August 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
You can’t cook. I mean, you just can’t cook.
It’s 105F in the shade. It’s hot. The thought of lighting that pilot light and having a controlled fire on your stove top makes you break out in hives.
Or you’re in my friend Katherine’s position and don’t currently have a working kitchen due to home remodeling. Home “modeling,” I should say; her condo is so brand-spanking new, there are no appliances yet. But wait. She has an electric wok and maybe a microwave. Thank god, that’s something. She does dishes in her shower, I hear.
So, Katherine, this recipe is for you and all those other folks who can only make a meal the pre-discovery of fire way. Yes, it calls for you to eat corn and zucchini in their raw states. But it’s surprisingly good, and refreshingly cool.
Zucchini and Corn Salad (adapted from a Martha Stewart Living recipe)
- 3 ears corn, shucked
- 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced or matchsticked
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
-Remove kernels from corn cob. Martha had a great suggestion: Cut off the cob ends, and stand cob up in a shallow dish. Take a sharp knife and, starting from about the middle of the cob, slice off the kernels in a downward motion, working your way around the cob. Don’t slice off too much of the cob – you want just the nice milky kernel. Flip the cob over and do the other half.
-Recipe calls for two medium zucchini. Not sure about you but my zucchini in the garden this time of year only come in the “extra large” size. I’d say you’re looking for 2-3 cups of zucchini, sliced thinly. Or, make matchsticks: I slice 1/4-in. thick rounds of zucchini and then run them down the large, single-slice side of my stand-up grater. Okay, it’s not the small, square-sided wooden matchsticks; more like the slim matches in those paper booklets. But matchsticks, nonetheless. Add the zucchini to the corn in that small shallow bowl.
-Add lime juice, evoo, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Letting it sit for about an hour before serving lets the flavors develop. Pop it in the fridge if you’d like for a nice crunchiness.
March 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
Last summer I discovered the joys of bread baking. I guess you’d call it my hobby now. And I say hobby because … well, unlike putting a Pop Tart in the toaster and waiting for the ding, there are levels of complexity at every step. There’s practice and skill and problem-solving and continual learning from mistakes. Described that way, it seems more like a sport. And, considering I currently have three different sourdough ferments tucked snuggly in the warm and draft-free microwave, perhaps I’m also a collector.
Yesterday, I had one of those “Aha!” learning experiences. I made a batch of Country Sourdough from the Amy’s Bread cookbook. It was my first time making this recipe and considering my firm levain wasn’t so firm and I substituted in my sourdough starter, I wasn’t so sure the recipe would work properly.
I made the dough, let it autolyze, formed it into a ball, let it rise, punched it down, let it rise again, separated into two doughs, formed boules and let them rise again – seam side down – in floured baskets. The dough looked and felt great. So far, so good.
Now, in Amy’s instructions, typically once you get to this point in the recipe it’s almost as if they copied and pasted the remainder of the instructions for each and every recipe. At least for the handful of recipes I’ve tackled so far. BUT, this time she had a slightly different twist in the instructions. She said to tip the boule out of the basket onto the prepared parchment paper so the seam was now on top. Hmmm … I had not encountered that in previous recipes. All others were seam side down. Why would you put the seam up?
I had two boules – I thought, “Let’s try one seam side up, one seam side down, and see what happens. I scored both loaves on top, put them in the oven, and let them go.
Here’s what came out of the oven. Can you guess which one was which?
The one on the right was the seam-side down. Even though I scored the top, the steam escaping the loaf escaped through the seam on the bottom, causing it to tear.
For the boule on the left, the scores through the seam on top let the steam escape. Not having a weak spot—a seam on the bottom—prevented the bottom from bursting.
I tried to seal that seam as tightly as possible, but apparently not enough. This doesn’t happen with all of the breads I’ve made, but I have had this happen before. And now I know why. Problem solved.
March 14, 2011 § 2 Comments
It turns out—now that we are paying attention—a number of our on-hand recipes are vegan. While it’s nice to cruise online looking for appropriate recipes for our new two-thirds vegan lifestyle, we need only turn to our own recipe collection to find something without meat, fish, dairy, etc.
Jennifer’s Red Lentil Soup with Spinach, for example. She collected this recipe from a local adult-ed class on soup making she attended 10-15 years ago. She just recently found it again, after I had made a batch of the Moosewood lentil soup. Lentils are pretty friggin’ amazing, if you ask me. It’s my favorite dry bean, if only because you don’t have to soak it any more than 30 minutes, which you can easily incorporate into the cooking process (see below). The addition of the spinach is inspired, tasty and I am sure, good for you, as well.
- 1-2 TBS evoo
- 1 onion
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed (I guess green would be fine, too)
- 4-5 cups water
- 1/2 tsp EACH of thyme, oregano, basil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 lb. spinach or Swiss chard, torn into pieces
-Saute the onion in the oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery and saute another few minutes until just soft.
-Add the herbs, lentils and 4 cups of the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom. If it’s too thick for your liking, add up to a cup of water.
-When lentils are soft, add the salt and spinach. Stir. Cook for another 2 minutes.
Jennifer likes to add a swirl of sherry vinegar on top of her bowl of soup. I add a dash of balsamic vinegar. Try it without the vinegar first, then with the vinegar. The addition really pulls out the flavor of the lentils and adds an acidic brightness. You’ll also want to keep a slice or two of fresh bread on hand for dunking.
You may want to double the batch. This soup is even better in subsequent days, and is nice as your vegan lunch dish.
January 5, 2011 § 5 Comments
Sunshine in a bottle.
That pretty much describes the essence of lemoncello and orangecello (and limecello and … ), that quintessential citrus aperitif of Italy. (Did I just say “quintessential”? Who am I?)
In Dainty-speak, these ‘cellos rock it. For a bunch of reasons:
- They give alcohol a tasty, refreshingly clean kick in the pants.
- They bring back memories of an awesome tour through the Amalfi Coast. (Never been? It’s a must.)
- And, best yet, they can be made at home – no distillery needed. That’s brilliant!
Not that I’ve made ‘cellos, of course. But they’ve been given to me, as recently as this past holiday. It was a double gift – lemoncello and a blog post in the making. I like that.
During our New Year’s festivities in Provincetown, where 11 compadres
destroyed convened on our friends’ home, Karen gave out a bottle of the liquor – made in her very own kitchen – to everyone in the crowd, with a spare to give New Year’s Eve a celebratory kick start.
- 12 decorative bottles purchased at The Christmas Tree Shops (i.e. inexpensive and cute!)
- 100% proof good-quality vodka, enough to fill said bottles
- oranges and lemons (how many? she didn’t tell me), zested separately
- Soak the zests (one batch orange, one batch lemon) in the alcohol for four to five days
- Strain out zest and discard
- Add simple syrup* to infused alcohol
- Bottle and insert cork!
You’re wondering, “Yo, dude, what’s the ratio of alcohol to simple syrup?” I had the same question. Here’s a direct quote from the ‘cello maker herself:
“The mixture of alcohol and simple syrup is a matter of taste and courage … the more you mix, the sweeter and lower alcohol content you have. The less you mix, the more lethal it becomes!”
Karen made both lemoncello and orangecello. Which bottles contained what? The ribbed bottles were filled with one flavor, the bumpy bottles had another flavor.
*A simple simple syrup recipe: Boil together 1 cup water and 1 cup white sugar until sugar is dissolved. Cool. You’re done. Make more or less depending on how much you need. Keeps for a few days in the fridge.