Thursday, March 25, 2010

Acorn Squash with Chili-Lime Vinaigrette


Jess recently assigned us this Acorn Squash recipe from Smitten Kitchen. And I decided to make a marinated mushroom and roast asparagus salad to go with it. This is a great pairing, so Jess, if you haven't made your squash yet and want the mushroom recipe, let me know!

I sliced up the acorn squash, tossed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted them in the oven.

The recipe calls for mortar and pestling the garlic and chopping the other ingredients, but I figured the food processor would also work, so in went a red chili, garlic, cilantro, lime, olive oil, salt.

Meanwhile, I sauteed mushrooms with olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper, first alone, then with finely chopped shallot, and finally with minced garlic. Then I set them to marinate for a while with some champagne vinegar. I used less than the recipe called for, since I wanted to be sure they still had a strong mushroom flavor and weren't totally pickled.

I squeezed some asparagus in next to the squash for the final 10 minutes of cooking. Then I tossed the mushrooms and asparagus with chopped basil and flat-leaf parsley and gave it a moment to cool a bit before mixing in some greens.

The squash I just drizzled with the chili-lime garlic goodness.

And it was good.  And we ate it all up with a little help from a friend who dropped by later.

A really happy thing about this cooking exchange is that I've already started making these recipes again – like I made another batch of granola bars (no crumbling this time either, Jess, go figure) for a hike last weekend.  And I made some more mujadara yesterday. And I bought a bunch more mushrooms Friday for more marinated mushrooms. I think I might like to try this squash recipe with a variety of squash – maybe sliced butternut and kabocha alongside the acorn?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Masala Dosas

I love dosas. During my MFA in Providence, we pretty much had a dosa club that met regularly at Kabob and Curry. So when I saw a recipe for dosas in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, I was eager to give it a try. Plus it involved overnight prep, and you know what a fan I am of that. :)

So I tracked down an Indian grocery and bought my urad dal and also some frozen chutneys. And I soaked and pureed my rice and lentils and warmed the oven and mixed the purees and let them sit overnight.

And in the morning, I was all "smell it, Caleb!  It's fermented!  Look at the texture, it's almost dough-like, so cool!" and he was all "um, I don't want to smell it. I trust you."

Johanna came over and helped chop herbs.

And I cooked up some potatoes with onion and toasted cumin seeds and curry powder and masala powder.

And then we heated a frying pan and tried to cook the dosa. And yeah, it didn't really go as planned. The recipe says things like "using as little water as possible" and "like thick pancake batter", but excuse, Mark Bittman, have you actually tried this?  The dosa, it does NOT spread out like a thin crepe. It glops around and clumps when you try to spread it out.

This is what a professional dosa looks like:

A golden horn of plenty.

This is about as close as we got, and that was with increasingly watering down the batter.  I sent an urgent email to Jessalynn with a subject line reading: "dosa advisory warning". Because that's the kind of friend I am.

So we mostly had "open face dosas." And they still tasted really good. And those $1.99 for four little microwaveable chutney containers?  Amazingly delicious!  We got coconut, madras tomato, and mint and they were all great.

The instructions were also written by people who actually acknowledge the truth of microwave cooking:

Directions (DO NOT THAW)
1. Peel lid off cup
2. Microwave on high setting for 40 seconds.
3. Using fork break icy center and mix chutney completely.
Note: After mixing chutney, chutney should be cold. Overheating will chance taste of chutney.

I think pretty much all microwave directions for frozen food include "Using fork break icy center and mix completely".

Maybe someday a more experienced dosa maker will give me lessons on how to get the perfect crispy thin golden horn, but till then, this will do.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More Fun with Leftovers

One of my goals is to become a cook who is good with leftovers – someone who doesn't waste food, someone who can take the odds and ends in the fridge and make something delicious. So a dish like this one is a step in the right direction. 

Basically, it's a variation on the salad rolls with a bit less work involved.  I cooked some rice noodles, and tossed them with the leftover peanut sauce (thinned with a bit of vegetable broth), some sauteed tofu, a bunch of frozen peas, and the leftover leaves (mint, basil, cilantro), thin carrot slices, and scallions, and then I squeezed a bunch of lime juice over the top. Yum.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Harp & Altar Anthology


