Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Over the last four months, my boyfriend and I have cooked daily, shopping twice or thrice per week at our incomparable farmers' markets. We have moved into a cottage of our own, and will begin (container) planting in the spring. We also have continued to pursue our respective PhDs; being full-time students and teachers on top of that really is a full-time job. Fortunately, we have photographed almost every meal we have shared. Unfortunately, we have utterly failed to post the pictures or recipes.

In the meantime, he has helped me expand my cookbook collection, to the point that I now have easily more than a thousand pages of recipes to read and remember. A good cook, I believe, should read a good cookbook cover-to-cover. These and recipes on the internet and from friends should inspire our own recipes, not dictate them. My boyfriend has taken over the dessert-baking in our house (and often prepares the dinners and breakfasts — he is already the better cookie chef, and I worry that at the current rate he will soon be the superior cook in every way), and makes cookies without referencing recipes, eye-balling the butter and chocolate in the double-boiler. I prepare meals with whatever vegetables are at the Market this week.

Of course, we regularly look in our cookbooks and online for ideas. The books by Alice Waters are our most regular source of inspiration. I have long referenced Chez Panisse Vegetables, and my boyfriend's Christmas present for me was the sequel Chez Panisse Fruit. (He also gave me an abacus.) For him, I found a lovely Pyrex Flameware double boiler, and a copy of Bakewise by Shirley Corriher. I expect that he will often produce her desserts, but more often read her discussions of the underlying chemistry and then create sweets of his own.

At an incredible used bookstore, I found a gorgeous inexpensive copy of Cooking from the Garden, by Rosalind Creasy (her other books look awesome too), which I have begun reading. It is in the same theme as many other recent publications, most particularly Barbara Kingsolver's sometimes preachy but always enjoyable Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: grow your own food, and cook it well, because this will lead to the best tasting meals and most fulfilling lifestyle. What seems remarkable about Creasy's books, since it was only in the few last years that the national media became so interested in local foods, is that they were written when Chez Panisse was much younger. Cooking from the Garden, for instance, is exactly two decades old, first published by the Sierra Club in 1988.

The book, from what I've read so far, is highly recommended. Every page includes mouth-watering full-color glossy photos of vegetables, vegetable dishes, and vegetable gardens. The text is well-written and well-researched: Creasy says she took close to three years putting together the material for the book, traveling across the country and consulting with master chefs and gardeners from disparate traditions. The book is organized around "theme gardens" created to highlight particular cuisines, climes, and food types, each with its own recipes, and ends with an "Encyclopedia of Superior Vegetables".

I am a relative newcomer to the local-foods-home-gardening-organic-agriculture scene — I am, after all, only 23. The New York Times would have me believe that I'm on the front of a national movement, and I would like to believe it. But I really don't have a good sense of the extent to which these issues were popular twenty years ago. Cooking from the Garden reads as if it were written yesterday.

Regardless, eventually I hope to own a farmhouse with a large plot of arable land, one which I can grow most of the food for my family. I've already started canning — this fall we put up tomatoes, pickles, and marmalade — and will eventually learn to make cheese. I hope I will have the time for such a life; I also intend on a consuming academic career. Books like Creasy's will be a huge asset in achieving a working garden/farm.

In the immediate future, although we have a cottage, we live in a dense neighborhood with little space for more than herbs. So the recipes here will remain farmers'-market-fed. I do hope to get back into the habit of posting my meals. As I said, I have a photo-diary of dinners from the last fall, and these will be posted here and on flickr soon. But we will be traveling for the first three weeks of January. Look for new updates then.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Three-grain risotto and bean-and-basil salad

At a dinner party recently, we served a three-grain risotto and a bean-and-basil salad.

For the risotto, wash and dice one leek and one bulb of fennel, and sauté in olive oil and salt. Add 1.5 cups oat berry, one cup barley, and half a cup of rye berry, and six to seven cups of liquid (a mix of vegetable broth, white wine, and water). Bring to boil ,reduce to simmer, cover, and let cook at least an hour, stirring occasionally. Before serving, stir in grated parmesan cheese.

For the salad, shell a few pounds of beans — we had a mix of black-eyed peas, cranberry and dragon-tongue beans, and coco negro and coco blanco. Cover in an inch of water, bring to a boil, cook a few minutes, drain, and rinse cold. In a large serving bowl, combine four apples, quartered, cored and sliced thin, and olive oil, salt, and balsamic vinegar; keep adding dressing as you add more ingredients, which soak up the liquid. Wash and thinly slice most of a pound of crimini mushrooms, and add, along with the beans and the leaves of two bunches of basil.

Both dishes keep well in the fridge, and are better the following day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fettucini Alfredo

Following this recipe, I made 3/4-pound of fresh parsley fettuccine. I left out most of the lemon: the ingredients I used were 2 cups white flour, 1/2 tsp salt, half-bunch parsley (stems removed and then minced), 1 capful lemon juice, 2 capfuls olive oil, and up to 2 Tbsp water. Rolled out thin on a floured work surface, let to relax, and then rolled again and sliced, this makes a lovely fettuccine: bring salted water to a boil, and cook pasta two minutes until fettuccines float. But as the only dish (plus salad) for two it wasn't quite enough; I think 50% more would be perfect.

We had the pasta with a simple cream sauce: melt most of a stick of butter, add ground black pepper, a healthy amount of grated parmesan cheese, and a good-sized splash of heavy whipping cream. If you do not use parsley in your pasta, add some minced parsley to the cream sauce. Good eats.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lost notes; barley and beans

I had put together a long list of meals I've made this summer, so that I could remember to write them up for you. Unfortunately, after keeping this list for two months, slowly typing up recipes, I have left it in my pocket when I last did laundry.

Some meals I remember, but will soon forget. Breakfasts are often eggs valentine — poached eggs, served over sautéed spinach on english muffin — or scrambled eggs with pesto, or oatmeal, or melon. Lunches and dinners are often some variation of rice and beans. For example, today's lunch:

Dice and wash one leek, and sauté half in a medium saucepan in olive oil. Add one cup barley, two cups water, and a little salt. Cover, bring to boil, and cook on medium until water is absorbed or cooks off.

Meanwhile, shell half a pound of beans: we have black-eyed peas right now, and also coco blanco and coco negro. Boil a few minutes. While beans are boiling, sauté the rest of the leeks in olive oil and salt. Drain the beans and add to the leeks, and continue to cook on medium until barley is done.

Wash and dice five brown button mushrooms. Mix mushrooms and beans into barley, and transfer to wide bowls. Serves two for lunch.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dinner party: purple veggies, summer soup

We had a dinner party a while back — I'm very behind in blogging my dinners — for some folks from my department. In addition to salad and bread and homemade beer the guests brewed, we had a summer soup and roasted purple veggies. The soup showcased our new soup tureen, which we found in a Free Box in the Berkeley hills.

Wash, peel, and slice red onions, beets, blue potatoes, and purple sweet potatoes. Toss in a glass lasagna pan with dried thyme and salt, and bake 400 degree or so for a while (one hour?), until the roots tenderize.

For the soup, shell one pound fresh beans (a mix of canellini and cranberry). In a saucepan, sauté onions and diced poblano peppers. Add beans, corn sliced from the cob, and vegetable stock. Flavor with marjoram, minced smoked paprika peppers, and salt and pepper. Cook half an hour until beans soften.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Six-course meal for two

We had enough for a third and maybe a fourth, but last night's meal my boyfriend and I shared alone.
  1. Lavash Crackers. In a kitchenaid with paddle attachment, combine in order 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup whole-wheat bread flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp instant yeast, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 cup water. Mix until dough comes together into a single ball. Let dough sit 15 minutes, then knead by hand 15 minutes. Let proof 2 hrs until doubled. Degas, relax, and roll into a flat rectangle, just the same size as your largest cookie sheet, and transfer to said sheet lined with parchment. Mist the top of the dough with water, sprinkle with stripes of caraway seed, cumin seed, sesame seed, poppy seed, and paprika, and slice diagonally into cracker-width strips. Bake 15 minutes in a 350°F preheated oven — strips will grow together, but will snap apart.
  2. Baba ganoush. Pierce two medium eggplants, and bake 40 minutes in a 400°F oven until brown and mushy and starting to deflate. Remove from heat, shock in cold water, and peel. Combine eggplant insides in a blender, food processor, or standing mixer with whisk, along with salt, a few Tbsp tahini, juice of 1/4 lemon, and one minced smoked paprika peppers, to taste. Transfer to small serving bowl, sprinkle liberally with crushed dried paprika, and drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Green hummus. Shell a pound and a half of washed fresh garbanzo beans. Boil beans 40 minutes until soft. Drain, and transfer to blender, food processor, or standing mixer with whisk. Combine with a few Tbsp tahini, a Tbsp olive oil, juice of 1/4 lemon, one clove or more minced garlic, salt, and three sprigs minced parsley to taste. Transfer to small serving bowl, sprinkle liberally with crushed dried sumac berry, and drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Side of feta and olives. In a small serving bowl, combine 1/4 lb pitted kalamata olives, 1/4 lb goat's feta in 1/4-inch cubes, three sprigs fresh oregano, juice of 1/4 lemon, and drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Dolmas. Cook one cup dried brown rice (1.5 cup salted water, covered, brought to a boil, reduced to simmer 30 minutes, then left to steam at least 20 minutes until ready). Since you don't have much experience rolling dolmas, you'll use more grape leaves than really optimal, so prepare to use half a 1-pt jar of pickled grape leaves. Roll 10 large dolmas.
  6. Salad. Wash and remove stems from one bunch purslane. Wash and chop 6 baby lemon cucumbers. Combine purslane, cucumbers, and juice of 1/4 lemon, salt, and olive oil.

