Sunday, September 30, 2007

British Food Fortnight

Thought I'd link to the recipe page in the event that anyone has a hankering for nettle soup or ox kidney pudding.

Some of the apple crumble recipes sound OK.

In fairness, British cuisine isn't nearly as awful as it used to be. Many of the traditional dishes have been re-worked for modern tastes and really, if you don't ask what's in the black pudding, you might actually enjoy it.

On my last visit, I was pleased to note that the tendency to cook vegetables beyond recognition has been been disappearing. Cauliflower is still baked to death beneath a sea of cheese, but other varieties of veg have fared better in recent years.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Um, Go Big Red

Or something like that. It seemed like such a good idea-until I ruined a beautiful cake with red decorator's frosting that was too bright.
I deliberately went light with the caramel on the apples so that the beautiful colour would come through (and the apples would be less cloying) but I really should have left well enough alone and decorated in white. Oh well, that's why I always say to do a trial run (this is the trial run for a birthday cake next week) the first time you attempt something.
The cake itself is chocolate, which I thought would go well with caramel. It should look attractive once it is cut. I think next week I'll do a bit of cocoa in the frosting to get it light brown and do the decorator's icing in white-that would be more striking...I think. I do wish I could find smaller apples.
Thoughts about this cake? Suggestions? Go on, be brutally honest.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Roasted Vegetables

This recipe will work nicely with just about any combination. I used carrots, red potatoes and shallots-but yams, Brussels sprouts and pearl onions would be lovely as well. Use your imagination.
You Will Need:
Vegetables of your choice
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Todd vegetables with oil in a bowl and coat well. Pour onto a shallow roasting pan (a shallow jelly-roll pan works well also) and spread out in a layer. Sprinkle with salt and herbs. Bake 20-30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes to keep from sticking. Can be kept warm in a covered casserole.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I Think I See One Last Drop...

It wasn't even especially fancy ice cream-more an "ice milk", really. I've found that good cocoa (I used Droste) will overcome the lack of milkfat and eggs. This recipe Danny is enjoying was 1% milk with a small bit of heavy cream, sugar and cocoa. A splash of vanilla and that's it. The only drawback is one must eat it quickly as it melts faster than the custard style ice creams.
You Will Need:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons powdered cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix sugar and cocoa together in a measuring cup or small bowl. Add just enough milk to make a paste and stir until smooth and any lumps are broken-up. Scrape into larger bowl, add the rest of the milk, cream and vanilla. Chill and then process in ice-cream maker according to directions.
I told you it was easy.

Muffins With Prune Plums and Lemon Zest

-And a few sugar cookies to add some colour.

These were easily the best muffins I've ever made, and that really is owed to the quality of the plums. I'm going to be very sad to see the season go as they have been delicious this year.

This recipe is a bit fussy for muffins, though I think the effort is worth it. I follow this basic method for all my muffins and I do find that creaming the sugar and butter together first works better than cutting the butter into the flour.

Don't forget to butter the top of the muffin tin, so that the beautiful mushroom top won't stick.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup caster sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2 cups flour

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

zest of one lemon, grated

2 cups chopped prune plums

1/4 teaspoon allspice or cardamom (I used allspice this time)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cream together the shortening, sugar and salt for three minutes or until very light and fluffy. Add baking powder and eggs-mix well. Add flour, milk, vanilla, zest and allspice. Mix well. Fold in the plums. Fill the muffin tins to the top. Sprinkle a bit of coarse sugar on top of each muffin. Bake at 450 for five minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees F. and bake another 3-35 minutes or until golden. Cool, then remove from pans. Makes one dozen.

Individual Mushroom Pies

These were a big hit at dinner this evening. The preparation was minimal, the results phenomenal. These are quite rich, and should be served with something piquant.
You Will Need:
1/4 cup butter or chicken fat (or if you're lucky enough to have it, goose. Yes, I am lucky).
1 lb. mushrooms, diced
2-3 large shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup light cream (half and half)
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons dry sherry
single pie crust, prepared
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Grease 4 large ramekins and place on a tray, or in a dish.
Melt the fat or butter in a large frying pan. Cook the shallots until soft, but not browned. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. They will give off quite a bit of water-this is OK.
Sprinkle with the flour, salt and pepper. Slowly stir in the cream and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil slowly, over medium heat and keep stirring (a wooden spoon works well for this). Cook a couple minutes until it reduces slightly.
Remove from heat and stir in sherry.
Spoon carefully into the ramekins.
While still hot, top each ramekin with a pie crust and slit to allow steam to escape. Note-these will run over in the pan, so be sure to place something beneath it.
Bake fifteen to twenty minutes or until tops are done.

