29 June 2007

Let's eat aloo gobi

One of the delivery foods you can't get in silicon valley is INDIAN. There are lots of Indian restaurants; none of them deliver. This is pretty terrible when you really, really want some palak paneer, but have ridden your bike thirty miles already that day. On the other hand, it is an excellent reason to start expanding your skills in all directions.

This time I made aloo gobi. I've made the exact recipe before, for the grand feast of John's 26th birthday last birthday week.

Birthday week: the week including both my and John's birthday; the first week in October. Activities for birthday week include cooking at least one item we've never made before every night, with various addenda, then eating it.

So last birthday week included aloo gobi, Nigel Slatery aromatic rice, and homemade naan all in one night. It was excellent, but also required a large variety of supplies and pans. This week we were not quite having a grand feast; I just made aloo gobi and rice, and warmed up some pitas in the oven. It was still a pretty good idea.

The only thing I really severely changed in this recipe (although I did several minor things as well, such as scaling down amounts) was the use of water. You may notice that the original calls for ZERO but still somehow expects the potatoes and cauliflower to get steamed. I don't know how that would happen, so perhaps it's just an editorial omission. In any case, I tried it without water, served it out and tasted it, noticed how dry everything was, then added it whether or not the recipe said so. It was fine. Experimentation pays off sometimes.

Aloo gobi

most of a cauliflower
several boiling potatoes
an onion
fresh ginger
a hot pepper, in this case jalapeño
dry spices: cumin, garam masala, turmeric, coriander (seed), salt

This is really easy; it just requires patience.

Warm oil in a sauté pan. I used olive oil because we have lots of it and none of any other kind. Chop up your onion and throw it in with a bunch of cumin. I used powder since I don't have seeds. I should probably get some of them at some point.

Peel and mince garlic; peel and mince ginger; do not peel but mince hot chili pepper. Floretify a cauliflower and dice three or four potatoes.

Is the onion soft and correct? Add the garlic, ginger, and hot pepper. Cook a few minutes, then add the rest of the spices and mix. I just add several good shakes of coriander, turmeric, and garam masala, plus several good pinches of salt. Don't oversalt; you can always taste and add more later.

Let the spices all cook and aromaticize for a minute, then add the potatoes and maybe a half cup of water. Mix it up and get everything good and spicy. It is particularly easy to tell if this spice mixture has spread by the use of yellow turmeric. Put on the pot lid and simmer until the potatoes are mostly tender. Then add the cauliflower pieces, plus more water if necessary, and simmer again. I think I ended up using about a cup of water total.

Cook everything together until soft and delicious, taste and correct spices, and you are done.

Eat with rice or naan. We also had a dry French white wine that was a mix of different grapes. White wine works pretty well with this. Beer also works well, as you might imagine. Everyone wants a big bowl of spice and a big can of freezing beer to wash it down on a very hot afternoon.

27 June 2007

Tofu = delicious

I often do not know what to do with tofu, which is unfortunate since it is totally cheap, vegetarian, and filling all at the same time. Mostly this is because preparing tofu well is difficult. Freeze press stomp cube! et al. Then you have to know/figure out what to do with the prep and spicings of a culture you did not even remotely grow up with, especially if you are Me: White Girl From the Midwest. I mean, you would perhaps not know it to read these entries, but a normal dinner at my house was almost always meat plus 3 vegetables, whether frozen, starchy or salad. Can you imagine making that many individual dishes for one meal? I suppose that's why the advent of frozen junk and the microwave adventified.


I've definitely done lots of tofu experiments. I now know to always press my tofu, for instance, though it seems like I would get better results with a real press lined with cheesecloth instead of two cutting boards weighted with a pot of water. I know how to crispify my tofu via dry-fry. I know how to spice.

This means I can now do things like "take the spices from one thing I made once and try them with tofu." It was a good idea.

