29 March 2009

Mixed bag, mostly cabbage

What is going on??

Mac and cheese; cabbage salad.

The mac and cheese is pretty standard: I made cream sauce (i.e. "sauce mornay") with extra sharp cheddar and 2% milk, then mixed in a pan of cooked, drained gemelli. Mac and cheese needs lots and lots of fresh black pepper. It was comfort food night.

The cabbage salad is also a standard treatment: finely chopped green cabbage mixed with an oil and apple cider vinegar dressing, then scattered with toasted walnuts. You could instead take out the dressing and use straight up fresh lemon juice and salt, or add a bunch of finely slivered crisp apples or pears.

O cabbage, I love you so. You are so cheap, so delicious, and yet so full of delicious nutrient. Why don't more people eat you? Do they not know that Captain Cook fed his crews big barrels of sauerkraut to keep them free from scurvy? Do racial and class stereotypes of cabbage still persist; when people hear "cabbage", do they picture the smell of boiled cabbage wafting through the halls of slum tenements? Or do they picture bowls of mayo-dense coleslaw slowly congealing on the blistering picnic table? When's the last time they ate a cabbage roll, a piroshki, a bite of kimchi or a plate of steamed bok choy? What do they think those huge, thick leaves in their Thai curry are? THEY ARE CABBAGE, AND CABBAGE IS GOOD.

Yes. Anyway.

Then later I softened some fresh ginger and garlic in oil, added finely chopped cabbage and carrot, and stirfried it with sriracha, green onion, and lots of sesame seeds. We ate it for dinner.

In the morning, I made the leftovers into what was practically fried rice without the rice. Warm cabbage in a little flavorless oil until sizzling a little. Pour a beaten egg over it and stir until the egg is fully cooked. This ended up making a bowl of highly-textured vegetables, with practically no distinguishable egg bits. It was totally perfect for breakfast.


26 March 2009


First, have John go to Chelsea Market and buy a pound of coffee at 9th St. Espresso. Take note: you can get Stumptown coffee in NY. They will also grind it to your specified coarseness, which is helpful if you have a french press but no grinder.

This is certainly the best coffee I've had in NY. Not that I spend an overabundance of time or money on coffee; instead I drink copious green tea. This, however, is worthwhile for weekend brunch spectacular.

On Saturday morning, go to the farmer's market and get a gigantic bag of vegetables, a dozen organic eggs (for the price of a half dozen at the grocery store), a loaf of bread, and a ridiculous impulse quiche.

Come home, break out the french press, and make delicious coffee.

While coffee is brewing, crisp some corn tortillas over the gas burner. Turn to get both sides nice and toasty. Try not to burn your fingers, or the tortillas.

Scramble a couple eggs, then layer them on the tortillas with a little shredded cheese and chopped green onions. Warm them for a minute in the covered egg pan. When the cheese is melted, add a dribble of hot sauce or salsa. Voila: brunch tostadas.

Eat tostadas. Eat quiche. Drink coffee.

Save half the quiche for Sunday second brunch: it's too rich and too much to eat all at once. This particular quiche was spinach and tomato, with a layer of swiss cheese all sunk to the bottom.

When you are still hungry, toast some of the market bread. This time it was sourdough rye. Eat it with salt, olive oil, or butter.

Have another cup of coffee.

21 March 2009

Roasted red pepper!

Here's one thing the gas burner lets you do:


Admittedly, we have roasted peppers in the oven many times, but open flame is so much better. First, you have total control over the process, and can rotate the pepper to get every bit roasted as much as you want. Having part of the pepper in the flame while the cooked parts stay away lets you retain a whole lot more tender flesh while only searing off the skin. It's easier to peel a flame-roasted pepper, since the skin often detaches itself in process. I'm also going to say I like the flavor more. OPEN FLAME DOES IT BETTER.

To roast: grip pepper firmly in heatproof tongs. Hold it over the open flame of the gas burner, turning to get all sides evenly blistered. You want about 70% of the skin to blacken, peel, and crackle. Be careful, since the skin will start to loosen and slip as the pepper roasts. You may need to set it down and regrip it a couple times.