Algren The Dog Enjoying Chicken Marabella

Let's say he enjoyed it much more than I did (ick). My husband really liked it, and that's after all why I made it (somehow he made it through the 80's without ever being subjected to it, and was curious about the recipe).
Does our little doggie look happy? He's about fifteen years old (we adopted him and aren't really sure beyond the thirteen years he's lived with us) and rarely gets table scraps. I figure, what the heck, at this point if he wants chicken, I'm going to let him have it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chicken Thighs With Olives, Tomato, Cinnamon and Wine

Originally, I think was called "Spanish Olive Chicken", but I found the recipe so long ago I can't remember. The name is misleading anyway-do they mean Spanish Olives? Or Spanish chicken with olives? See the quandary?
There are likely a ton of recipes for Spanish chicken out there. This one uses cinnamon, white wine and tomatoes along with the olives. I made it with four large chicken thighs, but you could easily use a cut-up fryer, or breasts-really any pieces you prefer. I ended up using Chardonnay for the white wine (I didn't want to open a new bottle of wine) which worked well against the tomato-you may prefer something less dry.
You Will Need:
4-6 large chicken thighs
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 large tomatoes, skins removed and seeded-cut in wedges
1/4 cup green olives, sliced
1/4 cup black olives (I used oil cured)
3/4 cup white wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
In a deep frying pan, heat olive oil to medium heat and brown the chicken on all sides-about 15 minutes. Drain oil. Combine salt, cinnamon and pepper. Sprinkle the chicken pieces on both sides. Add tomatoes and olives. Pour wine over everything. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 40 minutes or until done.
Remove chicken to a plate. Stir in the tomato paste and boil over high heat to burn off the liquid-about a minute. Pour over chicken.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Savoury Pumpkin Fritters

OK, so it is not health food- but the pumpkin is full of vitamin A.
The recipe may be found HERE.
A few points I'll make:
I needed about double the amount of flour. I also roasted an entire bulb of garlic and mashed it into a pulp before adding to the batter. When I roasted the pumpkin, I threw fresh rosemary in the water and when mashing the pumpkin added a bit of it to the mix. Otherwise, I followed the recipe pretty faithfully.
How were they? Oh, they're good. Really good. Good in a way that you might want to forgo eating all day so that the guilt in eating four or five of them will be lessened (I managed two). I served them with cous cous to which I added chopped raisins, apricots, thyme, garlic, onions, chicken broth, olive oil, and mint. A dollop of plain yoghurt rounded the meal out.

Oh Look, A Pumpkin Bra

Actually, I just wanted to show how the pumpkin shell looked after roasting. These pumpkins were so hard the skin never softened-even after an hour of roasting. I thought the halves looked somewhat reminiscent of the whole "coconut bra" thing we in the west imagine people to wear in tropical locales. Anyway, it was a nice idea, but unfortunately, these pumpkins were C cups and my melons require a DD. I wonder how many utterly bizarre searches will bring people to the site looking for DD pumpkin bras. I can't wait.

I Nearly Resorted To A Hammer

Though had it been more conveienent to stick the pumpkins in a vise and go at it with a saw, I'd have done it.
From the small size of these pumpkins you wouldn't imagine they'd be so difficult to get apart. They were. The knife pictured at the top of the photo is one I call "The Pumpkin Buster" and for good reason. Normally, it glides right through difficult squashes and pumpkins. I couldn't make a dent. As the blade is wide and sharp, but rather thin I was afraid of breaking it, so I resorted to another knife.
The knife below it is a very old model by Sabatier that they likely no longer manufacture. It is very old, and has seen almost constant use for close to twenty years now. It is heavier than the Shun, so I gave it a try and though it took considerable effort (and upper body strength) I managed to get enough of a cut in them to pry them apart with my hands.
It was worth the trouble though-these pumpkins are very fresh. As you can see, I have them in a roasting pan with a bit of water and some rosemary. Later this evening the pulp will be mixed with roasted garlic paste and other assorted savouries to be fried in fritters. Photos later tonight.
Can you smell it yet?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What Kind Of Country Fair Are You Talkin' About?

