Monday, May 9, 2016

Three recipes for the price of one

I have a problem.

Ok, I have many problems, but only one is pertinent to this blog. As our sages say, "I got 99 problems, but this blog ain't one of them."

My problem is recipes.

There are many recipes out there in this world, and I want to try ALL of them. I keep meaning to cook my way though my shelf of cookbooks, and I have yet to manage that. (I ALSO tend to get stuck in a rut and make the same types of recipes over and over again, and every now and again need a good kick in the brain to learn new things, but that's a different subject and not for today's blog entry.)

The main problem, though, is finding the recipes I already have...somewhere. Recipe card-cataloguing. Currently, my best recipe card-catalogue is in my brain, and that's a problem, because not only am I getting old, but my devices are getting old, and sometimes they die and they, very inconsiderately, do not share the recipe locations before they die. This is compounded by the fact that I have an excellent visual memory. So I have these recipes that I sorta kinda remember that I saw in an email, and then, I assume, I can always go back, find that email, and boom - found recipe. Right?

Not so much, unfortunately. I have thousands of emails, and the internet has not figured out a way to do 'search by mental image I have in my brain right now.' (Can somebody get on that, please?)

Recently, for example, I had two recipes I knew I loved, I knew I had bookmarked them - somewhere. Luckily, I was pretty sure that I had bookmarked them on my old ipad, and luckily, I still own that ipad and, luckily, it still works.

Had that not been the case, my precious Red Wine Chocolate Glaze recipe would have been gone forever, buried in the depths of the interwebs.

Similarly, last night I knew I had a red mullet recipe...somewhere. I remembered that all it was was fish, butter, and marjoram. I thought it was on BBC food. Turns out, what I thought I remembered was COMPLETELY wrong, but I did eventually find that recipe. I also learned that there are DOZENS of ways to cook red mullet, and it may be a shame that I keep coming back to the same one. But I like that one, and I found it eventually, and now I'm going to keep it, here, forever. And ever. And ever. BOOHAHAHA. Or at least until the eventual heat death of the universe.

So that brings us to today's post. Which is going to be two recipes I love, keep coming back to, and had better write down because otherwise one day they will disappear, I will look for them and not find them, and I will be sad. So this post is really for me. Think of it like your grandmother's box of handwritten recipes. 

Finally, I'm also going to write down the cake I made last night, because I took a recipe and changed it, and I will never be able to recreate it again if I don't, and that would be a shame, because it was delicious. So there you have it, three recipes for the price of one. Which, in case you hadn't noticed, is free.

Recipe the First - Red Mullet in Sage and Butter

For the original recipe, go to that link. Text below is original, my comments in parenthesis. 

  • 2 fillets of red mullet, about 175g each (or, a whole a package of red mullet)
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 30g (some) butter
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • sage
  1. Take the red mullet fillets and lightly flour them (or forget this part, and then the fish will curl up a bit.)
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy based pan on a medium to high heat and when the butter is hot but not brown add the fish and cook for 5-6 minutes (or less time if they are tiny, like mine were.)
  3. Turn the fish over, then with a spoon baste the fish and cook for a further 2 minutes, add the sage and cook for a further minute. (Or, add sage to butter and pour over when it's done cooking.)
  4. Finally squeeze in the juice of ½ a lemon. (Or forget this part entirely. Still good.) 

 Recipe the Second - Red Wine Chocolate Glaze (apparently I'm into red recipes these days) 

I've never actually tried the cake recipe in that link. I have too many chocolate cake recipes as it is. That glaze, however, I've made over and over again. It's a hit. I've given you amounts for 1/2 the recipe, which I find is enough to glaze 1 big round cake.

