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I haven't posted about cooking in awhile.

I'm attempting vegan black bean soup today. I'm somewhat hampered by the fact that I don't like the southwestern variations on black bean soup much. Bell peppers are not an ingredient I like much, and I've yet to find one that didn't use either that or jalapenos (the bell pepper of the hot pepper family).

On the other hand, the one New England style recipe I found seems a little bland.

So. I've put the black beans on quick soak with my now usual addenda: cumin and kombu. I find that they really do help avoid too much flatulence (as does actually cooking the beans long enough). The base will have onions, carrots, bay leaf, black pepper, and, because I'm me, thyme. They'll be sauteed in avocado oil to bring out their flavor before adding the beans and water to the heavy iron pan they'll be cooked in.

To substitute for the ham hock, I'm using miso and liquid smoke. I'm debating whether to add some kale that I have in the refrigerator toward the end of cooking.

I'd also like to add a grain, but I'm afraid it would throw off the texture of the soup too much.

I'll let you know how it works.
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Overheard remark: "I could make coffee at home, I guess. But I like it iced in the summer and I don't know how to do that."

Recipe for iced coffee.

Make a pot of coffee.
Turn off the burner/heating element.
Allow the pot to cool.
Pour the contents into a pitcher with a lid or a glass jar for storage in the refrigerator.

Serving suggestions:
Place ice in glass before pouring.
Cream and/or sugar may be added to taste.
So may alcohol.

Quick version:
Make a pot of coffee.
Place ice in a glass.
Hold a metal spoon over the glass and pour the coffee carefully onto the spoon so that it flows into the glass.
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For any recipe (Curried, Greek, French) you can add boneless skinless chicken breast -- cut into chunks -- just before you add the potatoes. It's easier to cut if it's not completely thawed and it will also add to the water content if still slightly frozen. Make sure they've begun to color on all sides before adding the potatoes.

If you're used to using tofu, extra firm tofu cut into chunks will work in place of the chicken.

If you have left over -- already cooked -- meat from something else, cut it into chunks and add it about five minutes before the end of cooking time. An excellent example of that would be with the French potatoes cooked in goose or duck fat, adding some of the leftover roast goose or duck adds dimension.

For vegetarians/vegans:

I'll start with the Curried Potatoes.

If you think they're a little bland -- commercial curry powder and yogurt/coconut milk being pretty damn mild -- then you can add a dried hot pepper to your onions and oil. I will go over hot peppers and how to (try to) control them in a later post. If you want to turn it into a nice vegetarian meal, think about all the things with aloo in them at your local indian restaurant. Aloo gobi: add fresh cauliflower cut into chunks before the potatoes go in. You'll probably need a little extra liquid. Aloo mutter: use fresh peas just after you've put the potatoes in and before you cover the pot. Saag aloo: rinse your spinach and dry it leaving just a little water clinging to the leaves. Add it about ten minutes after you've put in the potatoes.

The French potatoes, cooked in butter, can also have spinach or string beans added to them to make a nice vegetarian meal. The string beans would need to go in before the potatoes; the spinach about ten minutes before the end. Allow me to recommend adding some fresh grated nutmeg to the recipe with the spinach. It makes it more Belgian than French, but it tastes wonderful.

For the Greek potatoes, I suggest adding runner beans (string beans would work too) cut into one or two inch lengths just before you add the potatoes. If you like okra, it can be added (just topped and tailed if the pods are small) at the same point. Yes, it will be slick, but the acidity of the tomatoes should keep it from overwhelming the dish. If you follow the same directions for spinach as in the Curried potatoes, that will work, too. Maybe a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon added would be nice as well.

To make any of these with frozen vegetables, thaw the package (or, if you use bagged frozen vegetables, the amount you intend to use) and add them about five to ten minutes (depending on package directions) before the end of cooking. Stir well, put the lid back on. Your meal is ready when the timer goes off.

Tomorrow: Waterzooie

Monday: How to use raw meat in the potato recipes.

Liquids

May. 9th, 2008 05:14 pm
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All right, add your potatoes and get them coated in the skillet mixture. I left you at this point because when we expand this into a one pan meal, most additions will go here either just before or just after the potatoes.

Liquids.

I was at an Arisia panel a couple of years ago talking about women in Science Fiction, and the fact that most (vocal) male fans assume female writers don't know hard science was brought up. The writer on the panel had a master's degree from MIT in, I think, chemical engineering and said everyone in her study group expected her to bring snacks because she was the girl (also that men who hadn't completed high school would tell her her science was wrong). This led to a mental block against cooking that was finally overcome when a friend said to her, "It's just organic chemistry."

