Sunday, December 20, 2009

Inquisition Punch/Krunk Jewce

I have achieved the impossible. For this particular thing, I deserve a culinary medal of honor for going where no home cook has gone before. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have made Manischewitz palatable.

I will pause now so you can pick your jaws off the floor.

Upon divine inspiration - and by divine, I mean I read the NY Times - I came upon a recipe for a single drink made with Manischewitz, bourbon, lemon juice, and seltzer called the Drunken Pharoah. I thought to myself, hey, you can do better than that! And so I did. The Economical Epicurean was holding a holiday party, and this mysterious wine product steeped in so many years of tradition and punchlines came to me. Clocking in at under $8 for 1.5 liters of candied Concord grapey alcoholic bliss, it was certainly cheap. Instead of bourbon, I used Seagram's VO whiskey, a smooth if slightly boring libation that is my fallback whiskey of choice when price and the health of my gut are taken into equal consideration. The night before, I ventured into the local supermarket to get lemons. People, when the weather is supposed to be 1-2 feet of snow in an area where 1-2 inches can cripple a city, do not enter a supermarket. May the good lord help you if you need toilet paper, milk, eggs, or potato chips, because you ain't gittin none. But thankfully, lemons weren't high on the list of survival foods that night, and I got 4 fat, shiny, yellow specimens.

The morning of the party dawned steely grey, a thick cloud cover and swirling snow hiding the sun. I mixed up the punch, using the ratios the NY Times suggested just in much larger quantities:

2 c Manischewitz, the concord grape variety
1.5 c whiskey
0.5 c lemon juice

I tasted it. It had promise. I took a bit on ice and topped it with seltzer. Very promising indeed. Then I doubled the recipe because there were going to be 25 people there, and given the typical food and drink situation, not 2 feet of snow nor sleet nor ice nor rain would keep people from this party. When I doubled the recipe, though, I think I tweaked the ratios. I added the base amount of booze, but messed with the lemon juice. What I was going for was a sweet (but not syrupy), boozey, yet slightly tangy concoction that would benefit from chilling and fizz addition. Then I decided to add some thinly sliced lemon, and I also added a handful of fresh cranberries for decoration (note on fresh cranberries: they are resilient little buggers that you can freeze when you buy them fresh and use whenever you feel like cranberry relish, muffins, bread, etc. - there's a 3 lb bag in our freezer). Then I adjusted the ratio of Manischewitz to whiskey to suit my tastes, and I suggest you do the same! When you do that, just remember you're going to add ice and seltzer. When you chill things, perceived sweetness decreases. So if you're not sure, make yourself a mini cup of it, and see what it needs. The whole thing tasted bright and fruity, but I wanted more depth. So, I broke 3-4 cinnamon sticks in half, added in 4-6 whole cloves, and 4 whole allspice berries for some spice. It sat at room temperature on the counter for several hours, and the total volume was probably a little more than 3 quarts, pre-seltzer.

We packed it off into two nalgenes and an empty spare bottle we had, loaded them, bottles of seltzer, and the bowl into backpacks, put on our winter gear, and trudged out into the blizzard. Along the way we helped one guy free his car from a snowbank. The walk was beautiful. The snow was falling in fine cold flakes, swirling here and there, but the wind wasn't uncomfortably strong. We took pictures of some Xmas lights under the snow and admired the gobs of snow covering everything. Another nice thing about extreme beautiful weather like this is people come out to admire it. We saw more people walking around just looking at things, and there were those like us, walking instead of the usual driving. We walked maybe just over a mile to get to the party, but some of the other attendees' hikes were 2 or more. We all tramped in wearing snowpants, boots, and parkas, shedding clothing like snakes casting off old skin, and making a beeline for the food and drink.

The punchbowl was drained. Literally. Someone, I forget who, actually picked it up and poured the dregs, little bits of spices, lemon pulp, and all, into their glass. I can think of no better praise. We're still stuck on a name, although Inquisition Punch (bc, you know, sangria w/ Manischewitz?) has a good ring to it. The Hebrew Hammer or The Hebrews Get Hammered or Krunk Jewce were also in the running.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Melting onions.

Melted onions are my new favorite food. You thinly slice however many pounds of onions you want. For batches of onion jam, I've been going with 3 pounds. Have three garlic cloves, UNPEELED. That's right, don't peel 'em. Also, you can add whatever herbs you like. I found out that when Julia Child suggests a bouquet garni, it means that then you won't be picking out limp herb leaves from everything, but if you're like me, you'll skip the damn cheesecloth and leave it up to whoever's eating it to pick out the greenery if they so desire. I like a few sprigs of parsley and either some thyme or rosemary or a combination of the two.

To cook it, you heat up some olive oil in a pan, but not searingly hot, throw in the onions and a big pinch of salt, the herbs, and the unpeeled garlic cloves. Stir it often. Keep the heat lower than a normal sautee, like medium. When you see the onions go completely limp and translucent, turn the heat down even more because you want to achieve a very slow even caramelization without getting charred bits. The ultimate goal is to, well, melt the onions into a savory, sweet, limp mass of golden brown awesomeosity. This will take a while, like an hour. Do it while you're doing something else in the kitchen, stirring every so often to prevent burning.

Once the onions have achieved savory, sweet, limp, golden brown awesomeosity, it's up to you to decide what you want to do with them. You can leave them as they are and fill a smallish prebaked tart crust, topping it with some good anchovies and oil-cured olives for a pissaladiere nicoise. You can add a bunch of red wine into the onions, reducing it into an onion jam which is amazing with brie on whatever bread/cracker product you have lying around. Or you can dump them into mashed root vegetables to amazing effect. I mashed up a small rutabaga, a couple potatoes, and a few carrots and then dumped the onions in. It is extremely delicious. Melted onions are apparently also the base for onion soup, which I am oddly embarrassed to say I've never made.

The trick of leaving the garlic unpeeled prevents burning. Garlic burns much more easily than onions, and by leaving it in its paper, you get the garlic flavor with none of the burned bitterness. You can peel them after the onions are done and either eat it plain (because by this time, it's sweet and soft) or just give it a light chop and fold it into whatever you're making. Whatever you decide to do, melted onions are a lot of flavor for very little money and there's no cream or bacon involved. As far as flavor vectors go, it's healthy, vegan-friendly, and tastes awesome.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What is up with all that?

One thing I can't get over is why every soup recipe I see has to have cream and/or bacon or some similar greasy pork derivative in it. Does anyone else see soup as winterized salad? Do you glug cream all over your salad every day for lunch? Is the main flavoring in your salad fried bacon or sausage bits? Probably not. Well, ok, at least not in my case. Salad is a glorification of raw vegetables, and when I eat them, I intend to enjoy them as they are, not mask the flavor. Because they actually taste good, and the amount of flavor you can bring with raw produce is really nice if you know what you're doing.

I noticed this month's Bon Appetit was all about the fennel. BA, you are behind MY times. There is a Mark Bittman-esque salad you can make with very thinly sliced raw fennel and matchsticked apples, dressed in a super-simple mustard vinagrette and decorated with a bit of fennel fronds that is fresh, delicious, and can not only be a salad in its own right, but also dress what I consider as The Most Basic Salad. The Most Basic Salad is tomatoes, cukes, peppers, and lettuce. When you have tomatoes, cukes, peppers and lettuce that were grown well, you would be surprised at how amazing this simple mixture can be on its own. When peppers are grown for flavor and not, say, sugar content or wall thickness (wall = the part we eat), you can't believe how genuinely peppery they taste. The same goes for all the above. But seeing that we live in an era when tomatoes are grown for shippability (resulting in pink soggy styrofoam insides that taste nothing like real tomatoes), peppers are grown for size and sugar content, and cukes have morphed into giant, flavorless, oblong vessels of water and seeds, we need to take some other action to get the vegetabley flavor few people really know.

There are veggies that haven't been as tampered with, veggies that retain a greater degree of their true character. They aren't perfect, as anyone who's eaten a homegrown carrot right out of the ground after a brief rinse in the garden hose can tell you. After all, does biting into a raw supermarket carrot give you a slap-your-grandma carrot-y flavor? No. But carrots still manage to taste like carrots. Beets still manage to taste like beets. And red cabbage still tastes like cabbage, but it's purple! Little known fact: raw cabbage has a BUTTLOAD of vitamin C. Orange juice - while very tasty - isn't necessary when you toss a good amount of shredded fresh cabbage into a salad. Then there are the seasonal fruits that can be added and dried ones, too.

So when constructing a good salad, add some diced apples and raw thin-sliced fennel which has a gentle, fresh, anise flavor. If you don't like it, slice the rest of it and sautee it with onions and/or mushrooms to add to your next omelette. Sauteeing drastically ratchets down fennel's anise flavor. Grate some carrots and/or beets into the bowl. What I've been doing is making a giant bowl of salad for the week, scooping some out every day for lunch and adding things as I want them. Toss in some fresh grapefruit segments which are coming into season from Florida or raisins for some sweetness, some chopped fresh herb of your choice, and some balsamic vinegar or lemon juice. A big part of making the salad pop is combining sweet, sour, and salty in a way that you find appealing. You can do it with mostly fruits and veggies. I've been giving my salad more staying power by throwing chunks of roast turkey on top. Hardboiled eggs are a cheap good choice, especially with a high-quality feta.

My final tip for eating tasty salad is not refrigerating it all day. I know it sounds weird, but letting it come to room temperature at work makes it much more likely that I'll eat it because when it's chilly and wet out, eating chilly wet things is completely unappealing. But room temperature wet things? Fine. Anyway, I will soon add to the several soups on this blog that do not contain cream and/or bacony things.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Vegetable soup saves.

So, I made this root veggie soup. It started with a sweat of carrots, onion, garlic, and parsnip in olive oil, and then went on to include wine, balsamic, worcestershire sauce, and soy to add flavor and salt to the cooking water; bay leaves, thyme, sage, and pepper for more flavor, and turnips, roasted beets, potatoes, and finally, cabbage only at the end so the apartment wouldn't smell. If you boil large amounts of cabbage for long periods of time, your space will smell like some animal walked in, defecated, and then lay down and died. So, unless you like smelling that stank, don't add cabbage at the beginning unless it's surrounded by lots of other ingredients (like stuffed cabbage which is delicious and generally awesome). It was enough veggies to require 6 cups of water, which was just enough to have some liquid at the end. Oh, and I also used a scant 1/4 cup of corn flour to thicken it right before I turned off the heat. The remaining liquid wasn't thick per se, but it had a slightly increased mouthfeel. Anyway, it was sweet and vegetabley. Lots of flavor, light, and warming. It made a very nice lunch this last week.

