Hello goodbye

Tomorrow I officially return to my academic cave of solitude. Some people may want to spend their last true day of vacation reading a good book, going on a fancy date, or even watching Star Trek (the one with Patrick, duh) in footie pajamas. Other people, myself included, might consider a trip to Staples and three hours in the kitchen way more relaxing. So that’s what I did, obviously. I also decided to start photographing my food with my fancy camera; it feels totes legit. But this is a food blog, not a life blog. So I should shut the poop up and share with all you five readers out there the wonders of baked ratatouille, courtesy of Deb Perelman’s chatty cookbook.

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Almost everything in this ratatouille belongs on the “Foods I Wouldn’t Have Touched Two Years Ago” list, aka the “Foods I Currently Can’t Live Without” list. Try to tell 23-year-old me to eat a zucchini cooked in onions and I probably would have spit in your face. Or at least wanted to. Ever since I’ve become the proverbial modern woman keeping up both a home and a budding career, however, I’ve realized that one cannot live on macaroni & cheese and chickenless nuggets with ketchup alone. Well, actually, one probably can. But that’s beside the point. Things that were once part of my life (like being a picky eater by trade) are gone, and others have taken their place.

The directions told me to slice the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, and onions into very thin slices, about 1/16 of an inch. Without a mandolin, however, this was impossible. I probably got everything down to about 1/8 of an inch and I assure you, everything tasted just fine. Better than fine, actually. Darn delicious, boyfriend-approved.

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Don’t forget to mix it all up before putting your sliced veggies on top.

Have you ever needed something from your freezer right now even though it really needs to defrost for at least 12 hours? Come on, you know it’s happened. Like when you need to make cookies but all your butter’s stiff as…frozen butter? Tonight I tried to microwave my frozen box of strained tomatoes without realizing the inside of the carton was lined with silver something. So I made a fire in my microwave. Pop pop shizzam! Luckily, I was able to salvage 1 cup of strained tomatoes, which I mixed with one thinly sliced sweet onion, 1 tbsp of minced garlic, a bit of salt, 1 tbsp oil, and some’o’that Bohemian Forest Rub I adore so much. Everything went right to the bottom of my oval stoneware.

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I didn’t get any tomato on my white sweater.

The best part about this recipe is that no matter what you do, it’s going to be beautiful. Yellow, green, purple, red all in a spiral of concentric circles. Top it off with more spices and oil, bake for 45-60 min at 350 covered with foil (the last 15 at 425 without the foil to crisp the top) and you’re good to go. I recommend serving it over toasted French bread with ample goat cheese. You really can’t mess this one up.

It’s a little bit like my last meal, right? Starting tomorrow I’ll be neck deep in the messy, muddy, processed-food-filled world of being a slave to academia. Goodbye, cruel world. Thanks for letting me hang out on this blog; it’s been fun, y’all. [Over and out]. Oh, and thanks Deb Perelman, for turning me into someone who knows how to make food.

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Trader Jacqui’s Blogging Debut!!! Eggplant Pasta

Sometimes, veggies are rotten before you even bring them home. Sometimes, they’re just sitting on the shelf, hiding their dirty rotten secret under their glamorous purple skin, and you have no idea until it’s too late and it’s snowing outside and the curbs are already prepped for the “is it street or is it slush?” game and your cooking partner’s only pair of shoes is high-heeled leather (pleather?) boots. That is exactly the kind of night it has to be for you to discover that your main ingredient is just not going to make the cut.

However, this cooking partner of mine (you all know her as the true owner of this blog) and I have been together for the better part of two decades, and mushy brown eggplant really can’t stop us. We’ve been cooking for longer than I can remember. Our middle-school selves were hooked on filming the process of preparing store-brand macaroni and cheese. Photos wouldn’t have been able to capture that titillating gushy noise you get while stirring the freshly cooked processed goodness. We once tried to make cheese out of skim milk. After that we made soft pretzels … with sprinkles mixed in. We eventually graduated to trying out the cake recipes in Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook (i.e. the quintessential guide to being a housewife), but to no avail (whipped egg whites does not a frosting make). I’d say our failures were due not to our own relative shittiness, but to the recipes themselves, and their incomprehensible lack of user-friendliness.

