25 February 2009

One purpose of food storage

Even while sick, you can throw together a dinner like this in under ten minutes.

- Carrot cumin soup, defrosted and brought to a boil
- Plain yogurt with ground pepper, which had been sitting in the fridge strainer draining whey for two days
- Lentil-quinoa kibbeh balls, baked with the batch of burgers
- Tea
- Crackers out of the cupboard

I ate it. Maybe now I'll go back to bed.

23 February 2009

Food storage weekend

This Sunday was one of the most profitable food days ever.

Saturday night I put white beans on to soak; Sunday morning I boiled them with a bay leaf; we now have about three cups of white beans in bean broth coagulating in the freezer. I put a batch of black beans on to soak for later.

Then I made red lentil-quinoa burgers. I cooked a cup of quinoa in the rice cooker while I chopped up a store yellow onion (dry, not highly scented), a farmer's market red onion (juicy, fragrant, striated with a stripe down the side), and four cloves of garlic (garlicky), then softened them in a saucepan with olive oil, paprika, oregano, and thyme. We still have no marjoram, or some of that would definitely have made an appearance. When soft, I added a cup or so of red lentils, a bay leaf, water, and a block of frozen stock, simmered covered until the lentils were cooked down to slurry, and simmered half-covered over low heat until sufficiently thick. "Sufficiently thick" = "stirrable, yet reasonably dry and and malleable". I mixed it with the finished quinoa and let it cool while I went to the grocery store and acquired more supplies, including the first tiny thin asparagus of the season.

When I came back, I made the mix into twelve badly lit lentil-quinoa burgers. Normally I'd do this with my hands, but the glop was just too gloppy, so instead I spooned it out like batter and smoothed the burgers with the back of the spoon. Bake at 350F on a cookie sheet with oil and flour dusting or parchment if you're intelligent and have some. Rotate or flip every 5-7m, and be careful; these can be pretty breakable. They're done in 20-30m, when golden browned on both sides.

I had maybe enough mix for 1.5 burgers left after the first tray, so I decided to make them into little kibbeh balls instead. I threw a couple shakes of cayenne and some extra paprika in to make them ultra spice balls (as opposed to the fairly neutral, sauce-vehicle burgers). Soon I will eat them with raita or maybe just plain drained thick yogurt.

I also made Joy of Cooking barbecue sauce, with no worcestershire, cayenne/paprika/red pepper flakes to sub for chili powder, and molasses to make up for my non-brown sugar. Is it bad that I know its page number (90) by heart? Don't answer that. When the sauce was done, I doused a couple burgers in it and stuck them back in the oven to let it all caramelize together. Then I threw them on a toasted bun with lots of lettuce, stuck a pickle on the edge of the plate, and had dinner.

Most of the other burgers, in contrast, went into the freezer to become emergency burger store.

Then today (oh yeah, it's Monday now you guys) I stuck two burgers, hummus, pita, and a bunch of chopped leaf lettuce/red pepper/green onion business in boxes and bags and brought them all to work, where I eventually and messily made myself two pitas' worth of stuffed sandwich for lunch, then ate them all. Oh man, that was a good idea. I may never buy a falafel sandwich again.

Then I came home.

The black beans are cooling to go into the freezer right now.

19 February 2009

Lentil goodness; good lentils.

Can we just talk about lentils for a minute? Lentils are so awesome.

For instance, lentils will save you when you have practically no food in the house, but do have half a bottle of chardonnay. This, along with an onion, a couple of bay leaves, and some broth cobbled together from frozen scraps, was sufficient to make a pot of lentils in white wine. Both my dinner and three days' worth of lunches were saved. In conclusion, you'd better have some lentils hanging around in the freezer if you know what's good for you.

I actually went straight to the land of cookbooks for this one: it's Deborah Madison's lentils in red wine straight from The Savory Way. Obviously, we had white instead of red wine. We even had white wine vinegar to punch it up on dismount. I here report that the switch served us admirably.

Then there was kale steamed over the pot, and a pan of stuffing which failed pretty thoroughly into a soggy mess. Let us never mention it again.

The presentation was pretty great, though. It reminds me of a huge platter of Ethiopian goodness. Mmm, Ethiopian goodness. We're going to need some of that in the near future.

16 February 2009

Bigpotofsoupathon 2009

Being suddenly back in the north, land of winter, after four years in California swimming in November and gaping astonishedly at all the people wearing parkas when it got to be 60F in October, has meant we get to jump headfirst into real winter food. That clearly means soup.

