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.

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Dorothy Sayers sandwiches

I have been reading Dorothy Sayers novels all week. I’ve now run out of all the ones I had at my disposal and have to wait until Tuesday [I wrote this on Sunday; I have since gotten another book] to stock up. I feel bereft. All I can think about is when Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane will finally get married. (IF YOU KNOW, DON’T TELL ME!!!!!) It’s like Jane Austen, only with murder. It’s awesome. (Basically it’s posh British people solving murders and being charming and riding horses and driving cars with their gentlemen manservants in the 1920s and 1930s. They say “what ho” sometimes, and things of that nature. It is wonderful. I may devote my life to reading detective novels.)

Anyway, I’m really distracted because of my need to read more Dorothy Sayers. It kind of reminds me of those horrible two weeks after you finish the latest Harry Potter and you know you have to wait two or three years for the next one and you can’t think about anything except Sirius Black and stuff.

I’m making roast beef sandwiches for dinner. That’s not related to Dorothy Sayers, but you can’t really make a post out of roast beef sandwiches (well, that’s not true; I read a number of them, but I don’t have much to add). (You also can’t make a post on a food blog about Dorothy Sayers.)

I almost bought an actual horseradish at the grocery store because I couldn’t find the jarred stuff, but then I found the jarred stuff, in the sketchy aisle in the back with the chicharrones (at least that’s what I thought they were, but there are giant sheets of it so now I’m not sure), hot dogs, and bacon. I do not understand the function of that aisle. It opens into this back area of the supermarket, and things happen back there, but I don’t know what. Sometimes a man watches you while you investigate the hot dog situation. (They don’t have Hebrew National.) It’s uncomfortable. But they had horseradish.

The stuff upon which cities are built and crumble

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Very quick lunch suggestion

Drain a can of chickpeas; add one cup of chicken broth (or half a bouillon cube—MY LAST ONE, hallelujah—and a cup of water). Simmer. Add dried basil, dried rosemary, a squirt of lemon juice, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and… A PARMESAN RIND. Mine was frozen. Now it’s melting, sending cheesy strings into the broth.

It smells unbelievably wonderful.

It will go over rice (mine’s been in the fridge for a few days, which is why I wanted my chickpeas to be brothy) and be eaten for lunch. (I’m getting only two servings out of this, but I’ve been very hungry lately.)

This photo is cooking-instructional only and is not intended as art.

For no particular reason, here is a photograph I took of a wall of graffiti in East Harlem.

Good night.

Meat salad

I just thought I should check in and let you all know that I am not dead. I have one more post besides this one to share, but I am doing this one first because it’s shorter. I have developed a delightful condition in which eating any food leads to horrible stomach pain, so writing a food blog is intensely unpleasant right now. Nevertheless, here you are.

The bear (a bag clip) seems to want to eat this salad.

I decided I should have salad for lunch this week, because I didn’t want to cook. I found a bunch of contenders (because for some reason I could not come up with my own salad recipe… I now have no idea what was so difficult about it, but I guess I wanted something more interesting), wrote down the ingredient lists for a few of them, and then spent literally an hour at the grocery store trying to decide which to make. I was in a haze of exhaustion (I ended up going to bed at 9 p.m. that night) for unknown reasons and just COULD NOT make a decision. At one point I was in the deli line to buy ham; then I left to check to see if there were radishes for sale; then I went back to the line and bought salami and provolone. This sounds like the setup to a one-minute mystery. (The only one I remember: A man goes into a restaurant and orders pelican soup. He takes a bite, then goes outside and shoots himself.)

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You will regret reading this. It’s disgusting.

A few notes on this post (ugh, this already sounds like a work e-mail):

  1. If you don’t like it, you may blame Fig’s aunt. (I won’t link to her in case that’s weird.) She requested a new post. I was going to write one anyway, but then I started to feel gross, so I changed my mind, but then I changed it back again.
  2. There is a very small chance I am dying. If you don’t hear from me in a week, you may assume I am dead and move on to greener blog pastures.
  3. Everything you are about to read is gross and unpleasant, and will involve conversations with things and creatures that cannot speak in reality. (Update: I was going to relate a conversation with Fitzpatrick, but I won’t bother. It was even weirder than the rest of all this.)

A straggly band of loners. The roots of tomato disease are already visible.

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Don’t worry, I’m not calling these tortas

It is so late in the week that I can’t remember why I decided to make non-tortas for lunch this week. I think it was because I found this bread I really like at my supermarket but have run out of things I want to put on it. (One week of turkey is really all I can handle.) So I decided to use them to make totally inauthentic tortas. Or cemitas. I don’t know the difference; I’m very sorry. (You know what’s weird? This is not the first time I’ve looked at that link.)

So I think the main quality of cemitas and tortas is the bread they’re made with, so I completely failed from the start. It occurred to me later that I probably could have done it right—there is an amazing-smelling Mexican bread store literally right next door—but I went the whole-wheat route because I suffer from extreme, constant hunger.

Anyway. These are sandwiches inspired by tortas. I used Goya refried beans, because I was lazy, and mozzarella cheese, because I had a lot left and didn’t think I would be able to get through a whole ball of Oaxaca cheese before it went moldy. (They taste and feel very similar to me—or at least they do when you buy the inauthentic, un-fresh kind you get in supermarkets—so I didn’t worry about it too much. But now I feel like if they are really that similar, I should have just bought Oaxaca cheese and used the leftover for baked ziti. Would that have been weird? I have a feeling I will find out at some point.) I used a quick recipe to make pickled jalapeños rather than Pati Jinich’s recipe, because by the time I realized they would be sitting in the fridge all night anyway it was too late and I had none of the ingredients for Pati’s (probably better) version. Or I didn’t want to scale down a recipe that called for three pounds of jalapeños into one that used no more than six jalapeños.

