Sesame-crusted tofu with soba noodles

Wow, what is this, it’s like an actual food blog. I wanted something with soba noodles the other day, and after an extensive search of my recipe folders (I just started to write foodlers, which I guess is semiaccurate) and Google (oh, maybe I was just trying to combine folders and Google. That’s not as funny) I found this. I am always wary of Eating Well because their recipes are healthy, but they regularly taste really good, so it’s OK. Also, there’s no photo of the final product, so maybe they never actually cooked it.

Also also, it uses both Chinese and Japanese ingredients. (There’s Chinese black bean sauce and fermented Chinese black beans—which I omitted because I didn’t have any and because I am scared of them—but also soba noodles, which I thought were generally Japanese. And who knows where watercress comes from, or really, what it is.)

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Soup ennui

I don’t really know how this post is going to work. I’ve made three very similar vegan soups from my soup cookbook, never blogged about any of them, and don’t want to type three recipes. Making them has started to become routine, easy, quick. I suppose I should branch out soon.

Several weeks ago (the same weekend as the ham hocks, actually), I made Tomato, Lentil, and Barley Soup. As of today it’s my favorite of the three. It involved onion, garlic, lentils, barley (yay!), celery, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, wine, apple cider vinegar, and parsley. Fairly standard. It was mild, warm, made me feel healthy and taken care of. And full-ish. I like the texture of barley.

So many ingredients! I am usually not this organized.

Pre-soupifying

Post-soupifying, aka cooking

 

Last weekend, with Jacqui, I made Sweet-and-Sour Cabbage and Bread Stew–onion and garlic, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, bell pepper (which I don’t like. Why did I include it?), red wine, paprika, cumin, lemon juice, sugar. (Just typing that list of ingredients kind of made me go eurgh. I got sooooo tired of eating this.) I made this for the following reasons:

  1. I had a lot of cabbage left from the week before.
  2. I had bread that I had made.
  3. There was a quote on the page with the recipe that read, “Having a good wife and rich cabbage soup, seek not other things.” —Russian proverb

I found this delightful. I am my own wife.

I substituted leeks for the onions because I had leeks, but I don’t think this was a good idea; leeks should only be used when you can really taste them.

Jacqui took better pictures of the leeks, but my hands look cool in this one.

Always eat a banana while cooking. And look how small my kitchen is.

(No pictures of the final soup product. Just look at the picture of the other soup again. They were similar.)

The upshot of this soup was that I don’t like sweet-and-sour soup because I don’t really like sweet things or sour things. It was pretty cool when I first tasted it, though. Jacqui was all, “Ahhh!!! It’s sweet! AND sour!” And it was. I got tired of it very quickly, though, and also didn’t want my lovely bread to sog in the not-entirely-delightful liquid, so I kept eating the soup on its own and the bread on its own, which just wasn’t all that good.

Yesterday I made Chickpea and Bulgur Stew. I was choosing between that and Curried Millet-Spinach Soup, because I had spinach and have been wanting to try lots of weird cool grains lately, but ultimately it seemed less exciting than the bulgur one (and I wanted stew rather than soup). Also, the bulgur one involved buying more ingredients, which I enjoy.

Unnecessary, overly cropped closeup of bulgur. Looks like rice. Isn’t.

There were also turnips in there, and since I now know that I like turnips, this seemed like a good idea. I can now say that turnips cooked in tomatoey, watery liquid don’t really have any taste, but I am actually OK with that; at least they are not vile. And you can’t get sick of something that doesn’t have much taste. I do like the stew, though—it’s overly tomatoey, I think, but I am eager to keep eating it, especially to discover the secrets of bulgur. (I still don’t understand bulgur. I was really surprised when I bought the package of it—I thought it would be something else. I think it’s just sort of like … wheat. Like … pre-bread.)

This has not been an informative post. I think Nava Atlas might get mad at me if I keep putting her recipes online, so I will stop. Oh, I just got a good idea. Hold on. OK, I added links from her actual website.

Chickpea and Bulgur Stew (not on her website!)
From Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons by Nava Atlas

2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (I used 3 ridiculously small and slightly gross ones)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large celery stalks, diced
4 cups water
2 medium white turnips, peeled and diced
1/2 c finely shredded cabbage
1/2 c raw bulgur
28-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 bay leaves
2 tsp Italian herb seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash)
1 tsp paprika
16-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper
[You are also supposed to do something with a bell pepper at the end but I didn’t because I hate peppers, officially.]

