Monday, April 25, 2011

Passover Cream Puffs and Soup Nuts From "Magic Dough"

Back to our friend Ruth Sirkis for this wonderful recipe. The dough can be used for practically anything you can make with choux pastry.

You Will Need:

4 large eggs
1 cup water
1/2 cup oil or 1 stick margarine (I used butter)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups matzo meal (I used Passover cake flour which is ground finer. You can use the regular stuff, but the texture is better with the cake flour)

Bring the water, oil, and salt to a rapid boil in a medium pot. Remove from heat, and with a wooden spoon, beat in the matzo meal. return to heat and cook 3 minutes, mixing well. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, thoroughly. When finished, use dough like choux pastry to make soup nuts, cream puffs, and the like.

Both cream puffs and soup nuts can be baked on greased sheets in a 400 degree F. oven. The time will vary depending on size. Small soup nuts take about 20 minutes. Cream puffs closer to 40.

Passover Carrot and Potato Patties

Another interesting Pesach dish. I served it with a bowl of soup, and a small salad. Again, this is British vegetarian cookery from the 1980' yeah, there's some oddball combinations you wouldn't run across today. Personally, I like that sort of thing as it doesn't rely so heavily on tofu and seitan as meat replacements. Sure, making mock gefilte fish from broad beans takes some imagination, but the resulting dishes are pretty decent. At one point or another, I've made just about everything in this book. I do recommend it if you can track it down, as it is always nice to be able to make a quick vegetarian dish for an unexpected guest that won't have you running store to store looking for difficult to locate ingredients. Everyone can find potatoes and carrots.

From, Jewish vegetarian cooking by, Rose Friedman, 1984

You Will Need:

1 lb. potatoes
1 lb. carrots
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Oil for frying
Garlic salt (I skipped this)
2 teaspoons paprika
2-3 tbsp. tomato puree (paste)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 egg (optional)
1/2 cup fine matzo meal

Peel and dice the potatoes and carrots. Boil or steam until soft (I boiled). Fry the onions and garlic in a bit of oil until golden.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet.

Mash the carrots and potatoes, add the spices, tomato puree, and parsley. Mix well. Mix in the onions/garlic and the oil they cooked in. Mix. Beat in egg if using. Add matzo meal slowly, mixing until you have a mixture that is firm enough to be formed into patties. Place on greased baking sheet and lightly brush the patties with oil. Bake 30-45 minutes or until they are crisp. Makes about 12 decent-sized patties.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


You know, poutine made with potato latkes. I made a wonderful spicy, mushroom gravy with veggie stock and passover cake flour. I dunno, it just seemed like the thing to do.

I'm An Apple Cake

Presented without comment.

Happy Easter

We did the natural-dye eggs this year (like everyone else) and I can say with authority that turmeric is the overall best at dyeing the eggs. Coffee came in a close second. I'm not sure I saved that much money as coffee and spices are kind of pricey, but Danny had fun.

On the years that Easter and Passover overlap, it becomes a challenge filling the Easter basket in an inter-faith family. We bought Danny non-candy items like mosquito netting, a lantern with an led light, sketching materials, some games, and things of that sort. I found some nut-free candy that didn't have corn syrup (you're not permitted corn at passover) so that worked out OK, but I can't say he was exactly jumping up and down at the sight of a box of Andes mints. No disrespect to Andes mints of course, because we ordinarily love them.

I hope you have a lovely Easter.

Passover "Popovers"

Sure, calling these popovers is a bit of a stretch, but they are in the spirit of a popover. At any rate, by this point in the holiday they are a good change from fried matzo.

From Taste of Tradition, Ruth Sirkis 1972

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin for 12 muffins.

In a bowl, with an electric beater or a whisk (I used a whisk) beat together the following:

3 large eggs
1 cup milk
2/3 cup matzo meal
4 tablespoons potato starch
1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat well for 2 minutes. Then, beat in :
2 tablespoons oil

Beat another minute.

Pour into muffin tins filling 3/4 full.

Bake 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F. and bake 30 minutes longer.

Makes 12

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Farm Cats

Something about this cat perched on broken farm equipment near the rubbish pit, made me take notice. I raced outside with my camera, and the cat obligingly let me get close enough for a few photos before running off.

Bay Laurel


Danny has informed me that the laurel is sacred to Apollo. So there you are. When in doubt, ask a six year old classicist.