  • 4 oz. = 115 grams = 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (substitute oil or coconut oil for parve)
  • pinch kosher salt (or fancy orange salt to make it fancy)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup red wine such as Pinot Noir (or....whatever crappy wine you have in the house that hasn't been finished yet.)
  1. Heat chocolate, butter, and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (bowl should not touch water), stirring, until chocolate and butter are melted, about 5 minutes. Whisk in powdered sugar. 
  2. Meanwhile, bring wine just to a boil in a small saucepan. (Important to do this step second and not cheat like I did, as, if you do it first, the wine will boil and evaporate away by the time you catch up.)
  3. Remove chocolate mixture from heat and whisk in wine; let cool until slightly thickened and a rubber spatula leaves a trail in mixture when stirring, 8–10 minutes. (May take longer. Can add a bit more powdered sugar if it doesn't set.)
  4. Set cake on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. (Hahaha! Yeah, whatever.) Pour glaze over cake and spread it across the top and over the edges with an offset spatula. Let cake stand at room temperature until glaze is set, 2–3 hours. (Or in fridge so flies or cats don't try to eat it.)

Recipe the third - White cake with Summer Fruit 

This is a supremely good cake for when you don't have much other than the basics at home, and you want a cake that can be made quickly and satisfy your 10 pm cake craving. It comes from the very cool Tassajara Bread Book, which I was gifted this summer, and discovered that my minor claim to fame is that my uncle did the calligraphy for it. It is thanks to his wife I now own a copy, and I will be forever grateful. 
Note - this recipe calls for mace, so I am compelled to write a word about mace. I love mace; it is possibly the most esoteric ingredient I have in my kitchen. It's a spice, goes well with lamb and red wine, and also, apparently, white cakes. It is a very distinct flavor and smell. If you don't have it you can probably substitute nutmeg, as they are closely related (I think the mace is the leaves, the nutmeg is the middle, or something like that), or even cinnamon, but I highly recommend you get your hands on some mace. Just...not for self-defense. That's a different mace. 
  • 1/2 tsp mace
  • 1 tbs vanilla
  • 1/2 cup oil (recipe calls for shortening. You can probably use butter, too.)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup sifted white flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch (or potato starch or cornflour. I'm not entirely sure there's a difference.)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder (which is 1/2 tbs, but I was afraid the text might confuse if I write it out that way.)
  • 1/2 cup milk (would probably work with soy milk) 
  • 2 large eggs, beaten 
  • 2 tbs honey or sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream - I used kefir, and it was amazing. Yogurt would probably work, too. 
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • assorted seasonal fruit 

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9" baking pan, or just use a baking sheet. (I made half this recipe and it fit well in one of those long bread tins.)
  2. Blend mace, vanilla, and oil in a mixer. Cream in the sugar (blend until it turns white-ish. May not work so well if you used oil, but cake will come out nonetheless.)  
  3. In a second bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder. 
  4. In a third bowl ("This uses three bowls?!??" says long-suffering spouse) beat eggs and milk together. 
  5. Add dry ingredients and milk/egg mixture to bowl, alternating. Mix. 
  6. Add batter to pan. Bake in 350 oven for 45 minutes, or until center is dry. (It took 30 minutes for the smaller tin.) 
  1. Mix honey, sour cream/kefir/yogurt and vanilla. Add fruit. It went very well with apricot, nectarine, and banana, which is all I had on hand. Probably would be divine with strawberry. Or cherry. Or peach. Or plum. K, how I'm making myself hungry. 
  2. Top on cake slices when plating.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What do you do with leftover bread, earlie in the morning?

A few days ago a friend posted a picture of his dinner on Facebook. "Hey facebook, look at this lovely strata we're eating," was the gist of it.

Whoa. What's a strata?

I have, let us say, been around the bush a few times in the kitchen. I know oddly named things. I've heard of a croquembouche. I've heard of thousand-year-old eggs. I've even heard of Surströmming. But I had never heard of a strata. This gave me pause. I was shocked. Amazed. No, not really. But I was intrigued. So I googled it, and you will never believe what I discovered!

Kidding. That click-baiting talk is really starting to get to me.

Anyway, I discovered that apparently I don't go to brunch enough. A strata is... a savoury bread pudding. (I had even MADE a savoury bread pudding once, I just didn't call it that.) It's like a bread pudding meets a quiche. Classic brunch food, and I presume it's not just CALLED savoury bread pudding so that Americans will tolerate it. (Americans would be all, "bread??? In pudding??? EWWWW.")