Today, we're having the organic chemistry post.

Different nutrients and different flavors are released in different ways. For some, just applying heat begins a transformation. Others require either oil, acid, alcohol, or water (should alkali, like salt, be on there too?) as a catalyst (or possibly a reagent). I'm much better at the cooking than the chemistry.

Now look in that pan you've been stirring. It has oil, and things are probably smelling pretty good because the heat and the oil are releasing compounds. There may even be a little water in there from the onions and extras.

Putting a lid on will probably trap steam, which helps the water flavors, but you'll probably still need more liquid. Virtually any liquid gives you the water in addition to its other properties, so you can usually let the water based compounds sort themselves out.

The most difficult one is the curried potatoes. A half cup of non-fat yogurt or a similar amount of coconut milk are your best bets. You can also use vegetable broth with a Tablespoon of lime or lemon juice added.

By the way, on the coconut milk... I've already worked out that I need to write a post on pantries.

For those of you using butter, goosefat, bacon grease/lard, or schmaltz, you're easy. Add a half cup of white wine. The wine will not only have alcohol, but should be acidic enough to release those flavors, too. You can also use stock or broth with a tablespoon of vinegar if you're allergic to alcohol.

The Greek potatoes are the most interesting. Open a can of tomatoes -- just plain tomatoes -- I don't care whether they are crushed, chopped, or whole. Pour them into your skillet. Now take about a Tablespoon of red wine (or retsina if you keep it around the house) and clean the can with it. Add it to the skillet too.

Everyone put a lid on your skillet. Turn it down to a low simmer.

In twenty minutes, you'll have a side dish.

Tomorrow, let's turn this into a one pot meal.
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Last Saturday, I decided I wanted potatoes for breakfast. Since I was lucky enough to have some handy, this wasn't huge. However, I then faced the larger question: what kind of potatoes did I want.

I'm not talking about the difference between Yukon Gold and Russets here. That's another topic. The question was preparation.

We have all cut up our onion, right?

Cut your potato (peeled or unpeeled is up to you) into quarter inch slices. If the potato is really wide through the middle cut those slices in half. I probably wouldn't put them in acidulated or ice water since we'll use them fairly soon, but discoloration can occur fairly quickly, so please feel free to do it. Just make sure you dry the slices before adding them. Right now, the potato pieces are over to one side.

Pick a fat to cook everything in. Add one tablespoon of fat and your onion to your skillet.

A tablespoon may not seem like enough. It might not be. But I'm a firm believer in the adage "You can always add more, but you can't take it out." This will crop up for salt, too. Speaking of which, add a little salt to your onion and oil. It helps release the liquid more evenly.

If you selected coconut oil or ghee, we're making curried potatoes. The carrots are optional, but you'll need to take a length of ginger (I usually estimate against the first joint on my thumb. If the ginger root is wider, I use a little less and vice-versa.). Peel the ginger. Cut it in half lengthwise. Put the flat edges against your cutting board and cut it into even slivers. Add them to the pan with the onion and the oil and keep the heat relatively low. You should still be able to hear a sizzle. Keep stirring. I'll get back to you.

If you selected olive oil or another vegetable oil, we're making Greek potatoes. Your carrots are optional. Celery tops or roots are optional, too, but I think they'd taste really good. Garlic isn't optional. Two cloves should do it.

If you have fresh oregano, go pick some. If you don't, find your bottle of dried oregano and have it handy. Keep stirring over your slightly higher heat. Your skillet will ready for the next batch of ingredients first.

If you selected butter or one of the schmaltzes, we're making a French recipe. Carrots are optional; bay leaf isn't. Reinforce the onion flavor with a small shallot or the white of one leek. The shallot will sweeten the flavor. The leek will release more liquid than either onion or shallot will and has a nice variation in texture. You could also skip this step and reinforce the flavor at the end by adding fresh chopped chives as your garnish rather than parsley. You're over the lowest heat.

Curried potatoes should add a tablespoon of curry powder. Yes, at some point we'll go over ingredients and make our own, but not today.

Greek should add that oregano (1 to 2 Tablespoons fresh or 1 to 2 teaspoons dried).

If you're making the French potatoes and have either fresh tarragon, fresh thyme, or fresh savory, you should use the fresh herb. If you're using dried, pick one. Your ratios are the same as the Greek potatoes.

