Sunday, October 25, 2009

So for most of September, I was down with one daycare illness after another. It thwarted my plans to get back to updating this site regularly. But right now I'm okay - and making plans for a trip to Japan in December. Today we decided we needed to cook Japanese food in preparation. (An article on Bentoin the New York Times has been in the back of my mind for some time now, and I even went so far as to order a bento box to pack cute lunches for my daughter, but again, illness interfered with the cute lunches part.) With the help of the internet, a few good blogs on Japanese cuisine, a YouTube video or two, and a manga cookbook, we set out to make sushi rolls.

Our first step was going to an Asian supermarket -- I've been to a number of them on Colonial Drive here in Orlando, but today stumbled upon the best of all of them - Dong A on Mills Ave. They had absolutely everything, and one of their employees quickly led us around the store after every single thing we needed (I wanted to make miso soup too, and some other recipes). Dashi, miso, tofu, nori, sesame oil, sushi rice, mirin, curry mix, sushi-grade tuna, imitation crabmeat, scallions, sesame seeds, etc... see first pic, above. Back at home, we followed our rice cooker cookbook's recipe for sushi rice, which involved washing the rice in a special way and adding a vinegar-sugar-salt mixture at the end. Nour actually made the rolls-- california and variations on tuna-- and they were terrific. The best were the spicy tuna rolls.

Two great Internet finds: a recipe for a spicy tuna mayonnaise (1/4 cup mayo, 1 Tblsp. sriracha, 1 tsp. sesame oil), and a nice recipe for miso soup from this website:. The sushi rolls were perfect. We stuffed ourselves and calculated how much money we must be saving by making them ourselves, all you can eat. Our first venture into Japanese cuisine, hopefully more to follow.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Nutty about Quinoa

I've been on a cooking rampage since the semester started. The baby, well, she's a toddler now at 14 months, started daycare, we started back teaching, and cooking something good at the end of a long day feels like the best kind of stress relief. I'm always hopeful the next recipe I try is going to be life changing. Nine times out of ten it isn't (recent ehhh recipes included Cornish pasties and tomato pie), but experimenting is always fun. I'm also thinking about trying to send good foods to daycare with S, and happy that she still eats everything. So today I was reading somewhere about quinoa, and how it's a super food. Packed with protein, full of all 8 amino acids, plus iron, fiber, calcium, vitamins, etc etc. Claims that it can lower your blood pressure or improve your memory.

I've tried cooking with it before and wasn't that crazy about it, but I decided to give it another try. You can use quinoa as a substitute in recipes that would call for rice. Picked some up at Whole Foods, and for dinner, made a risotto I normally make with arborio rice, roasted butternut squash, and chicken. I roast 1 squash at 400 for 45 minutes, saute a shallot and garlic in butter, add 1 diced chicken breast, cook it for a minute until no longer pink, then add 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water. After ten minutes, added half the roasted squash, chopped up small. Salt & pepper to taste. Topped with parmesan cheese, the first bite was interesting, but after that it grew on me. Something about the smell or taste reminds me of cruciferous vegetables, but just a hint.

Then I had some uncooked quinoa left over, so for dessert I adapted a Martha Stewart recipe for quinoa muffins. And this one was worth writing about. May top a previous Best Ever Muffins recipe, since it's probably better for you and also has an interesting nutty crunchiness to it. You can replace blueberries with whatever you have on hand-- raisins, cranberries, dates would all be nice...

Quinoa Muffins

1 cup quinoa, rinsed (You have to do this or apparently it's very bitter)
1/4 cup vegetable oil,
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (or more!) blueberries
3/4 cup whole milk (I'll try using lowfat next time)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Boil 1 cup quinoa with 1 cup water for about 11 minutes or until water is absorbed. Preheat oven to 350.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add 2 cups of the cooked quinoa (you might have slightly more) and mix well. In a small bowl, beat milk, egg, and vanilla. Add milk mixture plus blueberries to flour mixture, mix just enough to get the ingredients together or the muffins will be tough.

