Jul. 17th, 2014 04:18 pm
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I got off early tonight and was able to stop at the Farmer's Market. Kale Kimchi, DC dill pickles, two different cheeses, and a half gallon of the best chocolate milk (Yes, it even tops the milk found at Pennsic) are among my haul. I stopped for a half dozen oysters and a glass of white wine, too.

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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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I am vegetarian because I have issues with digesting meat. But I have to say that it's entirely ridiculous that I have to ask whether a restaurant has any vegetarian SALADS. Today's example, courtesy of Au Bon Pain, was not the first, and, bless them, they were able to make me a vegetarian salad. But seriously, if you have salads on your menu or to take away, at least one of them should be meat free. Vegan salads should be possible, right?
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As many of you know, I'm a vegetarian because an illness about 18 months ago left me unable to digest meat. I can do dairy -- though not as much cheese as I'd like -- eggs are tough for me. No poultry, but for some reason I can still handle fish occasionally (like once every couple of weeks). This means that I'm basically lacto-vegetarian with a fortnightly hit of fish.

When I was a kid, I loved my mother's zucchini patties. They may have been "Depression Food" (as in the Great Depression not anti-depressant), but they were also comfort food.

As an adult, my standard meal in the evening (because it's cheap and quick) is whole grain pasta with a simple olive oil based sauce. I start with garlic or onion in olive oil, add herbs and/or spices, throw in a third of a package of broccoli slaw (or slice up another vegetable or mushrooms to go in it), add either wine, liquor, or cider to the pan, and by the time the pasta is cooked, I have a nutritious and delicious topping for it. Sometimes I forgo the alcohol and add lemon or lime, sometimes I'll use sesame oil for the cooking, but on weeknights, this is my staple meal.

Any of these can have seitan (which I especially like with mushrooms and red wine) or tofu added to the mix.

Common variations:
onion, tarragon, white wine or sherry
onion, mushrooms, thyme and/or bay leaf, red wine
garlic, thyme, lemon peel and juice, and gin (this one needs a little water added)
garlic, onion, rosemary, canned tomatoes
garlic, gin, fresh dill added after it's all cooked (again a little water -- for hard liquors I use a tablespoon or less)
onion, thyme, sliced apple, hard cider, pink peppercorns
onion, sesame oil, orange peel and juice, ginger, Cointreau

garlic, hot peppers, (anchovies, optional), for cauliflower
olive oil, mustard, and salt, for brussel sprouts

Cool Book!

Nov. 11th, 2010 10:46 am
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While I'm waiting for Yuletide -- *looks pointedly at clock and calendar* -- I am reading. The book I picked up a couple of weeks ago at the used book store in Eastern Market is called Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer.

I haven't even gotten to the chapter on Proust yet. The first chapter deals with Walt Whitman's intuitive descriptions of the body, rather than the brain, as the seat of emotion. Chapter two covers George Eliot and free will from both her opposition to the pure determinism, which she referred to as "necessitarianism," of her time and in light of more recent scientific data on neurogenesis. And then we get to Escoffier.

Now I disagree with Lehrer's conclusion that Escoffier invented French cookery. He walked it away from Careme and the upper class, that I totally agree with, but he did it by codifying and elevating bonne femme cookery and serving it at the Ritz. Restaurants and the landscape of fine dining would not have been the same without him, do not get me wrong, but Escoffier stood at least partially on the shoulders of French grandmothers everywhere.

I find the chapter absolutely fascinating with its exploration of taste, Ideka's work distilling the concept of umami, the discovery of the receptors for umami, and how much of the human genome describes scent reception. One thing that really stuck out for me is how much food and flavor are learned and refined responses. As Lehrer puts it, "You are never too old to learn to be a gourmet."

This got me thinking about the other end of the spectrum: Baby Food.

American baby food is terrible. No, I haven't gone on that popular diet, but I lived in Belgium. They had a much wider variety of baby foods available, and the ingredient lists included herbs and even the occasional spice. You can serve a child who is not yet on solids a dinner of lamb with flageolet beans -- a traditional Sunday dinner in French speaking Europe. I defy anyone to try this with American baby food. What really frosts my cookies about this is the French/Belgian baby foods are the same brand names as US baby food: Gerber and Nestle predominate.

