Sunday, January 30, 2011

A week ago I made Old-Fashioned Baked Custard, an "essential recipe" from How to Cook Everything.  (Being the same day that I made the Curried Tomato Soup with Hard-Boiled Eggs, and the same day that Morgan made scrambled eggs for breakfast, that made it a day where we went through more than a dozen eggs.  Good thing we're young.)

Old-Fashioned Baked Custard

2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs plus 2 yolks
1/2 cup sugar

1.  Put the milk and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook until it just begins to steam.
2.  Beat the eggs and yolks with the sugar until pale yellow and fairly thick.  Heat the oven to 300F and put a kettle of water on to boil.
3.  Gradually add the milk to the egg mixture, stirring constantly.  Pour the mixture into an ovenproof dish.  Put the dish in a baking pan and pour hot water into the pan to within about 1 inch of the top of the dish.  Bake until the mixture is not quite set - it should wobble a little in the middle - about 45 minutes.  [It took longer than that.]  Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold, within a day.
Last Monday I made Chicken Jook with Lots of Vegetables from Mark Bittman's The Food Matters Cookbook.  It was the first recipe from this book that was incredibly disappointing: "Boiled Water"-style disappointing.

I made it because Mark Bittman says that it "cooks perfectly in a slow cooker", so maybe that was the problem.  Or maybe the problem was the substitutions I made.  But there was an off-flavor somewhere in it that made it really difficult to eat.  I suspect the can of stir-fry vegetables.

Chicken Jook with Lots of Vegetables

3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 bone-in chicken thighs
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced ginger
1 fresh chile, minced (I used a quarter-teaspoon of crushed red pepper)
 1/2 cup chopped scallions [I used some leftover: maybe that was the problem: too old]
1 cup short-grain brown rice
2 cups cabbage sliced into very thin ribbons [I used some leftover Napa cabbage]
1 cup snow peas [I couldn't find any fresh or frozen, so I used frozen sugar snap peas]
1 cup bean sprouts [I couldn't find any of these, either, so I used a can of stir-fry vegetables, which included bean sprouts, baby corn, bamboo shoots, and red bell peppers: I suspect this was the culprit, because the off-flavor was not unlike cooked green peppers]
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil

Combine all ingredients plus 6 cups water in slow cooker.  Cook on low all day.

And for those of you who are curious, here's the infamous "Boiled Water" recipe, from How to Cook Everything.  He says it's an essential recipe; I say it's no better than it sounds (garlic-flavored water).

"Boiled Water"

 6 to 10 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 thick slices French or Italian bread
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1.  Combine 4 cups water with the garlic, bay leaf, and some salt and pepper in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, cover partially, and turn the heat to very low.  Let the liquid bubble gently for 15 minutes.
2.  Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When hot, brown the slices of bread in the oil, turning once, for a total of about 5 minutes.
3.  Put the bread in bowls and top with the grated cheese.  Strain the soup into the bowls, garnish parsley, and serve.
I've been trying a few different cocoa recipes using our tin of cocoa powder instead of hot chocolate mixes.  It's nice because you can adjust the sweetening to taste.

Here are a couple of recipes I've made lately, adapted from The Joy of Cooking.  (Mark Bittman, unfortunately, does not include beverage recipes in his cookbooks.)

Hot Cocoa

1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp sugar
6 oz milk
1/4 tsp vanilla

Combine cocoa, sugar, and milk in a mug.  Microwave until desired temperature (the "beverage" button on mine works perfectly).  Stir to mix.  Stir in vanilla, and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Brazilian Chocolate

1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup milk
6 oz hot coffee
1/4 tsp vanilla

Combine cocoa, sugar, and milk in a mug.  Add hot coffee; stir until mixed.  (Microwave if insufficiently hot.)  Stir in vanilla, and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wednesday night I made Beans 'n Greens Burritos, along with the recommended side of Pico de Gallo, from Mark Bittman's (The Minimalist RIP) The Food Matters Cookbook.

So because it is obviously not tomato season, and because we did have oranges, I decided to go the orange route with the pico de gallo (other options, according to Bittman, include tangerines, grapefruit, avocados, or grated raw butternut squash.  Really.  Or drained canned tomatoes, if you want to be boring.)

