Thursday, April 28, 2011

Orange Chicken ala Cook's Illustrated

I'm a whore for Cook's Illustrated.  I've discussed it in depth before, and my new favorite bread recipe is theirs and I DVR America's Test Kitchen and I signed up to be a recipe tester - but sigh, they never call - maybe they've seen the blog and have good reasons.

So I went flipping through back issues and found this one: "Rescuing Orange-Flavored Chicken," in the May/June 2005 issue.   I've never had Orange-Flavored Chicken, and thus, did not know it was in need of rescue.   Apparently its an overly-sweet and sticky sauce on fried chicken that folks get via Chinese take-out. 
It looked somewhat fussy, but really wasn't, but here's the thing - it's f-ing delicious.  I suggest you make it.

No recipe, but you can try the website out for free at the link above.   

Also, for those of you who are tracking it, I actually made this last week.  I still have plague and I'm still not cooking.  I can't imagine cooking.  It's like that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cough Drops and Take Out Lo Mein

It starts off all bright and cherry-flavored, but it finishes like Robitussin mixed with Listerine.

I didn't cook today.  I'm a firm believer in vegetable lo mein and cough drops when you're sick.  Actually, I don't care what you eat when you're sick - I'm a firm believer in vegetable lo mein and cough drops when I'm sick.  

Ok, ok, I care what you eat when you're sick.  Sorry.  Next time I'll make you some soup.

Also, I'm fully aware that every post here switches between "next you add the..." and "then I added the..."  all throughout.  What do you call that?  It's not a tense shift.  It's like a perspective shift.  Like a person-shift.  I don't know. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Banh Mi Chay - Vietnamese Tofu Hoagies

One of my first blog posts was about this sandwich.  It is, in my mind, the best possible sandwich.  I read about it before I had it and said to myself, "this will be my new favorite."  And so it was.  Sweet tofu, fresh cilantro, pickled veg and jalepeno - what more do you need?  But I have a serious problem.  I can't find one I like around here.   There's a decent place in West Philly, but my favorite local place closed many months ago and I've tried most of the other joints and I'm not happy.   So I'm going to tell you how and why you should pickle your own veg days in advance rather than buy a $3 hoagie.   It's better.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Basic Sandwich Rolls

I'm pretty much set for bread.   I have pita in the freezer, along with two and a half loaves of the quinoa-flax bread, and some bread ends for croutons or breadcrumbs.  I'd like to totally avoid buying storebought breads.   But sometimes, you want to make something, maybe something quick, and there's this perfect bread for it and you don't have the 4-5 hours to pull it together.  Sandwich rolls are like this.  I don't want to eat a hamburger, or a sloppy joe on quinoa bread or on pita.   And I had big plans for Banh Mi.   So I needed to get some sandwich rolls going. 

Here's the thing though - I have mild plague.  Is it just a throat tickle, or an actual thing?  I don't know, but I'm not about to go touching on all the foods.   I have to be pretty sick to want to forego chewing and switch to soup when I'm sick, so the Banh Mi stayed on the agenda, but who would make the bread?  

Cue Sous Chef Brian.   In what I'm sure was a truly stressful feat, with me standing over his shoulder trying to convey the specific finger movements I use when kneading and shaping bread, my husband stepped in and took care of sandwich rolls.  My husband - the one I worry about when I leave on business trips, because he might not think to defrost something - the one who, when I had classes all day Saturdays, would tell me at 4 that he "didn't know what to eat," and thus had not.  He made the bread. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

CSA Update - and sauteed mouse

I cannot wait for the CSA to start, but it's still weeks away.  All I have left from last year, at this point, is a few frozen herbs and a ton of mediocre Havarti.  Any suggestions for using lame frozen cheese? I never developed a winter farmer's market routine, and this coming year I'm going to have to, because the CSA doesn't run quite as long and I really don't want to keep giving Whole Foods all my money.   I feel like shopping in the grocery store has really screwed me up on understanding the seasons (note my recent error on asparagus) and I'm just ready to get back into it.  Maybe next year I'll do Winter Harvest.

The farm we joined last year sends these sad emails updating us on their season and reminding us to re-join.  There was nothing wrong with that farm, we just wanted to try something else this year.   It's fairly heartbreaking.

We're signed up for veggies and herbs and eggs and fruit...  fruit will be hard.   We like berries, we like apples and I like peaches if they're cooked (grilled?) but I'm not sure what to do about the rest of it.  When I was like 11 my friend's mom served me pasta with faux crab and canned peaches in it, and I was horrified, but that actually sounds appealing now.   Not the faux crab so much.  So this summer will be a fruit adventure.  Maybe I'll make jam or something.  Maybe I'll actually can something.

