June, 2005

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Strawberry Syrup with Rose Water and Cardamom
Jun 24th, 2005

Seattle is bursting with berries right now - blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and cherries are all in season at the farmer's markets around town. We even saw some gooseberries, salmonberries, and currants at the West Seattle market last Sunday. So the clamshell of wan strawberries that Jim bought at the supermarket last week has been languishing in the back of our fridge, pushed aside by better tasting fruit. But still, strawberry season comes only once a year and I couldn't stand to just throw them out, so I decided to cook them up and see if I couldn't make a nice topping for my yogurt.

I didn't want to use much, if any, sugar so I tried to think of ingredients that would bring out the sweetness in the berries on their own. I ended up going crazy with the exotic ingredients because I had them on hand, but the concept itself is simple and open to a million variations.

The cardamom was really the key ingredient in my version. I couldn't really taste it immediately after cooking, but the taste was stronger after an hour or so, and the next day the flavors were perfect. I was looking for something to go over plain yogurt, and this worked nicely. But the strawberry sauce would be really good over some vanilla or coconut icecream with a butter cookie on the side. A cardamom shortbread cookie even. Like this one here.


Strawberry Syrup with Rose Water and Cardamom

Strawberries - hulled and sliced
a splash of sweet white wine like a Reisling or Gewurtztraminer
1 Tbsp seedless jam, any flavor
1/4 tsp rose water (optional)
1 tsp honey
3 cardamom pods


Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat stirring frequently until the sauce is the desired consistency. I cooked mine until it started to thicken a bit from the pectin in the fruit and the jam, maybe thirty minutes.

Eat some warm over some vanilla yogurt or icecream, and let the remainder rest in the fridge overnight to fully develop the cardamom flavor.

-Kymm
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Summertime Ratatouille
Jun 21st, 2005

I remember the first time I made ratatouille. Jim and I were living in Redlands and our apartment was on the second floor of a rundown old house. It had nice bay windows in the bedroom and a miniature little kitchen with no storage space and a broken garbage disposal that led to a memorable bug infestation. But that tiny, bug infested kitchen was the first kitchen I could ever really call mine and I became slightly enamored with the weekly Dining section in the LA Times. I would clip out these ridiculously complicated recipes that I had neither the budget, skills, or equipment necessary to actually carry out. I believe it was around this time that I talked Steph into helping me make a full multi-course Thanksgiving dinner complete with roast turkey, vegetarian entree, and two kinds of pie. We slaved for days it seemed like, the dinner was consumed in approximately 60 seconds, and then we all proceeded to go out and get monumentally drunk at the Mentone Yacht Club. I have a dim memory of weaving my way home the night with a leftover turkey drumstick clutched in my hand.

The ratatouille was part of another overly elaborate holiday dinner - this time a Valentine's dinner featuring lamb chops. I think this dinner signalled the end of this early gourmet period in my life, as I spent way too much on expensive lamb chops that Jim hated. The ratatouille took forever, the eggplant had to be salted, there were acres of vegetables to chop, and then each different vegetable had to be added to the pot at a different time. Looking back now, it's not such an ambitious recipe, but totally beyond what I should have been attempting at the time. And Jim hated it.

Well I'm over a decade wiser now, my kitchen is slightly less miniscule, and I do a little better at not letting my wild ideas get totally out of control. So on a recent summery weeknight evening, with an eggplant and some zucchini in the fridge, it was time to attempt ratatouille again for the first time in twelve years. With simplicity my new mantra, I opted for an oven-roasted ratatouille where you just cube everything up, throw it in a baking pan and roast it in the oven until done. A rosemary rubbed pork roast cooked alongside the vegetables while we played with the kids in the backyard, and when we sat down to eat at 8:00 a nice white wine and a cucumber & tomato salad with feta rounded out the meal. And Jim loved it.

This is more of a guide than an actual recipe. The required elements are the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and olive oil. Other than that you can improvise with what you have at hand.

If you prefer to follow a recipe, there are many nice ones out there. This one by Delia Smith is a good starting point.


