Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunchokes, or take that you root vegetable, you!

I bought them at the farmers' market last week, partly because they seemed so farmers' marketie. Odd, lumpy brown things of indeterminate origin, they seemed to be challenging me. You want local? Here we are, they said with a sly smirk. Oh yeah? You wanna play that game? Well I can cook your ass. So I bought them.


Google yielded a number of recipes, but most of them had to do with soup or gratin. I wanted to roast them. Maybe it was the potato likeness, the very root vegetable-ness of them, but I had it in my head that they should be roasted.


So I cubed them (unpeeled) into pieces roughly ½ to 1", tossed them in olive oil and salt and pepper and roasted them at 400 for about 10 minutes. Tossed them again, and roasted another 10 or so. It's hard to say because we were watching the Olympics and my timer only speaks sotto voce. Not a good trait in a timer.


They were deelish. Soft and kinda sweet, with a richer flavor than potatoes. Next time I'd pay more attention to the tossing so that there would be more of the brown crispy parts. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mark Bittman is not writing for me

It has happened several times now. I am reading the paper and I check out dining and wine and peruse the recipes and very often I'll find something that sounds good. I might even print the recipe and then very occasionally, I'll actually make it. I made the Chicken Bouillabaisse for a Crowd and it was excellent. But if it is a Mark Bittman recipe, it always disappoints. And it is a big disappointment, because his recipes sound so good.
Illustration- Fried Chick Peas with Chorizo and Spinach. In his description he says that the chick peas become crunchy and mealy and he claims that the chorizo melts and colors the oil a lovely orange. He says the spinach will release its moisture and then that will evaporate into an wonderful iron-y flavor. He says it will be amazing. Let's face it, he says a lot of things.
(Now perhaps you are thinking, crunchy and mealy? orange and iron-y? What sounded good about this? Well, it has 2 superfoods and it is a one pot dish and that counts for a lot lately)
The chickpeas did not get crunchy, the chorizo was too hot, I used kale instead of spinach because it was what I had and I didn't detect the iron. I added a cup of chicken broth at the end or the whole thing would have been dry to top it all off. Now, in Mark Bittman's defense, I used too much chorizo because it made sense to use it up and there was that kale substitution and I forwent the breadcrumbs and extra 1/2 cup of oil altogether because who needs the extra work and calories, so maybe I cannot wholly blame him, but I still do. (my sister has a refrigerator magnet that says, "I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was going to blame you."
When my bf asked what I had for dinner, I said a disappointing chickpea and sausage stew and he said, "Is 'disappointing' part of the title?"
It could be. Dinner tonight will be disappointing stew, a not quite living up to expectations salad and hopes crushing cake.
For tonight's creative reinterpretation of the disappointing stew I added some chicken from a carcass that has been a round for a few days, (a disappointing carcass, because the bird itself came from Wegman's and even though it was organic, I have a deep suspicion of Wegmans so I thought all along there was something "off" about it and then my cheap supermarket baster melted when I was basting it, and then I was sure I detected a sinister chemical flavor) and some Rao's marinara. I'm starting to think that Rao's marinara is a balm for all wounds. It is the savory equivalent of whipped cream.
It was better, but I'm not making it again.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

No one wants to eat garbage

Our brother in law is a professional chef. When he was starting out he worked in some swanky San Francisco restaurant for some very renowned chef. Not being coy here, really don't remember who it was. They were having a kitchen meeting, discussing what sort of specials to do for that day and Jamie, our brother in law, looked in the huge storage fridge and made a few suggestions involving food left over from the previous days, maybe a composed salad from the left over roasted vegetables and a soup from the leftover chicken tagine. This renowned chef gave him a stern look and said "no one wants to eat garbage!"
Apparently not all chefs feel this way, bc I am listening to Bill Buford's book, Heat, and much of it is about his time working at Babbo for Mario Batalia. MB apparently goes through the real garbage, in the actual trash bins, and pulls out sheep kidneys and celery tops that then make up that evenings special.
I ate garbage the other night; the last few shreds off a chicken carcass, the final 2 spoonfuls of white beans with the remaining 3 forkfuls of broccoli rabe, the scrapings from the pot of mashed sweet potatoes. It was good, but I wouldn't serve it to anyone, and not just bc there was barely enough for me.
Tonight I had leftover braised cabbage which I have been working on for 4 days, left over roasted carrots that I overcooked initially bc the bf and I got in the hottub with specialty cocktails and time sort of melts when you do that. The carrots cooked down to almost chewy nubs, very flavorful, but they stick to your teeth like a stale gummy bear. I mashed up some more sweet potato and then browned some ground beef and dumped some Raos marinara on it. This was all served together in a bowl with grated parm. And it was fabulous.
I think what differentiates leftovers from garbage is maybe a creative reinterpretation of the original dish and also quantity. When there are only 3 spoonfuls left, I don't care how creative you get, it's still garbage.
Which, apprently, some of us like.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What to eat after 12 hours in the car

12 hours of driving is how long it takes to get from Idaho to Seattle. It is a long time. A long, boring time. Since I severely injured my shoulder last time we did the drive by knitting for 11 of the 12 hours, yesterday I restrained myself. This made the drive significantly more boring.