I bought one today, at the Spring Affair Plant Sale. I also bought a new variety of Goldenrod, and Mr. ETB bought some oregano to grow in a container. He bought the Greek kind (blech). It seems that bringing home a bay laurel and Greek oregano demands naming-don't you agree? Homer? Aristotle? I'm not a Classics expert, I just teach it. Who is associated with the laurel? I really should know this, shouldn't I?

Anyway, the laurel will need to be potted, and brought in through the winter months, but I've seen them thrive indoors. We've agreed to build a poly-tunnel sort of thing for cold weather gardening, so perhaps it can overwinter there-we'll see.

I'll have you know, I practised great restraint at the sale today spending the grand sum of fourteen dollars. Our house is white, and I've been pretty careful with keeping the flowering plants to the red/orange/yellow end of the range. I do want a bluebell patch at some point in back, but that's something for next year. I feel like such a dictator telling Danny he can't have purple iris, but someone has to instill some sort of order...and I'm awfully good at playing garden dictator. I'm giving serious thought to building him a playhouse in the back that he can design the garden for. That would be pretty cool, don't you think? Danny already has his own vegetable patch to tend.

If anyone has advice for growing laurel in the American Midwest, I'm all ears.

Passover Veggie Lasagna

This layered dish is a bit of work, but so many of the steps may be done ahead. As Pesach drags along, and the appeal of potato kugel and borscht wears off, this is a nice change. The recipe for the crepes is versatile-you can use it for blintzes, or cut into slices as noodles for soup. Here, I've layered them to make a lasagna-type dish.

It may sound impossible, but passover cake meal (very finely ground matzo meal) works to make a roux for a sauce. It does tend to burn if you don't keep stirring, but you wouldn't be the sort of person that allows for distraction when cooking-would you? Of course not. Watch your sauce for the three minutes it takes.

I filled this with fresh green beans, carrots, sliced boiled potatoes, and spices. You could use anything of course. For the cheese, I sieved some cottage cheese and beat-in an egg. Ricotta would also work fine. Like most of what I post here, consider these ideas, rather than firm instructions, though the crepes will work better if you follow the recipe.

You Will Need:

For the crepes:

1 1/3 cups water
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons oil
6 tablespoons potato starch

Add potato starch last, and beat until thick like cream. Let rest 20 minutes. The potato starch will tend to sink, so give it a quick stir before pouring each crepe.

Lightly (and I mean, really lightly) oil a skillet. Over medium heat, pour a ladle full of batter onto pan, and tilt to cover. Cook until dry on top, then flip and cook a minute longer on the other side. Remove to a plate, and continue-you probably won't need to re-grease the pan.

Don't be overly-concerned if the tear, as you'll be layering them in a dish with vegetables, cheese and sauce.

For the Cheese filling:

3 cups cottage cheese sieved. Beat in 1 large egg.

For the vegetables:

1 lb. green beans,French cut, and lightly steamed
3-4 medium carrots, cut in matchsticks
olive oil (about 1 tablespoon)
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 tablespoon preserved lemon peel, chopped
4-5 small, new potatoes boiled just until tender, then sliced in rounds
1 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Heat the oil in a large pan. Cook the carrots, garlic, and lemon peel until softened. Add everything else and gently toss. Reduce heat to low and cook gently for a few more minutes. This may be cooked ahead of time.

For the sauce:

2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons passover cake meal

In a saucepan, over medium heat melt the butter until it sizzles. With a wooden spoon, beat-in the cake flour and cook until foamy. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, whisking constantly over medium heat until it thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and cover if not using right away. If you are going to be longer than 1/2 hour, pour a bit of cream on top to prevent a skin forming.

Topping: About 1 cup grated cheese of your choice.

Put it together:

Use a deep pan, about 8x11-ish. Go ahead and grease it to make clean-up easier. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In the bottom of the pan, spread a bit of the sauce. Layer some of the crepes, then the vegetables, then cheese filling, repeat. The top layer should be noodles and a tiny remainder of sauce. Sprinkle with cheese. Place the pan on a baking sheet in the event it bubbles over, and bake about 45 minutes, or until top is deeply golden and sauce is bubbling around edges. Let stand about five minutes before cutting.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Explaining to the clerk at the art store that I need a fabric stiffening fixative called, Stiffy. I should have asked where they keep the rubbers too. I was at Dick Blick Art supplies.

