Sundry Fusion Dinners
Saturday, September 9, 2006, 12:21 PM - soupsLately we've been experimenting quite a bit, but I haven't felt like actually writing down what we did. I ought to before I forget it all. So here are the last 3 dinners. The common thread is I think they can all be called fusion cuisine... although that might be a bit of a stretch. We have italian meets chinese, indian meets Mediterranean, and greek meets other Mediterranean. This probably suggests that we ought to buy more spices here. That's the problem of living in two locations... you think you have turmeric, but nope.
Summer Squash Won-ton Tortelini Soup
This was going to be just tortelini in squash sauce, but it didn't come out that way. First of all, we made tortelini out of won-ton wrappers, then there was a sufficient quantity of sauce that it was really more soup like. Since the tortelini was made from won-ton wrappers, it was really texturally more like won-ton soup.
I won't remember the details, since we made a bunch of these ages ago then froze them. Here's what I remember:
fake meat--- we used the kind that comes in a tube. The unflavored "beef" variety, as opposed to the breakfast sausage flavored kind.
Spices are all to taste, since at this point I haven't the faintest idea how much I used, or if this is all I used, or if I thought I used something that I didn't. I know I used fennel, because we were going for an italian sausage flavor, and you have to have fennel. I'd bet salt and pepper were involved, because salt and pepper are always involved. Then I'd guess some combination of oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Probably some diced garlic, maybe some onion flakes, but who knows? I'm thinking we might have put in some diced calamata olives as well.
Fake meat can go horribly wrong texturally if not prepared properly. Fake met from a tube needs to be cooked up and browned or it's gooey. Cook up the spices for a few seconds in some olive oil, then add bits of fake meat and chop it up with the stirring device. You should end up with little nuggets of fake meat goodness. Set it aside in a bowl.
Get a little dish of water. Lay out a bunch of won-ton wrappers. Put about
1 tsp of the fake meat filling onto each wrapper. Moisten your fingers, then wet two adjacent edges. Fold it diagonally so the two dry edges meet the two wet edges. Seal the edges together, being careful to press out as much are as possible because otherwise they could explode. You'll have an something like an iscocoles triangle. Put your finger so that it lies along the triangle, perpendicular to the base. Pick up one base corner and fold it so it's on top of your finger. Moisten its top. Pick up the other base corner and bring it down on top of the other (you'll have the entire triangle wrapped around your finger) and pinch it closed. If you want, you can fold down the other angle somehow, but we didn't bother. You can cook these a number of ways, or just freeze them for later use, which is what we did.
Coarsely chop a summer squash. It can be zucchini, but we used a yellow squash. Throw it in the blender. Add a can of diced tomatoes. We used the kind that comes with garlic and onion in it. We also added a few cloves of diced garlic. And probably salt, pepper, and tobasco sauce. Blend everything together.
We boiled the frozen tortellini in water for about 4 minutes then drained them and added them back into the soup on the stove just long enough to heat the soup. If I were doing it again, I'd probably just heat the soup up and cook the tortellini in it. Serve in bowls.
We did this as a main dish because we had a bunch of carrots to use up. It was amazingly yummy, but it was really too intense. It would be much better served as a little side thing with something else as the main dish.
Tons of carrots, peeled and grated. I have no idea how much carrot we actually used. We used a full bag or carrots, which is whatever quantity grocery stores sell bagged carrots in, but they were ridiculously narrow. I think we had more peel than grated carrot at the end, although halfway through we started just grating the wide end of the carrot and leaving the narrow end as snack food.
Half a cup of chopped olives---we used some crazy gourmet olive blend from the coop, but calamata olives would do.
Fake breakfast sausage patties
Cook up mustard seed and fennel in oil until the mustard seeds pop. Add everything else. Cook until cooked. Serve into bowls. Cook up a few fake sausage patties, add to bowls and serve. The sausage patties aren't actually part of the recipe, but they go well with it and we needed some protein in our meal. As I said before, this would go better as a side dish. But this is what happens when you put off going to the grocery store until you have nothing left but a bag of carrots and some fake sausage.
