Monday, June 29, 2009
1 package extra firm tofu
Assemble the salad by draining the tofu and tossing it with the cabbage and carrots to make sure it's all coated in the dressing. I wanted it to be nice and crunchy so I actually found that I had to drain some of the liquid off, probably because I washed the cabbage and didn't thoroughly dry it, or the tofu wasn't drained well enough. Top with sesame seeds and sliced scallions. This is great the next day, but probably not much longer after that which is a shame because it makes a ton. I would recommend finding someone to share with.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
I'm no pizza connoisseur. I like pizza, but I grew up on Dominos and to me most pizza falls into the category of good and bad. Here in Philly I have my favorite delivery standbys and for really gourmet pizza I'll go to Mama Palmas, but few inspire the nightime fantasies I experienced the other night.
I have this romantic vision of people who give up professional jobs to open up their own pizza shop as something that only happens on the Food Network or Desparate Housewives. Now I can say that I know someone who's making it a reality! I've tasted the pizza many times (although never been there) and from what I've tasted, it's everything it should be. It tastes homemade and tastes like the person who made it truly loves pizza and uses the best ingredients possible. We order it for every occasion in my office, and even though I eat a lot of it apparently I can't get enough. I'm drooling right now as I'm typing and imagining the garlicky bruschetta with fresh tomatoes.
For all you South Jerseyites out there or if you don't mind driving, check out V & S Pizza in Barrington, NJ.
Happy hour deals include cheap beer and the very popular pitchers of margaritas. The only complaint I have is that the happy hour special only applies to the regular flavor margarita and they have lots of flavors I'd like to try. We got a pitcher for the table, but for some reason I like drinking Tecate out of a can while eating mexican food.
Friday, June 26, 2009
None of this is news to you dear reader. You already know about the pleasure of a local beet and the evils of industrial food production. There are many out there who share the same values and are looking toward a future of sustainable agriculture. If we are to think about what more can be done, it is also worth learning from the past and the beginnings of this whole food revolution. While restaurants that serve local, seasonal food and small organic farms seem innovative right now, they are building on a legacy that actually started decades ago.
Anthony Bourdain has introduced me to the world of food and most notably to one chef in particular who in my mind is one of the most iconic chefs in recent history, Alice Waters. You may know of her landmark restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley as the birthplace of so called "Califronia Cuisine" and one of the first places to use local and seasonal ingredients. It has taken on an almost symbolic status to many and Alice Waters has become a leader in socially and environmentally concious eating.
I decided to learn more about her and the obvious choice was a book titled "Alice Waters and Chez Panisse." I got lucky on the first try and found it to be a very thorough and relatively objective look at Waters' personal life, the history of the restaurant, and the social and political environment that inspired her. Learning tidbits like the fact that Julia Child of all people criticized Waters' for her insistence on using the best ingredients really put things in perspective for me. She started a battle that we are maybe only just beginning to win through advocacy and education.
We still have a long ways to go but I'll take inspiration wherever I can get it.
In the abscence of being able to cook and eat elaborate meals and with time on my hands spent recovering I've been reading. A lot. There is great food writing out there and a lot I realize that I have to learn. I've been learning from my fellow food bloggers and there is no shortage of online recipe databases, but will anything replace the joy of a good old fashioned cookbook? I have admittedly shied away from cookbooks and recipies, but in my quest this summer to eat well I'm trying to expand my relatively narrow horizons. I have made a list of cookbooks that I want to add to my small collection including some classic and many contemporary.
While browsing Barnes and Nobles looking for something to cheer myself up from 2 weeks of misery I found it. The Farm to Table Cookbook. Simple, elegant, beautiful pictures, profiles on small family farmers, organized by season...
The reason I bought it? The author lives in Portland, OR. I have a slight obsession with Portland. Betty and I visited my brother out there and it was maybe the best trip of my life. If you like food go to Portland and you'll thank me later. The ingredients in this book, however, are ingredients that can be found locally and seasonally just about everywhere as confirmed by what I've been seeing here in Philly.
So maybe I won't actually be making Seared Scallops with Creamed Ramps and Black Truffles anytime soon, and this book certainly isn't vegetarian, but it's given me the inspiration that I needed. It has tons of tips too for navigating the markets.
Verdict: I highly recommend it.
