Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cannibal Pigs

To celebrate the end of NaBloPoMo, Sam and I went out for ribs. Smoky Jon's is our favorite and has the added advantage of being one of the few restaurants worth patronizing near our house. Sam loves Smoky Jon's graphics. In the picture below the pig appears to be pouring BBQ sauce on his own belly while he lounges in the fire. In the photo above, he is salivating at the thought of chomping on some ribs. This is not a vegetarian friendly joint. After a thorough exploration of their offerings over the years, I've decided to just stick with the ribs. It is what they do best. Whatever you do, do not get the burrito. I don't know what I was thinking when I ordered this but this leftover meat wrapped in the saddest excuse for a tortilla I've ever seen will never pass my lips again. But the ribs, oh the ribs!Smoky Jon has won numerous national awards for his BBQ (and Emilio Estevez and Paula Abdul have eaten here, woohoo!) and though I've never been to Kansas City or Memphis, I think these ribs could compete with the best of them. His sauce sauce has that perfect balance of sweet and tang. The meat falls off the bone as you pick them up and has that pink tinge characteristic of well-smoked meat.
The only disappointment is the sides. I've thought about getting take-out ribs and coming home to eat them with my own baked beans and tasty coleslaw but instead I'm lazy and opt for the fries and usually the corn which has enough "butter" and black pepper to make it stangely tasty.
And now here's a picture of me because The Amateur Gourmet claims I can boost my readership by putting my picture on my blog. Hey, Amateur Gourmet are you looking?! I changed my masthead too! (Thanks to Sam for the html help.) I'm still in my hat and reserved-for-the-coldest-days-of-the-year-down-jacket because today it is COLD here. Yesterday, it was 40 degrees, today 16 degrees. Gotta love Wisconsin in the winter!

Whew! It's over! I don't quite know what I'll do with myself now that a good portion of every day is not spent cooking so that I have something to write about, taking pictures of food and reading what everyone else is writing about. Hmm...Maybe I'll finally get the preserving business off the ground? Stay tuned, the health dept. inspection is coming up.

Thanks to everyone who visited my blog this month. Special thanks to those who keep coming back. Witout you, I'd be nothing. And now back to our regularly scheduled program...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

F**k, I only have 9 minutes left to post!

I admit it, the time stamp at the end of my posts is wrong. I figured I'd change it after NaBloPoMo in case I got in trouble with this challenge. I was only late once this month and it was by 1 minute. So today, I am not ready to blog about the no-knead bread so here is a photo essay of the Pears Belle-Helene (pear chocolate preserves) I started making today.

P.S.- Are my pictures getting better or is it just me? I got a photograghy book out of the library. I LOVE the library!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No need to knead.

Looks good doesn't it? The only problem- I FORGOT THE SALT! I know those crazy Tuscans like their bread without salt but to me bread without salt is like eating without tastebuds. Anyway, I didn't plan to post about this today but now I have spent so much time reading the exhaustive coverage of this bread phenomena that I had no other choice. A new salted batch is underway and I will post about it tomorrow with all the tips I've gleaned along the way. I can already say that everyone needs to try this bread. Thanks Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bibimbop and Bulgogi.

Don't ya want to eat Korean food just for the names? Last night we went to Molly and Brent's for dinner. I said we'd bring the fixings for Bibimbop and they countered with Bulgogi. They didn't even know that I'd been wanting to try this dish for years. You know what's better than making a dish you've wanted to try for years? Having someone else make it for you! Thanks guys.The first time I made BibimbopI was cooking at a farm for the summer. Some of the people I fed were real meat and potatoes types and they weren't thrilled with lunch that day (they preferred the cows tongue salad I made on a different day to this!). Part of the problem is that they wouldn't eat anything hot AT ALL and we all know that the success of a bowl of bibimbop lies with a liberal dose of Rooster sauce. I don't blame them, really, I wouldn't get excited about a bowl of rice with spinach, cucumbers, carrots and mushrooms with an egg on top either. It's the hot sauce that ties it all together and makes it special. I got the recipe from Cooking Light.
Brent made the bulgogi recipe from an amalgamation of online sources. It seems like a pretty basic marinade so maybe what made it so delicious was the grated pear? I don't know but I can't wait to have it again. And then I'm going to try this bulgogi burger.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What do you eat with Ajvar?