When it's done, you can take your roasted pepper, peel off all the skin, gently rip out the seeds and stem, and cut the remainder into strips. You don't even need a knife if you don't want one: roasted pepper is so soft and workable that you can just rip it along the grain.

Roasted red pepper! Put it on a salad! Puree it in a soup! Throw it into pasta!

Or you can do what we did and soften some big chunks of garlic in olive oil, then throw in the pepper and warm it briefly. We ate them with a big salad covered with chunks of barbecue-sauced lentil-quinoa burger.


17 March 2009

Cakes cakes potato cakes

I wasn't remotely intending to make something seasonal, since St Patrick's Day is one of those holidays that floats unseen over my head, but this year I was in New York, home of Tammany Hall, the draft riots of 1863, and the annual St. Patrick's Day parade. This last goes up 5th Avenue, and has a huge media/public speaking stand at 5th and 64th, about a hundred yards from my office. It was impossible to ignore.

So yeah. Uh, I like potatoes, and I accidentally made something very potatoey and warm and delicious right before St. Patrick's Day. If only I'd also accidentally used corned beef, cabbage, and green beer.

Yogurt mushroom potato cakes

boiling potatoes
butter/olive oil
salt, pepper
frozen/fresh peas
plain, good yogurt/soy

This takes three steps as I did it, but you can just as easily (well, more easily) either mix everything together and serve as a massive bowl of mashed potato and vegetable, or serve the two components separately. Then you could either forgo yogurt completely or use it as a garnish. It's mashed potatoes and vegetables: you can do whatever you want.

Boil and mash potatoes; saute vegetables; mix; fry into cakes.

Put a pot of water on to boil while you scrub and peel your potatoes. I think I used three or four medium yukon golds. Throw the peels into the freezer to make soup with later, then chop the potatoes into small cubes. When the water boils, add a pinch of salt and your potatoes. Simmer covered until cooked through. Drain your potatoes and mash them roughly with some butter, salt, pepper, and plain, pungent yogurt. You could also use sour cream, cream cheese, or a soy dairy thing of your choice. I would also say goat cheese if I hadn't gotten the worst food poisoning of my life from goat cheese, such that for months I haven't even wanted to think about it. Moving on.

Warm some olive oil or butter in a nonstick saute pan. Peel and mince some garlic, then toss it into the pan. Let it soften slowly while you slice a couple handfuls of mushrooms. When garlic is soft, throw the mushrooms in as well. Season with lots of paprika and a little salt, stir to mix, and cook for five minutes or so, letting mushrooms express their juices. When your mushrooms are getting close to done, and beginning to turn golden, add some peas. I used the end of a bag in the freezer, which ended up being about 1/2 cup of peas. You can defrost them under warm water before adding if you feel like it; I didn't. Cook until peas are hot through and any extra liquid in the pan has evaporated.

If you want to use other vegetables, you could try pretty much anything that's good with potatoes: shredded carrots, corn, green onion, winter greens, or finely minced cabbage.

If you want just mashed potatoes and vegetables, stop now and eat them. Otherwise, mix the pan of veg directly into the potatoes. Wipe out the saute pan, add a little dribble of olive oil, put the heat on medium, and whack in a couple spoonfuls of potatoes. Cook for about five minutes on each side, or until they attain a nice golden-brown crust. Keep your finished cakes warm on a plate in the oven while you cook the rest.

Voila: potato cakes. Eat them with a lot of salad.

14 March 2009

Cakes cakes pasta cakes

So you know how we eat all kinds of pasta fagioli, so much that I generally don't even bother to write about it, because seriously, how many times can you repeat yourself? Yeah. I made a batch with kale the other day, and we ate it in big bowls, and it was good.

Then the next day we had leftovers. I fried them into pasta cakes.

Don't look like that! It's a well-established fact that frying starchy concoctions into cakes is delicious. We eat potato cakes and rice cakes and risotto cakes when the leftover risotto lasts long enough to get into the frying pan. Why can't we have pasta cakes?