Pour into 12 muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then remove to wire rack.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Moroccan Foods for Ramadan

After being married to a Moroccan for almost a decade, I finally figured out how to make harira. Harira is a tomato-based soup with meat and chickpeas that Moroccans eat to break the fast during Ramadan. I've tried a number of delicious recipes, but none of them ever tasted quite like the harira made in my husband's family. Somehow, even though I got other cooking lessons, I never learned to make harira the way they did. So finally this past summer while in Fes, I wrote down my sister-in-law's directions. I pulled out the recipe a few weeks ago and realized it was just a giant list of ingredients, a little here and there, approximated using tea glasses or small spoons, most of said ingredients thrown into a blender and then a pressure cooker, with other things added later. So I worked on the measurements until I got the recipe right. Last night we finally had some authentic food-- I've also been tinkering with the recipe for bghrir, otherwise known as the "pancake of a thousand holes," and I think I've got that one down, too. I'm writing them down now for posterity, and so I can remember what I did next time.

Harira (Serves 4)

Part 1:

1/2 lb stew beef, cut into 1 " pieces
4 large tomatoes
1 large onion
3 stalks celery, with leaves
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup cilantro
1 Tblsp canola oil
1 tsp. salt, add more to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper
A can of chickpeas, drained
2 teaspoons Better than Boullion, or beef boullion cubes, or beef stock

Part 2:

1/8 cup flour
1/4 cup water
2 Tblsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup long grain rice
1/4 cup cilantro
4 cups water

Part 3:

Small handful vermicelli noodles, preferably fideo, broken up angel hair noodles that they sell at Hispanic grocery stores.

Place stew beef in a pressure cooker, or large Dutch oven (will take longer). Blend tomatoes in blender then strain them through a colander, adding strained tomatoes to pot. Blend large onion with 1/2 cup water, add to pot. Blend celery with 1/2 cup parsley, 1/4 cup cilantro and another 1/2 cup water, add to pot. Turn on the burner, bring to a simmer, keep adding stuff: oil, salt, pepper, beef stock or boullion, chickpeas (You can use canned, but if so, don't add them now, add them at the end). Seal pressure cooker, cook 45 minutes, turn off heat. If using a dutch oven, simmer about 2 hours, or until beef is tender.

In a blender, blend flour, 1/2 cup water, 2 Tblsp tomato paste. Add to pot, along with rice, cilantro, and 4 cups water. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring frequently to keep flour from sticking.

Best if you let it sit for another hour or two before eating. Salt to taste. It should be a slightly thick soup. If too thick, add more water. Just before eating, add a very small handful of fideo noodles.

Serve with lemon. Some people also put in lentils; you could do 1/4 cup or less at the same time you add the rice. This is the best soup ever; very filling.

Bghrir (Pancake with 1000 holes)

1 3/4 cups semolina
1/2 cup white flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk, warmed slightly
3 cups water, lukewarm
3 eggs
1 Tblsp yeast (or a yeast packet)

Sift semolina, flour and salt. In a separate bowl, mix milk, water, eggs, and yeast with a whisk. Add SOME of the milk mixture to the semolina until mixture gets thick-- like a thick soup. Put that in a blender, blend for 3-4 minutes. Now strain it through a colander and then add the rest of your milk/eggs mixture. Allow to rise in a warm place for two hours.

Batter will be frothy. Stir gently with a ladle, and fry, crepe-style (not too thick) in a small frying pan coated with nonstick cooking spray over medium heat. Pancake will gather lots of tiny holes, but don't turn it over-- when it's golden on the bottom and done on the top, place it on a cookie rack or clean dish towel, but don't stack. This makes a LOT of tiny pancakes.