And so, thanks to our almost-two decades of failures, it felt natural for us to be forced into the sparkly NYC snow, me in my galoshes, her in my two-sizes-too-big snow boots, to pick up a new eggplant, boyfriend in tow. And I’m glad we did. We also got a can of diced tomatoes to replace the bruschetta called for in the recipe (taken from The I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook). The recipe was a pretty basic veggie-over-pasta concoction. It was very wintery with eggplant, cremini mushrooms (Julie calls them “fancy mushrooms”), and bowtie pasta. We added one sweet onion, caramelized.

I’ve always been a control freak in my kitchen, but I’m trying to loosen up and let Julie take the lead every once in a while. Even as I saw her pick up the bottle of olive oil without a measuring tool and carry it over to our frying pan, I let it happen. Then, I poured some of the olive oil from the pan down the drain. I guess I still have a ways to go on that one. So we caramelized the onions (I wish Julie had gotten a picture of me slicing the onions in ski goggles) and then added garlic, sliced creminis, diced tomatoes, and the new eggplant, which had been sweating for about half an hour.

I threw in a whole bunch of Bohemian Forest Rub, a mix from Savory Spice Shop in Austin, TX. We let that simmer on medium-low heat for about ten minutes and cooked up the pasta.

It all went into a big polka-dotted oval stone dish, with plenty of goat cheese available on the side. I am entirely convinced that everything I cook looks better in a round or oval dish.

In the end, the eggplant was still a bit too bitter. I guess we should pay more attention to the seasons when we cook, or skin the eggplant first, or cut it into smaller pieces. I’d say the dish would have been phenomenal without the eggplant, maybe even served over toasted French bread. We rounded the meal off with a “mixed green” salad, red wine vinaigrette, five-buck pinot grigio, and an ooey gooey cinnamon square dessert (god bless Smitten Kitchen) that I’d prepared beforehand over ice cream.

All in all, a wonderful snowday meal, and quite beginner-friendly and quick. And Julie overcame her fear of goat cheese. And I overcame my fear of Julie in my kitchen.

Forthcoming

I was away for the weekend and have not cooked all week (well, that’s not true; I made hot chocolate from scratch and hash browns from frozen, pre-grated potatoes), so I have nothing to write for you. I did partake in cooking (and eating!) activities over the weekend, though, and some atrocities were committed in the name of frosting.

I wanted to bring your (y’all’s? Do I have a plural readership?) attention to some forthcoming food things.

I found a Cajun/Creole cookbook today, by Paul Prudhomme. Everything in it looks beautiful and long and complicated and full. The recipes all point to multiple other recipes. To cook these recipes, you have to really mean it.

I want to cook everything. (Everything in the world.)

So, my briefly quasi-vegetarian kitchen is probably going to revert back to meat. I might have to buy HAM HOCKS. AND GIBLETS. I am scared. But I live literally next door to a butcher.

In completely opposite news, Trader Jacqui, vegetarian extraordinare, will likely be making more of an appearance, as told in her own words. You should be glad about this because she bakes works of art, and has also started learning to cook. Please note, however, that I have Middle Child Syndrome, and she is pretty much my third sister, so if you pay more attention to her than me, I may have a temper tantrum.

That’s about all. I want this. Not really.

Boom. Fucking nailed it.

OK. I got home from kickboxing at 8. I started sauteing two large spoonfuls of pre-minced garlic (I know…) in olive oil in a small saucepan. I threw in the frozen contents of two tupperwares: chickpeas and whole canned tomatoes. I put a lid on it. I showered.

When I came back, everything was bubbling and thawed and warm. I stirred and then began making biscuits.