Falafel with spinach and yogurt
I've never actually cooked greek before. At least, not when I knew what I was doing, so I don't actually feel like I know what I'm doing. We made Falafel out of a box in the freezer section of the grocery store. It was another case of inadequate and inappropriate ingredients. We served it with spinach cooked with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. But we wanted a yogurt topping to go with it. But we had no cucumber, and no tahini, and no greek yogurt.
We used a full fat plain yogurt. There was probably a little more than a cup left in the container. As always, I didn't measure it. I wanted some chunkiness, so I added some dried onion flakes and a generous helping of sesame seeds. We had no parsley or celery, which is what I seem to recall putting in this sort of thing back in my vegan restaurant days. So I used basil, salt, pepper, and about a small glug of toasted sesame oil. It tasted shockingly like yogurt that should be served with greek food.
We fried up the falafel as per the directions on the box, and served the whole thing with matzos. At this point you should have guessed that we had no other bread products around that would have made sense to use.
Gluten Free Griddle Scones
Thursday, August 31, 2006, 03:09 PM - breakfastMy sister and her husband are visiting and she has celiac, which is a gluten allergy. It's not an allergy strictly speaking, but it means that if she eats anything containing wheat or some other grains in it, she gets horribly ill. If you're interested, you should probably go looking at some medical site instead of a cooking site for the gory details. She's actually incredibly sensitive, so she can't eat a lot of things that you might expect---canned beans, for instance--- because maybe someone got near something somewhere in the manufacturing process who might have eaten a sandwich for lunch and the whole canning factory was contaminated. Ouch.
Since we thought she might want to eat once in a while while she was hear, we bought some brown rice flower and some cornmeal that were certified gluten free. If you're cooking for company with celiac, this is very important. You shouldn't buy bulk because some people go and scoop out of the wheat flour bin, then scoop out of the corn meal bin, then the whole thing is contaminated. We bought some chocolate chips but didn't put them away in the chocolate chip container, because I strongly suspected we'd contaminated our container by making false pie (which involves chocolate chips, graham crackers, and amaretto). I'd bought canned beans for another meal, but um... I'll be having a decent amount of canned beans for a while because she told me we had to go buy bulk beans and wash them very carefully before soaking them because canned beans can't be trusted. It's best to find out how sensitive the person you're cooking for is before you go and buy a lot of stuff for their visit.
But back to the griddle scones. It's easiest to adapt recipes for breads that gluten will destroy. Buiscuits come to mind. People who make bad biscuits usually ruin them by over mixing, which activates the gluten. So no gluten equals better buiscuits. You can't go wrong.
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup salted butter
1 cup hazlenuts
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup maine blueberries
1 1/2 cup milk
1. Measure the rice flour, cornmeal, and baking powder into a bowl. Stir it up.
2. Wait for people to wake up because in a 1 bedroom apartment with company on an air mattress without much wall between them and you, chopping stuff in the kitchen can make lots of noise. You migh start a pot of coffee.
3. Grate a cube of frozen, salted butter into the flour. If the grating process draws blood, don't worry. Even if your guests are vegetarians, they usually won't mind a little human blood. Everyone needs some iron in their diet. But do try not to hurt yourself. I'm a little dubious about this grating technique. Alton Brown recommends it. I bet he has a grater attachment on his food processor or some special grater with hand guards, because we've tried this twice and on both occasions someone (a different person on each occasion) grated their thumb knuckle, which doesn't seem to happen when you're not grating butter. You might just use a fork, even if it takes longer. You do want the butter to be pretty solid, as one of the things that makes biscuits fluffy is the melting of butter as the biscuits cook.
4. Chop hazlenuts. If I were in a city with the right stores, I'd use 3/4 cup of hazlenut flour instead, so chop it pretty fine. Add it to the bowl.