Today, Danny and I were cleaning out the fridge and freezer, and we found an ancient frozen tupperware of beef stew. I have NO RECOLLECTION AT ALL of when we made it. I don't even know what, if any, recipe we followed. It's just always been in the freezer. Literally forever. But we decided to liberate the tupperware, so against Danny's wishes, I thawed it. He wanted to just toss it, but hey, it was in the freezer! It can't be spoiled! My mom would have been so proud of me.

I thawed it gently in the microwave on medium heat and cautiously tasted it. Delicious. It was mostly gravy with a few hefty meat chunks, so I just dumped it into our veggie soup. The two mixed together was AWESOME. The veggie soup saved the meaty gravy from certain death, and everyone is happy. Danny announced his intention is to take it for lunch this week with noodles.

The moral of the story? Don't throw out frozen food! It never goes bad in there! I mean, sure, it had some awesome ice crystals, but it didn't even taste really freezer burned. It was slightly freezer flavoured by itself, but when I integrated the thick meaty essence into the veggie soup, it became completely delicious without a hint of funk.

Monday, October 19, 2009


What with some madness from grad school, I just haven't been making a lot of food. I've definitely been eating, though. It's been a lot of salad, eggs, (fill in the blank) on bread, some chicken soup, the chicken from said soup, the remaining soup integrated into an amazing gingery pumpkin soup (pumpkin, broth, ginger, honey, nutmeg, salt, pepper), etc. Very basic.

It was Danny's birthday on Friday, so I made him - as per his request - felalfel with hummus, salad, hot stuff, and bourekas w/ spinach and cheese filling. Bourekas are made - I think - typically with puff pastry, but I grew up making them out of filo dough. They're spanikopitas from a different Mediterranean region. They can be filled with potato, cheese, spinach, meat, or whatever you feel like. I took a pound of frozen spinach, just barely thawed it (4 minutes in a covered bowl in my microwave) and squeezed it out, and put it in a bowl with mayyybe 2/3-3/4 of a 1 pound block of feta. I highly, highly recommend Pastures of Eden feta that you can get from Trader Joe's. It's not as aggressively salty as a lot of other fetas, it's creamier, and you can really taste the sheep milk. If I were to set up a spectrum for fetas from mellow to sharp, this would fall more towards mellow. Usually that's a losing position for my tastes, but the creamy/crumbly texture, not overwhelming saltiness, and the pronounced (but not stanky) sheep flavor make it my favorite.

Anyway, I crumbled the cheese, stirred it in, cracked in one egg, some pepper, and mixed it up. You can add parsley if you like, play with cheese combinations if you want cheese ones (grated muenster, mozzarella, and cottage cheese, for example). I didn't go crazy with the flavors in the bourekas because the other food I made was very aggressive (lots of lemon, garlic, onion, spices), and I wanted something to contrast.

To do bourekas the way I learned from my dad, you need some thawed filo dough. The amount of filling is enough for an entire box (40 sheets). Lay the dough out, and cover it with a barely moist dishtowel. Have ~ half a stick of completely melted butter and a pastry brush next to you. Take a single sheet of dough, lay it flat horizontally (longer sideways than it is tall; i.e., the landscape option on your printer). Paint a single stripe of butter horizontally at the bottom, and fold up 1/3 of the way. Paint another stripe of butter along what is now the bottom, and fold it to the edge. You should have a long strip of dough folded in thirds, held together with butter. Don't skimp on the butter, but at the same time, don't go crazy with the butter; just a bit is enough.

At one end of your dough strip (let's say the right side), place a glob of filling... er, like 1-1.5 tablespoons? Don't overstuff them or they'll explode in the oven. Fold one corner over to the side, covering the filling, so it makes a triangle. It doesn't have to be tight. Fold the triangle's new corner over to the left. Instead of a point on the right side, it should be a flat edge now. Continue to flip the small triangle down the length of the dough strip. Seal it with a dab of butter if it needs it, and put it on a baking sheet. Before baking, paint the tops with a little beaten egg, and if you like, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Put them in at 350 F until they're golden brown. It doesn't take super long.

This isn't exactly healthy, but eh. It was a birthday definitely worth celebrating. :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ratatouille is Rad.

I would like to draw everyone's attention to this recipe from the NY Times.  It is a recipe for dumpling-topped ratatouille.  Is it technically 100% authentic ratatouille?  Nope.  Do I care?  Nope.  

I tried it tonight with hacked up tempeh subbed in for the sausage (sauteed with a pinch of fennel seeds because to me that's the dominant flavor in Italian sausages (besides meat), and it's cooking in the oven and holy crap lions, it smells so good.  On the healthy scale, the unhealthy bit is obviously the dumplings because they have 6 tbsp of butter in them.  I subbed out full fat yogurt for fat free because that's what was in the fridge.  Another thing I did was slosh in some soy sauce when the tomatoes, garlic, peppers, thyme (I used dried), and onion was simmering to add some - ok, bear with me while I totally food-geek out on you here - umami.  Just dump some in a little bit at a time while the tomatoes, etc. are simmering until it tastes slightly saltier w/ more body, but not so much that you can actually taste the soy sauce.  It'll compensate for the lack of meatiness because tempeh doesn't bring much of that to the party.  

It's cooling off.  If Danny doesn't get out of the shower really soon, I'm eating without him...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Warm-up

I am getting my writing part of the brain in gear because I have to write an Independent Proposal, which is graduate school speak for "stupid fucking piece of shit waste of time." However, in my infinite wisdom, I will actually make it work for me by sending it to people who give a damn and might be able to get me a job after I graduate. So HAH. NYEAH. I WIN.

Anyway, about the food...

Inspired by the amount of random vegetable salads in Israel, I decided to construct a random veggie shred. I had in my fridge the following: half a head of cabbage, 1 zucchini, and 1 apple. So I shredded everything w/ my food processor into a bowl. It was crunchy, green, and slightly sweet (thank you, apple bits). Then Danny added zested rind of an entire lemon. He used the juice of the lemon to make a vinagrette (I think he added oil, salt, and pepper until it tasted good... maybe mustard too... I don't know...), and we topped it all off with poppy seeds. I guess it was kind of a slaw? It tasted good, whatever it was. We made this for a party of 10 people, and it went over very well.

Then, we also tried an apple fennel salad, as per a Mark Bittman recipe. Recipe is as follows: very thinly slice a bulb of fennel, cut up a few apples (I did matchstick-like pieces, toss together with a few chopped fennel fronds for greenery, and dress with a basic mustard vinagrette (oil, vinegar, mustard, salt if needed, pepper). We added some tarragon, which was pretty good. As for the apples to fennel ratio, just go with whatever tastes good. It should be a balance between the anise-y flavor of the fennel and the sweetness of the fruit. Do whatever works for you. It's a very autumnal salad. As apples come into season, it'll only get better.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


So, I'm sure everyone knows someone who's gone on Birthright, the free trip for Jewish people to Israel. (I just came back from it.) They all take the same photos of a dusty, rocky, hilly landscape; everyone has a picture of the Western Wall; you usually see people either smeared in mud or bobbing unnaturally high in the Dead Sea. And that's all well and good, because you should have pictures of those things. They're unique, unlike anything you'll ever see anywhere else in the world.

Unfortunately, I'm a shit photographer. Mostly I just forget I have a camera (probably because up until I commandeered Danny's old one specifically for this trip, I never had one of my own, and to tell the truth it still feels like this one technically isn't mine and it's only on loan - a camera is a luxury I will buy when I have a real salary). The rest of the time, I'm not even thinking about artificially preserving what I see beyond my memory. Thinking about it messes it up, because then it's all about the composition, and the lighting, and the color, and the forms, and is there balance between vertical elements and horizontal elements, and why can't I turn off the damn auto-focus because I WANT the foreground to be blurry dammit, and how can I make this look interesting - like something someone would remember. And then, when I go home, I don't even really remember what I was looking at in the first place.

The bottom line is I suck at snapping pictures.

So I didn't take that many which makes me sad.

I especially didn't take very many of the things I personally enjoy - like the food - although I do have one of my and several of my tripmates' lunches. However, despite the lack of visual evidence, I can still verbally rave about the food.

First of all, can I just say that the simple fact that there IS agriculture on land that's alternately desert and swamp is just unbelievable? I'm not talking a plot here or there, I'm talking bananas, dates, litchis, cucumbers, prickly pears, tomatoes, grapes (for eating out of hand and really good wine), mangoes, olives, plums, all kinds of citrus, pears, and I'm sure plenty of other things I'm not aware of, all from someplace half the size of New Jersey... that is, as I said, half desert and half swamp.

If you put in a minute bit of effort, it seems like it's impossible to eat badly here because all the fruits and veggies are so fresh and tasty, there's hardly any reason to eat anything else, which brings me to the rest stop options. I have a lot of experience with Israeli rest stops because the only way to get a large group of people all over the country is by bus. Our bus didn't have a bathroom which was both good and bad. Good: the bus didn't smell like a bathroom. Bad: we had to stop for bathroom breaks.

Israeli rest stops:

- The actual toilets can make the ones in NJ rest stops look like the Four Seasons. Carry your own toilet paper, ladies and gentlemen.

- The food is - roughly speaking, of course - 9 million billion gazillion times better than US rest stops. You do have McDonald's and pizza, but why would you even bother when there's falafel in pita with everything and tons of complimentary salads to round it out??? I mean, really. one place we stopped had a random guy selling baklava and other syrupy delicious confections off a table. They were awesome. There's also Aroma, a coffee shop that sells borekas (crispy flaky dough with a vaariety of fillings) with egg, tomato, eggplant, and pickles inside along with sandwiches and really, really good coffee. It's no wonder Starbucks failed miserably in Israel.

Honestly, if every Pizza Hut or Wendy's or whatever was replaced with a falafel joint, think of (a) how much more awesome everything would be, (b) how much tastier everything would be, and (c) how much more vegetables the entire US population would eat.