We ate them and they were good.

Pasta cakes

olive oil
leftover fagioli with chunky pasta
anything you want for addenda

Warm a nonstick frying pan to a little about medium. When hot, throw in a little olive oil and tilt to get everything slicked up. Then whack in a few big spoonfuls of leftover fagioli, flattening them slightly with the back of the spoon.

Flip after a few minutes, when the bottom of each cake is golden brown. I had the heat too high at first, so my first batch were more like dark brown. Whatever; it was ok. Cook until the second side is golden brown, flip onto a plate, and eat.

- If you want some parmesan, mix it into the fagioli before frying, or sprinkle some on top of each cake.
- I guess you could also make an actual cheese sauce and pour it over the cakes, but that seems like overkill.
- Mix pieces of roasted red pepper, corn, zucchini, or whatever other vegetable sounds good into the fagioli before you fry it.
- Put chopped parsley or other obvious herbs on top.
- Stack up the cakes with huge slices of grilled eggplant or raw tomato between them. Or pesto. Something.

Instead of doing any of these things, I washed out the pan, stuck the cakes in the oven to keep warm for a few minutes, and made garlic chard.

Garlic chard is easy.

olive oil

Chop several cloves of garlic in slices while you heat a nonstick pan on medium. Cook the garlic slices in a little oil. The slower you cook them, the more caramelized they'll be; I wanted pretty intact, chewy garlic, so I cooked them on medium.

Separate the chard leaves from the stems and chop each into small pieces. When your garlic is starting to brown, add the stems to the pan with a pinch of salt and cook for a few minutes, letting the juices leach out and keep the garlic from burning. When the stems are just about cooked, add the leaves and stir until wilted.

There you go: garlic chard.

08 March 2009

Tofu and veg

I love nigari tofu so much.

Desultory internet research reveals that nigari is mostly magnesium chloride, and is derived from evaporated seawater. How did anyone come up with this? Who said "I bet the minerals in seawater, not all of them, but only a couple, would be good for coagulating tofu!"? Humans and food: so awesome and so weird.

I took my awesome, weird tofu and seared it with soy and sriracha. I also roasted some cauliflower in olive oil. Then we only had to chop up some green onion and dinner was ready.

Seared tofu

nigari tofu
tasteless or peanut oil
soy sauce
sriracha sauce
rice wine vinegar
other seasonings if you want them

This will take about five to ten minutes, so if you want roasted cauliflower, definitely make that first.

Cut your tofu into small cubes or triangles, then pat them with a towel to soak up any excess dampness. Get a nonstick frying pan medium-hot, dribble a bit of oil into it, tilt the pan to spread out the oil, and put in your tofu in one layer. It should sizzle.

Mix up some soy sauce, sriracha sauce, and a little bit of rice wine vinegar in a measuring cup, and pour it over your tofu. You could also add things like minced garlic or shredded ginger if you want. I used maybe 3/4 cup for two servings of tofu. Shake up the pan to get sauce on every piece of tofu, then continue to sear, turning occasionally, until the tofu is browned and a little crispy on all sides.

That is it. Delicious seared tofu! Eat it with snipped green onion and roasted cauliflower.

Roasted cauliflower

a head of cauliflower
olive oil
salt, pepper

Heat the oven to 425 or 450F.

Chop a cauliflower into reasonably small florets. Toss the florets with some olive oil and season with salt (lightly) and pepper (more heavily). Spread the florets on a cookie sheet in one layer and put them into the oven. Roast, checking every five or ten minutes to flip pieces and rotate the pan, until the cauliflower florets have attained crispy dark golden brown bits all over them. This should take something like twenty or 25 minutes.

Then put them in bowls and eat them with your tofu.

If I were changing the seasonings here, I might sear the tofu with a bunch of fresh-squeezed lemon, grapefruit, or orange juice, and wilt some spinach in the pan after the tofu was done. Then I'd squirt what was left of the lemon over the roasted cauliflower. Salt for the spinach. It would be awesome.

