Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kimchi - HTCE p230

Very spicy pickled vegetable it is, alas, kimchi it is not. While this tasty marinade can be reused for pork, chicken, beef, or anything meant for the grill, it is nowhere close to traditional Korean kimchi. Oh, let me count the ways.

First of all, the savoy cabbage never properly wilted to the right texture. This batch was started over the winter and the leaves are still crunchily raw. Letting it sit for 2 hours does zilch to a sturdy variety like the savoy. Secondly, and probably the most glaring, kimchi does not use soy sauce. I seriously paused when looking at the recipe, but fought my reputation as a recipe tweaker and followed the direction for 1/4 cup soy sauce. Thirdly, the sugar made this concoction way too sweet. The resulting taste of soy and sugar would be a tasty marinade for any grilled meats, but is nowhere in the realm of kimchi. Finally, whatever this should have tasted like, 2 pounds of caggabe is a heck of a lot for a measly 1/4 cup garlic to infiltrate.

8 months later, I find this interesting condiment still sitting on my fridge door. Maybe I can cuisinart what remains and convice people this is an asian-inspired cole-slaw? So what would I do differently next time? Start with chinese napa cabbage, lose the soy sauce, make a salt brine, increase red pepper and garlic. The color should be like the cheery fiery jars looking up at you in the Korean delis. And most importantly, it needs to sit out at least overnight to start the fermentation process.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chocolate Souffle 2 ways - HTCE p958

I was gifted with 10 dozen eggs from a Catskills farm this weekend, so it seems egg dishes are in my immediate future. I started with a New York Times recipe (Feb 11, 2009) from Mark Bittman that requires no flour. This simplified version relies on beating egg yolks with sugar until thick, to be combined with stiffly beaten egg whites.

The second recipe is more time consuming as it begins with a roux (equal parts butter and flour cooked over low heat). The roux is mixed with yolks, and combined with stiffly beat egg whites.

Both versions baked for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. The first version is airy and disintegrates into sweetened chocolate air in your mouth. The crust is slightly crisp and is reminiscent of toasted marshmallows. The second version is moist, less sweet, and has more of a bread pudding texture. Both recipes are rather timid with the chocolate, treating it more as a flavoring, rather than the point of the souffle. Maybe with 2 to 3 times the porportion of chocolate would you get the rich, dark chocolate souffle served at bistros.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pressed Tofu, HTCEV, pg. 640

Ben and I can't pass up a good challenge, so when Clare posted her tofu press machinations, we knew we had to show ours off too. Ben has been working on this variation of a press for a while now and thinks he's mastered it, but wants to take it one step further with two wooden cutting boards and a dowel in the center to hold the weights still so that they don't slide off the top.
suggests using extra firm tofu from this method in many of his tofu recipes. I am not a huge fan of tofu right out of the package, but this method makes the consistency much more palatable.
The system is simple: two cutting boards with holes cut into the sides to allow for two dowels on opposite corners to slide up and down the board. You insert the tofu in the center, place the top board over the food and then place heavy weights (in this case 10 pounds worked best). After approximately one hour, much of the moisture pours out of the contraption (use a towel and place near the sink to avoid a mess) and you have a delightfully extra firm piece of tofu.
After the tofu was nicely firm, Ben sliced it into nugget-size rectangles and sprinkled them with soy sauce and a touch Worcestershire sauce. He then dipped them in egg white and dredged them in cornmeal spiced with Italian herbs, paprika and some salt.
He then filled the frying pan with a 1/4 inch of oil and added the tofu in small batches once heated allowing each side to become golden brown. he then transferred the crispy tofus to a paper towel.
We ate the tofu over a bed of quinoa with artichokes.
It was a delicious, satisfying and filling meal.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Squeezing Tofu- HTCE Anniversary Edition, p. 444

Why is there a picture of weights in a pan you wonder?????

I love tofu especially when it is baked and dry and slightly crisp on the top. I never knew about pressing it to get all the water out before you bake it until I read page 444 and saw the neat little picture of a type of tofu press . Over a period of two months I have been rigging all of my pots and pans to create the perfect press.
This was my first try but it kept falling over.