Refrigerate everything before serving, and pair with a chilled white wine for a fantastic summer dinner. Total cook time: three hours or so of continuous work for two?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Parsley and lemon bow-tie pasta

In the kitchenaid with paddle blade running, combine in order
  • just under 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • a fair amount of parsley, washed, stems removed, and coarsely chopped
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 capfull lemon extract
  • 2 capfulls olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
Dough should come together into a stiff yellow dough. If it is still dry, add up to 1/4 cup water, but I didn't need any.

Roll out dough as thin as possible. I did not need to let the dough relax nor did I need flour, but you might. Cut into rectangles about 3/4-inch by 1.5-inch, and pinch into bow-ties.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, with salt and olive oil in the water. Boil pastas just 2-5 minutes, until they float. Serve with diced and lightly cooked sweet purple pepper, more parsley, and grated cheese.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Colorful Greek-inspired rice-and-beans

Here's a very colorful dish that can feed a crowd.

Long before you will want to eat, bring to a boil
  • 2 cups dried brown rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
and simmer covered 20-30 minutes, until the water has been absorber. Remove from heat, and allow to steam covered at least another 30 minutes. The rice will holds its heat for an hour.

Wash and shell
  • 1 lb fresh black-eyed peas
to yield a little under a cup. When selecting black-eyed peas, prefer the plump yellow ones for ease of shelling. Beans will pop out once you remove the strings. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and blanch the beans about 2 minutes.

Wash and thinly slice
  • 2 small heads of chard, one yellow and one read
Either blanch or steam the chard until it has reduced in volume and turned even brighter colors.

Combine rice, beans, and chard in a large bowl along with Serve warm. Serves three with leftovers as the only dish, or four with a bowl of ice cream to finish.


While my boyfriend taught his class, I spent Sunday afternoon sitting outside, reading blogs and newspapers, and shelling 3/4 lb fresh garbanzo beans.

For the pita, I started the dough in the morning. In a large bowl, I mixed 1.5 cup white flour, 3 cup whole wheat "bread" flour (whole wheat flour with 2 Tbsp vital wheat gluten per cup), 1/2 Tbsp salt, 1/2 Tbsp instant yeast, 1 Tbsp honey, 1 cup warm water, and 3 Tbsp olive oil. I mixed the dough by wooden spoon and kneaded it by hand, rolled it into a tight ball, and left it in the bowl covered with saran wrap to rise.

With the dough made and the beans shelled, the rest of dinner came together in less than an hour. I set the baking stone in the oven and preheated 500°F. Then I cut the dough into four pieces, and flattened into pitas. (It turns out that the oven bounce for this dough, after seven hours of proofing, is a lot: the pitas you want are at least eight inches diameter and about a quarter inch thick before cooking. I did not achieve this.) With the oven heated, I transfered the shaped pitas to the stone with the pizza paddle. The pitas need to cook roughly 10 minutes, but I checked them regularly.

I boiled the washed garbanzos at least 30 minutes, with some whole garlic cloves added to flavor the water. (I would put garlic into the falafel, except I'm mildly allergic to garlic.) My boyfriend drained, cooled, and mashed the cooked garbanzos, adding salt, cumin seed that he mashed in the mortar and pestle, and minced parsley. Then he mixed in an egg and some flour. I heated a wok with an inch or so of vegetable oil, and continued to add flour until the dough was workable. Then I rolled the garbanzo mush into balls and fried directly in the oil, removing them to a bowl lined with paper towel when the outside had turned a golden brown.

Meanwhile, my boyfriend prepared a tatziki with plain goat yogurt, sesame seeds, salt, julienned lemon cucumber, diced sweet red pepper, and shredded iceberg or green butter lettuce. We transfered everything to serving bowls, and prepared the individual sandwiches at the table. Delish.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Polenta gnocchi with pesto

We enjoy homemade pasta around here, and there's no pasta easier than gnocchi. Traditionally made at the end of the month before payday — and lending their name to the tax collectors who steal your paycheck — gnocchi (sing. gnoccho) can be made with any leftover mush-of-starch. Mashed potatoes seem to be most popular in the States, but polenta or wheat are also tasty. Combine leftover starch mush with eggs, salt, and enough flour to make into a dough, roll into balls, and boil two minutes until gnocchi float.

To that end, we brought two cups soy milk combined with two cups lightly-salted water to a boil, turned off the heat, and whisked in two cups polenta meal. Covered, this sat for about thirty minutes to cook. The by-then-cool polenta mush we combined with two eggs and a fair amount of flour, ending up with twice as much dough as we wanted. We rolled out all of the dough into gnocchi, deciding to freeze half of it. (This would have worked, too, if we froze them separated by layers of wax paper. As it is, we are currently defrosting a tub of solid polenta, to re-roll into gnocchi on Monday.) We brought salted and well-oiled water to a boil, and cooked the polenta two minutes until the balls floated.

The blender had burnt out, so the pesto we made by hand. We mashed half a cup pine nuts in the mortar and pestle, and also mashed one garlic clove. These we combined with half a cup good olive oil, a tsp salt, a quarter cup grated parmesan, and half a bunch each of spinach and basil, minced. The pesto at hand, we cooked the gnocchi, draining in a colander set in a ceramic serving bowl, emptied the bowl of the hot water, and then combined the pasta and sauce for a dish that in the U.S. if the height of gourmet.

Two salads

Shell two pounds garbanzo beans, boil two minutes, and drain. Toss with one bunch arugula, half a tub crumbled feta, and a tub of oil-cured black olives and almonds. Dress with olive oil, salt, and red wine that's turning to vinegar.

Sauté hazelnuts in walnut or olive oil until pungent. Top and quarter one pint strawberries, and toss with half a pound of spinach and four oz sweet chevre. Dress with oil and a white zinfandel.

Three-bean salad with wild rice

Shelling beans are in season, which is phenomenal. Most people have only a few shelling beans fresh: peas, and perhaps edamame or fava. But all your favorite dried or canned beans were once fresh. At our markets, I've seen cannellini beans, cranberry beans, black-eyed peas, and garbanzos. All are very tasty. Shelling usually converts about a pound of beans into about a cup. Although edible raw, I prefer to boil the beans just a few minutes.

Shell a pound each of cranberry beans, cannellini beans, and garbanzos. Also thinly slice half a pound of clean carrots. Bring enough water to cover the veggies to a boil, and blanch the beans and carrots two minutes. Drain, and toss in a serving bowl with olive oil, salt, and fresh herbs.

We had our salad with wild rice. This delicious grain should be cooked in twice as much salted water until some of the seeds burst open; then the excess liquid should be drained off. Our dinner was the most gourmet rice-and-beans ever.


Oysters, mussels, and clams are "an excellent choice because they are farmed in an environmentally responsible way." Prefer local farmed shellfish, because shellfish should be purchased alive and extremely fresh. Ours come from Hog Island, an environmentally-careful shellfish farm in Tomales Bay. They primarily trade in oysters, and at Farmers' Market one can buy fish to take home and also oysters on the half shell to eat right there. Mmmm good.

Expect a pound of mussels and a pound of dried pasta to satisfy two people. Prepare the pasta very light: we had farfale, tossed with sage-butter.

In a large pot, combine two cups vegetable broth, two cups of white cooking wine, a few stocks of green onions, cleaned and diced, half a dozen whole garlic cloves, and a fair amount of salt. Add the mussels, and enough water to cover, and bring gently to a boil.

The mussels are done when the water boils, but there's no harm in letting them sit a little while. The mussels should open up in the water. Do not cook any mussels that are open when dry — those are dead and may make you sick — and similarly discard any mussels that do not open when cooking. With a slotted spoon, remove cooked mussels to a large ceramic bowl, and pour over as much broth as will fit without spilling. Present the mussels in the bowl with broth, and serve at the table with the slotted spoon.

Save the shells for a fish stock, of course, which should be prepared with shellfish (crab, lobster, clam, oyster, etc.) shells, fish bones, and fennel, leeks, and onions. Since I don't really have the space or time to keep different bags of stock scraps, these mussel shells went in the vegetable-broth bag with the beets and carrots and garlic.


We made pizza last night for four. This recipe, for two pizzas, serves four with a salad and dessert.

At least an hour before eating, make the dough. Mix
  • 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 cup room-temperature water
and let sit. In a food processor or standing mixer with whisk attachment, combine
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
With machine running, add the yeast water until dough forms into a ball. Divide dough in two, and with floured hands shape into two round balls. Wrap in floured plastic wrap, and let sit an hour to proof.

Slice and combine together
  • 1 28-oz can tomatoes, drained (reserve liquid for a later dish)
  • some fresh basil
  • a pinch each sugar and salt
  • (1 clove mashed garlic)
for the sauce.

For topping, sauté in a healthy amount of olive oil to caramelize
  • 1 bulb fennel, shaved
  • 1 leek, cleaned and sliced
and then add
  • a few green onions, diced
  • sun-dried sweet red bell pepper, diced
  • salt
and divide topping in two. Also cube and divide in half
  • 6 oz mozzarella
  • 2 oz chevre
  • 2 oz teleme.

Preheat oven 500°F, with the baking stone placed on the lowest level. Shape the balls into flat crusts. Coat the pizza peel liberally with corn meal, and transfer crust. Spread with half of the sauce, and bake 500°F for 6 minutes. Remove from the oven, add the cheese, and bake 2-3 minutes. Then add the topping and back another 1-2 minutes. Repeat with the second half of all ingredients.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Polenta with blue cheese and black beans; polenta lasagna; beet cake

Prepare this recipe for polenta squares with gorgonzola black beans, but substitute half the vegetable broth for red cooking wine, and use blue cheese since the grocer had a minimal cheese collection. If you are me, worry that the recipe won't make enough for four people, so double it, and end up with twice as much as you need.