One of the local generic store-brand product lines around here is called "Midwest Country Fare" ("Fare", get it? Whoo boy those advertising types are clever). I've probably written about it before as it has this foolish logo with a farmer hauling a bushel of some sort of produce and an idiot grin with a piece of hay sticking out from between his teeth. You know, yokel brand.

I sort of hope there's a line for other regional markets like "East Coast Communist Cell Meeting" -instead of the grinning farmer you get a picture of Che Guevara with a burrito sticking out of his beret. Or Emma Goldman with a can of beer.

I guess it was impossible to resist purchasing the Midwest Country Fare Chow Mein Noddles. I don't even particularly like the things, but I get such a charge out of the mental image of a booth at the State Fair serving-up plates of Chinese food (I mean Chinese food in a style sense, not actual food made from questionable Chinese ingredients. Wait, maybe I ought to have a look...nope, it's OK-made in West Des Moines.

It is sort of interesting that there is enough demand for crunchy fried noodles around here to warrant manufacturing a store brand. I'd been away from the Midwest for a long time (decades) but when I lived in Illinois as a youngster you had to actually go to Chinatown if you wanted anything beyond an egg roll and chop suey. I'd say that's a pretty positive development.

Wouldn't you know the noodles are actually good? It figures, they have as much fat as potato chips.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

To Market, To Market To Buy A...Package of Mouse Traps

I need to do a bit of grocery shopping tomorrow, so I thought I'd share my list.

heavy cream
plain yoghurt
sour cream
dish detergent
dog food
bread flour
all purpose flour
whole wheat flour
(How could I run out of all three at once?)
Steel wool
mouse traps
(WTF? was with those last three?)
dried pinto beans
brown rice

Because you know mouse traps are a must (Our neighbour "Farmer Palindrome", is harvesting and the field mice run straight to our house). After six years it only occurred to me yesterday that "Farmer Neighbour's" name was a palindrome, hereafter to be so called.

I don't actually need lolipops, but I like them. Oh, you thought they were for the kid? Nah. He gets them as special treats, but I eat them one after the other as I type away here each evening.

I have no clue how I managed to run out of so many staples at once (flours, rice, beans) but it does make things simpler when I can purchase them at the same time.

I made about a bucket (a shisselful) of black bean soup for dinner tonight which means I'm relieved of cooking tomorrow. That's my preferred approach on marketing day as I am usually too wiped-out to come home and cook afterward.

So, what's the weirdest thing on your shopping list this week?

Breaking The Fast Apricot Noodle Kugel

There are as many noodle kugel recipes as there are bakers-this is the one my family likes. I was able to use some of the apricots I froze earlier in the summer and they filled the kitchen with the sort of wonderful smell you don't get from tinned ones. I'm really going to be sad when my frozen fruit supplies are diminished.

I should note that this is quite a heavy kugel. You could lighten it up calorie wise by using egg less noodles and fat free cottage cheese, sour cream, etc.

You Will Need:

2 cups broad noodles, cooked and drained
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon melted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
1-cup pineapple cottage cheese
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
½ cup raisins
8 poached apricots (if fresh or frozen) or straight from the tin, diced
2/3 cup cinnamon sugar (or regular sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix everything together in a bowl, pour into a greased 2-quart casserole dish and bake 35-45 minutes until nicely browned. Serve hot or cold.

Friday, September 21, 2007

"Mama Will Bake Pie"

Danny really seems to be enjoying colouring his first pumpkin (that he can remember). You should have seen me lugging this thing (the pumpkin, not the kid-he can walk) into the store. They must have had a camera on me and announced "Cripple in the pumpkin patch, assistance at the front of the store" as there was someone waiting to carry it as we made our way inside. Why they can't stock them in the produce department (where there are carts) is beyond me-under the circumstances, I selected the smallest one I could find.
These aren't suitable for baking-for that you'll want small sugar pumpkins, but fear not-my little guy will have his pie yet. It's still pretty early for pumpkins in this part of the country. Worst case scenario, we use (shhh) tinned pumpkin.
My pumpkin pies are different every year. I've made them as sweets, as savouries and some in-between. As my husband dislikes custard-type pies, I tend to go for heavy, not-so-gelatinous type pies. I have no idea what we'll do this year, but I know for certain, it will not be coming from this particular pumpkin.
I suppose we ought to name it, eh? My sister used to name our Thanksgiving turkeys (the only once I recall clearly was "Orson" which was, for a pretty humourless girl, impressively funny).
I just know this thing is going to end up in his room tonight.

