Tuesday, July 31, 2012

summer pleasures

It may seem like we've stopped cooking, but we haven't, we just can't seem to stop and take photos along the way.  Wouldn't it be great if we got our act together and got you back in the loop?  In the past few weeks we've had a fresh black lentil salad, chicken tinga enchiladas, ginger cookies and chocolate ice cream, all homemade and all delicious.  But you'll just have to take our word for it.  Meanwhile, here's some of why summer is awesome.  Strawberries, nectarines, pears, donut peaches... juicy sweet goodness in beautiful packaging.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

farmer's market

We're serious about farmer's markets where I live. Produce is organic, pastries can be superb, and there's always some live music. A good place to learn to appreciate country music. Here's some of the stuff from this morning.

Snap peas, shiitake, and lion's mane mushrooms. I've never had lion's mane. I understand it's pretty bland, but I just couldn't resist the way it looked. Here's a closeup.

The greens, of course, need endless washing. The lettuce came with a friend, in addition to lots and lots of mud. Aaah, nature.

But the real find of the day, one that brought tears to my eyes, were the strawberries.

They are small. They are not pale orange or pink. They do not have a woody center. They smell like strawberries. They are sweet. The best I've had in decades. Will celebrate.

I also got spinach, garlic scapes, and chard. Unfortunately, Madison Sourdough was already out of gateau Basque with lemon filling. So sad. I have to admit that's a major factor in getting me off my butt Saturday mornings for the farmer's market. Next week, I'll get there in time.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


The other day I made granola for the first time.  Well, my mama and I made it a lot when I was little, but that hardly counts, since my only memories of the process are some vague childish sensations like: fun! yummy!  mama!  For my first adult granola-making experience I loosely used a recipe from this book, but as usual, couldn't help but change things here and there.

Here's what you'll need to recreate it, but of course, do like I did and doctor it up according to your taste and whatever you happen to have in your cupboard:

-200 grams of oats (approx)
-a few handfuls each of various nuts and seeds (cashews, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds used here)
-a few handfuls of mixed dried fruits (raisins and goji berries used here)
-4 or 5 Tbsp olive oil
-4 or 5 Tbsp honey (or maple syrup, or agave syrup...)
-ground cinnamon to taste (other options - nutmeg, vanilla, ginger... the possibilities are endless!)

First step is to roast all the bits that need roasting.  In my case it was pumpkin seeds,

And cashews and hazelnuts (remember my tip from the other day?  This is when it comes in handy).

Crush all the nuts and seeds a bit, and mix them with your oats in an oven tray.  Drizzle equal parts olive oil and honey over everything, and sprinkle it liberally with cinnamon.

Get your hands in there and mix it all up so that everything's coated with your syrup.

Into the pre-heated oven it goes, at 190° C (or 375° F).  Every 5 minutes or so you want to pull it out, give it a stir, and flatten it back out again, that way all the oat flakes will get golden, not just the ones on top.  Sounds like a bigger hassle than it is, I swear.  Because before you know it, 25-30 minutes have gone by, and you have toasted granola!  Now just add in your dried fruits, give it another toss, and let it sit until it's completely cool.

Full disclosure: I made two batches in three days.  The first batch just... disappeared.  But I whipped up the second batch so quickly it really made me think I could easily do this once a week, and our house could always be stocked with super healthy, super delicious homemade granola.  Doesn't that sound luxurious?

Serve with milk or yogurt, or just eat by the handful as you pass through the kitchen.  Hmmm... maybe that's why the first batch vanished so quickly...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

skinning trick

Yesterday Husband asked what I wanted to do today,  I answered, without hesitation, "Learn something".  I surprised even myself.

So today, after a mega kitchen-cleaning, I tackled two brand new (to me) recipes.  The actual results will come later on this week once I've had a chance to go through the zillions of photos I took through the process (learning photography while learning to cook: super fun, but ridiculously time-consuming), but I thought I'd share a quick tip that helped me today.

I actually learned this trick from my dad years ago, and while I haven't needed it in at least a decade, it came to me today in a flash, and I was so glad to have remembered.  Some of you may already know this, but on the off chance you don't, I thought I'd share.  If you ever buy raw hazelnuts instead of roasted ones (by accident, as in my case, or on purpose, for some reason which I cannot fathom), pop them in the oven on a tray.

