a hot red pepper, and cook them together. Spice with basil and oregano. Add a splash of dry vermouth if you feel like it.

While these are softening, chop the mushrooms into big chunks. Add them to the pan. Cut the zucchini into quarter-inchish chunks. Add them to the pan. Wash and destem all the spinach. Don't add that to the pan, but set it aside for a minute. Instead, add a bunch of tomato business to the pan. I was using canned crushed business, so I added it late in the game. If you are adding fresh chopped tomatoes, add them early early, like right after the red pepper, and give them some time to reduce before adding any other vegetables. At this point also add some reasonable salt and pepper.

You can clearly use practically any vegetables you want in this sauce; just add them in enough time to infuse them with all the beautiful beautiful garlic. At some point I will definitely do one with artichoke hearts, black olives, and feta.

Correct any seasonings, then cook the sauce until the pasta is ready to go. While it's simmering, you can be grating cheese and chopping the spinach up a little. You can also preheat the oven to 325 or 350F.

Assembly: first, get some sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish. Spread it all around. Then! Dump all your cooked pasta into the rest of the sauce. Mix it up, then put a layer of saucy pasta into the dish. Add a layer of spinach, then a layer of cheese (if you want cheese). Keep layering until everything is gone. Unless you really like crispy oven spinach, end with a layer of pasta, then of cheese.

Stick it in the oven and bake until you can no longer stand it, or until cheese is nice and browned. A half hour should do it.

Now eat it!

The next day, cut out a chunk and bring it for lunch. You will notice that it's much easier to cut and serve when cold. Do the same thing the next day. Eat it eat it!

If you have leftovers after this, you clearly share the house with someone who doesn't like mushrooms. In this case, you might want to engineer leftover pasta into crispy frying pan pasta.

Crispy leftover frying pan pasta: Cut a chunk of leftover pasta. Whack it into a medium-hot frying pan and cook to sizzly crispy business on side one. Flip and do the same on size two. Now eat it as well!

This type of business clearly demands a gigantic salad and red wine.

05 May 2008

POTATOWNED

Oh my god, totally simple delicious food!

These are really easy. They are also nice and heavy and Slavic for the satisfaction of genetic appetite impulse. There's nothing like a big plate of potato, mustard and pickle to make you think you're in a northern climate for one last gasp before it's ultimate summer.

This is kind of a takeoff on a technique I use on chicken occasionally. It's basically a medium-slow braise to infuse your potatoes with all the happy liquids.

Very vermouthy potatoes

several boiling potatoes
half a big yellow onion
water or broth
olive oil
dry vermouth
salt, pepper, paprika, marjoram, oregano
an appropriate casserole dish

First, preheat the oven to 350F.

Slice potatoes into thin slices. It's safest to cut them in half, then put them cut side down and chop half-moons. Flat surface! I had four potatoes. Peel and slice half an onion thinly as well. If you want to avoid long, stringy onion business, cut the half-moons across a couple times.

Now it's time for assembly. Put a single layer of potatoes in your casserole. Sprinkle on some paprika, a pinch of salt, some pepper, and a little marjoram or oregano. Add a layer of onions and spice again. Add a layer of potatoes and spice again.

I just stopped there and used up all my everything in three layers, but you can clearly make a thicker, multi-layered potato business if you want to, for instance, use a loaf pan, or use a whole bunch more potato and onion.

When you've come to your last potato layer, it's time for liquid. Pour a cup or so of water or broth over the pan. Add a big slug of vermouth. Add a good splash of olive oil. Now take a good look at the pan. You want liquid to come about 2/3 of the way up to the surface of the potatoes, or a little higher. If you don't have enough liquids, add some more of whichever sounds tastiest. I wouldn't put in much more oil, but everything else is fair game. As you can tell by the title, I added quite a lot of vermouth, maybe 1/2 or 2/3 cup total. I like vermouth, though. You can clearly just do an all-broth version, or even an all-water if you don't have much of a mouth for spice.

Now put your dish in the oven. Notice that it only took you Maybe ten minutes to make that entire thing.

Let bake for a half hour or so, then check and rotate, tilting the pan to get liquid everywhere. When the potatoes are browned and lovely on top, take them out of the oven.

I ate mine with a bunch of pickles and a whack of mustard. Other things that would've been good: cold salami, sauerkraut if you like that sort of thing, a chunk of sharp cheese. Or you could make salatka (Polish for salad!): mix a couple spoonfuls cottage cheese with a little sour cream; add a bunch of chopped radishes and some salt and pepper; put on hot rye toast and eat. Or you could just have radishes without any sort of dairy, or a cold (potentially pickled) beet salad. It will be awesome.

In the morning, you will probably have leftovers. You could definitely just eat them plain for breakfast. However! You could also use them, as I did, to make egg mess.

Egg mess

Put leftover potatoes in an appropriate pan for scrambling an egg. Warm them up. When things are starting to steam, crack an egg over the business. Stir madly to get the egg beaten and distributed everywhere. (Alternately, you can beat the egg before adding, but whatever, we're lazy here.) Cook until egg is done. Eat either alone or with toast for delicious superstarch egg mess sandwich.

02 May 2008

Another fagioli

Eat it eat it!!

Fagioli roasty pepper

white beans
red pepper
eggplant
fresh parsley
garlic
olive oil
vermouth/broth/water
salt, pepper, basil, etc
pasta

Cook pasta at an appropriate time; chunky pasta works best with this type of thick pasty sauce.

First, roast a red pepper: stick it under the broiler, turning every few minutes, until the skin is blackened. This should take about ten minutes at the most. Pull it out of the oven (utilizing your oven mitt technology) and put it into a container with a lid. Put on the lid and let the pepper sit for five minutes. Then unlid it and peel the loosened skin off with your hands.

While the pepper is roasting, chop up a bunch of garlic cloves and throw them into a sauté pan with some olive oil. Add any herbs or spices you want, such as basil or paprika. Cook to soften. Peel and chop up a small eggplant, or half a big one. When the pepper is done roasting, chop it too. Add them, plus a splash of vermouth, and cook for another couple minutes.

Now add a bunch of cooked white beans and a cup or two of decent broth. My beans were frozen, which was fine; the heat of the pan will melt them. If you have just boiled your beans, use the bean broth out of the pan. Otherwise, anything up to and including water will work.

At this point you are essentially making refried beans. You want the contents of the pan to turn into a thick, chunky slurry. To this end, bring the liquid to a boil and start mashing the beans with the flat of your spoon.

After ten or so minutes of simmer, the business should be ready. You can purée it if you want. Turn off the heat and tip in the drained pasta. Add a handful of chopped parsley and any grated cheese you might want. I don't know about you, but we've gradually had less and less cheese in the house over several months, so we didn't have any. Mix it all up and serve.