Crispy "Aromatic" Fish and Sweet Potato Pancakes

There's a story behind the "aromatic" fish.
When we lived in East Boston, there was a place near Orient Heights that did a fish called "Crispy Aromatic Fish." We never could understand the reasoning as the fish was neither crispy (at least not by the time it was delivered to Eagle Hill) nor aromatic-at least not more than any other fish. Still, "Soggy Stinky Fish" probably wouldn't have had too many takers, and in truth, it was pretty good.
It wasn't until shortly before we moved away that we finally dined-in at the establishment. The fish came to the table, and having been right out of the fryer was actually, crispy. That solved that mystery though to this day I still haven't a clue what made it aromatic.
My version is similar, but obviously not identical. I also improvised the vegetables by rummaging in the crisper bins again. I figured, after the "Evelyn Soup" earlier in the week, I had better treat this fried fish with a bit more respect and a healthy dose of garlic black bean paste. It was really quite good.
The sweet potatoes were also an improvisation that turned out quite well. I fried them in the same oil I used for the fish (I was soooo not going to dirty another frying pan) and it did not pick up any of the fish flavour.
You Will Need:
For the Sweet Potatoes-
1 very large sweet potato or yam
3-4 tablespoons + of flour
2 eggs
salt and pepper
oil for frying
Grate potato and place in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add eggs and mix well. Add enough flour to make a batter consistency that will drop easily off a spoon.
Heat oil and fry in small batches (don't crowd them) letting them cool on a baking rack over a baking sheet (so they do not get soggy). Serve with sour cream.
For the fish:
Earlier in the day, fill a ziplock baggie with sliced-up vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cabbage, celery, green beans, etc. Make sure to add an onion or two and some finely diced ginger. Make a sauce (in a measuring cup) of 4 tablespoons sesame oil, 1 teaspoon dried minced garlic, 2 tablespoons garlic black bean paste, 5 tablespoons hoisan sauce and enough canola oil to bring it all to 3/4 cup. Pour it into the bag, seal and let sit at least six hours.
Take 1-2 pieces of a thick fish like cod or haddock and cut into cubes. Roll in flour that has been salted and peppered. Fry in hot fat until lightly browned. Drain. Begin cooking the vegetables. When they are just about finished, stir in the fish to get a coating of the sauce. Sprinkle generously with black sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Rhubarb Raisin Apple Pie

I love rhubarb, so much so that I've taken to freezing those first lovely, tender stalks from spring so I may enjoy them later on.

I was having a really wonderful week. For the first time in maybe ten months I felt strong enough to get out and do errands by myself. That might not sound like much, but most days I'm exhausted after taking a shower. Anyway, I felt great and did a million things this week and then, just so I wouldn't get too confident, I promptly caught a virus. But before I got too sick, I made a pie.

This is a rather tart pie as I used Jonathan apples along with the rhubarb. You may wish to increase the sugar a bit, or halve the lemon juice. The pie was the result of reading through half a dozen recipes that weren't what I wanted. Instead, I trusted my instincts and came up with what I consider one of my better attempts. I hope you like it.

You Will Need:

For the crust-

3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 cups vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cold water

1 tablespoon vinegar

Before beginning, place cold water in freezer to be ice cold. Sift together the flour and salt. Cut-in the shortening with a pastry cutter. Add the egg to the water and beat slightly. Add the vinegar and pour into the flour/shortening mixture. Work into a soft dough. Let stand a few minutes before rolling out.

For the filling-

5 small Jonathan apples, peeled, cored and sliced into segments

1 tablespoon lemon juice

4 1/2-5 cups chopped rhubarb (frozen need not be defrosted-use as is)

1 cup sugar

1 heaping teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup fine-milled flour (like Wondra. All purpose will be OK but the ultra fine flours dissolve easier)


Cream/sugar for glazing top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 9 inch pie plate with bottom crust. I do not bother, but you can brush the bottom crust with a beaten egg white if you fear sogginess). Place in the apples, rhubarb, and raisins. Sprinkle with the lemon juice. In a small bowl, mix flour, ginger, and ginger with enough water to make a smooth paste that will pour (about 3 tablespoons). Pour over the filling.