I also had a chance to try some of the best shwarma I've ever had in Jerusalem, thanks to one of the Israelis who stayed with our group throughout the trip. Shwarma is slabs of meat (the best is lamb) skwered through the middle and layered on a spike. Then the whole thing is slowly rotated so everything is exposed to a vertically placed heat source. They shave off the outer cooked layers, leaving the raw meat exposed. Another concept I was hugely appreciative of - the half pita if you're only sort of hungry. Brilliant. You could order a half pita, a whole pita, or a laffa (large Iraqi variation on the pita). And there were all sorts of complimentary salads on the side you could help yourself to, roasted eggplant chunks (sooooooo good), carrot salad, various pickles, sauteed onions, roasted peppers, etc.

Another gastronomical high point is the dairy. I got a little pot of full fat yogurt, and I was full after two spoonfuls. It was like eating sour cream, super flavorful and rich. It tasted so good. True, I ate simply. Lots of fresh things very simply prepared. I didn't have a chance to go looking for developed cuisine beyond stop-and-eat joints, but I think taking it down to basics really shows off superior ingredients (or points to inferior ones). The bottom line? Everything was spectacular, from fresh squeezed orange juice after a sunrise hike up and down Masada, to the salads, falafel, and shwarma I ate everywhere. Israel is one country in which I highly recommend eating as much as possible.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Milk and Honey

Just got back from Israel, land of milk and honey.  More like land of awesome produce and hummus.
Oh man, jetlag.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Sidecar.

A classic cocktail if ever there was one.  Typically, I associate it with winter because one of the main ingredients is brandy, which for whatever reason - right or wrong - for me brandy = something to drink to warm you up in the winter.  

However, I have never been one to limit my alcohol consumption based on something as silly as the seasons, so here's the recipe:

1 to 1 to 1 of brandy, an orange liqueur (such as Cointreau, Gran Gala, etc.), and lemon juice.  Shake it up till cold, or if you're like me and don't own a cocktail shaker, just stir with a lot of ice until chilly.  Easy enough.  

It reminds me of a citrusy Manhattan, sans woodiness from the whiskey and medicinal quality from the vermouth and bitters.  And I thought, "Hey, sidecar + fizz = a totally summer-acceptable libation!"  

So, try it.  Make a small one to try, and then add some seltzer water.  It's refreshing, very lemony (if you don't do tangy, cut back on the lemon juice, obv., but don't cut back too much), boozy, and now I have to think up a good name.  Best enjoyed near a pool while wearing huge sunglasses and an even larger hat.  

I'll get back to you on the name when something strikes me...  :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

CSA, again.

So, our CSA is in full swing, which is nice.  We're getting a nice amount of veggies and fruit, and while I've been too busy to really think about how much we're buying vs how much we buy when we don't have a CSA, it's been interesting.  I can say with complete certainty we eat a buttload more fresh fruit than it actually provides for us, but I'm not sure if that's just us and our insane appetites or how it usually ends up for most people.  I don't know how people with families would do it.

A lot of times, it turns into a "Oh, dammit, those stupid peas/summer squash we forgot about is/are going to rot if I don't do something with them RIGHT NOW!  What should I do???"  There've been some stirfries, rice dishes, and random salads that have been quite lovely.  We tried a corn souffle thingy from the NY Times that used a zucchini along with 4 small ears of corn and some roasted and peeled poblano chiles (any pepper would work; I think they actually call for a fresh red pepper) we had in the freezer from last year.  You mix ~ half the corn kernels with 3 eggs, and some milk, I think, in the blender.  Slice and sautee the zuke with an onion (and the pepper if you're using fresh) until transluscent, wait till it cools, dump with whole kernels, roasted pepper shred, and egg-corn-milk mixture into a greased pyrex with some cumin, and bake till set.  Then there was the time Danny didn't realize he had to shell the peas, and that stirfry had an interactive edamame-like dimension to it.  But again, it was tasty.

Overall, the whole CSA thing is nice, and if nothing else, we're certainly eating more organic food for whatever that's worth.  But to tell the truth, I've been feeling very put-upon and in a rut, with no desire to be creative or anything.  It's an odd way to feel in the summer.  I'm not used to it.  I miss my half-day Fridays from when I worked at Pepsi, and Sal's amazing BBQ every other Thursday.  I don't like working twice as hard for less than half the salary, and feeling guilty when I don't.  

I sincerely hope academia overhauls itself or else it's going to die, because I can't say its collapse wouldn't be deserved.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Saved the celeriac

From the previous post, you may have read that I attempted a rosti with celeriac

(Rosti: peel 1.5 pounds of potatoes, 6 cloves of garlic, herb of choice (rosemary, parsley, whatever), shoestring the potatoes, throw into olive oil in hot pan with peeled whole garlic and herbs, add salt and pepper, sautee until potato starts to get tender, roast for 25 minutes in the oven, smush down with aluminum foil and oven mits into a flat cake, roast another 25 minutes. Obviously, I did it with celeriac, which took far less time.)

However, the celeriac rosti did not stick together due to a lack of starch I believe, and nor did it end up with a pleasingly crisp/soft texture. No, friends, it more closely resembled extremely fragrant flavorful shreds of shoe leather. I know a lost cause when I see one, and it didn't take much to reach the conclsuion that this was one of those dishes that would forever languish in the back of the fridge until succumbing to mold. So I figured, hey, this needs to soften up, and it tasted great with sour cream, so why not gently simmer it in milk?

I did. And it worked. And I added a pinch of herbes de Provence mixture thingy. Very tasty and insanely flavorful. So, then I had a stroke of genius. What better way to achieve the impossible (make Danny full) than to add 6 eggs, a can of chickpeas, and turn it into a protein loaded Spanish-style tortilla? Due to the presence of all that somewhat caramelized celeriac, parsley, garlic and random herbs, it needed nothing else. I beat the eggs in a bowl until they were combined, dumped in the now-soft celeriac, the can of chickpeas, and stirred it up. Then I poured it into a pan and let it cook. We ate it with yogurt on top, and drank a very young gruner veltliner. We each had a glass.

It was totally awesome. And we were both stuffed, despite having leftovers! I think we tallied it up, and Danny ate the equivalent of 3 eggs, half a can of chickpeas, and half the celeriac. Hells yeah. I'm going to add up the cost of this meal, in a very rough approximation:

- 1/2 dozen eggs - $1
- 1 can chickpeas - $1
- 1 celeriac - $1.50, maybe. generously. It was maybe $0.59 per pound, and it was ~ 1.5 lbs.
- The whole large container of yogurt was probably around $2? We each had a few spoonfuls. You do the math because I don't feel like it.
- Bottle of wine - $10, unless it was $9. I forget.

Not bad, not bad at all. Sans alcohol, the whole thing cost slightly more than $3. McDonald's can seriously KISS MY ASS.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Danny and I got a subscription to a CSA for a present (and a very nice present it was, as opposed to simply being more shite we have to find a place for), and it just started last week.  I was uber excited as I made my way down to the pick-up.  The produce looked great; tender new salad greens in a bag, a bunch of small radishes, asparagus (the most resilient strong-looking asparagus I've seen in forever), some green onions, garlic chives, 3 leftover apples from the winter, 3 leftover potatoes, strawberries (2 large containers), and rhubarb.  

So, I gotta be honest... I was expecting more.  The amount of veggies is roughly enough to fill our cavities because we eat like professionals, and man, we love our veggies.  We did try (and failed) to make rosti with celeriac.  By failed, I mean we generated a kind of garlicky celeriac hash which doesn't taste bad at all, but it's a little dry and doesn't stay together in a neat little cake of moist and crispy matchsticks.  It is, however, totally off the chain with a dollop of sour cream on top.  

But the CSA stuff... the radishes and lettuce made their way into a massive salad that we've had for diner, lunch, and lunch again tomorrow.  I took the rhubarb and followed this recipe for curried duck legs with rhubarb, but I subbed in chicken because it's cheaper.  I tell you, it was kind of a lot of steps and all, with the food processor and the extra sauteeing, but it's quite tasty.  It's like a thicker, sweeter, tangier version of my curried chicken.  Definitely richer than mine, too.  I like it a lot, but I think I prefer mine because (a) it's a bit lighter, (b) I really like potatoes, (c) less dirty dishes at the end, and (d) fewer steps.  

We plan on a quick broil of the asparagus, after rubbing them in a olive oil and garlic, and we're just eating the strawberries because they are really, really small, flavorful, and amazing.  The green onions made their way into a block of cream cheese (very awesome under lox on bread), and I'm not sure what the garlic chives are going to be a part of yet, but stay tuned.  

This sounds like a lot of food, but for us, it isn't.  We don't buy lunch or anything, and we seriously eat like gluttons.  Very happy, vegetable-centric gluttons.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

today's breakfast smoothie

Today I peeled and sliced a whole mango, half an avocado, and some vanilla soy milk and blended. I am going to edit my suggestion to using only a quarter of an avocado if the avocado in question is not small. The smoothie was tasty, despite having too little mango flavor, IMO - which should be remedied by using only a quarter avocado in the future - and I stayed full until now!

Usually I have to eat lunch at 11-11:30. By me, mangoes are miraculously $0.50 each. Hells to the yeah.

Iron powerhouse chili

I am experimenting with making chili the same way I make cholent; throw everything in the crockpot, turn it on low, and walk away. I did one whole bag of black beans soaked for 24 hours, 1.5 pounds of stew beef, an onion, a buttload of garlic, 6 chiles (3 anchos, 2 guajillos, 1 pasilla, or something like that; all snipped into bits with kitchen shears), a bunch of whole cumin seeds because I couldn't be bothered to root through our ENTIRE haphazardly thrown together spice closet and find the ground variety, a couple bay leaves, some Mexican oregano, a can of choppped tomatoes, and salt and pepper. This qualifies as a Vat-o-Chili.

I hope I don't burn the apartment complex down.

This chili is going to be the iron powerhouse chili. Black beans - very high in iron for plant material. Beef - high in very bioavailable heme-bound iron. I've heard the combining your plant iron sourcecs with your animal iron sources results in more overall bioavailability of plant iron. Sounds good to me, people. Stay tuned for results...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Another smoothie

I have stepped into interesting territory with my smoothie-making skillz. I have entered the throwing-weirdass-things-into-a-blender-and-seeing-what-comes-out phase. The weird ingredient of choice today was half of a very ripe Haas avocado.

I started with a bunch of (maybe 6?) medium sized strawberries, washed, with the leaves removed, threw in half an avocado, and then poured chocolate soy milk over the whole deal. Then I blended.

Holy crap, you guys.