I'm unlikely to make the pico de gallo again, because (in a shock to no one) I don't really like raw garlic, and I really dislike raw onion.  (Also, chopping the oranges was really frustrating, so I'm definitely skipping any orange salads in the future.)  But other salsa options, like the Peach Salsa and Green Apple-Cucumber Salsa, don't require garlic, so I'd like to try those in the future.  (Besides, chopping peaches, apples, and cucumbers all sound preferable to chopping oranges.)

Contrariwise, the burritos were a hit.  Not too difficult, pretty healthy, and very tasty.  Morgan declared them to be an instant classic, to go into the repertoire along with Rachael Ray's You-Won't-Be-Single-For-Long vodka sauce and aglio e oglio.

Pico de Gallo

2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped [as I said above, other fruits are acceptable: I ended up using four oranges, not because they seemed like they produced the same amount as two chopped tomatoes, but because by that point I was not about to chop any more oranges]
1/2 large white or red onion or 2 medium scallions, chopped [I used a shallot, because that's what I had; plus, I didn't want too much raw onion flavor]
1 tsp minced garlic, or to taste
1 fresh hot chile, seeded and minced, or to taste [as I've said before, I have a strict no-chile policy (until I invest in some nitrile gloves for the kitchen), so I used ~1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper]
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro [I didn't have any, and both Morgan and I have that cilantro polymorphism, anyway]
2 tbsp lime juice [I squeezed two very sad and desiccated limes and produced maybe half a tablespoon of juice (maybe you're starting to get the idea why this recipe wasn't a hit): on the other hand, the oranges were very juicy]

1.  Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
2.  Let the mixture rest for 15 to 30 minutes if possible to allow the flavors to meld.

Beans 'n Greens Burritos

Tortillas [he says four but I made six: maybe he likes his burritos fuller than I do]
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp chili powder
1 bunch kale (about 1 lb), roughly chopped
2 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained (I used one can)
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese, optional [Morgan very bravely used some Salvadoran cheese we had picked up a very, very long time ago; I used sour cream]
Pico de gallo

1.  Heat the oven to 300F.  Stack the tortillas and roll them up in a sheet of foil.  Put them in the oven to warm while you cook the filling.  [I found that the bottom tortilla got very crisp, and considering how hot the filling is, I am not convinced this step is necessary and will probably skip it next time.]
2.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  When hot, add onion and garlic, and cook until soft and beginning to color.  Sprinkle with the chili powder.  Add the kale and cook until it cooks and releases its liquid (and turns bright green: very fast).  Stir in the black beans and mash them up a bit.
3.  To roll each burrito, lay a tortilla on a flat surface and scoop some filling on the third closest to you.  Scoop on the sour cream.  Fold the tortilla over from the bottom to cover the beans and greens, then fold in the two sides to fully enclose them; finish rolling and put the burrito seam side down on a plate.  Serve with pico de gallo on the side.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Last night I made Curried Tomato Soup with Hard-Boiled Eggs from Mark Bittman's The Food Matters Cookbook.

Curried Tomato Soup with Hard-Boiled Eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper [the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon minced fresh hot chile, but I have had a strict no-chile policy ever since I got some juice under my fingernail a few years ago and was in agony for days later.  Perhaps I should just invest in some latex gloves.]
2 tablepoons curry powder [turns out I just had one left; I made up the rest with an ad hoc mixture of coriander, turmeric, cumin, and nutmeg]
1 tsp cumin
pinch of sugar
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cups stock [I used chicken stock]
1 cup coconut milk [I used one can]
3 cups chopped tomatoes [I used one can of whole peeled tomatoes]
1 cauliflower, roughly chopped
4 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
1/4 parsley, chopped [it called for cilantro, but parsley is what I had]

Put the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  When hot, add onion, garlic, ginger, and pepper.  Cook until soft, 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir in the curry powder, cumin, and sugar.  Cook and stir another minute or two more.

Add the potatoes and carrots.  Cook for a minute or two, then add the stock, coconut milk, and tomatoes with their liquid.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the mixture bubbles gently.  Cook until the potatoes and carrots are fairly soft, 15 and 20 minutes.