5. Chop chocolate chips. Why? Because we get the ghirardelli's 60% cocoa chocolate chips, and they are pretty large as chocolate chips go. Again, if we were in a city with the right stores, we'd have a bar with a higher percentage of cocoa mass and it would be very quick and easy to shave. Add these to the bowl also.
6. Add a cup of blueberries and stir.
7. Add 1 1/2 cup of milk. Stir.
8. Preheat a couple of large frying pans on the stove. They should be hot enough that water splattered on them dances around before vaporizing.
9. Spray with anti-stick spray where appropriate. We were running out because we never think to buy more so I just sprayed the non-nonstick pan; the nonstick pan turned out better even without spray.
10. Transfer the contents of a heaping tablespoon of batter into the pan. Pat it down with the back of a spoon until it's about 3/4 of an inch thick. Do this repeatedly until you have a bunch of them cooking in your pans.
11. Cook until they're cooked half of the way through. You can tell just by looking at it. The uncooked portion will remain moist; the cooked portion will dry up and stop bubbling. You can watch the matteness creep up the side of the scone. Flip it and give it about the same amount of time as you gave the first side. Transfer it to a plate.
12. Repeat process until they're all cooked.
They were slightly lame. Usually we make them with sour cherries. Even though we used the wild maine blueberries instead of the really lame sweet blueberries, they didn't have enough kick. Next time we're going to use a combination of blueberries and cranberries. We also thought they needed more salt. Either I accidentally used unsalted butter, or it needs even more salt than that. Next time I'll add a teaspoon or so of salt.
We also thought all the chopping was a bit tiresome. We do have a blender, so next time we'll probably throw the cranberries, the hazlenuts, the chocolate chips, and the milk in a blender and blend it up nicely. That will give the batter an infusion of cranberry-chocolate-hazlenut goodness. Then we'll put in some blueberries to provide the fruity chunks scattered throughout.
Drop Biscuit Pancake Type Things
Sunday, July 16, 2006, 12:30 PM - comfort food, flatbread, breakfastThis morning we made drop biscuit pancake type things. Why drop biscuits? Um... too long since I'd gone to the grocery store and there were no other viable breakfast options. Why pancake type things? Because it's wicked hot and using the oven is unthinkable.
3/4 cup ground nuts--I used hazlenut meal. You can substitute flour if you don't want nuts for some reason.
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup milk
4 blocks very dark chocolate, shaved
3/4 cup diced cherries--I used frozen, but you could probably use dried. Or you could pit some fresh ones if you're particularly masochistic.
Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix them up. The dry ingredients would be nutmeal, flour, salt, baking powder.
Next, do whatever it is you do with butter to get it into the dry ingredients. If you have one of those sproingy pastry mixer things, you could probably use that to cut in the butter. If you own a food processor, you could probably throw the lot into there and pulse it until you have itty bitty bits of butter coated in the flour mixture. If you're me, you'll just have to use a fork to cut/squoosh/whatever the butter into the flour. Just to be experimental, I tried freezing the butter and dicing it with a knife, then throwing it into the dry ingredients. It worked pretty well but I don't know if it saved time over the fork method. Once you've done that, use your hands to work the butter into the flour a little better. If you're using white flour, be very careful here because they will be tough if you activate the gluten. It's a little safer with wheat flour, and the hazlenut is even safer. I bet if you're on a gluten-free diet, you can make pretty amazingly fluffy biscuits with your special flour.
Then throw in the cherries and get them well coated with flour. This keeps them from sticking together later. Then add the chocolate. Then add the milk and stir it up. You probably want to use a spoon for this instead of your hands, as it gets pretty messy otherwise. I use a soup spoon.
Take your lefse griddle and heat it to 450. If you don't have a lefse griddle, you'll have to use a frying pan and turn your stove to highish. If you're going to want coffee with this, which you will, you should heat the water before turning on your lefse griddle. Probably turn it on when you start prepping the other stuff. If you try to make hot water and run the lefse griddle at the same time, it will throw the circuit breaker. But you won't notice you've thrown it for a while because the griddle will still feel hot, but you'll wonder why nothing's cooking right.