Monday, June 22, 2009
I've been neglecting you lately, but I think I have a good reason. I went in for the fairly simple and very common procedure of wisdom teeth removal well over a week ago and am thoroughly convinced that my oral surgeon hates me and wants me to starve to death. Either that or he gets his kicks by secretly wiring people's jaws shut and waiting to see how long it takes them to figure it out.
So please don't talk to me about food. It's all I can think about, and if I have to eat another bite of applesauce or pudding I might cry. I broke down this weekend and shoved a burrito, steak, chicken and grilled cheese into the tiny gap between my teeth in desparation. Maybe funny to watch but not fun to swallow whole.
I've been collecting lots of ideas and pictures so no worries. Once I get back on my feet there will be plenty to talk about.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Pint of potatoes, yukon gold or fingerling are good
1 medium onion
Small bunch kale
Handful of savoy cabbage
Corn, fresh or frozen
1 can or box of vegetable broth
Seasonings of your choice
Saute onions, garlic and potatoes cut into bite size pieces in some olive oil over medium low until everything begins to brown. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, wash and prepare greens (pull the leaves away from the stalks.) Add the greens, corn, and broth and turn up the heat to medium so it comes to a simmer. Let simmer until its all warmed through and the potatoes and greens are soft. Season again and serve with bread.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
It was the hardest 4-6 weeks of my life, waiting for that package to arrive. I felt like a little kid impatiently waiting for Christmas to come. Just when I had given up hope, there it was sitting in my mailbox. I practically skipped down the hall excited to tell Betty the good news.
But maybe I'm wrong to judge all of these products based on my own clumsiness and some cheaply made piece of plastic. How about the Bacon Genie? Can't go wrong with a name like that. So many choices, so little time...
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Start by sautéing onions (2 - 4 medium to large, diced small) in a large heavy pot, both red and Vidalia's in the summer are great. Cook them until transparent with an assortment of green, red, and yellow peppers, all cut up into pretty small pieces with perhaps 1 to 2 tasty summer tomatoes (small ones). Use butter (the more the better - about a 1/4 cup = 1 stick unsalted for 4 lbs mussels and 2-3 lbs shrimp) and maybe a little olive oil. Don't cover the pot, you don't want to steam this mixture and you certainly don't want to burn it so watch the pot. Oh yes, I forgot one key ingredient: smoked bacon. Not some wimpy tofu vegi want-to-be stuff but the real thing, thick cut with a lot of taste (e.g. fat). Use as much bacon as you want (maybe 4 - 10 strips of the good thick kind) - nothing besides cheese makes food taste as good as bacon. You could also add smoked salmon instead of bacon but remember that it will get lost (disintegrate) in the mix although you will be able to taste the smokiness. Again, you just want all this stuff to be barely cooked and the onions just turning transparent. Add 2-4 cloves of diced garlic if you have it but make sure that it does not burn. It should take no longer than 5 to 10 minutes to prepare this mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a few red pepper flakes for zing.
OK. This is where you add the prawns and mussels. Just throw the prawns into the pot, stirring frequently. It will not take long for them to turn pink. Maybe 3 - 5 minutes. When all of them have begun to turn color add the mussels. Cover the pot and leave it alone for about 2 - 5 minutes on medium heat. Check the pot and stir. If the mussels are not all open then cover it again and wait a few minutes (maybe even 1 is enough). When all of them are open you know that it is almost ready.
At this point add about 1 to 2 cups of heavy cream, pre-warmed is best but cold will do - you just have to heat it longer. No light anything. The fattier the better. Stir the cream into the seafood/onion-stuff mixture. This should be close to a boil. Be careful - you don't want to curdle or burn the cream.
Add about 1/4 cup of cognac or brandy. Pernot would also be fine but in this case I would skip the smokey bacon or salmon. Simmer but not long. If it looks like there is not going to be enough liquid then you can add some more of the broth and heat. The liquid is part of the meal so you want an ample amount for the folks to sop it all up with French bread.
Serve it with the bread - large loaf pulled apart or cut into slices. I'd get 1 to 2 loaves for this dish. Also, very cold Vodka or white wine is great with this. I tried out a new Russian vodka flavored with marsh berries (similar to cranberries) which was delicious. I think you know where it came from - can't buy it here in the USA.
A great summer dish that won't disappoint. Best to Fred.