I picked up a jar of this incredible Serbian salsa, if you will, and quickly became enamoured of its red-hot color, silky texture and complex flavor. I came up with many ways to use it even though it was pretty good spooned straight from the jar into my mouth.
I began to wonder how it was really intended to be used. That's where Google came in handy. I found this post and learned that it's used as a condiment for a meaty sandwich called cevapcici. In August I tried my hand at making homemade ajvar (pronounced eye-var) but discovered I liked the store bought version better. Instead of canning it, as I had originally intended, I threw it into the freezer in small portions because this stuff is HOT. I knew I needed some cevapcici to go with the stuff but it took me until now to round up all that meat. I generally buy meat at the farmers' market because it's more reasonably priced for local, humanely raised meat. I'd buy the beef but the lamb lady wouldn't have any ground meat that week but then we'd use the beef for burgers and then the pork people would only have pork sausage left, etc.
After market this Saturday, I knew I'd scored the trifecta and had all the meats I needed. The recipe I used is from the Frugal Gourmet and can be found here (it's pretty different from the recipe mentioned in the post above so there are two from which you can choose) I served them with homemade pitas, ajvar, and the yogurt sauce mentioned in by the Frugal Gourmet. These were so good. The hot ajvar was balanced out by the cool yogurt and the meat was very flavorful. I can't wait to try this next summer when we can cook them on the grill and serve them on grilled bread.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Winter Market Report. *Edited

One of my favorite podcasts is Good Food from KCRW. They begin each program with the market report and it is always fascinating. They are in California and I love hearing about what's available at markets in warmer climates. This week they were talking about chestnuts and in the recent past they've talked to avocado and persimmon growers. I hereby state that before I die, I will live somewhere that has tropical fruit growing on trees. I want my own mango tree! In the meantime, I'll stick with Good Food's market report.
I thought I'd also start my own market report. I would imagine that not many places with a cold climate like Wisconsin have a farmers' market that continues year round and I thought other people might be interested in seeing what's on offer at our winter market. Everything at this market is produced right here. The rules are very strict about this. For those of you concerned with eating locally, if you don't have a winter market, start talking to farmers and market managers in your area about it. If they know that there is a demand, they may begin looking into extending their season by using hoop houses and finding a venue to sell these products. The Dane County Farmers' Market has been around for 34 yrs. and has around 300 vendors (no that's not a typo!) This is only the 4th year (I think) for the winter market and it just keeps getting better every year. Here's a list of what's available at the market and some pictures of my purchases this week. Too many leeks are never enough!Snug Haven's glorious winter spinach. One winter I worked for them picking spinach in the hoop houses. My second day I had to call in sick because I could barely move. Picking spinach is HARD work! I'm glad someone else does it so that I can enjoy the bounty.Cute little shiitakes from Matt Smith of Blue Valley Gardens. These will probably used in Bibimbop (a Korean rice dish).Ground beef and smoked pork jowl from Fountain Prairie Farm and ground lamb from Rainbow Homestead. I got the smoked pork jowl so I can try my hand at Bucatini all'Amatriciana. We have this at work and now I'm hooked so I have to try making it myself. More on what I did with the ground beef and lamb next post...

*Edited- Tana from I Heart Farms just wrote a post about a new year-round market in Santa Cruz.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Buy nothing day.

In an effort to combat the crazed shopping that begins today and ends at Christmas, November 24th (November 25th outside North America) has been declared Buy Nothing Day.
I did my part and took a long nap, read a book, ate some leftovers and did NO shopping. If you haven't heard of BND before, keep it in mind for next year.

And now that I'm back home and reunited with my camera cable (it was fun discovering that I had carted the camera and the laptop but had no way to post pictures since I fogot the cord!), here are some pictures from yesterday's feast.The last photo is of the apricot crostata the I made for dessert. We also had a pumpkin pie and apple crisp. Here's the recipe for the crostata because this one is a keeper.

The recipe comes from the New York Times Magazine and I knew I had to make it when I saw that it called for apricot preserves. I am always looking for new ways to use my homemade preserves. The crust is more like a sugar cookie than pie crust, in fact I think this could be adapted as a cookie recipe. I couldn't find my pie pan so I did not follow the shaping instructions.