This one actually fell over.

This one stayed up and pressed the tofu but I felt it wasn't heavy enough.

I love my George Foreman grill but it wasn't heavy enough either.
You can see the earlier versions were quite primitive and downright dangerous. I even broke the top of my favorite red heart shaped casserole dish when the entire thing toppled over onto the floor. I was too upset to take a picture of it. It seems that tofu is not very steady especially when you have all kinds of things piled on top of it.

After many configurations, I have devised the perfect press: two five pound weights and one eight pound weight in a pan placed on top of the tofu. Sometimes I just use the two five pound weights if I have more time.
Use plenty of paper towels to catch all the liquid that comes out. I prefer extra firm tofu to start with. I then bake it for an hour at 350 degrees with a little light soy sauce and end up with delicious baked tofu.
OK so here's the challenge............ What kind of tofu press have you used??????????
Bon Appetit.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Braised and Glased Brussels Sprouts, HTCE Anniv edition, p. 270

I love Brussels Sprouts and usually just steam them. This time, I wanted to see what Bittman had to offer. This recipe looked so simple that I had to try it. Put butter, chicken stock, and Brussels sprouts in pan, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. I used the liquid from home made chicken soup and I know that made a big difference.
Uncover, and boil off all the liquid, until everything becomes glazed and crisp. What could be easier than that? I had to sneak a few right out of the pan. The rest went over some pasta with a little fresh Parmesan cheese ground on top. It was delicious and I will definitely make this again! I forgot how good butter tastes when you cook with it. I love olive oil but once in a while it's nice to use real butter. The Brussels sprouts were tender yet crisp on the outside.
Bon appetit and as usual, a big thank you to The Bittman.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Basic Polenta, HTCE pg. 485

Taking it a bit easier tonight I decided to make one of Bittman's recipes with my basic crunchy kale and Herbes de Provence spiced chicken breast. The result was delicious.
As I began writing this I realized that Doris made this recipe once before, but it looks like we got different results. Doris' looks creamier and mine came out firm with some heft. This could have to do with cooking time. Bittman says that after you've brought the milk, water and salt to a boil, to whisk the polenta briskly to make sure it doesn't clump. I did that, but it solidified pretty quickly, calling into questions his directions to let it cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
By the time I had stirred in the butter (6 minutes or so) the polenta was thick enough to serve, and thick enough to mold into disks to fry if we had wanted.
Once plated we added grated Parmesan cheese and ground pepper. Next time I think I'll use chicken broth instead of plain water and will make Bittman's herb variation where you stir in sage and rosemary while cooking and minced garlic at the end. Sounds pretty good. This was such an easy dish, I know we'll make it again, especially on hectic weeknight.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Easiest and Best French Bread HTCE (Yellow) pg.224

Since my fish meal (see below) called for crusty bread as a side, and since it was Sunday and I had all day, I decided to make my own. I've made this bread before using this recipe with mixed results. I chalked those results up to the weather and temp. of my kitchen since they can play a part in the end result when baking bread (or anything else for that matter).

before rising

after rising

I tried putting 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup corn meal in place of 1/2 cup of the total white flour as suggested by Bittman to make the bread a little more interesting. As you can see, the bread didn't rise very much. This was my fault as I think my yeast was too old. The resulting bread was a little dense, but still tasted very good (especially still warm!). I will definitely make this again with the same flour modifications and fresher yeast.

Poached Monkfish with Lemon Sauce - Fish pg.178

As I've said before, we love fish and we eat alot of it. This is a recipe that I've made about 10 times and it's always been fantastic. We have a small farmers market near us every Saturday and the fish monger always has monkfish. It's expensive, but worth it in my humble opinion. This recipe also calls for leeks, which are so yummy - I'll always jump at the chance to try a recipe that includes them!