Before serving, heat another skillet with some butter (or butter substitute) and honey. Warm the pancakes you will be eating in the honey mixture, then stack on a plate to keep warm. Extra ones keep well.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Julie/Julia Movie

We lived in New York in 2002, during the time when Julie Powell was writing her blog cooking through all the recipes in the Julia Child cookbook. I followed it religiously. I was trying to finish writing my PhD dissertation and working day jobs as a temp at places like Clinique and Tiffany's, in their corporate headquarters, or in big financial firms. The names of the places sounded glamorous but the work was not-- I remember being hired to fill in for a secretary on vacation at a big financial firm and being shocked that actual shoeshine men would go from office to office, collecting shoes, sitting outside and dutifully shining them. Always at these places there was a hierarchy, still with white men at the top (I'm thinking of Mad Men), and I was usually taking orders from some guy who needed Excel spreadsheets typed up rapidly, or else someone to help him fill out Evite invitations for a party, and who could care less that I was working on a doctorate. It was an interesting year, it was fun at times, and it was also a struggle. And I had my own food blog, site designed by my husband, on its own server (that we eventually stopped subscribing to so I could do a free blogger page). I wrote a lot more back then and loved reading other people's sites. So it was cool to watch Julie Powell's rise to fame, and to reminisce about living in New York in a similar time in our lives.

The movie was great fun, and it made me fairly hungry for French food, even though many of the scenes involved not fully cooked food but ducks being deboned, or other raw scenes. Not quite as mouth watering as other food movies, such as Big Night. So this past weekend for my birthday dinner, my family and I went to Cafe de France, one of the best restaurants in our town. It was terrific. I had veal piccata, with perfectly cooked asparagus and a potato galette, and creme brulee for dessert. Because he'd heard it was my birthday, the waiter propped a tiny candle on the side of my plate in wax, a perfect gesture. I went home and dug around for my copy of the Julia Child cookbook-- I know I bought it years ago at a yard sale-- and couldn't find it anywhere. Oh well. Instead I took several yellow potatoes, sliced them thin, layered them in a gratin dish with sliced onions, parmesan, salt, and pepper between the layers. I poured milk over the whole thing, baked it for an hour at 375, and added more cheese at the end. Would have been even better with gruyere on hand but not bad, nonetheless. But now I'm desperately searching for that cookbook.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Oven French Fries with Dijon Mayo

This is a fool-proof recipe for French fries, and it always turns out well for me. An adaptation of a Cooking Light recipe, with a dipping sauce that tastes like something you'd be eating in the south of France, at a seaside cafe somewhere, with lots of fresh grilled seafood.

2 lbs Baking potatoes or yukon gold potatoes
2 Tblsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 minced garlic clove
3 Tblsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. chopped parsley
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 450. Slice potatoes lengthwise, anywhere from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thickness. Place in a large bowl, fill with hot water, let stand ten minutes while you make sauce.

Combine vinegar and garlic, let stand five minutes. Add mayonnaise, parsley, mustard.

Drain potatoes and pat dry with paper towels. In a dry bowl, mix them with oil and salt. Arrange on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray, place in preheated oven. Check after ten minutes to see if you need to turn them-- if they're golden brown on the bottom. Could take anywhere from 20-35 minutes total, depending on how thick you slice them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bibimbap with Salmon and Spinach

This recipe for Bibimbap, rice with salmon and spinach, has been in heavy rotation in my kitchen for almost a year now, since a NY Times article on the joys of rice cookers. The article made rice cookers sound so tempting that I ran out and bought one. You can get them for very cheap at places like Target, though there are also fancy versions. I got a large, basic one, and it's really great-- does excellent rice every time, and also acts as a slow cooker. This can also be made without a rice cooker, and I've improvised on it and taken a few liberties, so it's not fully authentically Korean, but the essential ingredient is kimchi, pickled cabbage. Our grocery store has it and it can also be found at stores like Whole Foods and Asian supermarkets.

Rice Cooker Bibimbap with Salmon and Spinach

10 ounces leaf spinach, fresh or frozen
Roasted sesame oil
Rice vinegar
Salt & pepper
8 ounces salmon filet, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
1 1/2 to 2 cups rice, medium or short grain, rinsed
5 Tblsp. kimchi, finely chopped
4 eggs
Sriracha (should be an authentic chili paste called Kochuj ang, but I don't like it as much)

Steam spinach in rice cooker steamer basket (with an inch of water below, boiling), or simply saute it until it just wilts. Drain and squeeze excess moisture out, season with salt, pepper, sesame oil and rice vinegar.

