Saturday, September 5, 2009

Summer Vegetable Risotto (In which I realize that if I’m going to blog about cooking, I ought to start measuring things. And taking more pictures.)

Serves two? I generally cook for one, but this had plenty of leftovers.

I know risotto kind of has this reputation as a pain in the ass. But it’s the perfect foggy cold day food, and takes just enough attention to really relax and calm me down. I really love the process of cooking. A foggy ride home got me in a risotto mood, and I figured it was a great way to test out the ridiculous smokiness of the turkey stock I made about a month ago. (Said stock was made with the carcass of a turkey smoked on a barbeque for a somewhat ridiculous amount of time.)

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So, risotto. Honestly, it’s a bunch of steps, but not actually hard. Ingredient amounts were kind of guessed. It’s flexible, and simple and so comforting.

•4 cups stock (This is the only firm measurement, and only because I freeze stock in one cup amounts. My stock was ridiculously smoky. Like really ridiculous.)
•a few handfuls of Arborio rice (Really. It’s going to swell like mad, so use less than you might think.)
•5 market carrots (About one supermarket carrot, not really a summer vegetable, but they were languishing in the bottom of my vegetable drawer, and in surprisingly decent shape.)
• 2 gypsy peppers (a sweet variety my CSA grows. One bell pepper would work just fine.)
•2 small red onions (Really small. Like half a normal onion.)
•2 teeny summer squash (A zucchini would sub fine here.)
•2 roma tomatoes
•1 glop (a tablespoon?) tomato paste
•1 teaspoon thyme (Which I think ended up being irrelevant. You could probably leave it out with no issues.)
Red pepper
Olive Oil

Put the stock in a pot and warm it up on the back of your stove. Add a glug or two of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter to a heavy bottomed pan. Medium heat. Chop the carrots. Toss them into the pan, and while they’re softening, chop the gypsy peppers. Toss them into the pan, and while they’re softening, chop the onions. Toss them into the pan, and while they’re softening, chop the squash. Toss them into the pan, and salt and pepper this vegetable mess. Thyme, too, if you’re using it. Cook for another few minutes, stirring every so often. You don’t really want things to brown, so much as just get kind of soft. Add another tablespoon of fat (butter or olive oil, it doesn’t really matter) and the rice. Cook for a few minutes, stirring every so often. OK, here comes the part that so many folks hate. Add a ladleful of stock, and stir. When that’s absorbed by the rice, add another ladleful of stock. Etc. Until the rice is soft and everything is a smooth starchy delicious mess. Maybe you’ll use all the stock, maybe not. Maybe you’ll need a bit more. Add the tomato paste and red pepper to taste. Chop the tomatoes, and add them to the pot. Cook for another minute, serve topped with chopped with parsley. Yum.

-Fry up some little pieces of bacon or pancetta or other awesome cured pork, and use the rendered fat in place of the olive oil/butter.
-Swap for the vegetable you’ve got in excess. This is just what happened to be in my fridge.
-Use up to a cup of wine in place of the stock.
-I just noticed the huge bunches of basil on my dining table. That’d be good in this, I bet.
-Stir in some grated parmesan cheese at the end of cooking.

This turned out to be the perfect summer dinner*. Warm and filling, but packed with summer produce. Awesome, all around. And I have enough left over to do a few risotto cakes tomorrow. Win.

Oh, about that turkey stock? Yup, extremely smokey. To the point where even if I'm going to make something where I want the smokey flavor, I probably ought to dilute it with plain chicken stock. Although I bet it'd make killer split pea soup.

*Those of you not from San Francisco: There’s a famous quote, misattributed to Mark Twain,“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” It is generally NOT WARM in San Francisco during the summer, but we still get all the awesome summer produce from the Central Valley.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Of strawberries and slacking

It's the simple things, right? Like the joy of heading to the farmer's market one Saturday morning, and finding the first strawberries of the season. I bought a basket right off, and started nibbling on them right away. Around the corner, I ran into a couple friends, who reminded me that strawberries go great with the lemon quark from Spring Hill Farms.

So here's today's breakfast. Eaten, as I frequently do, on the front porch. I live in an apartment with no deck or yard, so the only outside space that's mine is the front porch. It's nice to watch the neighbors walk by, and read a book in the fresh air. Today, I watched the rain.

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Slices of Acme sour batard, topped with lemon quark and sliced strawberries. A cup of tea hibiscus and peppermint tea. An interesting combination, but probably not one I'll be repeating hot. It'd make a great iced tea for hotter places, though.

Also, I seem to have lost my camera somewhere in my house (odd, since I live in a tiny studio, but less odd given the state of my housekeeping) so iPhone photos will be the rule of the day for awhile. I've actually avoided posting for a few weeks, because I couldn't find my camera, but after some prodding to update, I've decided not to care.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dinner With Robert


Last night I had my friend Robert over for dinner. All photos are his work. Except the one of him, I stole his camera and took that. Things I learned: my stovetop needs a good cleaning, my camera sucks (I kind of already knew that), having someone else take photos is really awesome, and the apron my momma made me is really unflattering. This post is liable to be crazy photo heavy, because he got a bunch of great shots. Thanks Robert!