When the hazelnuts come out of the oven, and the skin is all crackly, toss them in the folds of a damp cloth and roll them around in there.  The dried skin will just flake off and stick to the fabric, and you will be left with beautiful delicious naked hazelnuts.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

lemon bars

I made these lemon bars a while ago, but am only just getting around to posting them now.  I know this blog has been a little neglected lately (understatement), but there's just been no time for either of us to focus on it.   So to try and get back in the swing of things, slowly slowly, here's my version of an already delicious recipe from smitten kitchen.

What you'll need for the crust:
225 grams (or 1/2lb.) of softened butter
1/2 cup sugar (I used raw cane sugar, the blonde stuff in the US)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour (I used whole wheat, in a vain attempt to pretend that this is a healthy recipe.  Ha!)

Preheat the oven to 177˚C (or 350˚F).  In a large bowl cream the sugar and butter.

Add flour and salt and mix well.  It'll end up sort of like a clumpy crumble.

Form into a ball, and press it into a greased and floured baking sheet or casserole dish.

Pause by a sun-filled window to admire your handiwork.

Bake 15-20 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned.

Now get started on the filling, which is, in my mind, the best part.

What you'll need:
6 large eggs
2 cups sugar (less than the original recipe, I like my lemon bars very tart.  Again, I used raw cane sugar)
2 tablespoons lemon zest (I used about 4 lemons)
2/3 cup lemon juice (I used 6 lemons.  Again, I like them tart.)
2/3 cup flour (yes, whole wheat.  Laugh all you want, it's usually all I have on hand)

Grate and juice all your lemons.  Doesn't that smell good?  Here's to hoping you don't grate your finger and then squeeze lemon juice into it.  Yeah, I'm speaking from experience here.

Whisk eggs, sugar, and lemon juice, and then add the flour and lemon zest.

By now your crust is done and slightly cooled, go ahead and pour the filling over the top of it.

Back in the oven it goes, 30-35 minutes this time.  (It looks the same!  Only the bubbles have popped...)

Let it cool to room temperature.  I know.  It's hard.  It smells so good.  But seriously, this is one recipe that really does need to cool.  Don't touch it.  Do something else to distract yourself.  Ok, now, go ahead, cut it into squares or triangles or bunny rabbits, and dust with powdered sugar.

Dig in!  Granted, these don't look like your average lemon bars, all sunshine yellow on top and pale ivory on the bottom, but it's because of the darker sugar and flour that I used.  I promise they taste just as good, and while I can't say that they're actually good for you, I would venture to say that they're a little bit less bad for you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

blueberry pancakes

Brunch last sunday consisted of extra fluffy scrambled eggs (always with Penzey's Chicago Steak Seasoning, it's my weird little secret for delicious eggs) and delicious blueberry pancakes.  The blueberries were beyond perfect: slightly tart, slightly sweet and not so ripe that they fell apart and melted into the batter. 

I used my go-to pancake recipe which you can find here, and just tossed in the berries, easy peasy.  I like to throw some berries in the ladle, but then I always strategically place a few more once the batter's on the griddle; can't leave berry placement completely up to chance!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

stir fry

Decided to go pseudo-asian the other night.  Asian because it's a stir fry and I used soy sauce.  Pseudo because, as you can see, I'm totally making this up as I go.  None of that makes this any less yummy though.  What you'll need:

pork fillets
green beans
bean sprouts
green pepper
soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce
spices (I used Chinese Five Spices mix by Penzeys and cumin)
crushed almonds
and of course, olive oil, salt, pepper and turkish red pepper

Slice the pork fillets into thin strips.

Toss in a bowl with liberal amounts of soy sauce, a dash of fish sauce and a few drops of sesame oil.  Let it marinate while you do the rest.

Cut up the beans leaks and peppers into similarly sized strips.  Yes, I'm making fajitas here, but chinese ones.  The sprouts are already conveniently shaped perfectly.

Brown the meat and set it aside.  Sautee all the veggies minus the sprouts with another dash of all those aforementioned sauces and spices.  Not too long, we want everything to stay crunchy!  Add the meat back in and let everything blend.

At the last minute toss in your sprouts.  Serve in your favorite bowl or plate over brown rice, and add some crushed almonds on top.