I don't know; I feel a lot more conflicted about the food transition than I expected. I mean, when we got to CA we were not really impressed by the food, especially after everyone had been hyping it up for years. We were kind of shocked by the availability of good produce really early and late in the year, but it didn't seem then like it affected our eating habits all that much, right? We only ate fresh green beans consistently all winter, and that's not too weird. (Yes it is.) Then there were things like "figs begging to be picked, taken home, and loved on the tree behind the empty house down the street." I really, really liked the fruit, but did not expect to also find it in NYC.

So when we have fairly awful produce at the easily accessible stores, I shouldn't be surprised. It's winter in a big city; I should know food will take more effort. I do know, but that knowledge is hard to apply in my actual life. It's especially hard to apply it enough to make the effort to get out to the food co-op or the farmer's market, where there will be good, seasonal, local produce that I can cook appropriately according to the season.

I really miss the concept of garden. Have to get some seeds and containers and start the tomatoes for the fire escape. Have to ask the landlord about potential roof access. Can I get away with some bush beans? Can I start a serious freezer stock of summer produce? I bet I can do it from the farmer's market peak produce if nothing else. Hmm.

Anyway: soup. This one is carrot cumin.

Soup is always really easy, but takes a while on the simmer. It's definitely a good project for long lazy weekend afternoon, during which you can do all the little things that crop up around the house while the pot is on the stove. Or you can play video games and read books. Whichever.

Carrot cumin soup

olive oil
garlic if you want it
some green herb: oregano, parsley, thyme
lots of carrot
sweet potato to bulk it up
veg broth or water
salt, pepper

Get out a big, deep soup pot and warm a little olive oil in it. Peel and dice an onion; smash, peel, and mince a few cloves of garlic if you want them. Tip your minced bits into the olive oil. Season with a lot of cumin and whatever else sounds adequately delicious. I wanted a pretty simple soup, so I just added a little oregano to give it something green in the background. You could definitely go wild in the brown mustard seed/turmeric/coriander direction if you wanted, though.

Stir up the business and let it soften over medium-low heat. In the meantime, peel a big carrot or two and a little sweet potato. Make sure to keep the carrot dominant so this will actually be "carrot soup"; the sweet potato is here for texture and to bulk the body of the soup, while still keeping it as orange and sweet as carrot.

Toss the carrot and sweet potato peel, along with any other bits of vegetables you have lying around, into a pot of water over high heat; i.e. make broth. You can also use frozen broth if you have any lying around. It's all good; I just like to use all the trash for extra carrot and sweet potato deliciousness.

Chop the carrot and sweet potato into small dice and add them to the softened onion mix. Mix it up and let it all cook together while your broth develops. After five or ten minutes, start scooping out ladles of broth and adding them to the main soup pan. Get enough liquid in to cover the vegetables by a couple inches, making up the difference with water if necessary.

Bring the pot to a boil, turn the heat down, cover, and simmer until the carrot and potato are cooked through. This will take at least half an hour, and probably more. Salt and pepper, correct any other spices, and give it another five minutes to meld adequately.

Now take the pan off the heat and attack it with your immersion blender. You could use an actual blender or food processor instead, or leave the soup unpuréed if you like broths with lots of chunks.

You are done. Put your soup in bowls and eat it.

Things to have with said soup:
- lots of hot toast or warm pita bread with hummus/garlic white beans/etc.
- sauteed greens to float on top, or to put in the bottom of the bowl and serve the soup over.
- or garlic white beans or garbanzos and maybe some roasted pepper over a big salad.
- lots of croutons as garnish.
- popcorn as garnish. I've been thinking about this idea and not doing it for far too long.

14 February 2009

Crusty creamy white beans and chard

We totally made Heidi's giant crusty and creamy white beans out of Super Natural Cooking. I used the bag of gigantic lima beans I'd been saving for fassoulia. Oh well; I don't care. In conclusion, MAKE THESE.

The beans turned out a little more creamy than crusty, but that's ok. Panfrying the beans definitely gives them much more interesting flavor, even if you stir them too much and shift the texture.

This is the closest I've come to actually following a recipe to the letter in ages. We even used the correct specified greens: rainbow chard. Oh chard, I love you. In the future, I'd use way more chard. You can see that the bean proportion's a little too high. Chard is a green; it shrinks.