It's member choice, and I tested out their system over the weekend, and it's awesome and simple - go to the website, pick the food, wait a few days, get the food.  How magical is that?   It just means we have to set two iCal reminders now - one for the pick-up day and the other for the ordering window.

Last year, I'd post about my farmshare haul on Facebook and people gave me great tips.  If I came home with kohlrabi or daikon, someone would have used it before and tell me how.  I hope I can do that here - post what I've got and look for some suggestions for what to do with it.

Also, someone found this blog a few days ago by Googling "sauteed mouse."  That makes me sad.  I've never cooked that.  Turns out, this is the number 1 site you get from Googling "sauteed mouse." Of course, now, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, I've actually used the phrase so of course it'll come up.  But I promise, it came up before I said it.  

That is, by far, my favorite part of Google Analytics - the part that tells me what folks Googled to get here - lots of it makes sense, "can you use red cabbage in egg rolls?" (yes) "why do you soak sundried tomatoes?" (because they're gross otherwise) or "home fries bacon grease" (yes!).  It makes me feel like someone other than me is actually getting something out of this. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Beef Barley Soup

I'm the sort of person who makes food for people.  If you come over, I might open the freezer and suggest you take something.  "I made too much pasta sauce/pita bread/garlic scape pesto - why don't you take some home with you?" I'm like your Jewish or Italian grandmother, only much younger.  And I don't want you to eat it all now, just fill your pockets with it for later

My mother does this with groceries, so I have to imagine that's where I get it.  I still have a can of pineapple that she handed to me without explanation a few years ago, several boxes of cake mix, and I've just received a jar of banana-peanut butter.

If you live far, and something good or bad is happening in your life, I'll send food. If you live close and have something going on, I'll make food and bring it over.   For years, I've sort of had this joke about it, if there's someone who is sort of adorably pathetic - typically the younger hipsters - I say, "I want to make him soup."

Several weeks ago, I spoke to a friend about how she was dealing with her chronic illness and offered to make her soup.  Not that she's unable to eat a hamburger, or unable to cook her own soup, but you know, I could make her soup.  She seemed insulted and accepted no soup.

Fine then.   Maybe some people don't like to be described as adorably pathetic.  But I don't learn.  So another friend has been eating hospital food for several weeks now, and so I told him I'd bring soup, and that I make potato leek and chicken tortilla and such - was there anything particular he was interested in? "Beef barley."

Beef barley.

1.  I don't think I've ever had it.  It's just not something I'd choose.It's not the beef, per se, I like onion soup. I like beef stew.

2. I don't buy the sorts of things one makes beef stock out of.

Is it still considered making soup if you don't make the stock? I saw recipes for "quick" beef barley that included opening a can of stock, dropping in deli sliced roast beef and a few vegetables, and simmering 30 minutes.   Is that making soup?  Or is that adding some stuff to pre-existing soup?  Will it have the healing properties of homemade soup?

I didn't want to risk it, but I'm really not a "snout to tail" person.  I compromised.  Some existing stock, and some beef on the bone, and together we'd get something kind of made of food. 

Vegetarians look away - raw meat after the jump.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Potato Leek Soup

giant bowl of soup

It's getting to be the end of soup season.  A hot bowl of soup is so comforting right when the weather starts to get chilly and then through the winter, but as soon as there's a hint of a warm day here or there, soups can start to seem so heavy, so warm... still appropriate for a rainy day, but burdensome when the sun is shining.

But April showers, right?  We still have a couple more weeks.  Pretty soon we'll be trading leeks for scallions - until then, we have potato leek soup.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fennel and Sundried Tomato Risotto


Risotto is hard.  You know what I mean.  Maybe a friend or relative has made risotto and watched you eat it, waiting with each bite for you to acknowledge all that went into it.  Maybe you've made risotto.  Maybe you've read recipes for risotto, and said, "F this" and ordered a pizza. 

Sous Chef Brian mentioned a couple of months ago that I too frequently used the phrase "with love" in the blog.  Whether I was talking about doing something fairly painstakingly, or about how you could, if you wanted to do it "with love," he thought it was too much.  So from that point forward, I've avoided the term.  Risotto is made with love, the kind of love that is so closely bound up with hate that you can barely tell the difference.   My cat Ainsley has this problem.  She loves you.  She nuzzles you.  She nuzzles you harder.  She bites.  She wants to taste you.  She doesn't know the difference between love and hate.