Add the cauliflower and adjust the heat so that the mixture bubbles gently.  Cook until all the vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes more.  Serve garnished with the hard-boiled eggs and parsley.

Hard-Boiled Eggs (from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything)

Place eggs into a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.  Cover with water.  Bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and allow eggs to sit in hot water  for nine minutes.  After nine minutes, remove eggs to a bowl of icewater.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The word of the day is remand:

< remand v.
I. General uses:
1. An act of referring, sending, or bringing somebody or something back; a recall. Obs.  
II. Law
2. Recommittal of an accused person to custody; the state of being recommitted to custody; an instance of this. Often in on remand.  
3. A prisoner on remand.

"So why has the movie languished on remand, awaiting release since January, 2009, when it screened at Sundance?"

 - Anthony Lane, "Punch Lines: 'The Fighter' and 'I Love You Phillip Morris'", 13 December 2010 The New Yorker

Still not quite sure what he means.  Is the image here that the film (as prisoner) was released for Sundance, but then was recommitted into custody?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The word of the day is elasticated:

< elastic adj. + -ate suffix3 + -ed suffix1.
Of cloth, etc.: woven or stitched with indiarubber thread and so made stretchable. Also fig., rendered flexible.  (OED)

"The moral of the film, however, is that you can't believe anything at all, not with Steven around.  Mendacity is his proper state.  Not content with a sheaf of dodgy credit cards, he pretends to be the chief financial officer of a major company, and thinks nothing of adopting the weighty tones of a judge, on the phone, to get himself bailed.  This brand of shape-shifting is as easy as pie for Carrey, and I like the idea of all that elasticated verve and boundless good will being turned to nefarious ends."

 - Anthony Lane, "Punch Lines: 'The Fighter' and 'I Love You Phillip Morris'", 13 December 2010 The New Yorker

Still not entirely sure what he meant.  I think switching the noun and the adjective would make more sense,  "spirited elasticity", for example.  Unless he's using "verve" to meant talent, not enthusiasm, in which case I guess he means talent in being elasticated, but then I would probably go for something to the effect of "talent in elasticity".  Either way, I think the work it's doing in the sentence means it should be a noun, not an adjective.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The word of the day is cynosure:

< French cynosure (16th cent.), < Latin cynosūra, < Greek κυνόσουρα dog's tail, Ursa Minor.
1. The northern constellation Ursa Minor, which contains in its tail the Pole-star; also applied to the Pole-star itself.   
2. fig.

a. Something that serves for guidance or direction; a ‘guiding star’.   
b. Something that attracts attention by its brilliancy or beauty; a centre of attraction, interest, or admiration.

"As for Micky, he is the cynosure of his mother's eye.  'All we ever wanted for you was to be world champion,' she tells him."

 - Anthony Lane, "Punch Lines: 'The Fighter' and 'I Love You Phillip Morris'", 13 December 2010 The New Yorker

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The word of the day is dirigisme:
< French dirigisme, < diriger to direct.
The policy of state direction and control in economic and social matters. (OED)

"China, Korea, and other rising economies are often reproached for using government money and influence to bolster home industries to the disadvantage of foreign competitors, a practice that is known as 'industrial policy,' and is frowned on by international trade law.  Such discriminatory policies are also referred to as dirigisme - a clue that the concept didn't originate in the Far East.  After the Second World War, the government of France's Fifth Republic created 'national champions' in strategic areas of the French economy, such as transportation, energy, and aerospace."

 - John Cassidy, "Enter the Dragon: Why 'state capitalism' is China's biggest knockoff", 13 December 2010 The New Yorker

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The word of the day is levy:

< French levée, < lever to raise, levy < Latin levāre to raise.
1. The action of levying:
2. The amount or number levied:
a. †A duty, impost, tax. Obs. In a trade or benefit society: A call or contribution of so much per head. (OED)
 "In 1721, the government of Robert Walpole placed a range of tariffs on all manufactured imports, erecting a protective wall around businesses that created the Industrial Revolution.  A century later, while the heirs of Adam Smith were expounding the theoretical virtues of free trade, Britain retained some of the highest import tariffs in the world: more than fifty percent on many manufactured goods.  Those levies stayed high until the eighteen-sixties, when the country's competitive advantage in textiles, steel, and other industries was firmly established."
 - John Cassidy, "Enter the Dragon: Why 'state capitalism' is China's biggest knockoff", 13 December 2010 The New Yorker