Seam salmon in top steamer basket of rice cooker, about 15 minutes. (Without a rice cooker, you could saute, quickly broil, or steam some other way).

Clean out cooker. Rinse rice a few times until water is no longer chalky. Add rice to cooker and cook with a bit of salt. (Here you could just make rice separately).

When timer goes off and rice is done, stir in kimchi, scraping bottom of rice cooker. Smooth top. Drizzle 4 tsp. sesame oil over rice, gently break eggs on top, one on each side of cooker. Cover, press "cook" on rice cooker again for 8-10 minutes. (Without a rice cooker, in a large pot, you could arrange everything and steam the eggs).

Switch rice cooker to warm, arrange salmon and spinach next to eggs, cover, and steam until egg whites turn white, yolks will still be runny. Place 2 tsps. chili paste in center, mix everything up. Serve.

I like to keep the rice cooker on because it makes a nice crust on the bottom of the rice. Serves 4.

Monday, May 25, 2009

sriracha mayonnaise

I learned this week in the NY Times that sriracha, a spicy red pepper sauce that we always have in the refrigerator, is not an authentic Vietnamese condiment, but in fact was invented by a Vietnamese immigrant to Los Angeles of Chinese origin. Interesting! Apparently it's all the rage among chefs in New York to use it in subtle and imaginative ways. I tried the accompanying recipe for sriracha mayonnaise, which is excellent with both French fries and steak. It's worth saving to make again. (I made a fourth of this quantity and had enough for two batches of oven fries and a steak).

Sriracha Mayo

2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup sriracha hot sauce
2 tablespoons condensed milk
1 tablespoon sea salt.

Mix everything together, preferably in a food processor. Spicy and good. Supposedly also a good accompaniment for onion rings.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Quick dinner idea - grilled chicken with harissa and yogurt

I have lots of updates but just haven't had time to post... but a recipe in yesterday's NY Times for beef marinated in harissa and yogurt gave me a good idea. You may know that tandoori chicken is marinated in yogurt to tenderize it, but this is a brilliant idea. Harissa is a spicy pepper paste we bring back from Morocco (it's Tunisian in origin), which you can get at Middle Eastern grocery stores and gourmet food shops. Adding harissa to yogurt for a marinade and then grilling the chicken is AWESOME. I chopped up some regular and sweet potatoes, chopped an onion into chunks, and mixed it with crushed garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Italian seasoning, then cooked those in the oven at 450 for about 30 minutes. Very fast dinner.

Grilled chicken with harissa and yogurt, side of roasted regular and sweet potatoes

2 large boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup yogurt
2 Tblsp. harissa (could do more to make it spicier)
1 crushed garlic clove

Mix the marinade, chop the chicken into small, one inch chunks. Marinate it two hours. Grill. 45 minutes before you want to eat, make the potatoes. I used about 2 pounds potatoes, one large onion, chopped, 1 crushed garlic clove, 2 tsp. Italian seasoning, 4 Tblsp. olive oil, and 1 Tblsp. balsamic vinegar. Toss well, cook at 450 for 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

another chocolate chip cookie recipe...

Can this blog stand yet another chocolate chip cookie recipe? I admit I came across this one under rather dubious circumstances. Having a craving for cookie dough, yet continuing with my resolve not to eat raw eggs while still breastfeeding the baby, I was scouring the web for eggless dough recipes I might consume. I found this one, which apparently originated in a vegan cookbook by author Chandra Moskowitz.I didn't have high hopes for the recipe at first-- where's the brown sugar? Where are the eggs? but if I could consume a little dough in the process of baking the cookies, I figured I would be happy. I was surprised when this one actually turned out to be quite delicious. Really good, in fact I'd make it just for the cookies alone. (And the dough doesn't taste half bad either). Again, the recipe is good enough to make me curious about the cookbook-- it's now on my Amazon wishlist.. I adapted it with less salt from the original recipe and with nuts.

