New year new country new coffee

Hello from Kyrgyzstan! I have been here for almost a week and am like on the verge of beginning to attain normalcy here. ALMOST. Beginning.

img_3079

In the vicinity of Ala-Too Square (the main square in Bishkek)

In the course of my explorations today I went to a new grocery store and was deeply delighted to find that they had my favorite instant coffee. Yes, this is the previously untold end of the saga of the instant coffee taste test: I won. I am actually slightly embarrassed by this. Not only did i find an instant coffee I kind of liked, after almost a year of drinking it I have turned into some sort of horrible instant coffee lover. An instant coffee lover who is horrible, that is; not a lover of horrible instant coffee. I love only the finest instant coffee. I will maintain (with deep shame) until my dying breath that this one is actually good. Continue reading

THE RETURN OF THE COOK!

Many things have happened since last I wrote, both in life and apparently in WordPress. Everything looks very scary and confusing. (Am I talking about life or WordPress?! You’ll never know.)

So I have returned from glorious Estonia 🇪🇪 🇪🇪 🇪🇪 🇪🇪 🇪🇪  and am in AMERICA for like a month. I have been enjoying my gluttonous, wicked comforts, such as air conditioning and General Tso’s chicken (haha lol oops vegetarianism). And I bought challah. And the chip-and-pin machines don’t work here. And everyone speaks English, which is terrible, because you have to hear all the very dumb things they say. Personal favorite: “I totally just had the runs in that bathroom!” I heard that on 6th Avenue and 34th Street. And I keep drinking Starbucks, because they don’t have it in Estonia, and in Russia I can’t understand what they say because they speak in Russian. Basically I’m enjoying myself.

I was *extremely* thirsty while I was grocery shopping just now, so I bought, among other things, Gatorade (bright green because I love green), watermelon, and the ingredients for dill pickles (or basically just dill and cucumbers since I forgot all the other ingredients). If we have vinegar in the house, I am going to make them.

After searching for vinegar: Here is a picture of all the vinegars we have in the house. Most of them were donated to my parents by me, two years ago, when I moved out of the Official Relatively Shitty Apartment. And none of them is white vinegar, except for the one that is white vinegar, but there’s like hardly any white vinegar left.

I also found a six-pack of Harpoon Rye IPA, which sounds like the best thing ever, but it was filled with Sam Adams. Ahem, parents.

Continue reading

Further adventures in instant coffee: a warning to you all

23.9.15

Last week I was in Russia (Pskov and Petersburg AHHHAHSDFHAD) on a study trip, and when we were in the most amazing supermarket of all time that was exacty like the Home Depot of food I decided I had to buy this instant coffee, which I surmised would be astoundingly and fantastically terrible. (The company is MOSCOW COFFEE. And then some more words that I don’t understand.) There were a lot of other kinds, including one that had the Eiffel Tower on it, but I decided to go for the less-good-looking one. So.

My hand is in this picture in a very awkward way.

My hand is in this picture in a very awkward way.

I’m writing this before tasting the coffee, because I’m a little worried that things will Never Be The Same, and not in a good way, after I drink it. The coffee particles look a lot like dried wood chips, a la the ending of Fargo. They are a very strange color. Some of them look like coffee, some of them look entirely not like coffee. The smell is not un-coffee-like, however. It has that slightly acidic smell that some kinds of coffee have. (I am hesitant to compare it to anything because that just seems mean.) Fuck, the water finished boiling. My fate is nigh.

Continue reading

Instant coffee taste test, part one

There are a bunch of instant coffee taste-test posts floating around online, so I’m going to ignore all of them and conduct my own. It will probably depend on which one is cheapest at the supermarket that week. I am not bothering to buy a drip machine because last year in Glasgow I did, and it sucked (it was like ten pounds and it came with a German plug, which was weird, and sometimes it would just open by itself while it was coffeeizing), and the ground coffee was too expensive, and sometimes they didn’t have filters in stores and I would have to go to like three or four supermarkets and finally only found them in WAITROSE (omg too many good Waitrose links). So I’m going instant this year. I did it all summer in Russia and didn’t even mind, so this means: 1) I’m way less of a snob than I thought and 2) I have terrible taste in coffee. Café Bustelo 4 lyfe.