Announcing
the publication of 
The Harp & Altar Anthology



Poetry & Fiction | 336 pages | $17
Edited by Keith Newton and Eugene Lim
The Harp & Altar Anthology ($17 + shipping):
Pubdate: June 1, 2010.
Collecting the ground-breaking poetry and fiction from the first six issues of the online journal Harp & Altar.  With writing by Roberta Allen • Stephanie Anderson • Jason Bacasa • Andrea Baker • Jessica Baran • Jessica Baron • Shane Book • Donald Breckenridge • Michael Carlson • Joshua Cohen • Julia Cohen • Adam Clay • Lynn Crawford • Oisín Curran • Claire Donato • Farrah Field • Corey Frost • David Goldstein • Andrew Grace • Kate Greenstreet • Sarah Gridley • Emily Gropp • Evelyn Hampton • Jennifer Hayashida • Stefania Heim • Lily Hoang • Joanna Howard • Dan Hoy • Thomas Kane • Steve Katz • Karla Kelsey • Joanna Klink • Jennifer Kronovet • Norman Lock • Jill Magi • Justin Marks • Peter Markus • Eugene Marten • Stephen-Paul Martin • Zachary Mason • Miranda Mellis • Sara Michas-Martin • Patrick Morrissey • Ryan Murphy • Eileen Myles • Bryson Newhart • Linnea Ogden • Cameron Paterson • Johannah Rodgers • Joanna Ruocco • Elizabeth Sanger • Rob Schlegel • Zachary Schomburg • Kate Schreyer • Andrei Sen-Senkov • Brandon Shimoda • Peter Jay Shippy • Joanna Sondheim • Mathias Svalina • Bronwen Tate • G.C. Waldrep • Derek White • Jared White • Joshua Marie Wilkinson • Paul Winner • David Wirthlin • Michael Zeiss • Leni Zumas

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mujadara


Yum.  Jessalynn's last Long Distance Kitchen assignment was this very simple and very delicious recipe from Orangette.  It's so simple that it seems like it barely even counts as a recipe. But it's so tasty, and you could easily go your whole life without ever making it! But you shouldn't.

(Note: this inspires me to put out a call for other similar things: What dishes do you love that you maybe feel funny even dignifying with the word "recipe" since it's just a way of combining things? I really want to know!)


First, let's take a moment to admire my shun knife. It was a wedding gift. It makes me very happy. When friends are cooking with me, I say "why don't you use the wedding knife for that. It'll make you happy." And it does.


And now a moment to admire the lentils.  They are little French green lentils with delicate splotchy skins like little river pebbles. They become more delicious but less attractive when you simmer them.


The recipe says to start by heating the olive oil and then caramelize the onions in it, but I am such a convert of the Mark Bittman method I used for the focaccia, that I started the onions out dry and covered and only added the olive oil when they'd released all their moisture and were starting to scorch a bit. I'm sure the other way works fine too, but this was amazingly delicious.

Just half a cup of basmati rice goes in.  That's another thing I like about this dish. It tastes like a cozy starchy comfort food, but you're really eat lots of lentils and onions to a little bit of rice. Healthy good.

And finally the partially precooked lentils and a couple of cups of water. 20 minutes later, I found myself sneaking bites while waiting for Caleb to get home from Costco.  Yes, sneaking bites of lentils and finding myself irresistibly drawn back for more. Molly is right about this recipe – the caramelized onions definitely make it.

I can see eating it so many ways – as a side dish for grilled salmon or chicken/vegetables skewers, as a lunch with a salad, or just in a big bowl with a spoon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Anna's Vegan Dinner

I recently returned from visiting my friend Anna in Minneapolis.  Anna is a great spontaneous cook who loves vegetables, so I figured, hey, why not hit her up for a recipe to try for Long Distance Kitchen. The one-dish dinner she made for me was all that I could have hoped – easy to make, colorful, tasty, and almost laughably healthy. I mean, wheat berries, kale, tofu, sweet potatoes, and garlic all in one dish? Lowers your cholesterol just thinking about it.

Basically, you simmer the wheat berries, roast the sweet potatoes with olive oil and salt, saute the tofu in canola oil until it forms a crust, then chop it up and toss it with soy sauce. 

 In the same pan, you can saute some sliced garlic until it starts to turn just golden.
 

Then remove it with a slotted spoon and cook your chopped kale in the garlicky olive oil.

Toss it all together, then top with the garlic. If you like spice, a little dab of sriracha on the side is a nice addition.

Leftovers reheat just fine. In fact, I'm eating some now.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Some New Books Coming Out that Are Worth Your Attention

Birds, LLC is a new independent poetry press specializing in close author relationships in order to make the most awesome books in the world.

The first two books published by Birds, LLC are The French Exit by Elisa Gabbert and The Trees Around by Chris Tonelli.

SPECIAL PRE-SALE OFFER: Buy the first two Birds, LLC releases for just $20. Pre-Sale offer lasts until March 31st. Books ship the first week in April.

About The French Exit:
It’s a pleasure to listen to the opinions of the narrator of The French Exit. Clear-eyed imagery and wit control the anxiety: “[A] boy at the counter disappears / or I can see through him.” Likewise, in a fine prose poem: “Do not be afraid of angering the birds. What angers the birds is fear.” The energy throughout Gabbert’s collection has the clip of the French exit itself – allons-y! – self-aware, self-sufficient, in control, in touch.
- Caroline Knox

About The Trees Around:
Full of the will and the weather, that great skeptic Wallace Stevens walked to work and wrote his poems, poems you may well already love and believe. (Good, as they say, for you.) And as for Chris Tonelli, he walks in that integrity: read him, and be merciful unto yourself. His foot standeth in an even place. This book’ll make you bloom.
- Graham Foust

Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce



In our latest installment of Long Distance Kitchen, Jess and I attempted Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce, using a Mark Bittman recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. 


