30 June 2008

Sick weekend

Is it bad when your eyes are already burning by the time you get home? Don't answer that. Actually, John's been sick, and I had an idea that I was catching his sick too. Then we put it together. That grey on the horizon? That's from the fires. That's why John is sick and I have burning eyes. That's it. Fortunately, the air is supposed to be getting better now.

So. Sickness makes John not hungry at all. That's how I ended up eating an entire batch of Vcon spicy tempeh rotelle with broccoli rabe (or in my case actual broccoli) over the course of three days. It's a good thing it's DELICIOUS. The tempeh marinade was done in a totally ingenious way: by braise! No marinade! You have to admit that this business looks disturbingly like very seedy marinade (if, you know, seedy marinade disturbs you), BUT NO. It is very seedy braising liquid instead.

The especially genius part of this was the fennel seeds. If you ever want to make anything resemble sausage, I now recommend fennel seeds. The finished product actually resembled my muscular pasta with fake sausage crumbles pretty closely: pasta, olive oil, spicy protein. The Vcon business was a lot less oily, though.

All of my pictures of the finished product are muddy and unremarkable, but look at the delicious tempeh!




When John did want food, he wanted soothing and indulgent business. I gave him a list to choose from, and he circled this.

Pea and cheese risotto

onion/garlic
olive oil/butter
arborio rice
hot broth on the stove
frozen peas
salt, pepper
grating cheese if you want it

I made this one with half a red onion, some garlic, and romano cheese.

Chop the onion/etc and soften it in olive oil or butter. When it's starting to turn gold and melty, throw in a cup of rice and a cup of hot broth. You want a thick, sloppy liquid. Turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently but not necessarily 100% of the time. Add more cups of broth as the previous cups absorb into the rice. This should take four or five cups at least. When the rice grains don't have a hard white core anymore, taste one. If it's cooked, or near enough, dump a bunch of peas and a last half cup of broth into the pot. When the peas are warm and the broth is absorbed, take everything off the heat. If you want cheese, grate it into the pot. Add a pinch of salt and lots of fresh ground pepper, stir the business up, and eat it.

Afterward, have tea and lie down on the couch to watch Battlestar Galactica.

27 June 2008

Snacky green vegetables with sesame

Sometimes you don't want much of anything for dinner. This was the case a couple days ago, when I was wandering around the kitchen essentially saying "bleah" to everything I saw. Fortunately, someone nice offered to make me a nice bowl of green niceties.

Green snacky business

shallot
butter/flavorless oil
edamame
broccoli
sesame seeds
water or tea
soy sauce
hot pepper sauce (sriracha)

Skin and mince a shallot. Soften it slowly in butter or oil. We used butter. Maybe add a tiny bit of sesame oil if you want.

Add a bunch of edamame, either shelled fresh or frozen. If yours are frozen, don't bother to defrost them: the melting ice will give them some liquid to cook in. Add a little water in addition. John used some of my cup of tea, hoping it would give some tea flavor to the finished business, but no. Maybe a stronger tea would work.

Let the edamame simmer for five minutes or so while you chop the broccoli into pleasing florets. Then toss in the broccoli, along with a little dab of soy sauce and hot pepper sauce. Add a handful of sesame seeds as well. Sesame seeds are delicious: use lots. Stir everything together, cook for another three or so minutes, or until broccoli is barely cooked through, and serve.

Have some tea. I had iced jasmine tea. There's been a shocking amount of iced tea around here lately, partly because it's summer and partly because I bought a 1-liter carafe specifically for it.

Butter and shallot actually worked very well with the soy and hot pepper. Sesame always works well with everything. There's also this experience: it seems like you're eating just vegetables for dinner. Then you realize some of the vegetables are soybeans. Then you're full.

25 June 2008

We do eat sweet things occasionally.

For instance, the other night we were celebrating having finally decided where to move, so we walked to the store, picked out the best fruit there, and came home to make milkshakes.