Monday, June 8, 2009
I made a dipping sauce of:
Adapted from the Food Network.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
1 cup uncooked cous cous
1 stalk green onion
1 pint cherry tomatoes
Small bunch radishes (mine are white icicle from my CSA)
2 small cucumbers
Salt and pepper
While the cous cous cooks slice all your veggies. Toss with the cooled, cooked cous cous and voila!
Friday, June 5, 2009
Heat your oil over medium heat. You'll know its hot when you touch the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and you see small bubbles. Drop your fries in a couple at a time, watching carefully. It should only take a couple of minutes for them to turn golden brown.
Drain on paper towels and salt while still warm. Next time I'll have to make a dipping sauce for them. Any ideas?
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I think I had an epiphany yesterday when I realized there are many gaps in my basic cooking skills. I usually get by in the kitchen because I'm not picky and I have a fairly good idea that when you mix some of this with some of that it will taste good. If I had a modern, clean and well stocked kitchen maybe I would be able to practice all those techniques I see on the Food Network. Oops I mean public television. But I don't. I have a sink, a stove, and an oven that doesn't work. Add to that my trusty toaster oven which I use for everything and my newly acquired mini (Wilma sized) food processor while keeping in mind that my kitchen doubles as my bedroom and living room.
I purchased some frozen premade broccoli and cheese out of desperation at the grocery store. I immediately regretted that decision. Fred informed me that he had some fresh cauliflower and I had some leftover cheddar from the farmer's market. Now yes, I could melt some cheese on the cauliflower and call it a casserole, but having this blog inspires and challenges me. Every meal is a potential post or at least an interesting anecdote, and this meal was of course no exception.
I didn't measure and I don't have a whisk so it was made Wilma style. I think lumps add character.
This I learned from my dad- cheese makes everything taste good.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Now, despite my predilection for Japanese food, I am German and like a good borderline obsessive compulsive Kraut, I've organized the mise en place before starting to cook with everything that you'll need:
Bundle of soba noodles
Sheet of nori (a type of seaweed)*
Hijiki (yet another seaweed), soaked in water for 30 minutes and then drained*
1TBSP rice wine vinegar
1TBSP sesame oil
1-2 TBSP white miso (experiment with amount to taste)*
Green onions, sliced
White icicle radishes, cut into matchsticks
Sesame seeds for garnish, toasted
Soy sauce to taste
*You can find miso(refrigerated section), nori and hijiki in any Asian supermarket or the ethnic food aisle well stocked megamart.
I must admit, though, I was loathe to cut up this little guy since I thought he kind of looked like the mandrake root from Pan's Labyrinth, an phenomenal movie you should throw in the Netflix queue if you haven't yet seen it yet.
Finally, though certainly an optional ingredient (well, its not an ingredient at all but an absolute necessity for me), is a nice pot of French press coffee and my constant companion at home and in the office, Papa Hemingway.
While your water is boiling, a few words about nori. Seaweed is a great thing to experiment with if you're a vegetarian. Its basically a superfood loaded with iron, calcium, vitamins and everything else vegetarians should keep an eye on nutritionally speaking. Its very common in Japanese cooking and the Japanese diet is a large factor for their high life expectancy. To prepare, heat a frying pan to low heat and let it toast there a sheet at a time. Keep an eye on it though, we'll be returning later.
Add all your liquid ingredients into a meh-sized mixing bowl and whisk until completely emulsified like so...
It should look like slightly watered down peanut butter and I usually will add a little water to thin the dish both to lighten the meal itself and also to help with the mixing. A quick sidenote, this also makes a great marinade for vegetables, tofu, tempeh or, and I'm conjecturing here obviously, fish or chicken for our more carnivorously-minded friends.
Your nori should be finished toasting by now. How do you know its finished toasting? Well either the ever vigilant Papa Bear gives you a heads up or you see that it has changed colour from a dark, almost black green into that bright, neon green that you would recognize if you've ever munched a maki roll at your local sushi joint. Use your tongs to grab the sheets from your pan and slice into thin strips. Now that your pan is free, you still have enough time to throw in some sesame seeds to toast while you wait for the soba noodles to cook. If you've ever toasted whole cumin seeds, its the same idea; you want to toast these guys until they start to smell nutty and pop up out of the pan itself.
Once your soba noodles are finished, drain into a colander and rinse under cold water. This is another difference between soba and Italian pastas. Even though you would rinse Italian pasta after cooking if you intended to make a salad like we are her to stop the cooking, you always want to do this with soba, even if you're making a hot dish. Why? I don't know you just do. Now shut up and finish cooking so you can eat.
