Thursday, January 11, 2007

Spicy Tomato Sauce

This post is completely out of date. I’ve had these pictures since either late August or early September, but tomato sauce is still pretty easy to make without fresh tomatoes. Besides in the winter, you should only really be using canned tomatoes. And yes I’m going to try posting and go to school, as part of a New Years Resolution.

This recipe is from The New Professional Chef 6th edition. I left out the parsley and added red pepper flakes. TNPC recommends plum tomatoes, but I used the brandywine tomatoes because that’s what I was growing. It also cut down the number of tomatoes used because brandywine tomatoes often weigh a pound each.

Terms and Method:
Tomato Concassée
Concassée is “to pound or chop coarsely. Usually refers to tomatoes that have been peeled, seeded, and chopped.” Peeling is easy, cut an x on the bottom, drop into boiling water for 30 seconds, then plunge into ice water and peel. Yes you should seed the tomatoes because otherwise it will take longer to cook. The seeds are surrounded by a sort of gelatinous substance that will prolong the cooking time and some say create off tastes (I’m not convinced on the second point).
A chiffonade is basically rolling up the herbs and then finely slicing. Here is a how to video from the Food Network. Trust me; this will taste better with fresh herbs, so use them if you can.

The only complaint I had was from Jack who whined, “Bridget did you put carrots in marinara sauce?!” And then when I explained that “This is just tomato sauce not marinara; it’s allowed…” Jack went, “Myrmyrmyrmyr,” which sounded sort of like the adults in Charlie Brown specials. Otherwise it was great with spaghetti and dipping bread in. And it’s very easy to change the proportions and store in the freezer.

Onions, chopped 8 oz
Celery, chopped 4 oz
Carrots, chopped 8 oz
Garlic, mashed 1 T
Olive Oil 3 fl. oz
Butter 2 oz
Tomato Concassée 4 lbs
Red Pepper Flakes 1 t
Basil, chiffonade 1 T
Oregano, chopped 1 T
S & P, to taste

Sweat the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic in the oil and butter until they are translucent. Add the pepper and tomatoes. Simmer for 45 min to 1hr, until the flavor is fully developed. Purée the sauce at this point if you want. Add the fresh herbs and S&P.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Buttermilk Biscuits

Two events came together to create these biscuits, One I made butter and had buttermilk left over, and two Dave and I have decided that Bloomingfoods Vegan Biscuits and Gravy is just too expensive.
These biscuits aren't vegan, but they're really yummy. Shawn said they were as good if not better than his mom's.
These were quite easy to put together on a Sunday morning. Unfortunately, we haven't had buttermilk since then and the other attempts, while good, have not been quite the same.

This would be easier with self-rising flour. I didn't have self-rising flour, so I had to use AP flour plus leavening agents. I know there is a conversion between baking soda and powder, but I don't know what it is. Hence the rather large amount of baking powder. For the fat, I used half butter half shortening combination. Oh and for the biscuit cutter, we used an empty can of beans.

Buttermilk Biscuits:
3 C self-rising flour
3 C AP flour minus 2 T
1 1/2 t salt
1 T 1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 C fat
~1 C buttermilk

450 degree oven
Place the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium-sized bowl and mix. Rub (or cut in if you have the equipment) in the fat until it's the size of small peas. Add 3/4 cup of the buttermilk and toss with a fork until the liquid is absorbed. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of the liquid if needed. Place the dough on a floured work surface. Fold it over three or four times, and pat it into a 1-inch thick circle. Cut into biscuits, cutting down and then twisting. Place them so they are barely touching on an ungreased baking sheet (I also used parchment paper). Bake the biscuits for 12 to 14 minutes, until they're golden brown.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Lemon Raspberry Trifle

I apologize for the long absence, but quite frankly cooking in my kitchen has been painful. Since I don’t have AC, the apartment has poor air circulation, and my kitchen is windowless, not only is it hotter overall in the apartment than outside, but the kitchen with the oven on reaches nightmarish temperatures. At least, I know I’m not the only one because when I called Ursula about having dinner this week, she said the same thing. But we decided to persevere anyway and do some cooking. Last night wasn’t as hot as it has been but that’s not saying much. I made a Rosemary Roast Chicken and the Trifle and Steve and Ursula (McShaggart) made Potatoes Anna and a Salad with Eggless Caesar Dressing. It was a really good meal, and I’ll blog about my chicken someday. Today I want to talk about the dessert.