The original plan was to make a batch of dumplings, and serve them on top of greens and baby broccoli. But the filling I made has massive amounts of cilantro, which Robert cannot stand. Whoops. A quick scan of the fridge, and an alternate plan. I kept the greens and baby broccoli, but threw them on top of rice, and added a fried egg and little chunks of pancetta on top. Yum. I love meals that come out of a single bowl, and eggs, and bacon. This didn't suck, and comes together really easily.


Dessert was a little bit of a surprise. Robert and I have often discussed his love of rhubarb in the past. When I re-organized my freezer a few weeks ago, I discovered a bag of rhubarb I froze the last time it was in season. A surprise rhubarb dessert was in order. I make crisp topping in huge batches, and keep it in the freezer. It's nice to be able to throw together a fruit dessert easily at a moment's notice. I kept this one really simple, just tossing the rhubarb with honey to sweeten, but I think a squeeze of lemon juice might have improved things.


Overall, this was a nice quick weeknight dinner, and I think we might have a good "cooking for photographs" thing developing. Winners, all around.

Thanks again to Robert for the photos in this post!

Spicy Greens topped with a Fried Egg and Bacon

3 cloves garlic
2 cups mixed greens (I use what my CSA sends as mixed stir fry greens. It seems to be a mix of kale, chard, collard greens, bok choy and spinach. Any of these greens by themselves would be fine. Measured by loosely smooshing them into a measuring cup.)
1 1/2 cups baby broccoli (Same loose smoosh measuring method. If you're going to eat this with a fork, cut the broccoli down to manageable pieces. If you're a chopsticks fan, leaving them whole is fine.)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (Increase this if you like spicy foods. I am a wuss about spicy foods.)
Olive oil

3 pieces pancetta (I had pancetta from The Fatted Calf in my fridge. Substitute bacon or whatever other awesome cured pork you have on hand.)
2 eggs

1 cup rice, cooked according to package directions (I like brown rice.)


Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil, heat to medium. Throw in the garlic and red pepper, and cook until the garlic is starting to turn color. Add the baby broccoli and cook until the color is changes to a bright green. Add the greens and salt and pepper to taste, and cook until they turn green. If you're using a mix of greens, the spinach will brown before the kale is done. This is fine, and, in fact, delicious.

Meanwhile, cut your pancetta into little sticks, and fry them up. Then fry your eggs in the manner of your choosing (over easy for me!) in the rendered fat from the pancetta. Yum.

To serve, rice in the bottom of the bowl, topped with greens, then the egg and the pancetta as a garnish.


Rhubarb Crisp

For the crisp topping (Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. This makes WAY more than you will use. Freeze the rest; it works just fine straight out of the freezer.):

2 sticks unsalted butter, cold
1 1/2 cups flour (I use 1 c white flour and .5 c whole wheat.)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cups nuts (I use whatever I've got lying around. This time 1/2 c pecans and 1/4 c slivered almonds.)
Dash salt

Cut the butter into small pieces, and combine all the ingredients in a food processor. It should be chunky.


For the rhubarb filling:

2 cups rhubarb, chopped (Mine was frozen, yours doesn't have to be.)
1/3 cup honey

Toss the two together. If your rhubarb is frozen, the honey will get all clumpy and weird. Don't worry, it'll bake out just fine.

Dump the rhubarb filling into a small baking dish*, and smooth it out into an even layer. Add enough crisp topping to make an even layer. I like the topping layer to be about 3/4 of an inch thick, but you can go thicker or thinner, as your preference dictates. Bake at 350 until the filling is bubbling and the top is crispy and brown. I totally forgot to time this step. I'm going to guess about half an hour, but really, it's done when it's done.


*Living my myself, and cooking for one most of the time, I have a good sized collection of small to tiny casserole dishes. You can scale this filling recipe up or down to fit in the dish you're going to make it in.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Chocolate Bourbon Cake


Last night, I met the cake that changed my mind about cakes. I come from a family without a tradition of homemade cakes. Birthday cakes came from boxes or the grocery store. Given the dubious quality of those cakes, I never really gained an appreciation for cake.

But last night I suddenly had a staggering craving for both chocolate and bourbon. I had a vague memory of a cake that combined the two, but somehow failed to bookmark the web page that I found the recipe on. After a bit of googling, I was excited to find the recipe again, from Molly of Orangette. Even better, her book is released today, so timing couldn't be better.


So, chocolate and bourbon. Yum. Or, as my friend Will said, "that sounds pretty fucking great." One brief dash to the store (luckily the fancy-pants grocery store down the street from me has a cookware section, because I started this at 9 p.m., and as a former cake disliker, why the heck would I own a bundt pan?) and I came home to get started on this cake. And then went right back out because I was out of sugar. Clearly I need to pay more attention to the contents of my pantry.


One of the excuses that people give for not making cakes from scratch is the difficulty. Ummm, people, making a cake is not hard. I promise. Seriously. In the case of this cake: Melt some chocolate. Dissolve powdered espresso and cocoa in hot water. Add whiskey. Set both these things aside for the moment. Beat the butter, add sugar, add eggs, add vanilla and baking soda and the melted chocolate. Beat in the whiskey mix and the flour, alternating back and forth. It's a semi-long series of steps, but none of them is hard. At all. And you end up with a liquor soaked chocolate cake.