I made self-rising flour by combining all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. I added more salt as per the biscuit recipe. I created a well in the center and poured in about 3/4 c of previously frozen plain yogurt. (Basically the entire point of these biscuits was to use the yogurt, which I bought a while ago by accident.) I stirred and determined there was not enough yogurt. Unfortunately I didn’t have any more—well, I did, but I smelled it and then put it in the garbage—so I added some leftover cream of borderline still-tastiness. I did the whole stirring thing. Dumped it out onto my clean, floured counter. Sprinkled a bit more flour on top. Folded, kneaded, patted into a 1/2-inch-thick circle. Cut out biscuits using the kickass beer mugs I got from my grandpa.

iPhoto sort of surrealized this photo. I really like it. It didn’t look like that in real life.

The chickpeas were still simmering in the tomatoes. (They were very liquidy, in case it just sounded like there were some tomatoes and chickpeas sitting in a pot together.)

I put the biscuits onto a buttered cookie sheet—oh, I forgot, this was the best part. In order to melt the butter onto the cookie sheet, I put some lumps of cold butter on the cookie sheet, then put the cookie sheet on top of the simmering chickpeas. The butter melted and I swished it around with the back of a spoon. I was very pleased.

Anyway, long story short, the biscuits went into the oven, I tasted and revised the chickpeas (salt + pepper + just a few red pepper flakes), and I ate, like fourteen minutes later.

EVERYTHING WAS REALLY GOOD. IT WAS A FOOD MIRACLE. And on a kickboxing night, no less.

No recipe for the chickpeas—just do whatever you want. I think it was so good because I simmered it for about half an hour.

Yogurt Biscuits
From Southern Biscuits, recipe courtesy of Serious Eats

2 c self-rising flour (or 2 c AP flour + 1 tbsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt)
1 tsp salt (or less if you make your own self-rising flour; my biscuits are rather salty)
3/4–1 c plain yogurt
Some butter

Preheat the oven to 450•. I know how to make a bullet point, but not a degree symbol. ° Ooh sweet.

Whisk together the flour and salt. Create a well in the center and pour in 3/4 c of yogurt. Mix briskly (don’t overmix like I did! It toughens your biscuits) until the dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Add a bit more yogurt if there is leftover flour on the bottom (I added the cream at this point—there was really no cohesive dough.)

Pour onto a lightly floured surface. Flour the surface of the dough. Fold the dough in half and pat into a circle, about half an inch thick. Repeat once or twice more.

Use a biscuit cutter or cup/mug to cut out biscuit rounds. It’s best to make as many as possible out of the original dough circle; re-rolling will toughen the biscuits.

Put on a buttered cookie sheet (for biscuits with a crisper exterior; for a soft exterior, use a cake pan and crowd the biscuits together). Bake at 450° for 10-14 minutes on the top rack, turning the pan around midway through baking.

Also, brief note: These aren’t really like butter biscuits—they’re still flaky but sort of in a different way. I think generally I like butter biscuits better, but they are a giant pain in the ass to make because the involve that whole cutting the butter into the dough thing, which is my least favorite cooking thing of all time.

Chickpeas and carrots

I’m going a little bit insane from something I can’t discuss on a public forum, so I’m going to write a completely insane blog entry about Chickpeas And Carrots. WOOO. Oh my God.

Anyway, so shortly after Christmas I was at home having a friend over for dinner. I wanted something vegetable-y, because I had been eating a lot of meat, and easy, because I was tired. I settled on whole-wheat cous cous (sssss, Jacqui) with carrots and chickpeas. I more or less made up the recipe, but I suppose it was inspired by this excellent stew. I basically just put on chickpeas to cook (from dry; I sort of knew they would never properly tenderize, but decided to go for it anyway), and then began to saute onions, garlic, carrots. Probably. I’m trying to analyze the bowl in front of me—which was in the freezer for a while, don’t worry—and can’t really remember what was in it.

Really all I remember is two things:

1. My friend was like, “How can I help?” And I was like, “Meh, it’s fine.” And he was like, “Did you remember to take pictures for your blog?” and I was like “AAAAHHH!”