The flavor was light, fruity, and chocolatey, with that very subtle green tang from the avocado, and it was somehow both light yet extremely filling. The texture was unbelievable. It was thick and creamy with a silky mouthfeel, like a milkshake. And yet... it was oddly light. I highly, highly recommend half an avocado if your smoothie seems thin. It's better than yogurt because it doesn't add a lot of sour to the party. I want to experiment with other fruits, regular milk, and maybe some sweetened condensed milk (like a tablespoon) and vanilla as sweetener and added flavor. Or maybe oranges, avocado, orange juice, and a tiny bit of sweetened condensed milk to get a creamsicle thing going on...

Ok, that sounds a little wacky, but it just might work... And the possibilities! They're endless!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Cheese blintzes

Danny and I made cheese blintzes!  They are crepes wrapped around a non-measured mush of ricotta, farmer's cheese, one egg, a dusting of cinnamon, a bunch of lemon zest, a couple spoonfuls of sugar, some vanilla, and a bit of sour cream.  It should be creamy and flavorful but not too sweet.  Then you fry the filled crepes, and eat them with a little fruit if you like.  

I ate 3, and I feel like I weigh roughly 7 gazillion pounds, but I'm liking it.  We tried this white wine I picked from the $10 and less cart in the store, the Terrai 2008 macabeo, which was actually very nice.  The price was right, the acidity cut through the creamy blintzes really well, and there was this nice grapefruity zing going on too.  I loved the whole combination.  I'm busy feeling fat and happy... :)

Actually, speaking of fat and happy, I had this realization.  Currently, I weigh ~10 pounds more than I did when I was competitively fencing as an undergrad.  You'd think that would be bad, right?  It's not.  I feel stronger, 5 miles on various pieces of gym equipment don't leave me anywhere near as achy as they used to, and I find that I can workout longer for more days in a row without feeling as fatigued as I used to.  This is an interesting data point in the ongoing experiment that is me as an active person.  Hmm...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Very hot heat.

Today it's 60 F outside. Yesterday and for the whole weekend, it was 90 F. Until last night, I don't think our apartment got below 85 F because the jerks who run the show in our apartment complex don't turn on the a/c until May 10th. Needless to say, there hasn't been much cooking. The most cooking I did was fry an egg one morning. Oh, and Danny got brave Monday night and boiled some pasta which he tossed with some pesto, chopped fresh tomatoes, green onions, and some amazing pecorino romano cheese. The TJ's brand is particularly pungent and tasty. You know, I don't even really appreciate parmesan as much as pecorino romano because it's less flavor bang for the grate. But then, gratuitous cheesiness never does it for me.

Aside from the pasta w/ pesto, we've been eating a lot of salad. I love salad. I'm totally psyched to stock up on cheap fruits and veggies this weekend at M&M when we go visit my parents; my grandma just turned 80, so we're having a BBQ to celebrate. It's a surprise, and she suspects nothing! Hah hah! Anyway, we're going to rock the house.

Also, you'll never believe this, but strawberries at Trader Joe's were less per pound that green peppers. On what crazy planet is this possible??? Peppers can grow in the shoddiest of soil, and they're less bruiseable than strawberries. Oh well. I'm not that disappointed; the strawberries taste awesome chopped up in yogurt with honey drizzled on top for breakfast... :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm famous... a crazy on the internet among OTHER crazies on the internet!

I made Top 100 Food Blogs for the Frugal Gourmet! Check me out under "Student Eating."


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I missed beans hardcore this Passover. After whining about this to my mom over the phone, apparently my father took the next day to expound on his personal suspicion that when the Jews fled Egypt, they HAD to take beans with them because they're dry and lightweight, and besides, beans are one of the oldest cultivated crops so obviously they had them, so therefore it's crazy to not eat them, at what point in Jewish history were they banned, and how can beans rise, anyway? (Plus, we can drink wine which has yeast, so who made up these rules and what were they thinking?)

Next year he wants to go to a Sephardic seder so he can eat rice and beans. I agree with him. My mom's hung up on tradition and refuses to eat them (unless we're at a Sephardic seder) no matter what logic dictates. If you don't understand why Judaism has taken the route it has, my parents are a good micro-study.

Anyway, to celebrate the re-commencement of bean-eating, I decided to follow my occasionally faulty food improvisational instincts. I had a whole bunch of broccoli stalks, so I figured starting with the broccoli latke recipe as the backbone and morphing it into bean burgers would be tasty. In a very complicated, technically advanced, highly skilled procedure, I opened, drained, and dumped a can of black beans into the food processor. Voila, bean burgers. Ah, what the hell, I thought. I have some open chipotles en adobo in the fridge. Why not toss 2 of them in? I food processed until just blended, tasted, and it was good! Frying them up was even tastier, and eating them with some cheese, lettuce, tomato, and ketchup was phenomenal.

It was very close to Dr. Praeger's veggie burgers (unabashedly vegetable in nature, not some weirdly processed meat wannabe). Next time, I'm going to stir in - not food process - some frozen mixed veggies, and maybe add another can of beans. I'll probably have to scale up the flour for binder (or I could try oatmeal... veggie haggis, anyone?). Either way, it'll be healthy, cheap, and delicious.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Passover Recap

So, Passover is done in 24 hours.  I had myself quite a little adventure there, what with this whole making the seder deal.  (FYI, the seder is the traditional meal eaten on the first two nights.)  I'm probably going to leave something out, but I'll do my best to give a complete rundown of everything I made.  The first night was at Danny's older sister's house.  

Seder I:

Roasted Parsnips - 

I love parsnips.  They're a very overlooked vegetable that tastes kind of like a pissed off carrot (in a very good way), and they're dirt cheap.  (Har har, root vegetable, dirt, dirt cheap?  Ok, never mind.)  They are madd tasty.

- parsnips
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- honey
- salt and pepper
- herb of your choice (I used thyme, but rosemary and/or sage or nothing at all would be delicious.)

Peel and cut parsnips.  I cut them diagonally into slices ~1/4 inch thick.  Put slices in a roasting dish, drizzle olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a bit of honey over top (I go light on the honey b/c parsnips are by nature very sweet especially when you roast them, and balsamic vinegar brings some sweetness, too).  Sprinkle a little salt (go easy), some pepper, and thyme over it, and mix it with your hands.  Fingers are the best tools for making sure everything is covered.  It's best if there's a little bit of your dressing in the bottom of the pan; it'll become a nice glaze.  Also, taste this as you go.  Literally, after you mix it up, lick your fingers and adjust how much salt/honey/balsamic you need.   Make it a little on the tangy side.  Like I said, parsnips post-roast are surprisingly sweet.

Throw them in a 400 F oven, and stir every 10-15 minutes until they're soft.  I like to cook mine until they get browned on the edges, but it's up to you.  They get all nice and creamy... soooo good.  

"Candidacy: Seder," a/k/a, Seder II (in no particular order):

Haroset - 

Haroset is a traditional seder food thats supposed to represent the mortar the Jews used when they were slaves to build things for the pharoah.  Ashkenazi Jews (Jews from Eastern Europe) make it out of apples, walnuts, concord grape Manishewitz wine, and maybe some cinnamon.  I grew up with this more tropical variant:

- 1 banana
- ~1-2 handfuls of dates, depending on how much you want to make
- walnuts (~2-4 handfuls)
- 1 medium sized apple, peeled and cored
- Manishewitz concord grape wine

Start with the banana (peeled, obv.) and the apple in the food processor.  Process until obliterated.  Add a handful of dates, and again, process until obliterated.  Add a couple handfuls of walnuts and repeat food processing.  Pour a glug of Manischewitz in and make sure it's fully incorporated.  You want something that is - quite literally - the consistency of mortar.  So, it should be somewhat more viscous than natural peanut butter pre-refrigeration.  When you think about it, it's just walnut butter with fruit.  It's pretty healthy, actually, and it tastes awesome.  If it's startlingly sweet, add more walnuts.  Not sweet enough?  Add dates.  When it tastes nice to you, put it in a tupperware and refrigerate it.  Don't get carried away with the Manichewitz.  You can drink that separately.  

Haroset is one of the things that makes Passover good.  It makes eating matzoh really easy.

Horseradish - 

It reminds us of the unpleasantness of slavery.  Traditionally, it goes on gefilte fish.  Realistically, it goes on whatever you want, and tastes awesome when cut with sour cream, or mayo on a sandwich, etc.  

- roughly 1/2 pound of horseradish root.
- 2-3 fresh small beets
- salt
- a spoonful of sugar
- ~1/2 c of regular vinegar

Peel beets and horseradish root.  BEWARE OF THE HORSERADISH BECAUSE IT RELEASES HIGHLY AWFUL FUMES.  Imagine wasabi to the 100th power.  Your eyes will be watering like mad.  I'm not sure I'd wear contact lenses to do this.  

Anyway, turn on the vent fan and open a window, take your food processor and its grating attachment, and grate the beets and horseradish.  Trying very hard not to spill everything and make a mess, switch from the grating attachment to the blade.  At this point (read: if you're me), you may need to slam the lid back on the food processor, stagger away from it, mopping your eyes, and swearing in any language that occurs to you.  When you've sufficiently recovered, add the vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt, and then process until very finely chopped.  As fast as you can, cram it all into a tupperware, and refrigerate until it's needed.  You may need to repeat the stagger-mop-and-swear procedure.  

Chicken Soup - 

Best stuff ever.  This recipe can feed ~4 very hungry people with leftovers.

- ~4 pounds of chicken (dark meat is way more flavorful than white, so go with thighs/leg quarters here... gizzards are also very good, and the word on the street is that chicken feet are the absolute best, but that hasn't been tried in my family for 2 generations.  ...not that I don't believe it...)
- ~2.5 quarts of water
- 1 onion
- 2 carrots
- 1 or 2 parsnips
- as much garlic as you want (~4-5 cloves)
- 2 ribs celery
- large handful of fresh dill
- large handful of fresh parsley
- I happened to have fennel fronds in my fridge, so I used them here, too
- salt and pepper

Start by rinsing, drying, and skinning the chicken pieces and taking off the extra fat, but because it's Passover, you get to make shmaltz, so set the fat aside in a small pot.  Put chicken pieces into a big soup pot, and I like to give them one extra rinsing in warm water (and draining).  Cover with ~2.5 quarts of water, and set on highest possible heat.  While the chicken's getting up to temperature, peel the carrots, onion, parsnips, and garlic, and wash the celery, dill, parsley, and in my case, fennel fronds.  I typically cut the onion in half, leave the garlic intact, cut the carrots, celery, and parsnips into thirds.  Set them aside.  