But here's the great thing about this recipe, and the reason I found it blog-worthy. IT USES UP BREAD LEFTOVERS.

Isn't that great? Especially, need I remind you, when we are about 3 weeks away from Pesach.

When I decided to try this recipe, I promptly opened my freezer, and you will NEVER BELIEVE what I found! (No, you totally will. I really need to stop doing that. It's surprisingly catchy, even if I mean it ironically.)

I found about 8 tons of leftover bread.
I believe I will call you lunch. Hello lunch.

There were two bags of leftover sourdough, which gets eaten quite often around here - but also keeps replenishing itself, because sourdough is like tribbles.

One bag of leftover cornbread, because there was only one night this year that was legitimately cold enough for chili, and who wants to eat cornbread after the chili was gone?

One or two pitas left over from a restaurant meal, because they would have just thrown them out, and the Holocaust.

One bread to rule them all, and in the darkness of my freezer, bind them.

Clearly it was time to bake.

I'm going to say one other thing about this recipe (besides the fact that it takes about two seconds to prepare, which is awesome) and then we're going to get to the fun, recipe-filled part.) Remember Smokey the Bear? Only you can prevent forest fires? So, same thing with this recipe. Only you can determine what goes in it. That's how leftover recipes work. Ignore any recipe site that tells you otherwise, and if there's one sentence that I've ever typed that you should listen to, that would be it.

I literally used up oodles of leftovers that would otherwise have been thrown out with this recipe. The first recipe I saw called for tomatoes and olives. The second, onion and spinach. Guess what? I used leek, mizuna salad mix, and leftover salsa rosa. You use what you have in your fridge. Only you.

Remember that.

Leftovers Strata

picture for illustrative purposes
  • leftover bread - enough to fill the pan you intend to use 
  • oil/butter - a tablespoon or so, enough to fry things in
  • onion or leek if you have it - I used about 1/2 a leftover onion, and 1 dying leek
  • green things - spinach. chard. mizuna. Or not if you don't have it. 
  • bit of salt/pepper to taste - I used about 1/2 tsp salt and no pepper. That's my taste. Maybe yours is different.
  • nutmeg - about 1/4 tsp, if you like 
  • leftover salsa rosa - or tomatoes. Or tomato sauce. Or maybe olives. I bet salmon would taste delicious. Or anchovies. Yum.
  • about a 1.5 cups milk
  • 5 eggs
  • leftover cheese
  • a tiny bit of shallot jam, which is absolutely delicious and you need to make it and promptly eat it with everything 

  1. Take the leftover bread, and fill one of those round pans with it. Like the 9 inch ones. If it overflows, don't use as much bread. Try to determine which bread you are unlikely to ever eat, and use that. Measure it out, cut or tear it into big chunks, and put it into a bowl until you're ready to use it. 
  2. Butter that pan. 
  3. Take frying pan. Fry up the things that need frying - onion/leek/etc. For about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper and nutmeg to taste. Add other things that need frying. Only until slightly wilted. Then put aside. 
  4. Take another bowl. Pour in milk, crack eggs into it. Beat slightly. Mix in a tiny bit shallot jam, because OMG shallot jam.
  5. Grate cheese. (or should I say...great cheese. BA dum.)
  6. Now, build the strata. Put bread in first. Then fried things. Then the salsa rosa or whatever you're using. Then top with the milk/egg mixture - careful not to overfill the pan. If it threatens to overfill, don't use the whole thing. I know, I know, Holocaust. Find another use for it. 
  7. Top with cheese.
  8. Now, this is the weird counter-intuitive part - cover it, leave in it the fridge, and walk away. That's right, walk away. Leave it overnight. 
  9. THE NEXT DAY, probably for brunch, preheat oven to 350; take strata out of fridge while the oven heats. Take off the plastic wrap - you don't want to eat that. Then bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes, until it's lovely and puffed and browned and smells amazing. 
  10. Eat. Try to share. 

