Weeks in review

I haven’t done a legit post in an extremely long time, so I’m ridiculously behind on food adventures. For example, I’ve completely missed the chance to tell you about everything I ate at the Union Square Holiday Market (which I guess is just as well, since the friend I went with has not yet chosen a blog pseudonym). I also have no pictures of the excellent life experience I had at Murray’s new cheese bar, so I’m going to skip that too.

But here are some other food-related adventures of note. Or not of note, but I will talk about them anyway. (And more good things upcoming–I am now in possession of a really cool vegan soup cookbook (thanks Ma), so there will be more soup, and cool soup accompaniments if I can find/afford rye flour.)

1. Whole-wheat pancakes with almond butter

It looks horrible, but it’s good. It’s these pancakes—presumably with a milk/lemon juice mixture to approximate the buttermilk, since I never have buttermilk—they were good, except for the fact that I used very old blueberries that had been frozen, thawed, refrozen, rethawed, used as an ice pack, etc.

The almond butter is made by roasting raw almonds for 10-15 minutes, then putting them in a food processor and processing them for an extremely long time. My food processor is a mini, low-power one and it didn’t enjoy the process, but I was eventually able, after maybe half an hour and a lot of stopping and starting, to create a reasonable facsimile of almond butter. It’s good with honey, and keeps forever (I hope; I made it months ago and have been eating it ever since).

2. I more or less figured out the barley. I just cooked it in a pan with this sauce, though I didn’t measure anything. Then when I was eating it, I kept finding cat hairs in it.

3. The dread Cat Food Incident. After posting that, I got emails that said things like, “Whhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?” I also had the following conversation with my younger sister.
Me: I ate a piece of cat food.
Her: WHY?
Me: I was curious. [It was a very expensive piece of cat food.]
Her: Why do you always eat cat food???
Me: I have never eaten cat food before!
Her: Yes you have.
Me: I have? What did I say about it?
Her: You said it was horrible.
Me: Oh.

I also have a picture of my empty hand, after I ate the cat food.

4. Diner Eggs. I make diner eggs all the time, but these looked nicer than usual.

(I call anything “diner eggs” that involve cooking eggs in melted butter, in a neither totally fried nor totally scrambled way. Usually I also cook the toast in butter in the same pan; this rendition involved home fries. Yum.)

OK, more in the next post, this is getting ridiculous.

Soup dreams

I know I’m being a terrible blogger, but this is really funny.

At some point in the middle of the night while I was asleep, I had a dream I invented a soup recipe in this really fancy foodie language. It was a blended carrot and shiitake mushroom soup, and in the final end product you couldn’t taste the mushrooms at all, but they added “body and earthiness,” or something. I think it was even more foodie-ish than that. It was ridiculous.

Then I woke up and was like, that is gross and I would not eat that soup.

Actual posts forthcoming.

Pudding, soup, and my cat

I was just looking through the pictures on my camera to see if I had anything I could blog about, and found some pictures of the cauliflower soup I made last night. I have NO memory of taking these, and actually have a very clear memory of deciding not to bother because I wasn’t feeling very good about the world. But I guess I did.

I hate how my stove doesn’t have a clock.

I also found a lot of pictures of my cat.

Anyway, the title of this post alludes to various experiences I had with Smitten Kitchen this weekend. I have a love-hate relationship with her; on the one hand, whenever I want to cook anything, I go to her website, but on the other hand she’s so happy I hate reading her blog. (I hope and assume she will never read this.) (“Happy” isn’t usually the word I use.)

On Saturday night I made her chocolate pudding—no pictures because it came out so terribly and I wasn’t at home. I don’t know what went wrong, but it never thickened, and ended up looking like hot chocolate with bits of unmelted chocolate and LUMPS OF CORNSTARCH. Just fyi, a lump of cornstarch is the devil incarnate. My friend said it was the worst thing I had ever cooked.

Then last night I made her cauliflower soup, in keeping with my Sunday immersion-blender soup tradition. It was really good when I tasted it last night, which confused me because all it contained was onion, garlic, cauliflower, parmesan cheese, and chicken broth, and I wasn’t aware that I liked cauliflower. But I was pleased with how it came out.

Today I started eating it at lunch, and it sort of tasted like the tears of tortured chickens.