When the chicken is on the verge of boiling, you'll notice crud on the surface.  Skim it off as it boils into a cup, and when you've gotten most of it off (you'll never get it perfect, so don't even try), throw in the veggies, dill, and parsley (and fennel).  Poke it all under the water, bring it back to a boil, and just let it very gently simmer as long as you want.  Several hours at a very gentle simmer is ideal.  Throw in some salt and pepper when you have a chance, but don't really season it until it's done.  You may be surprised at how much salt it needs, especially if you're using nonkosher chicken, but just go with it.  Also, you can reduce it if it tastes too watery - just uncover it.   

Shmaltz - 

THE ingredient that sums up Ashkenazi celebratory cooking - rendered chicken fat.  We may not have lard in our history, but oh baby, we have chicken grease.  And crispy chicken skins, called gribenes.  It's the Jewish version of pork rinds, cracklings, chicharrones, etc.  IMO, nothing goes better with mashed potatoes.

- Chicken fat, skins
- Water

Put chicken skins and fat in a small pot with a tiny bit of water (to keep them from sticking).  Set it on a low flame, and let it bubble all the water out and render out the fat from the skins.  You will be left with golden chicken grease and highly crispy chicken skin.  This is why onions were invented; to fry in chicken fat.

Chopped Liver Salad - 

I know, I know.  Pretty much everyone in the world HATES liver.  Except for me.  I know this is a lot of liver, but I love it.  And so does Danny and his father.  While it is extraordinarily high in cholesterol, it's also very high in iron.  Again, it's celebratory food.  If I gorged myself every night on this, I'd be very unhealthy.  Once in a while?  No problems there.  I love it, no guilt involved.  I guess just take the proportions from this recipe, if you're skeptical.

- 4 lbs chicken livers
- 6 hard boiled eggs
- 2 onions
- salt and pepper

Turn your oven broiler on high and let everything get hot.  Put livers on a broiling pan, and when the oven is really hot, stick them as close to the heat as possible, and cook them for 2 minutes on one side, and if they're still quite soft, a minute or two on the other.  Don't overcook them!  They'll get grainy and revolting.  I've been eating rather rare liver my whole life, and I've never gotten sick from it.  That being said, I cooked it more than my mom does.  The inside of the livers should be just barely pink.  When they are, take them out of the oven and let them cool a bit.  Put them in a food processor with the eggs.  Chop and fry the onions (preferably in shmaltz) until very caramelized, and add half of them to the processor along with salt and pepper.  Process until smooth and creamy.  Season to your preference (don't be stingy w/ the pepper), and stir the other half of the onions in by hand for texture.  If you're shooting for extremely creamy pate, obv. include them when you process.  

(My mom adds in mayonnaise, but I didn't see the point.  Add it if it makes you happy.)

Carrot Kugel-

This is stolen straight from The Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz.  It is delicious cold for breakfast along with tasting quite nice warm as a side dish.  

- 6-8 medium carrots
- 2 large apples, peeled and cored
- 1 lemon in chunks, seeds picked out, peel left on
- 6 eggs
- 2 tbsp matzoh meal
- 1/2 c potato starch (or corn when it's not Passover)
- 1 c sugar
- 1/2 c Manischewitz (or another sweet wine)

Peel and shred the carrots and apples.  Dump them in a large bowl.  Switch from the grater to the blade in the food processor, throw the lemon, in chunks, and process it into oblivion.  Dump it in the bowl with the carrots and apples.  Crack the eggs into the food processor, and process for a few seconds.  Add the eggs and everything else to the bowl, mix it up, and then dump it into a greased vessel.  The book says a 2-quart casserole dish, but I don't really know what that is.  I've been eating/making it forever in those rectangular pyrex things, and I like it better when it's flat and ~1 inch high.  It dries out more and tastes a little better, IMO.  Anyway, whatever you choose to bake it in, put it in a 375 F oven for 50-60 minutes until it gets golden brown.  Obv. it isn't going to rise...  

Broccoli w/ Garlic - 

Very simple, pretty healthy.

- Broccoli
- Garlic
- Olive oil

Cut and wash the broccoli.  Peel a buttload of garlic.  Take the broccoli, put it in a microwave-safe dish, covered, with a bit of water on the bottom, and steam.  I start with 4 minutes, give it a stir and adjust from there.  When done, drain and set aside.  Take garlic, slice it, cut it into chunks, whatever makes you happy, just don't cut it too small.  Put some olive oil into the cooking vessel of your choice, and throw garlic into the cold pan.  Leave the heat on medium low.  The goal here is to draw out the garlic flavor into the oil.  Slowly cook the garlic until golden brown, cut the heat, and mix with broccoli.  

Mashed Potatoes - 

- potatoes cut in chunks
- onion
- garlic
- shmaltz
- gribenes

Put potatoes on to boil.  While they're boiling, cut up the onion into small pieces, and do the same to the garlic.  Set the garlic aside because you don't want to add it to the pan w/ the onion at the same time.  I like chopping up some gribenes, too.  When the potatoes are soft, drain, and leave them.  Get some shmaltz hot, and throw the onion in.  The goal is something between a sautee (fast and hot) and caramelization (hot, but not as hot and more slowly).  When the onion starts to look translucent, add the garlic and gribenes.  Continue until they're browned and smell good, and then dump the potatoes back into the pot they were boiled in, followed by the sauteed add-ins.  Mash.  Season with salt and pepper.  

Matzoh Brittle, a/k/a/ Matzoh Crack -

This is the best way to eat matzoh ever in the history of time.  My mom got the recipe from my former high school math tutor, Mrs. Fisher.

- 5-6 matzohs
- 1 c butter/margarine (do NOT use shmaltz here)
- 1 c brown sugar
- chocolate chips
- walnuts

Start by amply greasing a cookie sheet with RAISED EDGES.  Very, very important, these raised edges.  Fit the matzoh on it in a single layer (use another one if need be), and preheat the oven to 375 F.    Put the butter and brown sugar in a pot and cook on medium heat until simmering.  Cook like that for 3 minutes.  Pour the grease + sugar all over the matzohs, trying to roughly evenly distribute it.  Doesn't have to be perfect.  After you put these sheets in the oven, immediately decrease the heat to 350 F, and bake for 10-15 minutes.  Be very careful it doesn't burn.  Take it out and liberally sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Wait ~5 minutes, and spread them around with a spatula (they will have melted from the heat), and top with walnut pieces.  I had whole ones, so I squashed them in my hands as I went.  When it's cool enough to touch, break it haphazardly into pieces.  I put it in the fridge after that so it'll cool faster.  

Passover Apple Cake - 

This is a little involved, but it's very tasty. It's straight from the food processor bible.

- 4 large apples peeled and cored
- 1/2 c sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp potato starch

- 3 eggs
- 3/4 c sugar
- 1/2 c oil
- 3/4 c cake meal
- 1/4 c potato starch
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup orange or lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 F

For filling: Use the slicing attachment on the food processor, and slice the apples.  Dump in a bowl, mix in the rest of the filling ingredients

For batter: Process eggs with sugar with the blade for 1 minute until light. Add oil through the feed tube while the machine's running, and process another 30 seconds.  Uncover, add cake meal, potato starch, and cinnamon, drizzle juice over dry ingredients, and process with 3-4 on/off quick pulses until just smooth.  Let it sit for 2 minutes so it thickens slightly.  Pour half the batter into a greased 8" square pan.  Add the apple filling mixture and cover with the remaining batter.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, until nicely browned.


So, yeah.  I think the order I made everything was soup, shmaltz, carrot kugel, apple cake, charoset, horseradish, broccoli, matzoh crack, chopped liver, mashed potatoes.  I put the soup up first because that's a long slow process, and so is doing the shmaltz.  Then when things were in the oven, I did a lot of chopping, peeling, etc. so I was ready to do the next thing.  Danny rocked the matzoh balls hardcore and he did most of the cleaning.  

That day, I also had an exam.  Turns out I did slightly above average.  I am a fucking rock star.

Friday, April 10, 2009


I cooked for 5 hours straight yesterday, banged out a seder from soup to dessert, had time for a shower + grooming, and everything came out delicious and amazing. I am still recovering. More on the food later. ;)

Thursday, April 9, 2009


It's Passover, and Danny in his infinite wisdom invited his parents over for the second seder to our apartment, I am seriously going to drop a nut, proverbially speaking.  

I make weird haroset, weird lemony carrot kugel, weird broccoli and garlic, and weird everything.  The apartment is tiny, I don't have candlesticks (I have this crazed rather brilliant idea born of desperation that includes small flowerpots, potting soil, and maybe a few flowers... very Martha-Stewart-on-crack, and the damn thing better work), our table is too small, his parents are bringing their motherfucking dogs, and there's going to be a toddler, our apartment is a death trap, and no one is going to be here who's going to be on my side.  

Danny doesn't count because he's in the middle.

Oh, and I have a test this morning at 8.  And I can't sleep.  

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Apparently, I suck at making croutons.  I tried the other day with some ancient bread ends that somehow never grew mold in the back of the fridge.  The end result wasn't croutons, but it was madd tasty.  

Some recipe suggested heating garlic in olive oil, throwing in the bread, tossing to coat, and then continuing to cook so the bread would toast.  It sounded simple enough.  I think I may have overloaded the pan, because the bread never crisped up.  The garlic started out well enough; I started it in cold oil, gradually letting it heat up so it would infuse all the oil with its garlicky goodness.  When it was sizzling and just starting to brown, I threw in the bread cubes, adding some salt, pepper, and paprika, and tossed and toasted the whole deal.  

This yielded garlicky, salty, chewy, greasy, absolutely delicious bread chunks that weren't crispy but tasted amazing on salad anyway.  I ate a bunch of them as snack food.  Very awesome.  Failing at croutons isn't failing at all.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, aliens didn't abduct me, and I didn't get shanghied into a guerilla army in a small South American country.  Instead, I went on vacation with Danny and several other people, and holy crap, that was a butt-ton of work.  We went to New Hampshire for some spring skiing (and snowboarding!  woo!).  To keep costs down, Danny and I bought/cooked everything we'd need for a week of good eating.  Chili, curried chicken, cholent, lentil soup, meatballs and sauce, and my dad baked us a huge tray of ziti.  We relied on oatmeal for breakfast; fast, filling, and cement-like, it fits the bill for perfect pre-ski b-fast.