Three seconds later...
P.S. If you want actual amounts and measurements and stuff, which, as you may have noticed, I don't really do - go here. I may be truly envious of her blog and success, but if you want measurements, go there, and trust Deb. If you want foul language and irreverence, stay here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Never go against a Sicilian, and don't try this at home

Yesterday was not a good day in the kitchen.

It started off well. I made this ginormous sourdough bread, which some of you may have seen, and took pictures and bragged on facebook. Then the cat licked it. Then I spritzed it with water and put it back in the oven (to burn off the cat-lick) and then I burned it.

This is the 'before' picture.
Then I put a last piece of challah in the oven to make toast before it went stale, and I burned that, too.

Then, finally, I made one of the classic blunders. I decided to trust some random British blogger.

No offense to my British friends and readers, but that was a bad idea.

Have you guys seen this meme going around? The one where celebrities list all the things they eat in a day, and that is why they are super-thin, or super-rich, or just have super-powers? (I should really do that meme, it sounds like fun.) So, I saw this random blog linked somewhere, and she or he started off their post about how stupid and time-consuming and ridiculous all those super-foods that celebrities eat are (like such as the quails eggs that have been harvested under a full moon by a virgin), and how unattainable they are by normal people. I thought, great! This blogger is my peeps!

Then they went on to list all the super-foods *they* eat every day...just no virgins had been harmed.

Yay. Not. 

But one recipe caught my eye - a beetroot-(aka beet)-chickpea dip. In other words, hummus. And that's how they got me. In my mind - beets - yum! Chickpea dip - yum! A little bit of cumin - yum! Three seconds to put it together - sounds great! Let's try it.

No fingers were harmed in the making of this recipe.
The recipe basically read: "take a tin of chickpeas and a tin of beetroot and blend with a bit of cumin. Done."

And here, dear readers, is where I should have chashadti.

I disregarded the fact that beets and chickpeas don't come in tins in my home, for pete's sake, and that it's the easiest and cheapest thing in the world to put beets and chickpeas in a pot and boil them.

I forgot that boiling things to death is the classic British way.

And, most damningly, I forgot that I live in the Mediterranean, where beet salad is gorgeously flavored with vinegar or, in my home, in classic Russian manner - fried and refried into patties with sour cream. I forgot that hummus is made with fresh garlic and fresh lemon juice and oodles of herbs and spices, and that we are on the spice route, after all.

And I forgot that Brits AIN'T GOT NOTHING ON THE MEDITERRANEAN, FOOD-WISE (which is probably why they colonized it), and I shouldn't trust this recipe with a ten-food pole.

Hey look it's red hummus.
My bad.

I boiled, and blended, and wouldn't you know it, it tasted bland and kinda blech. It had that initial sweetness of the beets...followed by a dryness of chickpeas. Not good.

So I applied the Mediterranean way to it, and added more cumin. And more salt. Some chili. Some vinegar. Some sumac. Finally some coriander seeds, roasted in olive oil and a kinda failed attempt to blend them in a spice blender.

They were still bleh.

Now I have them in the oven. I have added matza meal, and am pretending they are felafel balls - just a little more red than usual. We shall see.

Never go up against a Sicilian if death is on the line, and don't trust random British bloggers unless they are Jamie Oliver. Or putting clotted cream in something.

Hmm, I wonder if I should add clotted cream...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Soup Glorious Soup Take II - Thenthuk Soup

I ain't gonna lie, boys and girls. I am not making this soup 'authentically.' If you were to make Thenthuk soup authentically, it would require a 'pulled dough' (which I think is what Thenthuk actually means.) That's a fancy blogger thing to do, and it's not something that most of you are about to do, and then you would skip this soup, and that would be a shame, because this is a good soup. So unless you are one of my super-foodie friends reading this, then, yes, fine, go ahead and make pulled dough. For the rest of you, keep reading.

Spouse (as we were making the soup): what's pulled dough?  
Me: it's like, dough. That you pull. Like this (pretends to stretch a dough in the air.) And then you drop it into the soup. But that's too much work, and I'm hungry .

This is DH. DH has soup when it's cold out. DH is smart. DH is not an annoying internet meme.