The recipe is simple and straightforward. I've never strayed from Mr. Bittman's instructions and don't think I ever will (with this recipe at least).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Paprika Roasted Chicken, Broccoli Raab with Garlic and Braised Potatoes, HTCE pgs. 270, 343 and 644

I worked from home yesterday after it snowed about 10 inches here in Inwood. I never left the house and decided to make a cozy home cooked meal for Ben (my husband who is becoming a Bittman devotee) for when he got home out of the cold.

Ben and I often roast chickens on Sundays, but I've never done it on my own. I'm a bit squeamish about chicken innards, but felt brave and convinced myself I could do it, with Bittman's guidance of course! We normally use an adjustable metal rack, but Bittman's recipe just calls for a cast iron pan. I used my trusty Le Creuset (what would I do without you??) dutch oven. The recipe was so simple and easy and came out amazingly. First, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the deep pan or dutch oven inside after five minutes. Remove the innards (let's not talk about that part!) of the chicken, sprinkle one tablespoon paprika over the chicken and drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil on top and massage the entire bird. Place rosemary sprigs on top of the bird. Once the oven has reached 450, pop the bird in the (very hot--be careful!) dutch oven. If you were a sane person, that would be it for about an hour. If you are anything like me, this is just the beginning.
On to the broccoli and potatoes. Although Bittman's recipe for both the potatoes and raab were simple, it was just too many pots for a Monday night. In the future, I think I will jsut toss some potatoes and carrots at the bottom of the dutch oven (to roast in the juices) and make a salad. But, that's not what I did. You live and you learn.
I've been wanting to incorporate more greens in my diet ever since reading Doris' post about kale and reading Bittman's "Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating." I liked the taste of the recipe, but both Ben and I found the raab to be a little bitter (turns out broccoli raab is a relative of the turnip!) for our palate. I think in the future I will stick to regular broccoli (even though broccoli raab is not related to broccoli, but instead is a descendant from a wild herb)or kale. But, I digress. As I said, the recipe was simple. Blanch the raab for 3 minutes, plunge in ice water, remove and squeeze the excess water. Bittman says the raab will keep in the fridge for up to two days at this point, so it could be a good food to make ahead of time for quicker meals on those crazy weeknights. Next, add a little olive oil to a pan and add garlic slivers, letting them soften a bit before adding the raab. Cook until garlic is tender and slightly golden.
I made the potatoes at the same time--which is where I got in a little trouble-- the food came out perfectly, but I felt a bit harried. I like cooking to feel a little more creative and relaxing, almost meditative. I'm still learning how to deal with multiple pots at once.
I will definitely make these potatoes again. Basically all you do is peel and cut up the potatoes into chunks. Add olive oil to a skillet or braising pan (I used this, my second favorite pot/pan. Thank you wedding registry!) then add one small onion diced and saute until soft. Add potatoes until slightly golden and then pour in 2 cups broth. Let simmer for about 25 minutes, et voila, one of the most amazing tasting potato dishes I've ever made. Ben and I ate the meal while sitting on our cushions in front of the coffee table in the living room. He and the cat could not get enough. Fortunate for us, the recipes we used serve 4 and we are only 2.1 (Kali our cat is very small), so we will have plenty of leftovers for tonight.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Butter Almond Cake, HTCE Anniv Edition, p.913

I needed a simple gluten free birthday cake to make with my granddaughter so I tried this recipe. There was no flour necessary, just ground almonds. I put them in the Cuisinart until they became "mealy" as instructed by Bittman.
I combined the butter and nut mixtures.
We beat the egg whites with sugar until they were stiff, combined everything in one bowl and then poured it into the prepared pan.
A word about preparing the pan. I had a 10" spring form pan ( one of the three Benjamin brought back from college!!) and put plenty of butter in before I sprinkled some flower all around. The parchment paper was a great idea. It made everything so easy to remove when it was finished baking.
It didn't come out as high as I thought it should have. It was really too thin to slice and make into a layer cake. Next time I will make two of them. After removing the cake from the spring form pan, I plated it and lined the sides with foil so that it would be easy to spread the ganache icing all around. Of course removing the foil got a little messy but I figured the decorations would cover any big mistakes. My granddaughter was able to sprinkle flowers and place the letters on the top. Not a bad job considering how uneven it was. The icing was a Chocolate Ganache, HTCE Anniversary Edition, p.920. It was perfect with the nutty almond cake!
Happy Birthday and Bon Appetit.