Startlingly decadent mango milkshake

a ripe mango
some decent vanilla ice cream/soy cream/etc

Basic fruit milkshake: Clean and chop fruit, add ice cream, and blend. In this instance, peel the mango and cut it into chunks. Stick it in a blender, add a roughly equal volume of vanilla ice cream, and blend.

Eat it with a spoon, since there's no way you could get something this thick through a straw. If you want thinner business, add some milk or yogurt in place of part of the ice cream. Or you could use all yogurt instead of ice cream for a smoothie version. Plain yogurt will create more of a tangy lassi, while vanilla will make a sweeter version.

This makes two small milkshakes or one gigantic one.

Other variations:
- Use any soft fruit you have lying around, skinned if necessary: peach, strawberry, blueberry, cherry, banana, apricot, plum: anything you like will turn out great.
- Use any kind of ice cream, sorbet, or other etc. you think would be good. We were considering ginger ice cream to go with the mango. Lemon would be really great with practically any fruit.
- For that matter, add some candied ginger, citrus zest, or chopped mint leaves.

Speaking of ginger, how about some gingersnaps?

I went through the dessert binder to find a gingersnap recipe for which we actually had all the ingredients. Lo, I discovered that two of the recipes were nearly identical. Further internet search revealed even More identical recipes. So I decided to go for that basic outline and just shift the spices to accommodate what I had.

I also used up all the brown sugar and most of the butter in the house making these. This meant that afterward we had zero sugar in the house! Well, there's some molasses, but still. The way is clear for AGAVE.

Gingersnaps are good brand gingersnaps

3/4 cup butter/earth balance
1 egg
1 cup sugar (brown in my case)
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour (wheat)
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
spices: up to 4 tsp total of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, or allspice.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Normally you'd make cookies by creaming the butter and sugar, adding in the egg and molasses and beating some more, then gradually mixing in the dry ingredients. You can do that. In my case, the butter was frozen and the brown sugar hardened into one horrifying block. So instead, I got out a pan and put it over low heat. I chopped off the right amounts of butter and sugar, threw them in a pan with the molasses, and waited for everything to melt. When things were sufficiently melted to mix, I took them off the heat and stirred them up, crumbling the sugar with a spoon.

This worked admirably. Baking experimentation points for me!

In the meantime, put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix them gently. If you have a sifter, go for it. I use a spoon. At this stage, consider spicing: what do you like best? What do you have? I was nearly out of ginger, so I just added every bit I could scrape out of the jar. Then I added about a teaspoon each of cloves and allspice. I am not particularly into cinnamon, and like it cut by lots of other spices, so I added only about half a teaspoon of that. You can spice however you want: experiment and see what you like. More baking experimentation points!

When the sugar and butter mix had cooled down, I added it and an egg to the dry business. Then I just mixed it all up. If you do this my way, make SURE the sugar and butter are sufficiently cool before they come in contact with the raw egg! You don't want any scrambled business. Well, probably your butter is not frozen and your sugar is not hardened into one big block, so it's probably not an issue.

Roll the dough into inch-diameter balls. You can roll them in sugar if your sugar is actually crystalline. I left mine plain, since I wasn't about to start grating the rest of the block just for a sparkly coating.

Bake for eight minutes, or until cracks have appeared in the tops and the cookies have acquired a solid crust. Give them a minute to cool on the cookie sheet, then stick them on a rack to cool entirely.

Eat. These cookies want some ice cream of their own, preferably smeared onto their flat side with a spoon. Any leftover mango business would work well, because mango and ginger? Yes please. I have a vague plan to make these again, but to flatten them with a fork for optimal ice cream sandwich creation.

Tea is also a good idea.

23 June 2008

Oh no! It's too delicious!

I was reading the foodblogs and came upon Kamutflake Girl's dinner overflowing with (among other business) all kinds of delicious Veganomicon food. I wanted it! I had the tofu. I even had beets! But alas, I had no other things. I guessed I would just have to console myself with the hot sauce tempeh instead. Oh no!

I didn't want to use hot sauce, though. I wanted to use barbecue sauce: deep dark delicious five minute Joy of Cooking sauce that had been languishing neglected in the side door of the fridge.