Plate the polenta squares in the kitchen, and top with a simple light tomato sauce: just heat
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 large slicing tomato, washed and diced
  • fresh parsley, fresh basil, and a little salt.

Since you will have too much polenta, make the leftovers into polenta lasagna. Prepare the fillings, then make layers and cook until casserole is warm throughout:
  1. Polenta leftovers should press easily as a bottom layer and a top layer
  2. canned diced tomatoes, possibly warmed up, make a great layer by themselves
  3. spinach should be washed and sauteed with onions and mushrooms and summer squash — remember that spinach cooks down a lot
  4. ricotta cheese can be used as-is, or combined with grated parmesan.

The same night I made the polenta squares, my boyfriend made a "red velvet" beet cake. He followed this recipe, but didn't put in all the sugar, added some cocoa powder, and used three fresh beets (washed, peeled, chopped, boiled, and blended) in place of the canned beets. This, it turns out, is a lot of beet: I liked how vegetal the cake resulted, whereas he did not. For frosting, combine cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla.

Homemade spinach pasta with smoked fish and peppers

Roughly following this recipe, bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed
for a minute or two. Drain, wash in cold water until cool, and mince. Combine spinach in a blender with
  • a little under 1/2 cup water
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil.
Combine dry ingredients
  • 3.5 cup flour (I used 2.5 cup white flour and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, because that's what I had)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
and then knead wet into dry.

Dough really ought to sit out a little before you roll it out. But, anyway, roll out the dough in batches. You'll end up with about 1.5 lbs pasta — once it's rolled out and dried, it can be frozen for later use. As with most flour-based products, the more you let the dough sit, the easier it will be. So you should roll and cut the dough in long thin strips, and let it sit out an hour. Then you'll be able to stretch the dough again. We ended up with thick fettuccine.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, with a fair amount of olive oil added to the water, and cook the pasta just two minutes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a saucepan and lightly cook
  • 1 red bell pepper, washed and diced
  • 1/2 lb smoked halibut, diced
with some salt and pepper. Drain the pasta in a colander set in the serving bowl to warm the bowl; after dumping the water, layer the pasta with the heated oil and fish and peppers. Eat immediately.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fesenjan with tofu

Fesenjan is a traditional Persian dish made with walnuts and pomegranates, usually served with chicken or eggplant, and served over rice. Like the red sauces of Italy, there are as many fesenjan recipes as there are cooks. Fesenjan was one of the first recipes I put in my recipe book, and made a fantastic dinner last night. This recipe serves at least four.

For Persian-style rice, cook long-grain white rice in twice as much salted water uncovered ten minutes, then drain, rinse in cold water, and drain again. In a large saucepan, melt 1 Tbsp butter per cup of (dry) rice, add the rice, and stir to coat. Wrap a lid in a clean cloth and secure with a rubber band; cover saucepan, and steam rice 40-45 minutes on low until bottom is golden and crusty.

Of course, I prefer brown rice, cooked my usual way: bring rice to boil with 1.5-times as much salted water, and simmer covered until water has evaporated/been absorbed (about 20-30 minutes). Then leave covered, but remove from heat, and let the rice steam itself another 20 minutes at least; rice will holds its heat for upwards of an hour.

In any case, the fesenjan:

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, sauté until wilted and translucent
  • 1/4 cup oil (mix of olive and walnut)
  • 2 onions (we just got half a dozen small red onions in our vegetable box), sliced thin.
Of course, I ended up burning the onions, but not badly. Anyway, add
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • spices: 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/4 tsp cardamom, 2 tsp pepper
After a minute or two, add
  • 3 cups walnuts, finely processed in a food processor or blender
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate concentrate
  • 3 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1 large Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2-1 pound frozen tofu, cubed
  • 3 Tbsp lemon (should be lime) juice.
Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and cook uncovered until foaming subsides and sauce darkens and thickens, about half an hour.

Apple, honey, and cheese tart

Here's a breakfast/dessert based on this recipe from the LA Times. It's as good as a newspaper recipe can be expected to be, which means I didn't follow it precisely. For example, they spend hours with the pie in the refrigerator. That's silly.

Preheat the oven 350°F. Prepare enough pie crust for the bottom of an 8-inch pie: combine
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 pinch salt
in a kitchenaid with the whisk, and then cut in
  • 1/2 stick butter, in pieces.
When butter has been incorporated, add
  • 3 Tbsp water
and roll out the dough onto a lightly-floured work surface.

Meanwhile, wash, core, and thinly slice
  • 2 large Pink Lady apples (mine are from market, harvested in November and kept on the farm in storage; they are still crisp and tasty)
and sauté in a Tbsp or two of butter until golden and starting to brown. Remove from heat. Also slice/crumble
  • 8 oz cheese.
What kind of cheese is a matter of taste and season. I used more of this hard sheep's cheese, but the recipe calls for a soft chèvre. In the winter I'd use a sharp cheese and add some cinnamon to the apples. If I were making this again this summer, I might use soft cheese, pears rather than apples when they come in in September, and perhaps a hint of lavender.

Anyway, layer the pie with cheese, apples, and
  • a healthy splash of honey
and bake twenty minutes. Allow to cool enough to slice; pie will be sticky from the melted honey.

Green pasta primavera

Begin boiling salted water for half a pound of farfalle. Cook the farfalle just eight to ten minutes. Meanwhile, heat a clean wok, and lightly toast a large handful of pine nuts. Remove pine nuts to a bowl, and heat some olive oil. Sauté one fresh white onion, sliced, and then add a bit over a pound summer squash, sliced into disks. When squash has started to tenderize and release liquid, add half a pound of mixed braising greens, and cover with wok lid to steam.

After greens have reduced, add the drained farfalle and one green pepper, seeds and stem removed and chopped into pieces. Stir a few times to warm, but leave pepper crisp. Remove from heat and add pine nuts and the leaves from half a bunch of basil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Biscuits with pomegranate syrup and sheep's cheese

Breakfast this morning was amazing. I followed this recipe for Pomegranate Molasses and Sheep’s Cheese Biscuits pretty much on the nose, except I used about twice as much (1/2 cup grated) abbaye de belloc as the recipe calls for (1/4 cup grated). I ate with my boyfriend and my roommate; the three of us polished off the 16 biscuits and a bowl of cherries, and were completely satisfied.

The biscuits do not rise a lot — perhaps 50% — so you need not press them too flat. These are "southern" biscuits: lower butter-to-flour ratio than in, say, Joy of Cooking. Still, they are very rich, and the sheep's cheese adds a depth to the flavor without overwhelming the biscuits in cheesiness. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Recipe attribution

Recipes, of course, can't be copyrighted (although the words can be). But PPK has an interesting discussion of recipe attribution and plagiarism.

Many of the recipes here are completely my own, although of course based on ideas from restaurants, cookbooks, and friends. When a dish is based closely on one or two recipes, I try to always cite where it's from; I will try even more in the future.

As for what my recipes are like, with the plagiarists of the world I find that I cannot say as well as someone else what I think. So I will quote yet again from the introduction to Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables:
Many preparations echo sister reipes in nearby chapters — family resemblances aboung in our repertory; by including fo many, we have tried to suggest a recurring haphazard serendipity in our cooking. As in a family photo album, there are recipes one might think of as formal portraits: lists of precisely quantified ingredients, and step-by-step instructions in the somewhat cliché-ridden conventions of most modern cookbooks — complete with what often seem, even to a beginner cook, like redundant and obvious details ("Preheat the oven to 400°F.," "Wash, dry, and shop the parsley fine," "Season to taste"). These are side be side with recipes that are more like out-of-focue snapshots: unquantified narrative descriptions that leave much to the imagination and intuition of the cook.

Of course, the paradox is that an out-of-focus snapshot can sometimes be a better, truer likeness than the most carefully posed and costumed studio photograph. In this collection, we have left quite a few short recipes in this kind of format, hoping that you will be encouraged to try them because of their loose form, refining them to your own satisfaction by dash and splash, tasting as you go, instead of measuring them out by teaspoons and quarter cupfuls.

Squash and tofu curry

We still have squash in storage, but after this dish we are down to just two delicatas. Slicing tomatoes have just come into market. My recipe is based on this one, but there are others.

In a wok, combine, mix well, and heat:
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 capful orange extract
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • salt
When sauce is simmering, add
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
and allow to steam covered while preparing other ingredients. Cook awhile. Add
  • 1 lb tofu, cubed, frozen, and defrosted (cube tofu when purchasing, and store in freezer; to defrost, bring to boil in water with soy sauce)
  • 1/2 bunch purple carrots, cut into thick slices
  • 1 bunch Red Russian kale, in thin slices
and allow ingredients to warm and soften. Mix with sauce. When squash is soft, add
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch basil leaves
. Mix everything together, and serve over rice.

  • The traditional Thai "pumpkin" curry is made with kabocha squash.
  • You might prefer your curry spicier, and perhaps with cilantro. Curry powder is completely foreign to Thai cuisine.
  • Orange juice and grated orange zest are good additions; subtract some lemon and the orange extract.
  • Yellow pepper and potatoes are tasty veggies. Use little tomatoes in place of the big one.
  • Try substituting 1/2 can garbanzo beans for the tofu.
  • Onion.