Crostata con Marmellata di Fruta

9 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
zest from 1 lemon
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
14 ounces apricot jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until they are mixed well. Add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla and lemon zest. Continue mixing then add the flour, 1 tsp. salt and baking powder. When the dough begins to clump, shape into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour or overnight.
Lightly grease a pie pan and roll out 3/4 of the dough to fit the bottom and sides of the pie pan. Fill the crust evenly with the jam. Roll out remaining dough and cut into thin strips. Weave the strips ito a lattice pattern on top of the pie pan. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Haiku

I tried to write a
Turkey Day haiku for you
but I must sleep now.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A food lover's holiday, right?

A lot of holidays revolve around food, I know, but Thanksgiving is sort of the Grand Poobah of them all don't you think? The problem is, the food kind of sucks. Have you ever wondered why no one eats turkey at any other time of year unless they are on a diet and they make turkey burgers? Don't even get me started on the stuffing. It's a pile of soggy bread, people! Mashed potatoes are all well and good. In fact, if I had my druthers I'd eat a whole plate of those and just call it a day. I'm truly thankful that I have a mother in-law who knows how to make good gravy. Gravy is what saves this meal.
When I was a kid we had like 7 vegetable side dishes including brussel sprouts Finkleburg, creamed onions and mashed rutabagas (which we called turnips for some inexplicable reason). All those choices and we still didn't have the yams with marshmallows. Now that's a vegie side I could've supported as a kid. And we were expected to eat 5 out of 7. Maybe this is why I hold a grudge against this holiday to this day even though I am a grown woman and I love my veggies.
There was a time in my 20's when Thankgiving was the celebration it deserved to be. I moved to Madison to live with Sue, my high school BFF (that's Best Friend Forever!), and we decided to become vegan together. A brilliant move considering we were moving to the dairy state and I became a baker four days after I moved here. Of course we instituted the vegan Thanksgiving. We composed a 10 course feast to be prepared on the day of by just the two of us. It was a little ambitious. Somewhere there is a picture of me with a crazed look in my eye brandishing a salad shooter. We were going down in flames and the salad shooter that we'd previously laughed at became the key to quickly mincing tons of mushrooms for duxelles to go in the phyllo pie stuffed with concentrated tomato puree, mushroom duxelles and sauteed spinach. The pie was incredible and the meal was a success.
I guess I miss cooking Thanksgiving dinner.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Salad Theory

I was never really a fan of salads , until I figured out what it takes to make a salad great. This recipe came from a Nigella Lawson article in the New York Times and it changed my salad making ways forever. When I ate it, a light bulb went off and I came up with my salad theory. What you need for a really stellar salad is some distinctive greens, a cheese, a nut and a fruit (or a sweet vegetable like beets or roasted squash). Nigella's recipe is lost but you don't really need one anyway. Just chop up a head of radicchio, roast some butternut squash, toast some pepitas, crumble some feta and add your favorite dressing. Today I made mine with fig balsamic and some of the oil from the feta yummies (my friend Sue and I came up with this name when we were young and poor and these were a splurge. I know now that I could make my own but then they wouldn't feel like a treat.) This is a visually stunning salad and it's delicious too. The flavors and the contrasting textures combine to make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Next time you are stuck for a salad idea, start with a green, a cheese, a nut and a fruit. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 20, 2006

In an effort to stretch out our stomachs before Turkey Day...

We ate at the Old Fashioned. I know I blogged about them before but this time I was able to snap a picture of the elusive "fried cheese curd". Behold...Sam had the two-for-one burger special and I got the walleye sandwich which is really like two sandwiches in one. Check out the size of this thing!
I tried to give away the second half of my sandwich at work since a fried fish sandwich doesn't strike me as a leftover to be savored. I ended up giving it to woman on the street who tried to scam me into taking money out of an ATM and giving it to her. I hope she liked it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Welcome baby Theron!

I have a new nephew! Since there's not much food news, I'm going to unveil the baby sweater that I am making for him over on my knitting blog. I'll add a photo of the baby to this post as soon as I get one.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Tough choice

Tonight I had the choice of waiting on the local food critic or my in-laws. I chose my in-laws.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Pancakes in the afternoon.