:(

😦

Continue reading

Russian food (maybe?) in Estonia

HI FROM ESTONIA! I got here almost a week ago and have been subsisting on: “Mexican” wraps from a very small store on the main square where they sort of speak English but which is also unfortunately frequented by loud American teenagers; cheese and Estonian black bread; Nutella, spread with a steak knife because my apartment came with all utensils except butter knives; frozen vareniki and smetana (well, I cooked the vareniki first and the smetana was not frozen); instant coffee (I will totally do a taste test sometime); and овсяная каша с малинами. I bought that last one over cheaper options because the main label was in Russian and I was homesick. Or something. In a land where the main labels are in Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Polish, Finnish, German, and Spanish (in more or less that order), anything Russian is friendly and comforting.

So now it’s a late Sunday afternoon, exactly cooking time according to my habits the last time I regularly updated this blog, and I have an Estonian cold or maybe allergies, and I finally finished washing the pots and pans that came with the apartment and the dishes I bought for fifty cents each from a departing graduate student, and I’m going to cook something.

My green kitchen!

My green kitchen!

I’m going to cook something my Russian host mother made for me at the beginning of the summer. Whenever she made something I really liked and I asked what it was, she would say, I don’t know! I just made it up. I haven’t even tried it yet. I don’t know if it will come out. And it always did; but I never got her to teach me how to cook. So I’m making it up, channeling my inner Russian babushka (who may or may not exist), and we’ll see. I thought during this summer that I wanted to cook more without recipes, just inventing with whatever vegetables I wanted to eat, so we’ll see how it goes.

This is going to be a vegetable soup/stew/mixture/thing of cabbage, beets (I like beets now!), potatoes, onions, and carrots, since that’s more or less what was in the one she made, as far as I remember; and I have some vegetable broth things (identical to the ones I bought in Glasgow except in Polish … so actually I don’t really know what they are); and I have salt and pepper, and that’s all. Oh, and some bread, and some cheese that’s in Estonian. It’s called maasdam. I would Google Translate it, but that’s not fun.

Continue reading

BAGELS WHAT WHAT WHAT *INCOHERENT BABBLING*

IT IS HAPPENING.

BAGEL TIME.

AHHHHHHHHHH.

Since three people read this blog and they all know that I moved to Glasgow for grad school, I will not update you about how I moved to Glasgow for grad school. But I did. And THEY DON’T HAVE BAGELS HERE. They have most other things that are necessary, but I am, for lack of bagel, starting to become a small, weak, WASPy white-bread of a former human being. So this shit is happening.

me: should i make bagels
Jeff:  Absolutley.
Absolutely
why haven’t you started
me:  because of fear and also because the kitchen is cold and smells weird
OK I’M GONNA DO IT
Sent at 6:54 PM on Friday
me:  it’s happening AND I AM GOING TO BLOG IT.
Jeff:  “the relatively Jewish cook”

I am watching Master Chef Australia. It is Friday night, and I feel pretty good about that. Oh no, Master Chef Australia just stopped working. Pause. Never mind, it’s back. Anyway. I measured warm (???) water, barley malt (which I actually HAD IN MY POSSESSION ALREADY because the spirit of bagel is strong within me), yeast, and salt with my beautiful kitchen scale that came from home with me.

Bagelmaking commences. Master Chef Australia in background.

Bagelmaking commences. Master Chef Australia in background.

And it’s in my one and only pot (not even a bowl) because I just like didn’t buy cooking supplies when I moved here. And then I measured in the bread flour, and then I mixed it with my pink wooden spoon that is falling apart such that bits of things get stuck inside it and it’s disgusting. And now the dough is resting. Now it’s time to knead. Hold on.

Jeff: Oh, it would be very hard to deal with the shame of making bagels in front of 82 invisible people.

Spanish tortilla, aka food without cheese

Because I had a grotesque and horrible cold last week (well, I don’t know when I’m going to post this… so let’s just say sometime in the recent past), I needed a dinner recipe for the week that involved no cheese. This was very tragic for me. My first thought was something Asian, but ultimately I chose a Spanish tortilla, and then went to Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. (I was sick and in no mood for doing any further research.)

I first spent ninety-seven years slicing three enormous Yukon Gold potatoes (or U.K. Gold, if you are my supermarket and speak imperfect English) and one small onion. I can thereby attest that you should not make this on a weeknight unless you have a mandoline, which I do not. I am, however, an exemplary slicer. But it still took forever.