Slaw with mushrooms, peas, and carrots

The title says it all. For a tasty coleslaw, combine:
  • 1 small green cabbage, stem removed, sliced fine
  • 1 lb shelling peas, shelled (yields about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 bunch purple carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 oz brown button mushrooms, sliced
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • Moscatel vinegar

Custard and Vegetable Pie

My boyfriend doesn't like quiche, and despite my best efforts, still wasn't a huge fan of this one. I thought it was amazing. I'll describe what I did, and how I will improve it next time.

Begin by making the pie dough for the crust. My pie recipe makes enough dough for a bottom and a top, but this is an open-faced pie, so I made twice as much dough as you should for one pie, planning on saving the second half for a later dish. Here's the doubled recipe:

Preheat the oven 425°F. In the standing mixer or food processor, combine:
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
  • 1 tsp salt
Slice into pieces and add to the flour
  • 1 stick cold butter
and set mixer on medium-high until butter has been fully cut into the flour (no chunks remain). Then add, one Tbsp at a time:
  • 10 Tbsp cold water (use 5-6 Tbsp for white-flour pie dough)
and mix until dough forms into a couple large balls.

Roll out half of dough on a lightly-floured surface into a large circle, and transfer to pie plate. Fill empty pie with half an inch of dried beans, and bake for 10-15 minutes at 425°F. Remove from oven, dump beans out into trash can, and in the process accidentally lose the pie crust. Curse quietly to yourself, and roll out the second half, thanking the heavens you made a double batch. This time, fold down the crust over the edges of the pie plate to fasten, and use more beans — last time, there weren't enough to keep the middle of the pie from bumping up. After removing beans more carefully this time, brush the bottom and sides of the still warm empty pie crust with
  • 1 egg yolk
to preserve crispness.

Turn oven down to 325°F. In the now clean mixing bowl, whisk together:
  • 1 egg white and 2 more eggs
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • a few grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1-2 oz morel mushrooms, finely diced
  • (1-2 oz abbaye de belloc or other cheese)
Actually, don't use any cream, or not much. The cream melts in the oven, preventing the custard from coming together, and makes the pie heavier. Instead, use two or three more eggs. I'm not a huge fan of cheese in my quiche, but my boyfriend insisted that ever quiche have cheese in it, and we had just bought some really good cheese for later recipes.

Beat the mixture to aerate. Quiches tend to be very dense; instead, aim for your custard pie to be more like a savory soufflé. Beat even until soft peaks.

Pour one third of mixture into empty pie crust. Layer pie with:
  • 1 10-inch green summer squash (zucchini), sliced
  • 3 oz brown button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch basil, stems discarded (or saved for soup stock)
Pour the rest of the filling over the vegetables.

Bake 20-30 minutes at 325°F, until pie just starts to firm up. Place on top of pie
  • 4 squash blossoms, arranged radially
and bake another ten minutes. Allow pie to cool ten minutes before slicing. Then cut into quarters, so that each piece has a flower on top.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hazelnut Squash Ravioli

Home-made ravioli takes a few hours, start to finish. It's very showy and very tasty. I had two winter squash still in storage, and hazelnuts from Oregon. If you do not have winter squash, wait: this really is a winter dish, although I served my ravioli with fresh peas (alternately, coat in browned butter with sautéed fresh sage). If you do not have hazelnuts, walnuts work too, or move to Oregon. This recipe serves four, but uncooked ravioli can also (I assume) be frozen.

Rinse, halve, remove seeds from, peel, and cube
  • 1 butternut squash
and place on a lightly-greased glass baking dish. Bake at 400°F for about 40 minutes, until squash is soft but not browned.

Meanwhile, make a pasta dough: combine in the kitchenaid with the paddle attachment
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup water
and mix well (proportions are not precise). Separate dough into two equal-sized pieces. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough. Eggs do amazing things to flour, allowing it strength while still being pliable. This dough will roll pretty thin. You'll want to make two matching circles each about 2-3 feet (!) diameter. (Or, rather, 2-foot circles, and then when you make the pastas, you'll have scraps of dough, which you can roll out again for more pieces.)

Wash the kitchenaid, and use it to mix the filling:
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (I used one slice of whole wheat bread)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp fresh herbs (thyme, sage)
  • 1 tsp orange extract or zest
  • (in winter: 2 pinch nutmeg, and perhaps 1 pinch clove)
  • salt and pepper.
In a small frying pan, cook a few minutes
  • 1/2 cup chapped hazelnuts
in a few tsp of a mix of
  • olive oil
  • walnut oil.
Add nuts to mixer. When squash is done, add that too, and mix and mash well.

When all is ready, spoon filling onto one sheet of pasta dough by Tbsp for large ravioli or by tsp for small ones, spaced accordingly. Sprinkle sheet liberally with water, and cover with other sheet, pressing down lightly between mounds. Cut raviolis with butter knife or fluted cutting wheel. Working one-by-one, press edges of raviolis together with the broad side of a chop stick, trying to squeeze out the air. Transfer raviolis to a floured bowl, and coat each ravioli with flour to prevent sticking. Cover top raviolis with flour: the raviolis will dry out a bit, which makes them easier to handle.

At this point, if you're serving just two, I would suggest freezing half the raviolis for a later dinner. Or plan on having leftovers.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Transfer raviolis one-by-one to the boiling water, dusting off the excess flour. Be especially careful with the first one, as it may stick to the bottom if it drops too quickly. Pasta should cook about three to five minutes.

  • 1/2 pint cream
  • fresh shelled peas, from 1 1/2 pounds of pods
but do not boil.

Drain pasta, as always, in a colander set in the serving dish to warm the bowl. Ravioli should be served in a large shallow ceramic serving dish. While ravioli waits impatiently in the colander, splash some of the warmed cream on the bottom of the (cleaned) dish, and then transfer a layer of pasta. More cream and peas, more pasta, etc., ending with a third to half the cream and peas poured generously over the top.

Upon reheating the leftovers, I liked my ravioli garnished with even more parmesan, but the first time it did not need it. The dish is very sweet and heavy; a light dry white wine pairs well, and airy sourdough bread with a spicy extra-virgin table oil. My boyfriend and I enjoyed this meal with candlelight.

Southern Italian Pasta

Bring salted water to a boil and cook for eight minutes (or until slightly underdone) When pasta is done, drain in a colander set in an attractive ceramic serving bowl in the sink (the boiling water will warm the serving bowl). Toss immediately with olive oil to prevent sticking. Meanwhile...

Open and drain or soak and boil some. Open but do not drain and chop and add to tomato juice to moisten
  • a handful dried tomatoes.
(I got my sun-dried tomatoes, and as always most of the veggies, from Farmers' Market.)

In a wok, sauté in olive oil
  • 6 baby artichokes, outer leaves removed (remove a lot), tips and black parts of stems slices off, and halved
  • 1 green torpedo onion, washed, peeled, and cut into large pieces so I can pick them out
until tender. Add and bring to a boil the canned tomatoes and beans, along with salt and pepper. Cook a while, until liquid starts to thicken (but this is a soupy dish).

Stir in to the hot liquid
  • 1 bunch beet greens, washed and chopped
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed and chopped
and let cook two to three minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in the pasta, along with the leaves of
  • a few sprigs parsley, washed.
Transfer to the heated bowl, and serve immediately, garnished with


Here's an easy coleslaw, which I took to a potluck tonight.

Thinly slice a small head of green cabbage, and transfer to a large salad or mixing bowl. Wash, peel, and grate one bunch (raw) red beets, and add to salad. Wash and grate (but young carrots do not need peeling) half a bunch carrots, and add these as well. Sprinkle with generous doses of salt, moscatel vinegar, and a nice olive oil, and mix. Let sit refrigerated a few hours before serving, so the vegetables have a chance to soften in the acid.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb is the first "fruit" to come in in the spring. Although the Farmers' Market here in Berkeley had very little rhubarb available, our market in Eugene was replete with gorgeous stalks, and I brought some back with me.

Rhubarb is delicious alone in a compote — combine on the stove with a hefty dose of sugar and a splash of water — served over vanilla ice cream, or as the only fruit in pies and cobblers. But its true purpose is to be combined with strawberries.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a food processor or standing mixer with the whisk attachment, cream
  • 1 stick butter
  • just shy of 2 cups all purpose flour
  • a large teaspoon of salt
until thoroughly combined. If using a standing mixer, scrape down sides. Then add
  • 5 to 6 Tbsp cold tap water
and mix until dough comes together into a single ball. Separate dough into two roughly equal sized portions, wrap in plastic, and let sit while you prepare the filling.

In a large bowl, combine
  • 1 stalk rhubarb, rinsed and diced
  • 1 basket strawberries, rinsed and chopped, with greens removed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • quite a lot of corn starch and flour
The sugar-with-fruits will release a lot of liquid.

Roll out the larger of the two balls of dough for the base of your pie: use a well-floured surface and a well-floured rolling pin (I like to keep a pile of flour next to my dough, to be constantly reflouring the pin). By folding in half, transfer to pie plate: the dough should be big enough that it hangs over the edge on all sides.

Fill pie with filling. Dot the top of the pie with butter.

Roll out the second half of the dough. My family traditionally rolls out the top and covers the pie — if you do this, be sure to poke many holes in the top of the pie to allow the steam to escape in the oven. I occasionally construct lattice tops. For these, roll dough into an oblong, a little longer than the pie. Starting from the middle, slice thin strips of dough, and assemble the top. Many people have favorite ways of doing this. I start with the longest strip down the middle of the pie (say NS), and place the next longest strip perpendicular (EW) to it on the other middle. Then I do the two strips running NS next to the first one. For the next two (running EW, on either side of the second strip), you have to lift up the middle strip. Keep moving out, placing two strips NS, then two EW, etc.

