November 27, 2006

And The Feasting Continues...

It's nice being able to spend time with the fam and this extended weekend, I got a triple dose. Along with T-day, my newly parental cousins were in town and took the partner and me wine tasting with them. Then last night, I do what I always do for almost any celebration, make dinner. They brought their teeny-tiny one with them and, gosh darn it, she's cute. She is by far, my favorite first cousin, once-removed.

For dinner, we started with smoked trout mixed with creme fraiche, horse radish, shallots, dill and lemon in endive "spoons". There was mystery squash soup with fried sage leaves (mystery because the vendor said it was Mexican squash and just seemed like a butternut with a few bumps and more seeds.). The main was stuffed cabbage, hippie-style and then, believe it or not, I finally made a recipe out of this book that turned out well. I slavishly followed the directions and my prune-Armagnac bread pudding came out so well that all though everyone said they were full, we polished the whole thing off.

This takes a while to make. There are quite a few parts and will dirty perhaps all of your dishes, but if you get somewhat organized and have a fantastic kitchen assistant who makes you laugh and a great martini, you're good to go.

P.S. This can be made vegan, by using egg substitute or 1/3 cup mashed tofu for the egg and by omitting the cheese.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Sweet and Sour Tomato Sauce, adapted from Vegetarian Suppers by Deborah Madison

1/2 cup bulgur
1/2 oz dried mushrooms
2 TB olive oil
2 onions, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
4 TB chopped parsley
4 TB chopped dill
1 egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, more or less
1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 whole head savoy cabbage, 12 leaves separated and removed whole

1 TB olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 TB tomato paste
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 cup wine, red or white
1 28 oz can of tomatoes
1-2 TB brown sugar, to taste
1-2 TB red wine vinegar to taste

2 TB olive oil
flour, for dredging

For the rolls:

In a medium bowl, combine bulgur and dried mushrooms. Pour 1 cup hot water over and let sit until almost all of the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prep your veg.

Heat 1 TB oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add onions. Saute just until onions begin to turn brown in spots, about 3-4 minutes. Add fresh mushrooms and walnuts. Let cook until mushrooms throw off their liquid and re-absorb it, about 10 minutes. Add tamari/soy and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

In a food processor, combine bulgur mixture, sauteed veg mixture, herbs, egg, cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Pulse until mixture resembles ground meat.

In the same large skillet, heat 1 TB oil over medium heat. Add bulgur mixture and pat down into a smooth layer, as much a possible. You're cooking the egg and browning your "meat". Saute a few minutes, until mixture is cooked and browned. Set aside.

Steam cabbage leaves a few minutes, to make pliable. Try not to overcook them or they will have that characteristic cabbage-y smell. Yuck.

Fill the center of each leaf with about 2 TB filling. Roll up carefully, trying not to tear the leaf, and dredge in flour. Set rolls aside.

For the sauce:

In a sauce pot, heat 1 TB oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and tomato paste and mix together. Cook until onion is slightly brown, about 10 minutes. Add allspice, canned tomatoes with juices, wine and brown sugar. Let simmer about 15-20 minutes to meld flavors.

Meanwhile, heat 2 TB oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add rolls, with the seams face down, to the pan. Let cook until slightly brown, about 4-5 minutes per side. Back to the tomato sauce, right before serving, stir in the vinegar to taste. To plate, place a few spoonfuls of sauce down and place rolls on top.

Makes 12 rolls, enough for 4-6 people.

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November 23, 2006

Gobble, Gobble

Happy T-Day everyone! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I hope this holiday season brings us all much love, peace and happiness.

Quickie Cranberry Sauce (no picture because I accidently deleted it. It was red and chunky.)

8 oz frozen cranberries
1/2 seedless tangerine, rind and all
sugar, to taste
fresh chili pepper, to taste, I used a manzano but a floral habenero would be good too
1-2 TB Triple Sec

Throw everything in a blender/food processor. Blend until it reaches desired texture; I like mine chunky. Taste for sugar. Serve! A caveat, this doesn't make very good leftovers becase the oil from the tangerine rind starts to take over. This makes enough for about 3-4 servings. Multiply or divide as needed.