Heat 1 1/2 tbsp oil in a yellow, sunshiney Dutch oven. Add onion and saute over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and celery and continue to saute until all are golden or you get bored.

Add water, turnips, cabbage, bulgur, tomatoes, bay leaves, seasoning, and paprika. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or so. Discard bay leaves, unless you can’t find them.

Add chickpeas and s&p to taste. Unless you were eating grapefruit while cooking this and can’t accurately assess the seasoning. Simmer over low heat for 10 more minutes.

Forcella Pizza-Making Class, in brief

Tonight’s blog post is going to be a little bit different. First of all, Hello! I’m back! Second of all, I and the gang were out of our element, if I may say so. We decided to go all crazy on your donkey and take a private pizza-making lesson at Forcella. The chef was offering this perk for a few weeks for free, as long as you paid for the pizza! How could we not try it, right? Unfortunately, not only was MTA hardly running at the time, the fine folks before us went over schedule so we ended up waiting about an hour at our table before anyone even so much as touched a piece of dough. Regardless, for me at least, the excitement tempered the hunger growls and transit nightmare. The pizza-making counter could fit three people max, so I let the rest of my party enjoy themselves with the chef while I thought about the future blog post (omg so meta, right?) and took 300 photographs.

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Don’t be a gentle patter. And notice the extra hands-on help.

As I walk you through our pizza-making experience, I will try to highlight the three most memorable portions of the evening: the Italian and the Italians, the aprons, and the fails. I think it’s important for everyone to know straight out that we were basically being taught how to make pizza by people we could hardly communicate with; although one of them felt pretty confident he could communicate with my lovely BFF4EAE by lightly touching her all over repeatedly.

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No, like this.

After some standard miscommunication in the sink area, my lovely friends had to don the white floury aprons, tie the string behind their back, and get down to business. I mention this only because washing hands and getting on those aprons really was kind of a big deal, if you know what I mean (and I’m sure you don’t. But it was).

But then, of course, there was the business to attend to. First the dough had to be removed from the container filled with many flattened balls of pizza fetuses. This took about three minutes of intense explanation before everyone could give it a go. Apparently, not that easy, and it didn’t get easier from there. My lovely pizza chefs then had to flatten the dough to release the air bubbles. Some of us may have thought they really had it down pat (no pun intended!), until the actual chef mocked his approach with an all-out dramatic reenactment highlighting his pranciness and soft touch, whereas the dough really requires a heavy palm and no mercy whatsoever. Speaking of no mercy, one of the patted down doughs took a quick hot oil bath before being returned to the counter and topped with all the fixins imaginable: speck, arugula, mozzarella, tomato sauce and, somehow, gorgonzola managed to sneak its way in. Remember the intense language barrier and/or power differential? Yeah, so gorgonzola all around, folks. The other two pizzas were wonderful as well and included such exciting things as truffle oil, shaved something-or-other cheese (parmesan? reggiano?) and an entire bin of mushrooms.

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Fried pizza!

Anyway, long story short, we all made pizza, we all made fools of ourselves, and we all learned almost nothing about the techniques involved in using 1000-degree ovens despite the hands-on instructional time. Good times and good food were had by all. And the subway worked on the way home!

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Harder than it looks.

Vegetable taste-test

I just bought some vegetables. I have no idea what any of them are. I literally just Googled how do you know if you have a rutabaga or a turnip or a beet. The problem is that the things that are probably beets were labeled “fancy rutabagas,” which I don’t think is a thing, and the turnips (???) and celeriac (pretty sure about this one; when you Google “ugly knobbly vegetable” all the results are for celeriac) were in the same basket, and I don’t remember what they were labeled. So basically I am taste-testing unknown vegetables. This series may recur if I ever actually find a rutabaga.

The original plan for this post was to assemble one each of a variety of root/winter vegetables, including rutabaga, turnips (which I’ve never had but which make me think of Little House on the Prairie), beets, celeriac, kohlrabi (which I then researched and found out that it’s not a winter vegetable, particularly), and/or sunchokes. I considered adding black radishes because, bizarrely, my supermarket always stocks a million of them, but decided against it because I looked into it and it sounds like they probably taste bad. Then I wanted to kick beets off the list because I ate some and didn’t want to eat any more. But it looks like I have no choice.