At the end, use a fork to press top and bottom along the rim, perforating the edge, and with a sharp knife slice off dough hanging out of the pan. I usually skip this part, but for a well-browned crust, brush on an egg wash (one egg mixed with a Tbsp or two of milk).

Bake 10 minutes at 450°F. Then turn down oven to 350°F and bake another 30-35 minutes.

This is a very buttery but not particularly flaky crust. Refrigerate the dough before rolling out to make it easier to work. Vodka, incidentally, is half alcohol, which does not glutenize: for a flakier crust that's still really easy to roll out, use 4 Tbsp water and 4 Tbsp vodka, but be sure to use high-end expensive vodka with no flavors. Or make chocolate-pecan-bourbon pie, and use bourbon in the crust.

Or you can make your crust like pastry dough. Use some of the butter, all the flour, and very cold water. Melt the rest of the butter in the microwave or in the double boiler. Roll out the dough, and brush with butter. Fold in half, roll out again, and brush with more butter. Repeat a number of times. If flour starts to resist, let it relax in the refrigerator.

I like my pie filling to be very sour: 1 cup sugar is about the upper limit for me, and if I'm making apple pie I use very little sugar and some lemon juice. Berry pies I tend to just not put much sugar in.

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

My roommate is on a low-iodine diet for the next few weeks. It turns out that "low iodine" means, among other things, vegan: egg yolks and all dairy are out. But so are soy (all soy products are out except soy oil and lecithin), most beans, all sea foods (including sea salt), potato skins, and rhubarb.

Since she isn't feeling well, and most desserts are out, cookies seem in order.

Preheat oven 350°. In order, combine in the standing mixer with paddle on low:
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • A splash of vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp non-iodized salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup flour
Roll out by tablespoons, and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet 15 minutes. Let cool before removing from pan: cookies will fall apart easily.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Last dinner in Oregon

My last dinner before returning to Berkeley started, as many dinners do, with a morning trip to Farmers' Market. Oregon is a month behind California with respect to vegetables: we ended up with rhubarb (for bringing back to Berkeley; for whatever reason, the market there never had much), rainbow chard, very small red beets, carrots, green onion, and basil. Add to this wheat berry, feta, chevre, and garden oregano, and we get two fantastic dishes. Both are nice combinations and brilliantly colored, and could sit happily next to each other in the salad display case at a gourmet deli. (A high-end restaurant could make the wheat berry as described, garnished with a sprig of oregano. The salad would be composed on individual plates.)

Wheat Berry, Greek-Inspired
Set salted water and two cups wheat berry boiling. We started with two cups water, then added another two later, and then a little more. Sauté diced green onion, and stir into the wheat berry. While wheat berry cooks, prep remaining ingredients.

After about an hour, stir in one head chopped rainbow chard, and allow to cook two minutes. Remove from heat and add cubed feta, fresh oregano (we have two large oregano bushes: a plain oregano, and a very spicy "Greek" oregano), olive oil, and just a touch of lemon juice. Serve warm.

Salad with beets, carrots, basil, and chevre
Our beets were roughly one-inch diameter. If yours are larger, slice them. Wash and peel one bunch beets, reserving stems and greens. Cover beets with water, and bring to boil. After three to five minutes, beets should be just tender enough that you can get a fork in with some effort. Add washed and chopped stems and greens, cover, and let cook three more minutes. Drain in colander and rinse in cold water.

In a salad bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Add cooked beets, and mix. Then add, mixing each time, one bunch carrots, washed and chopped (young carrots do not need peeling); half a bag of basil, washed and with stems removed, but leave leaves whole; and four ounces chevre. Serve cool.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Local grains

At Tuesday's Farmers' Market (which I rarely attend, because it is not near my apartment) a few weeks ago, I was pleased to discover two local suppliers of grains.

Massa Organics grows and sells rice, and only rice. (And they do not mill white rice, only brown.) They are located near Chico, about three hours drive from Berkeley. They seem to be doing everything right: recycled water, organic, and they built their own house out of rice hay bales. Check out their blog for info about the farm, videos, and rice-based recipes. Massa Organics sells their rice for $2/lb in 2-lb bags, and $1.5/lb in 20-lb bags. Their rice is very tasty.

California is the largest rice-exporter in the world — we export 15% of the crop. (China is the largest rice producer, no surprise, but is a net importer.) So chances are that your generic supermarket rice is from California. But to get there, it got blended with other farms and shipped around the world first.

Rice milling begins by removing the inedible hull from the paddy rice, leaving brown rice. From there, the germ can be removed, leaving white rice. For information on California rice production, this article from UC Davis in 1997 is replete with information.

California rice is milled and marketed through grower cooperatives and independent millers. Paddy rice is transported to the mill and hulled to produce brown rice. Mills remove the bran to produce white rice. Price to the grower is principally based on the milling yield from 100 pounds of paddy rice, which includes head rice (the percentage of unbroken whole kernels) and the sum of head rice and broken rice (total rice); mill by-products add to the overall market value of rice (fig. 30).  [quoted from UC Davis' Rice Project, 1997]

As always, brown rice should be combined with 1.5 parts salted water per part dry rice. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and cook covered with well-fitted lid between 20 and 30 minutes, until the water is essentially gone. Without uncovering, remove from heat, and steam at least 20 minutes (rice will be crunchy but yummy after only 40 minutes cooking). Rice will hold its heat for a long time. As it continues to steam (say another 20 minutes, bringin total cooking time to one hour), it will start tasting richer, as if it has been mixed with butter.

Full Belly Farm primarily grows standard horticultural crops (vegetables, herbs, and fruit), flowers, eggs, wool, and wheat. I have yet to try their wheat, since I still have pounds of red wheat berries from Berkeley Bowl. Full Belly is located near Guinda, about an hour from Berkeley, and sells their wheat for $1/lb in 2-, 5-, and 10-lb bags.

California produces a fair amount of wheat, but not nearly as much as the inland northwest and north. Producing 2% of the national wheat market, California ranks 19th among the fifty states in wheat production. More statistics are available here. For comparison, Montana produces 20% of the organic wheat crop.

Wheat berry takes forever to cook. It is yummy and crunchy after an hour, and will very slowly soften for hours after that. I like to combine one part wheat berry with two parts salted water, simmer covered until the water cooks off, and continue to steam after that. Better is to first sauté aromatics (onions and fennel) and then add the berries.

A year ago, I would have balked at the asking prices for these two farms. But the price of grains has doubled nationally and tripled worldwide in the last year, and $1/lb for wheat and $2/lb for rice are perfectly reasonable.

Stir-fry with tofu noodles, mushrooms, and peas

At the Berkeley farmers' markets, and indeed at every farmers' market in the Bay Area, is a stand for Hodo Soy, which makes excellent tofu and tofu-based prepared products. (I cannot, however, recommend their soy milk. It is the dried and ground soy beans dissolved in water that will have calcium added to curdle. It tastes exactly like what it is: a step along the way and by-product of tofu manufacturing.)

One tasty ingredient available from Hodo Soy are their soy noodles: firm tofu pressed through a spaghetti maker. These are excellent in stir-fries. The tofu, made fresh daily, tastes good already, and the high surface area allows the tofu to pick up flavors from the sauce.

In the wok, we heated vegetable oil with a little sesame oil, and briefly sautéed green onion, sliced mushrooms, and chopped baby bok choy (mei ching choi), and the tofu noodles.

Mei Ching Choi is a Pak Choi (Bok Choy) hybrid, making it a brassica like Broccoli or Cabbage.

Then we added snap peas (tips and strings removed), soy sauce, and one can each of water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. After a few stirs, we covered the wok and let the mixture simmer and heat.

Aim for your stir fry to have a little liquid at the bottom. Right before serving, combine a Tablespoon of corn starch with enough soy sauce to dissolve, and maybe a little sesame oil. Remove stir-fry from heat, and, stirring constantly, add corn-starch mixture. A few tosses, since the pan is still hot, should be enough to create the sticky glaze on tasty stir-fries. Mix in some toasted sesame seeds for good measure, and serve.

We had our stir-fry over brown rice.


My boyfriend and I have made two different risottos recently, with varying success.

Oat groats make for a fantastic risotto. We followed the recipe for "Green Risotto with Fava Beans, Peas, and Asparagus" from Chez Panisse Vegetables, only substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth, and oats for arborio rice.

I don't have the book handy right now (being in Oregon and all), but my memory is: Heat six to eight cups stock. Sauté covered a spring onion in butter until liquidy, and then add two (?) cups grains. Mix with the butter, and then with 2/3 cup white wine. Then begin ladling in stock, mixing grains before and after, for quite some time. Meanwhile, parboil shelled fava beans, remove outer skin from the beans, and cook again with peas; puree legumes in blender. Add green puree to grains, along with asparagus (remove hard bottom inch, and chop into quarter-inch pieces on the diagonal), parmesan cheese, and a little cream ten minutes before serving.

In any case, oats cook exactly right for risotto. They have a nice mild flavor, and pick up the wine and vegetable flavors well, and achieve the desired mushiness without effort. I highly recommend substituting oats for the traditional arborio in any risotto recipe.

Wheat berries, however, are an inferior grain for risotto. We did achieve a tasty asparagus risotto, not following any particular recipe, but two cups of wheat berry went through a bottle of cheap white wine, eight cups of vegetable stock, a cup of cream, and three hours of simmering, and were still a little crunchy. Wheat berries expand precipitously.