At this point in time, I would like to revise my opinion of oatmeal.  Since childhood, I have viewed this breakfast food as lumpy, mushy, gross, and only good for my cholesterol and bowel regularity.  It was something I'd come to eat when my cholesterol and bowel movements were of interest to me, hopefully in several decades.  However, I had a revelation.  After eating sweet oatmeal for like 4 days straight in NH, on a whim I decided to try it savory.  My grandma used to eat it that way for as long as I can remember, but for whatever reason I saw that as completely upside down.  Maybe because you can't put chocolate chips into savory oatmeal?  Sounds about right...  But anyway, I put a scraping of butter for flavor, some cheese, salt, and pepper into my bowl full of glop, stirred it up so the cheese melted, and lo and behold, it was not unlike the otherworldy cheesey grits my friend B. made one time.  She would probably die upon reading this comparison, but it did it for me, a Noo Yawka who just doesn't know any better.

I mean, melty cheesey delciousness that early in the morning?  The only thing missing was some hot sauce.  I think the key is to make oatmeal like Danny makes oatmeal, stir it and stir it until it's roughly the consistancy of mortar, and THEN add the cheese.  

I've been fantasizing over how this can be improved.  First of all, oatmeal and milk?  Dirt cheap.  Can't improve upon that.  Butter... well, I just use enough to give it the hint of flavor, but I could probably duplicate the creaminess with whole milk instead of the 1% we used.  And really, butter isn't completely necessary, so you could leave that out.  The cheese... well, we used munster which was great, but a good sharp cheddar would totally rock, jarlsberg would be lovely, gouda would taste great (maybe even smoked gouda?), and I will likely try this at some point with pecorino romano.  

Another addition that occured to me is a runny fried egg.  My aunt makes the best eggs ever, and I figured out how she does it!  She cracks them when the pan is still cold, so they cook very slowly and gradually, which gives the bottoms enough time to get crispy.  Then she puts liberal amounts of pepper, paprika (obv, not the hot one... but this reminds me that I need to get my hands on pimenton, the smoked variety which I bet would blow my face off because it would taste so good), and dried basil on top, and cooks them just until the yolk begins to set.  I would love one of those babies on top of my oatmeal.  Hellz yes.  

Maybe I'd put some sauteed greens with garlic or thawed spinach between my oatmeal and egg too, come to think of it.  The more I think of it, the better it sounds.  This is now morphing from a one-dish breakfast to a brunch/lunch/dinner dish.  For the non-kosher among us who like to go whole hog - literally - why not add some crumbled bacon?  

Trust me, you'll be full until dinnertime.  

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fishity Fish Fish Fish.

I like fish. I bought a large jar of pickled herring from Costco last time we were there, and it makes me sad that the MD Costco doesn't carry whole smoked whitefish like the one in NY. Courtesy of watching my dad many Saturday/Sunday mornings taking apart whole whitefish throughout the course of my life, I make my own smoked whitefish salad which, if I may be so bold to say, is significantly superior to store-bought varieties.

(How to make whitefish salad: buy appropriate poundage of smoked whitefish. Remove meat, throw in tupperware. Add mayonnaise - Hellman's, you fools! Nothing but Hellman's! Mix. Put on real fresh bagel - toasting optional - with cucumber slices. Revel in the smoky, fishy, chewy, creamy, crunchy, cucumbery goodness.)

For ocasional fresh fish treats, Danny and I go with Trader Joe's frozen offerings. We've sampled their tuna (sear it after a quick marinade in soy, garlic, and ginger, include the ginger and garlic in the pan; it is excellent on salads or anything else), wild salmon, and sole.

With the salmon, I sliced kumquats (a seasonal treat currently available at TJ's! Woohoo!), garlic, salt, and pepper over the 2 fillets, each with a sprig of rosemary, and stuck them in a very hot broiler until they were just done. We ate them with sliced tomatoes topped with a few rogue kumquat slices, balsamic vinegar, and a bit of olive oil and some coconut rice and beans.

(The coconut rice and beans is very easy. For 1 meal for 2 people, take 1 cup of rice, 1 can of coconut milk in a measuring cup, and filling the difference with water, make sure you get 2 cups of liquid. Put rice and liquid in a pot, and add 1/2-1 can of drained and lightly rinsed black beans. Top with a little salt, maybe some allspice, and cover. Heat and boil until the level of liquid is below the top of the rice, turn heat on low, cover, and let it steam. Don't let it burn. Eat when soft.)

Actually, the nice thing about kumquats is their flesh is extremely tart so there's no need for lemon juice to counteract fishiness, but the peel is very very sweet. So when you cook them, there's virtually no bitterness. Also, a lot of the sour goes away with cooking. And you still get crazy amounts of citrus flavor because you leave the peel on and you're supposed to eat the whole thing. It was such a Carribbean-meets-Mediterranean flavor combination, it made the grey February go away because it tasted like sunshine. The tomatoes, the coconut, the fish, and the citrus... mm-mm.

You know, kumquats are an amazing ingredient because you get a huge amount of tangy, sweet, and flavor all in one easily handled fruit. All you need to do is wash, slice, and make sure you get [most of] the pits out. No peeling, no hard carapace, no equipment needed to access the yumminess, and no shells. Besides, the fewer ingredients required to make something that tastes awesome, the better.

Anyway, back to the fish. The sole. Danny was craving something fried, so we decided to fry the sole. The fail-safe breading procedure is flour-egg-bread crumbs. We used panko, and the beauty of that style of breading is whatever you're frying, be it eggplant or fish, doesn't absorb excessive oil. I mean, obviously you're frying something and when you eat it you're going to say, "oohhhhh yeah, fried whatever-it-is," but it doesn't get gratuitously grease-logged and nasty. So it was Danny's turn, and he fried the fish to perfection. Olive oil was fine here. We had the leftover rice from our salmon feast, and Danny made this garlic tomato chipotle sauce. Sautee ~2-3 cloves of garlic a little bit, dump in a large can of peeled whole tomatoes, reduce by ~1/2 (the tomatoes will fall apart by then), and kill the flame. Put 1 chipotle en adobo in the food processor, dump the tomatoes in, and food process. Obviously, if you like the smoky heat, use more chipotles. I put fish, a small heap of rice and beans, and a pile of thawed frozen spinach on my plate with a huge glob of sauce in the middle. I kind of dragged everything through the sauce, and it took the whole meal south of the border.

Very satisfying. Very delicious. And I got my omega 3's. So, fish. From Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean to the American southwest/Mexico by way of the Carribbean. :)

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I am currently eating some of the most boring food ever because I'm on a crazy antibiotic.  I have been eating lots of yogurt in an attempt to keep my gut bacteria maybe less than completely dead, chicken soup because, well, it makes you better even though no one knows why, saltines to try to glue the very liquid contents of my GI together, bananas, and the occasional cheese and tomato sandwich on bread.  

Scrambled eggs are as greasy as I can go right now.  Danny made waffles for breakfast the other day, but I couldn't handle straight maple syrup on them.  So I got a bunch of yogurt, mixed a bit of maple syrup in for the flavor, and dipped the waffles in.  It was surprisingly tasty!  ....or my palate is just that bored...

Oh, does cough syrup count?  Been taking a lot of that lately, too.  

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weird Noodly Things

So we tried the bizarre lasagna last night!

First, I roasted a whole ton of carrot and parsnip slices after coating them in a haphazard mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey. I roasted them at 400 F giving them a stir every 15 min or so until they were soft and kind of caramelized. They were very tasty by themselves.

Then I took most of a tub full of ricotta cheese (a bit less than 1 lb), half a log of goat cheese (roughly... er... maybe half a pound? I totally forget how much one large log of it from Trader Joe's weighs. Basically, I added it and smooshed everything together until it tasted enough like goat cheese to make me happy), and one egg and mixed it up. Then I took 3 cloves of garlic, a handful of sage leaves, and some rosemary, and processed that into a pseudo-pesto with the help of a small handful of walnuts and olive oil.

Following that, Danny and I had an argument over whether we should pre-boil the lasagna noodles. We ended up boiling them. Then we layered noodles, veggies, and gobs of pesto and cheese in that order until we ran out, grated parmesan over the whole deal, and baked it at 350 F.

The verdict? It is very tasty. It's not perfect, though. It needs more filling, and the filling needs more liquid. I suppose I should have used cream somewhere, or something like that, but I like finding balance between gratuitously unhealthy things and things I can eat in good conscience on a regular basis that don't become "treat" foods.

Because then everything becomes a treat, and then what do you have left for special occasions?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Vegetables! In pancake form!

Yesterday I finished my work early (fluorescence experiments are short periods of intense work, but they are far superior to plating because they don't take 3 days) so I went to Trader Joe's in search of vegetables in the late afternoon.

TJ's delivered! Sometimes their produce is sad and wilted and I get angry that they prepackage it so I can't root through it to pick out the good stuff, but yesterday I scored some awesome broccoli and eggplants. The broccoli florets were all green, perky, and tightly packed, and the stems weren't funky and brown on the bottoms, so I got 3 bunches. This seems like a lot, but it really isn't the way Danny and I eat. I chopped off the florets to bag en masse for stirfries, steaming, etc. And the stalks were left. When I was a kid, I liked the broccoli stalks more than the florets. I think it was a texture thing, but Danny doesn't like them at all. But dude! They're perfectly good broccoli stalks! I can't throw them out.

So, I went back to a veggie tactic from my mom's bag of tricks, cracked my Food Processor Bible to check ingredient ratios, and made broccoli pancakes or latkes, depending on what side of the Judeo-Christian divide you subscribe to. The basic recipe is as follows:

- 2 c shredded veggies (like ~6 carrots, ~6 broccoli stalks, etc).
- 1 medium onion
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 c flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- salt and pepper
- oil for frying

First, shred whatever veggie or combination thereof in the food processor, and take it out. Then put the blade in and toss in the onion. Process until it's in small bits. Throw the rest of the ingredients in (except the oil), including the shredded veggies, and process until blended. It should be somewhat chunky. Heat up a pan with some oil, and with the flame on medium, drop them in with a spoon, flattening them a bit with the spoon. Cook like 2-3 min per side, roughly speaking, until they're browned.