Oh, it actually looks pretty good here.

2. I burned the whole thing horribly because we were playing What Did You Get For Hanukkah, and I got distracted.

Anyway, I added a lot of spices: cinnamon (feeling inspired by my dad’s and my Indian cooking during Christmas), cumin, red pepper flakes (of course; and too many), and possibly others. Who knows.

Basically, it ended up too spicy, and I did not look forward to leftovers. (However, aforementioned friend said it was good, which was nice of him.)

As you can see, it wasn’t. But there was beer.

Then, in later iterations during Austerity, I realized I could just put a lot of tomato sauce and parmesan cheese on it. So I did. This made it pretty good. I don’t know why. The moral is that if you add cheese to it, it will probably taste good.

(This is what I did to my parsnip soup, actually, in case you were wondering/looking for the promised update, and it definitely improved things.)

 

Chickpeas and Carrots with Cous Cous
I do believe this would be good if done properly; I like carrots and chickpeas together. I just don’t really know the proper spices to include.

I’m not going to lie by making up proportions for this recipe; just eyeball it.

If you cook chickpeas from dry, do so in advance; it will take several hours to get them fully cooked. I only cooked mine for about an hour; half are tender, half are unpleasantly crunchy. Obviously, this is bad. I KNOW. Shut up.

Saute garlic and onions in the usual manner; add spices of your choosing, and stir until fragrant. (I stole this language from every recipe ever. I didn’t even do it.) Add carrots, chopped as you wish, ideally in cute circles. Saute until tender; it might be a good idea to add some water, cover the skillet, and steam a bit, to hasten cooking.

When they are mostly tender, add chickpeas (if canned, drain the liquid!). Stir, taste, etc.

Add to cous cous, which takes three seconds to cook.

There are SO many semicolons in this post.

Pantry staples: Pasta with spinach, etc.

I’m going to Atlanta on Friday (YAY!) and having at least one dinner out this week, so it turns out there was no point buying groceries for and cooking a weeknight dinner thing. So I’m doing a week of Pantry Staple Cooking. You’re welcome, sister.

The aim is to make food using things that are only in the pantry/freezer/fridge/etc. I tend to have a bizarrely well-stocked pantry/freezer/fridge/etc., so we’ll see how this goes for everyone else…

So tonight I made pasta with spinach, white beans, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. This was based on this recipe, but I ignored most of the directions (and halved it). It’s good; it’s not the greatest food of all time, but it cost $0 and was really quick.

It actually looks worse in real life.


Pasta with Spinach, Etc.
Based on a recipe from Food.com

1/2 package of pasta—I used ziti (not whole-wheat because there are enough healthy things in here)
1 onion, diced
~2 tsp chopped garlic (about 4 cloves; I’ve started using a giant container of pre-chopped garlic… it’s terrible, I know)
5 oz. frozen spinach (i.e. half a package)
1-2 small tomatoes, chopped and de-seeded
About 1 cup cooked white beans, without the liquid, or about half a can, drained—though this might be better scaled up
Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
About 1/2 c parmesan cheese or so

Boil your salted pasta water while you saute the onion over low heat. Add the garlic once the onion has softened. Saute for a few minutes, until fragrant, golden, etc. Do not burn like I did.

Add the spinach and tomatoes. I didn’t fully thaw the spinach first—just microwaved it in a slab for a few minutes—and it was fine, but if you find it annoying to stand over the clump of spinach hacking at it while it very slowly melts, you should thaw it first and drain the liquid. Add red pepper flakes. (Not really sure when is the best time to do this, but I think this is when I did it.)

Once the pasta is cooked, DON’T drain it. Add about half a cup of the cooking liquid to the spinach mixture, along with the pasta, beans, and parmesan cheese. Stir, simmer, cook until a reasonable-looking sauce has formed.

Eat.

Mushroom soup!