(This is because I made it with chicken bouillon cubes. I am transitioning to a vegetarian kitchen, and the only thing standing between me and kitchen-vegetarianism is twenty-two bouillon cubes.)

I mean, it was still pretty good. But Jesus Christ, where do they get the chickens for chicken bouillon cubes??? I checked the ingredients and they *do* contain chicken product, which made me feel worse about the whole thing.

Here’s a picture of my cat.

Mr. Fitzpatrick Bubbles, Esq.

Good night.

Google, soup, and so on

I’ve discovered that if you do a Google search for “what to do if you make soup and it sucks,” there are no results. Well, now there will be. I don’t have an answer, though, other than “suck it up and eat it for the rest of the week anyway.”

I’m not sure what went wrong, but I can’t taste the garlic at all. Part of it could be that I used too much water and not enough vegetable broth, but I’ve seen enough recipes where they were interchangeable that I don’t think it should make that much of a difference. I think it just needs some lemon juice or something; it was very flat. Overall, a failure that I do not blame myself for.

I am still experimenting with the barley. Update later. (Tonight’s rendition was better, but not ideal. I don’t think you’re really supposed to eat it plain, like outside of soup or whatever.)

Soup and barley update

The cabbage: extremely wonderful. I was eating it out of the pan after I finished my bowl. (Also, I am still hungry.)

This picture isn’t bad. The cabbage actually looks like that.

The barley: still had no taste. I just ate it with butter and salt, which is probably a bad way to do things; I would never eat brown rice or quinoa that way. I will experiment with it tomorrow. And/or read every single vegan blog in the universe to find something better to do with it. (The non-vegan blogs just have recipes for beef barley soup, which is unhelpful.)

The soup: looks really horrible right now. I was sauteing the

[UPDATE: OH MY GOD SOUNDCHECK HAS JUDY COLLINS IN THE STUDIO RIGHT NOW. I LOVE HER. AAAAAAHHHHH.]

leeks, herbs (my rosemary, marjoram, and other stuff mixture I bought at a salt store in Slovenia), and bay leaves while simultaneously “popping” the roasted garlic out of the skin. Mostly they didn’t want to pop; I alternately squeezed them out (this was disgusting) and stuck my fingers into the cloves to get out the remaining garlic pulp. While I was doing this, I forgot about the leeks and burned them to an inhuman blackness.

[Update update: It’s Spinning on Air, not Soundcheck.]

I carried on anyway, because I am the Relatively Shitty Cook, and added the garlic, diced potato, and a smattering of smoked paprika. One should always measure smoked paprika because it’s so strong—and I don’t love the flavor—but I didn’t. Then I added my one can of vegetable broth and one can of water, because I had for some reason only bought one can. (I didn’t have a can of water. I just filled the empty vegetable broth can with water and added it.) I then de-stemmed and sliced the kale, using a cookie sheet as a very useful second counter. I also ate a piece of raw kale that was on my chair. It was unexciting.

The kale takeover of my apartment is almost complete.

So that’s what’s going on now. Burnt glop is simmering on the stove. Soon I will puree it. La la la. I want cookies.

Shit, I just pureed a bay leaf. I knew I was going to forget to remove them.

Anyway, the soup is now done and it looks… brown. After tasting it I added a lot more salt, pepper, and paprika, and then some cayenne pepper for some reason. Full review tomorrow. I am concerned about it. Also, I am eating chocolate chips again. Good night.

I don’t know if I want to eat this.

I am cooking ninety-five things right now

1. Banana bread baked oatmeal (for breakfast all week)
2. Barley (for dinner) (possibly a mistake)
3. Roasted garlic and kale soup (for lunch all week)
4. Cream-braised cabbage (for dinner)
5-95. Shush

I am currently baking the oatmeal and roasting the garlic (shit the timer just went off) (OK, nothing was done); the oatmeal is really easy and really good, unless you use bananas that have been in the freezer for any length of time. Supposedly you can freeze bananas, but I always find that they become disgusting instantly.

Cut the cabbage in half, then core it (just slice a big triangle out of the center—it’s easy). Then slice, pretty much any which way.

The soup is to once again take advantage of my immersion blender, and because soup is warm and delightful.