I got the spicing here from a Pakistani curry recipe. That link doesn't match where I found it, but it's the exact same recipe with same title and measurements, and my printout has a specific reference to that blog as well, so there you go. I remember first making this to the letter several years ago, and being very excited that the aroma of the spicing exactly matched the aroma of the perfect in every way tandoori swordfish at Shalimar in Ann Arbor. I worship the tandoori swordfish. Clearly, this is a good set of spices to apply to anything whatever. Perhaps tofu would be an idea!

I didn't have any yogurt, as required in original as well as tandoori versions, but clearly the spices were still good. I would totally add yogurt to this in future, however.

Curry tofu business

extra-firm tofu, pressed
small eggplant of the Italian or Asian variety
green pepper
olive oil
fresh ginger
coriander, cumin, turmeric
rice over which to serve

Pressing tofu is easy. Cut it into wide layers about a centimeter thick, put it between two cutting boards, put the whole business in the sink, and stick something heavy on top. I use the aforementioned pot of water. Leave it there for at least a half hour, preferably more, and let the weight of the pot compress the tofu and squeeze out the extra water.

When you're ready for main prep, put rice on and remove tofu from the press. Get out a big sauté pan and warm some olive oil. Smash and chop garlic; peel and chop ginger. Use as much as you like. Stick those in the warmed oil with a good huge shake of coriander plus smaller shakes of cumin and turmeric. Let them soften and aromaticize while you cube the tofu.

Add the tofu to the pan; stir to distribute spices; dice up the eggplant.

When tofu has browned a little on its first side, add eggplant. Stir to distribute spices; turn tofu so unbrowned sides touch the pan; let cook; chop a green pepper.

Add the pepper and stir a few more times so the tofu gets browned on all sides. Taste. Do you want more spice? More spice. Now is also the point at which I might add yogurt.

Cook a little more to get any new spices infused, then eat with rice.

25 June 2007

Green dinner

It's been so busy and exhausting that we just want food to appear in front of us. Sometimes we are lucky and this does happen, usually by virtue of a telephone call to Maldonado's. Sometimes pizza is not the answer, however. You'd think this area of CA would have its share of delivery of something that is not pizza, but no. So instead you go to the store and say hmm hmm hmm up and down the aisles and eventually come up with something like this.

That's another Sapporito pasta from Redwood City, one stuffed with ricotta, pine nuts, and spinach. It's not a standard type, though, as you can tell from the totally plain and non-logoed package. Clearly someone got a shipment of too many pine nuts and was all "What shall I do with these? I know!"

So, sauce. The clear choice here is a pesto...OR IS IT? There are already pine nuts inherent in the pasta itself! So perhaps we should do something else, something like a metric ton of parsley instead of one of basil.


Ravioli and not pesto

some good fresh ravioli, made or bought
olive oil
salt and pepper

Cook ravioli. Fresh ravioli takes maybe five to eight minutes to cook all the way through.

In the meantime, make sauce. The sauce is not really a "sauce" per se but a variant on aglio e olio. Get out a big sauté pan and heat some olive oil. Smash, peel, and mince garlic; add and cook slowly until delicious. I mean, until highly scented and beginning to get golden. If you cook it slowly enough the garlic should be perfect just as the ravioli is done.

Drain ravioli and dump it into the pan with the oil. Add as much parsley as you can stand to pick and chop, plus some salt and pepper. Mix it up. You now have green dinner.

For optimal green dinner experience, you want raw things along with the cooked. Here's the salad: butter lettuce and icicle radishes.


- Ravioli is obvious.

- Bring some pulverized sea salt to the table. Dip radish chunks in the oil from your ravioli, then in the salt. Eat them.

- Drink lots of frigid white wine. Ours was 2006 Cartlidge & Browne Sauvignon Blanc. It's organic, which was what prompted us to buy it in the first place. That was a good idea. If you ever see this stuff, and have any interest in dry white wine whatsoever, you should buy a case.

- Go to bed.

22 June 2007

Quesadilla action

There are always the quesadillas when you have zero ideas about what to do for food and eating. I find them best when stuffed with as much stuff as you can possibly fit.