To finish, simply throw all your ingredients into the mixing bowl and use your tongs to combine. Garnish with the green onions and toasted sesame seeds. Oh, and if you drink coffee while cooking like I do, you might want to finish it up before you eat, soba noodles and coffee don't get along all that well. A delicious Japanese lager like Kirin Ichiban of course would be a better matching beverage wise. Enjoy.
I know that I have been on hiatus for a while. But, Betty is back with loads of stories, insight, tips. Barney surprised me yesterday by coming over and cooking dinner at my place. All I knew was I wanted the yellow corn we acquired from a friend and the delicious scallops we picked up on Sunday. As hard as it was for me to stay out of the kitchen, I kept myself preoccupied in the other room on my computer. Luckily, Barney can multi-task, so I was able to keep myself entertained with witty conversation about malnutrition and unequal access to food while Barney created masterpieces in the kitchen.
In precisely an hour – the time Barney promised he would be done – I walked into my transformed kitchen and dining area. The table was set and dinner was waiting for me to dig in. Barney had done it again! To my surprise, he had stir fried the scallops with the kale I received from the CSA pick-up with onion and garlic (and other things he will NOT divulge) and served this on top of rigatoni and herbs. In another pan, he created a spicy scallop dish on which he wanted to serve on a salad. I was unsure of this scallop salad and lovingly he adjusted the menu for me. To complete the meal, we had yellow corn and a simple salad with romaine lettuce, fresh tomatoes, and red onion and a mysterious creamy dressing that was heavenly.
Dinner was phenomenal! I mixed the spicy and sauté scallops with my pasta, devoured my corn, and savored every bite of my salad. I have to admit that if I had trusted Barney a little more (sad face) I would have enjoyed his scallop salad. However, what he created kept us both silent through the meal. It has always be apparent that Barney can cook; but, I have to say he outdid himself this time. He may have just made himself a more permanent fixture in the blog with his own segment………
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I've heard about the Schuylkill Center and that's where he rents his land from. If I ever have a way of getting out there and enough time and money I will definitely join their organic community garden.
There's actually a community garden right by my house in the Schuylkill River Park but I don't believe it's open to the public. So maybe I'm not good enough to join their stupid garden (I see them in there, all smug) but the history of it is pretty cool. It was started in 1982 and is now in the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Gardens.
Well for now I'll just have to reminisce about the days when my dad and I grew flowers, herbs, and veggies on our back deck. Fresh tomatoes and basil picked from our deck is maybe my favorite memory from home. The time my mom grew some habanero peppers and I ate one whole is probably my least favorite.
Betty’s Bumpin Banana Bread
2 cups flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
¾ cup sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick, room temperature)
2 eggs, beaten
2-4 bananas that are freckled or completely black
Preheat oven 325°F. Combine flour, salt, baking soda in a bowl. If you have sifter, pour ingredients through twice to eliminate clumps and incorporate more thoroughly. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until mostly combined. Add eggs and bananas to mixture. Add flour mixture to banana mixture. Mixture should look wet and have no flour visible.
Pour into a greased loaf pan (spray pan in pan until well coated) and bake in oven for 60-70 minutes. Stick a toothpick or butter knife in the middle to make sure bread is all the way cooked. It should come out clean when it is completely cooked. Let bread cool in pan for 10-15 minutes. Turn out and continue cooling on a wire rack. Bon appetite!
Maybe there will be elaborate meals and creative dishes along the way, otherwise it wouldn't be a challenge right? The beauty of good ingredients is that they taste good prepared simply or elaborately, so I will do my best to highlight the ingredients themselves. This first week is a great example.
My weekend breakfast staple of eggs and toast was made with ingredients from the Rittenhouse Farmer's Market:
Raw milk cheddar cheese
Spinach and parmesan baguette
Monday, June 1, 2009
Well anyways, I was quite impressed with the nice spread they have growing like cabbage, tomatoes and fresh herbs. They also are part of a CSA and frequent Weaver's Way Co-op. Maybe I'll move to the suburbs.
*In case you don't understand my sense of humor, I am being completely sarcastic and have nothing but the utmost respect for farmers. I will gladly eat whatever they choose to give me every week and appreciate the hard work that goes into all the delicious food they provide.