So today I had planned to make Smitten Kitchen’s mushroom soup, which looks wonderful and lovely. Then I was at the grocery store, and the shitaakes were all, “HAHA, we are ten dollars a pound!” and I was all, “HAHA, fuck you!” So I didn’t buy them. Well, I bought .3 pound, and now I don’t really know why, since I can’t make the Smitten soup.

I have just spent a very long time looking at all the mushroom soup recipes on the Internet, and figured I might as well do this one. I’m sort of nervous. I only have horrible-quality grocery-store sherry (obviously, because why in God’s name would I own high-quality sherry????). So it might suck. Ugh, but then what do I do with the shitaakes? I hate soup. I will think about this while I eat a rustic lunch of bread, cheddar cheese, and grapefruit juice from the container. (It’s 4:09 PM, by the way. I can’t remember if I have time stamps on this thing.) (I’ve only been awake for three hours.)

OK, I have mused on this, and have decided to cook the shitaakes and freeze them, and then they can become a delightful pasta dish sometime in the future. You’re welcome, Future Julie. I feel you have to have a really unpleasant, hubristic personality to adapt an Anthony Bourdain recipe. It’s just not a good idea. I am going to scale it up a bit, though, because it’s only four servings, and presumably appetizer-size servings. (Wow, that makes the amount of butter required nine tablespoons. That is so not happening, good lord.)

OK, my one and a half onions are chopped (actually one normal-size one and two insanely tiny ones), and three tbsp of butter are melting in the pot. My cat is meowing very sadly.

The onions softened in the butter (smells amazing); I quartered or halved the mushrooms, depending on their size, and then added them and the remaining 5 tbsp of butter—I opted to just use a stick. I’m also following Serious Eats’s version of this recipe, by the way, because Epicurious’s didn’t tell me what to do with the mushrooms at all, slicing-wise, and that made me nervous.

I’m listening to the Splendid Table podcasts, which I highly recommend you do every time you cook. It makes cooking seem so important. She also has kind of awesome guests… for some reason Ty Burrell was on. It was weird.

Anyway, things are a-simmering in butter. I figure it’s OK because the recipe doesn’t have any cream. And it smells great, for some reason. Oh I’m so antsy.

Now the parsley and chicken broth are in; I brought it to a boil and reduced to a simmer; and so it shall remain for an hour. I’m leaving it uncovered because the recipes had no mention of lids, but this seems unusual to me, and I am not without concern.

Things are still simmering. The Splendid Table just went on a thirty-second spree of really awkward sexual innuendos. 😦

Right before blending.

One hour later: Soup is done! I blended (blent?) it, and chose not to take a picture. Well, OK, I’ll take one. But it looks bad. It’s really, really rich-tasting (in a good way, but woah so much butter!!!) and I didn’t even think it needed salt (particularly since cooking sherry has tons of salt); I added a bit of pepper. Now it’s re-simmering. Soon it will go in Tupperwares. The end. Full review tomorrow.

Blent.

Oh, and here’s Fitzpatrick, since some of you don’t are about food. Enjoy him while he still lives with me. Sob sob sob (someone might adopt him).

Italian feast + austerity measures

I guess it would make more sense if it were Greek feast + austerity measures. Har har har. Anyway, Jenny and I made our parents an Italian feast last night, and today I didn’t get the chance to buy groceries (slash drank more than I ate at dinner, so I probably shouldn’t be cooking anyway; but I did make baked oatmeal, which was kind of nerve-racking under the circumstances), so I’m just going to scrounge in my own apartment for food all week. And I’ll be editing my parsnip soup to make it more palatable for a second week of eating. SIGH.

Also, you should all go to my Flickr, since I don’t post all the pictures here. Does that link work?

Our first course was bruschetta, which Jenny made. She thinly sliced a French baguette (because there were no Italian baguettes), then drizzled olive oil over them. Then she instructed me to preheat the oven to whatever temperature I desired (I chose 350), and toasted the baguette slices for a while. Then she added diced tomatoes, which smelled like tomato vines, which is the best smell on the planet.