Oven Roasted Ratatouille

1 eggplant, cubed with skin on
2 zucchini, cubed with skin on
4-6 diced smallish tomatoes, either fresh or canned
1 red bell pepper diced would be nice
coarsely chopped spring onions
coarsely chopped garlic
herbs - basil and rosemary are good choices
olive oil
sea salt
tomato sauce or reserved juice from canned tomatoes
crumbled feta


Cut all the vegetables up into cubes of approximately the same size, except for the green onions, which should be left in 3 inch lengths or they will just shrivel into oblivion. Put them in a roasting pan or rectangular pyrex pan and toss with enough olive oil to coat. Sprinkle the garlic, minced herbs, and sea salt and, using your hands, toss again to distribute.

Roast in the oven at around 400F until done, probably 45 minutes or so. Above ten minutes before cooking is finished add the tomato sauce, just enough to bind the dish together and give it a vaguely stewlike consistency. A little feta crumbled on top of the finished product is not a bad thing at all.

-Kymm
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Lunch Ideas
Jun 17th, 2005

When I don't have any leftovers and don't feel up to putting together a salad, there are a few ready-to-eat products I like to have around so I can grab and go. I thought I'd post them here to add to our growing list of lunch ideas (I should archive them all together somewhere, hmmm....).

Pacific Foods Soups: These soups come in aseptic packaging, so you can just put the opened package in your fridge at work. It usually takes me about three lunches to make it through one package. I've tried all the flavors listed here except the French Onion. My favorite is the Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato - it's sweet and creamy. The Creamy Tomato and Creamy Butternut Squash are fine too, but definitely stay away from the Roasted Carrot. You can find these at the supermarket here in Seattle, and if they're hard to find in your area you can at least find them at Whole Foods.

Pete's Tofu2Go: These packs of cooked seasoned tofu with a dipping sauce are yummy to microwave and eat on their own, or tossed with leftover noodles or rice. My favorite is the Sesame Ginger with Jazzed Ginger Soy Sauce, although I need to try the yummy sounding Thai Tango with Mango Wasabi Sauce. Just go easy on the sauce, I never use the full amount they package with it. In Seattle these can be found at QFC, but again Whole Foods carries them if they're hard to find in your area. (Trader Joes does too).

Amy's Organics has a huge line of frozen vegetarian entrees, as well as canned soups and chilis. The quality varies, but I really like their 'bowl' line for lunch, particularly the Santa Fe Enchilada Bowl. It's tasty, not terribly high in calories, and the just the right size for lunch with a piece of fruit and some carrot sticks on the side. I like their Burrito Especial too (black beans, rice, veggies, cheese, and 'sauce'). Their products can be found all over the place. I took a look at the Chicago area in their store locator, and apparently they're in Safeways, and of course, Whole Foods.

What do you all keep in the cupboard or the freezer for emergency lunches?


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Swiss Chard Dahl
Jun 13th, 2005

This recipe came from something called dharmakshetra.com and really seemed doomed to fail. The recipe has you adding ingredients that are never mentioned in the ingredient list, and conversely, includes ingredients in the list that are never dealt with in the recipe. At one point I found myself staring down at my biggest pan filled to overflowing with chopped swiss chard flecked with the occasional very hard red lentil. The odds of these ingredients somehow cohering into that spicy, aromatic, velvety concoction called Dahl seemed slim at best.

And yet, somehow it worked. That fabulous alchemy that seems to lie at the heart of Indian recipes turned all my homely and disparate ingredients into a very tasty way to deal with three bunches of swiss chard snoozing away in my fridge. You really do need the red lentils for this. I believe I have sung the praises of red lentils enough here, so just go get some already. If swiss chard isn't your cup of tea, substitute spinach, or google a plainer recipe for a red lentil dahl. And not to be bossy or anything, but the recipe for Olga's flatbread can be found in the Recipe Archive, and goes fabulously with this veggie meal.

Here is the fixed up recipe.


Swiss Chard Dahl

2 lbs Swiss chard
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander
1 fresh red Chili (or a few drops chili oil)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup red lentils, soaked for half an hour beforehand
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon Ghee (I used unsalted butter)
3 peeled tomatoes (canned work just swell)
sufficient salt to taste
sufficient tomato puree to thicken (probably 1/2 cup in my case)


Chop the stems off the swish chard. Cut them up into 1/4 inch pieces. In a large frying pan boil them with a little water. Add the chopped chili.