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November 20, 2006

By Request: Dicing an Onion- with Pictures!

The pics are a bit blurry, let me know if this isn't clear enough, or how I can clarify it.

1) Collect your supplies: onion, knife, board

2) Cut onion in half, remove skin and slice off the ends.

3) Slice onion lengthwise but not through the end, leaving onion intact.

and the other view:

4) Slice onion crosswise (making a grid of sorts), again not all the way through:

5) Dice onion vertically, releasing the pieces:

Any more?


November 19, 2006

Site Biz

I posted more links over there ----->

Get clicking!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

November 16, 2006

Heck Yes

Guess what I did yesterday?

I conquered this pie. Isn't it beautiful? Also, it totally blows my mind that when I make a baked good, I'm studying for a final. This was my request. What are yours?

November 13, 2006

Letters, Oh We Get Letters...

So! I've recieved a few requests lately on what to cover here. Any more? I will try my darnedest to answer any burning foodie questions and do research for those I am not familiar with. Come on folks! Hit me with your best shot.

Coming soon:

Pumpkin-Black Bean Soup
How to Slice an Onion: A Pictorial Guide
*****Your Request Here*****

November 08, 2006

Practice Makes Perfect, Thrice Over

Whereas, I have a knife skills exam this day and whereas I had a soup making class in which my instructor wanted us to hone our soup-making skills and whereas I promised to bring something to my cousins' baby-naming lunch and was assigned soup... Do you see where this is going?

After spending 45 minutes practicing dicing, julienning and brunoise-ing carrots and parsnips I had a big pile of differently shaped and not very evenly dissected root vegetables. I didn't really measure anything out so the below is an approximation of what actually happened. A few things: I wanted a more traditional autumn soup but I bet some Indian spices (I'm thinking ginger, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, or even a jarred curry powder or garam masala) would be excellent. Also I think that a bit of reduced cream would round it out very well. As it is, it needs a little something something to make it really pop.

For the uninitiated, parsnips are what carrots who've been good and gone to heaven taste and look like. Though you might be tempted to buy the really big roots, don't if you can avoid it. The cores tend to be very woody. I highly recommend that you try them, if not in this soup, cook them with potatoes and mash with some whole milk (or if you are feeling particularly decadent, a mix of milk and cream), salt and pepper. You won't be sorry.

Fall Carrot and Parsnip Soup, from my brain

2 TB butter (or oil)
1 leek, sliced thinly (and evenly)
2 stalks celery, diced evenly
3/4 lb carrots, peeled and cut evenly, one hopes
3/4 lb parsnips, peeled...
4 cups water
2 pinches ground ginger
2 pinches ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch cayenne
salt, to taste

Melt butter in a pot over a medium-high flame. When heated, sweat leek and celery but don't let the veg color, about 4-7 minutes. Add carrots, parsnips and water. Let mixture come to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover and let cook until parsnips are soft, about 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

Remove pot from heat, and in batches so that it is never more than half full, puree in a blender until smooth. Return soup to the pot and add the spices and salt. If you choose to add cream, now would be a good time. Gently heat soup until warmed through.

Serves 4?

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November 07, 2006


I know that you probably have about 100 other people/sites/ads/comics telling you this, but please go out and vote, especially if you've educated yourself about the issues. Public Service Announcement over. Real content soon.

November 05, 2006

A Birthday and a Confession

This is what I made for my friend's birthday dinner last night:

C's Birthday Dinner Menu:

Red Butter Lettuce Salad with a Pomegranate Vinegar-Olive Oil Dressing and Pomegranate Seeds and Chevre
Pork Stew with Butternut Squash and Fennel over Soft Polenta
Apple Slices Sauteed in Browned Butter and Brown Sugar over Cinnamon Ice Cream from here
and lots of sparkling wine (Jacob's Creek Chardonnay-Pinot Noir Cuvee NV; which we both enjoyed and highly recommend)

C is gluten-intolerant so we had the stew over polenta instead of noodles as the recipe suggests. I actually preferred it that way. The polenta soaked up the liquid far better than noodles and was heartier. I am looking forward to leftovers today.

