Having been able to devote some time to cooking this weekend and today, I decided to try out some new things. Each night offered its own challenges, though, and a much different approach to cooking.
Sunday night is “big meal” night here. Its developed into family tradition that I spend a lot of time in kitchen preparing a tasty and elaborate meal, often with a desert, that we can use to close out our weekend. This is usually followed by a rousing game of Boggle and some Uno, both of which She-Who-Hums does pretty well at for her age. TPE and I both look forward to these nights of good company and good food. I really hope She-Who-Hums looks back on those nights fondly when she is our age and carries the tradition on.
Anyway, I figured last night was as good as any to finally try eggplant with TPE. We had a very small one procured from the farmer’s market, allowing her to experiment without a ton of it sitting around. And it can take a while to cook, making the weekend a good time to try it. I opted for a eggplant, tomato, cucumber pita with a red pepper raita for two reasons. First, the recipe called for the eggplant to be battered and baked, meaning that she’d be getting something close to fried. Second, the flavors more generally are familiar to her. I was basically trying to make the experience go well. Since its a big night in the kitchen, I also tried out the zucchini fritters from the other night, but substituted feta for goat cheese.
The meal was a mixed bag for TPE. On the one hand, she grew from uneasy acceptance of the fritters to enjoying them (especially with some of the raita). On the other hand, she took one bite of the eggplant and gave me the potato look. ( You know, the POTATO! look.) The pitas were flimsy therefore detracted from the experience, but it was a pretty nice end-of-summer kind of meal. Refreshing pitas with nice Greek flavors, along with savory fritters stuffed with cheese. Not bad, all in all. She-Who-Hums even got in the act and at a bologna pita (don’t get me started…at least her vegetables weren’t pickles and olives for once).
Tonight was a different story. We decided early on that we’d have a black bean burrito kind of thing, having been inspired by She-Who-Hums suggestion that we go to the “Mexican” restaurant. (We would’ve gone, but she declined to pay. He’s absolutely hoarding money in her room, so yeah…I would’ve let her pay.) Surprisingly, there wasn’t one black bean burrito recipe in any of my trusted vegetarian cookbooks. So I improvised.
I know what you’re thinking, “He thinks he’s so bad-ass, just throwing things together in the kitchen. Mr. Kitchen Know-It-All!” While I assure you my ego is alive and healthy, improvised cooking is outside of my comfort zone. Sure, I can make do when ingredients of a recipe are gone or I need to adjust, but that’s not me making decisions. I’m still basically following orders; and that’s easy.
Nevertheless, I pressed forward. We decided that we wanted black beans, rice, and “lettuce…AND CHEESE?!” (the last part was TPE’s contribution). The problem was that she also didn’t want anything that you would put in a burrito like, you know, Mexican-themed seasonings like cumin. (She suggested using taco mix. REALLY!) Anyway, I busted out my copy of THE FLAVOR BIBLE to get some ideas. Seeing nothing all that inspirational, I made the rice and seasoned it with oregano and other assorted herbs and then make a fajita-like mix of peppers, onions, fresh corn, black beans, and diced tomatoes. I went with about a 1/2 tsp of chili power, salt, and pepper. I added some stock to let those flavors seep in as well, especially as the tomato broke down. The resulting dish was fun (we built them at the table), tasty, and very filling.
So, here are my questions:
- What are your family food traditions?
- And, do you follow directions or just through stuff in a pot that sounds good?
All for now, dear reader.
Despite not feeling well, TPE wanted dinner last night. Perusing the ingredients in the fridge and taking TPEs request for something light into account, I settled on a stir fry. Since become vegetarians, these are the moments where I have attempted to make tofu edible. These moments have not turned out well, both for different reasons.
In search of a recipe that would appeal to TPEs palate, I settled on one in Deborah Madison’s cookbook (what a godsend this book is!) that called for fried tofu that was then glazed in soy sauce and brown sugar. Let me tell you…this was the way to make tofu. I’m not crazy about the idea of frying it all the time, but this gives it some very nice texture and the glaze gives it a nice flavor. When its hot its a little crunchy, a little chewy, and almost a little gooey on the inside. I won’t be messing with tofu anymore because this is how I’m going to cook it (perhaps with other glazes however).
It it occurs to me while writing it that there is no reason why tofu must be used almost exclusively with Asian cuisines. I know that’s tradition because the roots of tofu are Asian, but with my new insight on frying and flavoring it I can see applications for it. Some time in the next couple of weeks, I think I’m going to experiment with it in Mexican cuisine. Properly fried and seasoned, I could see it in a burrito. Whatcha think?
On the off-chance you haven’t seen it, there is a significant salmonella outbreak in the United States right now. The source seems to be eggs. This guy seems to be the main source of the infected eggs. He sucks.
This looks awesome. TPE has been sick the last couple of days, but we’ll be trying this first chance we get!
TPE surprised me tonight by having dinner ready by the time I got home, even though I got home early! Its always a nice surprise when you don’t have to make dinner, but what was really nice about this is that it was pretty good.