Meanwhile, I was making tiramisu, which turned out to be Tiramisu Soup. Ahh! Soup! I am categorizing this post as soup. (How noticeable is it that I had two beers for dinner??) I made custard (egg yolks + sugar, but it was supposed to magnify to two or three times its initial volume, and I don’t think it did) and whipped in a pound of mascarpone, and then Jenny and I valiantly tried to make whipped cream. We failed, for the first time in our lives. I know you’re supposed to use nonpasteurized cream for whipped cream, but I only use pasteurized because I shop in normal grocery stores for normal Americans who only eat pasteurized things, and I have always been a magnificent cream-whipper before. But tonight, alas, it came to naught.

So we combined them, and created tiramisu-soup-filling. Then I dipped ladyfingers

[just remembered what I forgot about the oatmeal. Oatmeal always gets really excited and overflows the boundaries of its containers. So now my recently cleaned oven has oatmeal all over it. NOOO]

in decaf coffee, layered them with the soup in an 8×8 pan, and put it in the fridge, where I hoped I could forget about it. It was very sad. More on that later.

The first course was Spaghettini alla carrettiera, aka Lidia Bastianich–brand linguini with basil from our freezer (previously from our garden) and fancy Whole Foods canned tomatoes. Recipe below; it looked terrible but tasted really, really good, and was really easy to make. We did have to make a disclaimer that we had no idea if it would be nasty, because it really did look nasty. Frozen basil has a tendency to turn an unattractive color after it thaws.

Don’t worry, I have even worse pictures.

Then the steak. This was extremely exciting. Jacqui, avert your eyes.

Oh no, my cat is sleeping with his head on the cookbook, so I can’t turn to the recipe! It was steak cooked with onions and tomatoes, and it was supposed to have olives, but only one-half of the present family members are willing to eat olives, so we omitted them.

First the onions were cooked in an amount of olive oil that was supposed to come up to the one-quarter mark on the saucepan. This was horrifying, but we of course obliged, since Marcella Hazan said so. Jenny cooked them, asking me every three seconds whether they were softened or golden or whatever they were supposed to be. I said I did not know. She said this was not helpful. After a while, garlic and more canned tomatoes were added; these cooked for a while.

Then it was time to cook the steak. We got very happy steak from Whole Foods (clarification for those who still don’t seem to understand this: they were happy before they were humanely killed), and were supposed to slice it into 1/4-inch pieces. We tried to pound them using a meat cleaver. Well, Jenny did, while I freaked out. I later described the scene as “It looks like we murdered a cow and then splattered its blood everywhere.” To which Jenny responded, “No it doesn’t.” I was like, “Yeah, I don’t know why I’m still talking.” It was gross, though.

ANYWAY. We heated up the pan for a good long while, then added olive oil, then put in the steak. It splattered. There were screams. Our mom, doing laundry in the basement, yelled, “Is everything OK in there?” We ignored her, being unable to truthfully answer.

We cooked it on both sides until it was beautifully browned (though still somewhat raw on the inside, as we would later learn. Holy shit, I just spelled that lurn). We topped the steak pieces with the onion-tomato mixture.

Then dinner time! The bruschetta was lovely.

The pasta tasted way better than we anticipated. The steak was re-cooked on lower heat when it was time for the second course, because it was scarily red inside, even though we are all medium-rare eaters in this family. Ooh, the kitty got off the book. Yay.

At first we ate all the courses in the right order, but then we went back and re-ate more of the previous courses. Also, we drank wine.

The tiramisu was even pretty good! It was texturally ridiculous, but it did taste like tiramisu. (You know, I just went to post a picture of it, and decided not to.) And we also ate macarons from Laduree that Jenny and our mom had bought the day before. They were good, but I don’t really get why people think they are the epitome of wonderfulness in life. Maybe I am a heathen.

This is my favorite plate.

That’s about it. It went well. Then we finished our puzzle, and all was right with the world.