Place top crust on and seal. Cut vent holes and brush lightly with heavy cream. Sprinkle generously with sugar and bake about 40 minutes. I'd begin checking after 35 to be safe, and it may take as long as an hour-just keep an eye out to be certain it does not burn. A glass pie plate is great as you can check the progress of the bottom crust and be able to tell if you should cover the top with foil. In the absence of a see-through plate, use your judgement

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ground Beef Curry

I've decided to avoid photographing curries as they all pretty much look like glop. Instead, here's a recipe that is quick, simple and pretty darn tasty.

You Will Need:

2 large yellow onions, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small tart apple, diced
fresh rosemary to taste, chopped
2-4 tablespoons butter (or margarine)
1 lb. ground beef
1 tablespoon flour
4 tablespoons raisins (goldens are nice)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 teaspoons curry powder (this is pretty spicy, particularly if you use Madras. You may wish to go lighter)
1 beef bouillon cube
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup cooked peas
salt and pepper to taste
cooked rice

Brown the onion , apple, rosemary, and garlic in the butter over medium heat. Add the ground beef, breaking up well. Cook until browned. Add the flour and stir well. Add the raisins, ginger, curry, bouillon, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the peas, salt and pepper. Re-warm and serve over cooked rice.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cabbage and Celery Casserole

This was a great way to use up some wilting vegetables in the bin. The casserole was quick to prepare and only needed fifteen minutes in the oven. I particularly like that it does not really taste of cabbage. The milk, cream and breadcrumbs do a good job of neutralising the more "cabbage-y" aspects of a casserole such as this.

You Will Need:

3 cups shredded cabbage

boiling water to cover cabbage

1 cup finely diced celery

3/4 cup soft bread crumbs

salt and pepper

1 cup milk

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Place cabbage in a large pot and cover with boiling water. Let sit 5 minutes, drain well. Mix in the celery.

In a greased casserole, make a layer of the vegetables and sprinkle with 1/3 of the bread crumbs. Salt and pepper each layer as you go. Make another layer of vegetables, crumbs and finally vegetables. Blend the milk, cream, and egg together and strain over the casserole. Top with remaining crumbs and dot with butter. Sprinkle with cheese and bake uncovered for fifteen minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Graham Crackers

I've linked to graham cracker recipes before, but I've never offered a tutorial on actually baking them. The process is fairly simple given you invest in a cheap package of flexible cutting sheets. I can't say enough wonderful things about them as a product. For rolling-out very soft, tricky dough, they are a must have. I've put them to excellent use for everything from pie crusts to wet bread doughs.
I also use silicone pads on my baking sheets (I've had them for fifteen years and they show no sign of wear) that I bought at a commercial baking supply wholesaler in the North End of Boston. They were well worth the expense (and the price has come down considerably in recent years).
Other useful items are a thin spatula for lifting the unbaked crackers off the cutting board, and a sharp paring knife for trimming the dough. Other than that, it is really a simple matter of mixing up the dough in the food processor (how easy is that?) rolling it out, chilling and baking. You can do that, can't you? Did I mention these are really good graham crackers?
I chose to cut some in shapes because I'm at the point where if I keep compulsively purchasing cute cookie cutters I'm going to need to start using them or risk looking frivolous. OK, I already appear frivolous, but at least my frivolity isn't expensive jewelry.
You Will Need:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons mild molasses
1/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a food processor,mix the dry ingredients (about 5 seconds). Add the butter and process until a coarse meal (10-15 seconds).
Add the rest and process until everything comes together into a ball (about a minute at high speed). You may need a few drops of additional water, but go carefully a drop at a time as you do not want the dough too wet-you will be unable to roll it out.
On a plastic cutting board (or a regular one between two pieces of waxed paper-much more difficult in my opinion) roll out half the dough until it is quite thin 1/8 inch thick. If you can't get it that thin, don't despair, it can be further rolled after it has chilled a bit.
If you can't seem to get a perfect rectangle (no one can, really) go ahead and use a sharp knife to trim it into shape and then re-work the dough into the main slab. You may need to do this a couple times, and as you aren't rolling out on flour and toughening the dough, it is OK-though you don't want to handle it to death.
Repeat on a second cutting board.
Place cutting boards (or waxed paper) on cookie sheets and set in the icebox to chill at least two hours. The longer you go, the simpler it will be to cut and lift them off the boards.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Using a thin knife, or a cookie cutter, cut the dough into desired shapes. Pierce with the tines of a fork. Place on either parchment paper or silicone pads and bake 10 minutes. Turn the sheet and bake an additional 2-5 minutes or until the edges turn lightly browned.
Remove to a rack to cool. The graham crackers will crisp upon cooling.
I find they keep well in a tightly sealed plastic zipper bag. The crackers also take well to being dipped in chocolate (a favourite of my mother-in-law's) and they ship well.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Evelyn Soup

As I was preparing dinner this evening, I couldn't help but think, "Here's a meal Evelyn would make."