We're worried about the children's obesity epidemic, but how much of it comes from kids not getting flavorful foods unless it's loaded with fat and salt?

Training adult palates is also important. Cooking for [livejournal.com profile] eanja was a huge part of my starting to lose weight and appreciate both my skills as a cook and the food itself again as I was beginning to see the light at the end of my depression.

But how much easier is it to start training them young?


Nov. 6th, 2010 02:55 pm
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Many of you may remember that I was pretty damned sick for several days in early April. We're talking ambulance and IV rehydration and days of Gatorade and crackers.

What I don't think I've shared from this is that I am as a result a piscatarian. I eat fish -- a little bit occasionally, mostly as anchovies or sardines in cooking with the occasional plate of bivalves as a treat. I can just about handle a small piece of white fish once a month.

In other words, for much of the time, I'm functionally vegetarian. Cheese is all right. Milk, buttermilk, and yogurt are great, actually. Eggs, well, right now, I'm eating them less often than fish, and I'm not eating much fish. I try a bite of meat occasionally, but my body is NOT happy with me when I do. The smell of most meats cooking turns my stomach. Poultry is a little better: the smell doesn't nauseate me. It's no better for eating though. *sigh*

This can be awkward for a cook. I'm dreading making my first chess pies of the season because I'm not certain I'll be able to eat them.

I'm teaching myself about whole grains. Pasta, as much as I love it, can get old when it's five nights a week, so I'm learning about kasha, quinoa, bulgur, and millet. (Barley, oats and I are old friends, and I always had brown rice in the cupboard even though I don't eat it much. It's a good excuse to keep wild rice -- which I love -- in the cupboard, too.)

I want to continue to do things like cook for friends when I stay at [livejournal.com profile] eanja's, but most of the time, it's going to be new and different cooking.

So there will be more soup recipes this winter, including one under the cut. If you're used to cooking with a hambone, smoked turkey leg, tongue, or sausage, go ahead and add it. The recipes themselves will be vegetarian or vegan.

Read more... )
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I have many. My sense of smell is excellent, but the one that sticks with me...

When I was ten, my mother went to work and the first job she got was a night job. She did detailed backward planning to instruct me from a distance in how to cook dinner for me, my sister, and my father. I also, for at least part of this time, had a paper route. There were days, especially in the autumn and winter, when I started dinner and then delivered the paper. (The Washington Star, now defunct, was an evening paper except on the weekends.)

Short ribs with dried apricots was one of the great budget meals from my childhood. I can't remember a time when Mom didn't make it, and it was one of my favorite dinners as a kid.

I remember coming home from the paper route and smelling the short ribs. I looked for Mom for a minute or two, until I remembered that I was the cook. It was the first time I thought of myself as a cook, and I was so proud that I'd made it smell right.
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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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Once again I volunteered for this discussion at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. This doesn't mean I was on any of the panels, just for the record; only that I did things like make certain people had water, directed them places, and generally dogsbodied for anyone who needed me.

At the dinner (it was little bites by 30 different chefs stationed all over the museum) on Friday night, I ran into the son of one of the restauranteuses. H loves the ocean. He's looking forward to turning 8 soon, so that he can finally learn scuba, even if he can only do it in swimming pools until he's 16. He stated that we need to protect the oceans and the environment, even if it were at the cost of our own lives. He asked intelligent questions about the oil leak in the Gulf. When I mentioned Padre Island, H looked stricken and said, "The sea turtles!"

Look again at that number. A seven year old was one of the most intelligent people I spoke with in two days. The adults were knowledgeable about their own aspects of any given issue, and the Gulf leak was mentioned, but not pursued as it wasn't the focus of the conference.

But again, I was struck by the smugness of the people involved. In a predominantly black city, there were no black faces and few of any race other than white. One woman spoke contemptuously (to my ears at least) of the fact that most Americans made their decisions on which fish to buy on price point. The only comment I made was to her pointing out that in the current economic crisis, PRICE POINT was amazingly relevant to people. I used my own unemployment as an example.