Pork Stew with Butternut Squash and Fennel over Soft Polenta, adapted from Bon Appetit

1 1/2 lbs 2-inch pieces trimmed pork shoulder (Boston butt)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 TB olive oil
1/2 cup chopped pancetta or bacon (not smoked) about 2 oz
1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup broth (I used veg because it was in my cupboard, but the recipe calls for chicken)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 large fresh fennel bulb; cut into 1-inch cubes, reserve fronds
15 1 1/2-inch cubes peeled butternut squash

Place pork in a bowl. Mix next 6 ingredients in small bowl; sprinkle over pork, turning pork to coat evenly. Let stand 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat oil in oven-proof pot (that has a lid) over medium-high heat. Add pancetta/bacon and saute until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to medium bowl. Add enough pork to pot to just cover in a single layer, you may have to do this a few times; saute until brown, about 8 minutes. COOKING SCHOOL TIP: Do not move or turn meat until you can easily pick it up off the pot. If it sticks to the bottom, it means that the Maillard reaction (browning) has not finished. Wait until it has, your stew will be more flavorful this way. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to bowl with pancetta. Repeat with remaining pork. Add onions and garlic to pot, saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with juices, broth, wine, and pork mixture. Bring to boil, scraping up browned bits (the fond).

Cover pot; place in oven. Cook 1 hour. Add fennel and squash to stew. Cover and cook in oven until pork and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. At this point, my meat wasn't quite done but the squash was. I ended up fishing out the squash because I didn't want to end up with puree and returned the stew to the oven for another half hour. The I returned the squash to the stew. My stew was a little to thick, so I added a bit more liquid. The original recipe recommends that you thicken the liquid by removing the solids and cooking down the liquid, but I didn't need to. Your results, as always, may vary. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve over egg noodles or polenta. Garnish with reserved chopped fronds.

Serves 4

Easy Slow Cooked Soft Polenta

1 cup coarse cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
5 cups liquid (water, stock, or broth)
3 TB butter
Freshly grated Parmesan, to taste.

Preheat oven to 350F. Or if you are lucky enough to have an oven big enough for both the stew and the polenta cook simultaneously. I am not. Grease oven-safe pot. In pot, stir together cornmeal and liquid until there are no lumps. Add 1 TB butter. Bake in oven for 80 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in remaining butter, cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Easy, no? If you prefer your polenta softer, add more liquid. Firmer? Add less.

The Confession: I think I need to give up the ghost and admit I am now firmly re-entrenched in the omnivore category of human diets. The partner is still a pescatarian, so most recipe posts here will continue to be vegetarian and all though I am eating some meat in no way will it be everyday. I prefer a more flexible diet but I can't imagine making meat the center of most meals. Not only is it pretty selfish for humane, environmental and sustainability reasons, it's also boring and I enjoy meatless meals and like the challenge of creating them. For these reasons, any meat I do purchase needs to be humanely raised and organic. Yes, it is more expensive but since it's not something I am going to indulge in too often, it's do-able. And I do believe that meat ought to be an indulgence, not a requirement. What do you think about that? I'm planning on the reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, has anyone out there read it yet? What did you think about it? If you eat meat, how do you explain why? If you don't, why don't you? I'm all ears.

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November 03, 2006

Five-Eighths Finished!

I'm sorry that I've been M.I.A. the last few weeks. I had what felt like endless midterms and then I caught the partner's cold. Blech. I still have a fantastic sounding cough which makes me feel more diseased then when I was woozy earlier this week. Fun, no?

The tenth week of school ended and I'm still hanging in there. There is a $250 scholarship for anyone who has perfect attendance in the culinary program and while I'm usually the goody-two shoes student anyway, I now have extra incentive to go to class, even when I feel icky. On the rare occasion when I don't want to go to class, I ask myself, "Is it worth more than $250?" The answer is no, especially for the unemployed.

There will be new! content this weekend. I'm making my girlfriend, C, a fantabulous birthday dinner tomorrow and I'll give you all the deets later. Later.