The plan is to cut them up, roast them, and try them (and possibly also try them raw first), and then hopefully eat them for dinner, unless they are truly horrible.

Let us commence. Also, seriously, what the fuck are these vegetables I bought, and why can’t I have a fancy rutabaga.

I cut the top and bottom off the celeriac and then sliced off the tough skin uing a knife (the vegetable peeler wasn’t up to the task). It smells great—exactly like celery, but somehow better, perhaps because of the cognitive dissonance involved in looking at this giant, hard root-ish thing and smelling celery. (Advice: Use your largest, sharpest knife. If you are me, buy a larger knife before attempting.)

Potential turnips have now been peeled (with the vegetable peeler) and diced. They smell like cabbage, but worse. Also, they fell into the garbage can multiple times while I was peeling them. But that is not why they smell bad.

Definite beets have been peeled and diced. They got purple all over; it was exciting. I put the celeriac in a roasting pan and tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper; the beets and possible turnips shared a brownie pan, and were also tossed with oo, s&p. (I know the beets are going to dye the turnips and everything will be horrible. Whatever.)

Break while everything is roasting (400° for probably a very long time).

In the meantime I am going to eat my homemade part–whole wheat bread. Continue reading

No-knead bread, finally

I am four or five years late on this one, I think. Oh, wow, no, seven! (In 2006 Mark Bittman made no-knead bread with Jim Lahey and revolutionized everything that went on in the universe forever after.) I’ve been meaning to make it since I got my Dutch oven, but then never did, until a few days ago. I wanted to make it whole-wheat but also didn’t want it to turn out horrible, since whole-wheat flour doesn’t act the same way white flour does; so I just did one-third whole-wheat and the rest bread flour. (I need to make a style guide for this blog. I need to make a decision about the hyphenation of whole-wheat. AAGH.)

I mixed the ingredients together…

It was supposed to be extremely sticky, but was actually almost knead-able. I was worried.

…then covered it with my dough towel and let it rise overnight and the entire day. It rose. Continue reading

Thoughts

Sorry for the long break! There was some life upheaval. I’m back now, sort of. I haven’t cooked anything since last we met, just eaten a lot of things that were in the freezer. Well, tonight I combined spinach, my chickpea/tomato mixture, whole-wheat fusilli, and a lot of mozzarella cheese and ate it, and it was way better than I expected, in fact it was really really good, but my camera battery is dead. (I’m not sure what made it good. The fact that I didn’t drain the spinach and then cooked the whole mixture over low heat, so it was infused with spinach flavor, if there is such a thing? That whole-wheat pasta just goes well with things like spinach and chickpeas?) Want to see a cell phone picture? OK. Here.

In other news, I was sitting at my desk eating my Cajun red beans and rice and reading TheKitchn, and there was an article about Cajun red beans and rice, and I looked at my food really confusedly and took an awful picture.

I don’t wish to discuss whose looks better.

(If you’ve never read this blog before, I want you to know that sometimes the pictures aren’t this bad.)

In third news, I am thinking of changing my blog name, because it is pretty terrible. (And also, kind of depressing. I’m not THAT bad.) I want something good … something that’s like me. Something messy, chopping vegetables at top speed, all over the place, carrot bits flying, shredded cheese on the floor. Olive oil smoking, banging the top of the Swiffer handle into the smoke alarm button. (I dreamed recently that I was chopping up a banana for a banana–beef burrito I was making. Later I thought maybe my brain had meant plantains.) Something without a mise en place, of course; stirring while chopping while overcooking while burning garlic bits while using them anyway while water boils and the sink is filled with dishes; while I am so hungry I eat beans before they’re cooked, take bites from a block of cheddar cheese and then can never give it to guests because there are teeth marks; talking about making homemade crackers and never doing it; the radiator steaming, maybe a bowl of dough next to it, cat food littering the floor below the table, bits of dried kale in a spot I cannot reach next to the stove.

Thoughts?

FREEEEEEDOMMMMMM

Cajun red beans and rice

[I want everyone in my family to know I wrote this last week and it just went up by itself this morning. I am not a horrible person.]