So, how was your day?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Garden Progress

Everything I planted in March is up-the spinach, peas, fava beans, escarole, and forget-me-nots. The rocket is still thriving on the windowsil, and most of my indoor seedlings have been potted up into larger containers. If only it would warm up a bit. We're still getting overnight temperatures in the 30's, and I'm reluctant to risk direct sowing of flowers quite yet. The sunflowers I seeded indoors are very slowly beginning to emerge. The carnations seem happy enough. Out of an entire packet (a large packet at that) of rosemary, I managed three thriving plants. I suppose that will eventually be a considerable amount if they make it, but gosh-rosemary is really difficult to grow from seed. Now I know why I've always resorted to plants from the garden centre. I swear, if the bagworms get my rosemary this year, I'm done. Done, I tell you.

We've had tons of rain over the past few days, and although cold, everything is wonderfully green. I have new garden gloves...I'd like to use them already! We're still running our heat. Come on spring, show your face already!

Passover Crispy Sticks

Imagine really large chow mein noodles made from matzo meal. That's what these are. They're fantastic.

The recipe comes from The New York Times Heritage Cookbook, Jean Hewitt ed.1972

You Will Need:

1 large egg
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sifted matzo meal
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Beat the egg, water and salt together. Mix in the matzo meal and let chill, covered for at least an hour.

Take a pea-sized ball and roll it between your palm and a cutting board (or other hard surface) until it is pencil like (I rolled mine pretty thin, but the recipe was kind of vague here). Place on a flat plate while you roll.

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan. Fry a few at a time taking care not to crowd the pan. Don't stand too close when they first go in (I was splattered a few times, but not everyone is as tough as I am and I don't want to hear you crying about a little burn from hot grease). fry until golden. Remove to a rack, then a few at a time, toss in a paper bag with the coarse salt. Store in an airtight tin (but you won't have many left-they go quickly).

Borsch (t) Meatless

This borsch is filled with cabbage, carrots, celery and tomatoes. I'm storing it in jars, but this most certainly is not the disgusting beet water sold in jars (in America anyway-I can't comment on the borsch situation elsewhere). The recipe I'm providing makes quite a bit, but if you add some boiled potatoes and sour cream, you pretty much have a meal.

You Will Need:

8 cups vegetable stock
2 large bunches of beetroot (use about half the greens and save the rest for something else) peeled and matchsticked
1 small cabbage, shredded coarsely
4 carrots, matchsticked
1 large red onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, scraped and chopped (use the leaves if you have them)
2 cups chopped, tinned tomatoes (drained)
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 teaspoon dried dill
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
Extra water to cover
Salt/pepper to taste

Place it all in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Skim any scum that rises and then reduce heat to a very low simmer. Cover, leaving a small vent and let simmer about three hours or until beetroot is very tender. Adjust salt and pepper. Serve hot or chilled.

Makes a whole hell of a lot of borsch. You know, a Shissel full.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Pesach

My Passover spongecake sunk a bit in the centre, but the meatless matzo ball soup more than made up for it. Recipes for both tomorrow, after I get some sleep.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kiwi/Strawberry Jam

Imagine how irritated I was upon opening my box of powdered pectin to find that it was in a torn bag, had poured out into the cardboard box, and was hardened into a lump. That's not helpful when you have already started cooking fruit. I gambled by adding more sugar and using liquid pectin instead. It worked, but Sure-Gel in getting an angry letter in the post from one very annoyed home canner.

I'll give them a test tomorrow, but what I tried at the bottom of the pot was pretty good. The recipe makes 7 half pints.

You will need:

4 cups crushed strawberries
3 kiwi, diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
7 cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin

Combine strawberries, kiwi, and lemon juice in a large pot. Stir in sugar and bring to a boil. Stir in liquid pectin, and return to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim foam and ladle into sterilised jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe threads clean, seal and process 10 minutes in a hot water canner with a 5 minute cool down before removing them. Let stand 12-24 hours before testing for seals.

Sesame and Soy

Inspired by Janice at Columbia Creations, I have a few unusual recipes for soy and sesame seeds (not together, though they are complimentary). I'm really excited to see how her sesame seeds grow-that's something difficult to purchase when your child is nut-allergic as they tend to be packaged in the same facilities as nuts. growing our own would certainly solve that problem. As for soy-that's a staple item in our house, so I have some experience that may be helpful.