My friend Evelyn is macro and though I miss living close by, I do not miss the endless cups of bancha tea I'd be compelled to drink out of politeness. Blech. That's pretty much my reaction to this meal, though in fairness I've never been too fond of silken tofu, seaweed, or miso. The buckwheat noodles were less of a trial, but not by much.

My husband on the other hand, likes this sort of thing and thought it was great. I really do think that's what it comes down to-individual tastes. At the very least, it is good for you.

So why did I make it? Well, I read a recipe HERE that was similar (different noodles and fish) and thought it sounded interesting. Bear in mind, I'm sure Haalo's was much, much, better. Different anyway. I'd been wondering about Sansho pepper for quite some time and was happy to finally have an opportunity to use it. I also don't believe in only eating things one likes, so as an example to my son, I made miso soup.

The mushrooms in the cellophane package were sort of curious. There's no nation of origin stamp (take a wild guess) nor description beyond "dried mushroom." They don't look like shitake, and frankly I wouldn't be shocked if they were plain old white button mushrooms trimmed to look more exotic. I picked them up at an Asian market in Omaha near Peony Park. If I grow a second head or something, I'll be sure to post photos.

Sansho pepper is a bit more difficult to come by, however there is a wonderful Japanese market in Ralston (84th street) that has that and so much more. If I was buying miso or soba noodles, that would be my first stop as they move more of it than other places. You can of course buy miso in health food stores as well. I used a soybean miso but I recently read there are miso pastes (fermented soybean) made from chickpeas or rice. Definitely something I'd keep an eye out for.

This was a simple meal to prep and keep warm. Miso should never be boiled. The best technique is to boil water and then remove it from heat. Then stir in the miso.

So Here's tonight's dinner in honour of my friend Evelyn who is much more disciplined than I (and probably healthier).

You Will Need:

2 sheets Kombu seaweed, rinsed and unrolled
4-5 dried mushrooms
1 package firm, silken tofu, cut into cubes
1/2 package buckwheat (or mugwort) soba noodles
1 carrot cut in matchsticks
Sansho pepper
4 teaspoons red miso paste
4 cups boiling water
1 small cod fillet
Flour for breading cod
Oil for frying

In a small pot, combine mushrooms, Kombu, and carrot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes. Drain. Cut the mushrooms into chunks, and chop the seaweed. Set aside in bowl with carrots.

In a large pot, cook soba noodles according to directions. Note-this can sometimes is tricky sometimes, depending on translation.

While noodles cook, boil 4 cups of water in a large pot. Remove from heat and stir in the miso. Add the tofu, seaweed, carrots, and mushrooms. Cover and keep warm without simmering (very, very low heat).

Drain noodles. Add to miso mixture. Cut the fish into cubes. Roll in flour and then fry in heated cooking oil, a few minutes on each side until lightly browned.

Assemble the soup with the chunks of fish on top. Sprinkle lightly with the Sansho pepper and serve.

Your family will either love you, or refuse to speak to you. I suggest having dessert on hand-just in case.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Celery Root In Mustard Sauce

This is the classic recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Celeri-Rave Remoulade. I wanted to take you through it step by step in pictures so you could get a better idea how the root changes after macerating in lemon juice and salt. I used much more lemon juice than the recipe called for.
I still prefer my celery root lightly breaded and fried in olive oil (who wouldn't?) but this was a very nice salad course.
You Will Need:
1 lb. celery root (about 3 cups cut)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons strong Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup olive oil (yes, that is quite a bit-you could use less if you prefer)
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
salt and pepper
Minced parsley and chervil for garnish
Peel the celery root, and cut it into matchsticks. Toss in a bowl with the lemon juice and salt and let sit 30 minutes.
Drain, rinse and blot dry in a towel.
Warm a mixing bowl with hot water and then dry it. Place in the Dijon and slowly whip in the boiling water. Then beat in the olive oil in droplets. Add the vinegar by drops as well and finally add the salt and pepper.
Fold the celery root into the sauce, coating well. Let marinate 3-4 hours or overnight. Garnish with herbs before serving.