Very thick quesadillas.

black beans
green onion/other onion
jalapeño/other pepper
any spices such as cumin or chili powder
salsa/various desired garnish

Black beans:

Get some, soak them overnight, and boil them until tender.


Put it in the rice cooker/in a covered pot with double the amount of water and cook until done.

When the black beans and rice are done, make quesadillas. Get out a tortilla and layer it with a little cheese, a little rice, a little spoonful of beans, a few slices of jalapeño, a handful of green onion, some spices, and a second little layer of cheese. This amount of stuff should fill a quesadilla to the point of bursting.

You can also add anything else you can think of. Bell peppers of various colors are good. The cheese can be any kind that sounds appealing; we mostly use cheddar, but white cheeses in the monterey jack/queso fresco/even mozzarella area are better. For spices, I mostly just add a tiny bit of cumin. This time I didn't add anything. There's already a jalapeño in there!

I like to layer only half of each tortilla and fold it over, such that I can pick up the whole thing and shovel it into my mouth as swiftly as possible, but a whole flat tortilla covered by another clearly also works.

Heat a frying pan, add quesadilla(s), and cook until the underside is crisp and golden. Flip and cook the other side. This side will take less time since it's already been warmed. You can also put a lid on the pan, which is a good idea considering the fullness of the tortillas. You want them hot through as well as goldenified.

When done, eat as soon as you aren't going to burn the skin off the roof of your mouth. Eat them plain or with salsa or sour cream or plain yogurt or guacamole or lemon or lime or all of the above.

20 June 2007

Mushroom extravaganza

What happens with the tiniest brown mushrooms are on special at the store?



Super mushroom with pasta

lots of best mushrooms ever
olive oil/maybe butter if you want
dry vermouth
salt, pepper

First you get the best mushrooms ever from the store and gloat over them all day while you scheme about what to do with them. They are so tiny and delicious! figuratively as well as literally! My tiniest ones were maybe 3/4 of an inch across; the biggest were an inch, and had lovely skin that peeled upward in little scales. Clearly you can also use a more normal standard white mushroom, or any other kind that's around. Mushrooms! Use a whole bag of them.

Boil water and make pasta throughout the course of operations.

Rub the dirt off the mushrooms and cut off any particularly bad stem ends. If the mushrooms are too big for your satisfaction, cut them into halves or fourths.

Get out a sauté pan, add a bunch of olive oil, and warm it all up on medium-low. You can also add butter if you so desire. Crush, peel, and mince a bunch of cloves of garlic. I used maybe five; more would be good. Sauté the garlic gently until it softens and just barely begins to turn golden. Then add the mushrooms and stir to get the garlic-infused oil all over the place.

Let the mushrooms sit and cook in the oil for maybe five minutes before stirring. Then shake it all up and do it again, making sure to flip all the bits over appropriately. You may also want to add some more oil at this point, if things are dry. I used pretty abundant quantities of oil, considering.

When the mushrooms have clearly decreased in size and are starting to get golden and possibly a little crusty, add a big glug of dry vermouth and stir it all up. Cook for another five minutes or so to absorb all the liquid. Salt and pepper, and they are done.

Is the pasta done and drained? Dump it into the mushroom mixture and stir. Get the oil everywhere. Maybe add some more pepper if you find that the speckage has totally vanished. Then get the pasta out onto plates.

Deglaze the hot pan with another slug of olive oil. Just stick it over heat and scrape madly to get all the bits off the pan and into the vermouth. Pour this over the pasta. Add a bunch of torn parsley and you are done.

Eat it with a tomato salad.

Tomato salad

good tomato

Cut up the tomato and sprinkle it with a little salt. Eat it.

18 June 2007

Picnic quality in the comfort of your own home!

It is simultaneously picnic and non-picnic time. On the one hand, it's clearly picnic time: what passes for rain is over; it's breezy outside; the trees have sufficient leaves for some shade; it's hot. On the other hand, California is a state full of allergens, such that lying in the grass with bits of tree bloom falling on your face is not really the best idea. Plus you have to avoid the sun: problematic at one in the afternoon.