They were lots of fun to make and also quite delicious.  Like Jess, I ended up having them twice because of a minor mishap the first time around.


We got our garlic, shallot, Thai chilis, tumeric and lemongrass together, and managed to chop, puree, saute, and add the coconut milk, lime, soy sauce, peanut butter, etc.  (This peanut sauce is pretty wicked. I still have some left in the fridge, and I'm thinking it might be nice on skewers of roast tofu.)


But then, just when we had finished chopping all our lovely vegetables and peeling leaves off all our lovely herbs, the power went out. And stayed out for several hours.

Fortunately, we had already softened up the rice noodles, and we managed to get tap water warm enough to soften up the rice paper to make the wraps.  And they were tasty. But photogenic they were not. 

Exhibit A: scary flash photo of summer roll during power outage. 

So, yes, we were obliged to make them again for lunch the next day. 


You may have to squint to see them all, but here's a photo that I labeled with all the items I put in my rolls.
And here's the wrapping process. 

Ta-da! I'll certainly be making these again soon. (Especially now that I've discovered the awesome massive Asian grocery store in Sunnyvale.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Finished Objects: Baby Sweater and Hat for Marina


Ravelry Links: Sweater and Cap
Patterns:  Both free!! The Sweater is based on Super Natural Stripes by Fawn Pea (slightly modified to add more striping) and the hat is Aviatrix by Justine Turner (the same hat I made in pale green for Walter)
Needles: US 8, US 7, US 3, and US 6
Yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted in various warm shades
Made for: Marina

So, remember the blog contest I did for the hand-made baby sweater back in January? Well, on March 1st I finally put the sweater in the mail to Sawako in Japan. And I've just received confirmation of its safe arrival.


The sweater is a version of the top-down striping baby sweater I've made for Adele and Linnea. But I switched up the striping a bit, and I modified the button band to include holes for small buttons rather than adding crocheted loops at the end to hold big buttons.



I decided to make a matching cap as well because I like surprises and the sweater was expected, so I wanted to add something in that would be a surprise. My cap modification is very subtle – I just knit the ridges in contrast colors from the sweater to tie it in nicely. So if you look closely, you can see hints of orange, purple and pink interwoven with burgundy along the ridges.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Granola Bars


Smitten Kitchen has been getting a lot of Long Distance Kitchen love recently, and for good reason. Deb is our kind of cook – playful, obsessive, down-to-earth, chocolate-loving, etc.

So, when Jess assigned this recipe, I was happy to make a shift from the dinner recipes we'd been making so far. This is the kind of recipe that I might not go looking for, but that I am thrilled to now have in my repertoire. Yes, I think I will be making these for the rest of my life.


The recipe has a lot of flexibility. You basically mix some oats, oat flour and sugar with 2-3 cups (10-14 ounces) of any kind of dried fruit or nuts that you wish.  I went with pieces of dried Mission figs and dried sour cherries along with hazelnuts (which I toasted briefly in the oven before chopping coarsely), flax seed, and coconut flakes.

Then you stir in a mixture of wet ingredients, which also has some options.  I went with honey, almond butter, light corn syrup (just a bit), and coconut oil (instead of butter, to make it vegan).

Press into a parchment lined pan and bake for about half an hour. . .

and you get this.  As with brownies, the edges are totally the best part, if you ask me.

 

In the morning I was waiting for my water to boil so that I could make a pot of earl grey and take a nice "part of this complete breakfast" shot with my smoothie, but I just couldn't resist taking a little bite of granola bar while I waited. Yum. It was just the right degree of crispy/chewy and I can't imagine butter would have made it any better.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Fish Sculpture

Finished Object: Veyla Gauntlets


Ravelry Link: Veyla
Pattern: Veyla by Ysolda Teague, Whimsical Littel Knits 2
Needles: US 3
Yarn: Malabrigo Silky Merino in Celeste
Made for: Jessica Smith


My friend Darci called these "lingerie for the hands," and I realize they may not provide much shelter from the chilly Buffalo winter where I sent them, but still, they can be worn indoors, and they're pretty, right?

They take only a small bit of yarn, so this is a great project for something fancy or special. The yarn-overs on the thumb and the little leave motif on the hand echo the lace around the cuffs. The cuffs themselves are knit from end to end as one piece, and then stitches are picked up along the top edge to form the rest of the mitt.

Several people who'd made them recommended blocking the cuffs before continuing on to the rest of the hand, so I went ahead and did that.

 
 I enjoyed this pattern, and I can definitely see myself making another pair sometime. 
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