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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Miracle of Butternut Squash!

So... today I discovered that one can eat butternut squash seeds just as one would eat pumpkin seeds. And they taste better! Was I the only one who didn't know?

In case I wasn't, here's how you prepare them:
  1. Wash seeds thoroughly to remove any of the stringy pumpkin parts.
  2. Lay out the seeds on parchment paper laid out on a baking pan, and let air-dry for several minutes.
  3. Sprinkle with salt.
  4. Bake for 5-10 minutes at 300 F.
Harvard seriously wasted so many seeds...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Japanese "Melon" Scones

200g flour
10g baking powder
2g salt
40g sugar
40g vegetable oil
1 egg

  1. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together in a clean plastic bag, then add vegetable oil and egg. Knead together through the bag until everything is mixed evenly.
  2. After the dough is mixed, split into sixths and roll into balls, then flatten them slightly. Place on greased or lined baking pan. (The dough might be crumbly here--don't worry, and just do your best.)
  3. Sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top, then make slight gridlike cuts using the back of a knife, like the outside of a cantaloupe! (My dough was a little too crumbly for good cuts, as you can see from the non-melonlike appearance of my scones.)
  4. Bake for ~15 minutes at 356 F (or 180 C, for those abroad).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cauliflower and Potato "Salad"

This is perfect for winter, when the selection of in-season vegetables can get a little sparse... There are also no measurements really associated with this recipe, as everything can be done to taste and to the desired amount.

olive oil

  1. Wash and peel potatoes, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Separate cauliflower into small parts. If you are using actual cloves of garlic instead of garlic paste, slice the clove thinly.
  2. On low heat, cook garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Then add the potatoes and cauliflower, raising the heat to medium.
  3. Briefly stir-fry, then cover pan and let the vegetables steam-cook for several minutes. Remove lid, and add mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper to taste. Continue to stir-fry until vegetables are cooked and golden brown.

By the way, as I was looking up terms for this recipe I discovered what "cauliflower ear" is. Not pleasant.

adventures with bacteria: the sequel's sequel

i have no pictures nor have I tasted it but it certainly looks yogurty.

What I did different was to follow the instructions of my family, which were:
-Heat quart milk in a saucepan until it bubble and steam rises from the surface
-Pour it in a large bowl to cool to 110 degrees or so. I think last time my milk was too hot; my brother says it should be sort of bath-temperature.
-Put 2 Tbsp starter yogurt in a small bowl and mix with a small amount of the warm milk until smooth. Last time it wasn't very smooth.
-Incorporate into big bowl a third at a time.
-Cover and leave in a warm place. This time I covered it with heavy towels instead of bath towels, and fiddled less with the oven (though I did warm it). Doing this right before bed is best, because otherwise the temptation to peer at your little microbe friends is very great.

seriously, it's pretty magical.

Friday, February 18, 2011

part the third--garam masala

Mostly I am making this post because we haven't had anything about spices recently and so I will change that.
So, I do not have any "garam masala," nor does my grocery sell anything by that name, as it is small and mostly Italian in disposition, and thus has a lot of olive oil and tomato sauce but little in the way of curry spices. How to Cook Everything has a recipe, but it relies on having a lot of spices in their original state--cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks and the like--which again is not my grocery's forte. So I just mixed some stuff together myself. When I was at the grocery getting some appropriate ground spices, I forgot whether I wanted cardamom or coriander, and so got both; this turned out to be a good thing, as both are delicious (if equally specialized).
 SO my garam masala was basically 1/4 teaspoon of each of: cinnamon; cloves; cardamom; and cumin; a shake of nutmeg and coriander; and then a little extra cumin and cardamom because it was smelling too cinnamon-y. You would think you would end up with about a teaspoon by this method, but I got about two, which is curious. Anyway, this is delicious and also to be recommended.

Palak Paneer!

So, now that I had paneer, the obvious thing to do was to make palak paneer. I really love palak paneer. In order to make it, I had to increase my spice cabinet considerably, so maybe this is not the most practical thing in the world unless you have a lot of spices lying around. If you do, it is dead easy. Basically, I synthesized a number of internet recipes  (like here and here ) and so it went something like:

This is the best picture I could take.
In a saucepan, sautée in olive oil one onion, two fat cloves of garlic, some pepper flakes, and about a half-inch chunk of grated ginger.  [I am sure technically it is supposed to be ghee, but who has ghee lying around? Not I. Also I think green pepper is more proper, but too bad. ] When this is nicely done, add a spoonful of yogurt, and some spices--turmeric, coriander, cumin, garam masala, that sort of thing (about 1.5 tsp each?) . The coriander I think is especially delicious. So now you have like a sauce thing. Add two packages of thawed frozen spinach to your pan, and a can of tomato paste. Mix! Then fry up the paneer and add that in. I tried to fry my paneer in the same pan, but it didn't work very well. It was still good though.
Look how enthusiastically I am eating! It must be good.
And there you go! Delicious curry. I would serve this to friends. I do not know if I would buy it in a restaurant, as the spicing still needed tweaking and I am not sure how. Somebody should try it and tell me. Anyway, hooray spinach, and hooray spice cabinet!