This is a great soup to make if you have barely anything in the house other than a tired tomato and some tired greens. When it's cold and wet out (like today. And tomorrow. And the next day.) and you can't be bothered to go shopping for actual food, and you only have bits and bobs around the house - this is the soup you make. 

Thenthuk soup is what happens when chicken soup and minestrone soup meet and have an illegitimate love child in Tibet. I make it with chicken broth and noodles, but it can easily be lent to vegetarian and gluten free. And I play with it and make it ever so slightly different every time, and I encourage you to do the same.

Now. In order to make this soup we need to start talking about the kitchen as a whole. My kitchen, and probably your kitchen too, does not exist in a vacuum. What I mean is, there be this thing called leftovers. And no cookbook that I have ever found seems to take that into account (with the possible exception of Tamar Adler's Everlasting Meal, but that's more cookprose than cookbook.) Which is a shame. Great things happen from leftovers - tiramisu, bread pudding, fried rice, sourdough - and that's just off the top of my head. 

So the beginning of this soup happens when you have leftover chicken/duck/goose/beef bones around the house.

Once upon a time, people appreciated bones and realized you could make great things, like soup broth, from them. I think it's because nobody used to have any money. Nowadays. . . people buy broth. Feh, I say, feh. Stop that. It's expensive and they put additives in to make it taste good.

Here's what to do instead. Next time you roast a chicken, or a goose, or a duck - save the bones. Either put them in the freezer and save them for a rainy day in which you are ready to make soup; or seize the day, make stock immediately, freeze it, and defrost on a day like today.

Take the bones. Stick them in a pot with onion skins, garlic, carrot tops, celery tops, bay leafs, maybe a pepper clove, salt, and water. If you don't have all those ingredients, don't worry about it. Be creative. Use what you do have. I've made pretty good stock from just a tiny bit of onion, bones, salt and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cook, for at least half an hour. Taste. Then either proceed to soup immediately or freeze that and wait for that day you need soup broth.

The other things that you will need for this soup are probably lying around in your pantry. Change around as needed. I will tell you how I did it, and you can do with it what you will.

Things you sort of need:
  • onion
  • tired tomato or two
  • hard vegetables - like radish, or kohlrabi, or daikon. Carrots would probably will work, as would beansprouts or celery. 
  • green vegetables - spinach/bok choy/cabbage/kale/etc. Or not if you don't have it.
  • soy sauce
  • broth
  • noodles

  1. If you have broth, defrost it now. If you only have the bare bones, start your broth now, and don't worry, it will be ready in time for there to be soup.
  2. Start water boiling for tomatoes. You're going to want to peel the tomatoes, and the easiest way to do that is to "score" them - cut a very thin cross in the skin, just barely breaking the skin. Then plonk it into the boiling water for about 30 seconds, until the skin starts peeling back, like a bad sunburn. Remove with slotted spoon and let cool. Remove the water from the pot, and either throw it away or be thrifty and reuse it. Maybe even in this soup.
  3. Meanwhile, take some oil or even shmaltz if you're lucky. Heat it in the very same pot you just used for the tomatoes (Make sure to dry the pot first or it will sizzle and spit and burn you. Not that I speak from experience or anything.) Cut and fry up the onion. Add the hard vegetables - this time I used a single kohlrabi. Let it cook and sizzle for a bit - maybe 5 minutes. 
  4. Keep an eye on that broth. Taste. Add salt if needed. Don't if it doesn't.
  5. Chop up and add the tomato to your onion-vegetable pot. Cook a few minutes more. Add your broth if it's ready, and a bit of soy sauce. A drizzle or two will do. Cook until it has become soup. This should only take a few more minutes, but it's forgiving.
  6. About 5 minutes before you are ready to eat, add the noodles and cook them according to noodle directions. Then, finally, a minute before eating, add the green stuff (I used strange green things that I got in our CSA) and let cook only a little, until slightly wilted, not sad.
Your result will taste like an Asian minestrone. Please let me know if you pull those noodles - I never have and I am intrigued, but also lazy. Oh, and if you like, some recipes say you can add chopped meat. But don't take my word for it - ask google.