First, the sesame seeds. My favourite candy from childhood is made of sesame. We always bought them individually wrapped in orange and brown cellophane bags-but I haven't seen those around in years. The recipe I'm giving here is very close.

Sesame Candy:
From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens, Good/Pellman

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup honey (any flavour is fine (clover, buckwheat, etc.) but I wouldn't use the super-runny stuff for this).
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cups
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla (half a teaspoon orange blossom water is also excellent)

In a heavy saucepan combine sugar, honey, butter, and water. Cook to 290 degrees f. Being careful not to scorch the mixture (I use medium heat). Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Pour into a well-greased shallow pan (10x15x1). When partially cooled, mark cutting lines with a knife. When cold, break apart on indentations. Wrap pieces tightly in cellophane. Makes about 2 lbs.

Sesame Biscuits/Cookies:

These are wonderful, and so simple to make. I've posted them before HERE.

Now, the soy.

Vegetarian pot stickers are a nice way to use baked tofu and/or frozen edamame (soybeans). They are a bit of work, but they freeze really well-you might as well have a dumpling factory day and make them in quantity. Recipe HERE.

How about honey-mustard baked tofu in a bread roulade? Easier than dumplings, and filled with soy. Recipe HERE.

Sesame Baked Tofu (See! Sesame and tofu together!) HERE. This is the recipe I use for Asian dishes, and it really is the best one I've found. All the versions of baked tofu i do (mustard, paprika, barbecue) are all based on the recipe at Pro Bono Baker. I've been making it since she published it, and sometimes I can't believe I ever baked tofu another way. Hands, down-this is the best way to bake tofu I've tried (and I've baked quite a bit of tofu over the years).

I hope you find something you enjoy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Yearly Strawberry Pie

I make this once a year when the good strawberries start showing-up. I also made strawberry ice cream because I didn't think this pie had enough fat in the pastry cream. *shrugs*.

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Sift together flour and salt. Cut-in cold butter. Toss on ice water a tablespoon at a time until it comes together. Roll out, place in a 9 inch pie plate, and prick all over the bottom and sides. Blind bake for 10-12 minutes in a 450 degree F. oven until golden. Cool on rack.

For the pastry cream:

1 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks
2/3 cup AP flour
2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Whisk together the eggs, slowly adding the sugar. Whisk until it is pale yellow, and thick.Whisk in the flour (it will be stiff). Meanwhile, heat the milk to steaming. Slowly, in a stream, whisk the milk into the eggs and sugar. Return the mixture to the saucepan and whisking constantly over high heat, cook until it comes to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to medium and keep whisking another minute or two until it thickens. Do not let it scorch (keep whisking). Remove from heat, beat in butter and extract. Cool slightly before using.

For the strawberry glaze:

1 cup crushed, fresh strawberries
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
a few drops of red food colouring, if you like

Place crushed berries and water in a pan. Over high heat, cook 2 minutes. Force through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds.

Return to pan and whisk in the sugar and cornstarch. Cook, over medium heat, whisking constantly until it becomes clear and thick. Remove from heat, add food colour, and let cool slightly before using.

Put it all together:

Pour the cooled pastry cream into the baked, and cooled pie shell. Arrange fresh berries on top. Gently brush the standing berries with the glaze, before pouring it on thicker-this ensures good coverage. Pour carefully, and gently tilt the pie to cover any bare spots. Chill several hours before serving.

Fanciful Easter Bread in a Baked Basket

I'm sure in more artistic hands, this would be an extraordinary centrepiece for the Easter table. I'll post the recipe as there's still time to get in a few practise runs before Easter, should you give it a try.

From Sunset Breads, Step-By-Step:

2 1/4 teaspoons regular (not instant) yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/3 cup warm milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
5-6 cups AP flour
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk for glaze

In a large bowl, proof the yeast in water. Add milk, butter, sugar, peel, salt and eggs one at a time. Add the flour a cup at a time and beat well with a wooden spoon. When you can hold the dough together, transfer it to a floured surface and knead until smooth, adding flour as you see fit (you thought I was going to say, "As needed" didn't you. I didn't want anyone to think I was attempting to be clever).

Place in a buttered bowl, cover and let rise until doubled-about 2 hours. Punch down, knead a minute or tow longer and then transfer to the fridge for at least an hour, or as long as 24.