You're all still stirring, right?

Tomorrow, we discuss liquids.

Oils

May. 7th, 2008 08:53 pm
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When I began my "Pot herbs" post the other day, I hadn't intended to make anything. But, I like the idea of this being a preliminary cookery lesson.

So I'm going to backtrack and discuss oils in a little more detail. Then tomorrow, I'm going to start the choose your own adventure of three different recipes working from the same basic start.

The best way to understand the difference in taste is to scramble an egg or fry a small piece of peeled potato (because the peel's flavor might overwhelm the oil's, that's why) in the oil, butter, or other fat you intend to use.

Vegetable and Nut Oils: )

Infused Oils: )

Butter and butterlike objects: )

Schmaltzes: )

Lards: )

Many Belgian recipes use multiple types of fat. Mixing olive oil with butter gives a higher smoke point than butter alone.

So, in your pan you have a fat and chopped onion. You may also have carrots, but they were optional.

Part of me says I should lead us through several variations on a potato side dish. But I could also make waterzooie or puttanesca sauce or curried cabbage (among other things) from this base.
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We have our onion cooking in oil. We've decided whether to add ginger or garlic or both or neither. What next?

Bay leaf: If it's a European recipe, I add Bay Leaf. I love the flavor, and it complements every other herb I can think of.

Carrots. I buy the already peeled baby ones. If I have to peel the damn things, they stay in the refrigerator until they become either a) a contemporary still-life in ice or b) a voting republic. Neither is good for the carrots or the refrigerator.

The older I get the more I find carrots necessary to cooking. They add color, salt, some sweet, and, depending on when they're added, can either add texture and crispness or act as a thickening agent. The latter is important to me. I won't add cornstarch or flour. I will when making carbonade flammande add ginger snaps, but in general my stews go unthickened. nb: as [livejournal.com profile] siderea reminded me below, I need to make it specific. The carrots should be cut. I usually do quarters, lengthwise to make little matchsticks. If you're wanting to thicken it, then a quarter inch dice is what you need.

I'll throw in fresh parsley at this point if I'm making soup or stew, but, frankly, for everything else it gets chopped up and added after the cooking.

If I'm working with fish or chicken, and I have it handy, I add celery leaves. (I love my Safeway for selling celery by the stalk. I can get the really leafy ones and don't have to worry about throwing away all the stringy tough bits.)

All of this is now cooking in our pan. What are we making? Suggestions?
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Pot herbs

[livejournal.com profile] rhiannonhero wanted easy recipes. I hope yesterday's lentil recipe was helpful. I think Sunday will be my recipe day as that's the day I'm most likely to have a great deal of time to copy out/explain things. If anything is confusing, please just leave a comment, and I'll do my best to explain.

The larger question though is "one pot meals" or convenience cooking, and that boils down to a question of approach.

This is taken at least in part from the Cooking within your Persona class that I occasionally teach. I'm going to be doing it in New Jersey in June, so I'm going through my list of questions and my fictional recipe.

One concept that seems to have been lost in the last decade or so is the idea of pot herbs. Virtually every Belgian recipe for a stew or soup begins with a carrot, a leek, an onion, a sprig of chervil (or parsley) and, depending on time of year and/or food being prepared either celery tops, celery root, or fennel.

None of these is fancy. None of these is something we usually think of as an herb (well, parsley/chervil maybe). These are the base, the foundation, for the recipes. If you're expected to chop it all fine, then the carrots are probably going to dissolve and act as a thickener. Sometimes things are pureed at the end of cooking. Often they are chunks to give texture to the waterzooie, stew, or hutspot.

In virtually every recipe, these ingredients, often with a bay leaf and some thyme, is cooked until soft in a mixture of oil and butter. Everything else, is another layer of flavor on top of this basic.

When I was living with [livejournal.com profile] eanja, we talked about how I made my one pot meals. These were things that were fixed for dinner, often after we got home from work.

I usually started with an onion. If I was making an Italian style meal, I'd add garlic; if I was leaning toward Indian or pseudo chinese, I'd add ginger. The choice of oil came into play here, too. Indian demands ghee. Italian requires olive oil, and Chinese would generally be made with safflower oil. But there were also recipes that used bacon and then sauteed the onions in that fat. French recipes used unsalted butter. But I could never go wrong, upon walking in the front door, with starting to chop an onion.

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