Grease your lefse griddle with something. I use some variety of canned, sprayable, vegetable oil. With the soup spoon you mixed with, scoop up a mound of biscuit dough. Use another soup spoon to push it off onto the griddle. Pat the top down a bit with the back of the spoon. Repeat until the griddle is covered, leaving about an inch between biscuits. Let them cook for 5 minutes or so, then come back and flip them. Let them cook another 3 minutes or so, them remove to a cooling rack (or plate). Repeat the process until you're out of dough. It took me 2 griddles full to cook all the biscuits.
Eat with coffee.
Group Cook Crepes
Friday, February 17, 2006, 06:12 PM - flatbread, dessert, high falutin'
A bunch of us made group cook crepes last weekend (yeah, I've been remiss about updating lately, but these things happen). Group cooking is the bastard child of dinner parties and potlucks. Like dinner parties, you have a bunch of people and some menu of stuff selected to go together. Like a potluck, everyone chips in and cooks. It's a good fun way to get a bunch of people to have a low cost hoity toity dinner and entertainment for the evening.
Group cooks are pretty much a spontaneous, emergent phenomena that just happen with minimal effort and a bit of prodding. To have your own group cook, you should hang out on aim and accost a local friend when they show up and say, "hey, we should have a group cook." The two of you then decide what to make based on what you know other friends in your circle would enjoy. Then you contact these other friends and convince them that this is what they want to do with their evening. Although this time I somehow ended up on a telephone and aim at the same time talking with two people at once, the other party on aim was on the phone with a fourth party, and the party on my phone was in the room with a fifth party. This is what technology is for. If you can't have 5-way conversations involving 2 phones, 2 computers, a few net connections, you're missing out on one of the fine things in life.
In any case, once you've sorted out the details, everyone will show up at your house at roughly the same time(ish) with all the ingredients you don't have on hand in tow. Then labour gets distributed between people, with those who are relative experts in the chosen genre delegating tasks to other people. It's good to shake up your genre periodically so different people get the opportunity to boss people around. One of these days, we've got to do a mediteranean group cook, which I'm a complete dunce at; I think I'll learn something.
3 cups flour (fluff up with a fork before measuring to pretend it's sifted)
1/4 tsp salt
6 eggs (or 5 eggs + 3 TBS H20 if you have fewer eggs on hand than you thought)
3 cups milk
4 TBS melted butter (melted)
Put the flour and salt in a bowl. Mix it up to distribute the salt. If you do this with a fork, lumps will come ouf of the flour if there are any. You might ought to sift it before measuring, but of course I don't own a sifter and I don't even have a good mesh strainer in this part of the country, so fluffing it with a fork makes sure you get the right volume if you don't have a sifter. You always need to fluff things with a fork before measuring if they say to sift because unsifted flower is packed together and sifted flour is full of air. Don't do this, however, if your recipe doesn't require sifting or you won't have enough flour because you'll have extra air. But I digress...
Dig a little hole in the flour. Break the eggs into the hole. Whisk the eggs together, gradually widening your whisking to include more flour in the liquid part. If it seems too stiff, add a glug of your milk into the liquid to thin it back out. When the flour is entirely incorporated into the egg, gradually stir in the milk. Add melted butter and stir until it's completely smooth. People say crepes will taste better if you sit the batter aside for an hour or so before cooking, but I've never met anyone organised enough to do that. But if you're that organised (weirdo), you can do that. We just set it aside for maybe 20 minutes while we waited for the stuffing to cook up.
When you're ready to cook, hand a nonstick pan, a spatula, a 1/4 inch measuring cup, some butter, and the crepe batter to the franco-american you were clever enough to invite to the bash. Crepes will magically appear. If you weren't clever, you'll need to make the crepes yourself. Heat the stove to medium. When it's warmed up, smear butter into the pan. Dollup a 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan and rotate the pan so that the batter runs out to the edges. When the top of the crepe is opaque instead of shiny, flip it. When you feel like it's done, remove it from the pan and put it on a plate. The first crepe will be bad, so expect to snack on it.