Neither, apparently, does risotto.  

The swearing?  That's love.  The stomping of feet and insisting that it must be over soon?  Also love.

I made risotto once before, in a an alternate reality when we lived in a cottage in the woods.  Really.  I think the memory had faded just enough for me to go at it again.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Quinoa and Flax Bread

This is inspired by (Never home)maker's recipe and a bet from my mother.  Not a bet so much as a dare.

Me: "I'm going to make bread tomorrow, what kind should I make?"
Mom: "Rye." 
Me: "I don't have any rye flour, and I don't like rye bread." 
Mom: "What do you have, wheat?  I guess you're going to make wheat bread."  

And I listed off a few of the range of breads that I had the ingredients for, including quinoa.  And she said, "Quinoa, really?"  And I was all, "Challenge accepted."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Buffalo Seitan


I heart seitan.   I can't make that clear enough.   I like tofu, and there are applications that are appropriate for tempeh, but seitan can be anything, the texture is fantastic - overall, it's incredible.   I'm also not chicken-wing oriented.  I don't want to pick anything apart like that.  But I love buffalo sauce (ok, I just love hot sauce).  So I've been looking for a non-meat alternative.

Several weeks ago (months?) I got buffalo tempeh in a restaurant and was really disappointed.  It was lumpy and tough, like tempeh can get, and coated in a decent sauce, but unpleasant to eat.  It was just a week later that I went to Cantina Los Caballitos - a restaurant that we and lots of other folks we know have sort of a love-hate thing going on with - and saw vegan buffalo wings on the menu.   I asked the waiter what they were made of, and he said, "it's not meat."  

Sure.  What's in your milkshake? "It's not meat."  I tried harder.  He said it was soy and I was disappointed.  Two joints in our neighborhood serving buffalo soy products, what a bummer.  I had picked a second-choice meal off the menu and when he came back to take our order, he told us it was actually seitan.  YAY!  Seitan!  And it was absolutely as good as I had hoped.  It was crispy and spicy and if you got a meat-only kind of person a little drunk, he'd totally believe this was chicken.   Sous Chef Brian and I worked together to take that plate down, neglecting his enchiladas entirely. 

On the walk home, I said, "I bet I could make that."  And time passed and I didn't.  So then a couple of weeks ago, we're doing menu planning before I go shopping and he says, "Buffalo seitan."  And I nod and buy seitan and Earth Balance and forget about it.   And then last night it happened.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chicken and Green Beans in Italian Dressing - Revisited

This was a staple in my house growing up.   Sous Chef Brian's house too.   We both grew up with similar genres of food, but they were different.  His mom would put ground beef into Kraft Mac and Cheese, and my mom would put muenster and teriyaki sauce on steak.  But they both would cook chicken breasts in a bottle of Italian dressing, and serve it with green beans over rice. 

I guess because we both were so familiar with it - and I'm not trying to detract from it, we both really liked it, this was a staple in the early days of eating together.   When we were first living in a house with a dozen other people out in the woods, I'd make the foods I grew up with and the foods he grew up with, and cakes.   Terrible, brightly-colored, boxed and frosted cakes.   One roommate once said to me, "I didn't realize you liked dessert so much," and I didn't - I just thought that that's what I was supposed to do.  Make cakes.   There was a lot of meatloaf back then.   Sous Chef Brian misses the meatloaf. 

So the other day, we were doing some menu planning and Sous Chef Brian said, "How about chicken in Italian dressing," and I got all self-righteous and horrified for a second, and then I realized it could be awesome. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Grilled Pizza

When I first posted pizza on the blog, I mentioned that it was best grilled, but that had to wait for summer.  Well, April is summer as far as I'm concerned.  It's time.

A note on the seasons.  Apparently, I had no idea it was April.  The other day, I said it was too early for asparagus, which of course, it is not.  I'm catching up now.   It's asparagus time.  Right now.   Here's a map of what's in season, and of course, it tells me the only thing going on right now is asparagus.  Of course, there's still lettuces and leafy greens and artichoke and such.  

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Olive Oil Spritzer

I've mentioned that some people (my mother, my mystery Sunday night dinner guest, etc) think I have a lot of kitchen stuff.   I don't think so, really, but that's because I use it.   I'm quick to donate or sell whatever I'm not using, and I can't handle the idea of not being able to store all my stuff.  

So while Sous Chef Brian thinks I'm a hoarder, and mystery Sunday night dinner guest thinks I have way too much stuff (she has three blenders, FYI), and my mother, who is constantly buying me kitchen stuff seems shocked at it all every time she's in my kitchen, I think it's well curated.  I think I have the right kitchen stuff for me.  Minus the immersion blender of my dreams, and maybe a functional food processor.  But even if I had these things, where would they go?