adventures with bacteria: the sequel

So, remember how I said I was going to make cottage cheese? It did not take long for me to follow up on this, because guys, I really like cottage cheese. So, according to Mark Bittman, this is dead easy. Basically, you heat up 2 parts milk to boiling-ness, add 1 part buttermilk, add salt if desired, stir around till thoroughly curdled, and drain through some cheesecloth. So I tried this--I even bought buttermilk special, although I probably could have used a lemon or something, because I wanted to go By The Book and make me some delicious cottage cheese. And the result--well, admittedly I let it drain a long time, because I had to go do laundry, so it drained for however long it takes to wash and dry and fold and come back from the laundromat. But, guys, this was not cottage cheese, or at least not by any definition I know. I took some pictures of it, so you could see for yourself, but my camera seems to have gone AWOL, so you will have to imagine it for yourselves. It was sort of oddly grainy. Edible, but not what I wanted. I later learned that maybe part of it is that commercial cottage cheese kind of re-suspends the curds in some cream, but honestly I'm not sure that was what was called for here either. It also needed salt, but that too was not the main problem. The problem was that I made ricotta, which I don't especially like, when I was promised cottage cheese. SADNESS. However, here is the upside! The upside is that this *would* make really good paneer, so I did that today, since I still have all this buttermilk. I even bought the fancier brand of milk at my grocery store for the purpose! (since the result basically tastes like milk). Basically you do exactly the same thing except you tie up your cheesecloth to make a little ball and squeeze out all the fluids, and then hang the little ball from something to make sure it is good and dry. I approve of the result of this product. It is delicious.

As a post script, I am now attempting to make yogurt, once again. We shall see what happens.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

More stewing adventures

I decided that it would be great to experiment with another starch source, and I realized that I hadn't had couscous in a long time. Of course couscous requires a nice middle-eastern style stew to go on top of it. I poked on the internet because I don't know exactly what goes into such a stew to make it differ from superficially similar Indian dishes. I found this recipe and paid some attention to it while cooking. I didn't follow the proportions of spices (though I used the ones recommended) and I put in much less varied veggies (just a few carrots, a can of chick peas and about half an eggplant). For the hot sauce I used chilli garlic as it was something I had. I also used a LOT of herbs: a consequence of not being able to get reasonably-sized bunches of herbs at stores. The most interesting difference was that I used goat instead of the lamb. This was an accident of timing: for some very strange reason the grocery store I go to had an extremely paltry amount of lamb but they were selling trays of cut up goat. I decided that this would be ideal.
I also messed with the couscous a little by putting cashews and raisins in it.
The final product turned out to be quite tasty.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

also: inverse test kitchen?

So, a while ago I made chicken stock, because I felt it would be a useful thing to have. I don't actually know what I plan to do with it, so if you have ideas, tell me.  Anyway, then I had cooked chicken, so i made fajitas! No need to really go into how to make fajitas, though I did include a zucchini and some carrot in there, which I recommend. I also made guacamole to go with the fajitas, because I was feeling extravagant and was doing groceries anyway.

mmmm burrito.
So, then I ended up with an excess of tortillas and cilantro and the like, but no avocado, so I couldn't make guacamole, and I did not wish to purchase another avocado because I was no longer feeling extravagant. Plus, it is the nachos dilemma.  So, for a while the only idea I had was to make a bunch of quesadillas with cilantro, but that is not all that exciting. THEN later I was eating chili--I have lots of chili in the freezer, though not from the same batch I posted about--and thought "what can I do to make eating chili more interesting?" And the answer, so obvious, is burritos! So I made rice, and then added cilantro, to get flavoured rice. This has the added advantage of making my somewhat lousy-quality rice less lousy. And then I heated up some chili--which is like the beans and salsa part of a burrito all in one! And I melted some cheese onto my tortilla, because I was feeling FANCY.  And then I ate a burrito. And it was good. But other ideas for the rest of my cilantro would still be welcome.

more fun with tiny life-forms: bread!