Spaghettini alla carrettiera (thin spaghetti with fresh basil and tomato sauce)
from Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook
1 bunch fresh basil (1 1/2 to 2 cups; I only used 1)
2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes (or regular, even non-Italian! tomatoes), seeded, drained, and coarsely chopped
5 large cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/3 c olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground pepper, about 6 twists
1 pound whatever spaghetti you frickin want

Pull all the basil leaves from the stalkes, rinse, and roughly chop. Put the basil, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and pepper in an uncovered saucepan and cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes. Taste and correct for salt.

Drop the spaghetti in 4 qts boiling salted water. Cook until very al dente.

Drain the spaghetti. You’re supposed to mix the spaghetti with the sauce, but we served them separately, since we still didn’t know if the sauce would be nasty…

Marcella says no grated cheese is called for. This is bullshit. You should serve it with (good) parmesan cheese. Sorry, Marcella. Unless you meant that it shouldn’t be served with the green-can stuff.

Fettine di manzo alla sorrentina (Thin pan-broiled steaks with tomatoes and olives) (without the olives)
1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
Olive oil sufficient to come 1/4 inch up the side of the pan
2 medium cloves garlic, diced
2/3 c canned tomatoes, roughly chopped, with their juice
1 dozen black Greek olives, pitted and quartered (or not)
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Salt
Freshly ground pepper, 6 to 8 twists of the mill
1 pound beef steaks, preferably chuck or chicken steaks (what is that???), sliced 1/4 inch thick, pounded, and edges notched to keep from curling

In a good-sized skillet, saute the sliced onion in the olive oil. As it takes on a pale gold color, add the diced garlic. Saute until the garlic has colored slightly, then add the tomatoes, olives, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook at a lively simmer until the tomatoes and oil separate, 15 minutes or more. Turn the heat down, keeping at the barest simmer.

Heat a heavy iron skillet until it is smoking hot. Grease the bottom (we just poured some oil on and swished it around). Put in the beef slices (Jenny, on reading this I am now worried we did it completely wrong. Were we actually supposed to slice it into slices????? Does that make any sense? Whatever, you don’t read this blog). As you turn the meat, season it with salt and pepper. Transfer the browned meat to the simmering sauce, turning it quickly and basting it with sauce, then to a hot platter, pouring the sauce over the meat. (Whoops, we just put the meat on the plate and poured the sauce on top.)

Marcella says not to serve this with any tomato-based first course. Oops.

The tiramisu was adapted from this—and by adapted, I just mean I did it wrong. I also omitted the coffee liqueur and did not chill it enough.

Parsnip soup and new cookbooks

My very lovely mother bought me a new cookbook for Hanukkah because of my recent descent into soup-obsession. It’s vegan (which I actually like—even though I’ll be de-veganizing most of the recipes—because I have vegan-envy), organized by season, not too healthy, not quick. Big, long soups. This one’s taken a few hours what with the chopping, onion-goldening, and cooking, and it was lovely and smelled wonderful.

It’s called Creamy Parsnip-Vegetable Soup, and I am including the recipe at the bottom (first time!) (de-veganized!) because it’s really really good, and I don’t always love things I make.

I did not know what a parsnip was when I went parsnip-shopping. This was a two-grocery-store ingredient list, which I generally like because the NYC Freshmarket is a very pleasant place, full of exciting vegetables, and I don’t go unless I have to buy something weird. I asked a produce dude if they had parsnips, and he pointed at the weird-looking vegetable I was standing right in front of. I was like, oh. (I thought they were supposed to be like turnips, but they are like carrots.) Then I bought 1.43 pounds of them, even though I only needed 1, because they don’t have a scale. So this is actually Extreme Parsnip Soup. (I scaled up the rest of it a bit; it calls for two large potatoes, and I used four small ones, which was clearly too much. It’s really thick. And creamy and tasty.)

I chopped chopped chopped for a while; the parsnips were the hardest. The cookbook also said they were supposed to be “scraped,” but I have no idea what that means, so I just peeled it as I would anything else, which seemed to be the way to go. They smelled really strange and interesting. I should have tasted it raw.