This makes enough crepes to give 2 dinner crepes and 2 desert crepes for 5 people and have a nice box of crepes leftover that will last quite a while in the refrigerator and make you a decent number of solo meals.
Tofu Mushroom Green-bean crepe stuffing
Slice up a bunch of mushrooms. I'm not sure how many---maybe 4 cups? Who can say? Sautee them in a pan with olive oil and add a bunch of black pepper. Add a diced white onion. Slice up a block of firm tofu into striplets and throw it in the pan. Add salt to taste. Decide, after it's cooked down a bit, that it might not be enough for 5 people and raid your freezer for some frozen green beans: about 2 cups worth should do the trick, but I didn't measure, I am just guessing what was left in the bag. Put a lid on the frying pan and allow to ook.
Dinner Crepe Sauce
2 TBS butter
2 TBS flour
Melt the butter in a pan on medium-low heat. Add the flour and stir it until it's bubbly and the sauce gets translucent. That means the flour's cooked. Slowly add milk and stir it until it's smooth. I have no clue how much milk I added; I just did it um... until it looked right. Helpful, aren't I? I added about a 1/4 cup of swiss cheese that I had lying around and let that melt into the sauce. Then I added maybe 1/4 cup of parmesean, but I didn't keep track of that either. I added salt and pepper to taste. If you're hoity toity, you'd use white pepper here so the pepper wouldn't show. I'm not organised enough to be hoity toity.
Dinner Crepe Assembly
Put a crepe on each plate. Spoon filling in a line down the middle of each crepe. Roll each crepe and push it to the side of the plate. Put another crepe on each plate and repeat. Center the two crepes. Pour the Sauce over the top and serve.
Ganache is the hoity-toity word for chocolate goo. Chocolate goo is basically just chocolate melted with some other stuff to make it liquidy and yummy so you can pour it over something.
Put 1/4 cup of butter in a pan on low heat. Melt, then add 1/4 cup of butter. When that's melted, add 6 pieces of baking chocolate and stir it until it's smooth. Slowly add milk until you feel like it's just about right. Yeah, no measuring. Just stick your finger in periodically and taste it and to see if the texture is right. Add a glug or two of cognac.
Put a crepe out on each plate. Put a heap of sliced strawberries down the center of each crepe. Roll closed and push to the side of the plate. Repeat, replacing strawberries with blackberries. Center the crepes on the plate. Spoon chocolate goo over the top of the crepes. Squirt whipped cream onto the top of the crepes. Sprinkle blueberries on top of the whipped cream. Yum.
Thursday, February 2, 2006, 12:28 AMToday I made sourdough bread. I say this as if I made it in one day, but I started the starter a few days earlier. The whole process was incredibly intimidating. The idea is that you are trying to catch microorganisms by leaving food out for a long time. That's scary. But I'm not dead yet, despite having eaten several pieces. This is sort of a bastardization of the S. John Ross's and Alton Brown's recipes, filtered through my own bad habits and complete inability to follow directions.
In that old plastic container that you lost the lid of ages ago and is otherwise useless, add a cup of flour and a cup or two of water. I think the reference I was using said 2 cups of water, but I probably used more like a cup and a half to avoid spills. You're basically making wheat paste, so you don't want spills. Stir it up and leave it lying around. You should give your room mate a heads up so she doesn't throw it out or spit in it or something. It will separate, so if you get bored and figity, you can always go over and stir it-- good times. One day, a magical foam will form on the top. That means you have yeast. Now you can make bread. I waited a day to make bread after this, which was probably a bad idea because it really smelled up the house. But real life happens.