Pickling. Don’t breathe.

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Hummus pitas

Hello dear blog readers,

I wasn’t going to post about this because it is not a recipe, but then I took two very pretty pictures and wanted to put them on the blog, so here is a wonderful post about hummus pitas.

I spend 90 percent of my time (and 98 percent of my conversations with Jacqui) agonizing about what to make for lunch. The only remotely happy meat my grocery store carries is Applegate, and they are mad expensive, yo, so usually I go for vegetarian lunches instead. It is an ongoing problem.

This week hummus was on sale (I have been meaning to make my own but have finally accepted the fact that my “food processor” is not a real food processor, it’s just a very small thing with a blade that doesn’t really do anything, so I don’t want to put the effort into what will almost certainly fail… despite what is actually kind of the mission of this blog), so I made hummus pitas. (This post sounds like an SEO post. I have said “hummus pita” like 98 times.) (Note: You can tell how bored/procrastinatory I am feeling by how many superfluous links I add to my posts. OR AM I GETTING PAID? No, I am not.)

My lunch assembly line. (Sorry this is so dark. It was morning and there is no light in my kitchen. iPhoto and my brain couldn’t solve this.)

This involves:
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Spring vegetable orzo + how to: make a bechamel

The title of this post is kind of a lie. I was making this orzo dish that included a bechamel, and since the dish was pretty easy and cookingly uninteresting, I was like, ooh, I can teach everyone how to make a bechamel! But it turns out I am not qualified to do that, because I have no idea how to make a bechamel. I mean, the orzo came out very good, so I guess it was successful, but I had no idea what I was doing.

Béchamels are one of those classic French sauces that everyone thinks are difficult to make. Then every cookbook author goes, “You probably think béchamels are difficult to make, but they are super easy!” Then you try, and it turns out that no, they are actually really difficult and it always goes awry.

Martha Rose Shulman, who does the Recipes for Health column at the New York Times and is one of my favorites, says this about béchamels. Hers is an olive-oil bechamel instead of butter, since she is healthy, and I used her recipe because it was a part of her other recipe that I was using. And I am not confident enough to make my own béchamels, willy-nilly.

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Extreme r&b

Hi folks! I’m back. I don’t know where I went. Nashville, then I just didn’t post anything. Sorry.

Today is Sunday (well, it is now; it won’t be when this gets posted), so I’m cooking a lot of things. I just made a ridiculously awesome breakfast sandwich with:
-a multigrain roll (life tip: multigrain bread does not belong in breakfast sandwiches; dear self, please remember that)
-cheddar cheese
-2 fried eggs
-happy turkey bacon (there was no regular happy bacon. I wanted bacon)

Next up is lunch for the week—rice and beans, fancified. A few weeks ago I made really really good black beans with many spices and yellow rice (my secret: bouillon cubes and Goya seasoning… whatever, it’s really good and salty and makes brown rice taste good) but never wrote about them, and now I don’t really know what I did. Now I’m going to try to reproduce it, but with pinto beans, which I’ve never cooked from scratch before, and poblano peppers, which I don’t know much about, but they are big and green and pretty, and I always want to make chiles rellenos but then decide not to, so I’m deconstructing them. And jalapeños, because. I guess I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to make tacos, quesadillas, burritos, rice and beans, or stuffed peppers, so I just decided to take every ingredient ever and put them in a bowl. Or a tupperware. Or a generic off-brand plastic container.

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Stuffed focaccia

This week’s posts are brought to you by the unprecedentedly large amount of money I spent at the grocery store today. (I was forced to buy overly pricey organic spinach-arugula mix because there was no normal arugula, and I also had to buy non-poisonous fabric cleaner… I won’t say why. And also, swiss chard. And fuck you, delicious feta cheese. And enormous five-pound bag of whole-wheat flour that I bought because I think the old bag had gone rancid [thus a possible explanation for the badness of my Irish soda bread]).

So anyway, the first part of this week’s cooking is stuffed focaccia, courtesy of The Iron You, which I found through The Kitchn. (I LOVE the title of The Iron You—I haven’t read much of it but basically they use food and exercise to make themselves into superheroes. That’s my goal in life, too.) You may notice that I am procrastinating from cooking by adding tons of links to this post.

Back to business. I first made the dough so I could leave it to rise while I did other things (i.e. started dinner and the next post(s)). I proofed the yeast (combined it with warm water, sugar, and salt) and then added 600 g of w.w. flour, measured in my lovely kitchen scale, and the olive oil. I mixed it with a wooden spoon and was very worried about the fact that it wasn’t sticky—whole-wheat flour just seems to drink up any moisture. (My friend who is in pastry school says this is normal—whole-wheat flour is just really dry—but since the recipe was written for whole-wheat flour it was worrisome.)

Pre-kneading, but still. What IS this?

I kneaded for a while, on tip-toes, whole-bodily, for maybe five or seven minutes, until I decided to stop. I have no idea if it was smooth and elastic. It was easy to knead, though, because of the relative dryness. Now it’s sitting in a bowl, covered in more olive oil, rising away. Possibly.

Looks like a brain.

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