So, use whatever vegetable combination you want. The broccoli ones seem like they'd taste good with a teriyaki-like dipping sauce... some combination of soy, ginger, garlic, and sweet/tangy. The basic flavor is gentle and sweet from the onion cooking with (obviously) whatever vegetable you added. It would take to a light addition of herbs very well.

These ended up taking the place of the risotto last night with the roast chicken and some of the broccoli florets, lightly steamed. It was a broccolicentric meal, and it was delicious.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Upcoming experiment...

I am planning an upcoming experiment not involving E. coli, osmotic shock, fluorescence, and mechanosensitive channels! Can I get a what what?

I will experiment most likely on Sunday. This experiment will involve roasted root vegetables (parsnips and carrots) in a lasagna of sorts, probably with some herby pesto-ish thing in place of tomato sauce, and cheese. Danny and I are thinking provolone, because Costco sells big things of it. I keep making the same things over and over again, and I need to explore alternatives. Roasted root veggie lasagna seems like a good idea.

Tonight, however, is roast chicken, and Danny's going to make mushroom risotto. I think I may stop to pick up a veggie. Broccoli? Sauteed greens with garlic? The real question should be "What's on sale?"

Monday, February 2, 2009


When I was a kid, I hated oatmeal, which was reserved for cold weather breakfast. I liked being full for the whole day and warm, but I hated the stuff. It was glorpy and rubbery and lumpy. Ecch. The only way I liked it was when there were chocolate chips melted into it (which was only a weekend treat, so I was pretty much screwed for the rest of the week). I would swallow it down as fast as possible (because I was always hungry and was never one for hunger strikes) and catch the bus.

But with age comes tolerance and from tolerance comes appreciation. I would honestly prefer leftover curry or shakshouka for breakfast than oatmeal, but that's just not a regular option. So I started making my own oatmeal packets. I have a thing of soymilk at work in the fridge. I fill a little sandwich bag with an approximate 1/2 cup of oatmeal, some brown sugar, and cinnamon. We have a thing of frozen cherries so I've been putting those in a different bag, but when I run out, raisins or whatever dried thing we've got will be my fruit of choice.

Then I nuke it. Actually, that makes it sound easier than it is. We have a Large Hadron Collider strength microwave that is completely out of control. You can't even see in the door, so you can't tell when it's starting to boil over. The invisibility might be intentional since one might go blind if you look the microwave in the eye. And even if you think you've changed the power level, it doesn't necesarily mean it'll be at a lower setting than Destructinate. I'm not sure if I'm inept, the microwave is possessed, or the microwave is broken. I have a feeling it's a combination of all three with particular emphasis on the first.

But once you get over pausing it every thirty seconds to poke at it with a spoon, let the bubbling lava settle back into the bowl, and not ooze all over the place, it's actually very nice and convenient. I get to determine how sweet/spiced/fruity my glop is, and I get it piping hot first thing in the morning. And I don't drag around wild-eyed and irritable because I'm hungry.

So screw the over-sugared Quaker oatmeal packets. Make your own. They're better.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


So, there's this appetizing place in NY called Russ and Daughters. It specializes in fish products. Any kind of salmon: smoked, preserved, etc. and any kind of herring you could possibly want, or if it's caviar you're after, they sell it too. It's pretty amazing. Apparently it's been on Oprah, which decidedly lowers its street cred in my book, but that's simply because I'm kind of a bastard.

I was educating Danny and indirectly his sister who, along with his mother, recently "discovered" a corner of NYC they love besides Bloomingdale's and Broadway - Zabar's (and yet, they've never been to the Met, which totally kills me because I pretty much grew up there, but that's another rant for another day). I was poking around on Russ and Daughters website telling Danny what they sell, he was telling his sister over the phone, and I noticed they have a blog.

On their blog is a particularly hilarious blurb, "Boy Eats Herring and Becomes Funny, Active, Smart, and Intelligent, and Also It Makes Him Look More Like President Barack Obama." First of all, it's just funny. Second of all, the kid looks so thrilled to be eating a piece of herring off a fork, it's awesome. Third of all, he does kind of look like a miniature Obama. I think it's the forehead and haircut.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Homemade cake mix?

First of all, there's this highly underrated cookbook I have.  It isn't food pornography, it's not hawked by an American TV personality, and it's definitely not glossy.  It's written by Norene Gilletz, and it's called "The Food Processor Bible."  My mom has the old copy, which is liberally stained on many, many pages.  I'm sure I've eaten more things from it than I realize.  

Anyway, one of the standbys from when I was a kid and my mom would make my brother and me birthday cakes - towering, multilayered, very homemade, jam-and-icing laden, delicious confections - she'd use this one recipe for chocolate cake.  In the book, it's called "cockeyed cake."  Two posts previously, I mentioned it as the healthiest chocolate cake could ever hope to be.  It happens to be vegan, and I could see it being a homemade cake mix.  The dry ingredients could be mixed up weeks or months is advance, and then after measuring out a certain quantity, water, oil, vinegar and vanilla could be added.  Baking time is 30 minutes.  Not bad.  

The recipe is as follows:

1.5 c flour
1 c sugar
1/3 c cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp salt
5 tblsp oil
1 tblsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c cold water

- Food processor the dry ingredients 10 seconds until blended.
- Add wet ingredients and process 6-8 seconds until just blended.
- Bake in a greased 8 inch square pan for 30 min at 350 F.

A couple things... the recipe suggests using peppermint as a substitute for vanilla extract.  I'm sure orange or almond would taste excellent too.  Also, remember that baking soda/vinegar experiment from back in the day in science class?  It's a simple acid-base reaction that forms carbon dioxide gas (and water).  This carbon dioxide is where the leavening for the cake comes from, so once you add the vinegar, don't continue food processing too long, and try to have your oven preheated so you can throw the cake right in.  Also, the recipe said a greased pan.  I would consider greasing and flouring, because of the 2 cakes I made in a greased-only pan, one came out ok and the other kind of got messed up when I took it out of the pan.  It might have been my fault, but mreh... :)

If you wanted to store things, I could see measuring the dry ingredients into a ziplock bag, labeling it, maybe writing necessary amounts of wet ingredients + baking time and temp. on it so you don't forget, and storing it in a cabinet until you want chocolate cake and you want it NOW.  

Also, this cookbook is really nice... it has a nice balance of meat based recipes, vegetable ones, starch, and dessert.  It goes from more traditional recipes to recipes for Cantonese short ribs.  There are recipes specific to the Jewish tradition (like Passover things, etc.), but cookbooks containing pork recipes never stopped me, so the reverse should be true for any non-Jews.  Besides, haroset is really tasty.  (It's a paste of walnuts, apples, honey, cinnamon, sweet red wine (Manishewitz, represent!), and maybe some ginger.  Or if you're from the Middle East, you do a banana and date-based one.)  This cookbook doesn't have quite the amount of veggie recipes I'd like, but this is a quality cookbook for anyone who says "fuck it" to knife skills.  Because the food processor does the work for you.  

But I digress... anyway, that's my cake recipe!  

Put some cherries between 2 of those babies, whip some cream and cover the whole deal, and you have yourself some very respectable layer cake for dessert.  Just make sure you have people coming over, so that you don't end up eating the whole thing yourself.  


Holy crap, people, the Giant supermarket by me was literally OUT OF REGULAR LENTILS.  

I kid you not.  I had to make lentil soup from red lentils.  More on that later, but dude.  Out of LENTILS?  


Out of Goya AND the house brand.  I could not believe mine eyes.  This recession thing is for real.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Holy working week, Batman!

This is going to be a slightly scatterbrained post.

I have not been doing anything particularly awesome in the culinary sense this week. I did satisfy a craving for black forest cake by making my own. I made 2 rounds of the simplest and almost healthy chocolate cake in the world (coincidentally and completely by accident, it's vegan). Then, I got cherries from TJ's in light syrup, which I put between the two layers, and then I covered the whole deal in whipped cream (good-bye, vegan).

That was probably on the whole cheaper than buying a slice of cake somewhere which would have likely tasted of additives and other crap and would have left me feeling sad and unfulfilled. However, the downside is that I have half a black forest cake sitting in my fridge pleading with me to be eaten every time I open the fridge.

Bad planning, HungryGrad. Very bad. Must make massive cake construction coincide with a dinner party or something.

In other news, I have decided to limit the amount of pasta that Danny and I cook in one week to 1 pound, tops. Danny is a hardcore starch hound, but I think after this week even he is tired of pasta. We made lemon dill pasta salad, lime cilantro pasta salad, and a parsley pesto on pasta. I don't want anymore bloody pasta.

Happily, tonight is going to be pan seared fish, papaya salsa, and rutabaga latkes. I can't wait. I'm so tired of pasta that I engineered a sardine salad for lunch today. 1 can of sardines, 1 can of kippers, a glob of yogurt, some capers, mustard, and I think I should have squeezed some lemon in, but I didn't. I chopped up a ton of dill, sliced some cukes, and put it all in a tupperware with a few slivers of Jarlsberg. Ate it with a spoon, because I didn't even want bread.

People, I actively miss beans.

I made a vat of curried chicken a couple weeks ago, sans the chicken. I doubled the recipe (because I love it so much) and in lieu of chicken, I threw in 3 cans of beans - kidney, garbanzo, and some weird whitish ones. It was gone very rapidly, and is definitely in the running for something to make for the week, especially since it goes very well with lima bean and dill rice (a Persian thing) which is good because we have a huge bouquet of dill that needs to get eaten. Another possibility for this weekend's cooking activities is a lentil soup of epically hearty proportions, as well as a minestrone. I am so back on the bean. I want the minestrone to be vegetarian, but I haven't decided if I want to include hotdogs in the lentil soup. Need some input from Danny. There's also half a head of red cabbage that's going to get cooked down with an apple and an onion and some vinegar and sugar into sweet and sour cabbage.

This is odd, but i'm craving spinach. The frozen-in-a-block kind. I want to put it in the microwave, thaw and warm it, drain it, and then put the entire package on a steaming hot baked potato with a touch of sour cream, and some sauteed/roasted garlic. And some salt and pepper. That would make me incredibly happy.

Hm. Yet another meal possibility for the week...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Syringes in the Kitchen

This is a most unattractive picture of me imitating a mad scientist injecting sufganiyot (briefly mentioned here) with jelly.  More specifically Polaner All-Fruit raspberry whatevertheycallit.  I love raspberry preserves/jam/jelly.  