I cooked the potatoes and onion in a terrifying amount of oil

(most of it gets discarded later, though; so I now have a totally solidified Grey Poupon jar of potato-y, onion-y olive oil in my fridge) for about ten minutes; I should have done slightly less, since the pan I was using was far too big and thus most of the potatoes were in direct contact with the heat source. (SK tells us to use a nine-inch skillet, but I only have one skillet and it is enormous; I didn’t want to risk using a frying pan and having an eggsplosion. This seems like the sort of thing that would happen to me.)

I drained the oil using a colander over a bowl, added s&p, and let them cool a bit while I beat my seven eggs (!!!!). I added s&p and then poured in the potato/onion mixture. They mingled for ten minutes while I did my Russian homework. Я учу русский язык.

I added some oil back into the skillet, then added the egg mixture; I cooked for a bit, trying to let the egg run around the sides as she said, but the pan was so oily that the entire tortilla kept moving whenever I tried to do this.

Once the top was mostly solidified (I’m sorry but I don’t even remotely remember how long this was… five, ten minutes??), I spatula-ed it onto a dinner plate. That part wasn’t too hard—it came right out.

Then I turned the skillet over the plate.

Then I went, what in God’s name do I do now.

I think I just sort of stuck my oven mitt–encased hand under the plate, and then, with my other oven mitt–encased hand on the skillet’s bottom, flipped it over. It was actually not as hard as it sounds, but it was anxiety-provoking.

I put the skillet back over the flame, and learned that the bottom of my tortilla was way too dark. I either overcooked it or had it over too high a flame. (I think the latter; I am overall satisfied with the amount of cooking.)

Then it was done shortly thereafter.

I didn’t think it would be that exciting-tasting, but it was REALLY GOOD. It was like… potato omelette… but in cake form… and it was weirdly addictive and I couldn’t stop eating it. That said, I can’t really imagine ever doing this again, but it was a good experience. And yummy.

I ate it with arugula-and-cherry-tomato salad.

 

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen; not adapted, so just look at it on her site.

Better breakfast bars

This blog is basically defunct, so I’ll just admit that I’m only posting this to make the recipe easier for me to find. (I got it from a Talk thread on Serious Eats, and it is annoying to keep going back to it.)

These are breakfast bars. They are good. Actually, I had a horrible cold all last week and couldn’t taste them, but I think they’re good. (The first iteration, which I made two weeks ago, had Craisins and smaller chocolate chips and was definitely good, so I assume this one, which has apricots and large chocolate chips, is also good.)

I have some awesome tips for you.

First, mix your dry ingredients—whole wheat flour, ground flax seeds (I’m not sure this serves a purpose other than health; I’ll let you know when I run out of flax seeds and have to start experimenting), oats, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Then, put an open container of honey next to the dry ingredient bowl. Scatter some dried apricots on a cutting board.

This is what we in the business call a bad photo.

Chop the apricots into small pieces. (I think I chopped each apricot into six pieces or so.) Apricots are sticky and this is rather difficult.

Add your chocolate chips, dried fruit, and nuts (I love hazelnuts; use whatever you like) to the dry ingredients.

In a smaller bowl, add about 3/4 c applesauce. (I’m still experimenting with this; but since I use only w.w. flour instead of some w.w. and some white, the dough is much drier and more applesauce is needed. I tried adding some milk last week, but I’m not sure that was a good idea. Still, there is no clear evidence ether way.)

Add 3 tbsp canola oil.

WITH THE SAME TABLESPOON, add 2 tbsp honey. This way the honey will just slide out of the tablespoon; you won’t have any getting-honey-out-of-the-tablespoon crises. It’s awesome.

Mix together, then add to the dry ingredients. It’ll be kind of impossible to stir. I’m going to use my hands the next time I do this.

If baking bars, put in a 9×9 cake pan and bake for about 20 minutes.

If making cookies (probably the superior option), form cookies, put on a sheet pan, and bake for 12-ish minutes.