ANOTHER STORY. So, I'm at a Divinity School, and at Div School we have chapel. Not that you have to go, but they schedule classes so you are always free then and there is coffee hour afterwards, so why not. So, this one time, a few months ago, a dude gave a sermon about the loaves and the fishes and whatnot, and he gave it while kneading dough in the center of the chapel and talking about how his grandmother made bread and how he worked at a bakery and stuff. It was a pretty good talk. ANYWAY the point of my story is, after chapel everyone got a tiny baggy of sour-dough starter as like a symbolic souvenir or something. I think most people probably threw them out, but my reaction was "Sweet! Now I can make bread! AWESOME." And I took my sourdough starter and put it in a container and fed it a little bit every week, and eventually my little pet grew big and strong, by which I mean there was enough that I could do something with it, i.e. make bread. Because the thing is, I really like bread, and the other thing is that I don't feel like paying for fancy bakery bread and I don't like squishy American bread.
So, using the magic of the internet, I found a recipe for sourdough! And then I made sourdough. If you don't happen to come across some starter, as I did, you might not make sourdough, though supposedly one can make one's own starter. Or I can give you some, if you want. Or you could use regular yeast--I just got a good yeast bread recipe off my brother (who is to bread as cookie monster is to cookies) but have yet to try it because I have no yeast and I do have starter (which is basically INFINITE BREAD).
Bread after second rising.
Freshly baked bread!
Basically, making sourdough turns out to be pretty easy. First you let your starter sit on your counter for a bit, and give it is feed of flour and water, and eventually it will start to bubble. Which is kind of freaky actually, because IT'S ALIVE. Then you take two cups of the stuff and put it in a bowl, and add 2T olive oil and 2t salt and 4t sugar, and then add flour until it's doughy. Which is two or three cups, depending on your flour and your dough. [It bothers me that I can't find any big bags of flour, because making bread runs right through those little 5 lb bags and now it's gross out ad I don't want to buy more.] And you knead knead knead, until your dough is sort of flexible--like when you get the idea you could roll it out pretty thin without it breaking. This actually isn't as much work as I always thought it would be. Then, take dough, cover, put in warm place (like your oven) to rise. When it doubles, re-knead, shape into desired loaves, cover again, let rise some more, and then bake at 300 degrees for half an hour or so, until it's baked-seeming. Bread is pretty forgiving as far as I can tell.

So! I have done this I think three times now. The first time the bread had kind of a dense texture--not bad, but not what I expected. Maybe it didn't rise enough, I dunno. The next time it was picture-perfect, but I didn't take pictures. This time I made two little loaves, and froze one, and they ended up expanding out rather than up so they're a little flat. And also I tried glazing them with egg and it looks a little funny. However the bread is CERTIFIABLY DELICIOUS and good for eating.
So: Bread!

Slice of bread, with breakfast.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Carrot greens

I got my first CSA box today: beets (w/ greens), romanesco, brussels sprouts, blood oranges, and carrots (w/ greens). Part of the point of signing up for the CSA was to force myself to try cooking new vegetables, so I decided to try to use the beet greens and carrot greens. I've made a soup with kale and swiss chard before, and "How to Cook Everything" told me that beet greens are a good substitute for kale, so I decided to do that. Thankfully, I only put in one stem's worth of carrot greens, since it turns out that they are mildly poisonous. (They taste a bit like bitter parsley).

To make the soup, which is really easy:
Sautee an onion, then add garlic.
Add water/broth (5 cups), beans (2 cans, I used red and white kidney beans), and crushed red pepper.
When it boils, turn down the heat and add greens of whatever variety you like (up to about 6 cups).
Simmer for 15 minutes.

Test Kitchen #1

Guys, the Test Kitchen is a scary place. If I were you, I wouldn't go there. Seriously. I've posted a big sign. It says "Test Kitchen." If you've read this post, you know not to go there. If you haven't, it's your own fault.

Today, avocados were rapidly going soft in the Test Kitchen. No tomatoes were available, nor was lime juice, and it's very cold outside. Also, no cilantro was available, and you can only get that at a Turkish supermarket. The environs of the Test Kitchen contain no Turkish supermarket. The upshot: no guacamole.

The Test Kitchen had recently acquired a new ingredient: corn flour. Flour is magical, because when you put it with water (or other liquid, with or without sundry dry ingredients) and make it hot, it becomes a solid, edible mass. Sometimes the mass is delicious. One such delicious mass is called a pancake, and I make pancakes in the Regular Kitchen, not the Test Kitchen. That's because pancakes don't backfire; they don't let you down.

You may have guessed where this is leading: avocado pancakes. I asked the internet whether such a thing was possible; the internet told me "it is possible with bananas." No, I had no bananas. But one time I heard the phrase savoury pancake and I decided that since I had heard the phrase before it was probably something delicious. I am not in the habit of hearing non-delicious phrases, as I'm sure you know. So I whipped up some savoury pancake batter:

1 avocado, mashed
1 egg
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup corn flour
some milk
some baking powder
some black pepper


I heated some oil in a pan, and then I put the batter in the pan, making sure to spread it pretty thin. The batter coalesced into a solid mass, which I was then able to flip.


At the end, I put sour-cream-like substance on the pancake, and ate it. It was a thing that I ate. Will I eat it again? Probably; I still have about half the batter left. Will I make it again? The flavour was curious, and I think this pancake, like most other pancakes, should have been a sweet pancake. I would, in an hour of need, attempt to make a sweet pancake out of avocados. Would I serve it to a guest? No, no I would not. I would not allow a guest into the Test Kitchen.

Rating: 4 beers out of 5 (You should drink 4 beers before attempting to enjoy this food, and only ingest it if you're still hungry afterward)