The solution, clearly, is patio furniture. Also no sun in the backyard at one in the afternoon. We have the furniture, but the sun bit remains problematic. Wide open sliding door next to the kitchen table it is, then.

Picnic food:
-egg salad sandwiches
-white wine

You know you want to come to my picnic! Admit it!

The secret to egg salad sandwich is right here:


Use of much of it as you can possibly stand, and nothing can go wrong. I stripped about 3/4 of a bunch for four eggs' worth of salad. This was the right amount. You cannot have too much dill. Why does no one treat dill with the same sort of love and desire as basil? What is wrong with people? DILL. Grow it in your backyard for fifty cents, and it will love you and take care of you forever.

The other trick to egg salad, and really anything involving hardboiled eggs, is to get the eggs boiled properly. The best hardboiled eggs have the tiniest bit of dampness in the middle of the yolk, and no repulsive green oxidation around the edges.

How to hardboil eggs properly:

Put your eggs in an appropriately sized saucepan with a pinch of salt and cover with water. Put the whole business on the stove and heat the water to boiling. When it boils, start timing. You can take the eggs out as early as seven minutes if you want a really dark, mushy yolk. I like to leave them nine to ten minutes, for the bare dimple of damp. Dump the hot water and immediately cover with cold. You can either do this in a different dish or in the same pan. If you use the hot pan, run a bunch of cold water over the outside and bottom to stop heat conduction from the metal. Let the eggs sit and cool for maybe five minutes. To peel, whack them all over with the back of a spoon to crack everything all over, then start from the wide end. At this point the shell structure is flexible, so it's really easy to get under the membrane and peel everything off quickly. Rinse to get rid of any fragments, and you're done.

The benefits of this process are threefold. 1. Yolk quality is perfect: slightly damp, totally chalk-yellow, and correctly textured. 2. White is sufficiently cooked but still soft and creamy instead of plasticky. 3. The peel comes instantaneously off.

97% traditional picnic egg salad

hardboiled eggs
green onion, shallot, and/or chive
fresh dill!
fresh parsley if you want that too
salt and pepper
mayo and decent mustard

This is nearly the only acceptable use for mayonnaise. The other one is the dipping sauce for yam fries at Seva in Ann Arbor. Sometime I'll get to that as well.

Boil eggs.

While eggs are boiling, do all your prep. Get out a lot of dill, strip it from its branches, and chop it up. Get out a bunch of green onions, peel and trim them, and chop them up. Get out some fresh parsley, again strip from stems, and chop it up. I used close to equal volumes of dill and green onion, but only a little parsley. You can change the proportions however you like, as long as you use plenty of dill.

If you want any other vegetables, chop them up too. You should add radishes if you can. Radish is the other best thing that ever happened to egg salad; we just didn't have one.

Put everything in a bowl.

When the eggs are done, chop them up. I like big chunks as opposed to tiny egg mince. Add them to the bowl.

Now is the time for mayo and mustard. Be sparing with the mayo and generous with the mustard. I used one large spoonful of mayo and one small of mustard for the aforementioned four eggs. This was almost too much mayo. Add just a sparing amount, mix, and see if you like the proportions.

Taste; salt and pepper.

Toast bread, spread with gigantic amounts of egg salad, add lettuce if desired, and sandwich together. Rye bread is really good with egg salad. Wheat bread is really good with egg salad. I expect sourdough bread would be really good with egg salad. The toasting is critical since you really want a texture difference between the soft salad and crispy grain. There is also the crucial yet generally ignored element of smell. Rye bread is the most aromatic when toasted, and thus the best for this purpose.

Cut some apricots into halves, tear out their pits, and eat them. Take the wine out of the freezer and drink it. Hey, it's only 11:40 and we have the rest of the day for lazing! Gracious.

15 June 2007

Hot weather hot oil rice

When cheap and hungry, a girl's thoughts turn lightly to rice and spice and oil. Perhaps a boy's thoughts do also, but they get to do it in a sufficiently hulking and burly way. Yes. That is how they turn.