Polenta Pizza with Pancetta (Bacos) and Spinach, NYT Feb 17

Clearly there was something in the zeitgeist this week regarding polenta. And before anyone starts getting foodie all over my arse, yes--I used Bacos instead of Pancetta and that's OK by me. I don't eat meat and I actually thought the Bacos would be a better substitute than soy bacon (I don't like any I've tasted very much). If anyone has a better suggestion for a smoky, salty vegetarian substitute--PLEASE let me know.

OK, now that that's off my chest, I made Bittman's breakfast Polenta Pizza and had it as a light dinner. Silly that I made the whole recipe because Bruce is away in Michigan this weekend and my neighbors are on vacation. So I had an entire cookie tray full of polenta to deal with by myself.

The good news is that this was yummy warm out of the oven (and the slices lifted easily right off of the tray) and even yummier this morning as a late-morning breakfast. There's plenty left, too--so Bruce can gorge himself when he comes home.

I think when I make this again I will try it with other cheeses (see Doris' post) or maybe just use a little less gorgonzola.  The picture doesn't do it justice, but take my word for it, this is an easy and delicious dish.

Basic Polenta, Version I, HTCE, p. 187

I made this polenta as a side dish for a dinner party I hosted. (I also served chinese style pork spare ribs, basic boiled kale, mashed sweet potatoes, cole slaw, and Terence made fake baked beans). I am never sure whether to call this dish polenta or grits because as far as I can tell, they're fundamentally the same thing. It's basically corn meal cooked in a liquid and at then end, cheese is added to it. Polenta, of course, sounds fancier than cheesy grits, so I'm posting this recipe under "polenta". Plus I followed Bittman's Basic Polenta recipe (Version I) when making them. One modification I made to the recipe which makes it much less Italian, and much more American is instead of using parmesean or blue cheese as is specified in the recipe, I used an aged cheddar. Sometimes, when T & I are feeling very lazy, we'll make a batch of this polenta and at the very end, mix in some kale and have a one-bowl dinner.

Penne with Butternut Squash, TMCH, p. 56

Butternut squash is one of my favorite winter vegetables. It's beautiful, flavorful, and healthful. Bittman's recipe for penne with a butternut squash sauce turned out to be absolutely incredible. Processing the butternut squash in the food processor rather than grating it by hand is a huge time saver. It also adds an additional bonus to the dish because the processed pieces are not all exactly the same size. So when cooked, because of the variation in size and shape from being processed rather than grated, they cook to different levels of doneness. The smaller pieces are cooked all the way down, yet the larger pieces are still al dente. I found this to be one of the best parts of the dish because you could really taste the squash and also enjoy different textures.

Instead of finishing the recipe with 1/2 cup of pasta water, I followed one of the "with minimal effort" suggestions and finished it with heavy cream. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of heavy cream, but I found that 1/4 cup was more than sufficient. The cream really helped boost the flavor and texture of the dish. We had the pasta with a nice arugula salad. The salad is dressed with a simple honey balsamic dressing (whisk together honey & balsamic vinegar, no oil is needed). The sweetness and tanginess of the dressing brought out the sweetness of the butternut squash. This was one of the most delicious dinners I have made in quite some time!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Basic Boiled Collards or Kale, p. 562

I grew up on an entirely different set of vegetable from what you can find in an American super market. Only recently have I started seeing some of these “exotic” vegetables (Chinese water spinach, snow pea shoots, and Chinese long beans) being served in non-Chinese restaurants. But these vegetables, along with about 15 – 20 others, mostly different types of leafy greens, were staples in my family. Needless to say, since we hardly ever ate American vegetables, I am unfamiliar with many of the vegetables you find in regular grocery stores. For example, I had never eaten a turnip until I had them at my mother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving one year. We also never ate beets, parsnips, chard, collards, or kale. Don’t get me wrong, we shopped in the local Shop Rite for groceries. But my parents would drive into Chinatown pretty much every weekend to buy Chinese vegetables and various other ingredients only found in Chinatown.