One gentleman on the panel came up to me afterward and said he was out of the restaurant business because he was interested in making certain that the fishermen were not being exploited, the end-users got fish they could afford, and the resources were being husbanded.

I also had a dissatisfactory conversation with another volunteer who was shocked, shocked I say, that I suggested putting up fliers for Smithsonian programs in Libraries and Rec Centers in DC. Her point that these symposia need to sell tickets is fine. However, her statement that people who go to these places (i.e. the poorer, darker folks of the District) wouldn't be interested is a flat out lie.

When I came home on Friday night, two of my neighbors were discussing the Gulf leak. They noted the crime to the ecosystems, the problems of employment that may arise, and the way it will effect prices for gas, heating oil, and fish. One of them pointed out that unbalancing the ecosystems may spread diseases or allow insect invasions in other areas which could cause more and different issues. I know these men. One of them isn't a high school graduate. Both are unemployed. That doesn't make either of them stupid or uninvolved with the world and the issues around them.
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The world news is grim what with lying liarpants (tm someone at TWoP) from BP seriously underestimating the amount of oil gushing out and North Korea causing ructions, not to mention Thailand's riots of the last week, etc.

Even notable refuges from serious business are disappointing. A kid who never once sounded like he was in the same key as the accompaniment in the few times I heard him won American Idol, and I didn't love last night's Criminal Minds. *sigh*

But today's Los Angeles Times has made me feel better with this article about the boysenberry: The History of the Boysenberry.

I love the way they taste. Blackberries taste rich to me, and raspberries taste of roses. Boysenberries manage to combine both sensations and flavors while being distinctively themselves. If I had any near me, I would be making up biscuit dough to have a nice cobbler by now.

I will also say that, while I have a notoriously black thumb, I love plants and my grandfather was a farm foreman who specialized in melons. Around the time Knott's introduced the boysenberry widely, Grandpa was helping to develop the seedless watermelon through judicious hybridization.
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[livejournal.com profile] stoney321 came to my attention through her funny parody/exegesis of the Twilight saga. I don't know her personally, but I like her posts and enjoy reading them.

Earlier today, she posted a link to a twenty minute talk by Jamie Oliver regarding obesity and its prevention. Chef Oliver has apparently been working with a town in West Virginia to change their eating habits and bring down the childhood obesity rate.

The talk itself is chilling. I've loved Jamie Oliver since The Naked Chef. Even when he uses ingredients I don't care for, he's entertaining and, as with Alton Brown, I come away knowing more than I did when I started the half hour. His discussion of the issue, complete with an illustration of the amount of sugar the average US kids gets from the sweetened, flavored milk most school districts offer, is eye opening.

My relationship with food is complicated. I love to eat well. I love to cook. I weighed at least 70 lbs more five years ago than I do now. I'm still, according to my BMI, obese. The good news is, I'm no longer morbidly so.

Most of you know about my twice daily walks (and may I say that not getting them due to the snow is a real issue. I'm having headaches and my temper is shorter and I feel like a caged animal.). What many of you don't know is that I changed some of my eating habits at the same time.

I still eat meat, but it's less than once a week for chicken and less than once a month for red meat. I don't eat much fish either. Whole grains, vegetables, and some beans make up the bulk of my diet. Peanut butter and milk figure in as snack foods (no sugar in either). Lent starts tomorrow, and, while I'm no longer a believer, I plan to give up sugar for the next forty days. I find it to be a good thing to do once in awhile. I don't get as hungry when I eat less sugar.

The biggest change was that it no longer bothered me to cook for one. The two years in California where I rarely got to cook for anyone made me long for the stove. Cooking for myself is no longer a chore, but a joy.

I think what Jamie Oliver is doing is wonderful. With my friends list, I know I'm preaching to the choir. Most of you whom I know from real life, cook or know someone who is willing to cook for you.

Please do what you can in your community. I think little things, like getting the Farmers' Market to take food stamps, are huge in this particular fight.


Feb. 11th, 2010 04:42 pm
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This is a five words meme that I got from [livejournal.com profile] severity_softly.

If you want to play, I'll give you five words, but it's not required.