07 March 2009

Better idea

Use the last bits of the season's first asparagus in scrambled eggs with leftover couscous. Saute asparagus pieces quickly in butter; pour in beaten egg, a little salt, pepper, and couscous; stir frequently over medium-low heat until eggs are cooked through. Eat with assam tea.

The asparagus was perfect. Other vegetables would be good here too, though. I remember making a huge mass of scrambled eggs last summer at Chrissy's in Santa Cruz. The addendum for that one was fresh farmer's market tomato. So you can use vegetables that disintegrate into their juice as well as vegetables that remain stationary. Oh, tomato. Now I suddenly wish the summer veg were out. All the spring stuff will be here soon. It was seventy freaking degrees fahrenheit today, for instance.

I need to remember the grain-in-eggs trick more often. (Not that couscous is actually a grain.) It's a very good idea when your refrigerator otherwise looks like a poorly stocked condiment aisle.

03 March 2009

Mixed genre egg rolls

Yeah, you know how I had the season's first asparagus? If you have some, you should just steam it and eat it with butter or olive oil, like I did with the stroganoff. You should not use it as part of a filling for baked egg rolls.

These sound like a good idea at first, and to be honest, they weren't actually that bad. They're just not the Best idea. This mix would have just been much better in straight up stirfry form, and the asparagus would have been much better being just plain asparagus.

Mixed genre egg rolls

nigari tofu
tasteless oil (sunflower)
red pepper
green cabbage
green onion
soy sauce
rice wine vinegar
egg roll wrappers

Sear tofu; quickly cook vegetables; fill and bake rolls.

Tofu: since I had nigari tofu, it was totally firm and in need of no pressing whatsoever. Yay! Cut it into cubes and sear it on all sides in a medium-hot nonstick pan. I may have put a little oil in here to help it along, but no seasoning otherwise. When your tofu is golden brown and has formed a clearly delicious crust, tip it out of the pan and leave it to the side.

Vegetables: basically we're going to stir-fry the veg. I was a little skeptical that this was necessary, so I made one roll with raw veg to compare. It turned out fine and edible, but I think the lightly cooked filling was a little better. It was certainly easier to work with, since cooked vegetables are flexible. Either way should work, though.

Mince garlic and soften on medium-high heat with flavorless oil (or peanut/sesame oil, if you have those around). Chop up your other vegetables and add them to the pan with a splash of soy sauce and a dribble of rice wine vinegar. You could also use teriyaki sauce, or really any sauce you think would work. It's all good. For veg, I had asparagus, red pepper, cabbage, mushrooms, and green onion, but a more traditional cabbage-carrot-etc mix would also clearly be good.

Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, on medium-high heat. You just want the vegetables to wilt a little. This should take less than five minutes. When done, whip the pan off the heat and tip the vegetables into a cool bowl so they won't keep cooking.

Rolls: I totally used a package of Nasoya wrappers. They were pretty easy to work with, and turned out fine. I think next time I would go to an actual Asian market and find a better kind, though. Or, you know, make them myself. Whichever.

For each roll, turn a wrapper so a corner points to you. Arrange a line of tofu and vegetables horizontally across the wrapper, about 2/3 of the way down toward the point. Lift the bottom corner over the filling, then fold in each side and continue to roll. Put your finished roll seam side down on a baking sheet. Keep going until either your filling or your wrappers are used up. I got about eight or nine rolls out of my batch. I also took zero pictures of this process, which is clearly helpful.

Apparently you're supposed to brush baked rolls with some oil before they go into the oven. I forgot, and so ended up eating rolls with dry, powdery skins. The oil would obviously make the finished product better; brush your rolls with oil before baking.

Bake at 350F until crispy and turning golden brown. I turned mine over about ten minutes into the bake. Clearly, you could also deep fry these. Whatever floats your boat.


These want sauce. I wanted to have them with Chinese hot mustard so badly. We didn't have any, though, so I had to go for some more soy sauce mixed with sriracha. One of the Thai honey-vinegar sauces, or a peanut sauce, would clearly be good. Maybe it's mixing genres there too, but whatever. As long as it tastes good, I'm happy.