I’ve had Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess since I was in high school, but I’ve only ever used a handful of the recipes. They all look good, but I’ve never been much of a baker or a dessert person. In the spirit of scientific inquiry, I stepped out of my comfort zone and made something new. Interestingly enough, Ursula told me that she thinks I make more new things than she does. It’s probably true because while she’s clearly mastered Potatoes Anna to the point where it’s a bit of a dinner party staple, I almost always make something I’ve never made before for potlucks or parties. I guess we all just have different definitions of comfort zones.

How did I change the recipe (since I pretty much always end up doing something slightly different)? Well Lawson’s recipe calls for the cake to be made in a loaf pan, but I thought individual ramekins would look really neat which also cut down on the cooking time. I couldn’t find self-rising cake flour so I used pastry flour. Pastry flour has more protein than cake flour but less than all-purpose flour which means cakes made with pastry flour tend to be a bit less delicate and crumbly. However, you can offset that effect by careful handling of the batter and eggs. I used cream instead of milk in the cake because I was out of milk and had already bought the cream. Oh and the dry sherry at Bloomingfoods was ten dollars more than the medium, so I bought the medium and reduced the sugar in the syllabub. Bloomingfoods was also out of large eggs, but I checked an equivalency chart and you can use medium eggs 1:1 with large if you’re only using two.

It was pretty easy, although a bit time consuming to make. To line the ramekins trace the bottoms on parchment paper with a pencil, cut out, and then cut out strips wide and long enough to go around the insides. When using pastry flour instead of cake, mix the batter as little as possible and separate the eggs, beat the whites, and fold them into the batter. Oddly enough when I made the syllabub (fun word!) the cream seized up but it left a lot of remaining liquid. Which left me confused and wondering if I’d somehow made butter, but I clearly hadn’t so I just drained off the excess liquid and served it as it was. I don’t think I poured everything in slowly enough if that gives any hints.

Lemon Raspberry Trifle
½ C unsalted butter
½ C plus 1 T sugar
2 eggs, separated
zest of one lemon
1 C plus 1 T pastry flour
pinch of salt
3 T cream
1 T water

juice of 3 lemons ~8 T (I used half concentrate here)
1 C confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and line the pans with parchment paper. Whip the egg whites in a different bowl. Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in egg yolk and lemon zest. Fold in the whites. Fold in the flour and salt and then the milk. Spoon evenly into ramekins. Bake 30-35 minutes until golden, risen in the middle, and a cake tester comes out clean. While it’s baking, whisk together juice and sugar to make the syrup. Once the cake is done immediately puncture holes in the top with your cake tester (I used a cheap steak knife) and pour the syrup evenly into ramekins. Once cool remove paper. If there is excess syrup that hasn’t absorbed, pour it off and then flip the cakes out of the ramekins to remove the bottom sheet of parchment paper. Pour the syrup back in once the cake is returned.

8 T dry sherry
3 T sugar
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 1/3 C heavy cream

pint raspberries
2 T sliced almonds, toasted

Mix sherry, sugar and lemon. Let sit for and hour to completely dissolve or whisk really hard at the beginning. Slowly add the cream and whisk until airy and bulky. To toast almonds place them in a dry frying pan over medium high heat until golden and aromatic. Top cake with raspberries, syllabub, then almonds. Made four very rich servings which could’ve been shared between two people each.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Quick French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup is pretty easy to make; it just takes a while. It's only carmelized onions, stock, toast and cheese which means you can change the proportions without losing flavor or quality. Traditionally its made with beef stock, but I used vegetable bouillon cubes because that's what I had. It ended up being a much more delicate soup, less hearty, but still good. To get the deep flavor, you need to carmelize the onions which typically takes about 35 to 40 minutes. However, I have a way to cut down on the active cooking time.

After slicing the onions (a task that would be easier if I had a mandoline slicer), you sprinkle salt over the onions and let them sit for about 20 minutes, longer if you want. Some of the water in the onions gets pulled out, you drain it, and the onions are carmelized in half the time. Carmelizing is pretty simple. You cook the onions slowly and stir frequently picking up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Don't worry if it looks like a lot of onions, they'll reduce. I made enough for 3 servings and got to use the soup bowls I bought at Goodwill over a year ago.