This was easily accomplished. I subbed barbecue sauce for the hot sauce. I also used broth for the wine, since we aren't drinking right now and the cooking vermouth was out. I imagine that wine in this would be pretty killer, though. It was pretty killer even without.

Isa also has you parboil the tempeh before cooking. Interesting. I hadn't ever done this before, and to be honest, didn't notice that it made much difference. Of course I had never made this with non-parboiled tempeh, so there's that.


A tomato cracked in my bag coming home. I guess I will just have to have delicious tomato salad. Oh no!

a good tomato
a bowl
salt

Cut up your tomato and put it in a bowl. Sprinkle a little salt on it. Eat it with a fork.

20 June 2008

More mint for hot morning

It's so hot. I should make some more of those spring rolls. I am going to try the dipping sauce over here. That looks closest to my honey and vinegar ideal.

Here is a thing to have for breakfast when it is hot. It's actually cool and refreshing. It also requires zero heat application of any kind.

Labneh crispbread

crispbread
plain good yogurt for labneh
honey
fresh mint

Drain plain yogurt in a fine strainer or coffee filter overnight to make the labneh. In the morning, when it is still nice and cool, get up. Get the cold cold labneh out of the fridge, along with the end of your bunch of mint from the other day. Get out some crispbread or neutral grainy crackers: something that is crispy and nicely textured without requiring heat of any kind. I like Wasa light rye. Get out some honey.

Spread labneh on the crispbread. Scatter torn mint leaves over. Drizzle the business with honey.

Eat it. Have iced tea. I had jasmine.

Some things you could add or exchange:
- dried fruit: cherries, apricots, cranberries
- fresh fruit: figs, apples, actual non-dried apricots
- some thick, fairly tart jam
- chopped almonds or pistachios
- sesame seeds

Now don't go out of the house all day unless you are going to the pool.

18 June 2008

Mint dinner

Here are some things to make on a summer night just after you get back from several days of no cooking at all and increasing restaurant fatigue.

I got the marinade idea here from Nigel Slater's Appetite. He put his on chicken; I put mine on fish. It turned out very well, strongly flavored and also shockingly spicy for something containing so much yogurt. Eating the whole thing induced a nice slow burn.

How to make a tasty fish for summer

perch/other whitefish filet
plain yogurt
a hot pepper
fresh ginger
fresh mint
lemon zest
turmeric
garam masala

First, mix several big spoonfuls of plain yogurt with a chopped hot pepper of your choice. I used a regular green jalapeno. Scrape all the skin off a little knob of ginger, chop it up , and add it too. Cut a few strips of peel off a good lemon and add that. Tear up a handful of mint leaves and add them. The original wanted lime, but I had lemon: it turned out fine. Add a few scanty shakes of turmeric and garam masala and stir it all up.

Stick your fish into the marinade. Cover it up with yogurt and stick it into the refrigerator for a bit while you make spring rolls or lie around.

After at least a half hour, you can fry the fish in a sufficiently nonstick pan. Cook on medium-high for three minutes on each side, or until things turn opaque all the way through and flake well. Eat it fast and hot: it's fish.

Different things to do here:
- Don't use fish at all; use chicken or lamb or tofu or maybe even paneer. Would that work? It seems like paneer would absorb flavors pretty readily. Now I have to try it.
- Try splintered lemongrass and ginger for lightly perfumed results.
- Try orange zest and coriander and cloves for really heavily perfumed results.
- I've been considering marinating things in strong tea; the clove and orange would work really well there.



I wanted to make dinner a big production, so I decided to make spring rolls too. I hadn't ever made them before, so I followed this rolling technique. It was actually really easy, even with rice paper involved. I think it helps not to be too picky about how your rolls look. As long as they cohere into some cylindrical mass, you're doing fine.

How to make a tasty minty spring roll

rice paper wrappers
cucumber
carrot
daikon
bean thread noodles
fresh mint
anything else you think would be good

Heat up some water and pour it over your bean thread noodles. Let them sit and soften for ten or fifteen minutes while you prep vegetables.