Use a 2-21/2 quart bowl that is ovenproof to shape the bread. Cover the bowl with foil, grease well,invert, and place on a greased baking sheet. Divide dough into 20 pieces. Keep dough chilled as you work, only removing two at a time. The bowl should also be returned to the fridge as you work so that the bottom does not begin to rise unevenly. This is admittedly a pain, but there's good reason to deal with it.

Roll two strips about 20 inches long and 3/8 inch thick. Pinch together and twist as you build them around the inverted bowl. You may run out before getting to the top-that's OK, you'll fill it with something after it bakes.

Let rise, covered another 30 minutes in a warm place as the oven preheats to 350 degrees F. Before baking, brush with egg wash. Bake 25-30 minutes or until well-browned. Remove bowl to a cooling rack, but do not remove for ten minutes (I'd go at least 20).

Meanwhile, crumple enough foil to make a form for the unmoulded bread as it will be fragile and need support beneath as it cools. Carefully remove the bread (use a spatula if you need to pry it loose) and place on a rack over the crumpled foil. Cool completely moving as little as possible. Fill with fanciful shaped breads. Look-the book said, fanciful. Who am I to quibble? For all I personally care, you can fill it with...look, I'm only pointing out that you've gone to the effort of baking this damned thing, you should fill it with something slightly more impressive than marshmallow Peeps (not that I don't enjoy a Peep now and then, but try as they may, Peeps are not fanciful. They're strange-and if you microwave're going to try it right now-aren't you? I thought so.
See? Fanciful.

Thanks, Mother Nature

So far, it isn't sticking-but what you are looking at is snow. Rapidly falling, snow. The driveway is going to be a mud bog by day's end. I'm told that this sort of weather will actually make the spinach in my garden sweeter. We'll see. At present it looks cold, muddy, and generally displeased. The peas, onions, and escarole seem happy enough.

Oh poo! (and I do not mean Winnie).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Deerie Pie

This probably never happens to you. One morning, I was causally reading the food section at The Guardian, and my eyes settled on Tim Hayward's beautiful Gala Pie. A normal person would admire it, and move on-but I couldn't take my eyes off it, which I suppose says something as I've been a vegetarian since 1983. I'm a vegetarian, but Mr. Eat The Blog is not. Mr. Eat The Blog's boss generously filled our freezer with dead deer which I've been turning into shredded filling for burritos and tamales. I think you know where this is going.

Would it work? Gala pie is essentially a pork pie with some hard boiled eggs for that extra-special touch that says, "this is special." Indeed it is. Now, imagine how special it would be with venison.

Venison is very lean, so if you succumb to the temptation of a kilo of meat baked into a crust made of rendered beef fat and a bit of flour-you'll need more fat. Quite a bit, actually. I swear Mr. Eat The Blog must have made some sort of goo-goo-eyes at the butcher because when I unwrapped the brown paper parcel, I was met with five pounds of the most beautiful beef fat I've ever set eyes on. Pure, white, artery-clogging fat. Not a grey rubbery bit among the batch.

About the grinding-I didn't bother. My hand grinder is a pain to set-up, and with the chaos that has been my life of late, I was just too tired to even think about dealing with fiddly parts, clamps and so-on. I did the therapeutic thing...I got out my cleaver. My great-big-heavy-expensive cleaver I ordinarily reserve for chopping up winter squashes and such. I wrecked a cutting-board in the process, but it worked. You may prefer a finer texture, in which case you can go ahead and grind it-the recipe suggested leaving some larger pieces, so I think we found a good middle ground. Of course, if you have a food processor this would be a simple enough task.

The aspic was a bit of a problem as I didn't have any piggy-parts to cook down. Instead, I cheated using stock, wine, spices and powdered gelatine. It worked fine.

I really had my doubts as I watched it literally oozing fat in the oven.
"No, that means it will be delicious", Mr. ETB assured me.

It unmoulded easily without breaking, so that gave me a bit of confidence. My attempt at cutting the first slice went poorly as I didn't let it warm up enough out of the fridge. It cuts much better when it has warmed to room temperature. While a pork pie may be more tender, Mr. ETB reports that it isn't really tough, which venison can sometimes be. I did use bacon-but it was turkey bacon for keeping the colour attractive. I have nitrates on hand from sausage making, but the turkey bacon was inexpensive enough (probably because no one in their right mind would want to eat it) and worked well.