2 large onions
1/2 t salt
1 T butter
1 quart stock or broth
mozzarella or parmesan cheese

Slice the onions thinly and sprinkle the salt over them. Let them sit for 20 minutes. Drain the water out. Melt butter in pot over medium high heat. Toss in onions. Lower heat to medium and cook until golden brown. Pour in stock and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Put soup into oven safe bowls, top with a piece of toast and some cheese, and place it under the broiler for about a minute. Eat; use a potholder.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Quesadilla Night

Yale asked me to write about something he can make. Quesadillas are easy, quick, and satisfying. Plus we made them with avocados. And avocados are possibly the best food on earth. Eating an avocado every day is my idea of paradise. But quesadillas are pretty variable, you can really put almost anything in them.

Step one is of course to assemble your ingredients. The most important ingredient is the cheese. I used a queso chihuahua also known as queso menonita; the important thing is that its a good melting cheese, look for a semi-soft milk cheese. You could also try a queso asadero, jalapeño, or oaxaca (also known as quesillo). Or I guess you could just use monterray jack, fontina, or mozzarella, but what's the fun of that? We used avocados, onions, and tomatoes as well. And hot sauce, you will need hot sauce. The gin and tonic is also optional.

You want to slice the ingredients very thin. The onions work a little better chopped, but its not a big deal. Toss the (corn) tortilla in a hot pan and layer the ingredients on one half - cheese first. Dave likes to put his hot sauce in afterwards which does have the benefit of getting to see gooey cheese and less liquid while its cooking. But I didn't really notice a difference in how they cooked. Also with a good non-stick pan or griddle you don't need to use any oil. But if you want or need oil, use it very sparingly. Otherwise it'll get greasy.

When the cheese starts to melt a little along the edges bring the other half over and smoosh it down. The tortilla will break if its not warm. So you heat it up and make a glue with the cheese. Let it sit for a bit and turn it over when the tortilla starts to bubble up a little. Don't pick it up and try to flip it like a pancake. Instead lift up the open end with a spatula and flip it on the fold. Get it a little brown on both sides and eat!

Monday, July 03, 2006

How Small Is It Really?

I promise to blog about food I actually cook soon. But I thought I'd blog about my kitchen just to give everyone a sense of perspective on what I'm dealing with. Speaking of perspective, I normally don't view the kitchen from this angle, but it's something close to that. The top shelf is just over 6 ft tall which means standing on my tiptoes to reach a dish on the edge of the shelf. Or using my unstable stool to reach something farther back. Besides that, its icky lighting, icky white, and a horrible dishwasher that I just use as a dish dryer. Frankly, I'd rather have the extra cabinet space. Not that there would be room for a drying rack either though.

The kitchen is 3 1/2 ft wide at the sink (not including counter space) and then goes 7ft back; Dave informs me that standard prison cells are 9x5. I really want to take off the doors on the cabinets that are slightly open on the left. I put down contact paper, and I think it would look a lot better and open up the kitchen. Unfortunately, someone painted over the screws in the past (they also painted over contact paper on the shelves themselves). That bottom cabinet on the right is pretty much always open because that's how Remedios gets into the wall to hide. Getting and keeping her out of there would probably be harder than removing the screws on the painted doors.

Just so you know there are things I like about my kitchen. I like those two pans my Dad got me, the shelves my mom built (I helped), and the KitchenAid Mixer in the background. Oh and my Food not Bombs apron is totally cool. Plus I sold Cutco knives 3 years ago and still have them. And the cheapness ($500 a month plus electricity) doesn't hurt. I also like that I'm a 10 minute walk to Ballantine and a 2 minute walk to Bloomingfoods. Oh well - I will post about food next time!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

How To Peel A Cooked Potato

Personally, I love the ineptitude of the person who can't do it, reminds me of infomercials. You mean if I turn the pan upside down and hit myself over the head repeatedly with a wooden spoon, my eggs don't seem to turn out right? Please invent something for me; please let all food be cooked in the microwave! Looking at my food while it cooks scares me. Thank you egg wave!

This however is just neat, so end comparison. I don't often (ever?) peel cooked potatoes, but now I know.