I'm sure there's a better technique for preserves injection that doesn't involve unused dental syringes (because Danny had his wisdom teeth out, the dentists' office equipped him with 2 syringes to clean out his mouth holes - or whatever you want to call them - so we had some good equipment).  When filling doughnuts of any kind, celebratory or not, is there a better way to jammify them?  Obviously people have been doing this for much longer than there have been syringes, so they must have some way to go about this culinary pursuit.  

I've seen recipes for a two-part doughnut with jelly in the middle like a sandwich, but I'd imagine it would get absorbed and kind of gooky during frying.  Other recipes say to use a syringe or a spoon and a small hole.  Hm.

This frying/filling business isn't something I'm familiar with or good at...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

When life gives you lemons... CLONE them, and make SUPER lemons!!!!

(Madd, madd props if you got that reference.)

If you didn't, that was from Clone High, a fantastic cartoon show MTV did for 2 seasons.  The first season was amazingly excellent, but the second season was a little too trippy and disjointed for my viewing tastes.  

But anyway, I had lemons.  And eggplants.  And ample amounts of tahini.  And I'm sick and I wanted something garlicky to kill the cold viruses.  Despite the shakiness of this particular bubbe meise, baba ganoush and hummus sounded excellent.  I've written about how to make baba ganoush before, and rereading it, it still sounds right.  Adding the tahini straight from the jar (instead of premixing it with lemon juice, salt, smashed garlic, and water to get the dressing you'd pour over falafel) amps up the creaminess and minimizes any residual wateriness from the eggplants.  And I've written about how to make hummus before, too.  Rereading it, it sounds pretty good, although if I was only making 1 can of chickpeas, I'd probably cut the garlic back to one clove.  But then, I never make just one can's worth of hummus because between Danny and I, it would be gone in a few hours.  

I made both, and it really does make me feel better.  The strong garlic and lemon make it through my sinuses and I can actually taste something!  Huzzah.  Now I have to wait 30 minutes before I take a cold-eeze because of the citrus.  

Friday, January 2, 2009


I've noticed men prepare very distinct foods, foods that inspire the most macho of men to don an apron and a grim expression, pick up a fire extinguisher, and sally forth.  In the US, these dude foods include things like vats of chili and barbeque, mainly hearty meat dishes.  Very similar to these particular foods is cholent, a dish that is confined primarily to the eastern European Jewish communities.  

Men make cholent.  This doesn't mean women don't (this woman certainly does...).  But what I mean is everyone's father/boyfriend/husband/brother knows how to make it, and they have their own special additions.  The particular variant I grew up eating is pared down to basics, easy to throw together and even easier to cook.  

Cholent is all beans and meat, with the most expensive ingredient being the meat.  Bare bones of what you need for four people (4 people!  4 of them!  If you live by yourself, you'll be drowning in cholent if you don't at least halve your recipe!) is 2 cups of dried beans, 1 cup of dried barley, and 3 pounds of meat.  The meat should be decently marbled; if it's too lean you'll be chewing on shoe leather, but if it's too marbled you'll be drowning in grease.  Generic stew beef is perfectly acceptable.  Just make sure you cut it in chunks.  For flavor, you'll need 1 whole onion, a bunch of paprika, a couple bay leaves, dried ginger (optional), salt, and pepper.  The only caveat is that because the beans need a good soaking, you have to start 2 days before you want to eat it.  

Before I get to the recipe, I want to talk about beans.  You can use pretty much any dried bean mixture you want.  I'm particularly partial to 1 cup (at least) of dried large lima beans, and then a cup of whatever else, usually kidney or pinto or navy beans.  I've never used black eyes peas (don't use lentils), but pretty much anything is fair game.  

So, let's say your beans and barley are sitting in the pantry, the meat is cut in chunks in the fridge, and you want cholent on Friday night.  That means on Wednesday night before you go to sleep, you measure your 2 cups of beans into a really large bowl (they swell up like you wouldn't believe), pour in water until the level is twice what it was with just dried beans, leave it on your counter, and go to sleep.  The next morning, transfer them to the fridge before you leave for work/school.  

When you come home on Thursday, get out your crock pot.  Drain the beans, and dump them into the pot. Measure one cup of barley, and dump that in too.  Cut an onion in half from stalk to root end, slice it up, and throw it in.  Toss in ~2 bay leaves, a very generous amount of paprika (the sweet kind is what I'd use here), on the scale of tablespoons... probably ~2-3.  For the dried ginger, I'd do ~2 teaspoons.  Grind a generous amount of pepper in, and sprinkle some salt in, too.  Salt and pepper can be adjusted post-cooking to taste.  Heat up a pan, and brown your meat chunks.  Dump them into the crock pot.  Now fill the crock pot with water until the water level is 1-1.5 inches above the beans and meat.  At this point, I like to take a large spoon and attempt to mix everything so it's more evenly distributed.  Sometimes it works, sometimes I just end up smushing the beans and barley around.  It doesn't matter either way.  Cover the crock pot, turn it on low, and go to sleep.  

When you wake up in the morning on Friday, check the water level in your pot.  If it's dropped below the surface of the beans, etc., add more.  When you come home, you'll have dinner all set.  Usually cholent needs more salt.  Only once in 25 years of me being alive has it almost had too much.  Oh, a caveat about cholent; you will think you want more.  You will be like "Hey, I'm not full!  I want another bowl!" and then all of a sudden, "Oh sweet merciful lord I cannot move from this table.... unngnghghghghghghngnnghgnghghghhh... there is a lead shotput in my belly."  Be careful.  Also, this goes extremely well with vodka toasts.  You can do 4-5 shots with a meal of cholent and feel as sober as an observant Mormon.  Cholent will keep you full practically forever.  It's hot, thick, rich, and the beans get gloriously creamy and the meat falls apart.  

Dude food, comfort food, Jewish soul food, whatever.  It's an awesome winter dish.  

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Russian Spam

Despite its complete ridiculosity, I thought I'd share this tidbit.  Russians like spam, but allegedly they really like Polish spam.  Much like Coca Cola from Mexico, spam from Poland is superior.  The literal translation of the tin is "mechanically separated pork."  

Anyone want some mechanically separated pork?

Vacation Rocks My Face Off

It really does.  For one thing, school isn't raining down all kinds of unimaginable hell on my head, the constant buzz of fear has finally shut off because I don't have to live one of my recurring stress nightmares (teaching a subject I know nothing about), and I am surrounded by people who communicate their thoughts fully and comprehensibly.  

Actually, my anxiety dreams have grown up with me.  When I was a little kid,  like 8 or so, I used to dream about going to school naked.  I went through puberty, spent a lot of time in locker rooms primarily for basketball and fencing, started dating, and as a result of observation and very rarely getting turned down by boys, I learned that for all my supposed freakishness (and all the awful teasing from girls), I'm actually pretty hot.  So, those dreams went away.  But far from being free from anxiety, I then dreamt about walking into class, sitting down in the front row, and knowing nothing about whatever the professor is professing.  The second semester of my freshman year in undergrad, I accidentally walked into the wrong chemistry lecture, realized it was organic chem - not general chemistry - and slunk out with my heart pounding from a mixture of abject terror and relief.  Once I got over that, I've dreamt about having to get up in front of a room full of people, feeling perfectly confident, and then realizing I know NOTHING about the subject about which I am supposed to speak.  Well, just got done with that.  Two 2-hour sessions a week for a semester is a very effective shock therapy.  

I wonder, with what maladjusted phobic scheme will my brain ambush me next?

Anyway, after knocking another thing that scares me off the list of Things That Scare Me, I was totally primed for vacation.  Two amazing Chanukah celebrations later, I am fat and happy.  Actually, I'm not really fat even though I feel that way from a surfeit of really good food.  Because Chanukah is a celebration of a miracle of oil (oil for a menorah lasted 8 days even though there was technically only enough for 1 day), fried food is the order of the day(s).  Our celebration included sufganiyot (no idea how to spell that, but it's pronounced soof-gah-nee-yoht'... not a short "o" in the last syllable) which are jelly-filled doughnuts.  I used a syringe to inject Polaner's All-Fruit raspberry preserves into the doughnuts my mom made.  I know there's probably a less labor intensive way to do it, but I don't know about it... We also did potato latkes (potatoes, onions, egg, flour, water if needed) with apple sauce and sour cream, and my dad made falafel with all the fixings to round out the fried thing.  

That's why I feel fat and happy, instead of just happy.  But the funny thing is I managed to put on a pair of skinny jeans for a New Year's Eve party I pretty much despaired of ever fitting into.  Something stayed my hand when I went through my closet recently.  They were too nice; the denim is a deep saturated blue, they don't cling all the way down my calves, they're long enough, and they fit inside boots I own ever so perfectly.  I couldn't toss them.  When I realized I could slide myself into them, I paired them with a super sequined top that was possibly supposed to be a tunic on a shorter person under a black velvet blazer (after the leaping around with joy finished).  I resembled the Times Square ball; just imagine it in a blazer with reddish hair.  And of course, shoes.  Mine look something like this, only black and a different brand which I've forgotten.  That just goes to show you, sometimes even when you feel like a greasy blob, it really is just in your head.  Hah.  

But actually, between Chanukah and New Year's, I did something other than eat.  While I was in New York, I introduced Danny to my best friend from high school who is the one person I've known since I was 15 with whom I can carry on a serious conversation and still joke about poop and farts.  Knowing anyone over the course of your most formative years when everyone changes so much and still liking them and having them like you back is pretty huge.  He's in law school now, as brilliant and goofy as ever, after finishing a master's in Slavic Studies at Columbia U. and writing a book, and translating things, quitting smoking for the bazillionth time, and generally boggling my mind with all the stuff he does.  The three of us went out in a particularly deserted part of town, in bars with animal heads mounted on the walls, talking, laughing, and drinking beer.  It was a tremendous relief when it turned out he and Danny got along.  I didn't expect a table-flipping brawl, and it wasn't something I'd really been dreading, but, well, you know... 

So, there was that, some museum hopping, and TONS of sleeping.  Currently, I have a cold.  It's not bad, just a nuisance that's keeping me from doing things I want to do.  Danny made some amazing chicken soup, which combined with naps, tea, and cold-eeze is keeping me more healthy than sick.  Hopefully this trend will continue.  I want to take a shower, but I straightened my hair yesterday (which was a TON of work) and lack a showercap.  Drat.  I might sacrifice my hard work in the name of not being smelly anymore.