Scrape your carrot and daikon; peel your cucumber if it's waxed. Chop them into matchsticks. The amount depends on the amount of spring rolls you want. I just eyeballed it and everything was fine. Other fillings that would be good: crispy cabbage, tiny seared tofu cubes, slivered red pepper.

Pull a bunch of mint leaves off their stems. I left mine whole, but you can chop them if you want to. You can also add basil or cilantro if those float your boat and you happen to have them. I like mint best, though, since it makes the rolls seem coolest.

Get out a wide bowl or dish with a rim. Fill it with an inch or so of warm water.

When everything is ready, get out one rice paper and put it into the water. Let it soften for a minute or two. When it's pliable, take it out of the water and lay it on a cutting board or other reasonable surface. Arrange equal amounts of daikon, carrot, and cucumber in an off-center row. Add a few bean threads. My noodles were still in their water, so just I pulled them out to use as I went. Add some mint on top of everything.

Now roll the whole business into a spring roll. This is a little slippery, but fine otherwise; just try to roll them as tightly as you can. I found that my rolls stuck together perfectly well without any extra water or anything.

Make as many rolls as you want, dip into delicious sauces, and eat. These clearly want a sauce of the honey-vinegar persuasion.

If you want to bring some rolls to work tomorrow, wrap them in a damp cloth before sticking them in tupperware. Otherwise they're going to get dry and stick together. I wrapped mine in a damp paper towel with excellent results. This is what I get for making huge production dinner when I am the only one at home: delicious lunch.

I wish I could tell you how to make a tasty dipping sauce for the spring rolls, but I can't! I tried two different things and both of them turned out badly. The first one called for two tablespoons of cornstarch, which caused the whole business to gelatinize into a horrifying blob. The second was a peanut-soy sauce that turned out unutterably salty. I thinned that one down and used it anyway, but I wouldn't recommend it. I have a sneaky plan to go into Siam Royal sometime soon and ask them nicely for their dipping sauce recipe. It may even work, since I'm there often enough for them to know me. We will see.

15 June 2008

Home again, home again, jiggety oof

Oh man. John and I got up at THREE this morning to make planes on time. That's three central, which equals one California. I am pretty broken. I don't know if I even have the energy to talk about what we ate yesterday.

Eleven City Diner

John wanted diner food after getting restaurant burnout. Clearly we could have gotten on the train and found a more authentic greasy spoon experience, but we had plans later and in short ended up walking through the entire loop to eat here instead.

There was a pickle and green tomato plate on the menu: how awesome is that? I almost ordered it even though I was otherwise having french toast. The french toast plate was massive, covered in fruit and toasty coconut. It was really rich and yet I ate the whole thing. John had eggs and hash browns, like you do. We also had some really excellent coffee. Apparently in Chicago the good coffee is either Intelligentsia or Lavazza; this coffee was Lavazza. It tasted like grain. I meant to buy a pound to bring back to the office, but only remembered at 4:30 in the airport. Perhaps The Internet can help me.

Essentially, this was good brunch but too expensive to justify often.


Old Jerusalem

Later on we went with my friend Nicky and her person Trevor to the Old Town/Wells St. art festivals, where we mashed our way through crowds of drunk 20 year olds clutching plastic cups. Everything smelled sickly sweet and fermented with spilled cheap beer. It was kind of like I imagine the smell of the middle ages, but with less excreta. When fatigue set in, we decided to go to Old Jerusalem. This turned out to be a good plan: a plan full of falafel and pita and and yet more (unremarkable) iced tea.

I'm not quite sure what to say about the food here, since I was paying a lot more attention to hanging out with people I've barely seen in ten years. It was fine. The vegetarian plate was big, full of tabbouleh and a cucumber salad and falafel and clearly house-made hummus and baba. I also find that in Chicago you get pita sandwiches formed differently than most of the rest of the country: instead of rolling everything up in lavash, or cutting a pita in half and stuffing each half, they cut a strip off one margin of a pita and stuff it from there. It works pretty well as long as you have stable pita.

Afterward we had to plead stupidly early flight and go collapse. Boo!


Today I am home. I took a nap. I washed my face. My eyes are burning.