The barley is because I read a Michael Pollan book last week; it was boring and pissed me off, but I can’t stop thinking about it. Mostly I just go around thinking, “Would my great-grandmother recognize this as food?” The answer is always no, because all my great-grandmothers were from Russia or Poland or Belarus and I don’t think

[oh God, a lot of things just happened. First the cabbage was softened, or too softened, and I had to add the lemon juice, salt, and cream and stir frantically; then the timer went off again, so I had to take out the garlic and oatmeal, which I decided were done; and then I should have stirred again but instead I’m writing this, and also the barley, in the rice cooker, is being very l0ud]

Leeks and cabbage sauteing. This was right after I put them in, before they started softening/reducing.

she ate tofu, or shrimp, or sushi, or strawberries. But despite all that, and despite the fact that I am positive Michael Pollan mainlines Doritos in his spare time (indeed, it is impossible to be happy in life without doing so), I wanted to try more whole grains (well, he says you should eat leaves, not grains, but fuck that). So I’m cooking barley. It also seemed sort of Old Country-ish, and like it should go with cabbage. But who knows. We shall see.

Oven buddies

The barley-cooking is stressing me out. I have no idea what I’m doing. Also, I’ve taken a pause in the soup-cooking. Hold on, I need to check the recipe. Yeah, it seems like I have to concentrate on everything else I do in this recipe, so it’s going to have to wait a while. The barley is not done, by the way; also, it has no flavor. Well, I guess I have no idea if it’s done.

Anyway—the cabbage is because a few months ago I made that recipe, because I had cabbage left over from a Chinese-food experiment, and it was AMAZING. I have no idea how. I don’t like cabbage except in Chinese food. But this was so great. I guess it’s partly because I love leeks, and partly because it has cream. And at one point I made a great dinner using cabbage-from-the-freezer, fried-ish/scrambled-ish eggs, and toast cooked on the stove in butter. So I am making it again.

I’m going to eat cabbage now. I will be back later. Have a happy dinner.

Challah: A Tale of Suspense

Today at work I kept reading and rereading the Kitchn’s article on making challah—I couldn’t stop looking at the pictures. Having nothing to do tonight, I decided to make it; and in the middle of a yeast freakout, I decided to liveblog it. Behold. (This recipe is entirely the Kitchn’s; I would never dream of adapting a bread recipe.)

7:26 PM. I add 2 tsp yeast, 1 c lukewarm water, and a pinch of sugar to a small bowl and wait to see if it will froth.

7:27 PM. Start frantically Gchatting everyone in the world and asking them why my yeast won’t froth. Curse yeast.

7:28 PM. IT’S BUBBLING. Get extremely excited. (This is both a command and a statement.)

7:29 PM. It’s not really bubbling any more than it was thirty seconds ago. Perhaps this is a bad sign. DAMN YEAST. Should I start assembling the dry ingredients or not bother? Perhaps the Tale of Suspense will end here.

7:30 PM. I’ve just concluded that it frothed so much that the entire top layer of the bowl was froth, so I didn’t realize it was froth.

7:34 PM. Finish mixing the dry ingredients (4 c flour, 1/4 c sugar, 2 tsp salt).

7:37 PM. Create a well by pushing the flour mixture to the sides, and crack in two eggs, one egg yolk (separated by hand), and a quarter-cup of canola oil. (It said a neutral oil and vegetable oil freaks me out.)

7:52 PM. I made a “slurry” by whisking together the aforementioned wet ingredients, then poured the yeast mixture on top (which was REALLY frothy and cleary enjoying its life) and then mixed everything together until it had formed a shaggy ball:

I then turned it out onto a floured surface (first a piece of wax paper on the counter, but then I got rid of the paper and just used the counter itself) to knead. At first everything went excellently: the dough was smooth and soft and lovely, and I was calmly whacking away at it. (Ew.) (The way I knead is by folding the dough over, pushing it in with the heels of my hands, turning it, folding again, etc. I believe I got this method from the Joy of Cooking, or possibly another cookbook. It’s legit; I didn’t make it up. You can use it safely.) After the flour sort of ran out, and the dough was just sitting directly on the counter, things became unhappy. I think this is because I had very thoroughly scrubbed the counter right before this and it was still damp; every time I added more flour (which I was nervous to do, because I tend to vastly overflour my bread-type goods), the dough instantly and delightfully behaved. After I taste it, I can let you know if I used too much flour… Anyway, after about ten minutes, I stopped flouring, put it in an oiled bowl, covered it with my green kitchen towel, and put it in my Official Bread-Warming Spot, the chair next to the heater.