I have no idea why but for several weeks now I have been craving gingerbread pancakes. I have never had gingerbread pancakes before but it sounds good doesn't it? While flipping through the latest issue of Gourmet, I was pleasantly surprised to find the recipe I was looking for. I decided to pair them with creme fraiche (man it's dangerous having this stuff around the house. So many things are improved with a dollop!) and homemade spiced quince preserves. Yes it's another Christine Ferber recipe. Quinces are all but impossible to find in the store so last year I had the chef where I work order me a whole case. I was a little tired of them by the time I got done dealing with them and so I had never even tried the spiced quince.
The preserves are a little disappointing right out of the jar. The large slices of fruit are firm and candied. I dumped them into a pan hoping they would soften up if I warmed them up a bit. The syrup in the bottom of the jar was certainly delicious.
I am not that impressed with the pancake recipe either. Part of it is my fault. I didn't have any ginger (gingerbread with no ginger?!) but there was also no molasses called for which I think is necessary for deep, dark gingerbread.
In the end, I added extra nutmeg and some 5 spice powder to the batter and the pancakes went perfectly with the quince. I didn't even mind the firmness of the fruit.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More photo goodness.

I believe this is a photo of Thanksgiving from the early 70's. I love this picture because of the look on my mom's face as she glances back at my dad. I can only imagine what he said to get that look. On the right is my Aunt Sue and then my Grandpa Dave and Grandma Edna. I'm not sure who the woman with her back turned is but it might be my other Grandma.
As I was looking at this photo today I studied it more intensely than normal and noticed that the wine glasses appear to be filled with milk! My parents have always drunk wine (as long as I can remember, at least) and I can't believe they'd have big glasses of milk for Thanksgiving. I also wonder which house this is and where my sister and I are. We moved to upstate NY when I was only 1 because my dad no longer wanted to commute into the city. I think this is in the new house but maybe soon after the move because I remember the wall behind the buffet covered with pictures.
I haven't spent Thanksgiving with my family for years due to distances and lack of funds. Currently my parents are driving from New York to Washington, hoping to make it for the birth of their second grandbaby. I have to say, I wish I was going to be there for Thanksgiving this year.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Pretty pictures.

Today was a leftover day so I don't have much to say. I did update my flickr (sign up, it's so fun!) food pics, though. Click here if you want to take a peek. Click on "view detail" if you want to see my captions.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's not called welcome to my pantry for nothing.

I recently loaned my friend Jami the Joy of Cooking. I think it may have changed her life. She claims to be reading whole sections and trying recipes almost daily. She fondly refers to it as "The Joy". She came over today and wanted a curry recipe using squash and potatoes. I gave her World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey and when she found a recipe she began asking about ingredients.

"What's fenugreek?"
"An Indian spice. I have some if you need it."
"And curry leaves?"
"Maybe in the freezer but I might only have kaffir lime leaves"
"Desiccated coconut..."
"Yes I have that, too."
"You have desiccated coconut?"
"Jami, I have sweetened coconut, unsweetened coconut, and frozen fresh coconut."
She asked about a few more things and finally I had to put my foot down, "Jami, I am not your pantry!"
She was still flipping through the book later and she said, "I can't believe you have desiccated coconut."
"What do you think desiccated coconut is? It's just dried coconut."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Italian Feast

We started with an appetizer idea that we stole from Lombardino's. Dates stuffed with an almond and blue cheese on sopressata with sylvetta arugula and fennel oil. This may sound like a strange flavor combination but when you get a little of everything in one bite, the flavors are all distinct but they don't fight each other. You warm the stuffed dates in the oven so the dates soften a bit and the cheese gets oozy. Lombo's served it with pistachios on top. I've also made it with pine nuts. Whatever nut you choose, be sure to toast it first. I'm not someone who's always trying to recreate restaurant meals at home but this is really easy.
When I was planning all of this in my head, I was sure the gnocchi would be my favorite course. And maybe it would have been if I had executed it properly. I'm not going to nitpick, though, because everyone liked it. I'm just glad I have some left in the freezer because I'm going to try this again sometime this week and next time I'll get it right.
The entree was my favorite. It was from the Babbo cookbook by Mario Batali. Skirt steak marinated overnight in parsley, rosemary, thyme, garlic and olive oil. We grilled the steak, some bread and treviso radicchio. Then I chopped up the radicchio and sauteed it with a little onion and lemon peel. I was skeptical about the lemon peel but it added a bright note to the radicchio's bitterness. I served it family-style on a big platter with the meat heaped on top of the radicchio. On the side we had pickled red onions and salsa verde made of parsley, mint, basil, dijon, anchovies, red pepper flakes, salt and a TON of black pepper. This is my new favorite condiment. I've had other versions of this before but they didn't beg to be consumed the way this stuff did.
Then it was time for some grappa. The grappa was a little harsh so we added some black currant syrup to go with the dessert. Maybe I invented a new drink. A kir Luxardo?
Sam enjoying the panna cotta with homemade black currant preserves.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Enchiladas of my dreams...