I walked in the door, unpacked, and had a glass of our iced tea. The best thing about this tea is how little you need to use: one cup needs only five or six pearls. Plus you can then reuse them to brew five or six cups. If this weren't the case, I don't know how I'd have ever justified buying them in the first place. Mm, jasmine.

13 June 2008

Chicago food frenzy!!

We haven't had much access to kitchens, so here's the restaurant rundown:

My Thai

We went here for dinner our first night, after getting up at 4:30 CA time to catch the plane and etc. With the time change, this ended up sort of being lunch. So. I got panang chicken and John got tofu with pan-fried noodles. We also both got massive glasses of iced tea which turned out to be powdered. Besides that, I was pretty happy. The panang was more heavily spiced and peanut-intense than my normal panang at Siam Royal. It was also thicker. This wasn't a bad thing, though; everything was perfectly tasty, as well as reasonably cheap.

Brian's Juice Bar and Deli

This beats both California and NYC for a cheap falafel sandwich: $3.75. They do premake and microwave the falafels, though, so they're soft and not crispy in your sandwich. Oh well. It still tasted good. I also got a raspberry smoothie, which cost more than the sandwich. Normally smoothies are not my thing, but for some reason I've been all "hey, juice! Maybe I should get a juice. Is there a juice bar around here?" lately. Maybe that's why the smoothie tasted so great. It was also full of crunchy raspberry seeds.

Lou Malnati's

Obligatory Chicago pizza. We even got an obligatory deep dish instead of a thin crust, which I prefer. One medium pizza with spinach cost $14.45. That's more than enough for two of us, due to aforementioned deepdishedness of said pizza. Compare that to your terrible, scraggy, gross, really expensive pizza, California! The pizza itself was fairly sweet, thanks to the tons of actual tomatoes across the top. My only complaint is that the crust was too buttery. We also had gargantuan 32-oz iced teas.

Chicago Diner

I went up the train line to check out neighborhoods, but I specifically got off at Addison to come here for lunch. So ok, Halsted? I could live here just fine. For one thing, I found a massive thrift warehouse with a complete book section in back. Silicon Valley really makes me miss decent thrift shopping. ANYWAY. So the diner itself is a Chicago vegetarian institution, full of hipsters and apparently featuring a nice patio that I didn't see. The waiter dude actually looked me in the eye and was actively friendly! That was nice. I had a grilled cheese with avocado and a cup of pea soup. Here it's not only possible but expected that you might order such a sandwich with non-dairy cheeze, and they make sure to mention the option. I had dairy, but still. Nice! The sandwich was huge and slippery, full of sprouts and tomato and raw onion trying to escape from every angle. The soup was also really good, with a not-quite-smooth texture and a flavor suggesting not only split but also fresh peas involved. I also had iced tea: it was standard good brewed iced tea. Afterward I went up the street and tried on shoes.

India House
Perhaps we are totally spoiled by places like Shalimar, but I was only moderately impressed by India House. The naan was a little too fake-buttery, like a flat, homemade version of cardboard-tube crescent rolls. The baigan bhartha was nice and smooth and peanuty; the palak paneer was a little harsh. It wasn't too spicy, but the taste of the greens was a little aggressive and bitter. Maybe they were using some greens stronger than spinach? It could have been listed as saag paneer, I suppose. The iced tea, though, was by far the best all week. It was clearly some kind of fruit tea with floral tones. John guessed peach. It could easily have been peach. I don't really care though, because it was good.

Clearly it's been iced tea week, a.k.a. summer. On that note, tea ratings!

On a scale of 1=bad to 5=good:
My Thai: 1
Chicago Diner: 3
Lou Malnati's: 3.5 (the .5 is for gigantic quantity)
India House: 5

Fortunately, when I go home on Sunday it'll be to a squat little pitcher of iced jasmine tea. Thanks, foresight!

11 June 2008

OM NOM NOM

There are some benefits to living in California.

- apricots

- lemons

- avocados (in guac form)

- and really blurry artichokes.


Of course, right now we are in Chicago and feeling very happy about it.