Then I goldened the onions (well, sort of; they didn’t really golden particularly) and celery and added everything else (the celery leaves were the coolest part—I’ve never used them before), and stirred, and waited. And smelled, and blended, and seasoned exuberantly, and licked the entire spoon at the end.

Parsnips, potatoes, carrots, celery, celery leaves, diced tomatoes, etc.

After blending and adding parsley; before milk and cream

Finished

 

Creamy Parsnip-Vegetable Soup
De-veganized by me, otherwise basically as set forth in Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil (I eyeballed)
1 1/2 c chopped onion (for me, one medium, one small; this was a bit more than 1 1/2 c)
1 large celery stalk, diced
Handful of celery leaves (cool!)
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 16-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 tsp salt-free seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash Table Blend)
2 bouillon cubes (vegetable bouillon if you are not me; chicken if you are)
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 c milk, or as needed
1/2 c cream
S&P

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add onion and celery and sauté over medium-low heat until golden. (Or not until golden.)

Add all other vegetables, seasoning, and bouillon cubes. Add just enough water to cover the vegetables—I think I probably used about four cups. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender; this took 20 minutes for me. Remove from the heat.

Blend about half of the soup (or all). (Sorry, Sari. But really, you just got married, and should own a blender. You probably do and you just don’t know it.) Stir in the parsley, milk, and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Return to the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Eat.

😀

More weeks in review: Holiday Party!

Last night Sarah reminded me I had been highly remiss in not posting about her holiday party, since we cooked many exciting things. I’m now sitting here drinking straight out of a giant grapefruit juice container, with my cat on the table next to me, and in this highly ideal situation I will tell you all about our last-year festivities. Happy New Year!

The first thing I made was Alton Brown’s spinach-artichoke dip. (Midway through making it, I yelled, “SHIT, I measured every single thing wrong and this is going to be horrible.” For some reason I couldn’t figure out Sarah’s measuring cups, even though they were totally and completely normal.) Michelle took a picture of it, which I will force you to look at. Hah.

YUM.

It tasted really good, but I don’t recommend that you make it or even click on that link; it took a lot of effort for me to eat it after seeing what went into it. And now I know, forever. And I don’t wish that knowledge on anyone. Hint: It involves CREAM CHEESE AND SOUR CREAM. OH MY GOD. AND IT’S WARM. It tastes really good. I ate a lot of it.

Next was the mulled wine, a standby from years past. (One year past.) This year I changed it up so I could use my fancy star anise and whole allspice, and luckily Alton Brown again had a recipe that used all the ingredients I had and none of the ones I didn’t (damn you, cardamom pods—why do you forever elude me and/or be so expensive?). It’s really easy and really good–just put all the ingredients in a large pot with some Three-Buck Chuck, simmer for at least an hour, and drink. A lot.

And then strain, or else people will end up with peppercorns at the bottom of their cups, and they will not enjoy that.

Last and most important, Salmon Puffs. AHHH. (I’m not including the lovely Jacqui’s wonderful contribution, or those of the similarly lovely Trader Joe’s.)

This recipe is courtesy of some dude Sarah met at a party. He came into our lives, gave us salmon puffs, and disappeared forever. I think his name is Mitch. Maybe Sarah will post the recipe in the comments. Hi Sarah!

Anyway, they involve shredded lox, feta cheese, cream cheese (?), cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, other good things. They’re amazing. They’re bundled up in phyllo dough and baked at 360 (weird) for fifteen-ish minutes, or until golden brown. Sarah put me in charge of rolling them in the dough even though I had never used it before and did not, and still don’t, have any real idea of what phyllo dough is. Or how to pronounce it. Anyway, I put spoonfuls of the lox mixture in little rectangles of the dough, a few sheets thick, that I ripped apart with my fingers; then I just twisted the dough together at the top.

The end! Yum.

Pre-baked.