These are filled with black beans, chorizo, corn, creme fraiche and cheese. I made the sauce and I don't want to brag or anything but it's AMAZING. On top we had beauty heart radishes and cotija cheese. I can die happy now.

*Edited- Please note that I wrote this after the Italian feast last night after drinking a lot of wine and Grappa! Note to self: Don't drink and blog!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Not a Saturday too soon.

Here in Madison, our farmer's market is so popular that it goes on perhaps longer than it should. As a former market worker, I can't say that I miss those late October, early November Saturdays. I had to get up before dawn and even if we wore mittens they would get wet from the produce so we'd try to warm our frozen fingers under the heat lamps. Sometimes it was so cold the produce would freeze. Not exactly the best way to attract shoppers!
Outdoor market ended last week and I'm sure everyone who made it to the Terrace this Saturday was happy not to be trudging around the square.
Lucky for me I found Jones Valley Farm. They had several Italian vegetables that I was interested in for my dinner party tomorrow night. I got two of the treviso radicchio (those are the ones that look more like a burgundy romaine lettuce) and some wild arugula. I was too busy listening to Michael explain that the treviso is more expensive than the round radicchio because it is pretty rare and hard to grow and I didn't even notice the that they had 2 types of sylvetta arugula. My mom was just telling me how hard it is to find arugula in the stores where they live (upstate NY but not exactly a small town) and I get to choose from 2 types of wild arugula! I think I got the regular because he charged me $2.25. Jean showed me a bag of gorgeous salad mix but it was already sold. You got there early to get the best stuff. Hopefully they'll have more next week.
Madisonians, don't forget to go to market in winter. We are so lucky to have it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cupcakes rule.

I certainly didn't feel that way last night. Sam needed to bring something for a thing at work and I assumed (yes I am an ass) that I was getting paid. Needless to say, I was a little grumpy when I got around to making the cupcakes last night. Instead of sucking it up and doing a good job, I let my bad attitude ruin my cupcakes. Here's how it went:

  1. Instead of using the tried and true recipe for White Velvet Butter Cake from The Cake Bible, go with the Buttermilk Country Cake because you have buttermilk in the fridge and why not?

  2. Realize that you have no cake flour and figure All-Purpose should work just fine.

  3. Instead of using a spoon to scoop and sweep method of measuring flour, just dip the measuring cup in the bag and shake off the excess.

  4. When the recipe calls for 4 large egg yolks, fail to double check that this matches the weight and volume measures that Rose has so helpfully included for you.

  5. Sure Rose's cake mixing is different, none of that creaming business for these cakes! But even though you are very familiar with how her cakes mix up, ignore the fact that it looks more like dough than batter in the first step. Chalk it up to using a different recipe. Even Rose makes mistakes sometimes. Her advice? "...follow the instructions in The cake Bible, especially if you wrote it."

  6. Fail to go to the store when you realize that you only have 9 pretty foil cupcake wrappers and you're supposed to have 10 cupcakes. Sam can live without a cupcake.

  7. Feel guilty for thinking that and dig out mini pans and little pink and blue wrappers so you can make adorable baby cupcakes with the extra batter. (They are for a baby shower, how perfect!)

  8. Fail to notice that the recipe is for a single layer cake so you end up with 9 regular cupcakes and 2 baby cupcakes. Doh!

  9. Undercook the cupcakes.

  10. Since you have no corn syrup, use honey in the passion fruit curd buttercream (it's worth buying the book for this recipe alone!!!) and learn that even though passion fruit is a powerful flavor, honey is even stronger.

The one thing I didn't do is make the mistake that Top Chef wannabe Emily did- if there's something wrong with your food, fix it or don't serve it! I also don't make creme brulee in a bikini, but that's another story. (Thanks for the links Pim!)
I got up at 6 AM to go to Woodman's for cake flour and cupcake wrappers (is there another word for these?) and the second time was the charm. Sam said a co-worker declared it possibly the best cupcake they had ever had.

Oh, and even though I went running in shorts yesterday and took my fleece off half way through, Today it looks like this: Thanks a lot Indian Summer!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Let the prepping begin!