02 March 2009

I'm better now.

So I was sick, but not so sick that I couldn't get up and cook at all. John was in Pittsburgh, too, so the ability to stand was necessary and fortunate.

I usually plan some kind of ridiculous cooking while John's gone, if only because I need a project. Usually the food will involve things John hates but I love. This time it was mushrooms and sour cream, in the form of stroganoff.

I guess I could've made beef stroganoff, especially considering the half a pound of ground beef sitting in our freezer patiently waiting for me to have any impulse toward eating it ever again, but no. For one thing, beef stroganoff definitely wants a specific cut: stew beef. That way you can shred it with your fork and get a bunch of chewy strands mixed up with the mushrooms and noodles. I wasn't going to go out and buy stew beef when I already had meat in the freezer. I also wasn't going to make the stuff with ground beef a la my 1972 Betty Crocker that I haven't chucked for some reason.

The real reason, though, is that I've been gradually losing my taste for meat. I certainly haven't lost my taste for mushrooms, though. There.

Mushroom stroganoff

lots of good mushrooms
butter/olive oil
a couple shallots
veg broth
sour cream/vegan equiv
salt, pepper
fresh parsley if you have it
egg noodles or rice

We're going to sear mushrooms, make an extreme dairy sauce, and serve the whole mix over rice or noodles. Egg noodles are the classic set for stroganoff, so that's what I made. Mine were whole wheat, for elimination of gross processed white flour. If you make noodles, start them about 2/3 of the way through sauce reduction. If you make rice, start it in the rice cooker before anything else.

Ok. Get out your mushrooms. Mine were serious, bulky mushrooms from the farmer's market. I wish I'd had more. I don't know what kind they were, but not portabella: they were tall and pretty uniformly thick from stem to cap, with a huge encrustation of dirt still stuck to the ends. It was clearly necessary to wash them. I ended up cutting off the end of each stem too; there was still a little vermiculite from the cultured mushroom bed stuck in one of them. I thought it was pretty funny. Also, can I just say: how awesome would it be to grow mushrooms at home in a bed of peat and vermiculite? So awesome. I'm going to have to give it some serious thought when I start the this year's batch of vegetables.

Anyway. Wash mushrooms in cool water; rub with your fingers to get all the dirt off. Cut off any seriously encrusted bits. Dry the mushrooms, then cut them into thin slices. Since I had such huge ones, I cut off the stems and sliced them and the caps separately. This was fine. I think I used six big mushrooms; I'd use at least ten or twelve button ones. More is better. I love mushrooms.

Melt some butter in a wide frying pan with reasonably high sides. You could also use a straight up 3-quart pot if your frying pans are all super shallow. Toss in the mushrooms, stir to coat in butter, and lay on the paprika. Since paprika is the main seasoning in stroganoff, use a lot. Get your mushrooms good and coated. Sear, flipping the mushrooms around every once in a while, until they've reduced out their liquid, shrunk down, and gotten a bit of golden brown crust on both sides. Flip the mushrooms out of the pan and set them aside for a few minutes.

Add a little more butter to the pan and let it melt while you chop up a couple shallots. Soften the shallots slowly, over medium-low heat. Maybe season them with a little thyme as well. When they're soft, add a cup or so of sour cream. Stir it up and increase the heat a little. When the sauce begins to simmer, add a couple cups of vegetable broth. Simmer it down for ten minutes or so, letting it thicken gradually. Add the mushrooms, stir it up, and continue to simmer for another five minutes, or until the sauce is as thick as you want it. I left mine a little thin since I was hungry and wanted to eat it. Salt sparingly and pepper voluminously.

Now eat it! Egg noodles, big spoonfuls of stroganoff, lots of snipped parsley if you have it. I didn't have any, but that was fine.

I also had the season's first asparagus, steamed over the noodle pan and buttered. So tiny! So awesome to eat with my hands, using the flower end to scrounge up the stroganoff sauce! I actually ate a bunch of it raw later, with some also raw red pepper and I think hummus. That was an excellent plan. Do it! Tiny tender spring asparagus for the win!