CHICAGO!

09 June 2008

Eggplant potato currytacular

Lately I seem to be going more toward cooking from actual recipes. It helps me not kill things (like the toasted millet pancakes we tried to make last weekend, operative word being Tried). This one is from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking, which is pretty much my go-to for any Indian food. I mean, besides the internet.

This was exactly what I wanted. At first I had been all "aloo gobi!" but then realized I had eggplant as well. So I went through the book to see if there was anything with potato, cauliflower, and eggplant. There wasn't, but I found this instead. I decided not to make the cauliflower into additional roasty bits, which turned out to be an excellent idea due to eventual total fullness.

This business was super easy and tasty and cheap. It mostly requires sitting around while it cooks. Or, if you are me, you can make naan while it cooks. Rice would clearly work too.

Eggplant and potato business

cup of eggplant
cup of boiling potato
tasteless oil: safflower in my case
spices: brown mustard seeds, coriander, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, salt
fresh parsley
water

Get out your eggplant and potatoes. I had redskin potatoes, because they are cheap and so am I. Also, they are delicious and so am I . Yes. I also had a seven or eight inch Italian eggplant. The varieties don't matter much here; you just need a roughly equal amount of each. Cube the eggplant; peel and cube the potato.

Warm a splash of oil in a pan over medium-high. Add a palmful or so of mustard seeds. After a minutes or two, the seeds will start to pop and splutter in the oil. Dump in your boardful of eggplant and potato. Stir to get the oil on everything. Now start spicing. The recipe wanted me to use coriander seeds, but ha ha! That is one whole spice I definitely never have in the house. So I used powdered, which worked fine. Of course, had I made this with full coriander seeds, I'd probably be raving about how completely perfect it was, but whatever. Use a lot of coriander, about half as much cumin, and small shakes of turmeric, cayenne, and salt.

Stir the whole business up and cook together for a minute or two. When all the spices are good and fragrant, add a couple splashes of water to the pan. Then put the lid on the pan, turn the heat down, and let everything cook together for fifteen minutes. Stir and check water level every once in a while. When the potatoes are done and the eggplant has melted into a beautiful oily pile, you're done. Put it in a bowl with lots of torn parsley. Yay!

I ate it with actual homemade whole wheat naan. I make mine from this formula. It's just how I like my recipes: inexact yet able to produce delicious results. In this circumstance, I forgot to put in the yogurt until I was kneading the dough, but it was not a disaster! I just threw the yogurt in a bowl with said dough and kneaded it in. Everything turned out great. Then I had the rest of my yogurt to throw over the bowl of potato and eggplant. It was an excellent plan.

06 June 2008

Broccoli

Yesterday I felt sick, so I had a head of steamed broccoli for dinner.

I put some butter on it.

It is hard to tell even from these pictures how perfect the broccoli was. We didn't even get it from the farmer's market. It came from the plain store. It was the most perfect broccoli I can recall, with tiny tight knobbly blossomheads still almost yellow on the underside.

I chopped it into florets and put it in a closed pot with half an inch of boiling water. I left it three minutes. When it was drained, I put the butter on it.

I had chamomile tea too. I felt better.

Then of course at eleven at night I was suddenly starving and had to have toast and jam in bed.

I got the bed all crumby.

04 June 2008

It is a fish tomato.

It's sufficiently tomato season that I'm going to cook with them now, ok? Nobody smack me for not eating them raw like candy.

Proven├žaly fish with tomatoes and olives

a whitefish filet
some good tomatoes
a couple shallots
some green olives
olive oil
dry vermouth
salt, pepper

Essentially what we're going to do is reduce the vegetables in olive oil, then fry the fish.

So. Heat a little olive oil on medium in a wide sauté pan. Skin and chop your shallots, then add them to the pan. Chop your tomatoes into small chunks, then add them as well. You could do this with any kind of tomatoes; I had more of the big grape tomatoes, so I used about ten or twelve of them. Two or three regular tomatoes should be plenty. Just make sure they're good tomatoes! Get a handful of fat green cocktaily olives out, halve them, and chop the halves into chunks. Add them too. I only had four olives, which was okay but ultimately not pungent and olivey enough for my taste. Six or eight would be better.