The wheat risotto was better upon reheating. Before adding the refrigerated wheat berry, I sautéed one bulb of fennel in butter. Be very careful, however, when reheating risotto on stove-top, and stir continuously: when we were eating up leftovers, I forgot that there was a lot of parmesan cheese in the risotto, which burnt on the bottom of the pan. We caught it, and the flavor was not ruined, just a little smoky.

I think if I were to make a wheat berry risotto again, I would soak my wheat berries overnight in white wine. Or, better, slow-cook the berries eight hours.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oregon Visit

Here in Oregon, where I'm visiting my parents for a few days, it's rainy and gray. Come on, whether gods! It's almost June! Oregon has great berries, and more generally great farming, but the seasons are a month later than in California.

Soon I will post some of the meals I've made over the past week. In the mean time, my parents' dinner last night deserves mention: penne pasta (boiled and drained), cooked in the wok with bell pepper (sauteed in olive oil first; from Mexico), white beans (from a can, drained), sun-dried tomatoes (from a jar, preserved in olive oil), canned whole tomatoes (with juice), dino kale (chopped, and stirred into the liquid to cook a few minutes; local), and a little hot sauce. One could also add anchovy (canned) to this fantastic winter dish.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cookies and Cheesecake

For my review session yesterday, I made cookies for my students. I more-or-less followed this recipe, although I did not chill the dough at all. Instead, the very moist dough I plopped onto parchment-lined cookie sheets by the Tablespoon. I also over-worked the flour and eggs a bit, because I made a single batch, and then decided to double it. The cookies were tasty, and not quite as crisp as they'd be with less beating and more chilling.

The recipe is a standard one. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Combine wet ingredients in standing mixer with paddle, and then add dry to wet. Dry ingredients:
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
Wet ingredients:
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest, lemon extract, or orange extract

My boyfriend had an end-of-term party for one of his classes, and wanted to bring something showy but not too difficult. "Theo, will you bake me a cheesecake?" he asked sweetly. This one is from Betty Crocker's Best of Baking, which he had got me for Christmas.

Preheat oven 275°. Grease a springform pan, the bottom lined with parchment. In double boiler, or otherwise, melt and allow to cool slightly
  • 8 oz dark chocolate chips.
In a standing mixer, beat together
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 3 eggs
  • the chocolate,
adding ingredients one-by-one in the order listed, and scraping down the bowl each time. Pour into prepared pan, and bake 75 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature uncovered, then cover and cool in the refrigerator at least three hours.

Because I had accidentally added two Tbsps flour and then worked the batter too much, my cheesecake puffed up in the oven and then deflated, developing a large crack. Ah, well.

Pour over cheesecake a sauce made in double boiler from
  • 6 oz white chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
melted but not boiled, and allowed to cool at least two hours before use. Decorate cake with strawberries and shaved chocolate.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Coffee shops in Berkeley

My favorite coffee-shop drink is a mocha with soy; I'll occasionally order it iced, or I'll get a house coffee. There are many, many coffee shops in Berkeley, and I'll never evaluate all of them. But here's some thoughts.

  • Au Coquelet. Decent food, and not bad coffee. Desserts look great, and taste fine.
  • Berkeley Espresso. Not very good. Coffee is too bitter, but the tea selection is good. Environment is a little dark.
  • Blue Bottle Coffee. Mostly certified organic and shade-grown, but not certified fair trade. They have a stand at Farmers' Market, selling bags of coffee and fresh-brewed drip coffee, but no espresso drinks. Their drip coffee is the best coffee I have ever had. (Their coffee is featured at, for instance, Chez Panisse, Guerilla, and Intermezzo.)
  • Brewed Awakening. Always abuzz with mathies and folks from the seminary around the corner. Decent coffee, but uninspiring tea collection. Very fast, and friendly.
  • Cafe Cacao. Absolutely the best mocha I've ever had. They use their own (Scharffen Berger) chocolate, and the mocha is perfectly sweetened, the soymilk steamed womderfully, and the leafing is gorgeous. Be sure to make reservations, and go for brunch or lunch after taking the factory tour.
  • Cafe Intermezzo. Second best mocha. They mix their espresso, soy milk, and chocolate first, and then steam it; then they add more steamed milk for the leafing. The barista I had (who was, incidentally, pretty cute) gave me a lovely five-petaled flower. I appreciate that they take your order and then ask for details (how many shots of espresso, what kind of milk).
  • Cafe Milano. Decent food, decent coffee, fun environment.
  • Cafe Strada. Decent mocha, lovely outdoors environment, but no food.
  • Espresso Roma Cafe. Decent mocha, lovely outdoors environment, good-looking food, and very good iced coffee.
  • Fertile Grounds. Lousy mocha, one of the worst I've had. They use unsweetened Scharffenberger cocoa powder, but not enough, end unsweetened soy milk. Small shop, with good-looking food (and good-looking barista). But an all-around disappointment. My roommate says that their spiced mocha is also lousy.
  • Free Speech Movement Cafe. Very fast, and they are good about using only organic, fair-trade coffee. Iced mocha is not mixed well.
  • The French Hotel. Mocha is fine, although they don't use nonfat in spite of the request, and they were out of whipped cream. Prepare to stop, drop, and role at the counter: I was spurted by (well-)creamed soy milk.
  • Guerilla Cafe. Serving Blue Bottle coffee and espresso (French-press for house coffee, and you can get a whole pot), Guerilla has fun decor and a great vibe. The staff are consistently smiling and up-beat, in an honest, funky way. The cafe composts and serves organic produce, and best of all the menu brags about the farm they get their organic free-range eggs from, and the chocolate (Dagoba) and bread. The poached-eggs-and-toast is nothing to write home about, but the waffles — with different flavors each day (e.g. we had spiced-carrot) — are divine. Guerilla is my new favorite brunch place, provided I live on waffles and coffee: the line is shorter and prices are better than at Venus, and it's around the block. We had mochas on a Sunday afternoon. The barrista was friendly, but seemed new to barristaing; the mochas were fine. The cayenne in their spicy mocha burns in the back of the throat, and the regular mocha tastes strongly of cinnamon. (On a later, weekday trip, we got a mocha "for here", which was quite pretty.) The teas are loose and excellent. Guerilla is closed on Mondays.
  • La Note. The line is usually more than an hour, and the coffee (not to mention the brunch) is quite good. Not as good as Venus, down the block.
  • Musical Offering. Expensive, upscale, and there's a very rude woman who works there. But the rest of the staff is friendly, the coffee good, the music great, and the food fantastic.
  • Nefeli Cafe. Decent coffee, pretty good food. Iced mocha is not mixed well.
  • Peet's. Fast, chain, and their mochas are only slightly too sweet.
  • People's Cafe. I'm not a fan of their coffee — the powdered chocolate in the mocha is too sweet — but they are cheep and have free wifi and don't bother you.
  • Starbucks. Chain, and every drink they serve is too sweet.
  • Sufficient Grounds. Great name, lousy cafe. I agree with the reviews on yelp: the place is a donut shop more than a coffee shop. Wireless is free, and the coffee could be worse, but I wish there were air conditioning. I haven't tried the mocha, and don't expedt to. The sandwiches look good.
  • Sweet Adeline. Co-op bakery in North Oakland. Baked goods are fine, and the soy milk is creamed well. The Sunday barrista seems easily flustered, but the staff are very friendly.
  • Terrace Cafe. This on-campus eatery is a bit of a disappointment, but right next to my office. Their "food" consists of grab-and-go microwavable things in plastic, and their espresso drinks are lousy (mocha is made with bottled chocolate milk). Their black coffee, though, is decent: they serve Peerless Coffee, and have self-serve urns with all different flavors, including one organic fair-trade blend.
  • Tully's. A chain, but a decent one. They have People's Republic teas, and their coffee is decent. They've moved to only organic fair-trade coffee, which is awesome. They use Starbucks-style sizes (tall, grande, venti), which is bizarre.
  • Venus. Best brunch in Berkeley. Excellent service, food, and environment. Oh, and good coffee.
  • Village Grounds. Very good coffee — one of the better iced mochas I've had. Not great for grab-and-go coffee, because the baristas are not fast, but they are very friendly and consistently dyke-looking. Very busy, good place to work (free wifi and outlets). Good food. Village Grounds is a good working environment, with power and wireless. My roommate has worked there enough that she's friends with the barista. If you're not in a coffee mood, I highly recommend their fresh "squeezed" juices. I particularly like the sparkling lemonade.
  • Yali's Oxford Street Cafe. A friend says their house coffee is very good, but I was unimpressed with their mocha. The food is good, but too expensive. Overall, nice, but not worth the price. The house coffee is reasonably good, and they use Vitasoy if you ask for soy milk, which is tasty.

Easy elegance

I had an elegant dinner last night with my boyfriend.

Brown rice I started ahead of time. Although no different from the way I normally make it, the rice was extra buttery from having longer to cook. It needed 30 minutes simmering in 1.5-to-1 salted water, and ten more minutes steaming itself (turned off) for crunchy rice, but it will continue to hold its heat, and mine sat on the stove turned off for 40 minutes.

Broccoli takes just a few minutes to cook. Heat a healthy does of olive oil in a fry-pan with well-fitting lid, while you chop broccoli, separating leaves (cut into 1-inch strips) from stems and florets (use all of the broccoli, except the bottom dried-out bit, and be careful to prepare florets pretty). Add stems and then florets to hot pan, cover, and shake over heat to coat broccoli with oil. Then add leaves, cover, shake, and steam until bright green. Remove from heat; it will hold for up to five minutes, but I don't like my broccoli too cooked.