For three years running we have cooked Sam's parents a fancy dinner as a Christmas present. For some reason we never get around to making it until the following November. This year's cuisine of choice is Italian.
Last year was French because my MIL had never had a souffle. Sadly, my souffle sucked. It was only the second one I had ever made but the fatal problem was that I discovered at the last minute (like when they were already sitting at the table!) that I did not have the right size cooking vessel. My souffle did not stand tall and proud, peeking over the rim of the French White. It was a little tough, too, and the Earl Grey creme anglaise was just okay.
The lesson learned is not to stress myself out the day of the dinner. I'm all about making things ahead this year.
Tonight I made the gnocchi. I used to be indiferent to gnocchi but then there was that fateful day in L.A. where I had the most amazing gnocchi that had been crisped in a pan after the necessary boil. It transformed them from potato lumps to pillows of deliciousness. I then decided to try my hand at making them and found it it was pretty easy. Of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone and decided to give homemade gnocchi for Christmas presents. I think I made a triple batch of potato gnocchi and a double batch of spinach and ricotta gnocchi. In one day. I don't think I've even thought about making gnocchi since then and it was probably 8 years ago.
This time the gnocchi will come with brown butter and crispy sage. Maybe with some little squash cubes? Or should I gild the lily and throw in some pancetta?
I also made creme fraiche to use in the dessert. But that's all I'm gonna tell ya. You'll have to come back to see the rest of the menu...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Traitor Joe's

I admit it, I was excited that Trader Joe's was finally opening a store in Madison. Quality food for cheap, what's not to love, right? Well now I've been and I think the only thing I'll go back for is the pound block of dark chocolate for about $4. I knew they wouldn't be supporting local foods but I hadn't really thought about the fact they don't really support cooking per se. Most of the stuff is processed and sold under their Trader Joe's label. That's fine, I'm all for the convenience of buying a bag of frozen shelled edamame but the item that really made me mad was the "instant" miso soup. How much more instant can miso soup be? Heat some water (I think you are not even supposed to boil it), stir in some miso and maybe add some green onions and tofu cubes if you're feeling fancy.
Why not work on packaging some really tasty cassoulet instead of taking something that's already easy to make and jacking up the price for your benefit alone? Every generation our knowledge of food and cooking diminishes and Trader Joe's is not helping.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Oops, I did it again.

I currently have three large pumpkins in my living room (Okay, one is actually a Cinderella squash but let's keep this simple shall we?). Carving pumpkins is not my thing so I just keep them around for decoration. This photo was taken around this time last year.The problem is that eventually you need to cook your decorative squashes. Like the Christmas lights that stay up all year, they become less and less charming as time goes on. Squash like these usually have a shelf life of a month or two. I was reading an old Martha Stewart mag where she mentioned saving one of her heirloom beauties for six months before eating it. Well, I've got Martha beat. I just cooked one of the beasts in that picture recently. Yes, it was probably over a year old. It only had a small bad spot but otherwise behaved just like its younger siblings.
I like squash alright, but it's definitely not a favorite. So what to do with a quart or more of the stuff? I tend to stick it in the freezer and think about it later. This is why I was happy when I saw Heidi's take on Pumpkin soup because not only did it sound tasty, it also seemed like a way out of my endless squash overabundance.
I can't remember the last time I made Thai curry but I was sure I had a jar of the paste in my fridge. It turned out to be green curry paste and on further inspection looked a little old and dry. Hey, at least it wasn't moldy! I didn't think it could stand alone as the flavoring in my soup so I sauteed some onion, added in the can of coconut milk and dug some kaffir lime leaves from the freezer. The only lemongrass I could find was desiccated and smelled vaguely of fish sauce. I chose to throw it in the trash instead of into the soup. I scooped the lime leaves out after 10 minutes of simmering in the coconut milk and added the squash puree. It needed only a few minutes in the pot before it was ready for blending.
I served the soup with papadum and my favorite cilantro coconut chutney. Another multi-national meal that just worked.

Cilantro Coconut Chutney
from The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi

1 tsp. cumin seed
3 Tbsp. sesame seed
1/4 freshly grated coconut (I have found this in the freezer section but I've also
successfully used dried, unsweetened coconut in this recipe)
1 c. cilantro, lightly packed
1-2 hot green chilies, seeded
1/2 inch piece of ginger, chopped
2 Tbsp. water
1/4 c. yogurt
1 Tbsp. jaggery (Indian sugar- you can sub brown sugar)
1 tsp. salt

In a dry skillet toast the cumin and then the sesame seeds until they are fragrant and beginning to brown. Put in a blender or food processor with the rest of the ingredients. You may need to add a bit more water but it should remain thick, not watery.