As a result of being exposed to all these leafy greens, I have a great love for them. Imagine the amount of intrigue kale held for me when I first noticed it at the grocery store. I had always wondered about how it would taste, but the Chinese value the tenderness of a vegetable and kale doesn't look particularly tender. Yet, I was still intrigued because it is so green and frilly. (I like frilly things.) So I decided to bite the bullet and purchased two bunches of kale to serve for a dinner party.

It just so happened that 3 of my cousins and one cousin-in-law were coming to dinner and it turned out that none of them had ever had kale either. I boiled the kale using Bittman’s recipe, and tossed it with some sautéed garlic and olive oil at the end. I think all of my cousins really enjoyed it. And now I think I’m ready to introduce kale to my parents and hope that they will assimilate this very healthy American vegetable into their diet.

Death-by-Chocolate Torte, HTCE, p. 726; Dark Chocolate Glaze, HTCE, p. 727

When I first started cooking, disasters would happen my kitchen rather often. For example, one time, while trying to make a custard, I didn't temper my eggs before adding them to the hot milk/cream and ended up with scrambled eggs. Another time, I overmixed muffin batter and ended up with pumpkin-spice flavored lead. But disasters very rarely happen in my kitchen these days. (Although I did make a batch of cayenne ice cream that traumatized my friends this past xmas. Sorry guys!)

In any event, Bittman's Death-by-Chocolate Torte was a complete disaster!!!!!! I am extremely disappointed with Mr. Bittman for leading me down a very wrong path. To be fair, the actual cake part of the recipe turned out well. It was very dense and chocolatey. But the butter-cream and the chocolate glaze turned out to be awful. It was so bad, I almost cried.

I should know by now to trust my own instincts in the kitchen (except for when I’m using cayenne). The first red flag went up when Mr. Bittman had me making the buttercream frosting in a blender. His recipe clearly states in step 3: “To make the butter cream, place 2 egg yolks in the container of a blender.” When I read that, I thought to myself, this doesn’t sound right, but ok, if Bittman says to do it, I’ll do it. So I followed his instructions and at one point about 1/3 of the way into adding all of the butter, my blender stopped blending the ingredients. The egg yolks were pooling at the bottom of the blender and the butter, sugar, and chocolate were sticking to the sides of the blender. At this point, I should have taken everything out of the blender and used my hand mixer, but stupid me trusted Bittman, so I continued adding the rest of the butter with absolutely no success. I ended throwing away the entire thing because there was no way to salvage it. I decided to forego the butter cream filling and just do the dark chocolate glaze on top.

The Dark Chocolate Glaze recipe (HTCE, p. 727) has you mix all of the ingredients (cocoa powder, heavy cream, butter, powdered sugar, and salt) together in a small saucepan and cook it over low heat until it’s combined and thickened. When I read this recipe, a second red flag went up as I thought to myself that I should heat the butter and the heavy cream together first and then slowly whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar. But Bittman’s method was much easier since all I had to do was dump everything into one pan and cook it over low heat. Well, that turned out to be a disaster as well. The butter, although cut into small pieces, did not melt quickly enough. So the entire mixture seized up and I was left with a disgusting clump of greasy, lumpy chocolate goop. I ended up having to throw that out as well. And at that point, I almost cried.