Actually, this whole business is an excellent way to eat when you have next to nothing in the refrigerator...OR DO YOU? John was making this the other day. Every time he said something like "this would be great if we just had some sesame seeds" or "do we have any mirin?", I immediately opened a door or cupboard and came up with the requisite item. It turns out we have quite a lot of tiny containers of various business hiding in various corners.

I didn't eat a lot of this, but was still pretty excited by the combination of rice with oils. You barely get to appreciate oil in general cooking; salad dressing, bread dip, or swirly garnish is about the pinnacle of its career. In this case, the oil and its steepings were the main focus of both taste and texture of said rice. It was an excellent plan.

Hot weather hot oil rice

oil, various
little hot peppers
sesame seeds
green onion

Cook some rice. We had short grain brown. It was great.

When things are maybe halfway done cooking, start making stuff to put on the rice. Ordinarily we might make some sort of bean or pulse business for rice, but not this time. Hot hot hot hot oils!

Get out a sauté pan of some stripe. Put in some olive, peanut, or sesame oil, and add a couple of whole chili peppers. We were using tiny Thai ones in olive oil. Warm the oil fairly slowly, stirring every once in a while, so the peppers release all their flavor and create beautiful peppery oil.

If you are us, you may also have a little bottle of sesame oil already infused with chili pepper. You can use some of that too. In general I think sesame oil is the best idea here, because sesame is great. We used both the olive above and the hot pepper oil.

Warm all your oils gently until things are infused. Remove the peppers. Chop up a bunch of green onion and anything else you might want. Carrots might be good, and tiny bits of radish. Clearly, you can add nearly anything, but I like this fairly minimal.

Add your green onion to the oil. Add some sesame seeds to the oil. Go find some mirin and add some of that to the oil. I think John may have put in some soy sauce as well but I'm not sure. I would go for just oil. What else do you want to add? Cook it all together until awesome.

Is the rice done? Toss it with the oil until everything is coated and slippery.

Now you eat it.

Green tea; water; totally frozen crappy lager.

13 June 2007

It is a lazy weekend what should we do?

Here's what you do on a saturday afternoon after you've biked 150 miles in the past week:


Get out all the fruit you think is awesome; we had kiwi, tangerine, and peach. The clear winner is anything in the citrus family. Orange and lemon are perhaps the best idea ever. Get some brandy that isn't particularly awful and a bottle of Spanish wine--ours was a tempranillo.

Peel (especially if you have kiwi) and chop up your fruit. I like to leave the peels on orange and lemon, so you can suck them later. Also that way you can take advantage of all their oils.

Stick all the fruit in a pitcher and add just enough brandy to cover. Shake it up a little and let it sit, so the fruit absorbs a reasonable portion of the brandy deliciousness. Then open the bottle of wine and pour it all over the fruit. Stir it up and you have sangría.

Drink it. Drink it outside in the shade.

We actually did not go outside, due to the phenomenal amount of sun in our tiny excuse for a backyard. Instead, we stayed inside and made beautiful crostini.

Crostini are the sort of thing that happen when you want to make brunch but actually can't be sufficiently bothered. So instead you get some decent bread, some garlic, some oil, and stick it all in the oven together. Soon it becomes crusty and aromatic and delicious. Then you eat it.


good sourdough/other bread
olive oil
cheese if desired
salt and pepper

Cut your bread into appropriate pieces. Mine were about half an inch thick. Put them on a cookie sheet.

Mince up as much garlic as you want.

Drizzle and/or brush the bread with olive oil to get it all oily and delicious. I find that the best instrument here is your hands. Yay oily sustenance! Then spread out the garlic, again with your hands. You will smell awesome. Salt and pepper the slices of bread.

If you want cheese, now is the time for cheese application. We actually had a little chunk of Spanish sheep's milk cheese called idizabal, which seemed slightly strong raw but turned out perfectly on this application. You can use whatever hard grating cheese or mild white cheese you like and/or have lying around. Or you can make the crostini with just garlic and oil. It will work fine either way.

