Sunday, June 15, 2014

Chickpea of the Sea

Because of the environmental toll that meat takes on the environment (in general, but especially factory farming), I am trying to cut back on my meat consumption. Lunch has always been hardest for me, since making sandwiches is so easy. This is a pretty easy substitute for tuna, although for me it requires a bit of planning ahead. It takes a bit longer to make than tuna does, so I like to make it on Sunday night. This recipe makes 2-3 lunches, since I also pack a fruit and some yogurt.


Ingredients

  • One can chickpeas
  • Olive Oil
  • Mayonnaise (or Vegannaise)
  • Celery (I use 2 stalks)
  • Mustard
  • Pickles (I use 3 sandwich slices)
  • Salt and Pepper
Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Place them in a bowl, add some salt and pepper, and then mash them up. I like to mash them before adding the celery for a smoother consistency. Slice up your celery and pickles to the size you want, and then add them to the mashed chickpeas. Glug in some olive oil, add mayonnaise and mustard to taste, and stir everything together. If you don't want to use mayonnaise or Vegannaise, you can just olive oil, although I haven't tried that. Serve as a sandwich, on crackers, on cucumber slices, plain...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fresh Tuna as only the Italians can make

When we spent time on the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples, Italy, I had fresh tuna for lunch every day.  It was the best tuna I have ever had.  It has taken me a few years but I have finally been able to almost replicate the recipe.

The first thing is to get really fresh tuna.  I am fortunate to have recently joined a group called Community Seafood (http://www.communityseafood.com/seafood-of-the-week/).  They bring fresh seafood to my local Farmer's Market weekly.  You never know what you are going to get.  A few weeks ago I really scored and got this delicious tuna.  I managed to buy more than my weekly share so I was able to recreate my tuna dish from Italy and have it for more than just one week. 

Here is the recipe.  It is a little time-consuming, but the tuna keeps for weeks in the refrigerator so it is worth the effort.

Tonno Bollito

Ingredients
1-2 carrots 1 medium onion (red or yellow)
1 stalk of celery
1 bay leaf
6-8 stalks of Italian parsley
3 lbs fresh tuna
Olive oil
salt and pepper

Boil 2 quarts of lightly salted water and all the ingredients but the tuna and olive oil for about 1 hour.
 Filter the broth and then add the tuna.  Cook approximately 30 minutes and then remove.



 Finally, put the tuna on a bed of lettuce, add tomato, salt and pepper and season with olive oil. 

With the extra tuna you cooked, cover it completely with olive oil, put it in the coldest part of your refrigerator and it will last for weeks, assuming you have the will power to not eat it completely in the next few days.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chia Pudding

To quote The Who Pink Floyd (oops!), "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?" When it's a breakfast pudding made from chia seeds! Or anytime, really, I just like the quote. Chia pudding is best when you have time to let it sit overnight. I like this for summer, since it's refreshing.



Anyway, chia pudding is a weird sort of thing. I first saw it on goop, and her recipe was kind of bland. It was also chewier than I wanted it to be. So, after scouring the internet, I think I've stumbled upon the best liquid:seed ratio. I'm using slightly more than a 4:1 ratio--0.5 cups of liquid (I use unsweetened, plain almond milk) to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds. Then I add a few more splashes of liquid. This makes one serving. Just pour your liquid over the seeds (I used a leftover jam jar that I had lying around, if you're a hipster you can use a mason jar. I've also used regular bowls). Stir. This step is key. That way, all the seeds will get mixed in, and you won't have a weird clump at the bottom of your bowl/jar. You can also stir in fruit. Here, I put in strawberries, but the possibilities are endless! I definitely recommend some fruit. I also put in a sprinkling of vanilla powder. I keep forgetting to put in cinnamon, but I bet that would be tasty, too. I'm thinking of trying cocoa powder and bananas. Once it's topped and stirred (stir a lot!), put it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning you will have a delicious breakfast!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Matzoh Ball Soup