Snapper takes about seven minutes to pan fry. Heat oil in a large non-stick pan, and place fillets out flat. Sprinkle with dill, cover, and cook four minutes. Then flip each fillet, and cook other side another three minutes. Plate, and sprinkle on more dill. Expect about 1/2 a pound fish per person.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Greek dinner

This is a meal from more than a week ago, which I failed to write up.

My dance partner, following suggestions from a Greek friend of hers, puts mint in her spanakopita; I use fresh oregano with the spinach, and sometimes parsley. This time, I more-or-less followed this recipe, taking liberties.

Preheat the oven 400°F or so. Defrost frozen phyllo dough in the fridge overnight. Wash, chop, and cook down a large bunch of spinach and drain, and combine in a large bowl with feta, oregano, parsley, a hint of pepper, and salt only if the feta is not salty enough. A little olive oil, and some corn starch to thicken the filling is probably in order. Coat a lasagna pan with olive oil. Fold filling into phyllo triangles, and place in pan, coating both sides with oil. Bake until top is correctly golden and crispy, about 20 minutes for folded triangles.

For a very tasty Greek side to serve with the spanakopita, cook a medium pot of brown rice (1.5 to one water, simmer covered 20 minutes, then turn off heat but leave covered to steam 20 minutes), and combine over heat with a drained and heated can black-eyed peas, fresh oregano, lots of good olive oil, plenty of lemon juice, salt, pepper, and fresh parsley. Essentially this is rice-and-beans, mixed with a Greek salad dressing, served hot.

For a Greek salad, what's most important is a salty lemon-juice dressing. Next most important is having large pieces of feta in the salad, and fresh oregano and good olives are always a plus — I picked up a small tin of kalamata and green-stuffed-with-lemon-peel olives. For summer Greek salads, tomato, cucumber, and onions are standard; winter Greek salads sometimes have cabbage. We've been having incredible lettuces from Riverdog, so our Greek salad was a lettuce salad with olives, feta, oregano, and dressing.

My boyfriend and my roommate each said the meal was the best they'd had in quite some time.

Friday, May 2, 2008


This is an old entry, posted on my old recipe page. But the boyfriend and I are celebrating our three-month anniversary tonight with pizza. I think tonight's will be a three-cheese pizza: mozzarella, smoked sheep's gouda, and a fresh chevre.

Pizza is a straightforward concoction. Begin with a simple white bread dough — do not use any oil or fat in the dough. For example, combine 4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 Tbsp salt, 1/2 Tbsp yeast, and then mix/knead in enough cold water for a satiny dough (roughly a cup). Let the dough rise, rolled into a tight ball on a floured surface and covered, for perhaps an hour.

Adjust the oven's racks to low, and put in a baking stone — a large flat ceramic piece that has high specific heat, and on which you will directly bake the pizza. You can use an upside-down cookie sheet, but higher specific heat is better. Preheat oven 500°F, or as hot as it will go. Professional pizzeria ovens are wood-fired and stay at about 800°F. Eventually, when I am grown up and have my own house and land, I will build an outdoor brick-and-clay oven that goes this hot. In outdoor- and pizzeria-ovens, the floor of the oven is lined with heat-proof bricks which act like a baking stone in a home oven; the pizzas and breads are baked directly on the bricks.

When the dough has doubled (about an hour), sprinkle a pizza peel liberally with corn meal — it's hard to have too much. With a well-floured hand, grab a large handful of dough. On a floured surface, roll into a ball, and flatten into a disk. Move to the pizza peel, and stretch out with the tips of fingers into a large, thin circle. Be sure not to puncture the disk — we don't want an annulus. If you're really good, you can stretch the dough quite a bit in the air.

Cover the crust with a thin layer of sauce. Sauce? While the dough was rising, pulse a can of diced tomatoes in a food processor with a pinch of salt and some fresh basil, and let drain in a sieve for half an hour. Be sure to leave half an inch of crust at the edge of the pizza. Transfer to 500°F oven, and bake for five minutes. Remove from oven, and place half-inch cubes of mozzarella with half-inch spacing on top. Return to oven for five more minutes. If your oven goes to 800°F, you only need five minutes total bake time (and should use a higher-gluten dough; at home-oven temperatures, a mix of all-purpose and cake flour is best). Slice a fresh heirloom tomato, and when pizza is done, remove from oven and press slices of tomato and leaves of basil into the still-melted cheese. Sprinkle with a little salt, and a capful of extra-virgin olive oil.

You can serve the pizzas on the stone, removed from the oven and placed on something that will protect the table from the heat. The stone, with its high specific heat and hearty aesthetic, will keep the pizzas warm as a centerpiece. But do not cut the pizzas on the stone: for one, many stones do not take well to steal knives scratching them, but even moreso, the ceramic will absorb oils from the mozzarella, and next time you bake with it, those spots will blacken and smoke.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cooked Fall/Winter/Spring salad

I'm in the process of eating up my winter storage foods, to make space for summer crops. I have two gallons of frozen peaches: those go in pies, cookie bars, and hot breakfast cereal.

I had leftover phyllo dough from a dinner I haven't blogged yet. Let phyllo defrost in the fridge overnight. In a small/medium saucepan, prepare a spicy peach pie filling: frozen peaches, lemon juice, honey, lavender, cinnamon, clove, and corn starch. Also melt a few Tablespoons of butter, or for vegan use oil. Cut phyllo into few-inch strips, and place filling at one end, and fold up. Some people place butter between the layers, but I don't. I do use three or so strips per triangle, since my filling is pretty juicy. Bake in a buttered pan, and brush the melted butter on top of the pastries.

Squash also needs to be eaten. So my dinner tonight was a mix of vegetables best in different seasons. My apologies. All are local, and purchased seasonally. In any case, wash and halve one delicata squash, and remove seeds and strings with a spoon. Peel with peeler (you don't have to be too careful; the skin of the delicata is relatively tender), and chop into small cubes. Bake in an open oven-safe dish, having first tossed squash with oil and salt.

Meanwhile, wash, peel, and chop one bunch beats. Place in small pan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil, and simmer covered until tender.

Shell a pound of fresh peas into serving bowl (one pound pods yields one cup peas). Toss with some marmalade, olive oil, and dijon mustard. Beats should be tender by now; drain in colander and rinse in running water. Toss with peas to coat with dressing. By now, squash is done; mix that in too. Salad will be brightly colored and sweet. Serves one.

Oats with fennel, greens with fava

I spent a week eating out: the box last week was very thin, due to a late frost; I missed Market on Saturday, due to a weekend trip; a series of friends asked me out. So I was looking forward to yesterday's box, and the chance to eat in. Sure enough, they did not disappoint: fennel and green onion, and fava beans so plump they were splitting at the seams.

An old and faithful dish on this blog, in a small/medium saucepan, sauté one bulb fennel (washed and chopped, with stems retained for stock) and one spring onion (ditto), as well as a handful of fresh sage, in butter. Add between 2/3 and 1 cup oat berry, twice as much water, and some salt. Cover, bring to boil, and simmer at least thirty minutes; remove lid and cook off some of the excess water.

In a wok, combine fava beans and garlic in olive oil over high heat. Sauté a bit, until beans start to burst open; add a bag of braising greens, coarsely chopped (will cook down) and a splash of water, and cover to steam. After a few minutes, drain excess water, and salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Peanut-butter-cup cookies

I highly recommend this recipe for chocolate peanut butter cookies with peanut butter filling. The dough is moist and highly pliable, making it a treat to work with. The filling, however, needs some adjustment (perhaps the proportions work with Skippy or Jif, but not with MaraNatha). The flavor it fine, but even after adding another 50% peanut butter, the filling never gets smooth. I think that one should use less sugar all together, and regular sugar, not powdered sugar. I would also add a pinch of vanilla to the filling.

But, in any case, make these cookies.

Fava, pea, and spinach soup

In a large saucepan, sauté in olive oil:
  • 1 leek, washed well (there's lots of dirt between the leaves), with roots and outer leaves removed and saved for stock, and diced
  • A few sticks of celery, diced
  • A handful of carrots, washed and diced
  • Some parsley, diced, and other fresh (or dried) herbs: basil, tarragon, sage
  • Salt and pepper

When vegetables start to release water, cover and stew for a few minutes. Then add
  • 6 cups water

And bring to boil, reduce to simmer, etc.

Start shelling
  • a couple pounds of fresh peas and fava beans: you should yield a cup or two of shelled legumes.
Add to the boiling water, stir, and cover; they will be cooked sufficiently when the favas have burst open. Also wash, remove stems from, and chop
  • 1 large bunch spinach.

When beans are cooked, add spinach, poking it down under the water to fully submerge. Cook a few minutes more.

Transfer roughly half the soup to a blender (just need to do one batch), and blend to smooth. Return the blended soup to the pot with the unblended soup, and stir to combine.

Serve immediately: color will not keep. Serve with a moist feta cheese, or sour cream, or crème fraîche, or, if you have them, sprinkle with bright orange flower petals (marigold or nasturtium).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Recycled yoga mats

The line between "hippie" and "yuppie" is thin these days, and I sometimes wonder which side I fall on. After dinner tonight, the air was filled with a warm, sweet rain, and I walked to the store that is quickly becoming my favorite Berkeley shop, to return a video and dispose of a used battery. Elephant Pharm is replete with good-for-the-world products: they sell organic Fig Newtons, fair trade tea, recycled aluminum foil, and yoga mats made from reclaimed tennis shoes. When they say that the "quality of life in Berkeley is high", they don't just mean the whether.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Three days of dinners

Farmers' Market today was particularly full: all the local (and non-local) recycling and community farm and so on organizations set up booths for Earth Day. I just devoured a basket of strawberries.

