Archive for March 2008


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Active cooking time: 10 minutes

Peel and grate 1 russet potato into an oiled cast-iron skillet over medium heat. While it’s cooking, wash some watercress.

Once the hash browns are almost done (browned and flipped, nearly browned on the other side), push them aside, snip the watercress into the pan with kitchen shears. Break a couple of organic eggs over the watercress and let them cook till the whites are set. Put the hash browns on a plate, scoop the watercress and eggs on top, season with a little drizzle of soy sauce.

Makes a nice, hearty, whole-food breakfast (brunch? I probably won’t need lunch)… Divine on a drizzly March day, with a mug of hot coffee whitened with vanilla soymilk.

Also, we had a nice, plain dinner the other night: black beans, brown rice, green beans. We soaked the black beans overnight in salted water, and I cooked them in a 250-degree oven in my thrift store Le Creuset Dutch oven for several hours, with a bay leaf in the cooking water.


Written by orata

March 27, 2008 at 9:53 am

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Mac and Cheese

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I forgot to post about our trip last weekend, to Madison and Chicago, where we discovered a new kind of Finnish cheese called juustoleipa, or Finnish Bread Cheese, and ate Chicago deep-dish pizza. While we were in Madison, in addition to juustoleipa, we bought a pound of aged white cheddar at the Babcock Hall Dairy Store (in the famous Dairy Sciences department) so naturally I had to do something with it.

Last night, we had Jeanne, Steve, and Michael Haw over for dinner. (We called considerably more people but that was our final turnout… lots of people out of town.) if I do say so myself, dinner was awesome–not too labor-intensive, so I was almost done cooking when everyone showed up, and what remained was just waiting for carrots to cook. Here’s what I made, in order:

Sexy, Spicy Broccoli–Since this has to marinate for a long time, I made it first. I doubled the recipe from the NYT, used powdered cumin instead of whole seeds, used apple cider vinegar and added an extra glug of it since I could barely taste it last time, and added a little bit of soy sauce:

Recipe: Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad
Published: February 20, 2008

Time: 10 minutes, plus 1 hour marinating

1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

2 heads broccoli, 1 pound each, cut into bite-size florets

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 fat garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons roasted (Asian) sesame oil

Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes.

1. In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add broccoli and toss to combine.

2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour mixture over broccoli and toss well. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and up to 48 (chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours). Adjust seasonings (it may need more salt) and serve.

Yield: 6 to 8 side-dish servings or more as an hors d’oeuvre.

Lemon Pudding Cake–I used some of the delicious eggs from Hazelbrake Farm, and milk in a glass bottle from Oberweis Dairy. The pudding came out really runny this time–not sure why. I made this second because it has to bake in the bain-marie for 45 minutes.

Macaroni and Cheese–I more or less followed the linked recipe (when I try to eyeball bechamel sauce, it always comes out too thick), with the following notes:

Macaroni and Cheese

Gourmet | August 2007

Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez


The toasted crumbs on top have a cheesy crispness, and the pasta beneath is creamy and rich. Kids will appreciate the individual servings, but the recipe makes plenty, so why not pour the extra into a baking dish to feed the ravenous parents?

Active time: 35 min Start to finish: 1 1/4 hr

Servings: Makes 20 servings
For topping
1/2 stick unsalted butter–omitted
2 cups panko (coarse Japanese bread crumbs) or 3 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from 6 slices firm white sandwich bread)–I had two pieces of buttered white bread toast left over from my breakfast at Wee Willie’s, so I ground up those and 4 toasted slices of whole-grain sandwich bread using the grater attachment in the food processor.
1/4 pound coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (1 1/2 cups)–Ran out of the white Wisconsin cheddar, so I used some orange Indiana Amish sharp cheddar from O’Malia’s for this.
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano–omitted

For macaroni and sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk–used 2%
1 pound coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (6 cups)–used the Wisconsin aged white sharp cheddar for this, grated in about 30 seconds using the grater attachment on the food processor. I love that thing.
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano–omitted
1 pound elbow macaroni–used Barilla brand, which has little grooves on the macaroni noodles
Make topping:
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.–I set the oven at 350

Melt butter, then stir together with panko and topping cheeses in a bowl until combined well.

Make sauce:
Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes, then whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in cheeses, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Remove from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper.
I also added a few Tbsp of sweet and spicy mustard and soy sauce, for extra umami goodness, and a generous sprinkle of paprika.

Make Macaroni:
Cook macaroni in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 4 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain macaroni in a colander. Oops, didn’t read this part. Did not reserve 1 cup cooking water. Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce in a large bowl. Transfer to 2 buttered 2-quart shallow baking dishes.–I cooked this in the largest cast-iron skillet we have: we put the macaroni in first, then stirred in the sauce, and topped it all with the breadcrumbs and popped it in the oven for half an hour. Cast iron is the best! I thought I would be scrubbing baked-on cheesy residue off the pan for an hour afterwards, but with a bit of a soak I managed to wash the pan in about 10 seconds–basically just wiping it with the sponge, no scrubbing required.

Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.

Cooks’ notes:
• Topping can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
• Half of dish can be baked in 10 (6- to 8-ounce) ramekins for children (with remaining half baked in a 2-quart baking dish for adults).

Sauteed Oyster Mushrooms
Rahul made these, for stirring into the mac and cheese. Yum. He cut up some oyster mushrooms from the farmer’s market and sauteed them with olive oil, adding a tiny drizzle of truffle oil at the end.

Watercress Soup
This was fast and easy and really surprisingly good for something so plain. Because of how heavy the macaroni would be, I just wanted something light and refreshing, with lots of vegetables, so I made up this soup. The watercress is spicy and a little bitter, so I wanted some contrasting flavors and textures–carrots for sweetness and white beans for richness–and I think the combination worked well.