I kept the proportions pretty close to the original recipe, though I added a considerable amount of beef fat. The pastry gave me a bit of confusion as the ingredient list at the top did not match up with the same proportions in the recipe later-on. I ended up using the version that went for more hindsight, I should have had more water ready-it was a bit dry to work with. Still, it made a manageable crust, though I probably re-injured that herniated disk in my neck rolling that bastard out.

Anyway, Mr. ETB is taking the rest to work tomorrow, and I can set my thoughts on what to do with the rest of the frozen Bambi.

Wenham Tea House Raisin Bars

Bad photo, good bars.

From the Wenham Tea House Cookbook.

The only changes I made was using butter rather than margarine, and orange juice instead of lemon.

You Will Need:

3/4 cup margarine (I used butter) softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 3/4 cups sifted AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour)
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice (I used orange)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

Cream margarine and brown sugar until light. Add flour, salt, baking soda, and oats; mix well. Press half the mixture into the pan.

Combine raisins, sugar, cornstarch, water and lemon juice in a saucepan; mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring until it thickens-about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly, and spread atop first layer. Press remaining mixture over the raisins.

Bake 20-30 minutes (mine took 25) and cool in pan. Cut into squares. The recipe claims you'll get 36 squares...if you're a miser. Unless you're the type of person that serves their sweets in centimeters, go ahead and cut them generously.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Keeping Track

I've managed to work class time into the weekly trip to the grocer. Danny keeps a composition book in which he faithfully records the price of staple items, noting any sales, or rebates. This has turned into a rather interesting project. At the end of the semester, we'll graph the changes.

The project has had some unexpected, yet wonderful benefits. We tend to shop at the same store, at the same time, on the same day each week. Oh, sometimes I'll pop into another store if I need something, but generally I keep to one place. The population that shops at this particular store are somewhat elderly, and Danny can often be pressed into service bending to reach things, or read labels, etc. After a while, shopping at the same place, we've gotten to know people-and they all know that Danny has been recording prices week-to-week in his little book.

"Oh my! $1.98 for a dozen large eggs? That's an outrage. Danny? How much were eggs last week, can you look it up honey?"

And so he does. And the week before, and the week they were on sale, and the week before that.

"Oh, and how has the price of a quart of milk been?"

And this goes on, and on, as we make our way through the store. Sure, it adds a bit of time to the trip, but I've allowed for that now. He seems to enjoy being helpful, and I hope he's learning to act respectfully (and be helpful) to his elders.

At the very least, he's becoming aware of what things cost (you can buy ten pounds of potatoes for less than a quart of cream).

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Brik With Homemade Warka Wrappers

Oooh, would you look at that thin, perfectly fried to shattering pastry? Looks difficult, doesn't it? I promise you it isn't. Really.

Living in rural Nebraska, I can't just pop over to the store for exotic ingredients. Thanks to the Internet, and a sense of adventure in the kitchen, I don't need to shop for things like Warka pastry.

OK, I know you thought I lost it back when I made the spring roll wrappers, maybe the puff paste, but really, I swear these are a cinch to make provided you plan accordingly. The batter really needs to rest in the fridge overnight. My batter sat closer to 20 hours, but worked perfectly from the first wrapper. That's pretty impressive-even crepes typically fail at the first one.

The recipe I used came from Paula Wolfert. I trust her, and was pretty confident that the somewhat fiddly recipe would actually work, and it did-wonderfully. Paula Wolfert was teaching people how to preserve lemons back in the 80's when no one else was, and for what it is worth, I find her recipe works better than any of the other methods of preserving lemons I've found. I still use it, and at any given time have a quart or two of them on hand. Having a source you trust makes even the oddest techniques seem doable. The recipe with an excellent tutorial is HERE. You can make the warka ahead of time, which will save you time assembling and frying the brik.

I did not have a recipe for the brik filling, I just improvised. Tuna and egg are pretty typical, as are herbs. I used what I had. The filling can also be made well ahead and chilled in the fridge before filling and frying the brik. Make sure when you fill it that the shiny side is on the outside.

Brik Filling:

2 tins tuna in oil
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped baby rocket (because I had it-use what you have)
1 sweet onion, chopped very fine (I would have used spring onions if they were up yet)
1 clove garlic, minced
Thyme to taste
1 heaping tablespoon diced, preserved lemon peel
Olive oil for cooking onion

4-6 Eggs

Combine parsley, rocket, onion, garlic and spices in a pan with a bit of oil. Cook quickly, over moderate heat until onion is just softened. remove from heat. Mix into tuna and peel. Chill until needed.