Stir up your starter. Scoop out a cup into a mixing bowl. Add a cup of flour and a cup of water back into the starter bowl. This feeds it. It's kind of like having goldfish. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and poke some holes in it for air and throw it in the refrigerator. It will stop stinking up the house after you do this. You either need to make bread periodically and feed it when you make bread or just dump out a cup and feed it like you would if you were making bread if you aren't up to making bread.
Back to the mixing bowl... add a couple of cups of flour, a cup and a half-ish of water, and a teaspoon of sugar. I used half white flour and half whole wheat. I also added about 1/4-1/3 tsp of yeast-from-a-jar because last time I tried this I ended up with a very, very flat loaf. My yeast is pretty wimpy so I feel like this helps. You might ask why I bother with sourdough at all, in this case. I think it just helps to make a commitment. If I have starter lying around, I'll feel the need to use it and I'll make bread once a week or so, which is more fun than buying bread.
In any case, I ended up with something very sludgey. This is appropriate. Put a dishcloth over your bowl and let this sit for half an hour or so. Actually, I think I let it sit much longer. I checked some email, graded some homework assignments, made some phone calls, and read a bit. I don't think sitting too long can hurt at this point because it's pretty close to the starter consistency and that sits around for weeks. So I figured it couldn't hurt and didn't keep track of the time at all. It was probably closer to an hour and a half.
When you come back, add a teaspoon of salt. Then keep adding flour in 1/4 cup increments until the dough isn't goopy anymore. I alternated between white and whole wheat flour. I ended up using 4-5 cups (counting the 2 cups used earlier). I guess I should say that your mixer should be on while you do this, but use the lowest setting if you don't want a flour-dusted kitchen. When your dough is of appropriate consistency, knead it. You can do this in your mixer or on the counter. I wimped out and used my mixer. Knead it until you're sick of it, then knead it a little more.
Turn your oven to bake, and set it's temperature to it's absolute lowest setting. Grease a largeish mixing bowl. Dump the dough in there and cover it with a dishcloth. Turn off your oven and put the mixing bowl in the oven. The oven should be slightly warm, but comfortable to touch. You don't need to do this if it's hot, but if it's winter, your dough won't rise otherwise. Wait about an hour. See if your dough is more or less twice the size it used to be.
Empty the dough onto the counter and punch it. Yes, beat the crap out of it. You can pretend it was that dumb kid who shoved you violently out of the way in order to get a better seat in programming class. If you're like me, you're wondering why someone was SO excited to get to programming class that he had to resort to violence, but back to bread. Punching your bread is supposed to help disperse the bubbles. Knead the dough into a loaf shape. What shape is loaf shape? You decide. I go for long and skinny. Sure, round loaves look cool, but when you first cut into them they make itty bitty pieces of bread, then later they make gaihugeous pieces of bread. I like a little predictability in my sandwich-making life. I don't want to starve on thursday because I made the bread yesterday and it's small, then have to wolf down a giant sandwich on saturday because I've gotten to the widest part, then starve again on monday because it's back to being tiny.
Put your loaf onto whatever you're going to cook it on, or a baking peel if you're cool like that. Flour that surface first. Put the loaf with the pan on top of the stove, which should hopefully be warm enough. Or someplace that's naturally warm, if you have such a place handy. Come back 45 minutes to an hour later; the dough should have doubled in size again. Poke it someplace unobtrusive. If the hole stays hole-like instead of filling back out with dough, it's done rising. If it's not done, keep checking back every 10 minutes or so. I actually put it in a little before it passed the finger test because I was worried about over-rising, which, rumor has it, is worse than under-rising.
A little before you think the dough will be done, preheat your oven to 400. Slash the top of your dough. I always make multiple slashes or a cross shape, but I bet you could do anything; maybe next time I should try a metal skull. The point of the slashes is to give the dough space to rise into further while it's baking. My loaf doubled in size again in the oven.
Stick the loaf in the oven. Put some water in a bread pan and stick it in the oven also. This will make it nice and crusty. If you don't like crusty bread, don't do it. Check back in 40 minutes; it should be done. Voila.