Actually, I think I'd double the entire recipe so I could eat it over and over for days on end. If only there had been enough leftovers to fry into little crusty/creamy white bean and greens cakes! That story.

11 February 2009

Mushroom kale pasta business overload

For further application of mushrooms and kale: whack them on pasta.

I've been having a problem with eating on time, or at all, really. Lunch has been sparse: peanut butter sandwiches and apples. I get home very hungry and moody and ready to yell until I get food, at which point I instantly go into reverse and come up with a whole new personality.

A while ago I was having exactly this kind of night. I needed immediate food, so I decided to run across the street (as opposed to the two blocks to the grocery store) to get some half and half for pasta with cream sauce.

Good so far. Still, at this point my palate doesn't just want a plate of pasta; it wants dinner, and that means vegetables. Fortunately, this also means we keep lots of vegetables handy to throw at our plates.

This was easy and ridiculously rich yet strangely full of fresh vegetables nonetheless. Hmm.

Penne with cream sauce, mushrooms, and kale

Cream sauce:
grating cheese
salt, pepper

I followed my own method here, so either follow that business or make an alternate cream sauce by any means you prefer. If you want a particularly voluptuous sauce, melt some goat cheese into the finished product. I used our vast never-ending parmesan block plus half and half for a sauce that was quite voluptuous enough.

Also, make a pan of pasta compatible with cream sauce. Any chunky pasta should work fine here, although corkscrewy kinds are probably the most fun.

When your sauce is done, combine it with drained pasta.

olive oil/butter

Try to time this so it's done just after the pasta and sauce. It will take somewhere in the 7-10 minute area, depending on how quickly you cook the garlic and mushrooms.

Warm olive oil in a decent sauté pan while you crush, peel, and chop up some garlic. I made slivers (smashed ones), but you can do any cut you want. You can also use as much as you want; I did four or five cloves. Toss the garlic into the oil and soften it slowly on low-medium heat.

Prep your mushrooms by cutting them into whatever shapes you want. I wanted thin slices. When the garlic is beginning to soften, tip the mushrooms into the pan. Stir to distribute oil, turn the heat up a touch, and continue to cook.

Now wash, destem, and chop as much kale as you want. You want a lot, since kale is a green and shrinks ridiculously. Chop it all into small pieces, so you won't get any stringy bits in the finished product.

When the mushrooms are cooked through, add your kale to the pan. Now you can either just cook until all your greens are wilted, or you can turn up the heat, splash some water into the pan, slap on the lid, and steam the whole business for a minute. Either way, it's done when the greens are wilted.

Eat: put a serving of pasta on a plate. Add copious vegetables. Pepper it if you want, or shred some cheese. Eat it.

I always think cream sauce wants red wine.

08 February 2009


Lentil soup

Chop and sauté onions with oil and curry spices of choice; add red lentil, rice or potato, lots of broth; simmer. Salt.

Eat with plain yogurt, parsley, raw cabbage half wilted in the bottom of the bowl. Lentil soup definitely wants some greens, and I love cabbage.

Speaking of cabbage:

The easiest cabbage business

Chop cabbage very finely. Chop more veg if you want them: mine are carrots and peeled broccoli stems. See, you should definitely keep your stems. Sautée quickly with neutral oil and a pinch of salt, add a splash of water and some sriracha sauce, then slap on the lid to steam. Give it a minute. Off heat, to keep pepper fumes present instead of evaporating, add a little more sriracha. Stir, add sesame seeds, eat.

Leftovers are the perfect fodder for fried rice or egg mess.

05 February 2009

John Thorne would be proud.

(He wins breakfast. )

In the "use of leftovers in cooking breakfast" category: egg mess.

Egg mess is always a whack of leftovers which are heated, then cooked with eggs, creating a huge, delicious mess. In this particular case, I had a handful of refried black beans (not literally; that would be squishy) and about four paprikaed oven fries, so I made my egg mess with those. Then I slapped the whole business between two pieces of wheat toast. This made the most hearty, substantial, and savory breakfast ever.

One way this was different from traditional egg mess: usually I treat egg mess like a frittata until the bottom is set, then try to turn the entire business over. At this point the egg mess breaks into pieces and becomes an actual mess of scrambly chunks. This time, though, I thought I'd try something new: steam. It was an excellent idea.

Egg mess with refried beans and oven fries.

a little olive oil or butter
leftover refrieds
leftover fries, cut into chunks
(any other things you think would be delicious)
an egg or two
salt, pepper
a little water
small frying pan with lid

Start out by heating a little oil or butter on medium in your frying pan. I think I used olive oil, but eggs love butter, so. Use what you want to use.