Let everything cook together slowly for ten or fifteen minutes.

When the tomatoes have reduced a bit and the shallots are nice and soft, pull everything to one side of your pan. If there's not enough oil left in the pan, add a little bit more. Then salt and pepper your fish and lay it carefully into the pan. I had tilapia, which is both cheap and delicious; any whitefish filet sturdy enough to hold together should work out fine. I would definitely try this with some good perch, for instance.

Fish cooking time depends on the thickness of the filet. We cooked for four minutes, flipped the filet, covered said filet with the tomato and shallot, then cooked another four minutes. Watch your filet; when it turns opaque all the way around the edge, it is probably ready to flip. When the flesh is all opaque and flakes easily, it's done.

Lift the whole business carefully onto a warm plate, then pour any leftover vegetables on top. We had a little too much oil in the pan, so we tried to lift the vegetables out of it to serve. It sort of worked. To avoid this, nonstick pans are your friend.

Even with a nonstick pan, there should be a bunch of residue and possibly flaky fish bits left to deglaze. Put the pan back over the heat and add a slug of vermouth. This will instantly bubble and hiss. Immediately start scraping the pan with your spatula, getting every bit of stuff you can. Then pour the contents of the pan over your fish.

Eat it eat it! Fish must be eaten hot and now.

This stuff was hot and flaky and pungent and sweet. The tomato and shallot were sweet; the fish was sweet. The olives were pungent. For more dramatic pungent action, I would maybe add some capers or a big squeeze of lemon juice. It might also be interesting to experiment with deglazing; a sherry vinegar, actual cooking sherry, red vermouth, or even brandy deglaze would probably make the various sweetnesses really interesting and deep. Just don't inhale over the vinegar pan. Chemlab!

If you want to feed more than one person, it's probably easiest to bake the fish instead. You could just do a basic salt/pepper/lemon bake, and make the vegetables on the stove for serving. Or you could fill a big casserole with chopped shallots, lay the fish on top, then cover with chopped tomatoes and olives. Pour in some good vegetable broth, olive oil, and vermouth, and stick the whole thing in the oven to braise.

Yay!

02 June 2008

dryfry

I've been making dryfried tofu, pretty much a straight lift from Vera at The Hungry Tiger, for years. For some reason, though, it hadn't occurred to me to experiment with other spices until the other night.

I was going through the spice cabinet, trying to figure out what to do for food, until I found a half-full jar labeled "shawarma". Apparently, this was all my brain needed to jump straight to dryfried shawarma tofu. Completely inauthentic! Done by a totally different cooking method! Not meat! DRYFRIED SHAWARMA TOFU.

Dryfried shawarma tofu

block of firm tofu
shawarma spices (mine are a mix from spicely)
green onion
zucchini
water
lemon wedge for juice

I didn't even use any garlic or ginger! You could dice some of those and fry them with the tofu, though.

Cut your tofu into appropriate searing squares. Toss them with enough shawarma spices to coat (or use any other spice blend you find appealing: tandoori, for instance, would be really good here). This is why it's called dryfried: the spice rub (so to speak) is all dry. Brown the tofu bits on all sides in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat, tossing them around occasionally.

While they're cooking, find a handful of green onion and a zucchini. Cut the green onion into pieces maybe two inches long. Cut the zucchini in half, then in strips to match. You can experiment with other steam-prone vegetables here; any softish green, summer squash, or reasonably delicate green bean would probably work.

When the tofu is sufficiently browned, toss the vegetables on top. Add a splash of water and a big squeeze of lemon juice, then whip on the pan lid. Leave things to steam for maybe three or four minutes, then take off the lid. If there's still water kicking around, cook it off. You'll notice that the green onions have magically become not just garnish but real vegetables with the character of sautéed greens! Yay! How awesome is that?

(Fairly awesome.)

Now eat! We had ours with long grain brown rice; any grain would be good. Or you could whip the whole business over a plate of ginger mashed potatoes: delicious and soporific.