After five minutes add the black pepper, cumin, turmeric, and coriander. Simmer with a lid on for ten minutes. Add the rest of the coarsely chopped swiss chard and the water. Now add the red lentils.

Simmer for a couple of minutes more. Add the tomatoes, leave to simmer for about 10 minutes. The lentils should be soft but still intact. Add the tomato puree, ghee (butter), and salt to taste.

Simmer for another couple of minutes till the the Dahl has thickened. Some vigorous stirring at this point wouldn't hurt anything either.

-Adapted from dharmakshetra.com
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Turnovers
Jun 11th, 2005

Here is the recipe for the turnovers. You could use whatever kind of filling you like, just consider these suggestions. If you want to use just one filling, just double the recipe. The basic idea for this recipe came from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Turnovers With Two Fillings

Yeasted Tart Dough with Olive Oil
(You could use any Galette dough, pizza dough, or tart dough recipe I would think. Galette dough has much more butter, but no yeast so it's quicker)

Feta & Herb Filling (enough for 6 small turnovers)

1/8 pound feta
1/8 pound dryish, creamy cheese (I used a fresh Mexican ricotta, you could use farmers' cheese, or regular ricotta from the store - I would drain it a bit though in a strainer lined with cheesecloth)
1 large spring onion (scallion), thinly sliced
1 or 2 tbsp of herbs (I used chives, thyme, and parsley)
Freshly milled pepper

Canadian Bacon & Mozzarella Topping (enough for 6 small turnovers)

1/8 lb grated mozzarella
1/8 pound of the creamy dry cheese from above
2 tbsp chopped basil or so
small amount chopped fresh thyme (optional)
6 or 8 pcs Canadian Bacon chopped into small pieces
freshly ground pepper
small bowl of thick tomato sauce

Egg Wash

1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tbsp milk
Sesame or poppy seeds


Prepare each filling, mixing the ingredients together in two separate bowls. Divide the dough into 12 pieces (this makes small turnovers, you can go for 4 or 6 pieces for more calzone sized servings). Roll each piece of dough into a ball. Dust the counter lightly with flour and roll each ball into a circle about 1/8 inch thick.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Divide the filling among the pieces of dough, making half with each type of filling. For the canadian bacon ones, spoon or brush some tomato sauce in the middle of the dough round before adding the filling. Then fold the edges over and crimp with your thumbs, making small pleats to seal. You may want to dust your cookie sheet with a bit of cornmeal before laying the turnovers on it to prevent sticking.

Brush the pastries with the beaten egg, and sprinkle the vegetarian ones with the sesame or poppy seeds for identification. Bake for about 25 minutes, until browned all over. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

-Adapted from Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
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Happy Birthday
Jun 11th, 2005

Well our little food chat page is now officially one year old. I know this because one of my first Food Chat posts was a question about what kind of 'main dish' one should bring to an end-of-the-year preschool celebration held at 9:30 in the morning. (I went with a fairly unsuccessful blueberry muffin recipe). Now a year later it was once again time for the early morning main dish on Wednesday, although this time the stakes were raised as it was Jay's preschool 'graduation', complete with caps and diplomas and very proud, adorable 5 year olds. I didn't stress it this year. I just went with muffins again, knowing there should be at least one thing I would eat among the trays of egg rolls and chow mein and cake.

I ended up making the muffins at 10:30 the night before, so I went for the easiest muffin recipe in the world, Honey Cornbread Muffins. I'll add the recipe to the site later, it really is simple.

But because one potluck a day is really not enough, we were invited to a post-graduation party that evening. Ian took a long nap after the sugar fest of the morning and Jay collapsed in front of a Power Rangers video, so I had some time to make something a bit more involved. The family who was hosting the potluck is vegetarian, and I started thinking about something with spring onions and feta and eggs (as I had an abundance of all three in my fridge). I wanted to make something kid friendly though too, so I ended up making a mixed batch of turnovers - half Feta & Herb and half Canadian Bacon & Mozzarella.