Eggless, vegan chocolate chip cookies...

1 cup Smart Balance butter substitute, i.e. margarine
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (doesn't need much if your margarine already contains salt)
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or vegan carob chips)
1/2 cup walnuts, pecans, whatever

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cream margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add molasses and vanilla, then dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by big spoonfulls onto an ungreased cookie sheet, bake 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to cookie rack.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan

A good eggplant parmesan ought to be substantial enough that you almost feel like you're eating meat. For years I've tried different recipes but haven't found anything that creates this effect. I also didn't really want to deep fry the eggplant, even if that might have been a potential secret. But I just found a great recipe-- thanks to my friend Bob. He had served it before at a dinner party and I vowed to get the recipe. I made it last night, and it's amazing. I believe the original source is Cook's Illustrated. The eggplant is baked, too, so it's almost good for you.


2 pounds globe eggplant (2 medium eggplants), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 tablespoon kosher salt
8 slices high-quality white bread, torn
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Tomato Sauce

3 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium cloves garlic , pressed through garlic press
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

8 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella, (2 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
10 fresh basil leaves torn, for garnish

1. FOR THE EGGPLANT: Toss half of eggplant slices and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt in large bowl until combined; transfer salted eggplant to large colander set over bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant and kosher salt, placing second batch in colander on top of first. Let stand until eggplant releases about 2 tablespoons liquid, 30 to 45 minutes. Arrange eggplant slices on triple layer paper towels; cover with another triple layer paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible, then wipe off excess salt.

2. Put two rimmed baking sheets on each rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor to fine, even crumbs, you should have about 4 cups. Transfer crumbs to pie plate and stir in 1 cup Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; set aside.

3. Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in large zipper-lock bag; shake to combine. Beat eggs in second pie plate. Place 8 to 10 eggplant slices in bag with flour; seal bag and shake to coat eggplant. Take out one baking sheet, add three Tblsp. regular oil. Remove eggplant slices, shaking off excess flour, dip in eggs, let excess egg run off, then coat evenly with bread crumb mixture; set breaded slices on heated baking sheets. Stick in oven. When sheet is full, do same thing with other baking sheet.

4. Bake until eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes, and flipping eggplant slices with wide spatula after 20 minutes. Do not turn off oven.

5. FOR THE SAUCE: While eggplant bakes, process 2 cans diced tomatoes in food processor, about 5 seconds. Heat olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and garlic is light golden, about 3 minutes; stir in processed and remaining can of diced tomatoes. Bring sauce to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes. Stir in basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. TO ASSEMBLE: Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Layer in half of eggplant slices, overlapping slices to fit; distribute 1 cup sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Layer in remaining eggplant and dot with 1 cup sauce, leaving majority of eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp; sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan and remaining mozzarella. Bake until bubbling and cheese is browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; scatter basil over top, and serve, passing remaining tomato sauce separately

Thursday, January 01, 2009

best chocolate chip cookies ever...

The recipes on this blog give the appearance that my diet consists only of pasta, chicken, and cookies. Which isn't true, but I do have another another amazing cookie recipe to share. People have been rhapsodic over these cookies on various food blogs, but the hype is true-- they're great chocolate chip cookies because they have the maximum of chocolate chips and nuts. And it's nice how they cook on parchment paper, which I've never tried- they cook smoothly and come up very easily. They are made with cold butter, another difference I've noticed from other cookie recipes, and the oven is a little cooler than in standard cookie recipes. And the nuts are toasted... Those might help make these cookies so amazing, but who cares. They're just incredible. And I plan to buy the cookbook as a result of having tried this recipe...

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever
from David Lebovitz, Great Book of Chocolate

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (I used dark brown with no problems)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 300. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat sugars and butter until smooth, add egg, vanilla and baking soda. Mix flour and salt, add to batter. Add chocolate chips and nuts.

Scoop by heaping tablespoons onto baking sheet, three inches apart. Bake 18 minutes. Yum.