Breakfast bars
Adapted from Sourdough, a Serious Eats user 

3/4 c whole wheat flour (or 1/2 c whole wheat and 1/4 c white)
1 1/2 c rolled oats
3/4 c ground flax (this is expensive, so you should find a replacement)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 c combination of dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate chips (I just make things easier and do 1/2 c each)
1/2 – 3/4 c unsweetened applesauce
3 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp honey

Mix dry ingredients together, including the add-ins. Mix wet ingredients together in a separate bowl, then combine.

Bake at 350°, either in a cake pan for 20 minutes or as cookies for 12 minutes.

If you intend to keep them around for more than a few days, put them in the fridge.

Jollof rice (well, not really, but kind of)

I am continuing my West African kick with jollof rice, the national dish of a variety of West African countries. I don’t feel qualified to say much else about it; I have no idea if my version was authentic (and if it was originally, it wasn’t after I messed with it); etc. etc. But it is yummy and only gets better as time goes on. I wasn’t thrilled with it on Sunday, but by Tuesday it was really good, all melded together, flavor synthesis, blah blah. I am also so impressed by how the chicken came out that I’m willing to overlook all the other deficiencies, such as excessive tomato flavor such that all the other flavors are sort of lost and… well that pretty much sums it up. I browned, braised, and microwaved the chicken at various points over the last few days, and it’s still moist and yummy and tender and non-dry. And it tastes good. I think this is a function of using thighs and not cutting all the fat off? Or it’s because I used relatively happy chickens? (Let’s just say their lives probably had their ups and downs, but things could have been worse.)

Anyway. I messed up most of this recipe and barely took pictures because I was Skyping the whole time, and it was very stressful going back and forth from the chickeny cutting board to the computer to the recipe etc., and I spent a lot of time staring at the recipe while my sisters wondered what I was doing because it just looked like I was staring at them close-up and creepily. But I wasn’t. (Oh, and there was this one moment where I was getting an incoming Skype call and I got extremely stressed and clicked “accept,” but then I realized I hadn’t washed my hands after cutting some chicken, so I proceeded to spray my computer, mouse, and basically everything nearby with all-purpose kitchen cleaner. Ew. Ugh.)

Continue reading

Ghanaian stew, kind of

I spent an extremely long time the other day looking for a black-eyed peas recipe that wasn’t lobia or hoppin’ john. I was first led to Red-Red by a Whole Foods post, and then finally I found what seemed like a more legit recipe. (I love that The Spice Island stresses how salty this should be. They know what’s up.) Red-Red is a Ghanaian stew—red for the red palm oil (which I substituted because I couldn’t find any, but then I remembered I could have just gone to one of the West African markets in Harlem and found some, probably) and red for the tomatoes. That’s all I can tell you about it, though; I could not possibly know less about Ghanaian food. Or Ghana, actually. Though I do know multiple people who have lived there.

This recipe has tons of onions, tons of tomatoes (real ones! not canned!), and tons of hot peppers. I used jalapeños rather than habaneros, both because habaneros scare me and because I couldn’t find any. (Well, I found something that looked exactly like habaneros, but it had a different name, and I didn’t want to accidentally feed myself something on the same heat spectrum as Scotch bonnets.) I am now glad about this because my hands are still burning from the jalapeños, and I chopped them more than twelve hours ago. I think I have skin problems. Or maybe I burned myself on, like, a pot or something.

OK, I forgot to mention the black-eyed peas business. I knew I had to soak them for three or four hours, if not overnight, so I put them in to soak and went about my day. Then I drained them, rinsed them, and added more water and put them on the stove. I looked at my previous blog post to see how long they should cook, but it was very unhelpful. I can now sympathize with all of you. (I ended up cooking them for about 50 minutes. When they were done, the liquid was all black. I was freaked out; I assume that if this had happened to me before, I would have recorded it. It almost seemed like they were white beans that someone had drawn a black eye on and the ink had all washed off. But … I mean … that probably didn’t happen?)

After they were done—the timing was a bit off because I was doing all this during/after dinner—I chopped my enormous quantities of onions, then tomatoes. Ugh, and jalapeños.

Beautiful lovely tomatoes, and evil jalapeños. (From my parents’ garden and a farmers’ market.)

Then I put a bunch of dried shrimp (I was aiming to end up with 2 tsp, but I didn’t really measure) into my food processor and ground them (it has a spice-grinding setting; it doesn’t work very well on actual spices). They became a sort of shrimp powder, though in slightly larger bits than I wanted.

Continue reading