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...