I had my own Seder for Passover this year. It was potluck style, but I provided the matzoh ball soup and the dessert. I made my own broth and matzoh balls. To make the broth, I put a whole chicken in a pot, along with the detritus of various vegetables that I've been collecting. Make sure that you remove the innards from the chicken. You can put them back in, but you want to make sure you get rid of the paper that they're wrapped in. Also, whenever you prepare veggies, you should set aside the parts you don't use, like the carrot peels, onion peels, ends of the celery, etc. Put them in a bag in the freezer, and then when you need to make broth, you're all set! For the broth, add salt and pepper to the water, and then let it simmer for a few hours. Once it's done, throw out the vegetable detritus, put the chicken aside (it should basically be falling apart), and pour the broth into tupperware.

If you're going to eat the broth immediately, try and skim off as much fat as possible; otherwise, put the tupperware in the refrigerator to cool. The fat should solidify at the top, and then you can just skim it off. Make sure to save it! You'll need it for the matzoh balls.

To make the matzoh balls, I followed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but instead of refrigerating them for 30 minutes I let them sit out for 20. I doubled it, which made 15 decent sized matzoh balls.

I would suggest waiting until the water is ready before shaping them, because letting them sit in the bowl while I waited for the water to boil meant that they stuck together a bit.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pressure Cooker v. Slow Cooker: Steel Cut Oats Edition

Now, obviously, you don't really need either of these things to make steel cut oats. They cook perfectly fine, albeit slowly, on the stove top. But because it does take so long, I thought I'd try using both the pressure cooker and the slow cooker to see which turned out better. My verdict: pressure cooker. Using the pressure cooker, my oatmeal came out basically the same as if I had cooked it over the stove. The only downside to the pressure cooker (besides the fact that it's scary) is that it doesn't actually save you that much time. Between getting it up to pressure, cooking the oats, and then letting it depressurize, I think it took ~30 minutes. Traditional cooking methods take ~45 minutes, although it also requires a lot more stirring. I made a large batch the night before I wanted to eat it, and then refrigerated it. I had leftovers throughout the week, but I didn't get that fresh off the stove taste on the first day, since even pressure cooking in the morning takes too much time. With the slow cooker, on the other hand, you can put your oats in before bed and then have them ready when you wake up. Unfortunately, they didn't really cook properly. There was a weird layer of what we decided was starch, and the texture was really rubbery. When reheating throughout the week, I had to add a lot more liquid than with the pressure cooked oats. There was also something off about the taste. I would have to say that with steel cut oats, pressure cooking is the way to go.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Wonder of Cocktails

Cocktails are amazing.

Beer is great, but once you have tried most of the beers available in the stores and local breweries, and maybe even brewed some of your own, what are you supposed to do?  Beer is made in such large batches that the variety of beers just can't be that high.

Wines are lovely, but they're so unpredictable.  Even if you only buy wines made from one or two varietals, there can be a lot of surprises.  Pinot Noir for example, could have a huge variety of flavors and textures (is it thin and watery, or a bit thicker?) and I still can't quite figure out how to know what to expect before opening a bottle.  This is quite unsatisfying if you're into having control!

Cocktails, on the other hand, put you in the driver's seat.  With a modest investment in liquors and liqueurs, you can get mixing and make a wondrous assortment of beverages.  Best of all, you can always make something new and interesting, and you get to be creative too!  On the practical side, even cocktails that have expensive ingredients don't cost more than $3 each at home, compared with $10 to $15 at high-end cocktail bars.

Emily and I have been having a love affair with cocktails over the past few years.  These are a couple of recipes that we enjoyed this week.  The first recipe came from The PDT Cocktail Book and is pretty simple:

212
2 ounces tequila (I like anejo tequila the best)
1 ounce Aperol liqueur
2 ounces freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
Shake ingredients over ice and serve with an ice cube and an orange slice.



I've been liking tequila a lot lately, and this drink was fantastic!  If you haven't tried a good aged (anejo) tequila, you should definitely give it a shot.  We have this one right now and I think it is great.