Carrot chips, apple with cheese, cookies, dried mango, leftover chicken, a thermos of tea cooling to lukewarm by Pendleton, pretzels, dried cranberries and almonds with sea salt. By the time we hit the I90 bridge into Seattle I was full, tired, stiff, sore and bored. With a slight headache and a sore throat from yelling at my BRAND NEW DELL LAPTOP THAT WOULDN'T BOOT BEFORE WE LEFT IN THE MORNING. But that's another story.

So there you are, home after 12 uncomfortable hours. It's dark, the house is cold, you're tired, you need something warm and comforting and preferably healthy feeling, but you have no appetite. What you gonna make?

Poor man's souffle, as Amos calls it. This is slowly scrambled eggs with an ungodly amount of Parmesan cheese grated over them as they cook. Which is why I say healthy feeling. Hot, salty, fresh, a dash of protein to combat 12 hours of carbs, not too much bulk since there isn't much room anyway. Perfect.

I like pork

I like pork. It's one of the shameful truths with which I live. I like sausages, barbecue, pork tenderloin, pork chops, spare ribs and ground pork in meatloaf and meatballs. I like a BLT, a sausage biscuit and a ham sandwich. I haven't made it yet, but I am saving a recipe for beef stew that calls for pigs feet, and later in the recipe they are referred to as "trotters," which is twee, but somehow not too twee.
I mollify my guilt a little by eating humanely raised pork. I'm looking for locally humanely raised pork, pigs I can visit. I don't want to pat them or know their names, scratch their backs, fondle their ears and gaze through their big soulful eyes into their sentient souls. I just want to see them looking contented in a field and hear some brief assurances that they are slaughtered "humanely" whatever that entails.
And I can't bring myself to watch that movie "Pig" although I know I should and I feel like a coward for avoiding it.
Because I like pork, I read a lot of pork recipes and I've always been intrigued by pork cooked in milk. I tried it once and I guess my dutch oven was too large because instead of curdling down into a nut brown sauce it just remained milky and runny and was really not the result I wanted for my hours and hours of patience.
I looked at the recipe again, this time from a Rose and Grey cookbook. You had to add the milk a little bit every half hour and check that it is cooking down to a nut brown sauce. That defeats the purpose of long slow cooking. If I wanted to be opening the oven door and messing around in there every thirty minutes, I'd bake several batches of cookies. So I tried a pork w milk from Bon Appetit. It was more of a stew.
Pork shoulder cut into cubes, I left it in large chunks, about 1"x3". Browned it, rendered some bacon, sweated some onions, carrots, celery and garlic, added some pureed tomatoes, white wine and milk. Then you make a roux from a stick of butter and a half cup of flour and whisk this in. Then you cook the whole thing at 350 for several hours.
I served it with polenta. It was so rich I nearly gagged. I tried the next night w ww pasta. Still, not so sure. I liked it, but not enough to want to make it again.
The bf liked it, but what makes the bf so great to cook for is that he likes everything. I made a grilled cheese sandwich for him and he said, "Why is it that whatever you make tastes so much better than anything I get anywhere else?"
So back to the drawing board with the pork. I think it needs a stronger sauce, barbecue sauce with some vinegar, or maybe just tomatoes and wine and leave the milk out. Leave to pork shoulder whole.
Or maybe I'll gird my loins and try again with the real pork in milk. I could always bake cookies at the same time.
Only one month to go in the baking moratorium which has been renamed the baking hiatus because it was decided that moratorium sounded too lethal and permanent. The baking moratorium is a one way street to the baker sanatorium.

Monday, February 8, 2010

blizzard cooking

What to make during a blizzard: Specialty cocktails, dire predictions, excited phone calls to envious relatives, self-satisfied pronouncements about what a great pioneer you would have been, extravagant promises to the deity of your choice.
What to eat during a blizzard: stew, mashed sweet potatoes, a green vegetable, chocolate.
What to eat on day one of the aftermath of the blizzard when you have no power but the gas stove still works: leftovers, tea, chocolate.
What to eat on day two of the aftermath of the blizzard when you still have no power, are running out of water (do you know the volume of snow you need to make enough water to boil and fill two sinks to wash dishes? I don't either, but that's because it is a whole huge lot): many many slices of bread with butter and cheese, butter and honey, butter and butter, butter mashed with brown sugar, tea, chocolate, Nutella.
I'm pretty sure that's what the pioneers had, pemmican and Nutella.