I made the dough from scratch, which really is not that hard. In fact Jay did most of the rolling out, and had fun with the egg wash and sesame seed decoration. I made the dough, kneaded it, left it to rise, and went to the library with Jay. When I came back it was ready to use. Nice!

The turnovers were a hit, the kids had fun running around, and Jay managed to overturn a lit barbecue pouring its hot coals onto the floor of the garage while all the parents were inside. Luckily someone noticed that the grill had disappeared before the garage and nearby combustibles could explode into a ball of flame. So, a successful celebration I think. Oh, and now my baby is all done with preschool and will be heading off to Kindergarten in the fall. I feel old, and proud, and a little teary, and did I mention old?


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Pancake Mix
Jun 3rd, 2005

Jay wanted pancakes for breakfast this morning, and as it wasn't a school day we had some time. Theoretically yes I should have been getting to work, but I had no early meetings, so why not? I had come across some recipes for pancake mixes and thought that would be a good use of my time, so next time Jay wants pancakes on a Thursday morning I might actually make it to work before 10:30! I liked this recipe because it sounded somewhat healthy, but also like Jay might still eat it. And luckily he loved these pancakes. I just didn't tell him about the wheat bran and soy flour.

If you have this mix on hand you can make a batch of pancakes really quickly. The directions for using the mix are below.


Mollie's Basic Buttermilk Pancakes
Makes enough for 3 batches of pancakes

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup soy protein powder [I used soy flour as that's what I had]
3/4 cup unprocessed wheat bran
3/4 tsp salt (rounded measure)
4 1/2 tsp baking powder (1 tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp sugar (optional)


Stir everything around in a big bowl and then store in a quart glass jar in the fridge.

Pancake Instructions

-Mollie Katzen, Sunlight Cafe
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Paige's Brownies
Jun 2nd, 2005

I'm halfway to my first cookbook challenge reward! I told myself I could buy a new cookbook once I got through 20 cookbooks, and this brownie recipe brings me up to 10. We'll just ignore the fact that in the two months it's taken me to get through those ten I've purchased another four, putting my ultimate goal of cooking one new recipe from each cookbook I own even further out of reach. But hey, those were thrift store cookbooks, they don't count.

The fact that two out of the 14 recipes posted so far are brownie recipes, can be explained by the fact that Jay likes to bake. He especially likes to bake chocolate themed items, and he likes springing baking requests on me at random times so we have to work with whatever ingredients are at hand. I had four eggs and some unsweetened chocolate, so this brownie recipe fit the bill. To substitute for the chocolate chips I chopped up the remains of a milk chocolate bar that Jim had stashed away and supplemented it with a few chopped up squares of white baking chocolate. The white chocolate was kind of an interesting addition, as it didn't really melt like the dark chocolate did, it got almost crunchy, kind of like a really sweet nut.

I didn't bother posting the earlier brownie recipe from The Best Recipe cookbook, as it was just okay. This one is much better, chewey and chocolatey and decadent. So take that you Best Recipe geeks. I don't know who Paige is, but she kicks your ass in the brownie department.


Paige's Brownies
Claims to make 36 but who cuts them that small?

1 cup butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts [I left these out]
1/2 cup chocolate chips


Melt butter and chocolate over low heat [or in the microwave]. Set aside to cool. Beat eggs until light in color. Add sugar and vanilla and blend well. Stir in chocolate mixture. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix well. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips. Bake in a greased 9" x 13" pan at 350F for about 35 minutes. Cut into bars.