Stick the crostini under the broiler to toast slightly and melt cheese. Whip the pan out as soon as things are slighty browned and crispy. Keep the oven door open and your eye on the pan, or the bread edges will definitely burn. Ours burnt a little even with a strict eye out. That's ok; a couple blackened edges won't hurt anyody. Anyway I think it was worth it because I was cutting up THE FIRST REAL SIMULTANEOUS SUMMER AND HEIRLOOM TOMATO OH MY GOD.

Then John arranged the crostini in the most decorative manner that we ever do anything, and I stuck the tomato slices in the middle of the plate, and we had lunch. This consisted of crostini topped with tomato and glasses of sangría out of which we scarfed the fruit.

If you want to get actually froufrou with presentation, you can add some parsley, like so:

You can also have sangria and sprinkle the tomato with sea salt smashed in the salt mortar, i.e. what our mortar has come to be called since it's become obvious it's too small to mash anything else. A salt mortar is an excellent idea if you have a lot of sea salt and no grinder, or too many grinders to keep track of already. It's very satisfying to physically crush the salt to powder, then pinch it with your actual fingers to sprinkle it over your food. We end up just keeping the salt mortar next to the sugar bowl and using bits out of the crushed pile as needed. It certainly gets used a lot more than the sugar bowl. Sometimes I think we forget that's even there.

11 June 2007


Etymology is interesting.

For instance, the word "stockpile," while not generally used in this sense in contemporary English, clearly has roots in the concept of an overflowing pile of vegetable scraps used for making stock.

A stockpile is easy to build. It's kind of like a compost heap, except that you don't want your scraps to decay. Instead, you want them to take a nice non-engooening nap until you are ready to make the stock. So when you are making something involving vegetables, you take your trimming pile and put it in the freezer. Repeat scrap scavenging until pile is large and delicious.

You can use practically any vegetable except cruciferous business, like broccoli and cabbage; they reek when boiled. If you have fresh herbs, the stems are particularly good. Parmesan or other hard grating cheese rind is interesting and makes the stock heavier bodied as well. My usual pile includes a ton of onion and garlic bits, spinach stems, and maybe some potato peels. Anything else is just bonus.

This also illustrates just how cheap you can be while still being a sensible taste-oriented person: you are essentially saving your trash (from the cheapest kind of food to buy, besides) in order to produce delicious foodstuffs.

Eventually you get to the point where you want stock. Then get out a huge handful of scraps, stick them in a pot of water, and boil for a half hour or so at least. Sift out the vegetables and press them to get out all the liquid. That is it. You are done.

You are also smug. Smug! There is possibly nothing more food-smug than actually keeping a stockpile. It's worth it, though, unlike other smug things such as balsamic vinegar.

07 June 2007

Spontaneous dinner party action

I am having a really exhausting week of getting up at 4:30a and riding the bike thirty miles a day. My brain is not really working. I am still hungry, though.

A couple days ago I was craving steak for some reason. John and I went out the door to have a nice cool walk to the store. Then we ran into our next-door neighbors who instead drove us to the store at which John started spontaneously filling the basket with porterhouse steak and tiny bay scallops and peppercorns and mushrooms and shallots and three different Ritter Sport bars. Then we came home and went next door where I sat down and ate snacks while John made us all gigantic multidish dinner.

Can I remember what was in these? An excellent question.

Carrots and peas with melted onion in butter and five pounds of parsley; scallops in butter with garlic and another pound or two of parsley, plus lemon; green beans and orange pepper in the last of the shallot butter from the peas and carrots; porterhouse steaks (two for three meateaters) seared and covered with onion and mushroom in butter plus yet more parsley. I think we got through one and a quarter of the steaks. The rest will be consigned to stroganoff at some glorious future date.

You notice that we have no qualms whatever about all eating out of the same dish. Whatever. It's nice to have friends with whom we can eat like we'd eat normally.