1/2 bunch watercress, washed and snipped into smallish pieces (this was from the winter farmer’s market)
Stock (I used mushroom-flavored Better than Bouillon)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into discs
1 can Great Northern white beans, drained and well-rinsed

Heat a soup pot of stock. Add the carrots and white beans and simmer till the carrots are tender. Just before taking the soup off the stove, add the watercress and cook for a minute or so–it’s delicate, so it doesn’t take well to overcooking.

We also had some deliciously chalky and rich milk chocolate bunnies Michael brought over, and some kind of candy called “cream prune drop” I got from Obo’s because of the Easterish bunny on the package, happily eating green prunes.

Afterwards, we went to the new beer and bourbon bar called the Root Cellar at Farm and it was lovely–I didn’t have anything to drink aside from sips of other people’s drinks, but we’ll have to go back another time and have fancy beers.

Written by orata

March 23, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Cornmeal pancakes

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I made cornmeal pancakes for breakfast today: a half-recipe of the version from the Joy of Cooking, with the following changes:

– didn’t have any fresh corn (so sad!) so I had to leave it out

– used white cornmeal, not yellow

– added fresh chopped cilantro, red pepper flakes, and a squirt of Sriracha rooster sauce

– used canola oil instead of melted butter

– used soy milk instead of regular milk

– sprinkled a bit of Mexican cheese into the tops of the first batch before turning them over to brown–the cheese got all crispy and golden when fried in the pan

They were delicious and crispy!

Written by orata

March 8, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Sexy broccoli

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Well, as it turns out, banana dumplings are OK but not really something I want to repeat in the future. Overall, though, the stew and green bean casserole were both delicious, and it’s only after about 5 straight meals of the same stuff that I stalled out on eating them. Maybe I will regain my enthusiasm for the leftovers soon.

I forgot to mention that Rahul and I went to Snow Lion last weekend. I’m sorry to say it was pretty lousy. The menu is a weird amalgam of Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, and Cajun (!) food. We got nearly-identical dishes of spicy noodles that were too hot, drenched in greasy red sauce, and ended up making me feel a little bit ill. I would recommend the sauce on mine (the sesame vegetable noodles) over Rahul’s (exotic noodles or something like that), though his had more veggies–snow peas, where mine just had peas. Overall, though, I don’t think I will ever go back there. Unlike the other Tibetan restaurant in town, the atmosphere in the restaurant is bizarre and charmless–it’s windowless, dark, and cramped, half hall of mirrors, half wooden 1970s faux-chalet, and overall reminded me of the Haunted Train at Baker’s Junction we visited at Halloween.

I found this broccoli recipe on the NYT website today and would like to try it sometime soon. Sounds yummy.

Written by orata

March 6, 2008 at 10:41 am

Banananana stew

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“While the cat’s away, the mice will play”

where cat = “Rahul,” me = “mice,” play = “make crazy, possibly ill-advised recipes”

Rahul left for a short trip to El Salvador at 4 AM today. So I’m taking advantage of his absence to make the kinds of things I could never convince him to eat. The weather was phenomenal today–about 60 degrees, balmy and sunny, and I spent most of the day wandering around town–to the new yarn shop, Bloomingfoods for some groceries, Roots (where I sat outside and had a lovely tempeh salad with green herb dressing), the library, the bead shop, Sahara Mart (where I ran into Chris and Laurel while I was absorbed in choosing a fancy chocolate bar–ended up with a delicious Scharffen Berger nibby milk chocolate bar), the business school…

I had a couple of overripe bananas sitting on the counter, and I didn’t feel like making banana bread, so I went to the library and picked up a cookbook called “Go Bananas” for inspiration. Here’s what I’ve come up with for dinner. It’s simmering on the stove now, and only time will tell whether it works out or not.

Black Bean and Banana Stew 

Saute in oil:

– one yellow onion, diced

– one humungous carrot, diced

– 4 large cloves garlic, minced

– a generous sprinkling of frozen diced green peppers (I bought a pack of these  branded under the “Recipe Beginnings” label)

I meant to add celery, too, but my celery was moldy. Booo!

Season with cumin, cinnamon, oregano, and salt, and let the spices toast in the pan.

When the vegetables are well-sauteed (onions translucent, everything looking sort of floppy), add a can of rinsed black beans, two cans of diced tomatoes (I used one plain, one jalapeno), one bunch of chopped green kale, a splash of white wine (thanks, Jeanne! I’m having a glass of it now, too, and it’s yummy) and a peeled, diced sweet potato.  Add some extra water if the stew looks too dry. Crumble in about 5 dried Thai peppers.

While the stew simmers, make banana dumplings (adapted from the plantain dumpling recipe in the Go Bananas! book): melt about 1 Tbsp butter, mash up 2 very ripe bananas, and stir in a few Tbsp of white flour. Drop the batter into the simmering stew by heaping tablespoonfuls and leave undisturbed to simmer till they hold together.

I’m trying to decide whether or not to add some Morningstar Farms fake meat crumbles.

To finish this stew, I’m going to squirt in some lime juice and add some chopped fresh cilantro.

I’m serving this with brown rice and a green bean and yellow squash casserole (mix 2 cans green beans with 1 fresh yellow summer squash cut into matchsticks, 1 can of Amy’s organic semi-condensed cream of mushroom soup, and maybe 1/2 cup of french-fried onions; bake at 350 degrees for 30 mins, sprinkle with more french-fried onions, bake a bit longer, till crispy and yummy).

Written by orata

March 2, 2008 at 8:05 pm