That's a lot of lead-in to talk about my olive oil spritzer.  From time to time, I'll talk about the things I use every time I cook, and this is one of them.   

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lighter, Quicker Strata with Asparagus and Bacon

When Sous Chef Brian came home and asked what we were having, I said, "asparagus strata."  He said, "Erik Estrada?" I should note that I'm far too young to have watched CHiPs, but Sous Chef Brian is not.  Also, I know Erik Estrada from Sea Lab 2021, which was, for a very intense two-week span nearly 10 years ago, my favorite show.    I enunciated more clearly.  "Asparagus Strata."  He looked at me like a confused animal, which makes sense.  He doesn't get out to a lot of brunches or baby showers, and I had no clue what strata was before I started making it.

I had a vegetable strata at DiBruno Brothers about six months ago.  I didn't know what it was, but it looked pretty and it was vegetables.  It was tall, and had many layers, and it was delicious.  So this week I started looking for recipes.   I was surprised it was a brunch food, I would have called it "casserole" when I had it and been done with that. 

When I started researching recipes, I was shocked at how much egg it contained.   Over and again I saw easy-to-measure recipes that called for 12 ounces of cheese, 12 slices of bread and 12 eggs. 

I can't do that.  I can't put 12 eggs into dinner.  I can't halve it and put 6 eggs into dinner.  It just doesn't feel right.   I can, however, put less egg in, especially in order to justify bacon.  Also, these recipes called for sitting overnight, and that's not my thing.  And so lighter, quicker strata happened.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Falafel Dinner - part three - hummus, roasted cauliflower and more

This is the third and final post in the series - really, this is all the other stuff we made to go with the falafel, stuffed inside a pita, the stuff that wasn't really about recipes and wasn't really photographed throughout.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Falafel Dinner - part two - whole wheat pita bread

I spend a lot of time talking about how I don't bake.   Part of it is my disinterest in most sweets (can we have french fries for dessert instead?) and the other part is the precision and the measuring.  I like to cook by smell.   And yet, I made pita bread.

This was part of this weekend's big time falafel dinner - yesterday I posted the falafel, and tomorrow I'll post the hummus, and the rest will come as it comes. 

I read through maybe 20 pita bread recipes to get here, and many said that you can't really make pita at home and that the traditional way required an oven hotter than home ovens were capable of getting.  I figured if it didn't work, I'd have some sort of flatbread that would be just fine, and if it REALLY didn't work, I had tortillas in the fridge.   Spoiler alert - it totally worked.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Falafel Dinner - part one - baked falafel

I've been struggling to figure out how to post this one.   It's a meal with a bunch of recipes, and it's too much to fit in one post, because several of the recipes would stand on their own.   So we'll do a multi-parter.

This is pretty exciting (if you're me) because we successfully made baked falafel, pita bread, hummus (not that exciting, I make it all the time) and other accessories for a full on falafel dinner.  So I think we'll do this in parts.  Today, falafel.

I never really had falafel until I went to Temple, where it was easily accessible on campus.  Then I didn't have it again until I moved to Philadelphia.   I'm a sucker for Maoz and The Pita Pit and all the other Center City falafel joints.  Sous Chef Brian's experiences with falafel were all about some time he spent in Europe in the late 90s, until I took him to Maoz a couple years ago.

I had imagined making falafel would be difficult, but it was not.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Chicken Saltimbocca

I wish dinner wasn't delicious.

What's my point here?  I guess if it wasn't delicious, I could post this as a fail and move on.  Big picture?  This blog is not about "check out my innovative new recipe you've never heard of" or "look at my impeccable technique."  It's about "look what I made for dinner."  Sure, I want it to say, "you too can make awesome sandwich bread/crackers/sweet and sour seitan," but I guess the part that follows that is "since I did it, and I'm not good at this sometimes."  I just posted a fail (there was the invisible cashew cream sauce with the chicken and black bean egg rolls) and I hate to do it again...  but this is about what I made for dinner.

Some nights I don't want to cook.  I don't know why I can't just take the tortilla soup out of the freezer and go with that, but I make something new instead.   Tonight, I didn't even have to think of something to make - it came from the comments, when I asked what to do with the leftover prosciutto from the spaghetti squash, Cheryl said "saltimbocca."  I've stuffed chicken before.  This is not a technique that I'm unable to handle.  But somehow, everything about it was.

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