In any case, it's been a few days since I've written up my cooking.

On Wednesday, we had a fennel gratin from Chez Panisse Vegetables
Preheat the oven, say 350°. Thinly slice one large fennel bulb (washed, saving the stems and leaves for stock) and one large leek, going against the grain so that the bulbs separate into disks. Also thinly slice a few yellow potatoes. For each of the ingredients, sauté in a healthy dose of butter to brown each side. Then transfer to a shallow baking dish, and toss with fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Pour over half a cup of cream and one cup vegetable stock. Bake 40 minutes.
We also had a salad — fresh lettuce, walnuts, with a light dressing of mustard, olive oil, red wine, and salt — and a red wine. Finishing the meal was vanilla ice cream and peach cobbler —
More of a cookie-bar, really, I roughly followed this recipe for blueberry oat bars. For an 8-inch square pan, my oven was already hot from the grattin (350°F), and I lined the pan with parchment. In a medium-large bowl, I combined 1 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup white flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt (I like salt, but I thought this dish on the salty side, so be warned) and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Then I mixed in 6 Tbsp melted butter. I reserved 1/2 cup of the mixture, and packed the rest into the prepared pan, and set in the oven to bake 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, I melted 2 1/2 cup frozen peaches from last summer, with 1 Tbsp lemon juice. In a small bowl I combined 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 Tbsp corn starch, and then added these to the peaches and, stirring constantly, cooked until slightly thickened. I poured the topping over the cooked crust, crumbled the crumb over the mix, and 30 minutes.

Thursday saw another Chez Panisse-inspired dish, although I wasn't as happy with it. We had baby artichokes and spring onion, and Alice Waters suggests a ragout. I ended up trying to follow her recipe —
While my boyfriend cut yellow potatoes (washed) into chunks and set them to boil in salty water until tender, I softened the onion in butter, and then added half-artichokes, the outer layer removed. These we sautéed a bit, continually adding more butter, splashes of water, and ice-cubes of frozen vegetable stock. Some fresh herbs and a few stalks of asparagus went in brilliantly, and the artichokes brown beautifully. But upon serving everything was tasty except the chokes. Or, rather, the chokes tasted great, but many of the petals were simply inedible. It turns out that much more of the baby choke needs to be removed before cooking.
We had red quinoa — combine with 1 1/3 parts salted water, bring to boil, and simmer covered ten minutes, then let steam another twenty — drizzled with a fruity olive oil, a very sweet white wine, and ice cream sundaes for dessert.

The best meal recently was Friday. We began with appetizers: olives, and baguette and dipping oil — fruity olive oil, with dried thyme, crushed sumac berry, and sesame seeds. Meanwhile, I had washed, peeled, scooped, and cubed an orange acorn squash from winter storage, and set it in a lasagna pan in a 400°F oven, with olive oil and salt; the squash needs to cook roughly 30 minutes.

Then I brought enough salted water to a boil and then turned off the heat, so that I could add pasta when ready. Fifteen minutes before eating, bring back to boil, and add a pound of farfalle. In a wok, I toasted some pine nuts and removed them, then added olive oil, fresh oregano, black pepper, and one bunch washed-and-sliced red chard, and sautéed. Then go in the squash, the pasta, the pine nuts, and crumbled sharp cheese. More fresh oregano is in order, and the pasta should be served immediately.

Candles and a nice white wine made for a lovely end-of-the-week meal. We went out for ice cream at Ici afterwards.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A gourmet picnic

I took the boyfriend on a picnic on Sunday, and wanted to impress. The menu:
  • Artichoke. Set a couple inches of lightly salted water with lemon juice in a large pan tall enough to fit an artichoke the long way. Trim from the artichoke the lowest (leathery) petals, and peel the stem. Also slice off the top spines with a clean horizontal cut. Place the artichokes top down in the water, stems pointing up, put on the lid, bring to boil, and simmer/steam for thirty to forty minutes.
  • Aioli. In the kitchenaid fitted with the whisk, combine to taste melted butter, olive oil, white wine, lemon juice, and salt. Beat well. To thicken, whip in a little arrowroot at the end.
  • Hot dogs. I based my recipe on this one from PPK. First combine wet ingredients, mashing beens with a fork or in the kitchenaid: 1/4 cup pinto beans, 1 cup veggie broth, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 small bulb fennel, minced, and the leaves of 2 sprigs fresh oregano, minced. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients: 1 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 2 tsp ground paprika, and a few grinds of black pepper. Add wet into dry, mixing by hand; knead a bit by hand. (I'm serious: this is much better if done by hand than machine.) Set up the steamer (I don't have a real steamer, so I used my steam canner). Cut six sheets of aluminum foil — 8 1/2 by 11 will do it — and divide the seitan into sixths. One-by-one, knead each a little more, and then roll into a log, and wrap tightly in the foil, twisting the end like a tootsie roll. Steam the logs for 45 minutes.
  • With the hot dogs we had various pre-made fixings: mustard, ketchup, sauerkraut, and buns.
  • Strawberries. From Lucero
  • Whipped cream. 1/2 cup whipping cream, 2 Tbsp sugar, a hint of vanilla. In the kitchenaid with the whisk it is very fast.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fava beans

Fava belongs in any Green Revolutions: the plants are high-yield, easy-going, and nitrogen-fixing. In mild California, they're favorite job is as a winter ground-cover between higher-value plantings. Fava is high in protein and fiber, and various other chemicals (watch for "favism", in which the vicine, isouramil, and convicine in the beans and pollen induce hemolytic anemia in some populations of African origin, possibly as an evolved response to malaria).

Young beans can be eaten raw, but I prefer them cooked, as a mild bitterness starts to creep into the growing beans early. In a salad, fava should be blanched; my favorite way to eat fava is sauteed. Today I cooked mine in olive oil, with fennel bulb and fresh oregano.

Since it's early in the season, the fava I purchased at Farmers' Market this morning had few beans per pod. I shelled more than a pound of beans — about half an hour of relaxing — for one plate of food. Still, this low-brow bean is worth it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


The boyfriend was here for breakfast this morning. Crepes are an easy and high-class meal.

In a standing mixer with a whisk, or by hand, combine
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup water
Beat until smooth. Whisk in, but do not overbeat
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp completely melted butter.

At best, let the mixture rest in the the fridge at least 20 minutes for the flour to absorb the moisture; crepes will cook without this.

Heat a buttered crepe pan or non-stick pan. Ladle batter onto hot pan; turn each crepe to brown both sides. Let the crepes cool slightly and serve. I like my crepes with chocolate, or with grated parmesan cheese.

Serves 3.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Brown sugar cookies

For my calculus class tomorrow, since they have a midterm, I plan to bring in cookies. I chose a very fine recipe form Cook's Illustrated.

In a cast-iron pan, melt
  • 10 Tbsp unsalted butter
and, swirling, continue to cook one to three minutes to a dark golden and nutty aromatic. (Why use cast-iron? The butter doesn't care, but, short of rendering lard, this is about the best thing you can do for your cast-iron.) Remove from heat, transfer to a large heatproof bowl, and stir in
  • 4 Tbsp butter
to melt. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle and middle-high, and preheat oven 350°F. In a medium bowl, combine
  • 2 cups plus 2 Tbsp (whole wheat pastry) flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
and set aside.

To cooled butter, add
    1 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
and mix until no lumps. Scrape down bowl. Add
  • 1 large egg plus 1 yolk
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • optional: 1 tsp molasses
and mix to fully incorporate. Add flour mixture, and mix, scraping down bowl.

Roll into small balls, and toss in a mixture of
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
and place on baking sheets. Bake 13 minutes, and do not overbake.

The number of cookies made by a particular recipes depends dramatically on the size of the cookies. In my notes, I wrote in "makes 2 dozen", presumably making largish 2-Tbsp cookies. This time, worried I wouldn't have enough for my sixty students, I made a double batch: I made just over 180 cookies.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Peasant food

Joy has a variation on boiled cabbage which is quite good: she chops the cabbage, and boils it with onion (we used leeks), apples, vinegar, red wine, salt — the standard fare — and honey. The flavor is quite good, but I think she makes it too sweet.

Along with our cabbage, we ate gnocchi, cooked in sage-butter and a little cream, and with grated grana padano on top. It was very good, but mild and comfort-food-tasting; I think the gnocchi could have handled a gorgonzola cream sauce, our original plan.

Gnocchi (meaning "lumps") is very simple, and there are as many recipes as there are Italian and Latin American families, times starches. Most Americans are most familiar with potato gnocchi.

Wash, peel, boil, and mash, and allow to cool, three pounds mashing potatoes (I like yellows, e.g. Banana, Butterball, or Yukon Gold), or use leftovers. Knead in one egg, and enough flour so that it's not particularly sticky: expect about one cup of flour per pound raw potato. Since you want the gnocchi to be light, work until consistent, but do not overknead.

Set a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil.

Working on a well-floured surface, cut the dough into workable chunks, and roll each chunk into a long log, about half-inch in thickness. Chop of gnocchis, and either transfer to a well-floured environment (do not stack your raw gnocchi in a bowl, as they will stick together), or, better, set up an assembly line so that the cut gnocchi move immediately to the boiling water.

Add gnocchi to the water few-at-a-time, so that they don't stick together. They will sink at first, but after just a few minutes they will float, at which point they are done and can be removed with a slotted spoon. It's ok, though, to leave them in the water for a while. In any case, you will probably decide to remove some before the others have been added; they won't stick together too much, but you may decide to drizzle each layer in a bowl with some melted butter. When all the gnocchi are done, prepare sauce and combine and serve hot.