Oh, I know that sounds insulting. I really don’t mean it to be; TPE can cook and cook well. She especially makes a mean cookie. Where her and I diverge on food really has to do with what to make. I’m adventurous; she’s not. I like cheese and sugar; she triples those in recipes and halves everything that’s good for you. I kid…sort of.
What was nice about tonight was this was the first time she decided to make a meal since she became a vegetarian…and she wasn’t trying to pretend that she wasn’t. See, a lot of “vegetarian” recipes spend their time apologizing for the lack of meat and looking for substitutes. The problem is that vegetables can’t replace meat and vice versa. And many of the options — e.g., tofu — just really come across as a rite of passage for the newly meat-free.
Well…let’s just say that TPEs appetites will often lend themselves to recipes of that type and, not surprisingly, we’re both usually less than satisfied with the results. Tonight she resisted that normal impulse and really thought about the meal from the vegetarian point of view — what would fit her dietary needs (we hadn’t had much protein this week), would fit into her schedule, and would satisfy her snooty husband (if she’s The Picky Eater, I’m clearly The Snobby Cook). She hit the nail on the head with a white bean salad.
While this salad was very similar to what I’ll serve her, she had an inspired use of garlic to really beef up the flavor (pun intended). She also accidentally pureed the tomatoes. Though I was skeptical of that, it made the dressing very close to a tomato vinaigrette. That was a serendipitous moment that I plan on using in the future. Of course, I’ll have to do it my way…the TSC way.
How hard it would be to find a good recipe for Aduki beans that don’t include a lot of heat. Here is one I might try this week — Aduki, Orzo, and Peppers — but it doesn’t really strike my fancy that much.
With apologies to Billy Joel…
I’m contemplating my next kitchen acquisition (with my desired gas stove being on the back burner, so-to-speak). The one that’s been in my mind is a pressure cooker. But I have to admit that I’m somewhat at a loss as to what I’d do with it, vegetarian or not. Who among you has one, uses one, and uses it for for what?
If I can’t get an answer for that, then I’ll just have to ask for a (small) juicers along with my power tools this year at Christmas.
Goodness no, I won’t be posting about Rachel Ray. She’s fine and all for what she’s trying to do, but I don’t have much interest in what she cooks. No, I’m going to post about dinner last night and for once an annoying TV aphorism seem to fit the bill.
The menu last night was pizza (three kinds, of course…stupidly, or course) with peach galettes and homemade vanilla ice cream for desert. TPE has not been feeling well of late so I needed something that would fit her sickly-stomach. At the same time, I finally had some time to cook and was inspired to use the fresh peaches and ripening tomatoes from our Farmers Market.
Nothing comes easy in this house though. TPE loves my homemade crust, She-Who-Hums (seriously…she’s sitting here humming as I type!) despises and detests it. So, she would only agree to homemade pizza if I bought a Pilsbury crust (which I find atrocious). With that under my belt, my plan was something like this:
- Get the crust for the pizza done, let it rise. My uncomfortable relationship with yeast notwithstanding.
- Get the ice cream in the freezer to set.
- Make the galette crust. Easy breezy.
- Cut the peaches and make the filling.
- Pre-heat the oven.
- Fill the galettes and put them in the oven.
- Get the toppings ready for the three pizzas.
- Cook pizzas.
A good plan, right? I think so. However, if you happen to let your yeast dough rise in your oven, its important to remove it from said oven before engaging in step #5. I forgot that important detail and almost lost a bowl, crust, and house in the bargain. TPE even asked me if I knew that you couldn’t put plastic bowls and towels in the oven.
Anyway, aside from that minor disaster things went very well. Here are the highlights:
- The filling for the galettes was sliced peaches, a TB of flour, and sugar. Once on the galette, I drizzled it with honey. If I were very adventurous, I might sprinkle a little rosemary on there sometime for an herbal note; other ideas?
- She-Who-Hums had a three cheese pizza. With olive slices. It makes me want to vomit, but she seemed happy.
- TPE’s pizza was straightforward — some sauteed mushrooms, diced tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella and parmesan. It was surprisingly flavorful with a nicely textured bite. Next time, I’m going to use a little basil puree to season it a touch more.
- My pizza was an adaptation of one from Deborah Madison’s cookbook. There was no sauce on it, save for some (good) olive oil. I layered it with diced tomatoes (rather than cherry tomatoes), sliced and sauteed zucchini and squash, some caramelized onions, a little mozzarella, and 6 oz of goat cheese.
The pizzas turned out really well, as did the galettes. But the highlight of the meal probably was the ice cream. I used 2-parts heavy cream and 1-part milk to increase the butter fat, and added a couple of egg yolks. It was awesome.
As a side note — Madison’s recipe for pizza dough is the best one I’ve found yet, particularly for this climate. I strongly recommend it. I added about 2 TB of sugar too.
A friend from high school recently asked me for a lentil recipe because (to paraphrase) “she was tired of eating mushy lentils with no flavor.” I dug up this link to a recipe from Deborah Madison’s cookbook that is fun, yummy, and not too hard. You can find it linked here, with appropriate credit given to Ms. Madison.