Instead of crying though, I started over, using the method I originally wanted to use, which was to slowly heat the butter and heavy cream together, mix together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt, and then slowly whisk that mixture into the butter and heavy cream. This method turned out well, but I thought the mixture was too thick to be a glaze, so I used a bit more heavy cream and everything turned out ok in the end. I don’t think I will ever make this recipe again, and if I’m craving something dark chocolate, I’ll follow my instinct and use a recipe from Chris Kimball’s “The Dessert Bible”.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Black Beans with Orange Juice--Beet Variation, p. 606–7, HTCEV

Confession: I have never cooked with beets before. I don't know why. I like beets. But I have a weird phobic reaction about cooking with certain foods. I just worry that I won't cook them right, or I won't know how to cut the vegetables—or I'll cut myself (It's been known to happen). If there's any kind of special prep work, I over think the whole thing. Just mention salting to me and I get all worried. Salting? How much? How long? what
kind of salt? What kind of draining system? You get the picture. This is a little crazy, I know, especially since I'm a vegetarian. Perhaps the Bittman project will help encourage me to boldly branch out  into the world of vegetarian options.

We love chili and rice and beans here and so I was intrigued by the Black Beans with Orange Juice recipe, and I took up the challenge to incorporate a beet into the mix.  Guess what?  Beets are easy!  (Don't say "duh."  Did you really say "duh?")  They're messy but easy. Plus the mess is so pretty, I didn't even mind it.   

I have to give  a shout out to Monique again, as she had to talk me through the beet prep  part of the recipe (see above about vegetable prep neurosis). Bittman didn't really go into it, and I was worried that I might be doing it wrong. I boiled the beet, then peeled it and then diced it up into sweet little garnet-colored cubes. 

As easy as the beet was to cook with, I thought the taste totally overwhelmed the dish.  I would have loved to have had more of an orange-y experience. Next time, I will try the dish without the beets to get a sense of how orange-y the dish can be. Then for the third try, maybe I'll try adding about a quarter of the beet to the dish. 

Beety or not,  this is definitely a hearty winter dish and I'm glad I overcame my beet reluctance! 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pureed Vegetable - Parsnip, HTCE p243

Parsnips has a strong, nutty, earthy flavor and is one of my favorite winter vegetables. The book only offers up pureed vegetable as a guideline, indicating several vegetable that can be pureed. I had actually made a large batch of roasted parsnips in the oven (peel and toss with olive oil and salt, roast in 350 degree oven about 45 minutes), and had leftovers. Several days later, I decided to make soup.

Modifying the puree recipe is easy, just add some stock - approximately enough liquid to cover the parsnips in a blender. Although I can't quite tell how many parsnips were used, or how much water, the blender showed about 4 cups total. You can also adjust the liquid based on the consistency. To finish the soup, I sauteed shallots and sliced salami (*I know, I didn't have prosciutto on hand) and added it after plating. It was perfect for the cold weather, hearty and good for you at the same time.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Salmon Scallops with Garlic Confit, FISH pg. 231

We eat a lot of fish in our house – I cook it like 2 or 3 times a week. Mr. Bittman’s “Fish” book has been a great help and inspiration in my search for something different to put on the table. Almost all of the recipes in this cookbook have been hits….almost.
I have wanted to try this recipe for some time. Bittman says it’s “the kind of dish you’d pay a small fortune for in a restaurant”, and who could resist that glowing remark? I happened to have some salmon that had the skin and scales (don’t ask) still on it, so I needed a recipe that called for the cooking of the meat only. This seemed like the perfect time to try the million dollar recipe.
The recipe calls for you to cut the salmon into “scallops” by cutting thin slices almost parallel to the surface of the fillet. It all looks so nice (and easy) in the provided illustration… Well, needless to say some of my slices were beautiful, the others looked like bait. I thought I was doing O.K. – my knife was nice and sharp - but look at the picture and judge for yourself.
Since my salmon pieces were smaller than they should have been, they cooked WAY too fast and most were WAY overcooked.

The garlic confit, on the other hand was wonderful. Nice and mild and especially nice with the fresh basil that the recipe calls for.

We had some roasted asparagus (not a Bittman recipe, but so simple we have it all the time – asparagus rolled around in a little olive oil on a baking sheet and sprinkled with salt and pepper – in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes – YUM!) with the fish to round out the meal.

I wouldn’t say I’d never make this again, but I think I need to brush up on my technique prior to my next attempt.