The second cocktail recipe uses orgeat, which is essentially sweetened almond milk with orange and almond flavoring.  There are lots of complicated recipes for orgeat that begin with whole almonds.  However, after making our own almond milk a few times, we decided that it was a waste of time and money.  Commercial almond milks are good and they are cheap.  I found a very recipe orgeat recipe that started with commerical almond milk, and it turned out great.

As far as I know, this drink is my own invention, but someone has probably already made this somewhere, right?  Either way, here is the recipe:

Tropical Almond Foamer
2.5 ounces pineapple-infused rum (recipe below)
1 ounce pink grapefruit juice
0.5 ounces orgeat (recipe here)
1 coupe or other small glass, rim coated in cinnamon and sugar
Shake ingredients over ice until chilled and frothy.  

The foamy texture of this drink was a pleasant surprise.  Lots of cocktails have a texture like this, but they get it from adding raw eggs (yolks, whites, or whole eggs).  Apparently commercial almond milk contains a few different thickeners that stabilize the frothy texture.  This drink tastes tropical and a bit fall-like, thanks to the cinnamon sugar rim.



Pineapple-infused rum
large jar (we use canning jars in 1 and 2-quart sizes)
1 pineapple, peeled and sliced into pieces
mild rum (we used Bacardi silver, which is inexpensive and not very flavorful)
Put pineapple pieces into jar.  Add rum until the jar is full.  Store in a refrigerator or basement for a few weeks.
NOTE - if you are allergic to pineapple like I am, you should make this.  Pineapple contains protease enzymes which destroy the proteins in some people's mouths (like mine) and cause them discomfort after eating pineapple.  After soaking in the rum for a while, the protease enzymes in the pineapple pieces are destroyed and you can eat the pineapple freely!  But, take it easy, because the pineapple is now alcoholic and will actually get you a little tipsy if you get carried away with it...


I hope this post inspires you to mix up something fun.  Happy Weekend!
Joe

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Banana Bread at High Altitude

As promised, here is a post on baking at high altitude. Baking, unlike most cooking, is chemistry. You have to get the proportions right, and there's not much room for error. Ideally, you'd do everything by weight, but if you use measuring cups you have to level them off with a knife. There's also not much room for improvisation, and many people don't like that aspect of baking. I do, because if you get everything right, you know what you're going to get. I don't make my own recipes, but it's easy to follow the ones that I use. Since the air pressure is lower at high altitude, the chemical processes that occur are affected, so there are certain changes you have to make. I use the King Arthur Flour Guide, and just go with the changes they advise. I've not had a problem. My only caveat would be that with cookies, just use the lowest cooking time listed, and then check in. Remember, you can always cook things for longer, but you can't uncook them.

Here is a loaf of banana bread that I made this weekend, using the guide. It was very, very moist (mostly because I undercooked it slightly; I didn't have a toothpick to test for doneness so I went by sight).


I used a Mark Bittman recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, although I modified it slightly. His calls for coconut or other dried fruit, but whenever I see that in a recipe I mentally replace it with chocolate chips. He also calls for nuts, but Carl doesn't like them. For add-ins like nuts, chocolate chips, etc. you can add however much you'd like. I also added cinnamon. Ingredients listed have not been adjusted for altitude.

Ingredients

  • 8 Tbsps (1 stick) butter
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 0.5 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt (n.b. Despite what I said above about having to be incredibly precise or your baked goods won't come out correctly, I generally don't put as much salt in as most recipes call for. For this, I used slightly under a teaspoon)
  • 1.5 tsps baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (probably could have upped this amount, as it wasn't very cinnamon-y)
  • 0.75 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.25 cups chocolate chips

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your loaf pan.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients. With a hand mixer, a whisk, or in the food processor, cream the butter and beat in the eggs and bananas. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients; stir just enough to combine (it’s okay if there are lumps). Gently fold in the vanilla and the chocolate chips.
  3. Pour batter into pan, and bake for 45-60 minutes. Test with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean (although the undercooked bread was still tasty). Let cool for 10-15 minutes, and then pop it out of the pan.