Heat your oil hot, but not too hot (the egg has to cook). About300 degrees F. is good.

Place a warka sheet, shiny side out on a plate. Mound some tuna filling, make a crater and carefully slide the egg into it (I break my eggs in a ramekin first in case one is bad). Wrap and seal the brik and carefully slide into the hot oil. You may need a slotted spoon to hold the sheets lightly together until it begins to harden in the oil. Carefully turn and fry the other side. Drain on paper, and if you can't serve it immediately, keep warm on a tray in the oven set at 170 degrees F. Be careful cutting into it as oil may spurt out if it got trapped through a crack.

Dinner is served-brik with garlic/parsley carrots and kasha with onions and mushrooms.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Apple "Crisp"

I'm not sure in what world this would be called an apple crisp, but the cookbook says it is from Massachusetts so...write your own punchline.

Essentially, these are baking powder biscuits, with apples, butter, a ton of sugar and baked in a sauce. Delicious, but not apple crisp. The recipe comes from the New York Times Heritage Cookbook, so the recipe has probably been floating around New England for some time. There are so many things like this-grunts, slumps, rolls, cobbler, shortcakes. The sauce it bakes in is novel, but the rest of the recipe sounds like pretty much every other baking powder biscuit based dessert ever made.

I served it with whipped cream, which I had to whisk by hand as I was awaiting the delivery of new beaters for my hand mixer (which arrived after I made the whipped cream). Truth told? There isn't much to whipping cream by hand provided the bowl and whisk are both cold. In fact, I think the way the air incorporates might actually be superior to beating the hell out of it with a hand mixer. Years ago, I taught Danny to count to 100 by counting as I whisked whipping cream. He learned to count, and whip cream in the same lesson.

The recipe did not say if the dish was to be turned out, but I did so anyway. Most times, sauce dripping over hot rolls is rather attractive, though I think this might be the exception as there is just so much of it. A little glaze is one thing...

You Will Need:

For The Apple Rolls:
2 cups Ap flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lard (I used shortening)
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup milk (aprox.)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups peeled, cored and diced apples
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a 9 inch square pan well and set aside. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the lard and butter until fine. Slowly add the milk until you have a soft dough. Knead very lightly (less than a minute). Roll out into a rectangle 1/4 inch thick. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with brown sugar, apples, and cinnamon. Drizzle on any leftover butter.

Roll-up jelly roll fashion from the wide end. Cut into 1 inch slices and place in prepared pan. Set aside as you make sauce.

In a saucepan, combine sugar, flour, and salt. Whisk in the warm water, then slowly bring it all to a boil over medium heat whisking until dissolved. Boil three minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in cinnamon, then pour hot syrup over rolls. Bake (on a baking sheet to catch any drips) 45-55 minutes (mine took about 1 hour) until rolls are firm. Serve warm with whipped cream if you have it.

Makes about 8 servings.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Library Sale, Sunday

Skipping the Saturday sale worked out well, as much of the stuff I didn't want disappeared, and the stuff I did want came clearly into view. For example, the issues of Art in America from 1972 were just sitting there looking lonely on a shelf. If you saw a copy of Art in America with Lee Krasner on the cover, you'd buy it, correct? I can't believe it was just sitting there.

You know you spend too much time at the library when a volunteer comes calling for you in the loo saying, "Your husband needs another dollar, shall I take it to him for you?" I thought that was pretty amusing.

I'm a bit fanatical in my love of Padraic Colum's work. I came home with four, first editions that were obviously donated to the sale as they had no library markings. Throw in some Willy Pogany illustrations and I'm in book collector's heaven.

Vintage cookbooks, gardening books, field guides for insects, birds, and Native grasses of Nebraska, all found their way into our stacks. Folklore, classics, sewing, history...all sorts of things I overlooked on Friday when the shelves were full.

I haven't lugged anything in from the car yet, but I'll try to get some detailed posts done throughout the week. I splurged and bought a pile of sheet music for ukelele-not that I plan to take up the instrument, but because the late 1940's artwork on the covers seemed worthy of framing. Really, how on earth could someone pass that by?

I'm completely exhausted, and next week (and weekend) are looking full as well, but I do find there's time fr the garden-here's what I do:
1). Send the boys outside before breakfast to do the heavy digging/tilling/etc.
2). Stay inside, stepping out to supervise every so often.