As you can see, I am crap at pouring cake batter into a pan, and spilled it all around the center. Didn't matter. This cake is totally awesome. Go to Orangette for the recipe, and get a copy of her book. I don't have one yet, but given the quality of her blog, I can't imagine it'd be anything but awesome.

So yeah. This is the cake that changed my opinion of cake. It's good. Really good. Moist and rich and not too sweet (plenty sweet enough, but not TOO sweet). Drizzling the top with bourbon just adds that extra note of boozy awesomeness. I bet it'd be really good with a ganache poured over the top as icing, but doesn't need it. Dusted with a light powdered sugar snowfall, it's pretty much perfect.


Now I need to find an awesome cake that isn't helped along with a huge dose of bourbon. It's got to be out there. And my birthday is coming up.

Recipe: Whiskey-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

Monday, March 2, 2009

25 Things About Me

This whole 25 random things about me meme has been going around facebook and the blogs. I figured it was as good a way to kick off this blog as anything. So, here are 25 things about my relationship to food.

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1. This article is all the confirmation I need to keep eating locally. I can visit the farm where most of my food is grown; nobody is enslaved there.

2. I drink a staggering amount of tea. I have a whole shelf in my cupboard that is full of tea, and desperately needs organizing. About half the time I open the cupboard, tea falls on my head.

3. I have a mad crush on Taylor, the proprietor of The Fatted Calf. Good looking guy, covered in tattoos, and his products are totally to die for. Yum.

4. I grow my own sprouts but I always forget to eat them.

5. I keep getting turnips in my CSA box and I'm not really sure what to do with them. They're hanging out in a bag in the bottom of my crisper, and I think they might be reproducing. Turnip recipes welcome!


6. I don't usually like soups. There are exceptions to this, and I really like making soup, but I never manage to eat the leftovers.

7. While I do like chocolate, I'll chose a fruit dessert over a chocolate one nearly every time.

8. I don't eat a lot of rice or potatoes. They bore me. I need to change that.

9. I love fiddley or fussy preparations or those involving repetitive tasks. It's like a meditation on what I'm cooking.

10. I absolutely adore baking sweets. Living alone, this means I give away lots of baked goods.

Giant beets

11. I derive an incredible amount of comfort from the contents of my cupboards and freezer. Just knowing what's there, and that I can throw together a great meal at any time is really reassuring.

12. I almost never eat breakfast. I love most breakfast foods, but I'm so bad at getting up in the mornings that it's all I can do to throw on some clothes and grab a cup of coffee on the way to work.

13. When things get really busy and stressful at work, I'll often spend my days off entirely in my kitchen. Cooking de-stresses me.

14. I hate zucchini with a passion. I will make it into quick-bread, but that's about it.

15. I love ratatouille. Tomatoes make the awfulness that is zucchini and eggplant completely delicious.

Photo 172.jpg

16. Getting a CSA box was the single best thing I've ever done to improve the quality and variety of my meals.

17. I am very tempted to cook my way all the way through Michael Roux's Eggs a la French Laundry at Home.

18. If I ever considered moving out of California, I'd have to seriously consider the availability of avocados at the destination. I eat them constantly.

19. My stepfather has always been an adventurous cook and eater. He's almost entirely responsible for my interest in food and cooking. I still call him for recipes and advice and to chat food all the time.

20. I'm somewhat apprehensive about cooking meat. I plan to try and work through that in 2009. I think The River Cottage Meat Book will help.

Strawberry lemonade

21. I tend to obsess about some fruit or vegetable that's in season, to the point of eating it every day for weeks. Currently, my obsession is lemons.

22. I canned for the first time last summer. Having lovely tomatoes all winter almost makes my for burning my nipple leaning over the canning pot to adjust the heat.

23. I don't actually like ice cream. It's probably related to being lactose sensitive. Ice cream and milk both upset my stomach something fierce. Cheese and yogurt are just fine, though.

24. I am a firm believer that nearly any meal is better outdoors. Sometimes I take my dinner out onto my front stairs. My neighbors look at me funny when I do that.

25. The worst part about living in an apartment is that I have nowhere to put a grill. I might have to get a hibachi and have little sidewalk barbecues. The neighbors thing I'm weird now...


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Getting there. Slowly.


I've been sitting in this spot all day, drinking endless cups of tea and trying to learn blogger and get this damn thing set up. I used to be really computer savvy, but I've lost it over the past few years. Downloading GIMP, wishing I had a better camera, eating lemon tart, procrastinating, reading endless ask.metafilter posts on blogging, and generally being alternately inspired, frustrated, excited and annoyed.

Looks like I've got about an hour before GIMP finishes downloading. Time enough to wander into the kitchen and make a (very) late lunch. I didn't eat breakfast until 11, so that makes this a reasonable lunchtime, right? Right?

OK, goal: Get the first post up before bed. We'll see how that goes. Oh, and some semblance of a layout would be good too.