When the pan is hot, tip in your various leftovers, distributing them across the pan. If you have different leftovers, use them instead; egg mess works with pretty much everything, even unintuitive adds like carrots. You can also just sautée any non-leftover business you'd like in your mess. Everything is fine.

When your leftovers are warm through, turn the heat to medium-low. Beat an egg or two in a measuring cup, add some salt and pepper, and pour the egg evenly over the pan. Tilt to get egg as many places as possible. Grind some more pepper on the surface, or maybe add some paprika or parsley if you want. Pull any set edges away from the sides of the pan, letting uncooked egg run underneath. Give it maybe three or four minutes to cook.

At this point your eggs should be set on the bottom, but still unset on the top. Let's fix that.

Pour a little splash of water, maybe a teaspoon, into the pan. Immediately clap on the pan lid. The water will sizzle and evaporate, creating a steamer inside your frying pan. How awesome is that? SO AWESOME. Give it about a minute before you peek inside to see the tops of your beautifully set eggs. Mine were a surprising white on the top. It looks kind of like cheese, doesn't it? But no! It is set egg white.

This steamer plan will work for fried eggs as well. That's actually where I got the idea. Yes! Knowledge!

If you don't have a pan with a lid, you can of course turn the whole mess over and cook it that way. Or finish it under the broiler like an actual frittata.

In any case, you are done! Slap your egg mess on toast and eat it hard.

I had green tea, which loses me some breakfast points. For proper breakfast, have coffee.

01 February 2009

Evolution of the burger in three parts

So a couple weeks ago I had a very strange urge, and that urge was to eat a CHEESEBURGER.

A cheeseburger! Even in California, where we occasionally rode our bikes to the In N' Out, I had started to order the secret menu grilled cheese and eat it stuffed with fries. I couldn't remember the last time I'd actually cooked a cheeseburger. I kind of still can't. Was it the time we got a hibachi grill in Ann Arbor, and I killed the burgers beyond recognition? That would make it five years since I'd cooked a cheeseburger.

Not anymore.

So. John and I stood over the stove to make said cheeseburger. It had been so long that we actually broke out the Joy of Cooking to make sure we wouldn't kill it. We also made onions caramelized in butter to stick on top of said cheeseburger, just for ultimate cheeseburger experience.

Frying a hamburger gets grease EVERYWHERE, so if you have some sort of pan-covering screen that lets air in but keeps grease from flying all over the stove, use it. Otherwise at least take the teapot off the burner next to it. I eventually got out our wire strainer, which sort of worked.

Assembly: bun (warmed in the onion pan), burger, cheddar cheese, onions, lots of lettuce. I think I may also have put stoneground mustard on the bun.

I ate my cheeseburger and ate it hard.

Then we had half a package of ground beef left, so we stuck it in the freezer, where it will probably stay for an extended period of time. We still had the rest of the pack of buns, though. Yeah, I could totally put them in the freezer too. Mmph.

Instead, a couple days later, I roasted some mushrooms and garlic with olive oil, a little butter (easily left out, for those of you) and thyme. Then I warmed up one of the buns, slapped my mushrooms inside it, and ate it all in very much the same fashion as the original cheeseburger.

Using small mushrooms instead of huge portabellas may seem counterinstinctive, but it worked well. For one thing, I don't like portabellas; they're too tough. I also had a big bagful of farmer's market mushrooms which were just begging to be eaten properly. The end result was more of a sloppy joe than a burger per se, which I found entertaining.

In conclusion, it was really good. I blame Nigel Slater.

Roasted mushrooms do take a while, though. Another couple days later I wanted a faster, greenier version. Clearly, a stovetop mushroom kale sloppy joe burger conglomerate was the way to go.

For this one, I softened garlic in olive oil, sliced and sauteed mushrooms, added chopped kale, steamed everything for just a minute, then slapped it all into the bun and ate it.

This was perhaps the best idea ever. Do you hate kale? Make a sloppy joe out of it and see how much you hate it then! More to the point, do you like kale, but are you sick of making it as serious winter food like white bean kale soup or wilted greens? Make it into a sloppy joe and see how much more you like it then! Oh man. The whole compilation of garlicky, dense mushrooms plus totally green textured bright popping kale in a soft bun was excellent. I so want to try this with a drop or two of mustard oil sometime in the future.