By the end of dinner, I had lost the ability to stand upright, due to meat overload. Too much meat makes my stomach hurt. I sat on the floor eating chocolate squares and discussing which of them were better until it was time to go home.

Then I had a week of biking. I am building all the endurance! This weekend I am going to sleep for a week.

05 June 2007

Ok I have to write something about enchiladas because they are great

Enchiladas are delicious! I love enchiladas! When were were eating this the other day, John was all "THIS IS THE MOST AWESOME THING EVER" and "I wonder how you could manipulate this so as to let a restaurant be able to charge eighty bucks for it as an entreé?", which I think is a little steep even with ridiculous fancy restaurantosities, but feasible otherwise. Clearly what you would do is make the enchiladas in layers, so you could see the strata of sauce and tortilla and cheese, and cut it into a round stack with biscuit cutters/something of that nature, and place it delicately in the middle of a square plate with a single tiny thai/possibly habañero chili pepper on top and a dribble of créme fraiche around the edge of the plate, and the various dudes working in the restaurant kitchen would be all "what moron is paying eighty dollars (or realistic equiv such as thirty) for a tortilla with cheese and tomato?" but at the same time would all fight over the edges that the biscuit cutter left in the pan and take their plate of delicious scrag ends out to the the back alley at 1am to have with a similarly scrounged end of wine that won't keep overnight. YES! ENCHILADAS! Delicious! and cheap! and if you want to do some ridiculous presentation, that's possible too.

These were founded initially off Anna Thomas's original 1972 Vegetarian Epicure, which is interesting but not exactly formulated to the way I for one would cook thirty years later. Everything I've tried has worked pretty well, but there are also just some bizarre no longer used things like MSG as an ingredient. So I end up changing everything up quite a lot. This case is no different, if only because enchiladas are clearly the perfect vehicle for damn near any filling you want/have left over and need to eat in the immediate future. Or you can just fill them with cheese and green onion and everything turns perfect and tender and more perfect. The sauce is such that it absorbs into the tortillas and makes them totally delicious yet not soggy. On the other hand, the basil and oregano are things I would not have added myself (although why not? Oregano is Mexican), but are clearly a good plan. You should make them.

Rolled enchiladas


olive oil
half an onion, whatever color you have on hand
several cloves garlic
jalapeños or other hot pepper
half a big can tomato puree/something
fresh tomatoes if you have some lying around
vegetable broth
basil, oregano, salt, pepper


cheddar cheese, or whatever other kind sounds good
lots of green onion
some fresh parsley
anything else you think sounds good, like corn or black beans


tortillas, flour in our general case

First, make the sauce. While it's simmering, chop up/prepare the fillings. Assemble; bake.

Sauce. Get out a wide sauté pan and warm some olive oil. Add chopped onion, garlic, and hot pepper (however much you want; we use one or two jalapeños) and cook to soften and aromaticize.

If you need to make broth, start it now. Put all the trimmings from the onion into a smallish pan with any other vegetable bits you have on hand. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer until you need it. It's broth; it's easy.

When the onion mix looks good, add things. If you have fresh tomatoes, add them and let them reduce, then add tomato sauce/purée/whatever. If not, just add the sauce. Stir it up, add spices--just a couple shakes basil and oregano, plus eight or ten good grinds of pepper at least--and cook for a bit to mix the flavors.

Spicing note: canned tomatoes taste awful without salt. If you're using all canned sauce, particularly, you will need to be particularly careful about salt. It's reflexive! Double trouble! Taste and adjust your salt gradually over the course of cooking.

Add a cupful or two of vegetable broth and continue cooking. The sauce will stay hot and thus cook faster if your broth is also hot. This is why I just make the broth during cooking half the time.

Cook down to desired saucey texture. Arrange fillings on convenient plates/cutting board/etc while it's cooking. We most often just make plain cheese/green onion/a little parsley enchiladas, because it turns out to be the best comfort food ever. You can clearly add whatever you want, though.