-The Wellesley Cookie Exchange Cookbook, recipe submitted by Susan Mahnke Pe
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Food Blogs
Jun 1st, 2005

Hetal, I will definitely post some of my favorite food blogs on the Recipe Archive. To get you started, here are a few from a list I sent my mom a while back:

http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ - probably my very favorite blog overall in terms of good writing, excellent recipes, and nice layout. Clotilde is a software engineer by day/aspiring food writer by night who lives in Paris but writes in English. To start at the beginning (you don't have to read the whole thing but I'd recommend starting at the beginning to get an idea of how the blog began) scroll down until you see Archives by Date in the left pane. She began the blog in September 2003. The blog is very popular and now contains it's own discussion forum. Clotilde recently started a ongoing gig with NPR.

http://www.murrayhill5.net/blog/inmykitchenblog/ - one of the first food blogs I found, it goes back all the way to 2002. It started off as mainly just recipe postings but got more of a narrative focus over time. Deb lives in New York and has a one year old little girl. To start at the beginning scroll down until you see 'Take a look at: The Monthly Archives' on the right.

http://cookingwithamy.blogspot.com/ - Cooking With Amy is a good example of the less personal food blog. It's more than just a recipe collection though, as she writes about food trends, reviews restaurants, and just generally muses about food. Lots of recipes too. I have some issues with the layout of this blog, it's not very user-friendly, but to start at the beginning, scroll down until you see Monthly Archives in the left pane. Open the dropdown box and start with July 2003 - there's only one post in June 2003 and it isn't an intro.

http://edibletulip.typepad.com/edible_tulip/ - Edible Tulip is from Canada. She writes a bit about her life but avoids specifics. I'm not even sure she's a she, but I think so! Easy to navigate - you'll see the archive immediately. A very pretty, appealing blog.

http://www.101cookbooks.com/ - This is the one I wish I'd gotten to first. The tagline is 'Exploring my collection of cookbooks, one recipe at a time.' She also just published her own cookbbook. She doesn't post any recipes, just reviews them and links to them if available on the web. Nice design and photography. She's vegetarian, although it doesn't immediately jump out at you. Right below the tagline there are some clickable section titles going across the page. Archives are on the right.

http://www.ismyblogburning.com/ - A food blog about food blogs! This blog keeps track of all the food blogging events going on, with a calendar and links to past event writeups. It will give you an idea as to all the events that happen and the size of the food blogosphere.

http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/ - The Julie/Julia Project. Now finished, but the archive is still here. The ur-food blog. Also really, really good reading. If you read any of the blogs from back to front this would be the one to pick. From the home page, the Why Julie, why Julia link under Navigation will take you to the first entry, then use the calendar to move on from there. Days that are highlighted are clickable.

I'm going to stop now, but really I could go on and on. Hope you find some of these as interesting as I do!


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Review: A New Way to Cook
Jun 1st, 2005

A New Way to Cook
Sally Schneider

"[The Mediterranean diet] is the model for my everyday diet: largely based on plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes; moderate amounts of fish, poultry, nuts, and wine; with a small amount of red meat, saturated fats, dairy products, and sugar and a minimum of prepared foods. I eat moderately day to day, and periodically I eat with abandon."

This quote from the introduction to A New Way to Cook sums up quite well my own approach to nutrition as well as the author's. Finally, someone wrote a cookbook just for me! Schneider doesn't spend a lot of time tiresomely counting fat grams or raving about carbohydrates, instead she focuses on taste, moderation, and heightening the flavors of a dish with just a touch of fat. She has a fabulous section on Flavor Catalysts, which encompasses 140 pages of flavor essences, dry rubs, marinades, broths, flavored oils, and sauces. The chapter on sauces alone is reason enough to buy this book, especially if you're interested in updating classic sauces without sacrificing flavor.

Schneider is heavily influenced by the cuisines of the Mediterranean: France, Italy, Greece, and Spain. Asian flavors find their way into the recipes as well. My only quibble with the book is that my personal taste runs a bit more to Mexican and Asian than traditional French, and I'd gladly trade the treatments of cassoulet and pate for more exploration of lemongrass and mole, but that's just a personal preference. (To be fair mole is mentioned three times in the index and lemongrass four).

This book is enormous, 756 pages, and well laid out. The sauces chapter, for example, is divided into Vinaigrette sauces, cold Mediterranean-style sauces (from aioli to pesto), creamy sauces, wine sauces, and salsas & chutneys. Essential techniques and base recipes are laid out and then expanded on in each section, and guides to improvisation are given so you can get creative.

The author claims this cookbook is the result of ten years of research, and it shows. This is an inspiring work that will no doubt be seen as one of the major cookbooks of the decade.


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