I alluded to this a few posts ago—Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana cookbook. I decided to make his red beans and rice with ham hocks and andouille sausage, though without the sausage, because I’m not big on meat. I was going to do it without the ham hocks as well, but I happened to find myself in a butcher shop the other day, so I bought them. I don’t think the dish would have tasted like much without them; it is intensely porky. And the hocks themselves, when you can get any meat off them, are REALLY good. Mostly they are just fat and skin, though, which I cannot eat. It’s a texture thing. Ewewewewew.

I made these after a very long day and weekend of cooking, so I was a bit burned out, but here we go. (I also didn’t do the rice properly because I’d had enough—extraordinarily simplified recipe below.)

First I had to chop 2 1/2 c celery, 2 c onions, and 2 c green bell peppers. I just stood there chopping for about seven years while complaining to Sarah (friend, not sister) at great length. It took about forty-five billion hours. (Oh, the red beans were soaking overnight.)

I CHOPPED FOREVER.

The father, the son, and the holy ghost

I put the ham hocks—I’d bought three instead of six, because that seemed like enough, and had the guy cut them in half (Wait, time for a dialogue.
Me: Do you have ham hocks?
Him: Yes. They’re small.
Me: OK. Can I have… um… three?
Him: [gets ham hocks] Should I quarter them?
Me: Ummmmm yes?
Him: Or halve them? Or leave them alone?
Me: Ummmmmmmm halve them?
Him: [halves them]
Me: [AAAAAH these look like pig legs/feet] [because they are] [I don’t really remember what they are, I Wikipediaed them once and don’t really want to do it again]

Ham hocks, pre-cooking. I stuck my head into the bag and smelled them and then said, “Sarah, I strongly recommend you stick your head into this bag and smell this.”

)

… anyway. Ham hocks went in my Dutch oven with ten cups of water, the Holy Trinity, and a bunch of seasonings. I boiled it, turned it to simmer, and left it for an hour. (OOh, look, my first “More” tag! Click it.)

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Atlanta: all good things

I visited my sister and bro-in-law a few weeks ago for MLK Day, and they wanted to see the Relatively Shitty Cook in action. We made this really cool and interesting radicchio pasta from Sarah’s pasta cookbook (I can’t remember the name or author! so I can’t cite it! Sorry, mysterious cookbook writer), and honey beer cake from Booze Cakes. (Sweet, they have a website.)

The pasta recipe was sort of a weird decision—I don’t know why we picked it. It had raddichio—how in God’s name do you spell that? I’m just going to use a variety of options—and that ham that’s not prosciutto… ugh, I’m really hungry and can’t write this now. Anyway, at the supermarket it took about ten minutes and three or four supermarket employees to find it. This is not an exaggeration; the entire staff was running every which way trying to find it. It was exciting. Then we couldn’t find any heavy cream, and were peering through the slats in the dairy case where a man was unloading things, trying to get his attention so he could give us cream. The bro was convinced we would not be able to find honey beer, but in fact it was the first thing in the beer aisle. However, we didn’t buy it, in case it was nasty; we got raspberry Shocktop instead. It is a strange supermarket indeed that stocks honey beer but not cream.

Anyway. I chopped radicchio and leeks for the pasta.

They literally do not have light in their kitchen.

My bro sauteed/rendered porchetta (porchetta? is that what I mean?); it soon began popping, popcorn-style, and flying all over the kitchen. I picked one up off the floor. It was like a meat fireball.

We sauteed the leeks …

… added cream, and added the radicchio, which then cooked down for a while until it could fit in the pot. We combined everything with pasta and ate it with wine and cheese like fancy people.

We had started making the cake before dinner, and it baked while we ate. After dinner, and after several glasses of wine, we had to make the frosting, which was confectioner’s sugar, butter, and beer, as far as I recall. After we finished assembling it, it was very clearly not frosting. It was mostly liquid. I was like, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO US? Then I was like, oh shit, I added a completely wrong quantity of sugar. Anyway, it never frosting-ized; it just sort of gooped. Then it soaked into the cake, leaving nothing but a dull sugary sheen and infusing the cake with a sense of oversugaration.

It was pretty good, though. But very sweet. The next morning, it looked like we had never frosted it at all, which was a little disturbing. I do not know what happened to it since.

Immediately after frosting.