At this point your sauce should be well cooked and have all flavors distributed. It should be a little more liquid than you want your end result to be. Turn the heat to low or off. You can add broth if the business ever gets too dry.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Get out a casserole dish and put a couple spoonfuls of sauce in the bottom. Just spread it around so the bottom of the dish is wet.

Get a tortilla and lay it facedown in your sauce, still in the pan, holding just an edge up in your fingers. This lets the tortilla get warm, flexible and saucey all in one go. It is a genius technique and clearly belongs to Anna Thomas. Lift it out, get it (sauce side up) in your palm, and fill it with some cheese, green onion, and parsley, or whatever your alternate choice is. These fillings can be as sparse or lavish as you want; sparse fillings work really well, so if you only have a little cheese, it's probably ok. Roll up the torillas and put it in the dish. Repeat until you've filled up the pan. Again, you can be sparse or lavish. It's easy to squeeze fifteen or twenty enchiladas into a pan if you really want to.

When the pan is full, you should have some sauce left over. Thin it with broth if it's totally solid, stir it, then pour it over the pan of enchiladas. Any leftover green onion or parsley can go on top as well. Then grate some more cheese and top the whole business with a layer. If you have no cheese left, that's ok; it will be delicious nonetheless.

Bake for maybe a half hour, or until everything is sufficiently warmed and slightly browned and melded together.

Eat it. Oh my god, isn't it great? It's potentially the best thing.

02 June 2007

Diner food in the comfort of your own home

Fries are one of the easiest things in the world to make.

You do not have to worry about deep-frying. No digusting frier, no frying pan full of snapping oil. Instead, cut the potatoes up and put them in the oven.


boiling potatoes
olive oil
salt and pepper
other spices such as cayenne or mustard powder

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Get out more potatoes than you think you want to eat. On this occasion, I used four for two of us; it was almost enough.

Cut the potatoes into appropriate steak-fry wedges. Do not peel, just wash. Peels are great and besides help the fries hold their shape.

Chuck all the fries onto a cookie sheet (maybe two) big enough to hold them in one layer. Salt and pepper and cayenne/whatever them up. Since these are the only seasonings, be damned sure to use the good sea salt and just-ground pepper.

Pour some olive oil onto the fries, then mix everything together with your hands. Get a good coating of oil on all the fries; get the spices well distributed. Spread the fries into one layer.

Wash your hands and put the fries in the oven.

Bake at 375F or even 400F for five or so minutes, then turn the heat down a little. This gets the outside layer crisp, then cooks the inside layer more slowly. If your fries don't crisp up enough you can always stick them on higher heat right at the end of cooking.

It takes maybe twenty minutes total to make perfect fries. Check them every once in a while; shake the pan and rearrange the fries at least once during cooking, so all sides get done.

Then take them out of the oven and eat them.

01 June 2007

More uses for fruit

For the most part I would think your summer stone fruit is dribbling down your chin raw. Maybe it's peeled if you are fussy and you're eating a peach, but that's about it. I mean, I realize I have pie in the title of this business, but actually making peaches or cherries into pie? In summer? You'll kill them! Pie is all about fall: apples and nuts and pumpkin.

In contrast, here's what to do when you just get so sick of all that beautiful fresh fruit: put it in wine.

I like to use really dry wine here, just because I like dry wine (although I am a big sucker for the summer rosé, which is generally sweet). Dry wine works really well with fresh fruit because it keeps everything from getting cloying. You get delicate, firm fruit in a crisp, cold liquid, as opposed to sweet fruit that absorbs even more sweetness from a sweet liquid. This time we had Dry Creek fumé blanc, which is a varietal of sauvignon blanc. This stuff is excellent value, shall we say. I really, really like sauvignon blanc. Another good one we've had recently is Zolo, which is at least South American and I think Chilean. Either that or it's Argentinian. We gradually bought all of them at the store (all five) and now there are no more. It is tragic.

This version of fruit in wine is good for the early part of summer, before you start to die a little inside every time you open the front door. Wait until it gets really hot, and we'll break out the sangría.