Since [livejournal.com profile] severity_softly and I know each other originally through a fandom, Criminal Minds for those playing along, two of the prompts are related to it.

Read more... )

Soup recipe

Feb. 6th, 2010 04:00 pm
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1 cup Navy Beans
1/2 strip of kombu
2 Tablespoons of cumin, divided
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, divided
1/2 head of Cabbage
2 carrots
1 old apple (optional)
1/2 a large onion
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of Belgian beer (Chimay)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon grains of paradise
about 10 cubebs
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

Here's what I did.

Last night:
I soaked a cup of navy beans with the intention of making a bean and cabbage soup today.

This morning:
I drained and rinsed the beans, then I added three cloves of garlic, half a strip of kombu, and a tablespoon of cumin to them in the pot I intended to make soup in. I covered them with water, brought it to a boil, and then turned it down to a slow simmer. Let it simmer, covered, for 90 minutes. Turned off the burner and let it cool. Removed the strip of kombu.

This afternoon:
Added another 1/2 tablespoon of cumin and a teaspoon of salt to the beans.

I heated a heavy cast iron skillet and added the carrots (peeled and roughly diced), final clove of garlic (chopped), the rest of the cumin, and diced onions. I added 1/2 teaspoon of salt. As they sauteed, I ground together the other spices with the rosemary and added it to the mixture. When the carrots were soft, I added the sugar and let it carmelize for a minute before adding the beer. That cooked for about five minutes while I diced the apple and cut up the cabbage.

I put the contents of the skillet on top of the beans, added the apple, vinegar, and cabbage and covered it with water. It cooked for another 90 minutes.

eta: This is my best vegan soup to date. It really had great flavor and texture.
Am I allowed to be proud of myself?
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I had some left over fresh vegetables that I needed to use up, so I decided to make soup yesterday. It was a cold day and soup just sounded right.

I began with the standard Belgian pot herbs
1/2 a large onion, sliced
two large carrots, peeled and sliced
celery heart -- really just the pale green leafy bits in the middle. Maybe 1/4 C diced.
1 T thyme
2 bay leaves
1 minced clove of garlic
1 sprig of parsley minced
Fresh grated nutmeg -- a teaspoon
six peppercorns ground with mortar and pestle

I softened them in a mix of (2 T) butter -- it was salted because that's what I had -- and (1 T) olive oil.

To that I added the ten jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) that I had lying around. I cut them into matchsticks and added them to the softening pot herbs.

I then added 2 C of water and 1 C of skim milk. I also peeled and cubed a potato and added it after the water and milk went in.

Once it came to a boil, I turned down the heat and simmered for an hour. I added a tablespoon of sherry at the half hour mark.

It came out well, a delicate vegetable soup. Smoked salt added to the bowl really set it off.


Aug. 9th, 2009 01:31 pm
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I've been soaking chickpeas since yesterday, and I currently have them cooking on the stove. I soaked enough to make at least three lunches this week.

This is actually a fairly bland cooking since I plan to divide up the cooked total and make the actual meals later.

I'm going to try a Chickpea curry recipe that I found in one of my cookbooks. There's a simple chickpea and carrot salad with yogurt that I found online, too. I'm not sure what I'll do with the other third -- maybe mash it into a hummus.

One day, I'm planning to make a Waldorf Salad. I'll probably do a spaghetti puttanesca one night this week and make enough for two servings so I can take the other one to lunch.

I'm not used to doing this type of lunch planning, but my last unemployment check came last week and my first paycheck doesn't arrive until August 25. A friend loaned me enough to pick up a prescription that I need before the health insurance kicks in -- *gnashes teeth* -- plus a little extra in case of emergency.

My basic chickpeas
1 cup of chickpeas soaked for at least 24 hours (I don't know why chickpeas need a longer soaking than most beans, but after the last batch I made with only an overnight soak, I'm trusting my books that say 24 hours.)
1 bay leaf
1 clove
2 cloves of garlic
A few peppercorns
1 tsp cumin (I was told this would help reduce the flatulence of bean dishes. It seems to work.)
1/4 tsp fenugreek -- just because I like the taste
A length of Dulse (This one is a suggestion for fuller bodied soups. Since the liquor the beans form is part of the appeal of chickpeas, I thought it would be useful here. Rinse it before adding to the pot.)