(Note: You’re supposed to add more flour during the kneading process as necessary.)

I will be back in approximately 1.5 hours. Now I will make an unexciting dinner. (I have been having unexciting dinners this week, thus lack of blogging about them. Ugh I really don’t want to make dinner. There’s no food here.)

8:23 PM. I am in the middle of eating lettuce out of the salad spinner and cooking home fries. Yum. (I have already sauteed onions in butter, and the potato pieces are now sauteing.) The kitty is missing. There were some bad noises coming from the microwave earlier. Note to self and the world: It is difficult to cook when you have no kitchen towel. (Also, I cleaned the counter, which was covered in dough. I wished I had a dough scraper and then felt bad for making fun of Jacqui when she said she needed a dough scraper the other day. Oops.)

8:36 PM. Eating home fries and fried eggs. Yum.

8:38 PM. Sort of wish I had done a better job of making these home fries. So much pepper, not enough paprika.

8:58 PM. I am full, and bored. Rise dough rise!

9:15 PM. I just looked at the dough and then informed Fitzpatrick (my foster cat) that “this is the most beautiful thing I have ever created.”

9:26 PM. HOW IS THIS WORKING?!?!?!? I just put the dough on the cookie sheet, divided it into three (uneven) parts (IT WAS GLUTENY AND STRETCHY!!! AAAAH!), and braided it. This is amazing. Woah. Now it is sitting under its dish towel in its spot by the heater. I had to move some furniture around because it now only fits on the coffee table, not the chair, and Fitz is now glaring out from inside his box because he is semi-barricaded in there.

9:44 PM. It is impossible to concentrate on anything while challah is rising nearby.

10:18 PM. I just looked at it. It is becoming big and fluffy and springy and puffy. And other good bread-type things. I am now preheating the oven. (I may or may not have just stuck my head into the oven and gone, “Ooh, it’s nice and warm in here.”) I am worried about my capacity to do an egg wash (brushing egg, in this case just the white, which I think is unusual, on something… that was a terrible explanation) without a pastry brush (a paintbrush except with rubber bristles) (sort of).

10:37 PM. The challah is in the oven, but the egg wash has gone awry. It spilled everywhere, including on the floor of the oven, the door of the oven, and the Mouse Danger Zone. It now smells burnt in here. I have turned the fan-thingies on. Alas.

10:39 PM. It smells like burning. I tried to clean the burnt egg from the inside of the oven with metal tongs. Do not recommend.

10:41 PM. Cleaned the egg out of the Mouse Danger Zone. Do not wish to discuss what I found in there. (Will say that there were actually no mice or … mouse products, though.) Smokey smell is making me very anxious.

10:52 PM. The smell has become less “oh-god-do-i-need-to-evacuate” and more “i-probably-do-not-need-to-evacuate.” Halfway through baking, more or less.

11:07 PM. Just looked at the challah. I said, “HOLY SHIT.” (It looks good.) (And it smells like Judaism.)

11:13 PM. I have taken it out of the oven and am speechless with pride and joy.

11:17 PM. The challah is fucking amazing and I am awesome in every possible way.

Crabby broccoli soup

There is no crab in this soup. I was just in an extremely bad mood when I made it.

I recently got an immersion blender, in the unfortunately-named color Dark Yellow, and wanted to make cream of broccoli soup. I couldn’t find a non-boring-looking recipe, so I minorly adapted this broccoli-cheddar soup from The Kitchn.

It involved cleaning leeks. Cleaning leeks is a kitchen thing I actually know how to do. Leeks are insanely dirty—you’ll find dirt within all the layers deep inside—so what you’re supposed to do is cut them longitudinally into quarters (not all the way!!) and then swish them around in a big bowl of water. I just splayed them out under the faucet and tried to get most of the dirt out. I did not entirely succeed, but I also did not care, because I was in a horrible mood.

Sorry this photo is so horrible.

Sorry this photo is so horrible.

Leeks make me wish I knew how to take photographs.