Friday, January 14, 2011

The word of the day is démarche:

< French démarche (15–16th cent. in Hatzfeld & Darmesteter), vbl. n. < démarcher (12th cent.) to march, < dé- = Latin de- prefix 1c + marcher to march v.2 In the 18th cent. nearly anglicized; now treated as a French loanword.
a. Walk, step; proceeding, manner of action.   
b. Esp. a diplomatic initiative, a political step or proceeding. (OED)

"With all the talk of how China could displace the U.S. as the leading financial superpower, it is easy to forget that economic disputes between Beijing and Western capitals are nothing new, and that in the past they sometimes went well beyond diplomatic démarches."
 - John Cassidy, "Enter the Dragon: Why 'state capitalism' is China's biggest knockoff", 13 December 2010 The New Yorker

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The word of the day is clarion:

< Old French claron, cleron, clairon; in medieval Latin clāriōn-em, clārōn-em, < clārus clear. Italian has in same sense clarino, chiarina: compare clarine n.
1. A shrill-sounding trumpet with a narrow tube, formerly much used as a signal in war. (Now chiefly poetical, or in historical narrative.)   
2. Heraldry. A bearing shaped somewhat like a clarion.  
3. poet. The sound of a trumpet; any similar rousing sound, as the crowing of a cock.   
4. A four-feet organ-stop of quality of tone similar to that of the clarion.  (OED)

"Boehner seemed an unlikely clarion for an anti-establishment revolt.  He had been in Congress since 1991, during the Bush-Quayle Administration - long enough to have twice climbed from the back bench to a leadership position.  He was a friend of Ted Kennedy's, and a champion of George W. Bush's expansive No Child Left Behind legislation.  After the economic collapse of 2008, he had reluctantly advocated for the Troubled Asset Relief Program ('a crap sandwich,' he called it), the Tea Partiers' litmus test of political villainy."

 - Peter J. Boyer, "House Rule: Will John Boehner control the Tea Party Congress?", 13 December 2010 The New Yorker

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Saturday I made Super-Simple Mixed Rice, a Zillion Ways, from The Food Matters Cookbook.  Definitely a keeper.

1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms [available in bulk at the cheese counter at Whole Foods]
hot water as needed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup short-grain brown rice
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (canned are fine; include their juices) [I used a can of diced tomatoes]
2 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans, drained [I used a can of small white beans]
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Soak the porcini in hot water to cover.

Put the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  When it's hot, add the rice and cook, stirring, until it's shiny and a little translucent, about 1 minute.  Add the onion and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened. 

Add enough water to cover by about 1/2 inch.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so that it bubbles gently.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice starts to become tender, about 10 minutes. 

Pour the mushrooms' soaking liquid (but not the sediment) into the rice.  Chop the mushrooms roughly.  Add the mushrooms and tomatoes to the rice.  Cook another 10 minutes, until the tomatoes break down.  Add more water if needed to keep the mixture soupy.

When the rice is tender but still al dente, add the beans.  Continue to cook until no longer soupy but not yet dry.  Stir in the basil and cheese if you're using it.  Serve garnished with basil.
Friday night, as per tradition, made bacon-wrapped water chestnuts.  Also made Sesame-Soy Five Minute Drizzle Sauce from How to Cook Everything.  In hindsight, a salty, oily dressing for bacon may not have been the best idea.  Next year, try something less oily and more syrupy (like Balsamic Syrup).

Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

1 lb bacon, each slice cut or turn in half
1 can sliced water chestnuts

Preheat oven to 400F.

Wrap each half-slice of bacon around a sliced water chestnut.  Secure in place with a toothpick.  Bake at 400F until done.

Sesame-Soy Five Minute Drizzle Sauce

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut oil [I used grapeseed oil]
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Put the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  When the oil is warm, add the ginger and sesame seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, a minute or two.

Stir in 2 tablespoons water and the soy sauce; maintain the heat so it bubbles gently for a minute or two.