I try to have this on hand whenever I eat an Indian feast.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Fusion cooking at my house

I got home from running errands tonight and Sam had scarfed down the roasted sweet potatoes sitting on the counter. I can't really blame him since they are tasty nuggets but they were a crucial ingredient in my roasted vegetable enchiladas.
I have wanted to make enchilada sauce ever since we got back from the honeymoon. While in Homer, Alaska we ate at the Cosmic Kitchen three times and I fell in love with their over the top Huevos Rancheros con Chorizo.For some rason their ranchero sauce seemed more like enchilada sauce to me and I thought I could recreate this (in a smaller I'm-not-on-vacation-anymore serving size).
Sadly, by the time I got around to making the sauce, we'd eaten all but a little of the chorizo. Sigh.
There's no meat in the house and no time to cook beans so I figured roasted vegetable enchiladas was the way to go. Now, sweet potatoless, I was back to square one. That's when I remembered a dish I had in Oaxaca, Mexico. They take tortillas and dip them into a sauce made of beans (enfrijoladas), tomato (entomadas) or chiles (dobladas). It is essentially an unfilled enchilada and I wasn't that impressed with them even when I ate them at the source. But what's a girl to do if her filling is gone?
I scoured the fridge for tasty sides and came up with roasted sunchokes, fennel salad, and mexican rice my way. This was definitely not a cohesive menu but who cares!If you haven't tried sunchokes yet, what are you waiting for? If you are unfamiliar with them check out wikipedia. The picture of the plant in that entry shows young plants. They grow to be about 10 ft. tall with an itty-bitty sunflower at the top. When I lived on the farm we liked to hide in the sunchokes. A field of them makes a pretty picture.
Anyway, I've found my favorite way to prepare them is to cut them in half and lay them on a greased pan. Sprinkle with salt and pop in the oven. Bake until they are really soft and the cut side is very brown. You don't have to peel them so the skin becomes chewy and the insides melt in your mouth (they are made of a different starch than potatoes which accounts for this intriguing mouthfeel). They also make excellent chips if you're in the mood for deep fat frying.
For the salad, I shaved the fennel on a mandoline and dressed it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and the juice of half a lemon and half a blood orange.
I have no photos of the finished items because I was tired of my amateurish attempts, but aren't these baby fennels cute?
I am in love with my rice cooker. I used to scoff but no more. I put in some oil, a little ground annatto seed, 1/2 an onion, 1 c. fire roasted tomatoes, one cup rice and water. I think this was my favorite part of the meal.
Sam was a little disgruntled with the empty enchiladas until I reminded him that it was totally his fault. By the end of the meal though, he was wishing we could eat such healthy and delicious meals every night. I think it was the Negro Modelo talking.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Chocolate banana, mmm...

This morning I had my good friend Jason over for coffee, scones and preserves. I'm dying to try some of the new kinds I've made but I can't really justify opening new jars until I work through the many that are already in my fridge. I made basic vanilla buttermilk scones so we could freely slather them with many flavors of jam or jelly.The options were Meyer lemon marmelade, strawberry, banana-coconut and the new pear-lemon-ginger. As predicted, the pear-lemon- ginger tastes much better on something other than straight from the spoon. I'm still not sure I'd make this again.
The problem with so many choices is that you don't use much of any one flavor and all of those jars still reside in my fridge. I'm thinking that when I start making stuff to sell, I need to look into some smaller jars (2 oz.?) because I can't be the only one who likes jam but doesn't want to eat the same flavor for months on end.
And then to complicate things, I made more.It may seem a little unorthodox to put chocolate in your jam but the recipe come from Christine Ferber and I have come to trust her completely. After the success of the pears Belle-Helene (pears and chocolate) and the chocolate raspberry, I am committed to making all of her chocolate concoctions. Even my friend Molly, who doesn't like fruit and chocolate, liked the chocolate raspberry. Next up, chocolate orange.

I am feeling a little unloved with the lack of comments so to sweeten the deal the fifth person to leave a comment on this post will receive a jar of chocolate banana (or another flavor if that doesn't suit you). The only rule is that you can't comment more than once in order to make yourself the winner.