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The leeks softened in oil in a big pot, and then I added the vegetable broth and diced, peeled Yukon Gold potato (because they are waxy and thus, I think, better for soup—unlike Idahos or russets or whatever—the normal brown ones). While this was all going on, I put my broccoli in my two pans (one roasting pan/lasagna pan? I call it a lasagna pan) and one brownie pan (9×9). I had already cut it into those pretty floret things. At this point I tried to pour olive oil over them evenly, but did not succeed, so after sprinkling them with salt I mixed everything together with my hands. This was very enjoyable, so I did it too exuberantly and some broccoli fell into the Mouse Danger Zone, the giant gap between the oven and the sink/cabinet structure. (Mouse Danger is no joke. I did not enjoy fishing out the broccoli.)

This is by far the most exciting photo ever taken.

This is by far the most exciting photo ever taken.

The broccoli roasted for about fifteen minutes—I mixed it once or twice, ineffectively, with a wooden spoon—while the vegetable broth was coming to a boil. I then added the broccoli to the boiling soup, and did not take a picture because things looked pretty disgusting. Then I whipped out my extremely handy immersion blender… and blended. This went well until the end, when I had a perfectly creamy, blended soup except for some giant broccoli stalks that WOULD NOT BLEND. It was freaky. I kept locating them and then putting the immersion blender directly on top of them; this made a surprising and ominous sound, but did not blend anything. Eventually I just took them out, diced them, and returned them to the pot for some not-particularly-desired texture. I also added the cheddar cheese—I didn’t have a cup, I don’t think; I just grated and added the rest of my block of cheddar cheese. It looked like maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup. It melted in.

I then finally tasted things. (I am bad at remembering to taste things until it’s too late.) It was decent, but bland-ish; I added lemon juice, some glugs of milk for creaminess, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (I LOVE red pepper flakes and add them to everything).

Highly mysterious broccoli soup.

Highly mysterious broccoli soup.

Then I crabbily washed the dishes, because the dish I wanted to store the soup in was dirty.

Anyway, I had it for lunch today. It was actually much better than it had been yesterday, or I was just hungrier. It was good. Not the greatest soup of all time, but very good. And warm. Then it, or something, gave me a stomachache. But I believe this is a personal problem and not related to the soup.

The end.

No-Knead Mushroom Pizza

Ugh, it is very early in the morning and this post might be extremely bad. So on Friday night, Jacqui and I made pizza. I made the dough Thursday night (through Friday), using Jim Lahey’s no-knead pizza dough recipe, which made my entire apartment smell wonderful and yeasty and bready. (However, it was supposed to rise for eighteen hours in a 72-degree apartment, which means whoever wrote this recipe does not live in a building owned by a slumlord. My apartment was maybe 64 degrees. Anyway, I put the dough in a bowl next to the radiator and hoped the cat would not eat it.)

Dough

Those little spots on the bottom of the coffee maker are yeast that spilled FUCKING EVERYWHERE when I opened the package. Yeast went all over the entire world.

The next day things took a potentially bad turn. Jacqui and I packed the bubbly dough in a not-big-enough tupperware and took it on a very long walk across Manhattan, through Whole Foods, to her apartment. At this point it had been in the cold for at least an hour, and it was not happy. Then we divided it into two balls (it was supposed to be divided into four) and I tried to shape it pizzeria-style. I was informed that I would not be allowed to throw it in the air and catch it. Then I rolled it out. Overall, I did such a bad job of this that Jacqui started over, this time using all the dough in one giant ball.

So she rolled it out again with the rolling pin, we topped it, etc., and baked it in a 500-degree oven for ten minutes.

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Then we broiled it a bit.

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Then we ate it and watched Elementary.

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As you can see, the pizza did not really form air bubbles. I think this is because we cooled it by accident and rolled it way too much, and only created one pizza out of the giant amount of dough that was supposed to be enough for four, so it was probably too heavy and couldn’t expand in the oven or whatever it’s supposed to do. And also, I am incompetent with yeast. The taste was REALLY good, though–it was all sourdough-y. So we ate it and then we were extremely full because we ate a massive amount of bread in a very small pizza package.

The end. Oh, and upon further reflection, I don’t think I liked Elementary. Sorry, Jacqui.