Drain and cover the chickpeas with enough water. Add all the other ingredients. Bring to a strong boil, put on a lid, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for an hour. Add a teaspoon of salt. Cook for another half hour. If the chickpeas are still too firm, cook for another half hour and check again.

Don't add salt at the beginning, it turns the beans tough. If you can wait to salt them after they're cooked, that's best. I find I tend to add too much salt at the table if I do that.
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It's become my summer drink.

Limes are cheap in my local Safeway. Three for a dollar. So I've been making a variation on Vietnamese limeade.

First I zest the lime. Then I squeeze out all the juice. Add a pint of water and sugar to taste.

I also like the fact that the limes make my hands smell great, and the half limes that are left can go down the garbage disposal which makes the kitchen smell nice too.

Vegan help

May. 4th, 2009 06:36 pm
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I wish I could remember the name of the vegan who referred to herself as a "Minion of seitan," but at the moment I can't.

While I'm not vegan, nor even vegetarian, I seem to be heading toward a more vegetable based diet. Some of it's my heart condition; most of it is a change in my palate.

I like tofu. I eat it occasionally, but I want to work with seitan more. I see different types of it at the market and would love to know more recipes and understand the differences among them.

So, does anyone have any seitan tips? Recipes they like?
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I made myself split pea soup tonight. There was a special on smoked turkey neck. It was easy, and I feel replete.

6 Baby Carrots
1 Rib Celery
1/2 an Onion
3 Bay Leaves
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Thyme
1/4 teaspoon Clove
5 Black Peppercorns
2 pieces (about 5 ounces) Smoked Turkey Neck
1 Tablespoon cider
3 cups Water
2/3 cup of split peas

Chop the celery, carrots, and onion into a mirepoix. Cook it with the olive oil and herbs until the onion is clear. Add the spices, turkey neck, and cider. Add the water and the cleaned and sorted split peas.

Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for two and a half hours. Eat.

Makes enough for two large bowls of thick soup.
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Food Meme

1. If you owned a restaurant, what kind of food would you serve?

I want to run a French truck stop-style restaurant. Two items on the menu every day based on what's available at the markets. A soup or pate to start; cheese and/or a simple tart to finish. Just a simple Prix Fixe joint where all the cooking is mine. I'd be open on Sundays only for lunch, and that would be the most complex meal of the week.

A few years ago, I saw an old firehouse for sale outside of Boston. I can see the whole restaurant there, with my apartment upstairs. In the summer the great doors would open so people could dine al fresco if they chose.

2. What is your favorite restaurant and why?

I don't know if they are still what they were, but I have to say either Ogenblijk in Brussels or the Bellevuechen near Remagen. Both were atmospheric with terrific food. They had completely different feels and food types, but some of my best memories come from those two restaurants.

This isn't to denigrate any of the "great" (Michelin two star or above) restaurants I've eaten at. Great restaurants mark special occasions and make me feel like a queen. Ask me about Anton Mossiman's menu surprise sometime. *G*

Still it's nice to have a restaurant where I can talk with friends, enjoy great food, and share pleasant surroundings.

3. What is your favorite fast food place?

Does IHOP count? If not, Carl's Junior for the chocolate malteds.

4. If you had to choose only one type of food to eat for a year, what would it be?

If we're talking ethnicity, I'd say Chinese because there are so many variations and possibilities. Belgian would work for the same reason.

If we're talking category, vegetables. I can live without meat, fish, and milk products -- though the last of those would be the greatest wrench -- but a day without vegetables seems like too much.

5. What is your favorite cereal?

It depends. For daily eating, I love Shredded Wheat and Bran. I can even make it into a hot cereal by adding hot milk.

When I want to feel like a kid, I go for Cap'n Crunch or Lucky Charms depending on which texture I'm craving.
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A few months ago, I talked about the cooking show Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee. The infamous Christmas Cocktail episode is showing on Food Network tomorrow (Sunday,December 21).


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