Amazingly, the heavy work gets done without my breaking a sweat. I did make them breakfast as I sort of felt I owed them some beans on toast for all the effort. Mr. ETB came in the house and asked if I was making kedgeree. He's going to need to do more than clear a patch of garden for fish and eggs before nine on a Sunday morning. I made potatoes though. Potatoes are good for energy.

Next weekend-Severe Weather Symposium. Be there, or be square.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

What I Learned Today

1). Giant hissing cockroaches really do hiss, and are gigantic.

2). You need to use hand santiser before petting snakes because they can get sick from human germs.

3). llamas are really funny looking, and teenaged boys will have their photographs taken beside one doing the devil-fingers thing. Am I missing something? Shouldn't that be goats? I'm so freaking out of touch with popular culture I had to have, "air guitar" explained to me yesterday (I thought it was some sort of freemason hand-sign thing-y they were doing) but that is another post for another day.

4). We have a local Parrot rescue organisation. You wouldn't imagine there would be that many parrots flying around Nebraska in need of rescuing, but apparently there are. Danny got to pet a parrot, and have a small one perch on his arm-that was neat.

5). Giant millipedes are much larger than the ones I find curled up on the kitchen floor.

6). Turtles are in need of rescue here as well. They live a long time, and little boys bring them in from the backyard and keep them as pets, protected from predators...until they go off to college, and then their mothers dump them off at the rescue society. Danny got a stern lecture about leaving wildlife in the wild.

7). The best thing I learned today? There's no smile better than the one your child has when he notices his own painting on display at the museum. The exhibit will be up all summer, so I imagine we'll have plenty of opportunity to visit Danny's artwork.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

We All Have Our Gifts

It was incredibly busy at the museum today, but I was lucky enough to find a parking spot, so I parked. Upon getting out of the car, a group of people standing nearby, complimented me on my parallel parking. I hadn't really thought about it, I just parked, as I probably did thousands of times over ten years of living in East Boston. I suppose I got good at it.

"I didn't think you'd be able to make it into that space either." Mr. ETB confided as we walked.

"If you think that was impressive, you should have seen me park at the library yesterday-it was uphill and on a curve."

If I had any muscles, I'd flex them in a showy fashion. Maybe crack my knuckles and mutter something about, "all in a day's work." But really, I just put the car into a space. Sheesh.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Not A Bad Haul-Library Sale, Day 1

It was insanely busy, which is unusual for a Friday morning, but word must be getting out about the .25 cent (red X) and .50 cent(blue X) books. Ran into all the regulars, which is kind of like seeing far-flung family at holidays, weddings and funerals.

"Scowly Northerner" was there as well. I don't know what his deal is, but I keep running into him at book sales, the grocer, gallery openings-the dude is everywhere...and unfailingly, scowling. He's got a strange Northern dialect I can't quite place, hence the moniker. I don't think I'm the object of the scowl-he's like that to everyone.

Tweedy OAP was there too. I like him, but then I'm a sucker for men in knit vests and tweed sportcoats, even if it is 68 degrees f. outside. Once, in the baking aisle at Peony Park he was looking for something, spotted me and demanded I find the coconut for him, because he knew I could read. Then, thanking me he proceeded to mutter something so wildly obscene I doubled over laughing. I can't wait until I'm really old and can get away with that sort of thing. He was going to lift a box of books for me, but I wouldn't let him. Oh, I'm sure he could handle it, but I didn't want him wasting what was left of his testosterone on me when there was a flame-headed, retired maths teacher less than 10 yards away. They would be cute together.

Anyway, here's a quick look at some of the better finds:

Dover edition, nothing fancy, but nice to own.

Q: What's in a Nanaimo Bar?
A: Drunks and whores, mostly.

Sorry. I've been waiting years to tell that joke. This pamphlet was published by Canadian Travel Bureau in 1967. Nothing terribly exciting, just the usual pork fat and cracklings spread (no, I haven't tried it-don't plan on it either).

How about nature books? Do you like nature books? I found an interesting one from the leftover writings of the WPA programme.
Inside cover:

Sure, why not for .25

I'm a sucker for nice woodcuts.

Another favourite children's author.

This one is amusing, though somewhat heavy-handed and preachy.This is a book of music and poetry taught in Catholic schools in the 1930's. Interesting selections, nice illustrations, printed on good, heavy paper.